Most people generally agree that the holidays are a pretty stressful time for everyone. Oh yeah? Top THIS.
The Low-Hanging Obstacle
I've just built a storage loft in an old warehouse I rent for a workshop. Some friends of mine helped me erect it, 10 feet off the concrete floor, and there's still enough room to stand up between the ceiling rafters.
There is not, however, a lot of room to walk around effortlessly, without beaning yourself in the face with a large tension cable which runs through the entire building. This mark actually got worse-looking after the pic was taken. Great.
The Windy City
I was asked to speak at a software convention in Chicago, and I hate long road trips, so I booked a flight. Mrs. Frost decides to come along. We are scheduled to take off on a Friday night, right after work. I pack everything up and take it with me to work that day. She does the same, and drives her own car to meet me at the office. We transfer everything to my car and drive to the airport.
I'm nervous, anxious, and exhausted, because I haven't finished assembling my presentation yet, and I've been staying up all night for the past several days trying to get it all done.
I plan to park at one of those convenience ramps a few miles away and take a shuttle, but we're running late, so Mrs. Frost suggests that we just drive straight to the airport and pay for parking there. Fine.
You know what kind of a hassle it is going through airport security, right? Every day of my life is like that. So there's no point in me bitching about airport security, because you already know it sucks. Except for you, once you get through security, life is grand again. For me, everything is still a pain in the ass.
I really need to finish working on my presentation, but I'm simply fatigued. I don't even bother to unpack my laptop.
Our flight to O'Hare goes without consequence, and I sleep through the entire thing. We take a train from the airport to downtown where we plan to meet some of my co-workers from the Chicago office. They are taking us to WhirlyBall that evening, which is a bar/restaurant with bumper car la crosse courts. I decide to forget all about my presentation and try out this menace of a sport. It's stupidly fun. One of my co-workers, KJ, is a WhirlyBall master and is by far the best drunk bumper car driver I've ever seen.
We arrive at the hotel, just across the street from the convention center. I set my alarm for 5am so that I'll have a few hours to finish up my presentation before the convention starts.
At 8am I open my eyes and try to get my bearings. Son of a bitch! I must have dismissed my alarm at 5am! I wake up a very cranky Mrs. Frost and shoo her out of bed. We barely make it to the conference on time.
I check in at the registration table, get my badge, and meet my co-workers who are setting up our table. I tell them that I desperately need to finish my presentation. Instead, I am informed that I need to deliver a quick speech introducing our company to the convention attendees at the opening ceremonies. I let out a big sigh, and agree to do it.
I utter 2 or 3 sentences about our company in a not-so-elegant fashion, and step off the stage, to some mediocre applause. Now, to open my laptop and get cracking on this presentation!
I'm working for not more than 5 minutes when I'm interrupted by KJ. He says that some reporter wants a statement from me, representing the company and what the software means to us. He guards my laptop while I go find the reporter and give a brief statement on video, bloodshot eyes and all.
The interview goes good, and I get back to work. Suddenly, I'm approached by another guy, this one with a blue fauxhawk, who says he is scheduled to co-present with me, and share stage time. I had no idea. So now I have to reconsider the content of my presentation to account for his, and basically start over.
I finally get on stage, but I'm using a new company laptop, a Mac, and I'm a PC user. So I'm on stage, plugging into the projector, when I realize that the projector resolution doesn't match the laptop resolution, so half of the content is off the screen. I'm trying to figure out how to run the presentation, getting shouted suggestions from the audience, and none of it is working. I'm sweating balls, I'm so nervous. I want to get this fucking presentation over with, but FauxHawk is over at the side of the stage clearing his throat and pointing at his wrist. I wrap things up to some half-hearted applause again, and run off the stage. He gives me a dirty look for taking up so much time. I shrug and go look for a place to relax for once.
The rest of the convention goes without consequence, and they treat us an after party at an Irish pub, which we get to via street trolley, which has free beer on it. I start indulging heavily. The after-party ends several hours later, with software nerds geeking-out over the latest developments in the industry, and the cool companies they work for, yadda, yadda, yadda.
I decide that I'm not finished punishing my liver, and state my intentions to go out for more. KJ the Valiant pledges his support of the idea and takes me and Mrs. Frost to another Irish pub called Lady Gregory's. There, we are presented with a wood-covered book, with 50 pages inscribed with nothing but their in-house selection of whiskeys. Mrs. Frost's eyes light up. I gulp at her reaction, and realize it's going to be a long night.
Once we are thoroughly lubricated, we hail a taxi and head back to the hotel, go inside, and start getting ready for bed. I go to set an alarm on my cell phone, but I can't find it. I look everywhere, but it's just gone. Then I realize the only place it can be: in the back seat of that cab! Mrs. Frost calls my phone. A lady answers. She says that she found the phone in a taxi cab. Mrs. Frost gets her address which was another hotel, some 20 miles away already! The lady says she'll leave my phone at the hotel's front desk.
I flag down another cab and give them the address. When we arrive, I ask the cabby if he'll leave the meter running while I run into the hotel lobby for a moment, and then have him return me back to my original hotel. He says he'll do it, but only if I leave him my driver's license. I agree, hand it over, and run up to the hotel door.
Inside the desk clerks look at me blankly when I ask for a missing cell phone that had been turned in not 30 minutes ago. They begin searching, and finally find an envelope which is marked "Lost Cell Phone". They ask me when I lost it, how I lost it, what it looks like, etc. "Look", I start "it's the only fucking cell phone you have back there, and it's mine. Can you please just give it to me? I have a cab with his meter running out there." The clerk says he needs to see my ID. I refuse, not only because there is nothing useful he could do with that information and validate it against the phone, but also because my fucking driver's license is still in the cab. He can see that I'm getting belligerent and hands me the envelope. I tear it open, produce my phone, and run back to the cab.
Out on the sidewalk, a couple of people are getting into my cab! The cabby is telling them that he has another fare already, but they ignore him through his thick accent. I approach and tell them that this is my cab and they'll have to find another. The man tells me to fuck off and get my own cab. I explain that this is my cab, my meter is running, and unless he wants to go back to my hotel, he and his two-bagger wife had better get the hell out. They both swear as they exit the cab, and the guy tries sticking his finger in my chest, but I shove him off and get in the back seat.. The cabby pulls away and takes me back to my hotel.
The next day, we're leaving Chicago and we stop at a hot dog joint in the airport. We decide that we absolutely must have a couple of genuine Chicago dogs before our plane takes off. They are absolutely delicious, packed with pickles, onions, tomatoes, celery salt, spicy mustard, and hot peppers. We enjoy every bite.
On the plane, the guy sitting directly behind me can't shut up. He loudly comments on everything to the stranger sitting next to him, and then goes on for a solid hour about his career in the military as an auto mechanic, how he made bank in Operation Desert Storm, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and how he's got it made, way more than any "civvie". I just want to enjoy a quiet flight, but this guy is just being a douchebag. I push the button and lean my seat back as far as possible. He pauses his story only long enough to comment how he hates how people put their seats back in airplanes. My smile quickly fades when the gas bag starts yammering again.
Back in Minneapolis, we get in my car, drive home, bask in the silence, and go to bed.
The Day Job
I hate leaving the office because it means more work ahead of time, and a LOT more work catching up when I return. This is absolutely the case when I return from the Chicago convention. Not only did I have extra work, but I also lost the best programmer on my team, and had to take about 2 hours out of my day explaining the weight of his departure to the rest of the company, all the while being swamped with continually more work, all of it rush jobs, and all of it due immediately.
When my scheduled meetings finally clear up, I sit at my desk to start getting work done when my phone rings. It's Mrs. Frost. She says "You realize that I'm stranded at home, right? We left my car at the office on Friday."
I have to forego lunch and drive home to pick up the Mrs. We're in the car on the ride back to the office, when yesterday's Chicago dogs with the hot peppers finally catch up to me. My intestine wants to evict them, and they are none too happy about it. I apologize now to whoever followed me in the mens room at the office.
What's even more annoying, is that I get a phone call from my former bank, explaining that they tried to refund my credit card deposit, but found that my former former bank wouldn't accept the transfer. Well no shit, dummies! Both of those accounts are closed! If you want to send me a refund, why don't you just mail me a fucking check!?! The gentleman on the phone said that he can certainly mail me a check, but only after I complete about a dozen forms and get a signed letter from my former-former bank verifying that the account is closed. WTF!?! It's my money! Can't I just have it!?!
Fortunately, things settled down by evening, just in time for another big surprise.
This year for Christmas, I got Mrs. Frost season tickets to the Guthrie, the largest theater in the mid-west, which has held productions by famous actors from across the globe. We both love the performing arts. In point of fact, I used to work at the Guthrie constructing stage scenery. So naturally, Mrs. Frost and I have a soft spot for this theater in particular.
Our first play of the season is "Charley's Aunt", a hilarious comedy which features two actors who we know personally. Knowing full-well that we'll need to put our coats, hats, and other belongings in small coin-operated coat lockers in the theater lobby, I shove a few dollars in quarters in my pocket. We're already running late, and Mrs. Frost is anxious to get our the door. We dress up all fancy, go out to dinner, and make our way downtown through the heaviest snowfall of the season thus far. The weather and traffic really slow us down, but we manage to arrive with enough time for a drink, and boy do I want one.
I pull the car up to the parking ramp attached to the Guthrie. There are dozens of other cars behind us, right on our bumper, anxious to get into the ramp. As I approach the barricade, I see a sign that clearly reads: "This is a fully automated facility." You know, one of those where you take the ticket and pay for it at a machine before you leave. Except there is also a booth, and this time there is an attendant.
"Eight dollars." he tells me. I casually hand him my check card. He refuses to take it, saying that they accept cash only. Didn't that sign back there just say this is an automated facility? WTF?
I don't have $8 in cash on my person, and neither does Mrs. Frost. I ask the attendant why I can't just push the button, take the ticket, and pay for my parking like a normal person. He says it's pre-pay only, and it has to be cash. He says I'll have to back out of the entrance... with a dozen other cars lined up behind us. I give him a very disgusted look. I reluctantly put the car in reverse, and have to wait for the disbelief to fade from the face of the driver behind me before they put their car in reverse, and then this process repeats all the way down the line to the last car who actually has an opportunity to actually back up to make room for the rest of us. I pull my car out in shame, and wave a lame apology to the SUV in line behind me. Dammit, I could really use a drink.
Fortunately, there is an open parking meter just at the corner. I pull up, park, and run around to open Mrs. Frost's door. She chirps as the snow quickly finds its way into the front of her open-toe heels. I brush the snow off the meter, and read that it's $1 per hour, and that meters are in effect until 10pm. The time is 7:46pm and I have exactly $2 in quarters in my pocket that are supposed to be for the coin lockers, but I have no other choice. I empty my pockets into the meter.
Inside, I have to wait in the ticket line (even though we already have tickets) to ask if I can get some change for the coin lockers. I'd like to be enjoying my fancy-pants theater experience, now, starting with a drink. Mrs. Frost already has her coat off, and is considering just carrying it along into the theater. But instead I'm in this damn line, waiting to get some friggin' quarters. The cashier says it's no problem, and gives me a handful. Mrs. Frost and I put our coats and hats into the locker, insert the coins, take the key, and proceed to the upper levels of the theater.
We're about 30 minutes early, so we stop at one of the many bars in the theater. I order a glass of Cabernet, and she orders a gin tonic. The bartender asks us for our IDs. I produce mine, along with my credit card to start a tab. Mrs. Frost slumps in her bar stool, realizing that her wallet and ID are in her coat which is neatly stored in the coin locker down stairs. I give her some quarters, she descends through the building, through all the crowds of people, and returns a long while later. The bartender finally serves us our drinks, but now we have to slam them and close our tab, because the play is starting.
I retrieve our coats and hats, and I can see our car out on the curb through the giant glass doors at the front of the Guthrie, but we can't get to it because there are masses of people loitering in the lobby, just casually talking, not moving. Why do people think it's ok to jam up traffic patterns for no fucking reason? Get out of the way, idiots!
After much ado, I get Mrs. Frost to the car. Snow gets in her shoes again. I open her door, which is covered in snow. She hands me the brush and scraper thing, and I get to work, clearing a few inches of the white fluff off the windows.
Sure enough, I clear off the windshield wipers, and find a parking ticket stuck underneath one of them. It was issued at 9:46pm... the exact minute my meter expired. If I had one extra quarter in my pocket, I would have been covered until 10:01pm. But no. Now I have to pay and extra $42 dollars for parking. Son of a bitch!
Because things can always get worse, I can tell you with certainty that the remainder of my month has been no better. One mishap after another keeps piling up. Just last night I got pulled over by the cops. Again. It wasn't Officer Josh this time, and I didn't get a ticket, but still... COPS! I'm surprised I'm not spending the holidays in jail!
Merry Fucking Christmas.