You Can Take The Girl Out Of the Desert…

  • No Comments

…but you can’t take the desert out of the girl.

So here’s something that is grinding my gears lately.

It is the summertime here in the Bay Area and that is a complicated thing. As many know, the marine layer and I have long had a tempestuous relationship.

July looks like this: overcast morning gives way to a very hot and sunny day which is then doused by fog by the afternoon.

This phenomenon is why you see tourists shivering in their shorts down on Fisherman’s Wharf. The Bay Area warms up quickly then is naturally cooled.

However….

Before the fog rolls in, it can get truly hot around here. Hot enough that a little air conditioning would be a nice thing.

Most of the Bay Area doesn’t believe in air conditioning. I recall when I first moved here and was shopping apartments. I asked one landlord “where are the air conditioning controls?” and he laughed and said, “No air conditioning.”

“Whaaat?!” Was my reply. That was when I lived in the South Bay and temps could climb into the high 90’s during the day.

“Just open the windows. We get a cross breeze,” he said.

I scoffed. And harrumphed. And muttered something like “I’ll give you a cross breeze you rattin’ smattin’ rootin’ tootin’ son of your mother….”

As it turns out, very few homes in the Bay Area have air conditioning. No place I have lived since I’ve been here has had the sweet miracle that is air conditioning. Only some windows and a hope for a cross breeze.

Compare that to New Mexico where every home has some form of AC. It’s only right. Just. Moral. Upstanding.

I’ve survived many a Bay Area summer season by working a few longer hours at work, sucking down their gentle corporate paid cool air, or riding in my car with the AC on max to cool off.

But what’s grinding my gears lately is all of the retail stores that either don’t have or don’t use air conditioning.

Look, I learned as a young child about moving quickly from the freon cooled car into the refrigerated air cooled grocery store that was so frosty it would raise goose flesh on arms and my legs clad only in shorts. Malls and clothing stores and other retail shops are a respite from the heat.

Not here. Stores have no windows and no AC and no moving air at all and they become this stale pit of muggy heat. Bleah! I saunter around the store wiping sweat off my fevered brow.

My desert hewn body was made to be a wonder of convection cooling. I sweat, breeze passes over it, water evaporates and I’m cooled.

This is how nature made me!

But deep inside a Walgreens or a Safeway there ain’t no breeze and only the sweat remains. Gross.

So then I take up residence somewhere near the freezer section where I crack open a door and it takes me a reeeeaaaalllly loooooong time to select which brand of frozen orange juice I would like.

It just ain’t right.










Image created by quickmeme.




In The Small Hours

  • 4 Comments

Recently a new meeting appeared on my calendar at work. It’s a new group and a “core team” for an emerging and rather exciting new project that crosses many functional teams. Many global teams.

It’s a good sign that I was invited to the table and I take it as the step forward that it is.

However.

The meetings are set for 7:00 in the morning once a week in order to accommodate as many time zones as possible. Seven in the ayem. I rarely like rising by seven in the morning, much less well before so I can rise and feed the cat and get dressed and drive to work in order to be there by 7:00am.

That said, I find these early mornings to be a little odd and endearing. As much as I hate rising before the sun, those wee hours are also sort of fascinating.

This morning I stepped through the door from my building into the damp morning air. A fairly thick fog lay hugging the pavement as streetlights lit it with an ethereal glow. It was so quiet. Odd because in just an hour this same stretch of road will be backed up with the traffic of parents dropping their kids off at the nearby school, and punk kids walking and screaming and laughing and being obnoxious teenagers. Plus kids wailing at the nearby playground and the rumble of trucks and cars and the world coming alive.

But for these few precious moments, the world is silent. Quiet fog like the paws of a night animal sneaks and swirls through the streets.

Even with extra caution to avoid local deer and morning walkers, my usual twenty minute drive to work takes just ten and I think “hey, I’ll get to park in that one awesome parking spot right by the front door” but of course that’s not true. I’m not the only soul wandering the quiet workaday streets.

The tall multistoried edifice where I work looks imposing in the darkness. It is backlit by floodlights and the mist swirls high above the penthouse suite. The windows of the building are mirrored and in the daylight, this provides both security and uniformity. All you see is a solid wall of reflection.

In these dark hours, I can see into offices. There on the eighth floor I see an executive in his office bustling about. He looks almost frantic, pacing around the space. I suspect he is on an early call and the stress of the business day is already nattering in his ear.

I can see that lights were left on in The Big CEO office area. He has a nice office. I’ve actually been in that space, just once when he wasn’t there. I wonder why the lights are on because he’s not in there and his admin isn’t at work yet. Did someone forget and leave the lights on?

I can see multiple computer monitors on his desk and I wonder how many emails he must get in a day. Maybe it’s not that many as he has not one but two executives as direct reports. I bet they get all the email and he gets to be the “face of the company” and attends marketing events and drinks something expensive and drives something expensive and I bet he is working from home today anyway.

As my tummy rumbles I wonder if the executive suite gets breakfast catered in.

It’s too early in the morning to eat. My tummy is both hungry and nauseous. In about an hour I will be ravenous.

It’s so early that the main door to the main building is locked. During the day it’s open to all visitors and staff, but this morning I can’t actually remember where the badge reader is located. It’s not right next to the door and I recall it’s cleverly hidden in what looks like a light pole. So cleverly hidden it’s impossible to find.

I wave my badge around everywhere in the vicinity like a mad multi-limbed Shiva until I finally hear that satisfying click and I open the door and enter the lobby.

The security guard nearing the end of his overnight shift looks at me with knitted brows and doesn’t reply to my chirpy “good morning”.

It’s ok. I was faking the chirp anyway. I wouldn’t say hi to me either.

Pushing the up button to call the elevator, I’m happy to see the doors open immediately. I believe that when the elevators aren’t being used, all cars return to the first floor. It’s usually a dreadfully long wait during business hours, but not today. I ride up to my floor, stride to my office and flick on the lights. Immediately I put on my wireless desk headset and dial into the call.

And now someone in the parking lot can see me, my form bustling about my office as the stresses of the day begin to whisper in my ear. As I announce my entry to the call and greet the team, I already feel weary. I began mentally running through the day’s calendar trying to remember when I can actually leave work and head home.

I came in early so I can leave early, right?

Alas no. Pesky time zones. I have a call to an APAC country very late this afternoon.

And this is how my employers get their money’s worth out of me.




Not my building but surprisingly similar. This building is in Minneapolis. Mine is not.



Photo by drouu and used royalty free from stock.xchng.



And Then There Was Perspective

  • 2 Comments

Yesterday as I was writing up a post about whether or not to take the brand new laptop allocated to my new employee and give him my old machine, I got a ping on interoffice chat from my employee in Costa Rica.

She and I had spoken earlier in the week and she told me some sad news. Seems that she and her husband have to sell their car because her aunt has demanded immediate repayment of a debt. They have worked and tried to find a way to get the money to pay it, but cannot.

The car has to go.

When I was in Costa Rica with this fabulous lady in May, I was impressed by how much she and her husband loved their car. It is a ten year old Kia and they had lovingly detailed it, put on nice wheels, kept the paint clean, reupholstered the inside and doted on the car.

They even told me how important this car was to them. It got them back and forth to work. It helped my friend take her sick mom to regular doctor appointments. It gave them freedom to get out of stuffy, overcrowded San Jose and to the ocean.

She was crying as she told me the news.

They had found a buyer who gave them quick cash and they re-paid their debt, which means that both she and her husband need to ride public transit, such that it is, to get to work every day.

I’ve been on the buses in San Jose, Costa Rica. It’s not that bad, just very crowded. My friend has to walk about a mile from her home to the bus stop on roads with no sidewalks (or “walk sides” as she calls them) in the oppressive heat and tropical rain and at night.

She assured me it would be ok. She and her husband were looking into getting a loan for another car. They both have good jobs and it seems likely the bank will approve.

So yesterday, when she pinged me, she was apologetic. “I was late to work today, I’m so sorry.”

This is quite unlike her, she’s very prompt and quite businesslike.

“That’s ok, are you all right?”

Seems there is an ongoing protest in Costa Rica and while she was able to get on the bus, ultimately the route was blocked by protesters and traffic so everyone had to get off the bus. She walked five kilometers to work (about three miles) in her work clothes and heels.

She was spitting mad and drenched with sweat and just really, really sad.

“Do you mind if I leave a little early today? I have to go to the government office to get a report to take to the bank so they can see if we can have a loan for a car.”

“No problem,” I responded. “Take care of yourself.”

I’d tell her she could work from home for a few days until this is sorted out, but they can’t get internet to their house. The infrastructure just doesn’t exist yet in her neighborhood.

Whatta world, whatta world.





A Costa Rican bus stop, and this is a nice one. In the hills, bus stops are little more than a bench carved into jungle overgrowth.




Image from You’re Not From Around Here and that post is totally worth reading. I suggest a click.




I Hear You Calling

  • No Comments

Oh, Atlanta/I hear you calling/
I’m coming back to you one fine day/
No need to worry/There ain’t no hurry/
cause I’m/On my way back to Georgia

— Atlanta, by Alison Krauss

Last month I typed into my Facebook status, “Holy crap. I’m actually in London” in the awe inspiring moments after I stepped off an airplane.

I considered typing something similar today.

I suppose “Holy crap I’m actually in Atlanta” holds a little less gravitas, but it’s no less sincere.

The holy crap comes to mind because it’s been a really long time since I was in beautiful Georgia.

Flying over the city I love to look out the window and I’m always amazed. Atlanta is so green. So many trees. So many old red brick buildings. Lovely!

I got a good adventure today, too. I picked up a rental car at the airport and got out on Highway 85 southbound. Today I drove across the left half of Georgia. It’s a jaunt that would take many, many hours in New Mexico, but turns out I only needed about 75 miles to get it done today.

The highway was wonderful. Smooth pavement, tall Georgia pines lining the route and well-tended velvety grass on both sides of the road.

I put my favorite Sirius station on the rental car radio and took a really nice drive.

It looked like this.





I love driving on easy open road. It’s very meditative. Some of my best thinking gets done on an uncrowded interstate.

And then after a little over an hour, I slipped over the border into Alabama and found my hotel.

This is the view from my hotel room. That is some big sky right there.




The population of this town is 7,897 and the folks here could not be any nicer. I took a drive around the town just to check it out and marveled at how pretty it is here in this little corner of Alabama.

Something so easy and so pretty about a warm summer night in the South.

And then I stopped off for a little dinner at a local institution.

Haven’t visited one of these in a while.





Feeling quite content, I’m back in my hotel and I’m smiling.

Atlanta may have been calling, but right now Alabama’s got my attention.

I was sort of worried about this trip, about the long drive and the weather and what this little town would be like.

It turns out I’m kind of having fun. On a work trip! Go figure.



That Is Very, Very Green

  • No Comments

As I’m running from meeting to meeting here in Cost Rica, I had a chance to take a quick snap of my view from behind the office buildings.

So incredibly green and beautiful, and this is just San Jose.

I can’t begin to imagine the view outside of metropolitan area. I’ll get to see more of it tomorrow.

But for today….just. Wow.

This is what you get when you have a lot of rain.






Photo Copyright 2012, Karen Fayeth, and subject to the Creative Commons license in the right column of this page. Photo taken with an iPhone 4s and the Camera+ application.