Monday, November 27, 2006

Back In Town

We're back! Here are some random thoughts from the trip.

The drive, as always, had moments of comedy. On our last two out-of-state trips we've seen a fair number of billboards advertising "Asian massage", generally 24 hours a day. We're seeing two options: either truckers have discovered the joys and practical benefits of massage, or it's a code for "hookers found here". We're being optimistic and assuming the former. The other funny driving moment came when we pulled up behind a truck with a sign on the back that said, "Drive Safe, We Can Wait." Laura thought that was an awfully nice sentiment for a trucking company: be safe, even if it slows us down; your life is more important than our time. Then we drove beside the truck and saw it was owned by the Clark Grave Vault Company. It completely changed the message.

The eleven-hour drive is ideally a 9- or 10-hour drive. We spent an extra hour waiting on the Beltway, and we had more delay in Maryland where I-70 and I-68 each went to a single lane, then merged into yet another single lane. For absolutely no reason. Four or five miles of this, with absolutely no heavy equipment or actual work happening. We think they blocked it off early, to inconvenience the maximum number of people on the country's busiest travel day.

Thanksgiving itself was a fun day. The early preparations and cooking involved me in no way whatsoever, except for some minor rearranging of furniture (I move heavy things, grunt). Laura's brothers all congregated at her mom's house for dinner. Wes and his girlfriend Rebecca came for a visit, as did Brian and Gary and his son Ashton. We enjoyed spending some time together, and Laura's family were good company.

I got to finish a book in Virginia, which I haven't done for two or three weeks; I've been busy. I read Christopher Paolini's Eragon. It was a nice fantasy story. It was also an education about the craft of writing. Over the course of the book, you could actually watch the writing style improve. The writing in the prologue would've been more at home in mediocre internet fanfic. But by the end of the novel it looked like professional prose.

In Fairfax I saw the back half of a bright red tanker truck. It had a picture of a coffee pot sitting on a pile of beans next to the words, "Our Coffee Is Always Hot." I had never seen a coffee tanker before. When the truck blocking my view moved, I saw it was a Sheetz tanker; we don't have Sheetz (a gas/convenience chain with built-in short-order restaurants) in Indy, so I didn't recognize it. I'm assuming it's a gas tanker with a coffee ad on its side. That, or their coffee is rated DOT Flammable class 3. I've never tried Sheetz coffee, so I can't say. If it were Zelma's Diner coffee, I'd believe it.

People are a bit less trusting on the east coast. I'm basing this sweeping generalization on the fact that the Einstein's Bagels in Fairfax doesn't have an honor box where you drop your dollar for a refill. You must instead wait in line and go to the register to refill your travel mug.

And, a little politics. We saw a sign when we hit the PA Turnpike that said, "Your Toll Dollars At Work: Construction Completed One Year Early!" I saw this sort of thing with Hyperfix, Indy's recent highway revamp. The construction company was on a very tight schedule, but they were paid a bonus if they finished early. The earlier the job is done, the bigger the bonus. Earlier than what, I wondered? Earlier than they said they'd finish, of course. I wonder how long it took the bidding guys at the construction company to do the math. They figure a job will take 30 days. And they know they get paid a million dollars extra per day early they finish. So, why not estimate the job at 35 or 40 days? Instant millions, like a guaranteed winning lottery ticket. I need that kind of job, wherein not only do I set my own schedule, I also determine after how many hours I'm on overtime.

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