I just got back from Elkton, a small town in northern Maryland, close to the border of Pennsylvania, arriving by plane via the Philadelphia international airport, driving for 45 minutes in a rental car along the Delaware River, glimpsing New Jersey across the water, passing by the University of Delaware and finally arriving in Maryland, crossing 2 states before arriving at the Comfort Inn in Elkton, an old motel with a quaint 70’s interior, beside a truck depot, a gas station and a Denny’s diner. Across the street is a liquor shop where the motel’s main guests - truck drivers, can buy liquor for their night’s stay, at least for those who prefer to sleep in a room instead of their truck cab, before driving the long haul to their destination, traversing Interstate 95 which ran near the motel, the highway that stretches from Florida in the South to Maine in the North. It was a cold week with temperatures below freezing point but with no snow, enjoying the brisk cold air walking to the car or to the office, the only time one is outside, enjoying the clear sunshine unlike in the south which had its share of rain.
One notices the young charming ladies in Maryland; the waitress at Denny’s diner, where we had dinner after arriving at Elkton, where I ordered chicken soup; another charming and smart waitress in Amalfi - an Italian restaurant where I ordered Salmon salad and steamed clams and the young enthusiastic clerk in the warehouse. They seemed to possess a confident, open and engaging manner towards people, a quality one does not usually encounter in young people, who prefer the automatic and ‘fake’ courtesy of shop girls when working with older folks, lacking the genuine regard that sincere communication can bring, giving the team a sort of exhilarating feeling when doing their work. This is the 5th deployment the team has done, working with all sorts of people - the young ladies in Houston cheerful though lacking in enthusiasm, the middle aged workers in Monee; all wonderful people though the Maryland natives having a more attractive quality about them. Perhaps the victory of the Baltimore football team on the Sunday when we arrived, gave the state’s inhabitants a certain verve; or maybe the closeness of the University of Delaware gave the place a youthful feel, nevertheless there was a certain feeling of freshness which one could only detect in places like California.
The project went well, despite the usual glitches, though one felt tired instead of excitement, like one has done this work too often, perhaps boredom or burnout creeping in, or perhaps it was the winter climate or the stale air in the room, or perhaps the nearness of deployment between sites, sapping our energy; but one struggles on, rushing through airports, driving in rental cars, eating in nice restaurants, sleeping late at night, driving to the warehouses, doing your sales pitch, unboxing the equipment, setting up computers, plugging cables, testing the software, turning the switch and waiting for the labels to print. If things don’t work out, writing emails, making phone calls, pleading for support, some tense filled minutes until the solution is found, the bug fixed, seeing the remedy in a chat window; a word or two giving salvation to the tired team. The tenseness of the affair is the reason one overeats, ordering steaks and beer (in Apple Bees or Bugaboo Creek Steak House in Delaware), one’s only chance to eat in these places, or fried oysters (in Blue Crab Grill) or clam chowder (in the Philadelphia airport) or ribs in a street corner hole in the wall, settling in your bed filled to the brim at night, waking up with acid re-flux, burning and choking in the throat, drinking water and trying to sleep.