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Thursday March 24, 2005, 22:39

If I look straight ahead right now, past my laptop screen, past the lamp and the placard announcing "DataValet" service, I can see myself staring back at me. My eyes are a bit red and puffy, and I look like I need a shave. I've been living a life for as long as I can remember where today does not end until it is already tomorrow, and yet there are hours left to go and I am already looking behind me at the bed and looking forward to crawling in, shutting my eyes, and ending my day today.

To my left is the one feature of this hotel room that truly makes it "the worst room ever," according to my coworker. Pulling open the blackout curtain and the lighter translucent shade reveals patio furniture and a fern, it all their pool-side splendor. There is a hum coming from beyond the door which can only be the sound of the swimming pool filter and the radio that they have playing until ten at night when the pool is officially closed. My accommodations would fare much better if I could actually step out of my room into the pool for a dip and return to jump straight into the shower, but alas, the sliding glass door that is my gateway into this world has been closed up, probably for fear that the little latch holding the door is insufficient to actually deter anyone from entering the room if they had half a mind to do so.

My current out-of-town business venture is far less glamorous than my jaunts to our neighbors to the north. Where those trips had the benefit of landing me in a legitimate metropolitan area, I am currently in a locale neatly populated with numerous Applebee's restaurants and a Target "Great Plains" megasuperstore. The other difference is that I am here all week every week, rather than just for the occasional visit for "meetings" (and as an interesting aside, when I was going up to Canada for business, there seemed to be a big difference between going up for "Work" and going up for "meetings" where one required, or had the higher likelihood of requiring a work permit, whereas the other one simply required a wave of the hand by the friendly customs officer1) which makes for a different all-around attitude towards working. When up for "meetings," my MO was typically to work the day away and then hop back on an airplane, or perhaps have a dinner with colleagues at the client's expense. Here, we work at the client site until we are done working with the clients, and then we head back to the hotel to work and lounge in our respective rooms, occasionally emerging for meals.

Oh wait, did I mention? No, I didn't. As our work involves employees at the client site, and as said employees enjoy starting their days at six in the morning, so too must we start our days as the sun is rising. Interestingly, I find that starting work so early really does seem to pack more into the day than starting at a reasonable time, and I really do see the appeal and could probably convince myself that it would be a good way to structure my life in certain circumstances. However, I do also have the benefit of not being local to this area and not having activities that could possibly fill the remaining hours in my day.

[...]

The other interesting thing about starting work at six in the morning, and being out of town traveling, is that I find myself falling asleep in uncomfortable places more often than I would like. The preceding paragraphs, for example, were written some days ago, when I was down the hall from where I am now. I was writing, and I fell asleep at the desk, woke up, went to sleep, woke up at five in the morning, had two incredibly long days of working and driving, and am now back to almost where I started. Unfortunately, I am still awake and am about to call down for my wakeup call.

But at least I'm no longer by the pool.

1. Ok, so I was actually the asshole who forgot his passport when heading up to Canada and managed to make out of the US and back in again with only my driver's license, which is where I feel like this whole "War on Terror" thing got it start, and while I don't fit the typical profile of a terrorist (where one might define a terrorist and an individual who hates America and freedom) there's some food for thought in this little anecdote. The thing is that it is at the airline's discretion whether or not to let you on the plane if you've forgotten your passport (where in this instance, the "you" is actually "me") with the caveat, of course, that just because you made it on the flight and flew all the way out of the country, that the receiving country is under no obligation to actually let you in. In this case, I was fairly confident of my ability to be able to sweet talk Montreal customs and immigration into letting me in, so I hurtled myself at the border and ended up having to take a brief trip through to Canadian immigration before being allowed to enter (with of course the further understanding that the US customs officials on the way back through may have more of a problem with me wanting to head in with insufficient documentation. Well! US customs turned out to be little worse than Canadian customs with the exception of China. China indeed. I was home free, being waved through customs heading back into pre-cleared customs on the Canadian side of the border when the officer flagged me down. "Just a moment," he said, and beckoned for me to return to his booth. "Have you ever been to China?" Well, indeed I had, and indeed I had to go to US immigration where I answered, again, the question of whether I had not only been to China, but whether I had ever lived in China, otherwise known as "the Orient," and where, other than a couple of years as a child, I had not. After that bizarre line of questioning, I was allowed to pass through and head home, but this was a clear indicator that there is definitely a record tainting my passport's history that is being inspected, poked and prodded by every customs officer I ever encounter. Perhaps I will work up the nerve to ask them what is in that document that proves so curious to them every time I have to cross a border.

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