Last week I made my first trip to the National Guard’s Professional Education Center (naturally abbreviated to PEC), in Little Rock. It was a gathering of the several states to discuss the ongoing Active Directory consolidation project that’s sweeping the nation, leaving a trail of angry sysadmins and frustrated users in its wake.
I arrived in Little Rock after dark and stepped outside the airport terminal to find the alleged shuttle bus that would take me to PEC. I saw a white-painted school bus that was labeled for the Guard’s GED Plus program (two attendees of such I sat next to on the plane, incidentally), but that clearly wasn’t what I wanted, so I waited. Before long, a woman waddled forth from the bus, with a troll-like face (complete with wart) and blonde hair trailing most of the way down her back – but cut above her ears in the most astonishing mullet I’ve ever seen. To top it off, she wore an Army PT jacket that must’ve been XXL, falling around her like a robe.
“You goin’ to PEC?,” she croaked as she walked by. “Yes ma’am,” I responded. “You can get on my bus. I’ll drop you off.”
I hopped on with the couple of other passengers and breathed in the weird combination of baby powder and stinking vinyl seats as the PT-clad troll lady steered the bus away from the terminal. She flogged that Blue Bird for all it was worth along I-30 and two billboards stood out along the way: one was just all-caps text: “GOING TO JAIL?,” with a phone number; the other was, “Hit by a Big Rig?,” and another number. Lots of people getting rear-ended by semis on their way to county, apparently.
The next day I made my way across the street to the classroom where I convened with the representatives from other states. About 30 states were in attendance – giving us quorum, as the lieutenant colonel from Guard Bureau reminded us – ranging from specialists to lieutenant colonels and everything in between. I of course managed to sit next to an evolution of That Guy, hailing from New York, who of course knew everything and was disdainful of the whole thing. At one point (in response to what, I don’t remember) he whipped out his Benchmade folder and said, grinning, “I’d rather just shank ’em instead!” I laughed and replied, “way to live up to the New Yorker stereotype.” He took that as a compliment, elaborating that, “airport security only cares about guns…!” I left that one hanging and returned to my web surfing.
The day started placidly enough, but before long, the states were virtually in full revolt, as the NGB guys told us how our admin rights were going to be taken away (or at least, restricted). I just sat back and enjoyed the furor, since the die was cast already and my role was just to collect information and provide minor input. After all, as one of the Haradrim in service to the Dark Lord, the affairs of other tribes concern me little…
After the session on the second day, which included a strange poker-chip-bidding exercise and a rancorous discussion about how to name computers on the domain, I bailed for the airport. Naturally, black clouds loomed on the horizon and the radio blared tornado warnings for the Little Rock area. Luckily, I arrived at the airport with a few hours to spare – or so I thought, as just when I sat down to tuck in to some serious Tactics Ogre on the PSP, they announced that the terminal was being evacuated. We were herded into the basement, crammed almost shoulder-to-shoulder, which wouldn’t ordinarily bother me except that I was surrounded by smartphones, which appeared in everyone’s hands to announce to the world our impending deaths. I’ll probably get brain cancer as a result of that trip to the basement, because the radio frequency density in there must’ve been out of this world.
I was prepared for a good, long, sweaty stay in the crowded stairwell, but the thing blew over in about five minutes – just long enough to inconvenience everyone. What proved more inconvenient, though, was that the basement was outside the secured area, so every person in the terminal had to be re-screened by security. Needless to say, this caused me to be scheduled to leave too late to catch my connecting flight in Dallas. Luckily, the nice lady hooked me up with an alternate flight to Chicago and thence home, which was better than spending the night somewhere. Still, the trip (from arrival at the airport to getting home) took over eight hours, which isn’t much faster than driving.
The flight from Little Rock to Chicago was understandably quite bumpy, though not severely so – or so I thought. About twenty in the minutes into the flight, the little Asian woman behind me started barfing – and in reaction, I had to stifle hysterical laughter. I’m not sure why it was so funny – I felt bad for her – but maybe it was the stock sound effect that she was making, like “blarghghgwarghghgwarghghgh,” seemed so over-the-top as to be fake. Meanwhile, the guy next to me hastily grabbed his Bose noise-canceling headphones at the first sound of chunks being blown, while also frantically grabbing at his arm rest every time the plane hit a bump. The poor woman threw up at least six more times (including once after landing), and the flight attendants wouldn’t get up during flight because of the turbulence, so I guess she sat there with a pile of full barf bags the whole time.