Print Story Spring Break! (Part 1)
Working life
By toxicfur (Tue Jun 28, 2011 at 11:10:50 PM EST) (all tags)
The end of last weekend, I left Boston for much warmer climes. The NIH regional conference was held in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, and it was my turn to go. Last year, it was in Philadelphia. That I could turn this into a mini-vacation seemed like a huge win.

So, I went, I conferenced, and then I vacationed at the beach. Part 1 is My Conference Adventure. Part 2 will come as soon as I have time to write it.

On Wednesday morning, I took the dogs to camp, finished packing the last of my stuff, and headed to the airport. I was there in plenty of time to check my bags and get through security with time to eat.

Except that I got there just after a high school swim team. Probably 30 kids milled around, talking to one another, goofing around as their compatriots fiddled with the automagical boarding pass machines. Then, of course, they all had to check bags, which meant they had to dig out some form of photo ID (which included their school IDs - airports take those?). Then they all had to go through security. I held my tongue and practiced patience while periodically glancing at my cell phone for the time. It was unlikely I'd be able to get food, at that point.

"You with them?" TSA guy asked, smiling.

I shook my head with slow, deliberate annoyance.

"You are now," he said, looking at my boarding pass. "They're on your flight."

"You're kidding, right?"

He grinned and mirrored my head shake. "Good luck," he told me, handing me back my driver's license and boarding pass.

I texted Noodlebowl and threatened to fire her for booking me on that flight. My friend Z told me I can't, not until Noodlebowl finishes $project.

I made it through security with about 20 minutes before boarding was to start. I went to the Boston Beer Works bar, ordered a beer, and asked the bartender what the fastest thing she had was. I was expecting a salad, but she suggested the chicken quesadilla. It came in about 2.5 minutes. With the guacamole on it, it wasn't bad, and I was out of there in about 15 minutes.

Jet Blue was awesome, though, and all the kids zoned out on their seat-back tv screens (as did I, when the audiobook and iPod games got tedious).

I took a Car (not a cab, which would've been more, the ground transportation guru told me) to the conference hotel. Which was in the middle of suburban nowhere. No stores that I could see, no character, no soul. Just identical hotels and apartment complexes. I checked in, made a phone call to let a friend know I'd made it safely, and walked around the grounds. The pool was lovely in the night, with a waterfall on one edge, softly lit throughout. It was quiet, and humid, and hot enough that the jeans I'd worn on the plane were uncomfortable.

I breathed in the wet, thick air, and relaxed.

The conference was the following day, and I made it to the conference area with time to grab some breakfast before the introductory remarks. I managed to track down iGrrrl in the large ballroom area where we were directed to eat. (As an aside, it was great to see iGrrrl there - we had a bit of a chance to catch up, and it was really nice to have someone who went to different sessions and got some different information about NIH politics (which are far too boring to go into here)).

I complained that night to Z, who works in a different division at my university, that most of what I heard just reinforced what I already knew. Where were the concrete suggestions? Where was the new information? Did I really need to hear what each funding mechanism code means at the beginning of every fucking session?

"Conferences like this are like church," she told me. "People with experience go there to be with people who think like them."

I'm convinced she was right. I took a lot of notes that day, and learned the occasional tidbit, or had the occasional insight. But mostly, I was drifting in and out of the talk, seriously tuning in only when people asked questions.

After the last session, there was a reception with free food and one free alcoholic beverage. There was also a Hawaiian shirt contest, in which I did not participate. My shirt had short sleeves, though, baring my tattoos, or at least parts of them.

I hadn't been there long - just managed to get my drink - when a couple walked up to me, two women, obviously together. One of the women worked as a sort of grant-wrangler (sort of like me) for a children's hospital that had recently been acquired as a teaching hospital for Johns Hopkins. The administration is pushing the faculty there to do research, when there is no research culture. I didn't have my business card on me (because who thinks about these things?), but I told her my institution and told her to check out our office's website - there are lots of resources there.

Jan, the woman who worked for the hospital, just wanted to chat. Her partner, however, wanted her to actually learn something from me.

"Are you trying to network me?" Jan asked her, a small smile on her face.

"Somebody has to," her partner said, smirking back.

I liked them. They told me they'd lived in Massachusetts for a while, and that they'd been married in Provincetown. The partner was an Episcopalian, and shook my hand upon learning that I am, too ("I was raised as a Southern Baptist, though," I confessed. "God bless you," she responded with sympathy, squeezing my hand).

I woke up Friday morning, the day I needed to check out of my hotel before going to the rest of the conference, in time to make the 7:30AM "networking" meeting about multi-investigator grants. That's our top priority, in my office, and it seemed kind of important. I read a few blogs and then went out onto my first floor porch ( on the other floors, it was a balcony) to smoke. I yanked at the door to go back inside, and it was locked.

Fuck me.

I was wearing my pajamas - knit boxers and a t-shirt. No bra. No shoes. No ID. No phone. Just a cigarette lighter. I yanked on the door some more, and nothing happened.

"I'll just have to go to the front desk," I thought. "They'll get me back in."

I was near panic.

But I went to the front desk, hoping that no one important would see me in my boxers and t-shirt and no bra. The front desk woman seemed vaguely sympathetic, asked me a few security questions, and gave me a new key.

I was relieved. I went back to my room to let myself in, and realized that I'd set the security bar on the door. No matter what I did, I couldn't let myself back in. I tried squeezing my fingers through the gap, and nothing happened.

I went back to the security desk. Did I mention I was in my underwear?

"I can't get in," I said, practically gasping for breath. "I set the security thing, and I can't get in."

The front desk woman clicked at her computer. "There is someone in 102. That is the only way we can get in," she said, in her lightly Island-accented voice. "If Security cannot break in, then you will have to wait until they wake up."


"Go to your balcony. Wait for Patrick. He will see if he can get in," she instructed me. I sat on my balcony, wishing I'd brought my entire pack with me, instead of the one cigarette. Comeoncomeoncomeoncomeon, I thought, like a litany.

Finally, my porch door shook, and I peered through the blinds. Someone had tried to open the front door. I dashed around the building and met Security.

"Are you Patrick?" I asked.

"No, I am Reginald," he said. "You are trying to get in?"

"Yes!" I breathed.

"I will have to get a tool." He spoke Spanish into his walkie-talkie. I wished I still understood Spanish. "You have two coming!" he told me. "Two!" He beamed at me.

I smiled back, trying to be accommodating. "Thank you."

I squatted (in my underwear), against the building next to my front door, and the panic faded. "This will make a great story," I thought. You have to understand that this is new - I've never been able to short-circuit a panic attack by thinking of the story. Within moments, two new men arrived. The first tried using his hand to get the door open. Nope. Then he tried a utility knife. That bent too much to be of use, though it was thin enough.

He said something in Spanish to his partner. His partner nodded, and the first guy left. The second guy smiled reassuringly. "We find a tool," he said. "We get you in."

I smiled back and said thank you again.

While waiting, the second guy got bored and started looking around for a tool. He tried the multi-headed screwdriver in his pocket, but it was too thick. Then he noticed the "Use this to break glass" tool attached to the fire extinguisher outside my door. He used his screwdriver to unscrew it. He forced it into the gap and pushed hard against the security bar.

He twisted his face in a grimace of effort. He pulled the door toward him and pushed the flat piece of metal against the bar. And bam! The door was open.

The first guy pulled up just at that moment and confusion passed over his face before he broke into a pleased grin.

"There you go!" he told me. "Open!"

"Thank you very, very much," I told them. I gave the second guy my most sincere smile. I went back into my room, showered and got ready for the conference in time for the first session - I missed breakfast. But I was not in my underwear when I got there.

When I checked out, the front desk woman assured me that had never happened before. I have no idea how I locked the balcony door. I just thank God that I was on the first floor.

I saw Jan, my new lesbian friend, at lunch. We chatted about jobs and locations. She misses the politics in Massachusetts. I told her I'd moved from Wilmington, NC to MAia.

"How did you manage that?" she asked, with disbelief. "And why? For the lifestyle?"

"Partly," I laughed. "And there was no work in Wilmington. And I met someone who lived there."

"That's how I ended up moving to Florida," she told me. "And then I got dumped." She went on to tell her story. She and her partner-at-the-time adopted a son, with her partner's name on the adoption papers. It was a private adoption - gays and lesbians are not able to legally adopt in Florida.

Then her partner was diagnosed with breast cancer and began treatment. As she recovered, she became a born-again Christian, decided that lesbians are Satanic, and moved out with their son while Jan was at work, just leaving a note. She pulled the boy out of the daycare at Jan's work, and Jan hasn't seen him in a number of years. When she tried to send Christmas presents, she received a letter from a lawyer, saying that she would be sued for harassment if she contacted the ex-partner again.

She had tears in her eyes as she told me this. I made sympathetic noises and expressed my sympathy, telling her how horrible it was, and basically channeling my therapist.

I don't know why people tell me these things. I feel for her. I'm also a little bummed, because I liked her, and I think it's unlikely that she'll contact me professionally after unloading like that. Still, it was a terrifying story, and, along with Z's current situation, it reminded me of why I've never had much of a desire to have kids when I've been in a relationship. Co-parenting is even more terrifying than single parenting. It also made me incredibly grateful to live in Massachusetts, and not in Florida, or any other red state.

I went to sessions that were fun, as opposed to applicable to my job, on Friday. I learned about the Office of Research Integrity, and a professor who ended up in jail for falsifying a study (research that is still quoted by gyms all over the country, by the way, and that continues to affect post-menopausal women's healthcare). I went to learn how to write an institutional training grant, and -- after the obligatory what-the-funding-mechanism-codes-mean part, I actually learned something.

And then, it was time for part two of my trip - the vacation.

To be continued….

< I have a dog next to me | Discomfort in conflict. >
Spring Break! (Part 1) | 16 comments (16 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback
Did you "beam" right back at him? ;) by ammoniacal (2.00 / 0) #1 Wed Jun 29, 2011 at 12:03:57 AM EST
I had a driver's permit and license all through high school. I wouldn't be surprised if they all had photo identification.

"To this day that was the most bullshit caesar salad I have every experienced..." - triggerfinger

Heh. No. by toxicfur (4.00 / 1) #2 Wed Jun 29, 2011 at 06:31:42 AM EST
Nice heavy-weight t-shirt, nice warm Florida morning.

I had a permit/driver's license through most of high school, too, but a surprising number of these kids had passports out and a couple pulled out school IDs.
The amount of suck that you can put up with can be mind-boggling, but it only really hits you when it then ceases to suck. -- Kellnerin

[ Parent ]
I think any government-issued ID works. by ana (2.00 / 0) #3 Wed Jun 29, 2011 at 09:26:01 AM EST
This, oddly enough, includes my employee ID card.

It will not, however, let me rent a car. One of my colleagues tried that experiment after his license had lapsed.

"And this ... is a piece of Synergy." --Kellnerin

[ Parent ]
That reminds me of an annoyance. by ammoniacal (2.00 / 0) #4 Wed Jun 29, 2011 at 10:06:38 AM EST
For the longest time, Washington will issue you a driver's license, or an identification card, but not both. I cannot determine the rationale for that.

"To this day that was the most bullshit caesar salad I have every experienced..." - triggerfinger

[ Parent ]
Because in most states, the ID card is the DL by lm (2.00 / 0) #6 Wed Jun 29, 2011 at 09:20:26 PM EST
Or, put another way, there is only one ID card issued. But some people pass a test so that their ID card allows them to operate motor vehicles on public highways.

There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
[ Parent ]
That doesn't explain Washington's law. by ammoniacal (2.00 / 0) #7 Wed Jun 29, 2011 at 11:25:46 PM EST
Ours are distinctively different documents.

"To this day that was the most bullshit caesar salad I have every experienced..." - triggerfinger

[ Parent ]
On paper, perhaps by lm (2.00 / 0) #8 Thu Jun 30, 2011 at 08:24:36 AM EST
But are you telling me that to get an ID card one has to go to a different government agency than to get an operators permit and that the records that  the state keeps concerning the two documents are kept in a distinct databases?

There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
[ Parent ]
No, they're both issued by DoL. by ammoniacal (2.00 / 0) #9 Thu Jun 30, 2011 at 08:37:50 AM EST
If I walked in today to get an Identification Card, I'd have to surrender my Driver's License first. If I didn't have it on me, they would revoke it in the db before issuing the ID. That's retarded.

"To this day that was the most bullshit caesar salad I have every experienced..." - triggerfinger

[ Parent ]
States I've lived in have had this law by yankeehack (2.00 / 0) #10 Thu Jun 30, 2011 at 10:19:35 AM EST
basically the rationale boils down to only possessing ONE state issued ID.
"...she dares to indulge in the secret sport. You can't be a MILF with the F, at least in part because the M is predicated upon it."-CBB
[ Parent ]
I had two valid DLs for a time by georgeha (2.00 / 0) #11 Thu Jun 30, 2011 at 11:09:42 AM EST
after I got my M class certification.

[ Parent ]
Which is my point by lm (2.00 / 0) #12 Thu Jun 30, 2011 at 08:40:14 PM EST
They are, in practice, the same form of identification.

They may be different with regards to statute. But that's not that different than one act being the basis for indicting an individual for 17 different crimes.

There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
[ Parent ]
What it means, in practice, is... by ammoniacal (2.00 / 0) #13 Thu Jun 30, 2011 at 11:48:50 PM EST
that when my fucking driver's license sinks to the bottom of Lake fucking Union during a tragic Independence Day Weekend kayaking incident, I can't buy booze for four fucking days. Fuck that noise.

"To this day that was the most bullshit caesar salad I have every experienced..." - triggerfinger

[ Parent ]
You need a license to pilot a kayak? by lm (2.00 / 0) #14 Fri Jul 01, 2011 at 07:51:09 AM EST
That's rather bizarre.

I fail to see how it would be different if it was your ID card that sank to the bottom of the puddle.

(BTW, a passport works fine as proof of age in most places in the US.)

There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
[ Parent ]
1.) I have no passport. by ammoniacal (2.00 / 0) #15 Fri Jul 01, 2011 at 09:58:55 AM EST
2.) If I had a separate ID card, it would've been waiting for me back at the crib, not being a barnacle condo.

"To this day that was the most bullshit caesar salad I have every experienced..." - triggerfinger

[ Parent ]
in IL by garlic (2.00 / 0) #16 Fri Jul 01, 2011 at 12:07:16 PM EST
they tend to confiscate your drivers license upon giving you a ticket, putting one in a similar situation as ti ammonical with regard to buying booze. There was also a time when some bars wanted 2 forms of photo id before serving, which was a pain.

[ Parent ]
The Talk To Me vibe by notafurry (2.00 / 0) #5 Wed Jun 29, 2011 at 01:34:06 PM EST
My wife has that, and I have it to some extent as well. Our theory is that it comes from having been in counseling - the style of active listening rubs off on you from the therapist, and other people see it and respond to it unconsciously. The biggest hole in the theory is that my wife had this trait well before going to a therapist herself. According to family lore, even at the age of five, people would be telling her their life story, hopes, dreams, failures, traumas, sometimes within minutes of meeting her for the first time.

It can be really irritating when you're just trying to, say, pick up the dry cleaning and it turns into a 40 minute conversation.

Spring Break! (Part 1) | 16 comments (16 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback