Another work trip was planned to take place in Charlotte, and again I was able to check off another new state. A college buddy of mine had recently moved there, so I booked my flight to arrive the night before our meetings. I was whisked away from my house by a taxi and on the way we got slammed by some inclement weather. After I checking in, I caught a glimpse of the monitors that were starting to fill up with delays. At first it was just flights heading west, but mine was soon pushed back too, and then again and again. I was getting a bit fed up with it all, since a was clearly inevitable. Word came at last, and I was able to return home with plans to fly out that next morning. I counted my blessings though, as the line of people who needed to figure out their plan B spanned the entire length of the concourse.
When I arrived back at the airport, it was clear that there were massive problems left in the wake of that storm. O’Hare is United’s primary hub, so to have none of the planes or crews in the right places meant utter chaos. I saw several of the same people from the night before, and was glad to have showered and slept in my own bed. Looking again over at the monitor, there were just a handful of flights not cancelled or delayed, and the runways were dead. These problems were not aided by the alleged fire that took place in the control tower. I have my doubts that this actually occurred though, as it gave the airlines an out for all the cancellations and saved them putting everyone up in a hotel.
I spent about 10 hours in zombie mode hoping to make standby for some flight that never even happened, and finally I bailed on the whole thing. I was told by my boss to do everything in my power to get there by the next morning, since there were some important demonstrations that could not be replicated elsewhere. Thursday morning was the earliest that United was forecasting my arrival…3 days after my original arrival time, and actually after my return flight home. So, I hopped online and booked another flight departing from Midway that evening. I had to drive over there, and finally – FINALLY – arrived to Charlotte around 1:00am.
The next day, I ate a sleepy breakfast and recounted the tale of my journey to my coworkers before we all piled onto the bus. This was going to take us to our distribution and production centers so that we could all get a better understanding of how the company functions. It was interesting to be walking through pallet mountains of the various products I’ve been learning about. I also appreciated the stroll through our production facility where I saw all the steps that add value to our industry leading products. My favorite stop was the company skunk-works where we were forbidden of taking pictures or even talking about what we saw with people outside the company. It feels pretty cool to be a VIP.
There were some hands on product demonstrations that let us get an appreciation for how our products are used and applied. I’m sure a lot of people have seen the green slurry that hydroseeders spray on lawns, and that is one of our products, but we also do a whole lot more. We got a crash course introduction into the equipment, and then climbed aboard to use it for ourselves.
Once business was over, it was time for a bit of office bonding. We were broken into six teams and then headed over to Kitchen Stadium where we had an Iron Chef style battle. In each of three rounds, we were presented with a couple of theme ingredients and about 20 minutes to turn them in the best tasting dishes we could. I’ll admit that our all male team was not so good at this, and that some were more concerned with the wine, but we all had a great time with event. Presentation was also taken into consideration, and the cucumbers I carved into little tiki people were met with rave reviews. Here was our team, right at the beginning.
In the end, I’m pretty sure that we took last place but it was a very unique event. Once things were done in the kitchen, we busted out a cooler of refreshments and rolled back to the hotel where we spent the next couple hours together in the courtyard. Everyone was really having a great night, but as it wore on people peeled off to bed.
That next day, I had to make my return for home which was unfortunately into O’Hare Airport. As much as I wanted it all to end, an hour long cab ride south separated me from my car. It was a tiring process, but duty called. Although the coming and going was extremely taxing, once I finally got down to Charlotte I had a good time with my coworkers and was glad to have made it. I’ll have to find a different opportunity to meet up with that friend though.
Here was a pretty cool slideshow of pictures from the event.