I try not to let personal life issues affect Triffid Ranch activities, which is why they very rarely ever come up. One of those involved my previous job, which had been souring for a while. Between regular depletion and bizarrely scheduled annual layoffs, timed to guarantee that the parent company saw a double-digit return for the year, the job was becoming more and more of a chore instead of a career. As with any long-running tech company, it managed to gather its particular collection of dysfunctional characters, and many were brittle enough that you never knew what might be the one factor that caused one or five to come in with high-powered weaponry. Between the birthers, the young-earth creationists, the conspiracy theorists, the Freecycle addicts, and the Cory Doctorow cultists, any given trip to the break area was like reading the comments on a Yahoo! news article. It was probably pure coincidence that my bike tires were slashed at least once after I answered The Vital Question in a project meeting, “Star Wars or Star Trek?” with “Don’t look at me: I’m a Babylon 5 kind of guy,” but the timing fit. Either way, take a bit of advice: you know that guy that every tech company has, who practically curls up on the break room counter in impotent rage because “I’m angry at my government”? When he asks your advice on schools where he can send his unvaccinated children because “vaccinations cause autism,” do NOT bring up that they may have more to worry about genetically inherited connections to paranoid schizophrenia. Just saying.
So it was time to leave, and just in time, too: three months to the day after leaving the old position and the few remaining people for whom I still cared, the company was sold to a crew notorious for liquidating new acquisitions, so I dodged a few bullets. The new position is just as obscure as the old one, which is just exactly what I needed: if anything, I get my fill of the crazy by taking the train to work, and being told by former Texas Instruments and EDS engineers on the same route that I need to get a new bicycle seat because “if it doesn’t have a channel in it, you can get prostate cancer.”
Anyway, one of the criteria for the new position required getting a passport, as the opportunity for making company presentations around the world was a serious possibility. My measured and professional response was “Oh, TWIST my arm!” Previously, world travel was a bit like being handed an operational Green Lantern ring: oh, you can talk about the possibilities, but who’s going to give you the option? And then the word came through that the whole company was making a journey…to see Grenada, Nicaragua. Not what I was expecting, but I definitely wasn’t complaining, as I’d wanted to visit Central America since I was five years old.
Sadly, since this was business, this wasn’t the botanical tour for which I would have arranged had this been purely for pleasure. That said, I have no regrets. Grenada is a stunning city, and I hope to visit it again when my conversational Spanish might be described as something better than “you’re going to starve to death in a restaurant if your waiters don’t know English.”
Anyway, over the next few days, I get to resurrect a grand tradition that’s been missing from American culture for the last thirty years: boring friends and relatives to death with photos from your last vacation. This, though, should be a blast.