Monday, July 30, 2007

From the past: Mexico City

I was cleaning off my computer and found an old 'journal' from a trip to Mexico City I took for work a few years ago. Dont know what kind of shape it's in because I just dont feel like editing. Enjoy or don't, as I recall, it's somewhat negative due to overwork at the time. Honestly, I'm really posting this to see if I can still remember how to work this blog thingy. Apparently everyone is doing it and baring their souls probably a bit more than they should be. Tsk, tsk tsk.
- Hooty

Thursday December 2, 2004 Part I

On an airplane headed for Mexico City. Once again, last minute business trip. Found out about it last week on Monday, two days before Thanksgiving, in my opinion it was a direct assault on my Thanksgiving holiday by my management, the Grinches. I was planning on taking most of this week off for the holiday because I’ve got so much time saved up that I have to use before the end of the year. I figured I’d knock a few days off before the Christmas holidays, so much for that. I took Monday off work, but because of the number of hours I’ve worked to date this week, I won’t need to use a vacation day. I’m really not that disappointed though, I’ve never been to Mexico City before. Besides, this trip, I won’t have to be around clients, just working from our office in the city. How bad could it be?

This trip is supposed to be pretty cut and dry, go into the office tomorrow (Friday) around 8:00 am, there should be 3 laptops and some software waiting for me. I have to install the software on the three machines as well as some software that I’m bringing with me. That’s it, wake up, install, and enjoy a day in a foreign city. I’ll have a driver to take me around, I hope he shows up. From everything I’ve heard, things in Mexico don’t usually go completely to plan, so I’m not expecting everything to go smoothly, but that’s ok, it’s all part of the learning experience. I’m trying to take things as they come much more than I ever did in the past. I’m a creature of habit, so this is much easier said than done, however, whether the mind is forced open or naturally open, it is still an open mind and that alone will help me enjoy myself more.

I’ve brought three books with me for this trip; Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest, Anthony Burgess’ Clockwork Orange and Henry Rollins’ Seen A Grown Man Cry, Now Watch Him Die. I figure better to leave home without my toothbrush than without something to read. I’m only going to be gone for about 2 ½ days, but, much of that time will be spent in the airports waiting for flights or on the airplane traveling. When I travel to other countries, I usually try only to read when I’m waiting or in the air, I really don’t want to be in some wild and distant land, cooped up in a hotel room reading about a bunch of hippies dropping acid and following the Grateful Dead.

Thursday December 2, 2004 Part II
In the hotel room now. Mexico City is huge, we flew over the city for about half an hour and landed in the middle of town. The guy sitting next to me said the city is over 23 million people (it could have been 23 million pesos, which is roughly 2 USD, the plane was kind of loud). I’m pretty sure that’s the biggest city in the world. It was dark flying in, you could see lights on the horizon in all directions. The airport was totally insane. You get off the airplane to mass hysteria, people yelling and screaming, taxi drivers trying to offer you a ride (to some place where they can take your shit probably). Luckily I didn’t have to check my bag, it would have taken me all night to get out of there. The line at customs was about 45 minutes long. I hate customs forms, I never know if I’m filling them out correctly. I guess I’ll find out someday if I ever travel somewhere that even looks at the damn things.

Found my driver easy enough, he had a sign held up that said Lukas Hotmuchah. I just assumed that was me, if not; please accept my apologies Mr. Hotmuchah. Once again, there was a wall of people immediately outside the gates of the airport, however, in Mexico City, it’s illegal for taxis to hang around outside unless they’re picking up a specific person (like Mr. Hotmuchah). It was loud as shit out there too, and kinda stinky.

The drive to the hotel did not let down as usual. My driver spoke no English, so that was good. It took about 45 minutes to get to the hotel. The traffic was pretty bad, but not horrible. The city appeared pretty dirty and very unsafe, I don’t know how I could tell that from the car, but you could feel it in the air, something very intimidating about the place. It was a land stitched together by ghettos and I was an outsider.

The hotel is very nice, the Intercontinental Presidente. This place is huge; there are seven restaurants and 24 hour live music in the place. They really want people to know it’s safe to stay inside. A person could spend a whole vacation here without even going outside. I had a pretty dank dinner tonight, fat steak, bottle of wine, some lobster bisque and some unknown appetizer. I’m not sure of the conversion rate, but no doubt it was expensive. I really wasn’t in the mood to worry, long day traveling, early morning tomorrow.

I read the entire Clockwork Orange on the flight and started the Rollins book. This Rollins book is mostly poetry, very angry poetry, I love it. Sometimes I really get into the angry reading, other times it just doesn’t fit my mood. I think that Rollins is a great read for this city. Chile, not so much. Going to bed now, tired.

Friday December 3, 2004
This is a day for the books, at least as far as work stories go. I wish I had something better to talk about. I got to the office around 9:00 (the driver was one hour late). Our office in Mexico City is totally awesome. Actually, it’s two offices, both of them are in old houses. The architecture here is amazing, at least in the older houses. Everything is fenced off (imagine that), inside the fences are beautiful tile walkways and gardens. Inside, wood floors, arched doorways, very cool colors. I’m in love with this place, but it’s probably a $2 million dollar house (Mexico City is one of the most expensive places in the world for some reason).

One thing that made me feel strange all day was the men’s bathroom. It was in a hallway closet. The door on it was about five feet high, so I had to really duck down to get in, plus, it was kind of like a screen door, and right next to the secretary’s desk. I kept this in mind when I was picking out what to eat for lunch.

I get to the office and meet Jorge Martinez. He’s an engineer about my age and very good and helpful person. He tells me the bad news. Only two of the laptops were there and the software didn’t get there last night, like it was supposed to. The 3rd laptop should be there in ‘an hour or so’ and the software should be there any time. So I set up my computer and started waiting. I fired up the other two laptops to realize they’re in Spanish (which wasn’t a big surprise), but it takes some getting used to. I found myself going to my computer to count menu items and then going to the Spanish machines and counting them off on it (I did this pretty much all day).

After about an hour, Jorge called the software distributor, and they said they were on their way, half an hour. Come to find out, the place is only about two blocks away. An hour later, a guy shows up with a package, hands it to me and wants me to sign for the software. Only one problem, there was no software, just a couple computer plugs (necessary for the software, but useless without it). So him and Jorge go and call the distributor again and arrange for the software to be delivered. He said he’d be back in half an hour.

An hour later, the guy shows up with the software, hands it to me and hands a form for Jorge to sign off. Of course, it was the wrong software, so I had to dive across the room before Jorge could sign off for the software. It was like a slow motion scene of a movie where the poor grandmother was about to sign over the deed to her house when the grandson comes in with the money to pay off the mortgage. We argued with the guy for a couple minutes, this idiot was trying to get us to take the upgraded software (“it’s better, newer and free of charge”). Listen muchacho, this isn’t a sombrero I’m trying to buy from you, now go get the right shit. Luckily, I had photocopied the original purchase order and showed it to him. So he said he’d get the right stuff (in a half hour).

About an hour later, the guy shows up with a huge box, the size of a canoe, and lo, it was the right software. There was one envelope on top of the canoe with a CD in it, I took the CD out and held it up to him and said “This, this is all I needed”, pushed the canoe off into the corner and let Jorge sign off.

So, now it’s about 1:00, we just got the software (about a day late). All I really needed to do was walk down to the corner and point to the right box and we could have saved about 5 hours, but se la vie. I got the software installed on the first two laptops, but the third one still hadn’t arrived. The driver had the laptop at the client’s office and would be over in an hour to drop it off, so Jorge and I went out to lunch.

Lunch was awesome, as is all food that’s not deep fried or served with a toy. Jorge is a great guy, he lived in England for a while, spent some time hiking around Europe, something I really wish I had the mindset to do. If I took off to travel around on my own for months at a time, I’d spend the whole time worrying about stupid shit. Jorge told me that the hotel I was staying at was about the nicest in Mexico City. I’m so honored.

We got back around 3:00, and still no 3rd laptop. Apparently, the driver had the computer, but the owner didn’t check it out properly and the security wouldn’t let the driver leave the building with it. The owner was at lunch, which meant another hour. This hour turned out to be about 2 hours and I didn’t get the laptop until around 7:00.

First thing I noticed, the computer was a different model than the other two, which isn’t a big deal, but I couldn’t get the power cable to work, which meant I had about 90 minutes of battery power left to get the software installed. No problem. Then I started it up and one of the people in the office says “Oh, this computer has Windows Server 2003 installed on it instead of Windows 2000, like the other two, but that shouldn’t be a problem, right?” What the fuck is going on around here?! I played around with it for about two hours, trying to get it to work, but it just wouldn’t. At 9:00 pm, I had to throw in the towel and give up. So, a job that should have taken about 2 hours, ended up taking 12 hours and I only got it 66% accomplished. This was very frustrating, but not completely unexpected.

The driver had been waiting outside for me for about 4 hours. I told him we could call him when I was ready, but he didn’t have anything else to do, so he waited. The office had a 24 hour security guard that just stood by the front gate and watched outside.

The trip home was very informative. This was a different driver and he spoke some English. I was really tired, but he was telling me some great stories about Mexico City. We drove around Chapultepec Park. This place is huge. It has a zoo, an amusement park, the Mexico National Anthropology Museum and the president’s house. Its 988 acres large (Central Park is only 833). When driving nearby the president’s house, cell phone coverage is blocked out. I knew the Anthropology Museum was down here and was hoping to get to go to it this afternoon (back when I thought I’d be done by 11:00….). Next time I’m in town (if there is a next time), I have to make sure to set aside a half day to go to the museum, it looks tremendous.

It’s about 11:00 now; I just got back from a light dinner. I’m still stuffed from that awesome lunch. I would like to do something tonight, but I have to be up and out of here by about 7 am to get to the airport.

Saturday December 4, 2004
Just got home, it’s 9:00. Today was a horrible long day. I left the hotel at 7:00 am, spent 2 hours around the Mexico City airport, then 5 hours to Chicago, where our plane was somewhat delayed. Thinking ahead to bring three books paid great dividends. I finished three whole books in three days. I hate sitting in an airport or on a plane as much as the next guy, but it’s such an unbelievable opportunity to read that I hate to pass it up.

I’m listening to Bob Dylan – Lovesick right now. It’s a great album and really good to wind down too. I know it’s going to be hectic for the next two weeks before Christmas. I have a ton of stuff to do, but if I can keep myself away from the masses at work for some time, I should be able to get all of my stuff done. We have several projects that are coming up due by the end of the year, one in particular that has been a major thorn in everyone’s side for quite some time. I hope they can get their shit together and get it out the door, but I just don’t see it happening. Unfortunately, my current negative attitude towards the project makes me feel like I would be a detriment to the project. I don’t know what to do when I get in these moods. I can’t help but think that I’m avoiding work, even though I’ve got tons of work I need to get done. It’s hard for me to admit that I don’t know everything or that I cannot learn everything. Some people see that as driven, but it could just as easily be a character flaw. Sorting out my personal psychological issues has become quite the hobby of mine.