Wednesday, July 28, 2010
There is something that graduate school does to you that isn't right. You spend a lot of your time wishing that you were somewhere else. And lo! You find out that you get to go to a scientific conference, a meeting, and what could be better than an international meeting? An international meeting during Oktoberfest.
Alas, you have to attend with others, and this is where things go wrong, horribly wrong.
I have had the fortunate experience of being able to travel as part of my graduate school tenure. I don't knock it. I don't think I would have ever had the chance to go to these places had I not a rather unique boss. That is where the story gets interesting.
My grad advisor is a strange man. We will call him Jackass (cause he once got in a yelling match with my predecessor that involved threated punches because he called grad advisor a jackass under his breath). He could be the most socially awkward man that I know. He is an eternal pessimist. He, I don't think, actually has any interest in the science that his lab does. He does not work well with women, more out of being uncomfortable than being a jackass. He blatantly ignores rules, never is on time, and is unbelievably forgetful. (We are now great friends since I've graduated.)
We (me, labmate and Jackass) show up to the airport, only to find out 15 minutes before we are about to board, that our flight is cancelled. Jackass immediately goes into a tailspin:
"We shouldn't get on this plane. We should go home. I don't want to go to Germany."
Labmate and I decide that he is just being his eternal pessimist self. He, our leader, won't do anything about going to find out about the next flight that we have to get on. I go stand in a line that doesn't go anywhere. Finally, USAirways decides to put on us another flight to get to Philly that may or may not allow us to catch the connecting flight to Munich. However, these people won't let us get on the flight that is going to Frankfurt. Somehow, I can't see how it is better to let us stagnate in Philly for a night than to actually let us get to the country we are trying to get to.
We end up missing our connecting flight. At this point, I realize that my whole raison d'etre for the past 2 month was for naught. I was scheduled to present my data a mere 2 hours into the first of the meeting days. I was now going to be somewhere over an ocean while some german guy is going to be calling my name. I need a shower, some bourbon, and to get away from the positive thought sink that is my boss.
Our bags are on the way to the Fatherland. The hotel restaurant is closed. There is bar food, but only one bartender (who was the most amusing thing that I had seen all day). We have almost 24 hours to kill in Philly. At this point, I just want to be either home or our final destination. Perhaps the most annoying thing is this: Jackass, who is the first person to complain about anything, ceases making decisions.
Dr. A has become moody, like a woman. His two female graduate students, one slightly more disappointed than the other, are trying to make the best of it. We know that we are all in the same boat, and yet he is acting like a spoiled child. He is vocal about 2 decisions during our stay in Philly:
1. That we had to go to the Franklin Museum.
2. That we didn't need to call the hotel in Germany, because they would hold it for us, because we were international customers.
I, of course, know better. I demand coffee. I demand Starbucks. I demand this for several reasons: I know that they have internet access at Starbucks. I know that I can email the meeting organizers to tell them that we missed our flight. I can email my husband and make him call the hotel. I also know, that with all the one on one time with me and the boss, I need a rather substantial amount of caffeine.
Why make my husband call the hotel? Because he can do it without my boss watching. Jackass was adamant that we didn't need to call.
In the next few hours, llittle goes wrong. Some airport restaurant won't take the airline vouchers cause USAir is going under. We are all getting sick of each other. We get on the plane. We sleep. We wake up. We land. All of a sudden I am in charge and we are in Munich.
Well, I am not really in charge, only sort of. Mostly because I can speak some German. I can get some directions. I can read the U-bahn schedule. I can translate menus.
My temper starts to go at this point. We have missed our direct bus shuttle from the airport to the little hamlet that the meeting is in. So it is my job to get us there by train. No problem. Jackass doesn't understand why we don't need to take a 45 minute train into the center of Munich. I keep trying to make him understand that there is an auxillary station much closer to the airport. Finally, I have to appeal to his sense of wanting to take a shower and a nap. I explain that this is going to add 2 hours to the trip. He finally lets me lead. I take off to the subway station. I have been here before. I am in my element. If he wants to slack, I am not going to have anything to deal with him.
Time goes on. We take naps on the train. We listen to music. We don't talk to each other.
The boss is not well prepared for this trip. He has done no investigation about the city we are going to. He gets annoyed because I have to go to the bathroom and we make him watch our luggage. Finally we realize that we are close to the hotel. Sleep...at last.
They didn't hold our hotel rooms.
The city's hotels are booked. After all there is an international scientific conference going on.
There is one room for us.
In another hotel.
That we have to share.
By now, gentle reader, you have noticed several things. My male boss has to share a hotel room in another country with 2 female students. That the students are sick of him. And lastly, he is unprepared for this trip.
I make a last ditch effort to ask the hotel matron if there is another room; there isn't. I turn to our boss and try to explain that:
"We are all adults. It is only for one night. We don't have any options. We will get over it."
We take turns taking showers. We take a short nap. We go to the first day of the meeting. We have a cafeteria dinner. We adjorn back to the hotel.
At this point, we all have to get some sleep. Labmate and I have to share a bed. Jackass's cot was a mere 6 inches from my right foot. We all get ready to sleep. Sure, it is a little strange that my boss gets to see me in my sleepware, which is just a long sleeve t-shirt and sweatpants, but I am dealing with it. Hell, I am fully covered. He takes this time to announce:
"Girls, I don't sleep in these pants."
To which I snap:
"Well, we don't have our glasses on, so it isn't like we are going to see anything."
We all start reading, or working on the computer, or listening to music until we drop off to sleep. Wake up was going to be at some ungodly hour chimed by labmate's watch.
Labmate and I wake up. We get ready. Jackass is still sleeping, complete with a breathy snore. Labmate and I look at each other. Neither of us wants to touch him to wake him. Most of all, we don't want to disorient him so that he gets out of bed sans pants.
I have a brilliant idea. I have a piece of music on my mac that is perfect for this occasion. I boot it up. He sleeps thought the inital sound. All of a sudden, the room is filled with swelling music and:
Good mornin', good mornin'!
We've danced the whole night through,
good mornin', good mornin' to you.
Good mornin', good mornin'!
It's great to stay up late,
good mornin', good mornin' to you.
Jackass sits up in bed. Looks at me, cause he knows that it was my idea to do something like this, and I am a morning person, and says:
"Shut. that. annoying. music. OFF."
Now this isn't the final hell that was our trip to Germany. It doesn't get worse, but it never really gets better.
As for the rest of the time, there wasn't enough beer in the breweries or tents at Oktoberfest that could make it better.
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