We landed in the George Bush International airport on Sunday evening. We had about an hour layover in the Atlanta airport before leaving for Houston, watching the football game between the New York Giants and the San Francisco 79ers, sitting near the terminal door and watching the screen while I bought my dinner of chicken tenders and French fries from Nathan, nearly missing the plane if not for the nearness of the food stand, my colleague busily trying to call but I missed his calls, walking back to the gate with my food and preparing to board the plane, eating my dinner in-flight to Texas. We landed in moderate climate, I removed my sweater, walking in the immense modern airport, reminding me of the new airport in Bangkok, with its similar high ceilings and stark monolith walls, looking for the car rental, eventually discovering that it was in another building, stood out in the curb to ride the shuttle bus, eventually finding the garage and choosing a Nissan SUV. We drove in large wide spaced highways, reminding me of Los Angeles, seeing the tall towers of the city in the distance, going Southbound to our motel, far from the city but closer to the warehouse in a town called Humble, Texas.
The first day at the warehouse was taxing. The day spent fixing the issues reported last week, first checking the cable and the computer that could not connect to the network, having phone conferences with IBM to check the firewall, having arguments on the source of the problem, finally finding an erroneous IP address, eating crow and apologizing to IBM, successfully solving the problem (though the cable had to be replaced). Lunch was Texas style grilled sausage and chicken breast with Scampi rice in a popular restaurant called ‘Saltgrass Steakhouse’, reminding me of a place called the Texas Road House, with Elk heads and other animal heads or bones nailed on the dark wood walls, Texas flags and old faded black and white photos, the interior dark with limited light coming in the windows giving an ambiance of an old saloon or hunting lodge. Back in the office, work continued, sudden program changes needed to be done when we realized the dock id was needed, e-mails and frantic calls were made to prepare the data, do more tests and finally going home early so one is ready for the go live the next day. Dinner was at Papas’s Seafood, where I had oysters and catfish, enjoying the ambiance of the restaurant, again with dark wood walls, high ceilings, overhead fans, lots of plants and pictures with a sea scape motif.
The next day was a bit of a disaster. The first test did not work so did the second one, missing a key item that was found during a discussion at lunch in a nearby steakhouse, realizing that important data needed to be transferred to the new system, making phone calls to get that information and sending to the support team in India and finally, re-scheduling the go live to the next morning. Despite the fix, it did not go well, the support team lax in their work, frantic phone calls again, support staff scrambling to fix the problem, causing delay on the local work, finally identifying the problem, a temporary fix put in place, and work continued. The rest of the day went well but disaster struck in the evening shift, the same problem again, necessitating another call to support, having it fixed and sending the troubled message back down, finally working and giving all a sense of relief. We had a quick lunch at Wendy’s and late dinner at Chili’s where I ordered ribs. We felt the problem has been licked after that eventful day, hoping for a smoother day tomorrow, ready to extend for a few more days if needed in case the application blows up again, returning back to the Hampton Inn where I had planned to exercise, instead sinking in bed and falling asleep.
The last day in the warehouse went well, everything worked fine except for a minor glitch in the carrier report, the project team feeling pleased like a fog of doubt has just lifted and everything was fine again, and it was a fine sunny day unlike yesterday’s dark clouds and sporadic rain, as if the sun had brought out the good luck, and everyone happy with the performance of the software, printing labels with large quantities as if head office was doing a test, that we had a great lunch after ensuring all was fine, eating again at Salt Grass where I ordered steak and scampi rice. Last minute calls to fix the final glitches and all was done so we went home early, going to Hooters for dinner where I ordered oysters and boneless chicken wings and Samuel Adams beer. I finally got to exercise, doing 40 minutes in the stationary bike, packing my stuff and watching television, waking the next day at around 5:30 am, checking my computer, listening to the audio book - Scott McClellan’s ‘What Went Wrong’ about the Bush presidency, checking the sites and making phone calls to ensure all was well, attending a remote town hall meeting, doing 40 minutes in the tread mill, having breakfast of bacon and scrambled eggs, yogurt and a banana, packing and finally leaving for the airport.
The people in the Houston warehouse were fine young ladies, asking intelligent questions during the training, responding to the new printer and learning the new ways, the episode telling me that Texas is a fine place with eager young people, living in a sprawling city with large interstate highways, quaint suburban homes spread out the city, reminding me of Los Angeles and compared to the exclusive large homes in the East, the Western lands seem to be more egalitarian, with impressions of dynamism glimpsing the skyscrapers of downtown with NASA and oil companies adding modernity to a city along the coast, the trees reminding me of the Florida swampland and the pan handle of Mississippi. But the place seem to lack buzz unlike the cities of California but one can detect the faint scent of great wealth, existing for only a few, unlike Los Angeles or the other places in California that seem to say everyone has a chance to get rich. The flight home was uneventful, although the warehouse at home was calling me, about a small issue but I could not call them, my phone having died, trying desperately to call by VOIP using my computer but failing, so I just read my book by Howard Marks and had McRib sandwich from McDonalds. I enjoyed the flight home, getting the window seat, glimpsing the terrain below as the plane made its way home, passing the states of Alabama, Georgia and, finally South Carolina, the plane descending in the early evening with the city lights spread out in the dark land.