Philip Brewer's Writing Progress


Saturday, 27 October 2001

I'm home from Finland.

One of my coworkers tells long, involved tales of woe about her daughter. The daughter is named Elizabeth and these stories have come to be known as "Elizabeth stories." A proper Elizabeth story always has terrible bad luck coming together with a bad decision (or, at least, a moment of carelessness) to produce a catastrophe. It also usually has an outcome which is much less bad than you'd expect, given just how badly things had gone wrong.

When I got back to work, I went and told my coworker that I had an Elizabeth story of my very own.

I put my tickets and passport in an inner pocket in my coat. It was a heavy, winter coat, though, so when I got on the plane, I bundled the coat up and put it under the seat in front of me. Apparently, though, part of it got pushed far enough under the seat that the people getting into that seat tripped over it. They gave it to the stewardess, saying that it must have been left behind by someone who had gotten off. The stewardess put my coat off the plane. I was reading, and didn't notice any of this.

I looked up just a few minutes later, when the plane started moving. I noticed my coat had gone missing, and asked the stewardess about it as soon as I could. But, by then we were in the air. Once we got things sorted out--that my coat was still in Champaign--I told her that my tickets and passport were in it. She was really, really sorry, as were the people in the seat in front of me.

The airline did a pretty good job after that. They sent the coat on the next flight, which might actually have gotten it to me in time for my next flight, if the next flight had been on time. As it was, though, I missed the flight for Stockholm. They booked me on a flight for Copenhagen that left about five hours later, with a connecting flight for Stockholm, and then a later flight for Tampere. I was supposed to get in Sunday morning, but ended up arriving in the late evening.

At least, the passport went missing on a domestic leg of the flight. It would have really sucked to have arrived at Stockholm without my passport.

That wasn't the only thing that went wrong. We had some of our test equipment that we'd shipped ahead get stuck in customs, and then had some more test equipment that didn't work. Despite all that, we actually got some good testing done. We found some possible bugs, and helped other companies identify some possible bug in their stuff.

See--a perfect Elizabeth story: a bad decision, some bad luck, and a few minutes of inattention coming together to produce a major problem. And yet, I got there, got my job done, and got home okay.

I didn't get any writing done. We were working pretty much all day. That, combined with jet lag (it's eight hours of time change from here to Finland) left me pretty tired.

I sure am glad to be home.


Philip Brewer's Writing Progress homepage