For the first time in seven years I had to cancel a trip and a talk. I figure I’ll explain what happened because I think a lot of people may not even understand this “I give talks” aspect of my life. I was supposed to go to the PLA Conference in Portland Oregon. I was originally invited in August of last year and said yes. As you may know from the rest of my typings, a lot of other travel then filled in around it. I was scheduled to give a talk at 10:15 today [I had asked to speak in the afternoon, denied. I had asked to speak after 11 am, denied]. The deal I had worked out was that I’d get my airfare covered, two nights in a hotel [they had offered one night, I had said for a minimum eight hours of travelling, that wasn’t enough] and a modest honorarium. I don’t know why these places say honorarium instead of fee, but there it is.

On Friday I noticed I didn’t have a hotel reservation yet and sent some frantic emails asking about this. The woman in charge of reservations hadn’t gotten my two [2] housing forms I’d emailed in. Not sure what happened. They quickly handled it. Then they let me know they hadn’t gotten the contract that I’d faxed and mailed. I occasionally have these waking nightmares that somehow I’ve ceased to exist to everyone but myself, only it happens slowly, not quickly [i.e. I send emails but they just vanish once they leave my mail client] and this was seeming like that.

I had a flight out yesterday at 2:20 pm. I have three airports I choose among: Burlington, Manchester, and Logan in Boston. Burlington is closest, but has fewer flights, Manchester is next closest, but I have to drive there [about two hours] and Logan is furthest but I can take public transportation most of the way and it has the most flights. This flight was out of Manchester, connecting in DC. I got up and left the house at 11, got to the airport at 1, ate lunch, waited on my flight. At 2 it was clear that we weren’t boarding. At about this time they made an announcement that the incoming flight that was supposed to be my outgoing flight had been hit by lightning and was going to be delayed. I saw the flight crew outside taking photos of the plane with their phones. I was pretty sure “delayed” was inaccurate. So I got in line to be rebooked and called United at the same time. The nice man I spoke to said “Oh your plane is just delayed, just wait for it” which was basically the best information he had at the time. It took United almost an hour and a half to declare the flight cancelled.

I used my librarian skills to determine that there wasn’t another flight out of Manchester that day. I found that there was a flight out of Logan, in a few hours, getting me in in the middle of the night. As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t have much of a sense of what normal people would do in a situation like this. I was pretty sure I could get to Boston, brave rush hour traffic, park my car in a $22/day lot [not reimbursed] and be in Portland by midnight. Maybe. I called my Dad and my sister who I call my Reality Check Network. They both assured me that only crazy people would consider this, though I should ask the PLA people if they’d reschedule me. I asked, they said no. They were pretty nice about it. Occasionally librarians are very very crabby dealing with plan changes; I am a pleaser so I try to avoid pissing people off, but this was unavaoidable bad news. I waited in line some more. I got an email from United saying that my flight was officially cancelled. I called again to see if I could maybe be put on another airline’s flight. No.

At this point I have made my peace with not going. Once this happens a switch flips in my head and I absolutely do not want to go anymore. I emailed everyone in Portland telling them I am not coming [I have a ton of friends there, I was looking forward to seeing them] because with no talk there is no free plane trip so instead of making a little money on this, I would be spending my own money which I didn’t want to do. After two hours in line [seriously!] I talk to the guy at the head of the line who confirms that yes, I am going noplace. He “refunds” my money which means he gives me what looks like an airline ticket except it implies that I will get my ticket money back. He gives me a voucher for airport food because I asked for one [and told other people to ask for one, they say “they’ll give you food money?”] and I ask if I can spend it all on beer. I call the parking lot people who come fetch me and give me not some but all of my parking lot money back. I drive two hours home, eating my free sandwich. I get home at 7. I send the nice people from PLA the links to my talk and my slides. I lose at Scrabble against Jim and sleep for eleven hours.

When I went to bed last night the United website still showed me as booked on a flight to Portland today, a fact which multiple phone calls did not clear up. “Oh just wait five minutes” said the phone support person. “Oh just ignore it” said the next one. Eventually the trip vanished – poof! I emailed my friends in town to say I wasn’t gone, and they invited me over for dinner.

I have, as always, mixed feelings. I really wanted to give this talk. I really wanted to go to Portland. I really want, in general, to do what I say I am going to do. However, I have a difficult time balancing exactly how much I should pull out all the stops to ensure that I can do what I say I will. I probably could have made it to Portland yesterday if I’d done something crazy. Or I maybe could have planned a Sunday flight and paid for my own hotel room or stayed with a friend. Or I could have gone for the weekend and been 100% sure I’d be there today [which meant leaving the day after I got back from Texas]. I say all this stuff because I want to reassure myself that what I did was okay. It’s difficult for me to say “I can’t” but I’ve been getting better at it this year. Seems like a strange goal to work towards, and it’s bad if it’ a habit, but I’m thinking it should be part of my vocabulary.

playing house

magic hour flower

I’m in Portland Oregon at my friend Lisa’s house. For anyone from college, yes that Lisa. Operation Take a Vacation is going pretty well though I just got the crap scared out of me by the mailman (mail comes right into the house through a slot in the door making a huge racket, scary!). Lisa was saying before she left for the weekend that she thinks one of the reasons we have such easy hangout time together is because we were roommates (in Hampshire speak: modmates) in college, so we’re used to hanging out with each other in our pajamas sort of doing our own thing. She spent a lot of time before she left baking — oh the smells! — and I was keeping up on work stuff and planning my next few months of library-spaking travel.

My idea of a good vacation is to go someplace I’m vaguely familiar with, usually a city, and wander around eating great food, taking some photos, going for long walks, visiting libraries, and seeing friends. While my vacations are relaxing, they’re not sit-on-a-beach relaxing. So far I’ve gone out for Ethiopian, PacNW [good beer, good beet salad], Mexican and coffeecoffeecoffee. Today is sit around and read day and then explore the niehgborhood. Tomorrow there will be a MetaFilter meetup and then I scoot to the airport for my flight thats a day earlier than I was expecting it to be. I packed for or five changes of clothes for this trip but I seem to pretty much be wearing one outfit and one pair of pajamas this whole week. One of these days I hope to miraculously become that person who can travel for three weeks with just a backpack. I think if I could leave all my techie gear behind, I could. Food for thought.

really back

So I went to bed as soon as it got dark last night and slept for 14 hours. The fact that I can still get away with this indicates to me that it’s okay to keep taking redeye flights if it saves me some money. The loose outline of my trip is this

– Get to Portland late at night Friday and go out for beers with Sara and Steve. Marvel in that yokelly way how great it is to go out for beers at 11 pm and have a GOOD BEER. Crash out.
– Go out for brunch at the Vita Cafe and have corncakes and bacon with real maple syrup. Drink more coffee than is good for me. Yammer on about maple syrup and tastiness of same back home. Ogle all the great tattoos.
– Wandered around the Saturday Market and some junk shops. Started in with my tired “you know this is the sort of thing that everyone has in their barns back home and here they sell it to you for $50” spil. My friends are very nice to ignore this.
– Checked in to crazy hotel where the gal at the desk asked me “Oh are you part of the Arizona Wests, they’re a wealthy rancher family…” I felt like I let her down a bit when I said no. Despite this, the rooms were nice. Fancy hotel but still, free Internet and coffee.
– Dinner with Josh and Angela at Bush Garden. Very nice chill time before the crazy party.
Crazy party.
– Planning meeting with MeFi heads of State at a suitably late hour the next day. TravelFilter launches this week sometime. It will be fun.
– Got in touch with my friend Lisa DeGrace and spent a few hours helping her prepare for her Sundance Ceremony and also getting coffee and shopping for toilets.
– I got a haircut at Rudy’s. It looks great. For future reference, my barber told me that the cut I like is a “Graduated A-line Bob” Good.
– Hangout time with Steve and Sara including Lebanese food that was totally OMG tasty. Stayed up too late.
– Chill out day the next day. Then walk around time checking out the library. Then dinner time with Steve and Sara and Hiram and Melissa (two new MeFi friends) including some excellent dessert and the movie Valley Girl projected on to the back wall of the dessert place.
– Dropped at airport, redeye home, work and doctor’s appointment, then bedtime.

away and return

I was away. MetaFilter had an eighth anniversary party in Portland Oregon and I got flown out to attend. I also got to see some friends I haven’t seen in a while and meet some new ones. I like Portland. It feels like Seattle did when I first got there, before Seattle got hinky and most of my friends moved away. The MeFi party was at Ground Kontrol, a video game and pinball arcade. MetaFilter sprung for free games all night and an open bar. Maybe 120-130 people showed up over the course of the evening, some I knew, some I didn’t know. I got a high schore on Tempest but it didn’t last. I did some more hangout stuff over the weekend — photos and links forthcoming — but now I have the “I waited to come home til the last minute” problem where I was on the redeye last night and I’m at work today. Sleepily at work.