the woman at the front desk was asleep on a chair. i almost didn't want to wake her up but i had no choice, gently tapping on the marble countertop. i gave her back my keycards and she printed out a receipt. outside my taxi was already waiting.
the driver was an obese man who had his front seat pushed out so far that only one person could possibly sit in the back. the bluetooth headset in his ear was glowing blue, and on his dashboard was a gps navigator. "wang?" he asked in strong southern accent. "yang, actually," i replied. "sorry 'bout that," he said. i told him it was quite alright, common mistake. "i was thinking about this WWE wrestler named wang, an asian redneck cowboy." apparently wrestling has become more diverse since i last watched it back in the 80's. "so where're you heading off to?" he asked. "i'm returning to boston. i was here in town to do some work at the BCRI, i'm a programmer." "so you like the red sox?" he asked. "yeah, i follow them," i said. "what baseball team do people in alabama root for?" i asked. "probably the atlanta braves," he replied, "although i'm a yankees fan myself." "how'd that happen?" i asked, curious as to how a southerner would root for a northern team, the yankees no less. "my grandpa used to take me to games at yankees stadium when i was a kid. i was actually at the very last game played at yankees stadium. i'm going to try and see a game this year, if i still have money left when i return from texas." "what're you doing in texas? vacation?" i said. "wrestlemania," he told me. so a hardcore wrestling fan! that got me to thinking, so i asked him, "you know that movie 'the wrestler,' did you see it?" he said he did and he loved it. "what do wrestling fans think about that movie?" i asked. "a lot of people like it, a lot of people hate it," he said. he told me mickey rourke was scheduled to be at this year's wrestlemania as an honored guest, and the word on the street was he'd also participate in some sort of match. he said the movie painted wrestling in a bad light, but it captured perfectly the heart of a wrestler. by then we were getting close to the airport, and i told him which airline i was taking. the cost for the 10 minute ride was $15, i gave him a few extra bucks for tip. "well, hope the yankees win a few," i told him as i was getting out. he said something back but i didn't quite hear him but i think it was something like, "we're going to beat you this year!" just like a yankees fan.
the airport wasn't busy when i arrived and i got my boarding pass and went through security in a matter of minutes. i still had about 2 hours before my 8am flight so i read my complimentary copy of USA today followed by my book on tape. the flight crew arrived but found a problem with the oxygen supply in the cockpit so a mechanic had to be called. that delayed us by 30 minutes but i still managed to catch my connecting flight in charlotte so no harm no foul. i had an empty seat next to me on the flight to charlotte. i sat by the window but it was overcast so there was nothing to see but the white clouds below and the blue sky above. the flight to boston was more crowded. originally i was booked for a dreaded middle seat but i sat next to two girls who knew each other so i switched seats with one of them to get the aisle. all the overhead bins were full so i ended up stashing my backpack underneath the seat and my smaller camera bag stuffed in a little space overhead. cramped up, i could feel my legs hurting from all that walking yesterday.
i was relieved when we finally arrived in boston at 1:40. good to be home, good to see the familiar. business trips are not vacations and it's hard to make enough time for leisure when you're supposed to be working. it sounds cool on paper, getting to do some traveling, but it's not so cool in practice. the best vacations are still the ones where vacationing is your primary business, not work. that being said, i'm glad i got to see birmingham. i made my way outside to the bus stop and grabbed the silver line to south station then red line to porter square. i went to the nearby subways to get some lunch (by then it was close to 3pm) before returning home with my $5 foot-long. i was planning on just eating half the sandwich and saving the rest for later but i was so hungry i wolfed the whole thing down. lounging on the couch, i quickly fell asleep, waking up hours later, batteries recharged, refreshed.