Monday, September 4, 2006
My flight landed at LaGuardia on schedule. We didn’t have the smoothest landing, but it was a safe one nonetheless. I scored big time with the hotel which was in the heart of Queen’s, close to Flushing Meadows (site of the Billie Jean King USTA), which also had a shuttle running to and from both the tennis centre and the airport every 20 minutes. BIG SCORE!
Logged onto the net and touched base with a few people from home who wished me well. Anyone who’s anyone close to me knows how much I love Tennis. This is going to be an exciting adventure.
Once I unpacked a few things, I gave Nick a call who lives in Ithaca. (Don’t ask me about where Itaca is). Nick is a buddy of one of my housemates in university who I met while I was home for Thanksgiving during first year of university. Nick went to Cornell and remained in NY ever since. I told him about my trip late last week and hoped that we might be able to meet up on Monday. Chances are that the timing might not workout, but I’m glad I put the call in to see if he was free to meet up.
All of the maps are laid out on the bed and I might forgoe tennis on Wednesday for sight- seeing. I may just hit Fifth Avenue afterall.
Just had a Sandwich-to-Go from the hotel – mighty tasty if you ask me. I asked the Hotel clerk about the best way to get to Fifth Avenue. No sign of Nick. Looks like I’m going to go on a road trip. IPOD is juiced up and I am ready to go!
The best way to combat being stood-up is to make other arrangements and move forward as if nothing ever happened.
I put a few maps together and carefully reviewed the matrix that is NY’s transit system. The shuttle driver at the hotel was key at helping me find the right starting point. Rode the shuttle to Laguardia Airport and purchased a Metrocard for $7 US which gets me onto all buses/trains until midnight. The plan from there was to take the M60 bus to the Subway Line (R or N), then get to 5th Avenue. I grew impatient with waiting for the right bus, so I took the wrong one as a test to see if I could right the ship. That I did! I like the transit system here – it works. You can tell someone put a lot of thought into the interchanges.
I made it to 5th and 59th and my journey began. Along the way, I took some shots of Central Park, Tecumseh, Trump Towers and the Louis Vutton store. I also managed to pick up a Prada bag for my mother. I made it to Times Square and the Nasdaq – but did not get a chance to see Ground Zero. Maybe Wednesday. Afterwards I headed home to get ready for the Open.
Words cannot describe the US Open. The energy is electric. Prior to my arrival, I was given a “Credential” which enables me to venture into high security areas at the open. Media room, web room, players lounge – the works! I ran into Shinobu Asagoe at the credential office and Richard Williams on the ground. Richard Williams is an interesting character. He said hi to me. Television fails to capture the actual size of the Billie Jean National Tennis Center. Combined with being in the IBM Suite, it was an experience like no other. Food was impeccable and the proximity of the court was nothing less than awesome. Note to self – stop grifting.
I was looking forward to seeing Serena Williams play Amelie Mauresmo, a player she has owned when she was in her peak condition. I hoped that she would pull through. They played 3 dramatic sets with Serena breaking down in the third and Amelie showed why she is the current #1 Woman in the world. Excellent match. I will catch more tennis on Tuesday. Mauresmo in 3: 6-4, 0-6, 6-2.
Called mom and told her about the day. She said I sounded tired, but was glad I was prepared to make the most of my time here.
Tuesday September 5
Up at 8:30am – oh god. One word – tired. I’m brewing the hotel coffee, checking work emails, and trying to keep my eyes open!
The plan was to spend as much time as I could at the tennis center, spend some quality time with my US IBM Team and get a better feel for the National Tennis Center. Again, I cannot begin to describe how ‘grand’ this Slam is in person.
The weather called for rain with 90% probability, hence I packed my umbrella in my thinkpad case, put on my credential and walked out of the door. I watched some of the morning match in the hotel prior to heading out to the center. Took the hotel shuttle to the USTA, and upon my attival, I allowed security to scan my credential and I proceeded to the IBM Suite where I met my US counterparts and their boss. It must have been at least 1:30pm at this point. They were in the process of preparing for a meeting and I took the liberty of enjoying some of the food while listening in on their preparation. It was a busy day at the Open, however I was not there for more than 2 hours until the rains came and suspended play for the remainder of the afternoon. I relaxed on the couch, t-42 in hand and reviewed the contents of my presentation for our 4pm business meeting.
I enjoyed speaking with the vendors who also managed the suite and customer relations. Scored myself one of the goodie bags – IBM Tote Bag, cap, t-shirt and lapel pin. Mom will be glad that I was able to get a t-shirt since it’s one of my weaknesses. Worse than writing utensils. Each day there was a “Sponsor of the tournament. Monday was Ralph Lauren Day (yes, I scored a bottle of the cologne). Tuesday was Mass Mutual Day and I have yet to determine how to use their giveaway which was a neck case of some sort. I was fortunate enough to catch some of the Haas-Safin before the rains came as well as some of the Sharapova-Li match on replay.
The business meeting–the real purpose for the trip went well. The other geos were able to sink their teeth into our process and they sounded excited about coming together to implement a process that helps to build a global sense of community. Key players from Australia and France were there. It was awesome.
I went back to the Suite for a few minutes prior to heading back out to the place where the shuttle dropped me off. En route to the pickup point, I flashed my AMEX card to pick up a few more goodies – one included an in-ear radio for live US Open game statistics. The second included a Metrocard. Turns out that the Metrocard was a great idea – it enabled me to catch a bus to take me back to the Hotel – all for free. Big score. I’d say two points for Changy.
Once I returned to the hotel, I debated about what to do the the evening – should I tour some more? stay in? Balance the two out? I chose to stay in, eat dinner in the hotel, watch BB7 and call it an early night.
Wednesday Sept 6
Still tired from the past few days, I decided to hang out in the hotel until it was time to checkout. I ordered a Cajun chicken boxed lunch which I ate in the hotel restaurant while enjoying some tennis on one of the TVs.
Going through security proved to be the nightmare that gladly never was. Apparently, I’m not a great listener afterall. I thought I took off all of my metal items, however, I forgot my PUMA belt buckle which was still clasped around my waist was solid steel. Lord have mercy. I walked through that checkpoint at least two times before the security official asked me to stand to the side. I cooperated – I didn’t think I was in a position to differ. I was thoroughly scanned and patted down and to my surprise the machine went off in some obscure areas – namely my crotch and my shoulder. With the shoulder he asked if I had a shoulder replacement – to which I replied no. I won’t go into the crotch thing. Think whatever you will. Bottom line, it should not have gone off. The officer who scanned me changed detectors and the signal did not go off when he patted me off again.
At roughly 3:30pm, one of the flight staff advised that our flight would be delayed due to air turbulence. Our depart time was moved from 4:30pm to 5:00pm. Jesus. Another half an hour. I made sure that I texted Alex to let him know that I will be delayed. Either way, I hope the 401 is kind to Alex coming from Steeles/Woodbine. Around this time, my IPOD went kaput and I switched over to the music library on my ThinkPad. I’m more tired than hungry and I expect I will hunger for the end of being tired before the days end.
There’s only a few things that irritate me in this world. People who know me well are saying “liar” under their breath – but bare with me. The scent of licorice is the most vile scent. The taste is less vile, but more rank than the scent of vanilla against someone’s skin. There’s an elderly Middle Eastern woman to my left whom I am testing to see if she is peering over at me while I type about her. Guess I’m not the focus of her intense stare. Maybe she is staring at the woman who is chomping on her endless bag of licorice — that lucky lady sits to my right. coldplay seems to drown out the sound of this West Indian man on his cellphone directly northwest of me, and in some strange way I wish his voice could annex the smell of the licorice.
One thing I’ll say is people are ruled by technology. In a short space of time, I’ve seen 8 people answer their phones or make what I consider to be uncessary phone calls – 2 regular phones, 3 blue tooth headsets, and 3 treos. The conversations seemed to be quite important – animated faces, hands waving, nodding…the works. Somethings can’t wait afterall.