I do not know how people endured business trips before laptop computers and high speed wired hotels became par for the course. Business travel is easier to endure if the destinations are exotic, your coworkers are fun to be with, and your work days are short.
Alas, such trips are the exception, not the rule. This one qualifies as somewhere in the middle. I am back in Denver on business this week. More specifically, I am in Lakewood. Denver is a big city, but as big cities go there is not too much to recommend it over any other big city. One thing I really notice being an East Coast dude: the air is so thin and dry out here. No wonder my skin is still so wrinkle free at age 49: it’s spent most of that time in a moisture bath. This dry Denver weather plays havoc with my hair. It makes me look like Albert Einstein. My sinus cavities soon feel like a desert. I feel the need to buy some saline solution for my nose but know the effect would be only momentary.
Work is more of the same too. I spend my days partly in meetings, partly chatting with my customers, but mostly doing exactly the same things that I would be doing back in the office. I simply unpack my laptop computer and plug it into the local area network, and it is as if I were back in Reston. All my files back at the office are available, and the latency in fetching them is hard to notice just because I am 1500 miles away. This still feels like wiz bang stuff to me.
There are usually evening activities with coworkers that I can elect to attend. But tonight I choose to catch up on my blogging. The alternative was bowling, which is not my cup of tea. The people I work with are very nice and I generally enjoy spending time with them off hours, but not necessarily every night. While I am not antisocial, neither am I a social butterfly. I can take or leave the social aspects of my job. I can entertain myself quite happily. So I give the social aspects of my job 50%. I usually attend the happy hour. Once or twice during the week I will partake in a social event. (A colleague who works out here throws a party once a year, so I will be there tomorrow night.) I am equally as happy on my own in my free hours. Tonight was my night to be antisocial.
So tonight I discreetly headed alone to the Colorado Mills Mall, which is across the highway from the hotel, to finally give it a once over. There I dined alone in a food court, and noshed on Chinese food from the Panda Express. I wandered the length of this very large mall and browsed a bookstore. It may be a big mall, but there was nothing that I particularly wanted to buy.
Now I am back to the sanctuary of my hotel room. Here though I am not really bounded by four walls. Thanks to my laptop and the high speed internet, cyberspace can be my playground. With this basic infrastructure, location no longer matters. Here I can read my favorite blogs, catch up on the day’s news, play with Google Earth and mostly just relax, just like I might to at home. The major difference is of course that my domestic companion, a.k.a. my wife, has not spent fifteen minutes debriefing me about her day. Nor will she be giving me the latest briefings from the world of slash that she inhabits in her off hours. While I miss my wife and daughter back in Northern Virginia, and would prefer to be home, a little time apart every few months is not a bad thing either. It makes me appreciate them more when I get home.
Off come my shoes and socks. My feet are liberated at last. This room would be a bit more comfortable for surfing the internet and writing if it had a desk. Perhaps because we negotiated such a discount rate, I got a “studio suite”. There is no desk in this room, but there is a couch. Time to put a pillow on the coffee table and prop up my aching feet.
My thoughts are pretty muddled. I am thinking about how early the day starts here in Denver in June. I went running yesterday morning before 6 a.m. and the sun was already well above the horizon. While I cursed the lack of sidewalks at least there were not many cars to harass me. It is no problem getting up at 5 a.m. Mountain Time when you are used to living on Eastern Time. When the sun is out, it is like you have a few hours to enjoy life before beginning the workday. The prairie dogs kept me company as I jogged by Red Rocks Community College. Sometimes their squeaky sounds remind me of a bird call. There are many rabbits out at that hour too, and they are not as afraid as I would have expected. I see them scurrying near the side of the road. A dog barks at me from the front lawn of a house a couple hundred feet away. Why is he alone and untethered? Fortunately, he doesn’t want to do more than let me know I am one of the few people awake at this hour.
From so many trips here, Denver has become a lot less enchanting. My first business trip out here was in 1984. I thought it was really neat. The Rocky Mountains are still an impressive site, but the terrain, which once seemed exotic, now seems ordinary. At one time I wanted to live out here. Now, I can’t imagine it. I have grown accustomed to how lush everything is out East. Despite the humidity, despite the rain, despite a limited ski season, despite the population density, I would rather live on the east coast than here.
I will be glad to return to it on Friday.