The level of excitement and anxiety rose early this week, in anticipation of the SXSW Festival. Samantha organises the delivery of the 'passes' before they arrive, but rarely gets the opportunity to make the final decision! Dana leaves that to me!
Sunday night saw another cold front blow in, and Monday was once again below freezing as we left home. However, by Wednesday things were back to warm and the city was preparing for a mass influx of all sorts!
This year was going to be slightly more of a challenge for us, as our landlord at the office decided to take advantage of the 'need for space' and rent out our car park. Alternative arrangements had been made for the office staff to park two blocks east of the interstate, but we had also been given four 'delivery vehicle' passes, which would allow entry past the barriers that would inevitably corden off the main thoroughfares. Once we had handed one each to the guys, there was just one left for emergencies. Samantha had a script as to why she was the obvious choice to have the pass in her car, at all times, but I pulled rank, stating that the boss should really be able to pull up outside his building each day, rather than have to park three blocks away and walk, despite the fact that I am constantly attempting to get him to exercise! In theory, the main road should be open to through traffic before 10am, and we should be able to drive to the office and unload, but in practice we knew this would not be the case! The decisions about road closures etc., made during the meetings between the residents and the event coordinators throughout the year, rarely see the light of day once the festival begins.
Thursday morning was just a regular morning. As no one had set up any kind of apparatus in our car park, we chose to leave the car in our usual spot, until such time that we were required to move. I spotted a young man attempting to put some money into the pay and display machine, and ran to stop him. I advised him that the car park was not open to the public during the day, and it would not be wise to leave his vehicle in the spot where he had parked. I was very polite and smiled as nicely as I could, to ease the blow. 'So I can't leave the car here?' he barked back at me. Still polite, but with a slightly firmer attitude, I pointed out that there was a clearly marked sign, above the meter, that stated 'No public parking between 6am and 7pm', but that aside, we were expecting someone to build something at sometime during the day, and all cars would have to move. I didn't want him to come back and find his vehicle had been forcibly removed. My temper did not flare. I responded, once again, with grace, that I had no idea where he could park, and despite indications to the contrary, it was not actually my problem. I then said, 'You are most welcome', and skipped back to the office, letting the abuse fly over my head.
As predicted, we were not permitted down the side road to our office on Friday morning, and Dana chose not to argue with the officer who stood, akimbo, at one end of the street. Samantha had won the pass for the day, as she was picking up some papers from an attorney and would not be back downtown until after the closures were supposedly going to be put in place. We parked in our new place, and walked. Shortly after 10am, I received a call from my daughter to say that she had not been permitted to drive down 6th, even with her pass displayed in the front of her car. Although not a woman scorned, I can assure you that Hell hath no fury like an indignant resident! My march to the end of the road gave me time to contemplate my actions, and I considered that the initial approach should be pleasant, but firm. 'Are you not honouring the delivery passes!' was my first rhetorical question. A young lady on 'point' walked over to relieve the confused officer. I explained that we had been given a 'delivery' pass with a thirty minute parking permit and wondered why this was now null and void. Perhaps it was the accent, perhaps it was the attitude, or perhaps she just didn't understand a word I was saying, but the consequences were that Samantha was able to loop around and the barriers were removed in order that she could drive along the road, and park at the side of the office. As she pulled up, another officer on a motorcycle came to the side of the car. 'This is loading and unloading only. No stopping'. I bluntly pointed out to him (totally out of character, as I have no need, nor desire to be rude to those upholding the law) that I was 'unloading the dog', and in order to 'unload', it was necessary to stop! He seemed to think that I made a fair point and drove away. My patience had started to wear just a little thin! However, the day was still young! Unfortunately, the barriers are erected along the frontage road which is immediately before the ramp to the Interstate. There is no where to park, nor unload.
Our landlord had chosen to stay away from the office on Friday, and I had mislaid his mobile phone number. However, I left a message on his answerphone, and emailed him, letting him know that we were already experiencing the jobsworth scenario of the volunteers, assigned their posts for the event.
It was quiet at the office, so just before the 30 minutes time restraint had elapsed, I joined Samantha as she went to her car, and we started our journey to our temporary car park. Another volunteer, one who was positioned just west of our turning asked if we would like him to move the barrier so that we did not have to drive all the way down 6th Street, thus avoiding the traffic going the other way on 7th! What a dilemma! A split second choice had to be made between actually being allowed to drive up 6th Street, or turning the car around and driving the wrong way, albeit a few yards. Samantha appears to take such delight in antiestablishment at this time of year, I hoped she would go for the second option. Thankfully the wrong way won, and a U-turn was made to allow us to go through our small side street, out onto the main road that would take us under the bridge to the car's new home. Unfortunately, another volunteer manned the barrier at the other end of the alley. She was not amused at having to rise from her seat, and told us that we were not allowed to drive without a permit. Both occupants of the vehicle voiced their opinions as to the existence as well as the validity of the permit that was on the dashboard, and both occupants of the vehicle suggested the volunteer take a look! Rather sheepishly, she acknowledged that we were legitimate, and proceeded to vent her wrath on two ladies that were unloading a van that blocked our exit. It did not take long to drive to our new location, and with Dana's blessing, we took ourselves off to the Conference Center , where we took part in some 'competitions', and then obtained our 'guest pass' which was given to us by a young man who was rather excited to hear that we were English. Although American himself, his brother had lived in England for a long time, in a place 'called St. Albans'. It is very rare that we hear of someone living, or having visited, somewhere so near home. We told him that it was the next city along from our little village, and he was delighted. After collecting an inordinate amount of 'swag' from the 'Job Fair', we claimed our free lunch from the stand opposite the center, and returned to the office, handing out the grilled cheese sandwiches, to the hungry, as we planned to feast on something later! It was shortly thereafter that the 'Planning Officer' arrived. Having been appraised of our dilemma earlier that morning, he had come to let me know that all volunteers had been reprimanded, and we should have no further problems with our passes. Perhaps gushing is a slight exaggeration, but my manner was one of sincere gratitude. I sang the praises of the volunteer who was outside our office (but decided to keep the bad report of the lady at the other end of the alley to myself ... for now) and explained, whilst sympathising with his position, we simply could not 'shut up shop' for a week. He claimed to understand, and gave me his card.
Our second walkabout on Friday came later in the afternoon, when we made our way to the SXSubway stand, and enjoyed our grattis flatbread pizza. As we were, once again, that the menfolk could manage the phones, etc, we went along to the Oreo stand. A machine using the same technology as that of a 3-D printer, was making custom made cookies. We got in the queue, took a couple of complimentary packs of biscuits (cookies) and I had a small glass of chocolate milk! With about six people in front of us, the machine broke down. Everyone was in good spirit and despite a cold wind that had descended upon the city, everyone stood in line waiting eagerly for the computer to be rebooted. By the time it came to my turn the printer was a little tired. In theory, I was to choose a pattern for the cream and instruct the computer to follow my orders. The wafer drops, the filling is dispensed through lots of different coloured tubes, and a top wafer completes the cookie before it is flipped into a cup and dropped down for the designer to retrieve. The first wafer fell into place. The first tube dispensed some red cream. The second tube moved into place, descended slightly, started to add the filling, but somehow the nozzle got stuck in the goo already on the wafer. By the time the fourth colour was being squeezed out, the pattern was no more than a mess! I was laughing so hard, as were many of the observers. The young girls who were explaining the process were slightly embarrassed, explaining that this was new technology, but everyone was very kind, and offered their support. We all understood how it was meant to work, and were quite sure that, in time, it would be perfect! However, we were all so enamoured with the concept, the fact that there were some problems really was not a problem! Samantha and I took our unique Oreo back to the office, and then I walked with her to retrieve her car.
It was upon my return walk to the office, after a call from Jason to say that they were refusing access to 6th Street after 3pm, that I explained to the volunteer in charge how this was most disruptive to our business. I understood her position and realised that there were safety issues, as people had taken to walking in the road, but the officials should be stopping those who chose not to use the sidewalks, rather than prevent the vehicles from accessing the area. A story was relayed to me about a delivery person who had to stop at the barrier, unload a crate of wine, and walk it to the bar. Her big mistake was to tell me that my guys would have park somewhere and walk. It was then that I told her that we delivered court documents, and not giving our guys access to the office, in an emergency situation, where the person who needed to be in receipt of the papers was leaving town for six months, could (hypothetically) halt the proceedings in a mulimillion dollar law suit, and innocent people could suffer considerably (I went for the throat, as she was playing down the importance) just because her team failed to make people walk on the sidewalk. This was hardly in the same category as delaying a bar from filling its cellar in case of an influx of visitors! I do not know how much filtered through, but as I walked into the office, so one of our servers pulled up into his designated space! Once again, perhaps it was the accent, perhaps the attitude or perhaps she didn't understand a word I was saying; it just sounded scarey!
The choice not to 'charge', at the planning officer earlier in the day, I believe held me in good stead, as the call to his office later that afternoon resulted in the volunteers having another talking to!
Samantha and I did not attempt to crash the gate on Saturday morning, and left the car on the East side. We made our way to one of the bars, where we entered having shown our official invitation to the private party. I am not entirely sure how I obtained this official invitation, but I accepted when it popped into my email! Lunch was scruptious, and the swag was rather interesting! Among the items we were invited to take was a cookbook! It would be rude to refuse! We did not mingle but took our lunch and found a seat in the corner before leaving the party to head south. I am normally rather focussed on the first Saturday of the fesitval, but there were so many more tents than usual. It was raining, and there was not as much foot traffic as we had expected. Many of the places that usually require an official badge, were allowing everyone to participate. Winning the $50 visa card was probably the highlight of my day! 'What do I have to do?', I asked, after typing in my zip code (no address, just a zip code). I followed the simple instruction and pressed, 'Enter'. Instead of another prompt button appearing, the words, 'Congratulations! You have won', came up on the screen. It really was as easy as that!
We walked back through the Convention Center, did not win anything on the essurance 'instant game', so decided to make our way to the Games Expo, south of the river. The queue for the complimentary rides, was so short, we took advantage of the situation, and caught a Chevy! Had I been alone, or had we arrived earlier, I probably would have stayed a little longer and played board games with strangers for most of the afternoon. However, it was already 2:30pm, and I did not want to stay downtown for too long. We walked back to the Oreo stand on the corner of 1st and Trinity, and we stocked up on cookies. I enjoyed another glass of their chocolate milk! The invitation to another 'Job Fare', was accepted, more swag was accumulated, and before returning to the office, we accepted a couple more invitations to partake of complimentary ice-cream and coffee, and were privvy to the latest in 3-D technology, in the form of 'printed' sugar cubes!
Dana was less than enthusiastic as we showed him our bags full of interesting items collected throughout the afternoon. The dog was even less impressed! Samantha went home to care for her husband, as he was suffering from a cold, and then returned to collect the dog, after we had enjoyed a meal together at the local Greek restaurant.
Our clocks sprung forward on Sunday morning, making the day seem slightly shorter. I expect Monday and Tuesday will be rather quieter than the remainder of the week, on the festival front, as the interactive section gives way to the music! I do anticipate the line being 'hot' between myself and the planning officer, but I shall endeavour to remain calm and polite. This time next week, however, I shall be rather glad it is all over, but realise it will not dampen my enthusiasm for next years festival. Once again, I am sure the week's events will bring forth more than enough for ...... another story.