12 March 2012

Bangalore or Bust: A Travel Log (Day 1)

Author's note: For the next several weeks, I'll be posting tidbits of a travel log, which I kept during a two-week business trip (the reason I was in sporadic contact with the world). Enjoy!

I supervise a group of engineers from Bangalore, India for work. I try not to think too much about the fact the TV show “Outsourced” (and the movie by the same name which preceded it, the latter actually doing a far better job in conveying life in India...) featured a main character named Todd who headed up a group of Indians on-site for his company. But nonetheless, I too, was tasked with heading overseas. At first (about a year ago or so, when we began forming the team), the plan was that I would go for six months to sit alongside the team and train them. Then, due to corporate rules and the way in which expenses are handled, it was narrowed down to three months. And a few months ago, I was informed that we were further reducing the trip to about two weeks.

Procrastination always wins (which may need to be the title of a future book, if I ever dive into non-fiction).

So, after subjecting my body to the abuse of various vaccinations and pills that do weird things to you (but hopefully keep you safe from all the nastiness that can come from visiting other countries), and then getting myself checked and re-checked by various government agencies (as a precursor to a TSA screener, no doubt), it was finally time to get on the plane. There would be no further reductions (especially since the tickets they purchased were non-refundable) and the trip was a go.

And so, here *WE* go…

Day 1 (technically, days 1-3 when all was said and done), Thursday (2/23):

A typical windy day (but thankfully not a dark and stormy night, because any writer knows that you’re not supposed to start a story *that* way) in the big ICT (Wichita, for those who aren’t as familiar with airport codes), which made for a rough trip down to Dallas. Also, maintenance issues caused some delays on the flight departure, another typical happenstance for flights out of Mid-Continent Airport. Thankfully, we’d anticipated all of these issues, and gave ourselves a healthy layover in Dallas for our connecting flight. Other entertainment included seeing big globs of sealant on top of the boost pump access panels (over wing), which nearly made me hurl as an aerospace engineer. Drinks were free, though, even in economy class, which surprised me…discount carriers make you pay for the drinks, but then the tickets aren’t nearly as expensive. Thank goodness it wasn’t coming out of my pocket…

I know why they had to, but still... (the boost pump access panel in the center foreground)

This would be my first experience flying business class (on the second leg coming up), which meant that the group of us were able to visit the “airline lounge” with Lufthansa. Apparently, this allows you cushy seats, free drinks (including alcohol, which doesn’t do much for me personally, since I don’t drink) and snacks. Sadly, the “free wi-fi” barely worked, placing it one step below local Wichita coffee shop Mead’s Corner in the comfort department. Still, it did make one feel like a big shot. And given the prices for the tickets, I would hope so.

Have never flown a trans-Atlantic flight before (and even the over-Pacific flight I took back in 1993 is a bit fuzzy in the recollection department), and definitely the first time flying business class, so it was a trip getting on the plane and not being herded like cattle into the pen. Even being an aerospace engineer, it still baffles me how an aircraft can stay in the air for around ten hours (for the leg from Dallas to Frankfurt, Germany), but they got it done. And they did it in style (for the most part)…the seats were amazing, even better than I have in my own car. I was a bit disappointed that they didn’t seem to have any Wi-Fi on the plane, though. One would think that would be the new standard. I also got a bit of refresher on all that high school German I took on a whim, though I was still glad that they had an English translation for everything. Again, alcohol was free, which didn’t help the non-drinker such as myself. Lots of room, though, to stretch out your feet without bullying your carry-on personal item for space, the ability to place your seat in a sleeping position without getting too intimate with the traveler behind you, and even a free Sennheiser headset (sadly, not a noise-canceling one) to use with the in-flight entertainment…this was truly the way to fly. But for the price tag of these tickets, I wouldn’t do it on my own dime. Only issue I’d complain about was with the A330 we flew in for this leg, which one would have thought would have been a vast improvement on the MD-80 coming out of Wichita.
Fairly comfortable, but Airbus needs to learn how to remove the random engine noises.


During the taxi, every time the engines increased thrust, it sounded like a tornado siren going off (oops, yet another typical Kansas occurrence) and then through initial climb-out, all the way to our cruise altitude, there was some horrendous noise that can’t even be described to fully experience it. Did I mention a nine-hour flight? Apparently that allows you (perhaps just for the business class area?) the privilege of a three-course dinner, and a breakfast, too. Two full meals and an endless supply of drinks, all included. Sort of makes paying more for a can of Pepsi and a miniature can of Pringles than some fast food value meals (which I recently had to do on a discount carrier flight to the Phoenix area) seem a bit dumb. But, then, we come back to the ticket price…

Of additional entertainment value, nine hour flights are an excellent time to get some writing done. It did require a little bit of effort (writing this information down) to get me back in the swing of things after finishing up Death Brings Victory, but after that, smooth sailing was had. Sadly, as we’d come to find out, this would be one of the few times I’d get anything done on my next Aston novel, Resurrection.

Downside…I never could find a comfortable position for my butt on the seats, even with the extra cushion they provided.

And that's all for today...be sure to come back for the next installment...and if you'd prefer a photo log of this trip (with far more photographs than I was able to take and/or post), check out one of my co-workers' blogs from the same trip.