Travel Time

Dear J-

So picture this: I’m flying (more accurately, I’m on flights) from Nashville to San Francisco via Dallas; the original schedule has a comfortable 100 minute layover in Dallas, where I expect to deplane, saunter over to the next gate, then find someplace to eat nearby, possibly sneaking food on board if appropriate. Instead, the flight from Nashville leaves late, sits on the tarmac at Dallas for almost an hour, and I end up running through the airport like OJ in a rental car commercial (are you too young for that? is all the OJ you remember the white Bronco? okay, how about this: like I’m on the Amazing Race), skipping down escalator stairs, dashing aboard the inter-Terminal tram just as the doors close, running up to the gate where they’re just about ready to shut the doors. Hero time. Sort of. Just a guy who was late to the flight and sat down in the wrong seat, flustered and exhausted and sat next to a dead-heading flight attendant who completely ignored me.

I appreciate coming home from sticky weather; I enjoyed having to put on a jacket once I was off the plane. I more enjoyed the schadenfreude of watching other people dig them out of their packs once they had sat, waiting for the bus, for a few minutes. Bay Area, son. Then I remembered something — this conference was like an old home week in a way, as I got to see and talk to a lot of the folks who were there at SONGS with us, including the one guy I worked with just about every day on the project. He was still bitter over the shabby treatment we got from SCE (I think it was shabby, but I’ve come to expect no better from them now) and I remember him saying with some venom the guy who became the steam generator program engineer after us had no significant experience and indeed was nothing better than a hopped-up designer — a drafter — and what did he care about the system anyway?

As I always say I like to think that I learn something valuable from every position I’ve held, and perhaps indeed from every day I spend breathing and upright. I don’t know the circumstances there but I remember thinking how much I’d like a job, any job when I applied for a cost engineer spot; from there, how much I wanted a permanent position, not just a contractor slot when I applied to be a procurement engineer; and then what it would mean to me to be a system engineer and all along the way it meant other people had to take chances on me and not judge me by what I had done but what I was capable of doing. So I know I’ve said a lot of the same unkind words in the past but hearing them from someone else’s mouth made me realize how unkind they are. If I can’t be a professional in manner and conduct then I’m not sure what I’m doing here instead of sweating away under the watchful gaze of budgets and cost control.

I have to remember how glad people were to see me, but more importantly why.


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