Friday, August 22, 2008

Going Home...

My last day in Seattle is always my best. Every Thursday morning, I eagerly await the moment when I can print my United boarding pass. Sure, this means I still have 24 hours to wait before I set foot on the plane taking me home, but it is a symbolic victory over the long week. It is the start to going home.

All through the week, I live a hum-drum existence. Awake at 3:30am, I head down to the completely deserted hotel gym to get in my workout. Then, it is a few hours of work before breakfast in the hotel restaurant. For me, breakfast is the high point of my day. Eggs cooked to order, bacon (a little free day travel exception), English muffins with hot butter and jam, and cup after cup of hot coffee.

Many people will skip breakfast, but this is the only thing that fortifies me for the ensuing nine hours of proposal meetings, where we play the game "Guess how smart I am?"

This game is played by any group of ten or more over 40 white male government contractors. We choose an arbitrary topic, like information networking standards, and then proceed to go around the room: We spout personal anecdotes about the programs we've worked and the systems we've known, until everyone either reaches mental exhaustion, or someone has to pee. Me, I have to pee a lot.

I am never the last man standing in these meetings, and I tire quickly of the pointlessness and utter wastefulness of three days, nine hours each, of this drivel. Moreover, as a taxpayer, I cannot help but think of the hundreds of dollars per hour per person (profit fees and other direct charges notwithstanding) that are being racked up on Uncle Sam's dime, for absolutely no worth whatsoever.

Usually, after these meetings, I flee—no, run—out of the building to head back to my hotel. Then, it is a quick bite at some nearby restaurant, and I'm in bed and asleep by eight o'clock. I always try to maintain my Eastern Standard Time physiological setting. It is easier that way.

Yes, it is a pretty mundane existence—up at three thirty, boring meetings all day, bed by eight.

So, it is always with great anticipation that I splurge a little and head out to dinner on Thursday nights. This time, Jeff, Barry and I headed down to the Pike's Place Fish Market in downtown Seattle to have dinner pier-side.

Our original destination was to be Elliott's, which promised the freshest oysters in the Seattle area, and it came very highly recommended. However, the wait was over an hour, so we settled for the less elegant and more touristy Crab Pot. Mind you, I'm not complaining. I just really wanted to try those oysters.

The whole premise of the Crab Pot is this: They scoop up a large bucket of shellfish: Dungeness crab, Alaskan king crab, oysters, shrimp, clams, and mussels, throw in some Andouille sausage, cobs of corn, and potatoes, then they steam the whole mess of it, and pour it out on the table for you to eat.

Barry and I shared this entree for two. This may sound somewhat romantic, but Barry quickly realized the mistake of sharing a "for two" entree with me. Instantly, I became like a dog stealing the Thanksgiving turkey, horking down huge handfuls of shellfish, barely able to get the shells removed before the critters were traversing my gullet. Poor Barry never had a chance. He insisted on chatting with Jeff, meanwhile, I stayed focused "on task", leaving Barry with perhaps a sickly oyster and a couple of wilting crab legs.

To which you must learn two pieces of advice: Never start a land war in Asia, and never, ever, share a seafood meal with Harris.

When supper was ended, we walked around the downtown area, but there wasn't really much to do. The fish market was all closed down. Who knew the market was only open during the day?

So we headed back to the hotel. Tomorrow was a travel day, and despite the very long five hour flight ahead, I was very eager to get under way.

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