You can't ask a cow for directions
A typical day at work: people answering phones, rolling their eyes as they assured anxious customer that their problems "will be resolved to the best of our ability", while the constant clicking on fingers on keyboards continued in the background. I was sitting at my computer wearing sunglass because the flourescent lighting drove me crazy, when my supervisor asked me to put my phone in idle (so calls wouldn't be routed to it), and come to his desk.
My supervisor at the time, Mike, was known for pulling pranks (I'd helped him on a few occasions - which would make a good story for another post) so when he asked me if I wanted to travel to Corvallis, Oregon to represent our company at a training session for HP's new digital projector, I didn't really believe him.
"Seriously Melinda - they want you to come down for a week and train with them. They insisted that it be you..."
At risk of sounding full of myself, this wasn't a surprise at all. I'd developed a very close working relationship with the DPI team (as we called them), and over the months of working with that contract had made myself as indispensible as possible to them. I worked extra hours, pointed out ways to help things run more efficiently, became a liason between the call center, our client, and the repair center, and spent hours on calls with the DPI guys while others were stuck talking to customers. It was stressful and I was doing way more than I was getting paid to do, but I really loved it. For about 18 months, we had a great team of people. Everybody got along really well, and work was made even better by the close friendships that had grown over stories of annoying customers and a common goal to make a new product line succeed. Our team was lucky - we were a small group who were hand-picked by management to support the DPI products, and spent our days supporting business customers, while the rest of the building was forced to deal with home users - many of whom truly believed that a computer was an alien invention that would never be completely understood.
Weeks later, I found myself taking a late-night Robert Q bus from London to Toronto's Pearson airport, nervously thinking about the long journey ahead. It was the first time that I would travel alone without parents or friends, and being a person who isn't a big fan of planes, I wasn't looking forward to the 5 hour flight ahead to Vancouver, where I would then hop on a smaller plane to Portland. Thankfully, the flight to Vancouver went really nicely, and I found my way through the busy airport to the next terminal in record time. I was so busy being proud of myself for making it that far that I didn't notice the heavy clouds moving in....
The flight from Vancouver to Portland was on a little puddle-jumper plane (a DC-10 or something) which stayed enveloped in heavy clouds, rain, and fog for the duration. It was a "commuter flight", filled with business people reading newspapers and catching naps. Hardly anybody had any real luggage, and nobody was as nervous as I was. The stewardess noticed my anxiety and offered me a complimentary drink, which I was expecting to be water, but in fact turned out to be the liquor of my choice. So I got to have a free rum & coke as I prayed that the plane wouldn't crash into Mount Hood or some other mountain.
By the time we landed in Portland, the warmth in my belly from the rum had been replaced by a large knot - it was pouring rain, and I was now on the last leg of my journey - one that required me to drive for two and a half hours down the I-5 to Corvallis. In a car I'd never driven and a state I'd never been. Up to that point, I'd been depending on other people to get me to where I needed to go, and now it was my turn to drive. My car rental got a free business upgrade to a brand-new, silver Toyota Rav4, which helped things immensely. I drove a Corolla for years (will be getting another one when I get back to Canada), and felt very comfortable driving around in another Toyota.
The radio was blasting, I was warm and enjoying the beauty of the northwestern rainforest (really that's the most fitting description for the vivid green woods that cover Oregon all year long), sipping Dunkin Donuts coffee, and glancing at the map to make sure I was going in the right direction.
Just as I was thinking "this isn't so bad", I realized that the road that was supposed to take me to the I-5 was now winding through increasingly larger hills, and that trees and fields were replacing the gas stations and restaurants. Traffic had diminished to a few cars and trucks making their way through the rain, and I followed one up to a field full of cows.
"This doesn't make any sense", I thought, "I should definitely have gotten on to the I-5 by now." At that point, just like in the movies, the rain poured down even harder and my radio started to crackle with static.
"Where the hell is the interstate?!" I shouted at the cows, making a U-turn to head back in the other direction again...