Thursday, July 23, 2009

A Day in the Life


A Day in the Life

Need to clarify that title: “A Day in the Life of Dan.” No, that still doesn’t really cover it. How about: “A Day in the Life of Dan Whilst in Bucharest, Romania.” OK, that should do it.

Why a day in the life? Just thought it may be interesting to document such a thing. The events described here take place on Monday, July 20, 2009, but they aren’t at all dissimilar to those of my other days in Bucharest in 2009. And they aren’t that dissimilar to my days in Bucharest in 2008. And, come to think about it, they aren’t that terribly dissimilar to events I’ve encountered in other countries and clients.

3:20am: I am awake and out of bed. The alarm won’t go off for another 20 minutes, but waking up before that has been par for the course for this trip. One would think it would be difficult to wake up and that I would want to sleep longer due to the time change. But I’m somehow getting by on very little sleep, and waking up at an early hour (last week it was often earlier still – like 2am) is part of that. I think my body has been thinking that I’ve been taking afternoon naps, because that’s what time it is back home.

3:30am: I am dressed into my running clothes, eating an apple, and going to the Concierge Room for coffee. It is open 24 hours and there’s a machine that makes good cappuccinos. I’m also carrying a disposable cup that I’d squirreled away because I knew from experience that they are sometimes out of them in the Concierge Room. That’s not the only thing I had squirreled away. Other objects include the apple and several bottles of water, all available from this room. As I arrive, it turns out that one other cup is available this time. I make a cappuccino in one cup, then the other whilst I slurp down the first, then a third back into the first cup. I will take those two filled cups back to my room. But before I leave, I take a walk around this large room. I’m not sure why the previous night’s activities here interest me so much, but they do. Although the folks who work here make an effort to keep the room clean, there are almost always some areas of leftover food and other stuff from the late night people. You never know what it’ll be. The most interesting leftover find is an occasional amorous couple in some interesting state, who are surprised to see me coming in for my morning constitutional. They often look guilty and leave immediately. One reason for some of the late-nighters is the fact that this fancy-schmancy hotel includes a casino. Today the place is empty however.

3:40am: “You have very nice Moose-Clees”. A well-dressed but slightly mussed-up woman in the elevator lobby of my floor is addressing me as I am trying to get back to my room with a couple coffees. “Thanks” I say, trying not to make eye-contact. I scurry along. “Especially your legs”, I hear as I’m being followed down the hallway. I quicken my pace even more. Luckily there’s a guy coming the other way. I think she turned to follow that poor soul, wherever he may have thought he might be going. Jeepers, it’s not enough to be chased by dogs every day, now it’s crazed women too. Once safely back in my room, I reflect that the whole episode was unreal, but it really did happen.

4:00am: I turn on the TV to have something to watch whilst doing my push-ups. Sky News has a live broadcast of Neil Armstrong making a speech at the Smithsonian. Yes, today is July 20, the 40th anniversary of the moon landing. Armstrong’s speech is, of course, the night before in Washington, but there would be other festivities later today. I am deeply moved by this hero’s wonderful speech.

4:40am: I head out for my run. This is the latest I’ve gotten out yet, and it places a real time constraint on the run itself, not to mention the rest of my morning routine, since I have to be at the office at 8am. Why did it take me an hour and twenty minutes from the time I awoke to the time I’m walking out the door? There was the attack-woman and the Armstrong speech, but the worst thing was: I checked facebook and email, which I simply shouldn’t do before running – it takes up too much time.

4:44am: Whilst exiting the posh Marriott I run past the hotel door man, the taxis and a few other folks and stray dogs milling about. The people who haven’t seen me running by during the other mornings give me strange looks. It’s a little cooler this morning than previous ones, but it’s still warm – probably middle or upper 60s. I do some quick calculations: let’s see: I have to be finished by 6:20am, so this means I have to run my planned 12 miles in something like 96 minutes. That’s 8 minutes per mile. This pace wouldn’t have been a problem for the Dan of Old – even the Dan of 2008. But for some reason it is so for the Dan of 2009. I have done one of my daily runs that fast, but I’m not sure I can do one today. I figure that I’ve got to try.

4:54am: I arrive at the southeast corner of Parcul Izvor, the place where I start my timed loops here. Parcul Izvor is the location of Madonna’s planned concert on July 26, the day after I leave. This morning it is dark and quiet like it is almost every other morning. I make one circuit on the perimeter of the park, followed by 5 loops on the paved trails on the inside. These inside ones are, I figure, just short of a mile, so I time each one and try hard to get them well under 8 minutes. No one is sleeping on park benches today as they have on previous days; maybe that is only a weekend thing. When they are there, I always try to run quietly when I pass by. Also today there are fewer dogs running around than usual. They’re there, but just not so many.

5:52am: I arrive back across from the Marriott. I’ve been successful at getting down to a good pace but have to run some more: 2 circuits of Palatul Parlamentului, the Palace of Parliament, are planned. These loops are always interesting, and I’d do more of them and less in Izvor Park except that: the footing is not as good as it includes some very uneven bricks, when its early, its darker in spots and hard to see where I’m stepping, and there are more dogs – some in and around the gates - who tend to chase me. Other than that it’s fine. By the way, the dog problem is seemingly worse everywhere else in Bucharest. This is why I run more and more of my miles in these areas.

6:27am: I have made my two circuits of the palace, jog back over to the Marriott and stopped running. Only one dog had seriously chased me today. And this time I had counted (because counting is what I do) the gates to the palace: there are twelve. About half have armed guards who are sometimes opening them as I run by. Those two loops were much slower than I had wanted; I guess yesterday’s long run and walk did indeed take its toll. As I go up to my room I do some more calculations: I am going to really need to hurry getting showered, dressed and eating in order to make it to work on time.

6:40am: I am in the Concierge Room, trying to ingest as many calories as humanly possible in an extremely short time. Some would say that this is an area in which I excel. Still not a good way to enjoy fine dining. I grab eggs, bread, peeled/sliced kiwi, yogurt, Dannon Actimel (which I’m not sure, but I think may be good for me) and my favorite: smoked whitefish. I often skip lunch, so I don’t worry too much about all this food. I’ve done worse on other trips.

6:56am: I am now walking to the metro station. I could take a taxi, but this will probably be quicker, and it will also keep me from running out of cash. I used to walk a mile and a half to the Piata Unirii station where I catch the M2, Linia 1 or whatever line to Pipera. I get really confused about the names of the lines and the M codes for the metro trains, but I have learnt which go where to get the correct ones. I say I used to walk to Unirii because I’ve also learned that there is a closer station called Eroilor, although it involves making a connection. It turns out that I can usually save several minutes by walking less. My walk to Eroilor is an interesting one, past the military compound, and through the mixed use neighborhood. The houses are strange to me: they appear to be made of concrete or maybe stucco. They are fairly big, usually with 3 floors or so, but there are no yards or anything. They may be multiple unit things, but I’m not sure. Besides the dwellings, there are occasional bars and restaurants, most of which don’t look so great. The other walkers and I have to squeeze by the cars parked on the sidewalk.

7:10am: I arrive at Eroilor station. It’s a relatively quiet one. In fact, it’s nothing compared to Unirii and Pipera. For some reason today’s walk took a minute or two longer than usual, so I hurry down the metro stairs and happily catch a train.

7:13am: The train takes off after sitting for several minutes. I’m not sure why. I have a seat as it isn’t too crowded. But for some reason the trains on this line are all very hot and stuffy. It may be because they are at a higher level than the other line. So now I’m sweating a lot, even though the walk over had been cooler this day. Other mornings saw me sweating profusely as I got into the train. I’m not too concerned about the heat here today because it’s only two stops before I get off for my connection at Piata Unirii.

7:20am: Piata Unirii station is as crowded and crazy as ever. And it’s a long, crowded walk from one line to the other. Did I mention that it was crowded? I walk past the newspaper and bakery vendors, through the long, crowded tunnel, past the McDonalds, past more vendors and down the stairs to the M1 Linia 2 line.

7:22am: I am lucky enough to catch the train bound for Pipera without much of a wait. It is hard to believe how many people are cramming themselves into the train. It occurs to me that they need crammers here like they have in Japan to push everyone into the cars. Somehow I get in, but only barely. Everyone in the entire train is touching several other persons. Since I’m near the door, I have nothing to hold onto. I put my hand up to the ceiling to keep from falling into someone else. At least I wouldn’t fall to the ground. Others are doing the same. As the train moves along, a few get off at some stops, more at others. There will be six stops before I get to Pipera.

7:36am: The train arrives at Pipera. It’s the final stop on the line. Although there are fewer people on the train, it’s a mad rush when the doors open.

7:38am: I’m now walking out of Pipera station, and this is the craziest place of all. People walking in every direction, but mostly out. Vendors are selling newspapers, magazines and bakery. There are cars, trucks, vans, buses and trams all over the place, headed in every and any direction, each following whatever set of traffic laws that they deem appropriate at the moment. I must look for the company bus or van of the client I’m working with. They run about every ten minutes at this time in the morning. It is provided for the employees, free of charge. The one I’m looking for will be one of several different vans or buses that have the company logo on a sign in the window. It may be across the busy street in a tiny parking lot, it may be turning around, it may be parked illegally on my side, or it may be traveling slowly back to the office, all the while trolling for more employees. What’s really confusing here is that there are so many other vehicles from other companies doing exactly the same thing. Heaven help me if I board the wrong one and end up at some other company.


7:42am: I spot Bogdan, one of my clients, who is also looking for the company vehicle. Working together, we spot it – it had turned and is stopping to pick us up. As I board, the atmosphere suddenly changes: it’s tranquil and reasonably cool. Aaah, the wonders of air conditioning. Let the driver worry about negotiating through all the traffic. Bogdan and I converse about Pipera. It is an extremely fast growing suburb north of Bucharest. Only a few years ago it was farmland and the Pipera station was nearly deserted. Now there are a great many new office buildings, many of which house multi-national corporations. There are also new residences. The only problem is the (lack of) planning. The infrastructure has not even remotely kept up with the development. This is obvious to anyone who checks out at the amount of traffic – the roads simply can’t handle it all. And that traffic includes an occasional horse-drawn cart. I’ve been told that some of the residences were built before the roads, and now with these big houses are placed at odd angles, the roads will never be able to get to and through them. It’s like the Wild West out here.

7:50am: I arrive at the office with minutes to spare. I go to today’s conference room and wait for my clients to show up.

8:05am: I meet with my clients and do my counting. Dan, Gloria and the rest of the bunch are wonderful folks to work with.

12:00noon: I skip lunch because I had enough calories for breakfast and the cafeteria isn’t so great. I just sit in the conference room and continue to work.

4:40pm: I’m finished with my meetings. I head outside and look for the company bus or van. You guessed it: I go through the entire morning commute in reverse. For some reason the trains and metro stations aren’t quite so crowded at this time in the afternoon. Perhaps it gets worse after 5 or 6pm.

5:20pm: The walk back to the Marriott is a hot one. The worst part is the last hill just before the hotel driveway because it’s also the place where the sun is the hottest. I also have to scoot around even more cars parked on the sidewalks prior to that hill.

5:35pm: Half-starving, I have gone directly to the Concierge Room. They put hors devours out, and sometimes I can get a salad or some veggies along with something hot. No salad today, so I get some carrot and zucchini sticks. The hot food is breaded/fried fish. Poor selection on the veggies, but the fish isn’t bad. I’ll give today’s food a C+. It’s never been above a B-.

5:55pm: I call Debbie using Skype.

6:15pm: Our call ends abruptly as Skype crashes. I don’t think this is Skype’s fault; the internet connection is flaky. The funny thing is that it was better here in years past. By an unspoken agreement, I don’t try to call Debbie again – we now expect to be cut off at any time and therefore discuss anything important first. Today as usual we had done so before getting cut off. Now it’s time to catch up on my work and email. This ends up taking up the rest of my evening.

9:00pm: I’m in bed, reading. I didn’t have time to turn the TV on, but that is a good thing. There is less stuff on here than home. Here there are only three or four English language channels, and those are pretty boring. Time to zonk out so that I’ll be able to run tomorrow, when the whole thing starts all over again.

1 comment:

Mr. P said...

Wow! I'm impressed not only by the "busy" -ness of your work days abroad, but by your ability to recall such detail. The lady in the elevator is a hoot!

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