Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Trapped in Utah

A few months back I stumbled upon some information regarding conferences in Boston, San Francisco, and Miami. Having suffered the indignity of a conference in Toledo last year, I figured I deserved better. I passed along hints to my boss and his boss about some of the opportunities available at these conferences, but they didn't need to do the math on the costs to dismiss those options as less than ideal. I quietly went back to my work, and I hoped that things would change.

Well things changed, as my boss' boss read up on this cheap conference in Utah. The registration fee for the one in Utah was half as much, and it included meals. Adding to the cheapness was lodging, which was in the form of dorms (the former Olympic village from the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City). Well the writing was on the wall, I was doomed to Salt Lake City and not South Beach. Trying to make the most of it all, I booked a room in the university hotel, which must be nicer than the dorms, and I reminded myself that I'd eat well (though not necessarily the free fare included in the conference). After putting off the final arrangements for a while, I managed to find a non-stop flight to Salt Lake and a roughly direct flight back.

I certainly wasn't looking forward to the trip, mostly due to the fact I have something (and especially someone) to miss back home, but all-in-all the trip started well. After the aggravating experience of being squeezed into an airplane seat design for regular folk (I'm 6' 7"), I arrived in Salt Lake. The first sign that I was in Salt Lake was looking out of the window seeing mountains all around and a big ass lake. The plane landed, and I didn't quite see what I expected.

I imagined a big clean modern (though modest) airport to suit the Mormon culture and the fact that they hosted a recent Olympics and must have wanted to make a good impression (to boost tourism in future years). I also expected to see big families waiting for the arrival of their loved ones (picture five wives and fifteen kids waiting for dad to come home) or a bunch of missionaries. Well, none of that, and it kinda was dirty, old, and just not welcoming at all. At least my luggage arrived quickly.

Next was my rent a car experience. I never had to walk outside to get to a rent a car place, and since I know it rains and snows in Salt Lake City, it seemed quite retarded. After getting to the counter, I was surprised that the dude walked me all the way to my car (offered to lug my suit case) and let me pick my car. He was oddly nice and friendly, which says a lot coming from Ohio. This overall state of friendliness seems to be quite consistent in my travels. In fact, so far I haven't seen anyone get cut off, anyone flick someone off, hear any horns honking, or any profanity. FUCK, this is weird.

Also weird are the giant 3 story Smith's grocery stores, which sell everything in them. Wandering around seemed eerily familiar until I saw Big K cola and other Kroger branded stuff. I did see beer, but it was all watered down 3.2% beer. They even had 3.2% Boone's Farm, which is a travesty, since the whole point is to get wasted before you can taste how shitty the crap is. Oh, it all was pricey and no malt liquor. That led me to a journey, a certain right of passage, which I'll save for part 2.

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