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November 4, 1999
a year ago
two years ago

Customer Visits

It was completely dark when the alarm buzzed. I blearily got up and went to the bathroom to shower and put myself together. At least two and a half hours in the car on the way there, possibly that much coming back. I didn't want to smell badly when in that close a contact with all my co-workers. The manager of our tech marketing group would be coming along as would the market guy in charge of our stuff, one of the Apps guys and the lady from Tech Pubs that actually knew this usability stuff from the formal way things could be done were all coming along. A mini-van load of people to go see customers and I was probably the one person that was used going out to customers frequently in the whole load.

I hadn't slept at all well all night. Not from any concerns that I knew about, and not really from any anxiety. There were just formless things going on in my head that had me waking up every ninety minutes, almost exactly to the minute, all night long. John got up when the alarm went off, even though he didn't need to, and he cheerfully went to the trouble of making me a latte with our present half-caf mix. That was very nice of him, and I really enjoyed the mild shot of caffeine as I drove towards work. I was to meet everyone there at 6:30 a.m. and we'd then go south to Colorado Springs.

As I stepped out of the house, the night sky was starting to lighten along the eastern edge of the world. The plains side, the side where it seems like the world lies before my sight, all the way to the horizon in front of me and further than I can see to the right and to the left, where I can see the edge of the world where a man should just drop off in to forever...

As I warmed up the Passat and headed towards the gate, clouds in the east started slowly to glow red, deep, angry, dark red at first, on their undersides, with their tops as black as the cold, dark night. The red heated up, lightening, glowing fiercer and fiercer red. I watched it in my rear-view mirror as I headed west, running towards the dark, towards the black of clouds, mountains and night gradually coming into shadow-form in the edge of light creeping up from those glowing clouds. I picked an easier way to work, just so that I could watch the sunrise and not have to watch the dead-straight road.

Angry red heated and heated up, lightening the sky before me only a little to a purple black, the clouds over and in front of me only blushing the faintest pink when the clouds behind me went incandescent. That gold which is all light burst forth from the clouds, with the sun not even really up in the cloud veiled sky. The mountains suddenly loomed forth, deep dusk purple, and dark lavender skies blushed deeper pink above and all in front of me. The contrast of the light show behind and the glomming before me was almost enough to make me cry, a sky so big, a glory so short and so abundant in beauty for nothing more than the rising of the sun. That something the epitome of everyday should be so astonishing seemed a blessing all out of proportion.

I never knew Toad the Wet Sprocket is breaking up. I should send condolences to The Tragically Hip Waif...

They were crooning on the radio as I sped along, the light turning the interior of the car bright and brighter. The incandescent sky kept growing brighter and bright, and suddenly there were streaks of turquoise from the air and sky mixed amid purple, pinks, oranges, and that molten crucible gold, as if the iron gray of the near-dawn sky had been melted to that light-hot color. I reached the parking lot safe and sound and about fifteen minutes early, so went inside to use the facilities before the many hour drive, and came back out and just watched the sun come up until the first of the other folks arrived.

I've been reading Kathleen Norris' Dakota, which is her first book. Zonker had recommended her Cloister Walk, but when I saw that she'd written a book about plains living, I had to get it. I've been reading it for the past few days. It's one of the first books, in a while, that I've been able to read a little at a time, needing to digest before I can move on in the book. It's very interesting and it's changing how I think about where I was as a deacon, and it's solidifying old, scattered emotions about religion and shared spirituality. While I can see that it works for her, there are pieces I would take and pieces I can, now, discard. There are, however, some really interesting bits about how classical religion is about being realistic in a very real sense. Which completely opposes my perceptions of it, but now I can at least see through another's eyes how that might work.

The trip down was uneventful. Just a carload of high tech employees chatting as we raced past some of the best mountain scenery God ever built. It really was gorgeous out there. I was a little light-headed from lack of sleep, thought I'd sleep; but I didn't, at all.

The visits went well, on the whole. It was good to get people in front of customers, and it was good for me, too, to listen and absorb and see what folks wanted and how they thought. It always is. They always have surprises, slants and input that innovates because the problems are so interesting. We met up with an FAE and a sales person in Colorado Springs and they helped us navigate while we were there.

In between the first visit an lunch we had a little time, so the FAE took us to the Garden of the Gods. It's a park that was preserved from private property to a public park and it's got immense red sandstone structures all standing between natural growth. It's just gorgeous, and in the sunshine it just shone. We talked about Everest, Brad Pitt, people who go to extremes, hiking, climbing, and the consequences of physical risk. All kinds of things.

I think that trips with co-workers is the only real way to get to know them other than the everyday interaction of meetings and such. Finding out about their lives, what shapes them. Some of the talk led to siblings and families, and how personalities are shaped and it all built on itself, sometimes referencing back, sometimes leaping onto a tangent and riding that for a while. That was fun and it's good to know the people one does financial battle with.

One of the things we talked about were personalities that were indirect or direct; and in the conversation, I id'ed myself the way that I always have, before the last three years, as an indirect person. Everyone in the car got really quiet, and no one contradicted me, but then again, most of the folks there were somewhat indirect. I thought about it and realized that in the last few years, in an effort to communicate with John better and in a conscious effort to avoid the problems I've always had with remaining discreetly indirect, especially the problems of rage and pent up resentment when I don't say anything, that I have gotten very solidly direct. Which was scary, a little, that I'd changed so much and still identified myself the other way was interesting.

Lunch was delicious, at a little Italian restaurant with good food. They'd proposed Chinese along with this place, and I politely said that Italian would be very nice, and they went with that, the sales person looking a touch relieved. That was funny. The lunch special was a beef tenderloin open-face sandwich with mushroom marsala gravy and new potatoes with parsley and butter. Very simple, very cheap at about $6 for the sandwich, and it turned out to be absolutely excellent, the beef was fork tender and tiny on crisped foccocia. Yum. The potatoes were very buttery and a little mooshy but good for all that.

The drive home was a little more adventurous, as we weren't entirely sure how to get Victoria back to where we'd picked her up. We arrived eventually, triumphant, in the dark, after black mountain roads. From there getting back to the parking lot was easy.

I was mildly light-headed, still, and completely exhausted. We did three customer interviews of an hour to two hours in length and my hands were tired from all the notes and things. I still had the drive home, and I did it and found myself humming happily to myself. The drive itself was really fun, with the music cranked, and I went the windy way to stay awake, with all the corners and stops and go's and lights and things it was always interesting and the lights at home were on, the gate was open and it was warn and nice and the dog was inside and there was pizza on the table.

Wow.

That was very nice. John was checking in code even as I walked in the door, and we had some pizza, watched a little TV; and around 8:30, I went to the master bath and got ready for bed, mostly.

I then lit about 20 candles, drew a hot, hot bath, added plenty of rose milk and then just lay in there for a good half an hour. My lower back has been bothering me for the last few days, so I just soaked it to get the aches out and it really, truly helped a lot. I also distributed the candles all around the tub, and the flickering light was very intriguing and calming. I don't know why candlelight acts that way on me, but it does and I really enjoyed it a lot. Maybe just a bit of tame, warm fire is a key to some lizard-brain functions that let a human being just relax before the fire's warmth.

I was in bed by 9:30, set the alarm for 6. Saturday we're going to Seattle and the flight's early, so it seemed wise to preserve our early schedule for another day.

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