For those of you who didn’t know, my company sent me to the Grace Hopper conference in Houston this year. This conference is a really big deal in the tech world and focuses on women in tech. This was my first year attending, and it was absolutely crazy! So, so big! The conference center itself was huge and there were 12,000 attendees. Suffice it to say we filled up every hotel in Houston. It made for a really fun time!
I knew the Grace Hopper conference was a big deal, but I don’t think I realized quite how big of a deal until my friend and I boarded our flight from Seattle to Houston and realized that half of the plane was made up of women wearing tech T-shirts.
It soon became obvious that many of the people on the plane were headed to the conference, and when we landed in Houston the line to get cabs was about seventy people long and was entirely those same women in tech T-shirts. Fortunately my enterprising friend kept hitting refresh on the Uber app until she got us an Uber car. We went all the way to the convention center to register and then ended up hanging out with some Microsoft employees at a fancy restaurant where we had dinner and drinks. Not a bad way to end day 1 of the Houston adventure.
On day 2, I ambitiously went to four or five sessions, which were interesting, but not revolutionary. I had signed up to work the Groupon booth the morning of day 3, so I showed up early that morning to set up the booth.
The remainder of the conference I alternated between attending sessions and helping out at the booth. Honestly I liked working the booth the most. A big part of the conference is that it’s a way for tech companies to recruit new college hires and a way for college students to network and get jobs/internships. So basically when I worked the booth I was met with a steady stream of young college students handing out their resumes and anxious to talk about themselves and what they were looking for in an internship/first job. For someone who loves talking to people, that was exactly the kind of thing that appealed to me.
The keynote speech on Thursday evening by Sheryl Sandberg was great… really inspirational!
And then in the evenings I typically went out with friends. It definitely made for late nights and early mornings, and that, coupled with the timezone difference meant that I was pretty tired by the end of the conference!
Basically through no fault but my own earliness I ended up at the Houston airport an insane number of hours early for my flight. There were lots of reasons for this, although Mike would undoubtedly say that it was due primarily to my own deeprooted need to be early for everything. He may be right. My flight was at nine, so I figured the Houston airport was huge and there would be a glut of people there who were leaving the same conference that I was so it seemed like I should get there two hours early. So that meant 7pm. But how long was it going to take to get there? Half an hour in a great world, but this probably wouldn’t be a great world. In fact, given the combination of a bunch of people leaving the convention at the same time and the fact that we would be running right up against downtown Houston rush-hour traffic on a Friday afternoon, it seemed as though I should leave earlier than 6:30pm. And what if I couldn’t get an Uber and/or a cab? My friend and I had a difficult time getting either when we first landed in Houston. So maybe…. maybe I should leave at more like 5pm. Yeah, five was good. And I didn’t really know much about Uber and would rather not have to figure it out on day four of being pretty exhausted, so maybe I would just try to carpool with other people. Probably every single person at a conference full of tech people already knew how to use Uber. I put out a ping in the chatroom for anyone looking to leave around 4:30pm. (I don’t know where that extra half hour came from… this is what Mike would say is due to my inherent desire to spend most of my life waiting impatiently because I was too early.) I got two pings, one from a woman who wanted to leave at 4pm and one from a woman who wanted to leave at 3:30pm. (And one from a woman who wanted to leave at 4:30pm but who was flying out of the other Houston airport, so that was a no-go). Well… it wouldn’t kill me to get to the Houston airport early. I could get dinner, wander around, read a book on my phone. So that was fine. I met the two women at 3:30pm. We all picked up our baggage from the baggage check at the conference, and then I suggested getting an Uber. One of the women was a grad student whose phone was dead or wasn’t getting good signal reception or something. The other was a student who was very willing to call Uber until she realized that you didn’t ‘call’ Uber like you would call a person… you had to install an app and set up an account, which she didn’t have.
Somehow in my life it seems as though I am always the person in these situations where I can’t just go with the flow… I need to figure things out. I guess that’s what I signed up for for being an engineer. Fortunately Uber’s business model is to make it really easy to use so that people use it. Five minutes later I had an Uber on the way. The grad student was talking a mile a minute about unrelated topics while I was trying to direct the Uber driver on how to reach us since some of the downtown roads were closed because of the conference. Eventually the Uber driver showed up and we all piled in, the grad student politely but firmly asking if it was ok if she had the front seat. Sure, why not?
The Uber driver was an incredibly nice, caring, friendly woman who was more talkative than most Uber drivers I had experienced. (I have had whole rides where the driver didn’t speak to me once.) The grad student, Betty, and the Uber driver seemed to hit it off right away, and the sweet, but very quiet college student and I mostly sat quiet. Actually Betty and the driver seemed to get along so well that they kept interrupting each other in their effort to keep talking. Betty’s flight was the first one of the three of our flights, but she didn’t know what terminal she needed to go to. The driver figured it out for her and dropped her off at the appropriate terminal. Betty thanked all of us for the wonderful conversation (even though I didn’t recall contributing very much to it) and wanted all of our emails (including the Uber driver’s) so that she could stay in touch. Maybe I am way too old and cynical, but I knew the chance of ever hearing from Betty again was slim to none. As a matter of fact, she probably forgot all of us once she got in line to go through security, but I kept my curmudgeonly thoughts to myself. 🙂
Normally it would have taken me time to get myself to the right terminal for my flight, but the extremely nice Uber driver took both the college student and myself directly to the front doors for our terminals. Well, that was nice. Security took about an hour to get through, but I still found myself through security and near my gate at 5pm with about, oh, four hours to spare. And that was before my flight got delayed. At first it was just a little delay of 14 minutes. Then it was 30. Then there was an announcement that the aircraft we would be traveling on was late coming in, but it was now in and they would be getting us on board as quickly as possible. I watched as all the passengers de-boarded. The first fifteen to de-board looked slightly panicked and were literally running off the plane and off through the airport without a second glance at anything. Clearly they were the ones with tight connecting flights. The remainder of the passengers looked tired, annoyed, and unhappy. Definitely not a friendly group you’d want to talk to.
I was beginning to understand where they were coming from when, twenty minutes later, they still hadn’t made any move to start boarding us. I walked back and forth impatiently until they finally began boarding. It was a 737, so it took awhile to board, and then once everyone was in their seats and all luggage had been stowed in overhead compartments or under the seats in front of us, I waited (im)patiently for the flight to take off. And waited. And waited.
Finally the flight attendant’s voice came over the intercom system, sounding frustrated, annoyed, but kind of resigned.
“Ladies and gentlemen, we are now all ready to depart except that we have no pilots. We have not been told where the pilots are. We’ll update you with information when it becomes available.”
Of all the people to lose. Those are the two you really can’t take off without. Worst case we can manage without the flight attendants because I don’t need to be offered water every hour, even though that’s nice. And worst case if a few errant passengers don’t show up, no problem. That just means that the people on standby get a shot at a flight. But the pilot and copilot were pretty critical parts of this whole operation. After waiting another twenty minutes a man announcing himself as the pilot got on the intercom sounding breathless and apologized for being late. Apparently he’d been on another flight that had been delayed. Another flight before mine got delayed by an hour as well. Ah, the night of flight delays. At least for United. Oh well, at least United has one thing going for it; their intro safety video is more entertaining than most of the safety videos I’ve seen and even features flamingos. That has to count for something, even if most of my experiences with them have resulted in delayed flights. 😉
Mike considerately picked me up at the airport even though it was around 1am and I told him I could take a cab or an Uber. Mike was happy to see me, but Piper was just tired and a little disgruntled at being woken up when I got home so she didn’t exactly give me a ringing welcome. 🙂
Regardless, glad to be back and be all caught up on laundry! 🙂 I hope everyone else had a wonderful week!