Sunday, February 13, 2011

Windy City

In Chicago for three days – arriving on Wednesday and leaving Friday. It was more like the South Land of Chicago. I worked in a warehouse in Monee about 45 minutes from Chicago Midway airport. I watched television most of the time in my motel room after coming from work. The news was mostly about Egypt and the mayoral elections with Rahm Emmanuel - the leading candidate. Rahm Emmanuel was Obama’s former chief of staff. The upheaval in Egypt was in its last days. I arrived in Chicago with Hosni Mubarak as president and came home three days later with his resignation in the news. He was not longer the president when I landed back in South Carolina. So from the perspective of world events it was an exciting three days.

Snow piled up in the sidewalks of Chicago. Some as high as 5 feet where I guess the snow were shoved out from the street. But it was not snowing although a snow storm enveloped the states of Arkansas, Texas and Missouri. Record snow falls were recorded in these Southern states whereas the Northern states where heavy snow is usually expected was relatively calm. No record rates recorded in Illinois, Michigan or New York. But it was cold when we arrived about -10 F. It was the coldest that I have experienced but it was not that bad. The forecast was -12 F so I had brought my old leather jacket given to me by my father and a black overcoat that I recently bought. It was too much to bring. I did not need to bring 2 coats and I paid for it by logging it through the airports.

We had planned to fly in as a team of about four but whittled down to two to minimize costs. I was not sure if I was to go until the last day when the project manager confirmed it. He was not able to go. So it was a two man team together with the support manager – a grizzled 30 year veteran. He was a sergeant in the armed forces and drives a truck on weekends. A great guy with lots of experience. We exchanged a lot of stories during our trip. On the first day we went to a family restaurant and had shrimp stir-fry with rice, on the second and last day I had steak, shrimp and vegetables at Applebee’s. For breakfast we had a buffet at a nearby trucker’s dinner called ‘The Iron Skillet’. There was a section of the restaurant marked for drivers; perhaps to signify better service. I ate too much in the buffet – sausages, bacon, corn beef and hash, scrambled eggs with onion and pepper, biscuit and gravy, orange juice and coffee. To give a semblance of healthy eating I ate slices of pineapple and cantaloupes.

Eating out in restaurants is often the best aspects of trips. Nothing fancy except it’s free. It was a fruitful trip that yielded new information.  It will help later once the new software is installed. I felt a bit uneasy coming into Chicago due to the cutback. I wrote emails to summarize the findings of the trip to the project team and software contractor. Minor changes are needed in the software. A test was undertaken back in the office; led by the new support staff. We worked together by phone although the new voice over internet phone did not work. I could hear the team speaking but they could not hear me. I wrote some email on the issues encountered in the test. At least I contributed to the testing while away. I guess this is the fun part – struggling with multiple things to do while on site in a different location.

We left Chicago under downcast skies with the temperature cool at 10 F. The return trip was via Atlanta. Earlier the trip to Chicago was through Detroit. The weather was great when I arrived home. After unloading my things, I went to the gym for a swim. The software contractor called me and we discussed the Chicago findings. Not much work needed for the changes. I went for my usual Friday swim – 30 minutes of laps, 15 minutes in the hot tub, 5 minutes swimming in the pool to cool off, 15 minutes in the steam room, shower and drive back home. It was a fast trip back and forth from Chicago. I learned about the city watching the local television programs and reading the newspapers. I hope I can come back someday in the project. But I did not feel the same excitement I used to feel when exploring the cities of Asia in my youth.

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