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Sunday, July 29, 2012


Who didn't see the Olympic Opening Ceremony?  Loyalties are going to be divided, as I know I will cheer for my home team, yet hold allegiance to those who come from Austin, the University of Texas, and dare I say it, A&M University, which is, in some circles, known as 'The Other' Educational Establishment in the second largest State of the Union. 

My week, however, did not start with an inspiring opening ceremony, as I was thrown into a sprint on Monday morning.  Dana usually brings home some work from the office over the weekend, and on the first day of the working week, as I am laden down with breakfast and lunch items, he takes the briefcases.  As his productivity had been so efficient the previous week, he had returned home on Saturday without his usual workload and, therefore, was 'hands free' on Monday.  I knew there was something out of place, as I walked from the car to the office, struggling with three large plastic bags of grocery, while his arm was placed firmly across my shoulder.  'Uh oh', was not the sentence I wanted to hear when I asked, 'Where is my computer?'  As I stared at the mountain of work that had appeared on my desk over the weekend, I tried debating on whose time would be better spent going home to retrieve the item. 

Losing in the first round is rather debilitating, but someone has to come last, and I took defeat graciously.  I headed home to collect my bag and longed for the days when I could call Samantha and say, 'Can you bring in........'.  Arriving back at the office, rather the worse for wear, as the heat of our independent Texas sun was starting to increase rapidly, and the walk from the car to the house, and vice-versa, caused instant exhaustion, I settled down to start my own marathon. 

The call from Samantha to say that she thought her tire had blown, took the silver medal in the 'all things I would rather not hear' category.  She was on her way to get a replacement, when her 'run flat' had decided to run flat!  An hysterical reaction from me was probably not helpful, but expected, and the reminder that my baby was now 25, and quite proficient in an emergency, did little to quell my concerns.  It was not until my phone rang again, did I realise that I had actually been waxing gibberish to a dead line, as it was still firmly affixed to my ear.  'The spare wheel is flat', took the bronze that morning.  My question, 'how can you tell?', was perhaps the last straw for my mechanically minded daughter who retaliated with her own rant.  'Are you listening?  When I put it on, it was flat....yes, only on the bottom, so don't say it!!'  I had no intention of making a joke; this was a disaster.  Of course, I was listening!  I just didn't necessarily hear!  During my frenzied reaction, my audiable memory had failed me and my ears did not relay the message that not only did she manage to pull off the road into a parking lot, but she had found the jack, raised the car, changed the wheel, and was now wondering how she could get across the highway to the garage, to pump some air.  She did not have a foot pump.  Completely stunned at my offspring's performance, I handed the phone to Dana.  I was now running a very firm last in my race to complete any of the work related tasks that had continued to mount on my desk, and had to do something drastic improve  the odds of at least reaching the finishing line before 6pm! 

Falling behind on a Monday is not a very good start!  By Thursday, I was still struggling, and despite achieving a personal best on efficiency, the work (fortunately) kept piling up, and it became apparent that the attorney's of Austin had woken from their Summer slumber, to pick up their proverbial torch, and run.  Samantha had an appointment at the biometrics office, so that she could complete another round of hurdles, to gain her residency. I am no stranger to the fingerprint procedure, as I had to attend three times during my application process, all of which were at the department in San Antonio.  We were most joyful when we saw that her appointment was scheduled at an Austin facility, but were convinced the wait would be as long, and arduous.  My experiences were, on reflection, reasonably amusing, although I could have done without sitting for hours, waiting to be called.  To digress, slightly, my trips to San Antonio had all been by appointment, but the appointment time was not necessarily the time I was seen, it was the time I received a number, to join a queue.  Arriving early did nothing to advance me in the line, and further aggravated the overworked staff; as did the cell phone!  Mobile phones, it was requested, must be left in the car, as they were considered to be 'recording devices'. It was not good enough to turn them off, nor to disarm them by removing the battery.  They simply were not allowed.  However, there is always 'one'.  The answer is 'No!', it was not me, but another who bore the wrath of the official. The screams that followed the ring tone, was so intense, it removed the securest of woven eyelashes!!  Every member of staff not actually involved in pressing the fingers onto the electronic pad, rose like a jack in the box, and yelled in English, and Spanish, for all to, 'turn in the traitor', or words to that effect.  The demand that all mobile devices be taken out to a car, caused an exodus of biblical proportion!  This did little to alleviate the wait time, but eventually my number was called.  I then was placed in another line, and after another very long elapse of time, I was called to a cubical.  Fingerprints were taken, along with a photo. The second time was to prove it was still me, and the third, again to secure the fact, once and for all.  However, the third photo was the one that was to appear on my permanent card, for ten years.  Guess which appointment was the one when I had a cold, looked like death warmed over, and did not take a comb!  Our initial thought that the Austin facility would be similar to that in San Antonio, and my subsequent return to the office would be on Friday morning, was pleasantly inaccurate.  We departed from the downtown area a little after two, for the three o'clock appointment, and arrived on site shortly before 2.30.  I say, 'on site', in a very general way.  The station was located in a vast open shopping mall.  Trying to find Building Number 150, when none of the larger stores display numbers, was not an easy task.  Phoning Dana did little to reduce my stress levels.  His immediate response was to direct us from the office.  When we told him we had arrived at the mall, he asked why we needed directions?  Samantha explained that we could not find the facility.  Attempting to explain that we were at the right place, e.g. the mall, but unable to find the right place, e.g. building 150, was confusing to Dana.  He asked again, 'where exactly are you?'.  I did not realise that Samantha had placed the call on loud speaker, and Dana's next response was, 'Why does she want you to put the phone down, and what is she calling me?'  Eventually, next to Bed, Bath and Beyond, we saw a small, metal and glass door, with the minute sticker, '150', above it. 

The reception area, although large, was devoid of human activity, albeit for three people.  A security guard sat at a desk, a young woman behind her, and a man with a vacuum cleaner strapped to his back who was attempting to cleanse the area of dust.  While Samantha explained her reason for entering, I found myself subtly pointing out the corners which appeared to be out of focus to the debris evacuation technician!  We assumed the vacant expanse was the foyer to the overcrowded room that must be situated behind.  The security guard asked that we 'turn off' our mobile phone, to which we replied, in unison, 'We left them in the car!'  After returning the completed form to the front desk, Samantha was not taken to another department, but behind a small screen in the large unoccupied area, and emerged unshaken, in less than two minutes.  The longest part of the process was the completion of a 'how did we do' card, which received ticks in the 'excellent' boxes.  As the vacuum clad gentleman refused to acknowledge my existence, I thanked the lady at the front desk for her time, and efficiency, and we left building about ten minutes before the scheduled appointment time.  

Traffic heading into the center of town is never predictable, but needing to return to the office to continue to conquer the growing tumult, that is commonly referred to as my desk, dictated that it was not going to be 'light'.  Snails were going for gold, hurtling past the traffic on the Interstate, with tortoises coming in a strong second!  Eventually, we turned into our parking lot and although all was not lost, the strong finish would have to wait for another time! 

Friday seemed to take forever to come around this week, and although I do not wish time away, I was glad when Dana asked, 'Are you ready to go home?'  We had attempted to rig an aeriel to a television in the office, with the hope to catch the Opening Ceremony, but that too, had not been successful, as we were later informed that, although it would be captured live, it may not be possible to view it in real time on this side of the pond. We did sit later and watch, with the ability to whiz through the adverts, and enjoyed the event immensely.  There was no doubt to my allegiance while watching the brilliantly produced performance, and I was very, very proud to be British.  Queen Elizabeth II, once again, did what she had promised, and served her people, by graciously joining in the fun, and proved to the world, that the majority do love our monarchy!  Everything was perfect, to me, and choosing possible future Olympians, rather than past stars, to light the flame, was ingenious!

The final medal table is probably more predictable than the Austin Traffic, but there are bound to be one or two surprises.  This coming week, I hope, I shall be able crash through a few personal records, as my desk has apparently been inundated with new projects, and tasks to perform in the coming week.  Hopefully, I shall be like many veterans who prove that experience exceeds youth, but who can tell.  I have no doubt that no matter what happens this week, I shall be able to find enough to write.....another story.

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