Well, the alarm clock I bought at Radio Shack works. Meet my ride to work, Mark, for the first time. Seems like a very amicable kind of guy. Go to work. My boss/contact, Ian, is off today "recovering" from his son's wedding this weekend, so I'm kind of hanging in limbo until he gets back. I've got the laptop set up on a desk in his office, and I'm trying to log on to the network. I NEED AN INTERNET CONNECTION! I think I'm freaking Clarisse, the department secretary, out a little bit. Guess they're not used to geeks around here much. He he. To the IT department with me. I need a spare mouse, some Cat-5 network cable, a spare mouse, and could you possibly point me to the nearest Ethernet port? Yes, I understand this stuff. Yes, I'm a freak. Everyone in the office is looking at me funny. I rule.
I'm online! Unfortunately, I'm running through the same firewall as I was in Canton, so I can't get my private email or visit any porn sites, but dammit, I've got web access. Okay, I'll calm down now, but you must understand, it's been THREE DAYS! This is my security blanket. Some people have a favorite blanket or a teddy bear. I have the internet. As long as I'm connected, I know everything's going to be all right. I spend the morning getting caught up on tech. news and stuff, and I'm feeling much better about life. Nobody really knows what to do with me, so I'm pretty much left to my own devices until Ian gets back tomorrow. Cool by me.
Lunch with Clarisse and Sabine. They're both French. From Alsace, to be exact. They have no idea what to make of me. This'll be fun. We start with the standard, gettin' to know you, small talk. What am I studying? You know, the usual, Philosophy, French, Creative Writing. French? That raises a couple of eyebrows. Yes, I speak French. So, the attempted French conversation ensues. God damn, I'm rusty. Oh well, so much for the macho, scholarly geek-boy approach. Hell, who am I trying to impress, anyway? The food here isn't bad. Not great, but not bad. Granted, it's much better than the crap they serve in the cafeteria in Canton, and the portions are a hell of a lot bigger, too. I did find out an interesting stereotype about Americans that I hadn't heard before. I guess Americans are known for taking lots of ice in their beverages. This is news to me. On the other hand, it makes sense, but it's not our fault. <rant>The restaurants and food-service places we deal with are the ones who perpetuate this by making sure that cups are loaded down with ice so they don't have to dispense as much tasty beverage.</rant> It's funny the impressions people get about cultures.
Went looking for an apartment this afternoon. Elizabeth (she works for Timken in HR in some capacity, but I'm not sure exactly what she does) takes myself and Pablo, another intern working in England this summer, out to look at a couple of rooms she had found. Oh my God, are these places shitholes! I should have expected it as soon as I find out they were in the projects, but supposedly, "They're not as bad as all that." Uh-huh. These rooms absolutely reek of stale urine, not to mention that I'd be dealing with shared kitchen and bath facilities with people I've never met before. No way. Not me. Luckily everyone (except the landlord, of course) mirrors my sentiments and we quickly write them off. Elizabeth is going to look into a couple of other arrangements tomorrow. We'll see.
After work, I take a walk. This is my first real attempt to venture outside the hotel and see my surroundings. So far Northampton is a typical suburb. Nice residential areas. A few shops and pubs. There is, however this incredibly beautiful park, which is the goal of my walk. I saw it on the way home and wanted to check it out. Of course, I've got about two minutes here before I have to turn around and head back, or I'll miss my dinner reservation. Oh well. A half-hour walk and I didn't even get close to Town Centre (downtown). They do have me out in the boonies.
The Euro2000 Soccer Championship started this weekend, and England plays its first match tonight, and tired as I am, I want to watch. That was one of the very cool things about being in France for the World Cup two years ago. There was always a soccer match going on. So, I'm excited about being able to watch soccer at will all summer, yea! Of course, I'm tired, too. I fall asleep halfway through the match. England loses to Portugal, 2-3. Go figure.
Sunday morning. Wake up 11:00. Damn, too late for breakfast. Well, there's always that grocery store over at the mini-mall place.
Later, armed with BBQ Pringles and bottled water, I settle in for an afternoon of trying to keep busy without the use of my computer. This is crazy. Narcotics withdrawal wasn't this tough. That, and I'm still jet lagged. On with the TV, off with my mind. Luckily, I've found that there's plenty of good old American programming here. Watch a little bit of soccer. Take a nap. Watch Deep Space 9. Take another nap. Watch the X-Files (the computer geek video game episode). Dinner time.
I ate in this conference room last night because the restaurant was being used for a wedding reception. I show up tonighe, not really knowing what to expect. God damn, this dining room is decked out! I need to get you some pictures. And the food is absolutely exquisite. Not exactly what one would expect from English cuisine, eh? Have I mentioned today that I absolutely love being on the Timken payroll? Bedtime. I have to go to work tomorrow.
I arrived this morning at London-Heathrow airport after a fairly uneventful flight. Watched two DVDs, drained both batteries in the laptop (God DAMN, this thing is cool!), and fell asleep on my sunglasses, breaking them. Other than that, nothing too exciting happened. So, I get some money changed, grab my bags, and I'm off to find my ride. I'm thinking that some schmuck cab driver's going to be here to pick me up and unceremoniously drop my of at a two-bit motel where I get to stay until Timken is kind enough to locate me a more suitable accommodation. As it turns out, I got picked up in -I shit you not- a Mercedes! Timken sent a limo service to get me at the airport! Granted, I wasn't picked up in a limo, but I found out later that it's the limo service they use for all their out-of-town executive transportation. I could get used to this corporate travel thing.
So, we get to the hotel, and I go to check in. My name's Tony Rett. Yes, I'm with The Timken Co. Will I be making a reservation for dinner? Sure, why not? The company's picking up the tab, after all. At this point I'm thinking, fly me over on a Boeing 777, have a limo service pick me up at the airport, rent me a hotel room (and the hotel is NICE, not super-classy, but nice) and pay for my meals, and I'm just an intern? Hell, yeah!
Somewhat releived (closer to ecstatic) that everything's going so well, I head upstairs for a shower and a much-needed nap before dinner. Of course, the first thing I do is pull out my voltage transformer and plug in the laptop to start charging the battery and play some tunes. About halfway through my "Euro-trash Girl" mp3, there's a weird sizzling sound like someone's frying bacon inside the transformer. At this point, sparks erupt from the plug, there's a loud popping noise, the laptop cuts out, and there is now smoke rising from the half melted contraption that used to be my voltage adapter. Shit.
Back down to the front desk. Um, excuse me. I just managed to blow up a US to European voltage regulator. You wouldn't happen to know where I can find another one, by chance? The look on this girl's face was priceless. I may as well have asked for a uranium-powered fission reactor. Trying to be as helpful as she possibly can, she points me in the direction of a shopping plaza/mall type place nearby, though the odds of finding anything useful are pretty slim. Also, keep in mind that at this point, I'm going on nearly 36 hours with no sleep, a five hour time change, and the nap that I took on the plane is actually doing more harm than good.
So, I wander down this backwoods trail, through this bridge-tunnel thingy over the highway, to a little mini-shopping mall. After nearly an hour in there, I'm directed across the street (which turns out to be across and about a mile up the street) to a hardware store that might be able to help me. I trek over to the hardware store and find an adapter that does the exact opposite of what I need it to. By this time, I'm absolutely dead on my feet. It's to the point that I'm having trouble comprehending English, so I'm sure people think I'm just a total idiot at this point. Oblivious to the fact that I probably look and am acting like a complete moron, I decide to ask the manager for help. She confirms that they haven't, don't and will probably never carry the part that I'm looking for, but if I want to try an electronics store, there's one at some place called Six Fields, which sounds like it's really far away (I'll later find out that this is the equivalent of the Target at Chapel Hill telling me to try the Best Buy at Montrose, not quite walking distance). Conceding that I'm just not going to have a computer until Monday, I head back to the hotel and lapse into a coma.
More to come...