Saturday, February 10, 2007

Muskegon in January 

How I spent a small part of my winter break - client visit to Muskegon, Michigan. My trip was planned for an afternoon departure from Boston, change flights in Detroit and then a puddle jumper to Muskegon County Airport. Arrival around 9:00 pm. Then client visit from 8:30 to 3:45, and a 4:30 flight back to Detroit and on to Boston. So I packed up my small rolling suitcase with one business outfit, jammies and toiletries bag, and felt kind of silly traveling with a half-empty suitcase. So I tossed in my folio with all my relevant client visit papers (workbooks, information packs, maps, phone numbers, and then I also put in my coat, as we were having unseasonably warm weather and I figured I wouldn't need it until I headed out to the rental car at Muskegon.

The Muskegon County Airport is a two gate affair, with one boarding area, one ticket counter and one luggage belt. The gate area is closed while the TSA staff screens luggage, then as the flight times approach they close that station and open the gate area so they can screen the passengers and carry ons. The airline staff who check you in at the counter go through the same thing, as they are also the staff who board you at the gate, and they also handle getting the luggage from the counter to the planes and from the planes to the luggage belt.
So when my bag failed to appear in the small batch of luggage (very small plane), the staffer stuck her head out the tiny little cart door and called out, "That's it!" and looked around for objections, which came from me. "I'll see ya up at the counter, hon!" she cheerily responded.

So I meandered over to the counter, and she eventually popped out from the back, removed her luggage handling coat, and gloves, and expertly booted up her ticket computer and did the ticket agent thing where they hit an amazing number of keys on the keyboard in rapid succession (you know exactly what I mean, don't pretend you don't), and let me know that my bag was safely in the airline's possession in Detroit, and was scheduled to arrive in Muskegon the next day at 1:00. I let her know that I would claim it and check it back in, as my flight out was for 4:30 the next day. I had one piece of good fortune in all this, as even though I found myself without a coat or gloves in Muskegon in January (it was in my suitcase, remember?), the unseasonably warm weather was there as well, and it was in the 40's to 50's, so at least hypothermia wasn't in the offing for this mostly interior trip.

Then it was off to the car rental counter, where the teenager efficiently provided me with paperwork and keys, as well as directions to the wrong hotel. This was particularly distressing as I had already done all my research and had printed out maps and clear directions from the airport to the hotel, hotel to client and client to airport. I tried to find my hotel, as I recalled that it was in the same general area and I had the address in my itinerary that was downloaded into my Palm calendar, but I just couldn't find the stupid thing. Finally I rang them up and they talked me in. Turns out I actually had found it before, but thought I must be on the wrong section of the road, as the section it was on looked like a dirt construction road. Actually it was a dirt construction road, but the hotel was way in the back amidst the piles of gravel.

Lucky for me they had all kinds of emergency supplies at the front desk, so I was able to brush my teeth and hair and put on deodorant before going to the client in the morning, but by the time I got to the hotel it was too late to go out shopping for a new outfit, plus I simply hate shopping. For business clothes, anyway. Put me in a bookstore, electronics or REI for a few hours and I'm a happy clam.

Once settled in my room, which didn't take long as I didn't really have much to unpack, I called The Girl and melted down a bit, then went to sleep.

The next day I called my manager to let him know that I'd be visiting the client in jeans and sneakers, but at least I had worn my fleece zip neck sweatshirt with our company logo. Then I opened the curtains to get a look at the environs in the daytime, only to find that it wasn't daytime at all. This was very confusing, because it was 7:30. Michigan's in the eastern time zone, right? It really is 7:30, right? What the hell's going on???? Finally I just took faith that I had the correct time and wasn't in the Twilight Zone, and decided that Starbucks would fix everything. I knew where it was, as I had made my call to the hotel from the Best Buy parking lot directly across from the freestanding Starbucks in the mall parking lot. Ah, the aroma of civilization! While I waited for my decaf grande nonfat caramel macchiato with my crispy treat in hand, a regular customer came in and told the barista he wanted something other than his usual. He wanted something that tasted good but with as much caffeine as they could cram into it. She made him a 6-shot toffee nut latte. I was sad to see that he took it out to his car without taking a sip, as I wanted to see the top of his head fly off momentarily as the caffeine hit his system.

The good news is that the client visit went well, the two folks I met with were entertained by my sartorial explanation, and we even wrapped up early enough for me to drive down to the lake to take a look. Yep, it's big. And not easily accessible from downtown Muskegon. Well, it's easy, but a lengthy and windy drive. That's windy in both senses - the road wound around a lot and as I neared the lake the wind really picked up. They hadn't yet gotten up their winter snow/sand fences, so the sand was blown all over the roads like dunes. I was pressed for time and I couldn't access the parking lots (blocked by sand), so I'm sad to say I have no scenic lake photos at this time. But fear not! I'm heading back in March for go live (when they'll make the switch from their old transcription to ours). Stay tuned. In the meantime, click the Starbucks below to go to a very small (three photos) set.

Oh, and it was dark because of where Muskegon is located in the Eastern time zone. It's well north, and as west as you can be without crossing into the Central time zone. Now you know.

Posted by Beth Henderson at 7:33 AM