Monday, September 5, 2005

The O.C.

As I headed for my seat on the flight to Orange County I was struggling with my piece of carry on luggage in one hand and laptop case in the other while precariously holding on to a full latte. As I got to my seat and tried to fling my carry on bag into the overhead compartment, I spilled some coffee on my arm and my T-shirt. The gentleman seated in the row in front of me recoiled as if I was about to drip some radioactive juice on his golf cap covered noggin. I was having a hell of a time and it would have been nice for him to offer me a hand but he was too busy looking at me in disgust. I thought about dousing his head with the latte but I didn't need no federal marshal coming after me.

We took off. The banged up auburn haired lass was studying for one of her classes, looking at mathematical formulas that would make mush out of a precious porcelain kitty figure so I plugged my headphones into my iPod and dialed up Ike Reilly and got lost in the anger and confusion and snarl and beautiful music.

We arrived in Vegas and had about an hour to make our connecting flight to the O.C. We looked at the airport monitors to find our gate but didn't see it listed anywhere. Finally the banged up auburn haired lass asked a gate agent who informed us we needed to get on a tram and head for some faraway gate. Once we got into the right area of the airport we discovered we needed to go through security again and the ticketing agent told us we were too late anyway that we should have been at the gate at least a half an hour before the flight was to leave. So we ran. Or as close to running as one can get when one is holding a couple of bags and the other is holding the same and is too sore to run.

Luckily we made it. We didn't want to miss our latest mission- to take a tour of the Ricoh factory in Tustin, California. Ricoh makes many of our finest copy machines and they are now in the business of making some voting equipment that might be flooding Minnesota in no time helping us all add things up. We were there to make sure that they were making the apparatus right.

The factory tour reminded me of the Japanese company that Al and I visited in Osaka a few years back right before I became friends with the banged up auburn haired lass. Ricoh which is headquartered in Tokyo, is a very Japanese company. There are pep talk like slogans plastered throughout the factory and the workers are encouraged to offer up their ideas to improve the processes. None of the assembly line workers looked up as we approached their area and none ran from the room when the lunch bell rang, instead conscientiously staying at their station to finish up whatever task they were working on. Not ever feeling comfortable being a management type type I think I related to the mostly foreign looking factory workers a bit too much. I could see some appeal in having a doable task in front of me each and every day- having a routine that one could conceivably achieve some sort of perfection. But who was I kidding? Boredom isn't your major problem when opportunity doesn't even exist.

Our Embassy Suites hotel suites were sweet. We had a living room and a bedroom and though they lacked the 42 inch plasma TV like the room I had at the Beverly Hills Hilton, the TV was plenty big enough to be forever fearful as we watched Keanu Reeves leave his date and destiny in Hell for a hell on Earth in Constantine.

We were wined and dined at a fancy seafood restaurant right next to the hotel. The banged up auburn haired lass isn't too fond of seafood so she had a chicken caesar salad while I gorged myself on the freshest sashimi I ever did taste. My tablemates mostly ignored me although I caught an eye or two with my chopsticks skills.

I've spent a lot of time on the road this summer. Being away from home is always a new heart pumping experience. It's never been my goal in life to be a lifelong Minnesotan. If I were to spend my entire ordeal on this earth in one place I think in some sense I'd view that as a failure of a significant sort. I may not look the type but I do like to partake in a daily adventure or two. When I stay in one place too long it feels like gravity is cheating me, pushing down on me harder than anyone else. Upon my return I noticed that something is amiss. Hitting the road these days means hopefully hopping on my breathe the fresh air scooter. But one of the disadvantages of not traveling by car comes at a stoplight that often refuses to change because you don't weigh enough to trigger a change that changes the light from red to green, allowing you to finally move forward again. Only now they are. The lights are changing. I may be putting my foot down a bit harder than I used to and perhaps that's the only thing that could be causing such a difference. Except I suppose the loosening of the belt another notch. I've seen enough elsewhere this summer to rekindle the this isn't where I'm supposed to be feeling inside to unprecedented levels. Where that may or may not end up taking me is unfortunately forever unclear.

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