I’m just back from @media Ajax, which was a great experience! I thought I’d split up my stories in two posts: this one about the journey and social aspects, and the next one about the presentations. This post will be long enough anyway, so get a drink, lean back, and enjoy the ride.
Flight and airport
Sunday night I was flying alone to London with SAS, with the destination London City Airport. Emil had already gone to London on Friday, with a special friend, so we had scheduled to met up at our hotel. The flight went very well, except for the landing part, which took forever, and was a bit, eh, wobbly. Apparently, previous to my arrival, there had been a sort of gale blowing for some days so I can imagine flying a plane wasn’t great fun.
We landed and naturally there was some problem with the getting out of the plane and having somewhere to dock. Luckily, I was sitting pretty close towards the back of the plane and since they opened the back door instead I got out pretty fast. That is, down the stairs straight out into the rain on the tarmac, with basically no clue where to go but following the other drenched people. Security didn’t seem to matter that much, since I literally had to run across to the closest building before I got hit by a gargantuan tank truck.
Well inside, I walked through seemingly endless corridors before I walked past something that vaguely looked like a conveyor belt where, I guess, baggage could supposedly be put. Instead, I went to take a leak and then kept on walking, ’cause surely that couldn’t have been where I was supposed to collect my bag, right? Wrong.
Before I knew it, a dazed and confused Robert was standing in the arrival hall, without his bag. I told some staff that I missed my bag and had to get back in to collect it. The reply:
No sir, you can’t go in there.
Dammit! So, they had to make a call in for someone to bring out my bag once they had identified it etc. It didn’t take that long, though, and then I walked out into the rain to get a cab.
I think all my life I’ve seen documentaries that London taxi drivers are the best in the world, basically finding their way anywhere. They have to pass this test called The Knowledge to verify their superhuman skills. With this in mind, I walked up to the taxi stand and to the first cab in line.
Seeing it was a female driver made me happy, since I haven’t met many women driving a cab. The conversation went like this:
-Hi, I want to go to Comfort Inn Victoria
– I have no idea where that is.
Thinking that the name isn’t that explanatory, my stance is “Fair enough” and I say:
– Yeah, ok. The address is 18-24 Belgrave Road.
– I have no idea where that is.
Ok… Getting a bit worried now. She goes:
– But get in and I will find it.
So, I got in, told her the postal code as well, and she entered into her hidden GPS navigator. I also asked if she accepted credit cards. I only got a mumbling back, but assumed that it was an affirmative answer and that of course they take credit cards, this is 2007, right? Yeah, sure…
At every red light, I saw her closing her eyes just a tad too long, not making me feel any better. Also, she never really told me about the GPS navigator, so I never got any feedback that she actually had any clue to where we were going. Anyway, I know my way a little in central London and I could tell that she was going in the correct general direction at least. Finally on Belgrave road, she seemed to completely ignore that I had told her the street number of the hotel, so she instead persisted stopping at every house on Belgrave Road before we got to the correct one. Needless to say, naturally we had started in the wrong end of the street, just to make it even more challenging and “adventurous”…
We found the hotel, at last, and I gave her my credit card to pay. She looks at me, and sneers that she doesn’t accept credit cards, that she told me that before. Therefore, a lot of my Â£ cash was lost very soon. Left no tip whatsoever, and I soon got out of the cab just to get into the hotel and calm down.
I checked into the hotel, met up with Emil and then got settled into my room. My friend Stuart unfortunately couldn’t attend the conference, but at least we made plans to meet up and have dinner. He came by the hotel close to 20.30 and we went to this local pizza parlor, who served one funky (as in weird) garlic bread. It was great seeing Stuart again, and after dinner we went on to have ourselves a well-deserved pint of Guinness. Stuart insisted on paying for everything, so I definitely owe him. Luckily, he’ll probably never come to Stockholm, so I should be home free.
Once back at the hotel, I got to bed and tried to make it comfortable. Almost asleep, the fire alarm just above the bed goes off with a terrible noise, basically throwing me out of bed. Being a guy, I hope it will all go away if I go and take a piss. That only seemed to make things worse, though, hearing the fire alarm going off in every room in the entire hotel. Went back to bed, sure that it was just a malfunction, and hoped it would all stop soon.
Lying there for a while, leering towards the door of my room, I start to wonder if the light coming in under the door is a somewhat stronger shade of orange than what is healthy or normal. I decide to call the front desk to check whether there’s actually a real fire, or if it’s just a technical mishap. A man answers, and sounds a bit stressed, to say the least. He informs me that indeed there’s a technical problem with the fire alarm and that they’re working on it.
Feeling a bit better hearing that, I turn out the lights again, and soon enough the fire alarm is gone. Next morning, I go down to have breakfast, and the fire alarm goes off once again…
After going through the pouring rain to the conference (Emil: my shoes are water proof. Perky bastard.), we got there in good time to register and get our goodie bag. Well, rather just a bag. A note pad and a pen isn’t really goodies for me…
We got some good seats and watched the conference start. A small personal note here is that it was a problem with the wireless connection, as it always is at conferences. Wireless is great in theory, but it sucks in practice. Ethernet cables to the people!
There was great catering so between every second presentation or so, we had the chance to get tea/coffee and something to eat to keep us happy. I’m fairly sure I overdosed on tea during the two conference days… First break the first day, I met up with my good friend Chris Mills and Bruce Lawson, and that fundamentally sick sense of humor really threw me off that early in the morning. Great blokes, though, really.
On the other hand, it was good to meet Marco again after he left Sweden and his Yahoo! colleague Tom Hughes-Croucher (who interviewed everyone but me for Yahoo! TV… ); say hi to Derek and Jeremy Keith once again and also seeing Frances Berriman who, for some unexplainable reason, is nice enough to read my blog now and then (really, Frances, despite your stern “Let’s-get-everyone-out-of-the-catering-room-NOW” attitude, I’m sure you can do better than me 😉 ).
After the first day of presentations, pretty much everyone gathered at a nearby pub with an @media tab to make us even happier, and it was good to have casual talks with a lot of people. I had a chat with John Resig, trying to convince him to take jQuery off the market so I could get some more wind in the sails for DOMAssistant, but he seemed reluctant. Damn those genius CSS selectors…
A guy from Finland, Harri (spelling reservation here) also came up to me, telling me that he reads my ramblings and expressed interest in putting together a Geek Meet in Finland. Great idea, and if anyone is interested, let me know and I’ll try to get you in touch with each other.
Something that really made me happy as a child was the amount of recognition I got during the first day. I mean. sure, I know a few people read my blog, but to know that all the people and their work which I tremendously look up to, actually also know who I am is wonderful! I’ve worked hard to get decent at what I do, but I still get touched if in any way have helped someone out or just slightly influenced them whatsoever.
And really, I’m not a famous name in the web development community. I can’t handle people who I don’t know who they are coming up to me and saying that they like what I write. So, I usually apologize for having wasted their time, but also humbly thank them for reading.
After the pub, me, Bruce Lawson, Jim O’Donnell, Chris Mills and PPK (Peter-Paul Koch) went and had a nice dinner at this hidden-away Japanese place that Bruce knew about. What was truly amazing during the dinner was that at times there were the ugliest word in man’s vocabulary flying around, dirty jokes so far below the belt and just general nastiness, and then suddenly the conversation would go into what an impact you will have on children as a teacher, and the situation in Burma and the history which has lead to the current circumstances.
I truly love people who are so versatile, and don’t just act as expected, but instead as real human beings with very different interests. After the dinner, we got back to the first pub where PPK was kind enough to treat us to beers, and then some of us went on to yet another pub.
Chris and I were telling each other horrid stories from our past, and really, I’m happy to say that no one other heard the things we were talking about. When we meet, we turn into giggly little school girls, and the secrets we reveal to each other are really meant to be hidden forever from the public eyes and ears.
Anyway, Chris was crashing at Jim’s place, so being a good friend, I advised them to have a safe word for their upcoming deviant night activities, to make sure no one got harmed… 😉
Also, Bruce’s father instincts kicked in when he got a cab for us back to our respective hotels and made sure young little innocent Robert didn’t get lost in the streets of dangerous London. Thanks, Bruce!
No rain! I truly think that Tuesday morning was the first (and only) time when it wasn’t raining. The everyday weather in London just about matches the worst thinkable fall weather in Sweden. Then we get snow and have a beautiful white landscape. They don’t.
Dinner and taxi ride
Me, Emil and his company on this trip had a dinner at a pub next to our hotel before the taxi ride to the airport. I think I probably had one of the dishes with the most cholesterol in the world. It was a meat platter with fried chicken, onion rings, sausages and, to top it off, garlic bread with slices of bacon on it, and then dipped in melted cheese.
We got into the pre-booked taxi to the airport, when I suddenly couldn’t find my camera. I convinced the taxi driver to go back to the pub, completely sure that I had dropped it out of my coat pocket there. Emil kept on nagging that I should check my pockets again, and I just wanted to tell him to shut up, when I found the camera in a pocket I (thought I) had already checked. I told the cab driver to never mind, and please take us to Heathrow instead.
Airport security again
Once at the airport, I went through the security check, got my coat and cell phone, went through the passport control and on to the shoe checker machine. When I sat down to untie my shoes, I realized: where’s my backpack?! Sure that I must’ve missed it at the security check, I walked up to the passport officer and told him that I forgot my bag. His reply:
No sir, you can’t go in there.
With a distinct feeling of DÃ©jÃ vu, I waited while he told the long line of people to wait, because he had to go and try to find my backpack. He couldn’t find it, though, and eventually I was called over. We then together went to a desk to see if it had been dropped off there and, lo and behold, there it was!
Apparently it had gotten stuck in a security screening, so it never got through the X-ray machine at the security check. Seeing no bag there, I obviously completely forgot that I had ever even owned a backpack, and had just kept on walking. Anyway, then a third guy did a manual security check on it, and he somewhat scolded me for forgetting my bag with a precious iPod in it. I could only ashamedly concur.
Got the bag, finally, went through passport control again (“Never do that again, sir”), got my shoes checked, and then it was about time for tax-free shopping. I made sure to buy toys for my kids with an English theme, so they will know, one day, where dad actually was.
Meeting the principal
On the airplane, I got to sit alone, since it was so crowded that there weren’t three seats available next to each other. Instead I, interestingly, ended up sitting next to the principal of the Swedish School in London and we had a good conversation.
I asked him about statistics of Swedes living in London, and found out that officially there are over 50 000 Swedes resident in London. I’m pretty sure you can almost double that figure to get a correct number.
Airplane trivia: an air plane is always slightly slanting, in case you haven’t noticed, so if you drop your water bottle in the aisle (completely hypothetical, of course), it will roll all the way back to the back of the entire plane. Just so you know.
Taxi ride in Sweden
Once at Arlanda airport in Sweden, I got a taxi to go home. Me and the driver, who was originally from Iran, got into such an interesting conversation about his country of origin, that when we got to my house, we sat in the car and kept on talking probably as long as the cab ride was. Eventually we got out of the car, got my bags, and we actually shook hands and hoped we would run into each other some day in the future. How often has that happened to you?
And, oh, this taxi accepted credit card payments…
The last days have been truly fantastic, and coming home late last night, I had a hard time falling asleep. First, I was so happy about all the interesting people I have run into in such a short amount of time, and then extremely happy to see my my beloved family again.
The moral to all this is: talk to everyone you met! You never know when it will be the conversation that changes your life.