Trip to Texas – WWPC Day -4

I’m here in Houston, TX for the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference starting next Monday – having arrived a few days earlier to spend some time with another ex-pat, my good buddy Redditch Texas Matt. I’ll be blogging each day through my trip – so you can both marvel and laugh at just how bloody British I really can be when abroad.

Arriving at Birmingham International at 6am, the long-suffering and yawning GG bade me a fond farewell as I went to join the queue to check-in. I say "went to join", as I treated myself to a Business First class ticket to the States and so Continental Airlines Concierge quickly identified me as a posh-type and took me straight to the check-in desk. This is the life!

I was then whisked through Security thanks to the VIP lane (I could get used to this) and went to relax in the private Airport Lounge where I did some work and caught up on some blog posts.

Although Mick is looking after the office (Kelly is in Las Vegas on holiday too!) – I’m going to attempt to do as much work remotely as I can to keep things ticking over. I’ve never loved Outlook-via-HTTP, SBS Remote Web Workplace and LogMeIn as much as I do now – I can do virtually everything I could do in the office, but from the other side of the world! The time difference in the USA is -6 hours, but Mick is suitably covering the morning rush, and I’m mopping up the issues in the afternoon, as I wake up in the US.

Flying first class – I come for the leg room, but stay for the tons of free food

My flight to Texas included a change at Newark, NY. The flight from Birmingham to Newark was brilliant – I’ve never flown 1st Class before but it turns something that can be a chore and stressful into a relaxing and enjoyable trip. As well as having a huge reclinable chair with tons of leg-room, I managed to catch-up on two movies using the VOD (Video-on-Demand) during the trip, plus read the complimentary newspapers, did some e-mail off-line, ate a three-course meal, drank a bottle of nice wine and was generally pampered by the flight attendants. Lovely!

Sadly my experience of the connecting flight from Newark, outside New York, to Houston, Texas was not quite as pleasant.

The airport was rammed as everybody and his mother tried to get home for the July 4th Independence Day celebrations. The much lauded US Customer Service values went out of the window for sarcastic and snide comments from anybody (Me – "Excuse me, where can I go to check-in?" Airport Office – "Wherever the hell you need to be" – cheers dude!) and everybody. There was queue jumping, pushing and shoving and when I finally got on-board the plane, the Air Conditioning had broken down so it was sweltering, and families were arguing with single passengers over seating because they wanted Ma and Pa to "sit together". I plugged in my iPod and sat in cramped conditions listening to Ricky Gervais for the next 3 hours, pretending I was somewhere nicer.

I even resorted to reading the in-flight magazine –  which included an advertisement for the most bizarre item I’ve ever seen. PupStep. Stairs. To your bed. For your Cat or Dog to climb. No, really…

Thankfully I soon was indeed soon somewhere nicer – I’ve never been so glad to arrive at an airport as when we touched down in Houston!

There seemed to be some problem with the local weather when I stepped outside, as they’d left the heating on full blast – 34c in the afternoon they said. Ouch. Best not to complain though, I’m sure they’ll get it sorted for me soon enough.

Whilst quietly marvelling at the fact every American seems to drive a gas guzzling Tank-sized vehicle (I promised myself I’d ignore my Green Beliefs for the next few days and not make any complaints) and there seems to be no discernable motorway etiquette system here, we headed back to Pearland where Matt lives – some 30 minutes from downtown Houston.

The evening was taken up with a fabulous dinner at a local Mexican eaterie with Matt and his family, washed down by some weak pale liquid the locals oddly refer to as "beer", but with another much more agreeable drink called a "Margarita" afterwards. We then retired back to Chez Matt to sit in front of his giant screen Television and watch some traditional American TV… Gordon Ramsey’s "Kitchen Nightmares" on BBC America!

Finally succumbing to jet-lag, I crashed out at around 9pm EST and slept through until 7am this morning when I fired the laptop up and did some work remotely.

It’s now 4th July, American Independance Day, and this evening will be spent at a high-rise office block in downtown Houston watching the fireworks across the City and celebrating the Colonials escape from our evil Sith-like British oppression!

I shall no doubt get suitable drunk and lament the fall of the British Empire with my host and fellow Brit Matt!

Happy 4th July! 🙂

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