Sunday, December 5, 2010

It seemed like a good idea at the time

This is one of those situations where you are going to say, “What were you thinking?” and “If this guy did something this stupid, why would he think his advice is worth anything?” 

Having said that, I am going to tell you what I did today anyway.

I booked a 1:30 PM flight to Austin about a week ago. I have a client down there who wants me to meet with her after business hours, so a 2:30 PM arrival seemed just about right. My trusty car of 15 years finally gave up the ghost, so we are down by one car. Not a problem since my wife does not work....until this week when she landed a new job which started today.  My son graciously offered to run me over to the airport in his car before he headed to class. It would get me to the airport several hours early, but I had no other good options, short of paying $30 for a share ride shuttle. I would rather sit in the Admiral's Club for an extra couple of hours and get some work done. Airfare and rental car are being covered by the client, but no other travel expenses.

As things happen, when dealing with early morning routines, we got out of the house just a few minutes late. With capricious road construction in the area, time was quickly running out and my son started worrying about making it to class on time.  The last thing I want to do is to show my freshman son that the world will not come to an end if he is late to class. Fortunately, I'd sized up the situation early and had put a change of clothes in my carry-on and wore “sensible” shoes. As we got closer to the airport, and the clock ticked past the time he needed to turn the car around and head up to Denton, I asked him to drop me off at the gas station just north of the airport. I calculated that a 30 minute walk would take me to the North Remote Parking where I could catch the shuttle to my terminal.

Ah...the best laid plans....

James Snider is an global marketing professional with 16 years experience in the semiconductor and high-tech industry. He is currently working as a consultant.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

It seemed like a good idea at the time...part 2

Everything was going along pretty well except for the fact that my carry-on was a little heavier than I really wanted to carry for 30 minutes. I saw the road to the airport making a large curve and it seemed to me that I could shave off a few minutes if I simply cut across the open field (the shortest distance between two points).  That became problematic as the weeds were about a foot high and the ground was fairly soft; making for tough hiking. Still, huffing and puffing, I was getting closer.

I heard a shout off to my left, but paid little attention. There is construction in the area. Some distant shouting is to be expected. But I heard it again...and then again. I turned and saw a very large airport policeman working his way across the soft field in my direction. I decided that there was little to be gained by not meeting him halfway, so I headed in his direction. He, of course, stopped and waited for on I went with my carry-on getting heavier all the time.

Once I reached him, he informed me that there had been a call about a suspicious person walking close to the runway. I confirmed that I was the only suspicious person I'd seen but had gone no closer to the runway that where I was when he stopped me. I then gave him the short version of my story.

He asked for ID, called it in, wanted my flight information and then wanted a quick look at the contents of my carry-on. A second airport policeman (actually a woman...but police person sounds too PC) showed up and they both looked at me very sternly. I remained affable (although I consider airport police to be a small step up from a security guard, I am sure they have the authority to cause me a lot of trouble, particularly in the current elevated state of security). I chatted a bit while the second officer did something with my ID but the first officer was not particularly interested in small talk. He wanted me to understand that no one ever walks to the airport. They always “arrive in some sort of vehicle.” That is always going to raise some suspicion; walking to the airport. I could have ameliorated the situation a bit if I'd simply stuck to the road. Walking across the field in the general direction of the runway was not a good idea. He understood my basic algebra about the shortest distance...he still recommended that I stick to the road if I ever decided to walk to the airport in the future.

But the fun part was still to come.

James Snider is an global marketing professional with 16 years experience in the semiconductor and high-tech industry. He is currently working as a consultant.

Friday, December 3, 2010

It seemed like a good idea at the time...part 3

Once he satisfied himself that I was guilty of nothing more than foolishness,  he offered to give me a ride to the North Remote Parking “or you can continue walking.” Now, it was only a block and a half to remote parking....but why would I not take the ride? I had broken a decent sweat and my arms were feeling tight from carrying the carry-on. I was having no fun walking so I accepted the ride. That is when I found out why I might have preferred to have walked the rest of the way. 

This officer showed his police training by describing to me exactly what was going to happen before he did anything. It really seems like a tedious exercise, “Sir, please put your bag down behind the car and step back. I am now going to open the trunk of the cruiser from inside the cab. Leave your bag on the ground. Now I am going to put your bag in the trunk....”

Then he informed me that he needed to check me for weapons before he allowed me to enter the cruiser. He asked me if I had any weapons. Then he informed me that he was going to give me a pat-down. Standing beside a busy road headed into the airport, I had to assume the position and get a pat-down. He only showed a slight sign of humor when I stated, about halfway through the pat-down, that this would probably not be the only time I got patted-down that day.

He then took me through the step-by-step instructions on how he was going to open the back door of the cruiser and that I should get in and would be required to put on the seat belt. I guess I should have seen that coming. I was going to be behind the Plexiglas in the backseat like a vagrant or public drunk or something. The pat-down was not pleasant and was a little bit embarrassing....but embarrassment was building. 

The seats were very high up and made of some sort of formed plastic like a cheap... I don't know what. I have never seen anything like it. I asked the officer about the seat when he finally got into the front seat (the passenger side was full of all sorts of I guess it was nothing against me, there was simply no room for me in the passenger seat up front). He responded (with some humor) that they were not built for comfort but he said nothing more about it.

Now he engaged me in small talk. He asked why I was traveling and what my line of work is...maybe still looking for inconsistencies that might cause me to spend a few hours in a cell being crossed examined, but I took it as a friendly gesture. When we arrived at North Remote Parking, he had to let me out of the back seat where I was met with the curious and appraising scrutiny of the crowd waiting for the shuttle. They were expecting a vagrant or public drunk. A look of slight suspicion lingered on their faces despite the fact that the officer was letting me out of the backseat and pulled my luggage out of the trunk for me. I was being treated with respect....but still....they were wondering.

So what I did learn from this? I think that is pretty obvious....

Humility is an important lesson to learn but not a lesson I want to repeat often.

James Snider is an global marketing professional with 16 years experience in the semiconductor and high-tech industry. He is currently working as a consultant.