Another of those old and lengthy work stories from 2007

Another in the line of long work stories.

I changed jobs January of this year. Unlikely you remember, but should you do, I wrote a thread about that transition and the initial work Trip. Well nine months later I have another.

My company merged with another company a month ago. I am sure it's been going on longer than that, but for the sake of the story, it's a month ago. My boss is the general counsel for the company and for the new company also. I work in the compliance department and get to check on how the various departments play nice with the laws and regulations in our industry. At times this is not entirely exciting, but at times it's actually kind of fun.

The combined companies now have offices in Dallas, Atlanta and our old offices in San Diego and Los Angeles. I work in the San Diego office and on occasion go to the LA office. Last Thursday I get the official notice I needed to go to the new offices to see what they do in relation to what we do.

Originally I thought it was going to be Dallas, but at the last minute it turned out to be Atlanta. I have been to Atlanta a few times before with a different company, so I know the basic area and how to get around. I wanted to go to Dallas because I actually know a few people there and might be able to fit in some social time. I don't know anyone in Atlanta.

So Friday was a mostly panic because I had to arrange airfare, rental car, hotel and ten different people to be available for me to meet with them. I also have to make sure I book cheap flights, use appropriate corporate discounts and get there in time to meet with all the players involved.

Oddly, it worked out well. Or so I thought.

I have a flight leaving Orange County Airport at 11:45am. I live 20 minutes from the airport so I decide to leave at 9:30 so it leaves me a solid 1.5 hours of buffer.

I get to the airport a little late. It's Monday, so the parking lot is usually very busy. I didn't plan ahead very well, I should have known this.

I pull into the A lot even though it says full. Ten minutes later I have spun through four levels of parking and guess what, it's full. This sucks. I hit the B lot, it doesn't say full, but looks the same. Ten minutes later and but the luck of the gods someone is pulling out and I have the best shot to pull around and get that spot. I get it just as some Camry tries to dart in front of me and ninja my spot. Turns out this was probably the last spot left. I burned 20 minutes of my buffer and it's a mile walk to the check in area.

I make the walk to check in. Luck has it there is almost no line. The reason being is the line for security wraps around the airport at least once. I have an hour twenty left before departure. I get my ticket and make the dash towards security. Funny thing, due to weather the flights to Dallas were being cancelled. Had I been going to Dallas instead, I would be waiting at the airport for hours.

Security line takes an hour and just sucks. I have been waiting behind this woman and her semi-screaming infant. Mental note, don't get behind them at the actual screening area. Strollers and kids equal delays.

I finally get to the actual security area and have to remove my shoes, take out my one quart bag of liquids, take out my computer, find anything with metal in it and put them in the correct bins.

Based on the amount of time I have to get to the gate, I throw things together and make the fast walk to gate 12. Knowing I won't be given real food on the plane I stop at McBulk and get a McNumberOne for McCalories and McArteryHardening with a Sprite to "Wash Down That Tasty Burger".

While absorbing the McFood I notice that there is the one hot chick waiting for the same flight as I am waiting. Taller Asian woman, lots of legs, tight jeans, black hair tied up behind her head, smiling and talking with people in line. Not a lot of rackage, but overall good looking. Wearing one of those "Let us Be Free" tops that screams of "Please drop your keys and bend over to pick them up so I can see the rack". No such luck on the keys being dropped.

I am in group four on the plane. Turns out that doesn't mean anything because once they get past the first class people the masses rush the gate and the airline staff step aside and let it occur.

I am in 43f, around four rows from the back of the plane. I didn't see the one hot chick get on yet so there is still hope she will be sitting with me. Time passes and mob slowly takes their seats. The hot Asian chick is walking towards the back of the plane; I have two seats empty next to me. There is hope. Granted not much, but it's there.

The hot Asian chick puts her bag in the bin opposite of mine and her "Free Range Top" allows some slight bouncing as she does it. Still hope, it's possible, wait"… wait"… wait"…

Checked at the blue line, the hot chick sits down across from me and one row back. Oh well, my record for the one hot chick sitting next to me remains consistent, zero for like 300. Instead I get the mother and the chubby 11 year old. Just not the same thing.

Due to weather delays and gate problems, it takes a little longer to get to Atlanta. Five hours later, I arrive in the south. Its hot here and its 8:00 pm at night.

Off to the rental car place. I rent my car at Alamo and attempt to get to the hotel. Even though I haven't done anything but stand in line or sit down, I'm tired. I decided to pay for the full tank of gas early so I didn't have to deal with it later. The gamble here is you pay for the tank even if you don't use the gas. But I figured I would use it, or at a minimum I would be close enough to not care. Keep in mind the assumption is you get a full tank of gas when you pick up the car. All this does is save you the time and cash from filling up your rental car in a strange town.

I get my car and attempt to drive out of the Alamo lot. I hit the gate and the woman is having a conversation on her cell phone. She looks at me and snaps her fingers and points to the rental agreement on my dash. I assume she didn't want to break up her important conversation about Judge Judy to actually ask me for the agreement.

I wait...

A minute later I guess her conversation ended and she says ""…Drivers license and order tag"…" I hand her my driver's license and ask what an "Order Tag" is. She says "It's the black key tag". I look around and don't see anything. I explain such. She says again, like the second time will create some new form of knowledge with me""… I need the Black Order tag that is attached to your key"…" I explain I don't have one and I don't see anything like that. As the third time must be the charm, she says ""…I need the black tag that came with the car"…" I explain again, I don't know what she is talking about. As she has advanced knowledge she tells me to look under the passenger seat as they sometimes fall under there.

I look under the passenger seat and see a piece of paper with a black highlighted section. I think I saw Jimmy Hoffa and the Holy Grail, but I was pressed for time and only grabbed the Order Tag. I hand her the tag and she opens the gate and lets me leave. Not without a long sigh and not so friendly look, but I probably deserved that for not knowing what a Black Order Tag is.

As I pull out I notice I have 75% of a tank of gas. Oh, how I love the little things in life. I don't feel like going back and pointing this out and drive off.

So it's the last and ideally the least complicated part of my trip is all that is left. I have my trusty google map and a basic idea how to get to the freeway.

I hit the 85 north with the intent to hit the 75 north in 16 miles and eventually some exit off Delk and some Air force base. I am pretty good with maps and directions, but this one description for the exit I need doesn't make sense.

There are two exits off the freeway. One turns left and goes back up and over the freeway, the other turns right and goes on the road I may want. The trouble being the directions confuse me the way they are written.

It is more confusing when you see the signs, but it reads like this

7. Take exit 261 for E Delk Rd toward GA-280/Lockheed/Dobbins AFB
8. Keep right at the fork, follow signs for E Delk Rd and merge onto Delk Rd SE

Well I turned the wrong way. I went Left Right, not Right Right.

The neighborhood goes from bad to worse. I run into an area with very few lights and a few people on the street corner that appear to be self employed in either the entertainment industry or self employed pharmaceutical distribution.

To make matters worse I can't see the road signs. I am slowing down before every street attempting to read the signs. If you were driving behind me, you might think I was looking to complete a business transaction with a local inhabitant of the aforementioned professions.

I drive for a few miles still lost. I finally decided I went the wrong way and make a U turn. It was a legal U turn, but it must have been at the end of Local Dealers Row. From a side road out pulls a police car right behind me.

Mind you I have done nothing wrong, but let's paint some color into the scenario. A rental car being driven slowly with the driver looking left and right at every street corner that is not of the same basic demographic as the individuals living and working on these street corners makes a U turn and goes for a second pass. I am sure this type of thing has been seen on Cops a few times in the past and usually involving someone denying their intent was to secure a date or some crack.

The cop follows me for a few miles closely. I can see him working his dash computer at stop lights.

Is he going to pull me over or not is the question

I am still a little lost. I think I know where my hotel is but I am in the right lane and need to make a turn at the next left stop sign on a busy road. The cop is still behind me and I don't feel like doing a Crazy Ivan in front of the police. I make the nearest right hand turn into a gas station. Well you guessed it; the police car follows me in.

I'm doomed I think.

I make a U turn out of the gas station and see my Sanctuary, the Marriott Courtyard directly across the street. The light takes what appears to be days to go from red to green. I proceed with caution across the intersection to the Hotel. The police car is still behind me. I pull into the space marked Check In and get out of my car. The police officer pulls behind me. He doesn't turn any lights on and doesn't get out of the car. He is however blocking me if I try to make a run for it by backing up my Chevy G6 (POS) rental car.

Since I haven't done anything wrong I get out of the car and get my stuff. I am dressed in casual traveling attire (read: jeans and a world of warcraft shirt). The police officer shines his light on the license plate of my car and shines it in my basic direction. Not wanting to tempt fate I don't say anything. He looks at me, writes something else down on his notebook and drives off.

I guess if I go out later looking for a $20 date or some crack I might be spotted early. I decide not to go trolling for a date or drugs just to be safe. That and the whole illegal thing keeps me safe another day.

I notice it's still hot outside. Its somewhere after 9:00 pm local time. I went from being tired to a little wound up. Not sure, it might have been the slow speed police thing. I pretend I'm OJ for a moment, and then I decide I don't want to pretend to be a guy who killed his ex wife and her boyfriend. Forget it, time to check in.

I get to the check in counter and say who I am, and give the appropriate ID. I get a deluxe garden room overlooking the courtyard. Odd, no garden, but I have a garden room.

The first thing I notice about the room is the smell. It's a non smoking hotel, which means that when people smoke they have use all sorts of strange chemicals to try to mask and remove the smell of people smoking. Well that smell is strong in this particular room. Think paint thinner meets perfume. And when you think of perfume, think of the kind sold in gallon jugs, at brothels, in Jakarta, during the summer months. From there add some moldy cigarette smell and you really have the aroma that I get to live with for a week.

I think of attempting to bottle this fragrance for resale, but figure it would be considered a weapon of mass destruction with the wrong administration.

Well I am settled in and am wide awake. I make the obligatory surf through the TV channels. Same old network TV I have. I don't want to tempt fate and pay the $14.99 and rent a movie for concern that I would have to explain that it wasn't pRon later regardless of if it was or wasn't.

The room has High speed internet. I know from experience that usually means double dial up, but it's better than nothing.

I had WOW plus the Burning Crusade loaded and only needed to patch of BC to begin to play. I hook up the computer and hit the blizzard patch program. Blizzard tells me I have 389 meg to down load before I can play and I let it rip. Now when I say Rip I mean it's moving. The patch estimate says two hours 50 minutes. Now that is what I call High Speed.

With nothing better to do than wait, I decide to go get food. There are two places to eat within walking distance from the hotel. A Ruby Tuesdays and a local Italian food place. I ask the desk clerk on my way out which is better. He gives me that look and says, ""…Well it depends on if you want to get food poisoning or not"… If not, got to Ruby Tuesdays." This doesn't appear to be a difficult decision, so off to Ruby's I go.

I hit Ruby Tuesdays at around 10:00 pm. The place is mostly empty. There are a few portly traveling business men at the bar watching Monday Night football, a ton of empty tables and lots of servers gossiping in the back of the restaurant.

Turns out there is a convention at the hotel next to mine and the two restaurants expected to have a busy night. What they didn't know is that it was the Southern Christian Banking Association or something like that. And to make matters worse, none of them appear to be out past 9:00 pm so the place is deserted.

I hit the entrance and get pointed to an open booth towards the bar. Fine with me, I can watch the TV screen change colors but that's about it. There is a woman in the booth sitting next to me about to leave. Middle age, probably was much better looking in her younger days, but has that same tired look that I assume I have.

As I sat down she was leaving. I think we had that eye-contact-moment that said, "Yea, I'm tired too, and good luck with dinner." I think she also sent me a telepathic signal that the food here was not much better than the Italian place, but I didn't get that one in time.

I order a glass of wine and dinner. Neither was very good, but it did the trick. I get the bill, its $24.00 for a salad, glass of wine and the house special chick pot pie. This probably exceeds my daily dinner allowance, but I will find a way to be creative later if I have to.

I head back to the room. It's a 400 foot walk. It's pushing 11:00 pm local time, or 8:00 pm my time. I'm not tired, but know I have to be up and out by 7:45 am local time, or 4:45 am stomach time. I dread getting up this early but it is inevitability as Mr. Smith would say.

I head back to the room expecting my WOW patch to be done. Surprisingly it is not. Not only is it not done, it's only about 40% done. Well that sucks, no wow for me tonight.

I get ready for bed and lay down. The laptop screen eventually goes black and I lay there. I lay there for hours, literally. One of the reasons I can't sleep is its just warm in the room. The air is on, but it isn't getting any colder.

Around 1:00 am local time I finally get up to check wow. It's almost done. The problem being is I have to get up to go to the office in six or so hours. I go back to bed and lay there. A few minutes pass and I figure I will attempt to adjust the thermostat to see if I can get it any colder. I adjust it down to 68. Nothing changes, I move it to 66 and nothing changes. Well at this point I know there is a problem, because unless the room temperature is really cold and I am suffering from Hyper-Thermia there is a problem. Nothing changes the temperature and the air seems to go on every ten minutes for around five minutes, then back to a pause cycle. It's broken and that's what it is.

I lie back in bed and stare into the darkness. The last time I bothered to look at the clock it was 3:30 am local time. The sound you would have heard is the silent cry of my knowledge that I have to be up and going in four hours. I have also now been awake since 7:00 am my time and its 12:30 am my time. I should be tired.

The wakeup call came in at 7:00 am. It was an ugly sound. My body ached in ways I can't explain. I made it to the bathroom without stumbling over only to see my eyes were bloodshot like a frat boy after pledge week or Lindsey Lohan on a Monday morning.

It's going to be a long day acting like I think.


Going Home – Final Chapter

I stumble out of my room to the lobby of the Marriott Courtyard. There isn't a real restaurant here all they have is a few breakfast items. Stomach time it's too early to eat. I grab a plate of sausage and scrambled eggs and a glass of orange liquid that is based on something that may have once been picked from a tree. It's bitter, so I figure it may have fallen from the tree and sat there a few days.

It doesn't matter, it's early and I just need calories to get me to lunch.

I drive to out of the hotel and up the freeway ten miles to the office. I get lucky and read the directions correctly this time. With no police on my tail and in daylight I make good time. I want to go back to bed.

I pull up to the office and can't figure out how to get into their portion of the building. It's a big building with glass doors to a lobby then a series of six locked doors on the inside on different floors. There is no phone directory and no clue as to which door I am supposed to take. My one saving grace is I used to work with someone in my last job well enough to know by name. I get his phone number from a prior email I sent and call him. I explain I am in the lobby and I don't know which office to go to. He laughs at me, another in a line of ego boosters on this trip. He eventually tells me that one of the locked doors isn't locked and I can walk through a series of hallways to get to their door. It's a bit of a maze but with 95% of the doors being locked I eventually find the right one.

After 15 minutes of catching up with what he has been doing in the past four years I settle in. They put me in an office of someone that recently quit. Turns out the person that left would be the ideal person for me to work with, but she is gone now.

I make my first in a long series of requests for documentation and paper work and wait for the deluge of emails to arrive. My presence is causing a stir in the office. Part of the reason is I am in a suit and the rest of the office is very casual. So I stick out like OJ at the Goldman Family Reunion.

At one point I make it to the employee lunch room to get a coke. On the wall are several people offering to sell pit bull puppies. I make a Michael Vick joke to myself and go back to my office.

Funny thing I observe is that a lot of the staff is wearing hospital scrubs. Mind you some of the people do hospital billing, but we are in a totally non-clinical setting. I ask the customer service manager why people are in scrubs and she gives me this strange look. Eventually she says that she thinks it's just an easy thing to wear and clean. I give this my official "Whatever" and move on.

I was sent to the Atlanta office to look at "Stuff". There is a Dallas office that does stuff too but the director of "Stuff" said he thinks I needed to be in Atlanta. Fifteen minutes after I start getting their emails I realize I am in the wrong office.

Think of it like this, and this is a bad analogy at best. I need to talk to the winXP developers. I know win98 and winXP well, but I only want to talk to the winXP people. So I ask lots of questions about who does what in which office. I get told the people I want to talk to are in Atlanta. When I get there it's just the opposite. I know both lines (In my industry) well, but they are just not the same thing. Was I set up to go to the wrong office to protect the guilty or did I just not ask enough of the right questions.

I can see the face of my boss and him not being pleased on Monday when I get back.

I spend two days of a three day trip auditing stuff, listening to people tell me what they do, listening to people say there is no policy on this or that and this is just how things are done, sitting in on training sessions and things of that nature. By the end of the second day I ran out of people to ask because I was in the wrong office. I grab all the paperwork policy and compliance stuff I can to support my findings and leave for the day.

I tried to play wow in the hotel, but high speed internet turned out to be a 3000ms to 12,000 ms lag. Which if you know anything about wow, you know it was unplayable and I was getting booted often. I didn't rent any in-house movies because I always hear about how they are not paid, even though they almost always are. That and the guy in accounting would probably reject the report and cause me a month delay in getting paid. That left watching TV or going out. Well other than the two restaurants in walking distance, I just don't feel like going out. So it's bad TV and trying to play wow. A winning combination let me tell you.

I decide to change my flight to take off Thursday morning rather than Friday. This might backfire on me a little, but I am out of things to do and can't stall this for a day, that and it's a waste of money to hang another day. Changing the flight costs me $75 extra that I hope the company will pay. My choice was pay the $75 or hope I can do standby. If the flight is full then I would be stuck in the airport for five hours, possibly more. I gamble on the $75 and pack up for the airport.

I get to the airport and turn in my car. The people taking the car back are substantially nicer than my experience of getting it. The shuttle bus to the terminal is on time, lots of room and the air conditioner works well. So far this is going well. I ended up only using about a third of a tank of gas so paying for the full tank was not a great call on my part.

The security line was longer than John Wayne (Orange County) Airport but moved at a much faster speed. Note to self, John Wayne airport security is really, really slow. It kind of grosses me out walking that last 25 feet with no shoes on when I know there are like 10,000 people per day walking on this tile floor with no shoes on. I think there just needs to be a better solution to this part.

Knowing it's a four to five hour flight I try to get something to eat. It's still early stomach time so I have to force something down. I know that there isn't anything on the plane but dry cracker snacks so eating is rather important.

The flight was long and boring, and full. I probably would have made the standby list and not paid the $75 but it would have meant a middle seat. Not horrible, but not desirable either. A nice looking woman is sitting next to me. She had a bit of a butch look about her. I am guessing she swung from the other side of the plate because I caught her looking at the same chicks I was looking at it. So much so she caught me catching her. We laughed quietly to ourselves and really didn't speak much. About two hours into the flight she went to drink some water and the plane hit a little turbulence and she spilled a bunch of water down her top. She laughed and said "Well that was fun" I responded with something like "yea, right you planned that just to have an excuse to talk to me"…" I got a smile out of it and that was pretty much the extent of our conversation.

During the flight my blackberry doesn't get reception. So if I get any emails they kind of stack up until we are on approach to John Wayne.

I know I am supposed to have my phone off but I pretty much never do. My brother is a pilot in the air force and says all that hype about cell phones on planes is BS so I haven't turned my phone off in a while. Later if I am on a flight that goes down, ill come back from beyond and post something that says "Turn your phones off, or you will die". That or I will haunt my ex wife and leave all the lights on in her house during the day.

A few miles from landing I get the first bulk of emails. The first one was the best; it said welcome home like nothing else.

Subject line: Police called and arrested a former employee
Opening text: They said she had a few hundred credit card forms from our customers and appears to have been running up charges for a few months on them. Need to talk now.

Welcome home...

Epilogue - Dog poop on the front lawn

So I get home after the trip and relax (Read: play wow, drink wine, watch TV and mentally shut down for a day or two). I didnt spend much time out front other than to water the plants the kids didnt seem to get to. So I didnt see the front lawn until today. No real reason, I just didnt get to examining the lawn. We moved into this place only a month ago so I always find something else that needs to get done first.

Well I walk out today getting ready to go to work and I see this woman walking her dog. I dont know dog breeds well but I am guessing there is some Labrador type mix going on. The dog is on a leash and she has the blue poop bag in her other hand. The bag is empty.

Why do I bring this up because the dog just got done taking a dump on my lawn and her and the dog are walking away. I also notice there are a few little piles of dog by-product left on the lawn. I dont have a dog and I dont have anything against them, but I dont want your dogs poop on my lawn. How about this, clean it up.

She doesnt seem to hear me either and is still 20 feet from the crime scene. I hit my lock the doors button on my car alarm because I know it will make the horn beep. Not loud, but enough to be heard by someone 20 feet away.

She hears the horn and her and the dog turn around. I look at her and then at the doog poop and then back at her. Not a mean look, but a look that says "Clean up the poop lady!".

She stops and starts that calculation that asks if I was there long enough to see her dog poop or did I just walk out.

This my friends is one of those character making decisions. Its right up there with you need two more points to get into the Pearly Gates or not when St. Peter asks one final question "Did you clean up the poop ?".

Well the decision had been made, the dog looked at me and said thanks for the nice lawn, and the lady walked away without cleaning up her poop, empty blue bag in hand.

I said loud enough for her to hear me "Thanks, see you tomorrow..."

and drove off to work.

When i got to work I had ten plus messages in a series on the customer service employee that was arrested along with her boyfriend for some type of fraud and they found our companys credit card slips in her apartment.

The police wouldnt tell us what she was charged with or if they had any specific information on if she used our customers credit card information for illegal purposes.

Tomorrow I have to interview staff in the other office to see if anyone knew anything or what we could have done to prevent this. It has turned out to be at least 100 credit card numbers, expiration dates, full customer names and that goofy three digit verification number on the back of visa and mastercard and the four digit number on the front of american express.

This is one of those parts of my job I dont like. Sooner or later we are going to have to figure out what she did and how we notify the customers of this "potential security / information breach". Not going to be a good day when I have to start taking their calls.

I think I will schedule my stress leave that month...