Houston, Part Two and Three

Hobby Airport, Houston

So, yeah, Thursday was pretty bad. I stayed in a hotel that might have actually been in the middle of the highway, judging from the volume of the traffic noise. Miraculously, I did not end up smelling like hot dogs (seriously, what building material makes a new building smell like that?) but I didn’t get much sleep.

I got up early and got myself breakfast, and then got myself over to the Marriot just in time for the first workshop of the day. I have to admit that I was not expecting much, but there were more people signing than speaking and that workshop was amazing. I got into my room at the Marriot which was CRAZY POSH and a little bit extreme, but no hot dogs or NASCAR so I was happy. If I had been able to have that room starting on Thursday night, I think that I might have had a better attitude.

Friday’s workshops were great. Friday night’s entertainment was great, and I’m so glad that I didn’t talk myself into skipping it and having an early night. Saturday morning I had planned to skip the 8am workshop and just chill until time to go to the airport, but I soldiered on and had the chance to experience a great workshop on self-care for interpreters. Such good information!

I was positively floating by the time I got to Hobby (plenty of time to catch my flight) and the flight from Houston to Atlanta went off without a hitch. I found an Atlanta Bread in the concourse and had a (vegetarian) sandwich that I recognized AND a place to charge my phone whilst I ate. I rang Simon. I rang Mom. Everything was turning up Nancy. And that’s when I did it, that’s when I spoke aloud to the universe that EVERYTHING HAD WORKED ITSELF OUT and the rest of my trip would be FINE. And the universe responded, “Hold my beer.”

I was at my gate about 7pm; boarding was supposed to start at 7:20pm. My boarding number was A5, so the chances I’d get a good seat were high. At 7:30, they told us that the flight crew wasn’t on the ground from New Orleans yet, so we wouldn’t be boarding until after 8:20 when they arrived with a view to takeoff being pushed back to 8:40. The woman in the Breast Cancer Survivor shirt across from me put in her headphones and started singing. The owner of one of the most adorable Westies I have ever seen put him back in his carrier and left – I assume the little fella needed the loo? I played games on my phone.

8:30 comes and the flight crew isn’t there yet. A large crowd has gathered in the pre-boarding area and none of them are using wheelchairs, were elderly, or had a stroller with them. At 8:45 the flight crew arrived and only one of them decided not to look sheepish as they cut through the crowd and headed down the jetway to the plane. 8:50 and we are boarding. 9:05 and we are away. I’m not sure a Southwest flight has moved that quickly, ever, but I can tell you that the entire plane let out whoops and wolf-whistles and a loud round of applause when the plane touched down in Greenville at almost 10pm.

So all in all, I guess my problems weren’t Houston’s fault, but I’m not in a hurry to go back…roll on RID Region II in…oh man. Gulfport MS in July. Yee-haw.

Well, howdy, Houston.

Yeah, I know that people don’t really say howdy just because this is Texas. But to be honest, my first hours in this part of the Lone Star State have been so very weird that I first thought I’d booked the wrong flight and was actually in Austin, but that weird is a good weird. This weird is like a WHEN AM I GOING TO WAKE UP FROM WHAT IS CLEARLY A NIGHTMARE weird.

I don’t think that it is Houston’s fault though… To be fair, I’m not even sure that I’m in Houston proper. I flew into Hobby because the hotel where my conference is being held only runs a shuttle to Hobby – a fact that, in retrospect, should have told me loads about the hotel. But I will get to that in a minute.

I flew Southwest for the first time and after wrangling their wifi (good gracious, I’ve been here less than 24 hours and I said wrangling) mid-flight, I find that was the only complaint I have with them. It is definitely worth it to do what you need to do to be Passenger A 1-10 to board, and make sure you can check your bag, and it’s really a pleasant airline for short haul flights. The seats aren’t as comfy as the Delta Economy Comfort that my rear end has grown to love, but the flight crew was nice and it was a good experience…at least until the landing at Hobby.

We were coming in for a landing – literally, I could read the words on the buildings – and then out fo nowhere we started climbing again. Apparently, the plane on the runway to take off was not going fast enough so our plane couldn’t land. I guess there is a first time for everything. Poor hubs was watching the flight online and said that it told him I’d be on the ground in ten minutes and then JUST KIDDING, we were circling. But we landed, and I made it off the plane, got my bags, all before my phone’s battery died. JUST.

I followed the signs (once I wandered around till I found them) to the “Hotel Shuttle Pickup” spot and waited…and waited…there was lots of waiting. The couple waiting there with me probably wished that I would go away – it should be no shocker to anyone that knows me that I am very bad at small talk. I was two clicks out from going back in the airport to regroup and charge my phone when the shuttle for my hotel arrived. Back on the plan!

Sort of.  The couple I was waiting alongside was either on the phone or on the net from the airport to the hotel (which y’all, is like 5 minutes) and talking about transplants and stem cells and how someone whose name I didn’t catch was “expendable…well, not expendable, but expendable.” I tuned out at that point. Got to the hotel and they had given my room away. Now two weeks ago I rang the hotel to let them know that I would be there on Thursday instead of Wednesday – which made their website tell me that I had to start over and the hotel was sold out this weekend. The very nice woman I spoke to said she straightened it out, just took the Wednesday arrival off and send me a new confirmation email. The man who clearly could not have cared less had he been dead told me that wasn’t the case and they were putting me across the street at another hotel for the night at no charge. Since that was NOT the point, I argued and told him I had a confirmation email. He told me it didn’t matter, he did not have a room for me and here’s the shuttle, come see us after 8am tomorrow and we will have a room for you.

Well, you can just imagine my happy face at THAT good news. So I come to the HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS – which by the way has not made me any more intelligent by my staying here – which has no restaurant. Did I mention I ate lunch in Greenville at 10:45 and was starving by that point? So I got the shuttle back across the street (which isn’t a street, it’s a HIGHWAY and very busy and loud) and tried to find the registration for the conference. The terribly unhelpful man that gave away my room answered my VERY REASONABLE question about the location of the registration for TerpExpo by saying that he only registered people for the hotel. What?

Still with me? BECAUSE THERE’S MORE.

So I’m wandering around, nearly in tears from hunger and frustration, feeling an anxiety attack building toward panic when I saw a line of people leading to food. I got in the line, but as it drew closer I found that the food in question was ice cream. There’s another group in the same hotel – a church group from Waco learning about mission trips. And best of all, they brought all three million of their children. I got out of that line and wandered around till a very helpful member of the waitstaff from the hotel restaurant took pity on me, got me a table and a menu.

Two things about that meal: The hotel serves Pepsi products and “basil cream sauce” on pasta is basically pesto.

Made it to the registration table, got myself sorted out, and made it into the last workshop of the day. All in all, I’m not that impressed with TERPEXPO so far, and the registration issue was just one of the problems. What kind of interpreter conference has that much talking without signing? I think I’ve learned that these conferences are not for me, thank you. RID seriously has nothing to worry about in terms of losing folks to this circus. I hope it’s better in other cities.

So after hours and hours of “this must be a dream” and “please, I’d like to wake up now,” I am in my room across the highway and I feel a little better. Must be the pesto…because it isn’t Houston.