It struck me as I stood there that it was my 6 month anniversary, and it felt like I was doing a good job. I felt a lot more secure than I had in any job I had ever had, save the Garage.com gig. I hated to admit it, but this approach to "free-form team building" of Allison's actually worked -- I felt considerably more comfortable with a lot more of my co-workers then before the trip. Not that I was UN comfortable... I suppose the worst thing you could say was that I was neutral.
Now, though, there was more of a context. I got to see people being themselves, wether that was conservative or freaky. I even managed to wind up sitting with the founder and his wife at the big dinner up at the mid-mountain lodge and felt like I was completely and utterly appropriate and relaxed. By the by, a gondola ride at night, over the snow clad pine trees, some fresh snow still falling, lit only by the flashing lights placed at the top of the lead gondolas... let's say that it was worth the trip in and of itself.
Earlier in the day five of use wound up going downhill in a rosette of inner tubes, my face inches from my bosses immediate superior. I like Kersti a lot -- she has a personality I'm certain seems too direct to a lot of people, but I find incredibly comforting -- I KNOW what she's thinking. No subterfuge or manipulation. Perfect for the hyperactive geek with ADHD.
That turned out to be the only "fiver" they allowed on the tube run that day. Apparently the run was so fast they had to drop some rubber mats toward the bottom to slow things down. As it was, one of our number swung to the very top of the breaking embankment, threatening to fall forward on top of up. Thank goodness for momentum!
I admit that tubing was my way of finally getting to sled the way I had always dreamed of as a kid. As I noted to my fellow "Perforcians", Long Island is a fairly flat affair, and not as consistently snowy as, say, Buffalo is.
My solo runs probably scared the staff... I actually managed to achieve AIR a few times, even on such a short run. I at least knew how to properly break at the bottom (as in stop, not damage!).
Roni and I managed to do a few double runs together. I was relieved that she was up for it, and that tubing seems to be weight independent.
But back to dinner.
It was a wonderful affair, with some great food and a dessert that I could barely eat from being as stuffed as I was. Roni had settled on the bench seating she preferred early on. It wasn't until people had settled in with dinner that I relaized that the last two open seats were directly across from us. Roni actually said "Wouldn't it be funny if..." the CEO and spouse sat there.
So of course they did.
Fortunately Roni and I got along with them fine, making light conversation and being mutually amused at the antics of my Boss, Mike (there are too many Mikes at Perforce, as you'll see in a bit), who is a silly drunk. There's something liberating about being far more sober than your boss, in every sense of the word. :P
We left fairly early, with the first group of people. We knew we had to up early to get the bus to the train back, even though the latest reports had amtrack leaving Chicago 4 hours late.
We actually got to the appointed gather spot for the return trip early. The new word was that the train had made up some time, and would be only an hour late.
That word was a lie.
We wound up spending nearly 4 and a half hours in lovely downtown Truckee, CA. No insult intended, but there's only so much you can DO in that town on a weekday. We had breakfast in a funky little hole in the wall, I bought a couple of sun catcher crystals in this incredible stained glass tourist trap with surprisingly reasonable prices, watched Dr. Who's "Xmas Invasion" special from last year with Roni, took some pictures...
When the train arrived at 2:27, my first thought was how, if we had left from North Star driving home, we'd be almost home already.*
Plenty of food on the train and a second "nap" with Roni in one of the sleeping compartments followed. We actually DID nap for awhile -- 90 minutes later we had descended so much that the re-capped bottle of water we had sat on a shelf had visible "deflated" from the pressure change, and the low level crappy feeling I had experienced for the previous 24 hours was mysteriously absent.
Feh -- since when does my asthma bother me so much at higher altitudes?
I felt that funky feeling you sometimes get from sleeping in the middle of the day, so I decided to go the that platform. You know, the one I started on at the beginning of the entry?
Archie was laughing at the sounds of the frogs complaining in puddles collected along the sides of the tracks. I stood in the front corner by the rail, digging the high speed and the odd sensation of standing in open air while moving at nearly 80 miles per hour. Like flying backwards over the tracks, a light rain falling.
I went back to Roni, and we both wound up out there a bit later as we pulled into Sacramento. She went back inside after the train stopped, but not before she gave me one of those toe curling kisses on the back of a train. How romantic is that?
At some point Mike had come back there as well. Not my boss Mike, a fellow former east coaster who's in sales. He likes to tease the shit out of me, and it's a tribute to the shifts in my personality over the last decade or so that I finally can tell the difference between what he was doing and the verbal torture I used to endure as a kid.
We hit the straight track out of Sac and began to really move. I don't know how it started, but Mike and I wound up singing this rousing chorus of "Casey Jones", which just made the experience all the more complete, somehow...
We finally got to Emeryville, walking about four blocks on the longest freaking train platform I ever had to trudge down with a heavy equipment bag.
These were just some of the highlights of the trip, obviously. I'm already looking forward to next year, delighted that I feel certain I'll be around for it.
* Which wasn't entirely true. Some of us DID drive home that way, and hit some nasty traffic. They still got back by 5:30 to our 9:30.