cold, dark, silent, i woke up early this morning and left for the airport, getting some cash from the local ATM first. i thought it was ironic that i was getting money even though i was going to the federal reserve, a place where basically money lives when they're not circulating. porter station had just opened and there was nobody in the booth yet, just a sign telling me to walk through for free. this early in the morning there are basically two kinds of people: manual laborers, either going to work or actually getting off from work, and travelers heading to the airport with their bags and suitcases. i was in the latter category, and waited for the train the same way i'd wait for an execution, serious and pensive and not looking forward to its arrival. surprisingly the train got crowded enough as we made our way into boston that we ran out of empty seats.
i got off at south station and waited for the silver line to take me down to logan airport. it was my first time riding the silver line, that pseudo new line of the MBTA that's really a glorified bus service. although to be fair, about half of the way were were actually underground, if not the sumner tunnel, then traveling via a special underground tunnel designed for the silver line. by total coincidence i bumped into our family friend mister huang, who was going to the airport as well, a 3-week trip back to taiwan.
my flight was with delta so i got off at terminal A, the very first terminal. there was already a big line at the security checkpoint, folding upon itself 6-7 lines deep. in a bid to cut cost, a lot of airlines are using barcode-reading self-checking kiosks, and delta was no different. i scanned my e-ticket, printed out a boarding pass, and walked down to my gate to wait for my flight. i was traveling with the boss, the same guy who chewed me out about a month ago, so i wasn't particularly looking forward to it. when i got on the plane and he still hadn't shown up, i thought maybe i lucked out and he'd miss the flight. that's when i saw him coming down the aisle, taking the seat right across from me. he wanted to chat but i remained cold, answering back in short sentences. i warmed up soon enough though, when he mentioned something about the georgia aquarium, how he wanted to go. "really?" i asked back with more enthusiasm, "me too." thus began a sort of symbiotic relationship: he was using me to look good for his client (federal reserve), while i was using him to get a free trip to see atlanta and to visit the aquarium. i wasn't doing anyone any favors, i was in this endeavor purely to further my own causes.
when the pilot started to make an announcement prior to takeoff, we knew it wouldn't be good news. apparently there was some bad weather in atlanta and all flights into the city were halted until it cleared up. we ended up waiting at least an hour before we got clearance. in the meantime, they played a movie, cinderella man, a film i wanted to see but never got the chance. despite the uncomfortable seat and obstructed view, i was riveted by the movie. it's the kind of movie that after it's over, you want to turn to your neighbor with a nod and a smile and say, "that was good." russell crowe plays depression era dock worker james j. braddock, who gets into boxing since it's one of the only means he has to support his family. his fights are more than just about trying to beat his opponents, but he's also fighting for his family, and he becomes a hero to the working people of his community.
the days of in-flight meals are a rarity now: all i got was a small bag of chips and a cup of soda full of mostly ice. a middle-aged couple sat in front of me wearing matching renteria jerseys; i will never understand the mentality of some people who treat sports wear as formal wear. especially matching outfits. at one point i went to go use the bathroom, and on a whim decided to see if i could get any cellphone reception (and in that instant defying FCC ruling and risking the lives of all the passengers on that plane to radio interference and subsequent catastrophic failure). the answer: no reception. a woman almost came into the bathroom while i was still inside. apparently when the door said "locked" that was 100% accurate.
it took 3 hours to get into atlanta; the tips of skyscrapers were poking out of a dense layer of low-lying fog as we made our descent into the airport guided entirely by instruments. i waited for the boss to sent out some e-mails from the airport wireless service, before we picked up the work machine we brought along and grabbed the shuttle to the car rental office. the distance from the airport to the city is 10 miles as we made our way to the federal reserve building. atlanta didn't seem anymore different than any other city, other than the fact that there were still leaves on the trees (although they've changed colors) and a lot more black people. at the gate going into the parking lot, armed guards came out to inspect the underside of the car with mirrors and made up open our trunk and hood. they lowered large pneumatic piston gates that sank into the ground before we could drive through. inside the building we passed through a metal detector and everything we brought in had to go through an x-ray machine. since it was my first visit, i had to show my id. everything inside the federal reserve was either marble or wood, and the ceilings went up to the sky. the front entrance/foyer area alone was big enough to be a chamber, with the echos of footsteps. we waited for our contact person to bring us in but apparently they were at lunch; instead one of the guards escorted us to the museum, waving his security badge at intervals of steel-plated doors to get us through.
eventually we did meet up with our contact person. since it was lunchtime and their cafeteria was about to close, she recommended we get some food first. i was surprised how good the selection was, and how cheap: i had an open-faced mediterranean chicken sandwich served on foccaccio bread with a fountain drink and a bag of potato chips for $4. we returned to the museum to start working.
there was more hardware issue than actual bug fixes. the interactive involved two large 9x16 portrait style lcd touchscreens that weren't working right. we spent many hours trying to debug the problem but only managed to fix one of them. only in the last hour or two did i actually do some bug fixes in the program; i burned it onto a cd-rom and installed it onto the lcd machines. it was 7pm when we called it quits. the boss dropped me off at the hotel (hampton inn, $140/night) and then left to have dinner with a friend, leaving me to fend for myself (the boss was staying with his sister).
the first thing i did was to take a hot shower. i plopped on the bed and watched some television. although they had a complimentary wireless network, their internet was done and i couldn't do anything with the ibook except to check if the internet was back up every 30 minutes or so. i got dressed then went out to explore a little bit of atlanta.
i basically walked south until i arrived at this lighted beacon tower. it reminded me a lot of the golden pagodas i saw in burma. since i was in the financial district, the area seemed like a ghost town at night because all the workers had gone home.
i thought maybe this was an oil rig but i think it's supposed to be a symbolic torch. apparently this is a club/cafe that plays all sorts of eclectic music.
i wonder what kind of meeting it was...
atlanta is a very car-driven city. i didn't see too many other people walking around, but there was a lot of traffic on the streets. there were also a lot of cheap self-serve parking lots, $3 to park someplace the whole day.
so in the end, instead of finding a place to get some good southern food, i came back to the hotel and got a steak and cheese sandwich from the nearby subway takeout place. back at the hotel i took another shower and watched some more tv from the bed. there was no heat in the room and it was surprisingly cold outside, with a slight draft blowing in from the crack underneath the door. i crawled under the covers to stay warm. i started drifting off to sleep and decided to call it a night at around 11pm. the bed was amazingly comfortable and i had one of the most pleasant sleeps in a long time.