The Red-eye

20150826_013206Almost ten weeks, sixty thousand miles and a lot of nights sleeping out of my bed – all this can be tiring. But I chose to accept this. Not that it is a huge challenge – many do the same. It is better to be off meeting people and working than working from home though the latter has its advantages. But after a while it gets lonesome. You lose touch with people and get comfy until you start to realize that group dynamics is a lot more interesting. For one thing, after back to being on-site at work, wherever it is, you notice a lot of things. Things have changed a lot since I was a regular at office about nine years back. Back then, it was a small company and a small group of people. With a consulting job, you keep meeting different people. Projects change and so does location. And that is the charm of such a job – I keep meeting interesting and inspiring people. There will be many you pass by, but some make a lasting difference. Such are the people who keep you going. You need to find opportunities to work with such people.
Two long days and the work week was over Tuesday evening. I stopped at The Vegetarian House on Santa Clara street in San Jose. It is good to go to a place and know that the food is what you can eat without having to think twice about it. The waitress asked me if I liked onions and mushrooms. Given the huge population of Indians in the area, it isn’t surprising that restaurants are starting to cater to more ethnic needs of the Indian community. In India, many people don’t eat onions and mushrooms. Onions are considered spicy and hence mind-altering. Mushrooms grow in the dark and considered not good for the soul. I won’t argue about any of these. But I personally don’t like the texture of mushrooms. Onions don’t add too much value to nutrition, but I am okay with it.

101 North had an accident and hence I had to take 280. The drive was beautiful as it meanders through the San
Francisco countryside with rolling desert hills. The sky was getting lit up by the setting sun. There was a huge mass of clouds behind the hills – should be the smog.  The shuttle from the rentals to the airport was mostly empty.  Unlike the Monday afternoons where I see each cabin jam-packed. I even saw a few south-east Asians pushing trolleys of luggage onto the shuttle. It should have been quite a challenge at that.

It had been a tiring two days. Past weeks had been tiring. The change in time zones and the long hours start to act on you. I could feel I was unstable in a meeting at the end of the day. The day itself had begun around 4:30 with me trying to wrap up a few emails so that I could leave with all ends tied up. 12+ hours continuously and I was eager to get out. Right then there was this need to sit down and work out some estimates and prepare a foundation so we could pitch in a change order to the client. Gladly got all that done by 5:30. I left work with appreciation from my manager – that was a bonus. He even pointed out how we Indians work so hard. I guess that is true of an ethnic groups coming to America trying to find a better future.

20150826_013046Anyway, I breezed through security and dozed a bit while waiting to get onto the plane. A first-class upgrade was definitely welcome. I eased into the seat listening to Saavn. As the plane took off, I didn’t know when I slept but maybe it was just a few minutes as Lata and Kishore woke me up. This happened a few times and I said enough is enough. I put away the music and settled. Then on I barely slept. I just can’t sleep on a plane. It is so awkward to sleep while sitting. Add to that the knees have started to show their age – you got to keep stretching the legs. The young airhostess came by asking for drinks. I was the only one wanting water. Everyone else seemed to have had a hard day and took in alcoholic beverages. The hostess again was doing a fine job – almost picture perfect – she always knew when to smile and when to lean to the side and lean away. Good training, I guess.

Tuesday evening and the plane was full with people eager to get back home or visit Philly. An old woman was being taken care of a younger male. She was talking way too loud for the time of the night. But no one was complaining. I or you will have to take care of someone older and we don’t complain about it. It hardly seemed four and a half hours when the pilot announced we were about 15 minutes away from landing. The lights came on. Sometime before I saw this spectacular view of the light-up ground. I managed to take a few snaps> The simulated camera clicks was way too loud for the night even in air.The LG G4 doesn’t have an option to switch off sound – my quick search found out. The new G4 apparently has a overheating problem. I remembered I had to turn up the A/C in the car on the way to the restaurant.

While it was different landing in Philly early morning as opposed to taking off, pretty much things were the same. There was the rush to get up once the plane gated and pick up baggage to be ready to rush out. A few wouldn’t wait for their turn. Somebody was talking loudly with the air hostess – maybe trying to make up for his rush to get off the plane. The old lady was ahead of me – I didn’t complain when she stepped ahead of me. She didn’t realize that she was taking all the walkway space and not letting anyone past her. Pool soul. Again, on an early Wednesday morning, no one seemed to bother. Finally at the end of the walkway, near the door, she had a visitor who requested her to step to a side. Some of the shops were open and surprisingly the wine parlor too. You probably will never get surprised to find people sipping wine at six in the morning. As I was heading to the parking lot, many were just getting in for their journey ahead. A man held the elevator for me. I know where I had to go – to the fourth floor where I always park. That is because I can find parking on that level on a busy Monday morning. Else after a long trip coming back, you can be disoriented and lose time finding your car. Of course, all you have to do is to note down the parking building, floor and space number, but I don’t always do that!

Paying for parking at the tolls was still the same.  A Self service booth is much faster when there are many folks wanting to pay. Most people take the ticket and pay at a manned booth. That is way too slow when you are eager to get back home. The merge onto 95 south was cool. Often time you got to watch out for the other guy wanting to get past you before you merge. I let a few cars get ahead of me and felt good. The skies were getting brighter. There was this tinge of early morning orange to the few clouds, but the Sun was not yet to be seen. He doesn’t change in any case – he always comes up. It is for us humans that take more than 24 hours to back up when we go down. The ride the other way – from up to down – is far quicker than Mr. Sun’s! The exit from 95 to 476 was the same. A construction vehicle was hogging the left lanes – it doesn’t matter how big one’s vehicle is, everyone needs to get ahead, right? It took about five minutes of driving before the vehicle could get ahead of whatever he wanted and move to the right lane. By then, the sky had become morning bright and I could see the sun starting to shine down my eyes or my eyes down. Maybe I was in a bitter mood and I didn’t appreciate the lack of courtesy on Mr. Sun’s part, but he doesn’t care, right? The world goes on while you are stuck. You are stuck because you feel judged maybe, you feel you didn’t get the right response to your effort nor the involvement to support your efforts. You are stuck because there is anger in you. You are stuck because you thought you didn’t do a great job when everyone else did. You are stuck because you fear the future while there might not be. You are stuck for you don’t see the changes in the way they should be seen. You are stuck because you stopped being yourself. But the world move on. It is as if you didn’t matter. Change those perspectives and you will feel you matter. What mattered to me then was that the next two weeks I can hopefully relax and recharge and get to the challenges ahead. For now, nothing mattered. I was on vacation.

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