Why Las Vegas is wasted on me -- 01/21/04

Okay, so I've been back from Las Vegas for four days now and all I've posted was a delayed entry from Jan. 13th. Just been busy. Non-stop busy.

Come to think of it, that's a good description of the week in Las Vegas. Busy.

Wednesday, Thursday and Friday followed the same pattern as Monday and Tuesday... classes and presentations in the morning and afternoon, some kind of big group meeting in the early evening and then, finally, dinner. At least the first session didn't begin until 8:30 a.m., rather than Monday's 7:30 start, so we didn't have to catch the shuttle bus until eight. The evenings, however, went just as late. The Wednesday night meeting was supposed to be from 5:30 until 7:30 but it dragged on and on until 8:45... people were getting a bit hungry (and cranky) by then.
Thursday night after dinner I met with a group co-workers -- some from my site in Rhode Island plus some from Toronto and Pittsburgh, plus my current manager and my prior manager and my second-line manager -- and enjoyed some adult beverages at the Ava Lounge at the Mirage Hotel (which is where most of them were staying).
This picture, however, shows a few thousand of us having lunch one day in the exhibition area of the Sands Convention Center at the Venetian -- more than half a million square feet of space -- the picture shows just the back end of the exhibition area, most of it was divided into rooms for holding classes and meetings. Plus, many of the ballrooms on two floors of the Venetian Hotel were also divided into classrooms and meeting rooms. (And there were also sessions held at the Mirage Hotel as well.) The Venetian is interesting -- in that Las Vegas Disneyworld-for-Adults kind of way -- it reproduces Venice, complete with St. Mark's Square and canals and gondoliers. Please note that this is on the second floor, above the casino level.
The Venetian even has a branch of the Guggenheim Museum -- and I had time between my last class and the six o'clock meeting on Thursday so I spent the time touring the museum's current exhibit "A Century of Painting: Renoir to Rothko" -- which was interesting although I am not a lover of modern art.

Why Las Vegas is wasted on me -- After touring the Guggenheim I attempted to find the right meeting room for the six p.m. meeting only to discover that I did not fall into one of the categories that had a mandatory meeting at that time... so I wandered up to the Grand Canal area, even though I had already seen it once during a lunch break... Dinner was to be at eight o'clock in the Venetian... so here I was was with more than an hour left of free time and the novel I was reading was back in my hotel room and I was tired and bored... and I wondered how I could kill the time until dinner. And then I laughed as I realized how ironic it was to be in the middle of Las Vegas and be feeling bored because of needing to fill an hour or so. As I said, Las Vegas is wasted on me. So I hurried back my hotel, booted my laptop and dialed in to the corporate network, replicated my work e-mail, and sent a short e-mail to the people on my notify list, then hurried back to the Venetian for dinner, grabbed a quick dinner and then went over to the Mirage to have those aforementioned adult beverages with my colleagues. (Okay, one Guinness and one Corona was all for me so that I could get back to my hotel by eleven to get some sleep... my sore toe kept waking me up all night long.)

Friday night was the wrap-up banquet -- or, rather, banquets -- and Hamid and I had gotten the word that our banquet was to be in the Paris hotel instead of Balley's... which was no problem for us because the hotels are neighbors and have a direct connection. So we go to the banquets and cannot fine any of our friends. In fact, it is being heavily attended by the Europeans and they are treating this as a dress-up occasion, wearing suits and cocktail dresses. Hamid and I are still "business casual" (with a strong emphasis on the casual). Finally I pull out my cell phone and call my manager. Where are you? Okay, in relation to the stage, where are you? Okay. So we look and we look. Ten, maybe fifteen minutes... Ask a waiter, are there any banquets in other rooms? No. Hamid pulls out his phone and calls. Yes, they are just two tables from the right-hand corner of the stage. Hey, Hamid, ask him which hotel. Ah, they are in the Venetian and we are in Paris. Okay, eat something first, just to make sure we don't arrive at the Venetian after the food is gone. (It turns out there was no danger of that.) We finally got to the Venetian, met up with friends, had a few beers, came back to Balley's, packed our suitcases for an early morning departure.

Our flight was at nine a.m. You know that rule of thumb that says allow two hours before your flight. Usually that leaves you sitting around the gate, drinking coffee, trying to kill the hour or so until your flight leaves. Not so at Las Vegas. When I was here this past February the security lines were horrendously long. And when we had arrived back on Sunday, while we were retrieving our luggage we could see huge lines waiting to get through security. And we heard horror stories: one of the presenters at a session I had attended had had his wife join him the for the weekend leading to the conference, go out for a nice dinner, see Cirque du Soleil, etc., and because of the horror stories about the inefficiency of security at Las Vegas, they made certain to arrive more than two hours before her flight -- but as it turned out, her flight took off twenty minutes before she cleared security because the lines were so long that it took more than two and a half hours. Our company had switched its suggestion to catching a shuttle bus two and a half hours before your flight; we decided to make that three hours. And, in fact, when morning came (Oh, so very early indeed!) we realized that we could just make it to the 5:30 a.m. shuttle bus... so we grabbed that bus, skipped the check-in counter line by using the external baggage check-in and the do-it-yourself computer check-in and boarding pass printer terminal. We dashed to the tram to terminals C and D... saw long lines at security but it didn't look too bad, maybe an hour or so, certainly under two hours... and then we say the sign "First Class This Way" -- we had first class tickets (don't ask me how, I have no idea -- we had paid the standard fare, but they had assigned up to first class seats)... so we followed those signs and were whisked through a separate security line and were through security in under fifteen minutes.

Hamid commented that it reminded him of the way life is in India, where he had travelled on a number of business trips and had observed deep class divisions and blatant discrimination between the well-to-do and ordinary people at every opportunity. He said he hoped we weren't heading for such divisions in our society, where normal people had to wait for hours and the rich could buy their way past just by paying extra for their tickets. I would like to think he is wrong, but when I see the government inflicting this obnoxious and useless "security" system and then setting up specially privileged bypasses for "first class" people (generally the wealthy, business executives, politicians, celebrities, union officials, etc.) while trapping ordinary people in endless (and pointless) long lines under threat of prosecution if you dare to complain. He may have a point. (Ah, well, at least at Providence airport everyone goes through the same lines.)

Landed at Providence about quarter past seven Saturday night. So good to be home! Spent about three and a half hours on Sunday catching up on reading e-mail and journals (just gave up on reading the backlog of blogs). Finally posted my 01/13/04 entry. Got up Monday morning expecting to spend a few minutes in a conference call and then take the rest of the day off (in compensation for losing Sunday the 11th and Saturday the 17th in travel) but found out there was an urgent situation, three courses that had to be reviewed and corrected immediately because all three had to be shipped to Germany and printed there for use next week. So each of the three of us doing this job took one of them and set to work. I worked on it until a bit past eleven o'clock at night, started again around six-thirty a.m., went to the office around ten, finished a few minutes past noon. (I would have liked to have worked on it some more, reworded some sections for greater clarity and smoothness, etc., but I was told this was a critical deadline.) So, today was a bit of a slack-off day in compensation for that work and the travel, etc. (well, at least that is what the three of us decreed) so I worked from home this morning and mostly goofed off this afternoon. One of my co-workers had a baby yesterday so I stopped by the hospital. Bought some groceries. (Jeremy had a mid-afternoon class at his main campus and then one an hour or so later at their Providence campus. He called me on my cell while I was shopping -- Where do they hold their Providence classes? I don't know; I've never taken a class there, call your sister. So he did and she looked it up online and told him. Kids! *grin*)

Nancy has a grad course (curriculum design) after school and then just started a Pilates class... so I fixed a late dinner -- boneless chicken breasts, mashed potatoes, dressing, gravy, steamed broccoli -- dark raisins, golden raisins, dried cranberries, and almond slivers sauteed in white wine and the drippings from the chicken, then served on top of the chicken breasts -- along with a nice rustic bread and chilled pino grigio.

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