Is a lion only a cat?

March 2001


01.03.2001 (th), Detroit

It seems to be the flights I use TO somewhere are always on time while the flights FROM somewhere are every time delayed or canceled or what-the-hell. BUT: that only seems to be the truth if Thomas is not with me. This day we got separate flights (he 5:50pm, I 7:15pm). I'm sure he gets out on time but I sitting here after a one hour wait-then-walk-through-the-entire-f-beep-ing-Detroit-Airport. At the gate B9 waiting for the Delta flight at 8:40pm. My original flight with Northwestern is canceled because of maintenance issues (whatever this is). (Gate C14 at the end of C concourse that means walk twice through the entire concourses, walk two times through the luggage check, but: make a stopover outside of the airport (guess what I did there) because you lost your way while following the "Delta" signs and reaching the luggage claim (of Delta)  instead of departure area.
OK, Northwest tries to be honest (that doesn't help after waiting 30 minutes in the row), I got a closed envelope as "excuse". I go to open it, please stand by... ha! A 5 minute phone card. THREE weeks ago I'd appreciate that because that may had give me the knowledge about the existence of such cards.
Ahh, also I got a travel discount certificate ($100 at more than $400 roundtrip value) and 1000 WorldPerk miles or a $10 voucher inside Detroit airport. 
Jepp, that makes it worth to get no Applebee's steak this evening :-<
Why does things like that need to happen? (because everything can happen). However, I got a quite interesting meeting with the guys from a ERP software company in Grand Rapids, MI (110 miles from Detroit). I'm getting used to get invited as CTO North America (like Neville usually does). That sounds nice and makes me some kind of important, even in America (where the guy who brings the water bottles handles you a calling card which designates him as "Senior Route Manager"). (Speaker message: the flight to Atlanta is delayed for 15 minutes.)
We got a few problems installing the latest version of our system because his computer hasn't had the Service Pack 5 (or higher) installed. Furthermore they got no CD with the ServicePack in the house. While the was downloading the service pack we continued by getting a very interesting presentation (and explanation) of their ERP systems EDI functionality (and requirements). Even without having a look at our new product I was able to impress them by showing them 3 methods of direct connectivity to our system. Then we started a discussion about their current project of a SDK/API to increase abilities of their ERP system to get accessed from the outside. They will send me their specification to "get my experience" into the project. (Evaluation from a possible SDK implementer.) 
After that we started to presentate our system on my notebook (on the fly because I was not prepared to do so). Indeed I'd never tested the currently installed Alpha version on this notebook, but I'm a let's-try-guy. It works very well. Especially our mapping tool got their interest ("I can't believe that this stuff could be that easy" (that complement is to you Jürgen (B.), but don't forget about the bugs I inserted;-) 
Than I started a mapping compilation and a conversion (IDOC to SAP XML). And suddenly a error window opens and I get also suddenly remembered about the quality of our current error messages. (Which tells you about errors but never where, why or what for.) But I get myself in this awkward situation so I continued speaking: "... yeah, that's an syntax error, usually that is because you forget to insert a semicolon at the end of a command, I think before we search for the command we need to fix it is easier to..." And they was nodding - and I started thinking: Americans are that easy to mislead - then I saw (like they) above the format error occurred description the entire error causing code line displayed.
Thanks al lot you converter guys, that is really cool. I will spend the next five days in generating errors, just to enjoy.


02.03.2001 (fr), Atlanta

Checked my site statistic. Seems to be PushkinsWorld is very famous to Japan (ne.jp), AOL.com, BMW.de, SAP-AG.de, Seeburger.de, UUNET.net, mcbone.net, Niedersachsen.de, Hamburg.de and Inka.de. And the top requested page of February was sDiary0201.html (that means there is somebody reading this stuff).


04.03.2001 (sa), Atlanta

Worked the whole day. Made a little break to go to Locos to get the spicy Bayon Burger, then back to work. Now it is 10pm I stop that crap now because suddenly the WorkflowDesigner throws a unhandled exception (class not found) and doesn't startup - no need to tell I haven't changed anything ;-). No I'm going to kill a few guys in TeamFortress, that may help me to feel better - well, I feel not that bad, but it could be better.
Hey: can you believe this: I got my cheques today, 200, and a handwritten card from Bank of America. From Tracy, she thanks me for the meeting and ask to call her on any assistance I may need. Does any BoA customer get such a card? I hope not, that would help me cherish my narcissism.


04.03.2001 (su), Mississauga, Canada

This heater kills me. It sounds like a motorcycle. Whatever I will wait until he reaches at least acceptable temperature in this crappy hotel. (Quality Inn, hah!)
Neville picked me up at Detroit airport this morning, that was hard to get up at 7am at a Sunday. Northwest once more tried to mislead me. The monitor points out Detroit (9:35am) at D14 and Indianapolis at D15. Gate D14 points out Detroit at 10:50am (all empty). My excellent geographic skills told me that Indianapolis is not that far from Detroit so I proceeded to D15 to ask the lady for help. She could help me, because the Indianapolis flight goes to Detroit. Nothing that I need to understand, she checked me in (by the way: it took 15 seconds to give me the ticket, that was the fastest check in ever). My seat already was allowed to board so I directly went in. Seat 20A direct beside the engine - how nice, that may wake me up It looks good at the very beginning. And then a guy went down the walkway, well, it was not walking, he was contusing his enormous body through the seats right and left the walkway. As he sat down right of me - where else? - his bottom get edged by the seat and it made a serious sound of stressed material. That was indeed a tuna-feeling flight.
From Detroit we drove to Windsor (Canada), which is on the other side of the river of Detroit downtown. The customs official had no interest in Neville after the question for citizenship, but she was very interested in that German passport. And she started to agonize us with all of the question, why, what for, how long, to location, from location, and - annoying me a little bit - the question "is your Visa valid?" (Aehh, yes, you have it there in the passport, haven't you?)
Then we drove through Canada for four hours. My impression so far: Canada is flat like a plank. No hill, no mountain, nothing than boring flat landscape. Reaching Mississauga means also reaching a few of Neville's cousins which are spreaded across the whole world. How the Trinidadian manage to get stucked in Mississauga, Canada (approx 50 kilometers  from Toronto) is not explainable, but they did. I got twice real Caribbean food and met two cousins with family. (One cousin from mothers side, one from fathers side, both do not know about each other, but both are working in Mississauga - the world is small.). Especially Stanley (mothers side) impressed me with his Caribbean hot pepper dip. That is pure power, wow that is hot. I liked it - impressed him - and he gave me a bit of it in a jelly glass. I have to think over whom I am going to kill with it. (I hadn't checked till now if that stuff is eating through the glass, may I should.)
Aha, Murphy is working hard, there is a snow storm coming up (including Mississauga and Toronto), overlaying our entire way back to Detroit. That will be a nice ride back to Detroit tomorrow. I will never get my flight at 7:15pm.
Nice prospect, get back to Atlanta in the early morning of Tuesday (the heater stopped!!!), leave Atlanta Tuesday afternoon heading Wisconsin.
I will not like this week, I know it, I will hate it.


05.03.2001 (mo), In the air near Detroit

Jepp, I didn't get my origin flight at 7:15pm now it is 9:15pm and I am on my way back to Atlanta. The edges of the snowstorm caused heavily snowing in Mississauga (fat snowflakes) therefore we need 45 minutes for the first 5 miles. The guys from the customer was so nice to change their agenda to let us drive away at 3pm (at last we got out 3:45pm).
The meeting was nice, again it was interesting to see how the "EDI specialists" get concerned and sometimes nervous if you starting to discuss standard topics (how many partners?, any know-how of ANSI X.12?, message formats to support?, versions?, ERP system restrictions, ...), and excited if you guide them further to advanced enterprise solution opportunities with the same tool, the same environment.
One guy was a fellow from Pakistan who has lived nearly 12 years in Germany. And he loved to talk German (and was quite a excellent backup for  me;-) In the coffee break he explained me (all in German) that this guys (talking about his employer company) has no idea of EDI at all and are going to buy a Mercedes for the price of a Kia. (Who didn't?;-) He also was interesting to hear about our plans to expand the American subsidiary drastically, because he is going  "to get sick of Canada". He said he will send me his resume, don't know whether he was kidding or not.
Oh damnd! I forget it again and again: NEVER ask for a coffee in a Northwest jet plane! That is a cup of hot water which was hold for 5 minutes beside a closed coffee box. And do never forget to ask for orange juice WITHOUT ice, else you get a cup full of ice with a little orange juice (only to set it to the right color). Hehe: and never forget how to open that f-beep-ing Harvest Road Pretzel Minis, else you need a few minutes to clean the keyboard of your notebook. (And you have to listen to the - still ongoing - guffaw of the guy on the other side of the walkway.) Come on, that wasn't that funny. (Oops, now I get problems with the g.) (The flight assistant passed by and gave me a OPENED pretzel mini bag. I hate people if they getting amused to my expenses... and this stuff is tasting, well it tastes like pretzels, anyway.)
Hey, and good news: talked to Thomas, he told me that approx 25 applicants has send their resume because of our new advertising in the newspaper this Sunday. And Stefan - who get stucked to Cincinnati because our customer  decided to enlarge the test series through the weekend, will arrive tomorrow at 11am. I hope the things getting easier now. I have to go through all that interviews and hopefully find a few people who meet at least the basic requirements we have but their is light at the end of the tunnel (and before you ask: yes, I know to which direction I look to!).
Once I've a few people here who work as a team, things HAVE to get easier, no doubt, no revocation. I've to be in the office until 9:30am tomorrow morning because Thomas organized a conference call (cc) this time, Thomas had a presentation at 10:30 so I have to pick up Stefan. The rest of the day was planed to get a few documents done but now I have to study the resumes. You know: there is never a sex, age or anything like that on a American resume, all read like the applicant has done everything with the greatest success and earning all kinds of honor, but in reality..., well, this is America, you remember?;-)
AND: I showed them how to parameterize a workflow, thereby the possibility of the usage of system variables (to insert dynamic contents like the current date or current time) and was starting to explain how excellent the documentation... and suddenly a listbox appears which contains of all supported system variables (well I haven't checked whether it contains of all, but it was there!;-). That's the hell of a deal. I asked so long for this feature and now it is there and I mention it by accident, may I getting to blind for the goodies because of the quirks and bugs I have to spend so much time for, sorry about that. 


06.03.2001 (tu), Milwaukee

And suddenly the plane was gone. That was nice. I left the office too late, I confess, but the taxi driver promised me to get  me until 5:00pm to the airport, and he did it, even through the traffic jam in downtown Atlanta. But reaching the gate was not the deal (was there 5:15pm, flight to Minneapolis was 5:35pm). No need to say, if you are late, the flight is on time.
As usual - as every flight before - I gave them my "ID" (my German passport), they search my record and give me my boarding pass after asking that two standard question ("...does any stranger...": no, "... was your luggage all the time...": yes.). Not this time. It doesn't work, he had several problems to "get my record", even while he had my booking (also the guy which was 3 meters to the left called my name the second time to proceed to the gate, "last call, last call..."). I was very patient because I know, they know I am here and they made a mistake, so the damnd plane would wait for me until the issue was solved.
No, it wouldn't.
This plane left Atlanta without me. The problem was that this booking was not set to electronic ticket, that means I need the printed ticket to get the flight (that took them 30 minutes and a phone call to the travel agency the booking was made by, to figure it out, I am impressed). Jepp indeed, this was the day I asked Tanja whether I have to carry this stuff all the time with me because I never'd used it before. And she told me that I didn't need it. Maybe this caused the requirement to have it this day (because it was the first day I haven't it with me). Annette will say this is my bogey, I say it is Murphy. But if the bogey is called Murphy and "picked me up" as I arrived in Atlanta in January, than we both are right. And Murphy has a lot of fun.
Well, I said it before and now I am going to believe it: Every time something good will come out of the bad. After Tanja gave me the number of our travel agency (which rings but nobody picks up the phone) I proceeded to the Midwest Express because the guy from Continental told me they have connections to Wausau (Central Wisconsin) too. They had, indeed the flight was only 8 dollar more expensive (that means it was less expensive because flights booked in advance have less fees).
As I get in the plain I was really surprised because Midwest has no coach class (even if your Midwest ticket prints out "coach"), or no business class, however you like it better. All seats in the plane are business class size. They serve a real dinner (not only the small bag of pretzels) on real porcelain and they offer wine (in real glass) and coffee refuel. Nice, nice, I think I like Midwest Express.
Now I am waiting for my connection to Wausau (still Midwest Express) in total I will arrive in Wausau half an hour later than expected.


07.03.2001 (we), Wisconsin Rapids

I did it, entered the room at exact 12am. I like this Mead Inn hotel (which is by accident owned by our customer here, but they are going to sell it). There was the same lady at the reception than last time and she remembered not me, but my scarf. That's it.
I'm in good mood for tomorrow, our customer here had a "show stopper" issue with our software but he found a way to workaround for "the second". This guy is really cute in using XML and reads DTDs like a newspaper. I hope I can get the bugfix tomorrow now I will try to get the JDBC GUI running, deadline is 1am.


07.03.2001 (we), Wisconsin Rapids

Hehe, a set deadline has one simple advantage, you know exactly how long you stride over it. In my case 1 hour and 32 minutes. Especially I had to wait until I get all the stuff downloaded. Hey you guys of Earthlink, can you please explain why your Atlanta line is so busy to grant only 31 kb access so early in the morning? And why the hell are all phone numbers (Wausau, Detroit, Milwaukee, Chicago) in your list busy at this time?
All the same, I will wait until this Seinfeld show is finished and then I try to sleep.


10.03.2001 (sa), Atlanta

Oh, what a week. And what a expectation for the next two weeks.
We got a few "serious" problems at our customers site but at last we did it. Quit successful (hey you guys, that was excellent work, thank you very much and excuse the hodgepodge I originated!).
I had to cancel my appointment in Plewaukee (30 miles to Milwaukee) so I have to do it next week but it was worth it. 
I drove back with Marta railway (Atlanta S-Bahn) from the airport yesterday, that was a ride in the "root of Atlanta". The smell in the train was "significant" and I - for sure - will prefer to drive with the car to the airport in the future. I gave my car to Stefan who arrived at Tuesday and he was prepared to pick me up on Friday. 
I was prepared to get in the wrong train but it brings me (may Murphy was distracted bothering the lot of other people in the train) right to the place I like to go, even Stefan was ready to pick me up at the station (Dunwoody, N9).
BUT: annoying those people in the train may has not satisfied Murphy. We drove to a Diner (which is called "Diner" at Roswell Road (near Buckhead) which is open 24/7. I never tried it and told Stefan the Diner is looking "real American" and if he is hungry too, we had to try it. We did it. The food is tourist-style (expensive and boring), the coffee is weak. OK, so far. We sat near the restroom door and a lot of suit-dressed men (age from 7 to 60) passed by and a lot of trendy dressed women (looks like a weeding public - in a Diner?), all the same, we left the Diner at 2am, running into a few police car on the parking place and a few people heavily arguing with/against a few policemen. A Sicilian-grandma-style lady crying and begging ("... it is his birthday, I beg you officer, I beg you Sir, please let him go, huuuuuhuuuuuu, please officer, I beg you, I beg you let my son go, it is his birthday, huuuuuhuhuhuhuhuuuuuuu, please, officer....") (Spanish accent).
That was not our party, but it was indeed Murphy's party. One of the police cars stood directly behind my car which was parked head to the building (concluded by cars right and left). In the police car the "son", hands on this back, wearing handcuffs (as far as I supposed). We'd to wait approx. 10 minutes while the group gets louder (because one of the guys tried to open the police cars back door to release his cousin, brother, father, friend, whatever, which caused the policemen (at this time 5 of them) to bung him on the cars trunk (chest to car). The Sicilian mother interfered ("... please officer, ... huuuuhuuuuuu, please officer, I beg you, huuuhuuuuhuuu...") but this officer lost his patience and shouted "Get your breath out of my face!", that at least stops the Sicilian mother crying. A few of the other birthday-party guests guided her away (while she starts crying again, "huuuhuuuuhuhu") and a more balanced party guest talked staid to the policemen (couldn't hear what he said) but the policeman released the still retained guy and the balanced-one goes away with him, put him quite not-so-balanced into a nearby standing car and comes back saying "ok, you guys, he is in the car, I go drive him home, I will not have any trouble with you guys, everything is cool now, OK?" (It occurred to me like a scene out of Miami Vice, the guy looked exactly like that smart dressed Columbian drug dealer.)
That was the time for me to ask one of the policemen if he may could drive the car a few meters (I am a metric guy) forward (backward was impossible because there was another police car behind it). He made a appeasing hand sign and said "Wait a few minutes." and while he passed, us he turned his had and said (smiling) "Enjoy this part of the Atlanta atmosphere". (If I am informed correct, Atlanta is one of the five towns in the US with the highest crime rate. Somewhere behind Washington, Detroit and New York. But please: do not tell my mother about that, that could cause me a lot of mother-worry!)
Well, at last we get out (approx. 2:45am).
I don't know what it was about, there was no blood or dying bodies laying around while shotgun carrying gangsters - hunted by suit-wearing policemen's who jumped out of their still braking Ferraris - calling things like "I kill you all!", "Come and get me!" or just getting shot by the heroes last bullet. May the real America is not exactly like the America I know by television, that is going to confuse me.
I am not sure whether Stefan gets the right impression of the town he has to live in for the next year (this is his first week) - anyway, I keep him busy on customer projects outside of Atlanta for the entire year - just to take care of him.


11.03.2001 (su), Atlanta

Stefan and I were out in Buckhead last night. Near the Buckhead city center is a entertainment area where one night club and bar is beside the other. At last we went in into the "Go Lounge". Looks like a Irish Pub. We had to pay 5 bucks entry fee but the bar itself (nearly empty) looks more like a (Irish) Diner than a night club. The guy at the door explained, the band is behind the bar, but there was only the door to the restrooms. Took us a few minutes to figure out this door also leads to the band. They have a live band playing in the back of the bar, quite good music but the entire bar was too empty.
Whatever, check it out, especially the Gumbo (ya ya) is excellent and hot like hell. (Furthermore I now remember, I haven't paid for it, sorry about that.)
Hey folks, can you imagine: I got my Bank of America account and credit card. And it works. Well, the photography of my exceptional face is not on it (as ordered), but it works. I think this should be satisfactory enough.


13.03.2001 (mo), Atlanta

The Thrashers got the first goal at the 24th second of the game. Can you believe this? I (in words: I) go to a hockey game, trying to get the right local patriotism feeling and they got the first goal 24 seconds after the start of the game. That was like puck, wushwushwush, goal. I'm sure even the Thrashers haven't realized what's going on. Those guys from Calgary was tough, really.
I can't believe how much I enjoyed that game (by the way, thank you guys of our tax consultant company who gave us the tickets, thx a lot).
BUT: at last the Thrashers get it, not quite but nearly: 3:3
And: that game proved the deep partiality of the Americans. If Calgary scored a goal you only hear the "ohhh" of the Atlanta audience (the Philips Arena beside the CNN building in Atlanta downtown, not entirely sold out), nothing else. The teams went back to the center of the field, the referee puts back the puck into the game and the game continues. If the Thrashers score.. hell what a noise. The displays points out "goal, Goal, GOAL,..." (to mention everybody  - maybe me - about the score), a siren keeps going for at least 30 seconds (and that is really loud), not to forget about the entire audience which is celebrating one of the worst national hockey teams, well... including me. enthusiasm is contagious. (We formed the German block, T&T, Stefan and I.)
I really got worried if the puck while sudden-death (5 minutes after the official game end, first goal counts) playing, gots near of the Thrashers' goal and shouting "ja, ja, ja" (I cannot keep English language when getting really excited) when the Trashers got the puck near to Calgary's' goal.
At last - as I already said - they get out undecided, but this is - for the Thrashers - also some kind of success.
I ate three bags of M&M during the game, 2 USD each, that means more than 12 DM for M&M! I get mad in this country. It is very interesting to see how Stefan (who is "new" to the country;-) is counting when buying things. You can see the "multiply-by-two-dot-two" expression in his face when opening his purse to pay something. I feel with you, well, actually I am going to forget how it feels, but in the depth of my south-Baden soul I know I've to remember. One week until first visit to Germany since I am in the states, I really look forward to it, really. I can buy things to the half of its price;-)


15.03.2001 (th), Stamford, CN

New York, New Yoooooork.
You go through the doors of the airport and are facing a traffic jam (as usual in front of a airport), as a mix of car rental pick up busses, taxis and limousines. But here you hear the horns as basic surrounding sound and you feel the bustling excitement, this city is so famous for, in the first 15 second you look around.
Went to Detroit yesterday (Wednesday), had a excellent meeting with a customers technician who is currently setting up our system as backbone of their clearing center. The installation works excellent, no faults, no issues at all. Just install, all applications updated completely and all data was at the same location than before the update (that is the way it should be).
Then we flew from Detroit to New York, La Guardia via Pittsburgh. Thomas and I got a Hertz car with a Magellan GPS system. A very nice female voice in the system tries to guide us to Stamford, Connecticut (what is a 30 minute ride first west to the north edge of Manhattan, than north, but she could not get through two guys who are in opinion they know it better. We drove the wrong direction for more than 30 minutes and she required us more than once to exit (sometimes right, sometimes left, always requesting us to "please proceed to the highlighted route"), but we ignored her (because men always know it better;-)
And we was right, we drove from the east side of Manhattan to the west side (having a excellent sightseeing view at Manhattans skyline (left World Trade Center (did you know: 100.000 people work in that building?), right Chrysler Building and Empire State Building), than turn 180 degree and try to get back driving west on Trinity Road through south Manhattan, later on Houston road. 
We got Magellan a little bit confused because first "she" recognizes Trinity, than we were suddenly in the middle of Central Park before she got the right impression of our thinking and headed us to the FDR, that was the first time we drove the right direction (north) and it was also the moment we decided to follow her instructions. Maybe we did it because we had to pay twice 3,50 USD first for the 285 bridge, than for the Holland tunnel (to get back to Manhattan;-).
Reaching FDR was also the close of the deal, up FDR north, than enter 95 (she recongizes every exit correctly). In total we lost 40 minutes (the drive is usually 30 minutes from La Guardia to Stamford).
The people in this city drive like hell - or like the very first people who still trying to figure out what wheels are for. I drove out the Hertz area at the airport and 10 second later I got the first New Yorker behind me, hooting to keep me going on. Even if you drive down FDR with 45 mph you will feel like a race car driver, don't know why, this must be part of the New York atmosphere.
Now it is 0:53, I am hungry but have no chance to get something to eat here. Bah, hate that.
Tomorrow meeting with a reseller at a possible customer side, than customer itself. Flying to Cincinnati in the evening than a meeting with the entire EAI technician staff of the same reseller to presentate our EAI system, than, tomorrow evening, back to Atlanta. Saturday I have to go to for a driving license, after noon I will have three interviews with applicants, two more on Monday. Tuesday appointment in Philadelphia is still not confirmed yet, so I am still in hope that I haven't to go there, Thursday to Milwaukee or to Cincinnati, if Cincinnati becomes as urgent as presumed I have to send Stefan to Milwaukee (informed him about that, no problem to him, thx god for that man).
And Friday, yeah Friday, I return home for a week.


17.03.2001 (sa), Atlanta

Damit. Tried to find the driving license agency this morning, drove half an hour around (up and down Roswell Road) but had no luck at all. At last I stopped by the Leasing Office of my apartment home company and asked the ladies for help. Two of them doesn't know where the driving license agency is but the third one told me that it is only two minutes up Roswell Road in Lohmans Plaza. Life is a bitch. At last I had no time left because I had to go to the office to meet with a few more applicants. I have to go there at Monday morning before I go to the office. 
I brought a cold with me from my trip, now I have a nose like a alcoholic (I hate this Kleenex tissues, I want Tempo).


20.03.2001 (tu), Atlanta

Georgia Driving License Office.
This is a code word a few million people will understand. You remember the description of the social security office? Forget about it.
Stefan (who get his social security id yesterday - for work only;-) went to the office which is quite near to our place at Roswell Road (Lohmans Plaza). We were well prepared because Thomas and Tanja described how to do it and especially what to avoid (always flash lights when driving slalom through the markers, always look back while backing up, do not try to be smart, think stupid, etc.).
We joined the line at 9:03 am. (Opens 9am). The weather in Atlanta was rainy and f-beep cold.
OK, first thing we mentioned when getting near to the entrance was: "No road test today" letters which was adhered at the windows. We decided to go on (9:30am) to get at least the road rule test, the road sign test and the vision test done, may the weather will get better while we had to wait.
(A fact: in Georgia there is NO road test in rain, fog, snow or any other exceptional weather condition.)
I was well prepared once I was allowed proceeding to the desk I gave the lady my passport including a letter from the Bank of America which she accepted as "proof of residence" without any question (remark: the Bank of America gave me a form and pleased me to insert my address into it). I also was able to make her smile by mentioning that it was that expensive and arduous to make the license in Germany and now I have to do it again. She smiled and replied "I know, but therefore it is not that expensive here." She was so right!
She gave me a number (011) and ordered me waiting within the office. The low number gave me hope. Stefan proceeded after me to the "entrance officer" but after a few seconds he get excited. He had no "proof of residence". I went back and after he explained I asked the lady whether I can write a confirmation as proof of residence for him, she negated.
So I gave Stefan my car keys and he drove back to our apartments to get a proof of residence there (he also was allowed to proceed directly to the desk after return).
He was back in about 10 minutes with a fax which "proofs his residence" BUT it was only a fax, which a type of photocopy which is not allowed as proof of residence. The lady told us, that we could proceed to the FedEx office three doors ahead and let the FedEx guys "confirm" the proof of residence. We did that. Get out of the driving license office, get in the FedEx office. The guy there looked at us and asked us whether we came for a paper confirmation. We did.
We paid (actually I paid, I have to ask Stefan for this five bucks) the five bucks, confused him because on his form I was going to prove that Stefan lives with me not only in the near of me. (Even I had no problem in confirming that Stefan is my gay couple - if it leads to a Georgia drivers license, who cares?;-) But this guy was a unusual American because he decided to wipe out a few words in the form, then stamped the paper.
With the "proof of residence" we went back, she accepted it, for sure she did because this paper proves the absence of human intelligence as well and the attendance of bureaucratic dourness too, why not use it as a proof of resident as well?
At last Stefan gots his number (024), not that bad too.
Lets make it short, I had to wait until 11:30am then I could proceed to the "Testing Area", spoke to a veeery sloooow speaaaking civil servant, denied to be a organ donator was allowed to proceed to one of the computer to make the road rule test. The very first question was the greatest challenge (I never have seen this before) and I answered it incorrect. Does not matter (my notebook decided right now to switch to English keyboard, it happens sometimes, do not know why), 15 out of 20 is enough. At the end I get 17 out of 20. Went back to the civil servant to get information where and how to get the road sign test, and was sent back to the same computer to continue until the computer (that are serious machines) points out the examination is finished. Sitting down again and copying the screen shows exactly the same (now get prepared for the road sign test, start by pressing enter). I finished the signs with 20 out of 20 and went back. He got my card, and explained me that there was nooooo roooooaaad teeeeest toooooodaaaaaay so I had to return tomorrow to dooooo it. 
Aha, OK, he also eeeexplaaaaiiiined that I just have to say my name and they will find my card to continue with the today's results.
So far so good, I went back to Stefan (who was still waiting for his number to be called). Five minutes later I remembered not to pass the eye vision test, went back, interrupted (may I ask a question?) the guy again. I get out my card again and pleased me to the vision test machine. (Pleeaase reaaad the nuuumbberrrs for me.) No problem. (Doooo you seee aaaa flashhhhing on eiiiither...) Yes on the right. (and no..) on the left. (Thank you.) Than he started again to explain that I have to come back tomorrow to do the road test and I let him finish (smiling, thank you very much).
The few minutes later I mentioned that Murphy is going to get "attracted" by Stefan, or may Stefan also "get" a bogey when arriving in Atlanta. However (or why ever), in this case I was some kind of "lucky" while Stefan gets pissed at all.
The civil servants deploy to different number ranges, as far as we could check it out, the numbers starting from 0 were for people who were going for the driving license, while the numbers starting with 300 were dedicated to people which has some (or less) arcane things to do here (may to pay fines or what the hell). Anyway, the numbers called was usually greater than 300 especially the switch from 023 to 024 (Stefan) takes more than half an hour.
For Stefan the whole thing didn't start very "well". He has to go to a different desk than I (by the way: 10 desks but only 2 operational while at least 200 people were waiting). I started at desk 10 to be forwarded (without any activity) to the Testing Area, while Stefan has to go to lot 8 and then got his card (I got in the Testing Area). That wasn't that serious because after that he had to proceed to the Testing Area. In total the main difference was that it takes him twice the time than me, that he had to walk a lot from one edge of the office to the other (8->TestingArea->Computer->TestingArea->8->Sit down and wait) BUT: at last he had to proceed to desk 10 which is the desk with the driver license printing machine, they took a picture of him and he had to give his fingerprint (left hand forefinger, right hand forefinger). That drove me mad. On his application the "Driving Test" was crossed out (and I have to come back tomorrow?)
I blamed the lady at the entrance (because no one else give you any information except the information desk which is also the entrance desk). I explained her that we have both the same nationality, same driver license, same application so why does he get a driving license without a driving test while I have to do it? (Actually she was very patient, sorry Ma'm.)
OK here is the story: Murphy - as I told you already - likes to fool Stefan. Somehow, nobody knows how, and I am sure nobody can explain why, Stefan applied not for a drivers license class C but for a drivers license class CP which means "is allowed to drive cars and trucks as defined in class C but needs to be accompanied all the time when driving by a class C license owner which is at least of age 21".
Realizing this, I was no longer that desirous to get it as well. ("Yeah, as I told you, this is a learners license, he also has to come back tomorrow to make the road test, you see. You can have one too!")
That was not that serious, except he had to pay $15 for the learners and tomorrow he will have to pay additional $15 for the real class C license. BUT: I have to go to a POC to Stamford, CN (near New York) on Thursday while Stefan should take care of a appointment I originally had for that date in Milwaukee, WI. Therefore he needs to drive from Milwaukee to a small town called Plewaukee (30 miles)... in a rental car. Well, try to get a rental car by handing out a learners license;-). His original German drivers license is now on the way to the American consulate in  Frankfurt.
We will try it tomorrow, either he gets his drivers license or he gets his German drivers license back (I don't think they send it directly on the same day to Germany.)
Do you hear that small voice in the background which is laughing all the time? It is Murphy.
OK, I am prepared for tomorrow.


21.03.2001 (wd), Atlanta

We did it! 
We went out of the office at 14:30pm (started at 8:30am). But we did it. I am too tired to continue the description and have to get up 5:00am tomorrow to fly to Milwaukee. But this story for sure is to continue;-)


22.03.2001 (th), Atlanta

Good morning Atlanta. Murphy seems to open all connections to the local weather gods. After we had so much "trouble" due to the weather conditions the last two days, this morning Atlanta awakes under a clear blue sky. I think Murphy told the weather gods that the rain and the closed cloud sky is not longer required and so Atlanta is going to return to standard ("southern style") weather conditions.
Now it is 7:24am, sitting at the gate B24 (already checked in, getting an exit row seat with a smile and a short Smalltalk about the weather - I am still no gold member because I fly different airlines all the time)
And - folks - I suddenly mention: I got my first (E;-) ticket without my passport, just giving her my Georgia driver license and she accepted it.


22.03.2001 (th), Over Tennessee heading to Milwaukee

OK, I am prepared for the meeting, now lets go on with the drivers license story.
The weather at Wednesday morning was not that bad and not that good. Closed clouds, wet ground, sometimes a few raindrops - doesn't feel good.
Anyway, we were at the door at 8:30am (well, actually 8:33am) and Stefan did a good job to insist on this early time because today the line was longer than we joined it the day before.
Scared we watched out for the letters at the window ("No road test today"), but it wasn't there. Good sign.
The next half hour while smoothly getting near to the entrance desk they still doesn't change the "possibility of making a road test". Good sign.
Then I proceeded to the desk making my "I was yesterday and passed all the tests except the road test.". "Yes, I remember you." (nodding) while searching a few files for my "card" - NOT a good sign.
"Can I make the road test today?"
And then it goes quite fast. Even my cars insurance card (which expires 21.03. which is also the reason that I heavily need the driving license to be able to get a new insurance), was no problem.
"This is your application (the card from yesterday), please wait outside at the parking place, you are the number 7 for road test, goodbye."
"Wait right in front of this door?"
"Thank you very much."
"Welcome, ... next!"
Stefan proceeded to the desk and I gave him the insurance card (she smiled) and in the next second (after Stefan gave her his learner license and told her that he come for the road test). She said yes and stapled his learner license, the insurance card and a wait number (030) together and ordered him to wait until his number will be called.
That really affirmed Stefan in all his bad apprehensions we heavily discussed while waiting outside in the row. 
"But I didn't have to make all the tests again!!?"
"No, you just need to have a new application for the drivers license, therefore you have to go to a desk before proceeding to the road test."
"But I didn't have to make the tests itself, except the road test?"
"Thank you."
So I stepped outside and Stefan sat down to wait for his number.
Five minutes later (standing out there in the cold is not that bad, because I can use the time for smoking;-) I mentioned Murphy standing directly beside me, tapping his foot, the message was clear: Stefan has to wait anyway, so I have a few minutes time to take care of you... If you look around Christopher, how many people you think came for the road test today, if yesterday was no road test at all? If you got number 7 there are at least 6 others in front of you. But: where are they? You are the only stupid idiot standing in front of the door and waiting... actually: waiting for what to happen?
Yeah, but no big deal. Stefan came out (because they were currently calling number 013) took my place and I crossed the entire parking place to have a look at the driving test area (which is a smaller parking place of approx 50mx20m). And there was a examinator (wearing the official civil servant uniform). I asked him for the procedure, he asked me for my number. Than he ordered (actually he was quite polite) me to drive my car to the parking place because after this car I would be the next to examine.
So I went back to my car, then to the waiting position. If you ask whether I was nervous - not at all. I looked at myself and found myself totally relaxed and relieved because things now was going further. As I sat in the car, waiting for the examinator to come to me, I watched the cloudy sky and Murphy (sitting right of me) and the local weather gods on the back seat, asking him "What's up, Murphy? Rain or not?". But Murphy was not certain about the further steps. He knows, I like him. In a very strange and weird way I really need him. Indeed we are a good team, I keep wondering and he keeps keeping me wondering. But he knows also, there is a limit he shouldn't pass.
Then the examinator came and after checking the brake lights and flashing lights he got in and ordered me to drive ahead. Drive right (stop sign), right again, please stop I explain how to continue, please drive 20 miles and brake to stand still if I tell you do so, 20 miles, brake. Now back up for me to the position we stand before, back up (looking the entire time through the back window, not only through the mirrors), now head left and drive through the pylons until you reach the end of the test area (driving left, then right, then left, then right, always flash lights in the correct direction, always look left mirror, right mirror and blind spot). Now drive ahead until you are in a correct position to park the car in this lot and if ready park the car. (drive ahead, stop, flash lights, look into the mirrors, check blind spot, well, getting in the lot "nearly" perfect). Now get out of the parking lot and drive through that pylons - the middle lane? - yes the middle lane. (driving) Now drive right out of the test area, then left and left again. (stop sign, right, stop, let traffic pass, left, stop sign, left). Now park the car in this lot on your right (left, stop, brake, stop engine).
In short words, I got 95 points (I guess out of 100), don't know what I've done wrong. He said "You passed." (It cost me a millisecond to remember that "pass" is not failed.) Then he ordered me to proceed back to lot 8 and that was it.
I left the car where it was (for sure: after asking him if it is OK to do so;-) and got back in. 20 minutes later I got my Georgia driver license.
But Stefan was still waiting for his number to get called.
We get out at 2:30pm. Stefan did a very good job in his road test, from my point of view (I increased his flurry by watching the entire scene;-) he drove perfect but at last he got only 94 points. He is in the opinion this is because he started to act before his driving examinator (a lady, not the guy I had before) has finished her sentence. ("Now back up for me...", Stefan shift to reverse gear, "STOP! Wait for my order... Now back up for me..., until I say stop.") He kept his drivers license the entire way back to the office (even while stopping over in a Burger King), in his hand.


22.03.2001 (th), Milwaukee

If you drive north to reach a defined point, than head back from this point to reach the origin of your travel, which direction do you have to drive?
I drove north (again). Then - I'm getting used to it - after recognizing the fault that north couldn't be the correct direction, exit the interstate and try to head left to enter it in the vice versa direction again. Indeed I would have succeed but the enormous constraction zone I entered at the end of the exit also includes the interstate access and suddenly I found myself on a different interstate highway heading to somewhere, exiting this interstate, getting trapped at a dead end road, u-turn, having the feeling that somewhere on my left the targeted highway 45 should be. At next intersection I found a sign heading to 45 and, voila, back on my way again.
A question: why does Americans have signs beside the highway pointing out "Milwaukee Intl. Airport Exit 45B" but at exit 45B (or direct beside the exit sign) no hint to any airport at all? Is that some kind of "I told you already, if you are to stupid to listen at the right time, it's your fault, not mine.". It wasn't a real issue, just u-turn the 895 interstate and head back, miss the exit again and u-turn back again, then exit on 45B.
Reaching the airport as well, explained why the lady from Alamo (rental cars) asked me whether I would like to have a "half gas tank offer" (which I negotiated because I was going to refuel by myself). Once reaching the airport area, there is no gas station at all.
As I went back to the Alamo desk she asked me for status of gas and I - I am a honest foreigner - told her it was 4/5. (Well, while returning the car, one of the Alamo employees helped me and he drove the car away, so I was not sure she knows already about the gas status.)
"So it is half full?"
"No, I think approximately 2/3." (her insistence made me insecure).
"Then it is full!?"
"No, not quite, something between half and full."
"Then it is full." and she closed the record with this conclusive hit on the enter key, you know what I mean.
"Oh, that is neat, that means a not exact half full tank is a full tank?"
"Yes, you are in Wisconsin Sir, everything between 100 feet and 20 miles is neighborhood."
I like Wisconsin, hopefully I have time to spend a weekend there.


24.03.2001 (sa), Stuttgart, Germany

I am so tired. Tried to work a little but after deleting the same paragraph five times and after starring a few minutes at the content list I decided to delay it.
I got a nice 15 hour "flight" from Atlanta to Stuttgart.
It started very good. The lady at the luggage checking told me the plain is full and so the chance to get a exit row seat is not that good (I am still no Delta medallion member which means I have no chance to get an upgrade to business class), but she also suggested to ask again at the boarding desk.
That's what I did and with a smile I got a exit row seat. Also the smoking lounge at the international concourse (E) of Atlanta Hartsfield was directly in front of my gate. Within 30 minutes I was able to answer all my mails and get all the stuff processed.
This all, should have giving me a clue of something annoying was going to grow. And the time of growth is usually proportional to the meaning and intense of trouble. 
The plane got out on time (6:15pm), the seat was good, recognizing that this seat was fixed in upright position (because behind it the 767 has a second exit row), was acceptable, compared to the legroom of a standard coach seat.
Approximately one hour later the things started to get worse. The captain informed us about the failure of the primary air pressure control system. No emergency so far, because the backup system was working fine (I agreed because I was still able to breath). But, he decided not to fly across the ocean with the backup system working. He (indeed we) were going to have a stopover in New York, Kennedy Airport to repair the system or to move to a other plane. Later he informed us about the organized reserve plane which was now in standby at gate 9 while we were arriving at gate 8.
After landing at Kennedy airport and taxi to the gate 8 we had to wait for about 15 minutes for help to tow the plane into the gate, the captain: "... I am sorry ladies and gentleman about the delay but this is a tow-in gate and we are not allowed to move forward. Indeed we are now waiting in front of gate 8 and you see gate 9 to our left, as you may also recognize there is no plane waiting right now. This circumstances may will it make more difficult to move you directly from gate 8 to the backup plane."
OK, see the good, I got a very nice talking to the lady at the Starbucks Coffee desk in the Kennedy Airport. Then with a old lady who was going to Germany for a US army conference (6 weeks!).
At last we got in the new plane at 9:30pm. 
At 10:15pm we were pulled out of the gate, then the pilots started the engines, well, two of them. It takes another 20 minutes before the captain (he tries to oppress laughing) informed us about the problem to start engine no. 1 ("...which is the engine to your left...") to check the problem they now will tow us in again and try to fix the problem.
Within the next hour they used the components of engine no. 1 of the plane to our right (which was our origin plane) as dispenser to fix the problem in our current plane.
Well, at least they did it and we were able to continue our journey. Even the flight attendant entertained us with a very own understanding of German grammar and the basic (twice repeated) basic content "We apologize for the inconvenience." I am sure I heard about this sentence before and the circumstances was not that different;-)
At the airport my first thought was to call my mother - fearing she was waiting for my call a few hours ago - but she is a well informed lady and told me about the delay of my plane before I even start to explain anything.
Also my appointment was clever enough to inform himself before driving to the airport and was waiting with a easy to recognize sign, written "ONK" on it. (I'd prefer "Dr. Frank", but this definitely proves the man has a sense of humor.)
My sister and her husband will pick me up at the Freiburg railway station. Also they will have the little dragon (my niece Aileen) with them. OK, this is worth all that inconvenience. I am sitting in a German train, heading to Freiburg, what can go wrong? I feel Murphy getting bored, oh I like that feeling.


25.03.2001 (su), Freiburg, Germany

Nothing beats mothers food. Especially for me she made rabbit AND cheese filet (this combination never was seen before). I'm really a lucky guy. My stepfather gave me my car back so I am now going to drive a car with gear change again. The first two times I stifled the engine because I forgot to press the clutch when starting the engine (and both times Marvin (Toyota Corolla) made a smart forward jump).


26.03.2001 (mo), Bellheim, Germany

Annette really takes care of my cats, this is the first time I see Cashou put on weight while Pushkin slimed. All three of them seems to be really glad to see me.
I indeed was really glad to see them. (Neither Cashou plays her standard game: "I ignore you for a day because you ignored me for such a long time. I like you, but you have to learn that you are not allowed to do things like that to me!" if you are not at home for a few days.)


31.03.2001 (sa), Stuttgart, Germany

On my way back to Atlanta. 
I'd a few very successful meetings especially I got my plans for the American staff agreed, called Sam (our new Senior Consultant) on Friday, he was so glad that he stopped (audible) breathing for a few seconds. And he called me "Sir", that makes me feel really old.
I drove to Freiburg again this afternoon to meet the family one more time before I leave back to Atlanta and discuss the last details about their Atlanta visit in June, that was nice.
My stepfather drove me to the railway station, after paying DM 54 for a ticket I stand outside at the tracks, waiting for the train to Karlsruhe, while the fans of the Freiburg SC (soccer team), carrying a huge drum and screaming and "singing" stuff like "Ollleeee, ole, ole, ole, so schön, so schön.".
Murphy invited them to stop their approach directly beside my current position. Suddenly I remembered that the Freiburg team won the game today (5:2 vs. Frankfurt).
The guys (only men can get that irresistible if they are drunken and - sport reasoned - happy), told everybody on the platform that "they" (why the hell are people saying things like "we beat them" even if they'd never have their food on the playground or weren't able to move their fat belly in a other direction than to the fridge?) beat Frankfurt. Except me. The stood only 3 meters away and shouting the result of the match even over track to the people on the other platform, but they ignored insistent my direction. I was pretty sure this was because of my impressive approach.
Then I decided to change my location (due to the quite loud drum), and once I turned around to pick up my luggage I saw a police dog sitting a meter behind (half right) of my position and behind him four policemen. That is may also a explanation why the guys ignored my direction.
I went 50 meters to the right and stopped beside a bench which was surrounded by at least 10 policemen talking about the today and the game and the fans.
I gots very interesting because through the radio their headquarters informed them about missing 121 fans of Frankfurt's soccer team (who lost the game). That remembers me about the mentality of my fellow citizen. Because the chief officer does not remind his guys that "more than 100" or "approximately 120" fans are missed and may currently demolish a bar in the Freiburg city center, no German police officers miss 121 not more or less.
(After the "roger" signal the guys discussed real quick whom of them has to go to the Martinstor (one of the two left former city gates of Freiburg), who has to go to the Schwabentor (the other former city gate) and who has to go to the Feierling (a very famous small local brewery which runs a huge pub in the old city center). I indeed know about a lot more places were you can go in the city of Freiburg if you want to have some fun (or if you are really depressed - the Frankfurt guys lost the game), but the policemen seems to know what they has to do. I don't know whether they find the 121 Frankfurt guys or not.