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February 10, 2003: Back on the road

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Sunday morning we went to choir practice and ran through a song that has a tenor part so high that this is now one of the few times when they are all grateful they've got a woman singing tenor. I may have to occasionally shift to my 'falsetto' voice (yes, women can do them too when they sing as low as I do), but at least I can handle it. The rest of the tenors tried, staggered, and then eyed me with pleading looks. Heh heh.

Then we spent the rest of the day running around doing last minute errands and getting ready for week one of a marathon stint of business travel. I discovered that my allergies have now advanced to the point where I cannot even walk into the little pet store (the only one around that carries the litter we use) without breaking into coughing and wheezing and having to use my inhaler. Ugh. And once we had everything packed and I had done the final walkthrough of the house to make sure the water and food bowls and litter boxes were all in perfect condition, we said our goodbyes and then drove off in separate directions - Richard to the airport to fly to Ventura and I to Redwood City.

It's going to be a very long stint this time, and not just because of the length of time we'll be gone. Richard has at least one week of mollusk handler training to break up the monotony; I have none. My time until the end of March will be spent training the mollusks themselves - a task which tends to be fairly tedious because half the time the mollusks don't even bother to show up to be trained at all.

Despite the fact that MapQuest has absolutely no clue where it is actually located, I managed to find my hotel with very little trouble (helped by the fact that Richard was there doing mollusk training two weeks ago so could give me some important pointers like "Even though the directions say turn right, turn left!"). There is no room service available and I was all set to just traipse across the parking lot and hit the Wendy's next door when I ran into a trio of my coworkers. So we piled into one car and set off in search of food.

The hotel I am in this week is nice, especially since they have free high-speed internet access. It is enough to make up for the fact that Sunday night the fire alarm went off - a sound so high-pitched and shrill that it made my ears hurt to listen to it. I escaped into the hall to find hotel employees in a little room at the end of the hall, frantically trying to turn the alarm off. I suppose perhaps I should have panicked even just a little, since there was always the possibility of it being a real fire, but I guess I'm too jaded by too many drills.

The whole experience was made even more amusing by the fact that there was a woman down the hall who had apparently left her brain in a little cup of water beside her bed, next to her dentures. First she wanted to know what that noise was. Then she wanted to know why it was in the hall too. Then she insisted that someone tell the hotel staff, because apparently she didn't notice all the activity. Then she insisted that someone call 911. This was after the fire truck actually pulled into the parking lot and the firemen in their fire jackets and pants and hats came up to try to figure out how to turn off the alarm as well.

The first day of mollusk training was at least mostly busy. The longer I stick with this job, I may just end up learning to speak rudimentary Spanish whether I wanted to or not. Before today I only knew how to count to ten. After today I can add a handful of new words and phrases to my repertoire. If I ever travel in Mexico and have to tell someone to choose four numbers for their secret shell-polishing kit code, I'll be all set.

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