Sunday, March 05, 2006
Working with Americans, PT 3
I am back, alive, and well! Sorry I didn't post while I was gone but I simply wasn't willing to pay $10 US a day for an internet connection I was only going to have maybe an hour a day to use. The meetings went from 8am to 5:30pm with dinner being 6:30pm to 10pm. We were kept quite busy. Having spent 3 of the last 4 weeks traveling in the USA and staying in cheaper hotels (than this one in Texas) that had FREE internet in the rooms I got a little indignant that this nicer, more 'posh', hotel had the nerve to charge daily for the same service.

But I digress.
My trip started off just right; despite driving to the airport more times in my life than I can count I found that I am not a particularly sharp individual in the darkness of 5am. I missed my exit no less than three times as I drove back and forth and swore like a trucker everytime I missed it yet again. By the time I got to the Park N' Fly parking lot I was rewarded for my efforts with a spectacular wipeout on a lake of ice that on a better day I'm sure I would have noticed, but for the aforementioned reasons (darkness and 5am) it eluded me and I paid the price. Before I even had time to register what had happened I was on my ass, my luggage on the ground behind and beside me and my wrist protesting the event that had just occurred. I sat blankly on the ice for a moment trying to assess just how it was that I got there before I realized I was running quite late and that no one was around to help me up. Grunting, groaning, and rubbing my wrist I hiked my way to the shuttle station to be picked up.

The trip improved after that as I met up with my co-worker and we sat together for the flights (Toronto to Dallas to San Antonio, Texas). My recent turn in my 'flying personality' has continued resulting in palms so sweaty they look like mini Dead Seas. The flights themselves were actually not too bad, but that helped only marginally. Seems I am just determined to be terrified of flying.

Once landed my fellow Ontario co-worker and I settled into our room and decided to go for a walk to seek out drinks (the room had two bottles of water in it but drinking them meant you'd be charged $3.50 a piece to your room! wha?!?!). We finally found a convenience store (after taking the longest possible route and eventually asking for directions) and then proceeded to get quite lost trying to return to our hotel. It didn't help that people kept giving us different directions, I might point out.

As for the sales conference itself, it was pretty good. There were only 5 of us Canadians out of 173 which meant we put up with a lot of peculiar attention from our Americans, often in the form of ignorant remarks and insults and less than funny jokes. For example.....

Our company had the third floor meeting rooms rented out and during the course of the day we would rotate about between rooms for various sessions. To keep us awake and happy there was water and little mini chocolate bars and candies left out for us on the tables in each room. Different rooms had different candies which gave us something to look forward to in a sea of energy sucking presentations.

Upon entering one of the rooms I saw that there were mini Tootsie Rolls on the table, which had been previously unavailable to me. In my excitement I cried outloud "Tootsie Rolls!!" with the greatest of enthusiasm, to which one of the Americans at the table said "Oh, right, you guys don't have Tootsie Rolls in Canada" (spoken with a thick southern accent). Annoyed by his remark I shot him a look and said that yes, we DO have them in Canada, thankyouverymuch. The woman beside me then said "Yeah, I.." which drew my attention in her direction to listen to the rest of her sentence only to find out that *was* the sentence. Puzzled by the incomplete sentence I looked at her with my most confused face and she repeated "I !", with some excitement, and seeing that I was even more confused than ever she said "isn't that what they say in Canada? Aye?". With a mixture of amusement and sheer annoyance I replied "you mean EH??" to which she sheepishly said "is it eh? oh... sorry it's been a while". A while since what I didn't know and didn't care. She won the prize for the dumbest American remark for the whole week (though there were plenty of remarks competing for top dog). Look, if you're going to insult a Canadian, at least do it right.

And so it was working and living among my American brethren for a week in Texas, the state most opposite to Canada, ever. The favourite game at the dinner table at any given night was asking everyone what their education was (most loved to brag of their degrees) and then asking them who the Canadian prime minister is or how many provinces they can name (I could name countless American politicians and likely all 50 states if given enough time). Perhaps it was cruel of me but some of them just needed to be taken down a notch. It just took one too many "eh" jokes to drive me to put the person in his/her place. Swiftly and easily.

Wednesday night we were allowed a free night out on the town (which was nice considering I never even saw the light of day on Tuesday, having spent the *entire* day in the hotel) and if it's one thing I learned about my new place of employment it's they are a group of drinkers and partiers. While I am content to crash out in my room and hit the hay early, these guys are out drinking and having a crazy time until all hours. In an effort to be social I headed out with the gang (my boss included) to the famous River Walk in San Antonio. The River Walk is the strip along each side of the San Antonio river made up of all kinds of shops, restaurants and bars. The nightlife is loud, and ongoing, well into the night. It was nice to leave a country full of ice to arrive in a place full of beautiful sights, sounds and smells. As you walk along the river you pass by bars playing every manner of music and serving up various kinds of food. I loved the ambiance and feel of it and reveled in the idea that I was walking around in a t-shirt.

I was lucky enough to escape 2.5 hours early out of the last meeting on the last day (since the presentation didn't pertain to we Canadians) and my Quebec counterpart and I finally got to do the River Walk during the day (we really lucked out since the River Walk was *right* by the hotel). We strolled around and snapped tons of pictures like dutiful little tourists. I bought a few trinkets to bring home and we sat by the river and ate nachos with salsa and sour cream. It was a gorgeous day and those few hours along the river made the trip for me. Also, it was nice to eat away from the food supplied to our company by the hotel because it. was. HORRIBLE.

And that's about it, I think...... if you wish to see more pictures head on over to my photoblog. This week I am on the road here in Ontario as I meet up with two American counterparts whom I adore (I worked with them in New York a few weeks back) and begin to set up stores. I will be home most nights for the first week, but the second week I will be staying in hotel rooms all over Ontario (and yes, I'll be choosing my rooms based on internet capabilities. hahaha). One such hotel will be known as Hotel Grandma, where I hope to spend a few nights. :-)

Have a great week, everyone!