And the Devil went Down to Georgia
I only spend one night in New York, but at least it is fairly cheap. One of the more expensive discoveries I'll make during my time in America is that hostels are not popular - you will find hotels all over the place, but hostels seem to be restricted to the large cities.
I get quite an odd reception at this hostel. I head through the common area carrying my bags to my room, to find one guy on a laptop in front of me and one on the couch to my right, watching tv. The guy behind the laptop makes some gestures at me which I interpret as "dude, nice beard!", to which I smile and nod. I then offer a greeting, only to have him turn back to his laptop and the guy watching tv ignore me. Whatever, I'm on a mission to find an ATM to pay for the room so I don't linger.
I don't feel so bad when I get back, as it becomes apparent from peeking over his shoulder at the laptop that the guy is deaf - he is using a webcam to sign to his friends! I find that just a little bit awesome, and the guy watching tv isn't as shy when I actually start a conversation. Turns out he's a construction manager on like a six figure salary, but stays in a hostel largely because it's the cheapest way for him to get parking in new york (well, and a bed - his house is outside the city itself).
Eventually the deaf guy gets my attention and introduces himself as Hokin from Toulouse, France, via a well used scrap of paper and a sharpie. I return the favour and he indicates his understanding by drawing a crude map of Australia. I'm forced to correct his placement of Sydney (slight ocd moment), but this was definately a novel way to communicate.
I go to bed early and end up waking up at about 5am, to find Hokin just on his way to bed. His hands become a pillow for a moment to communicate this fact and mine turn into a plane to let him know I'm flying out today. We mime our goodbyes and I hit the streets for an early morning walk. Not the best decision I ever made, Jamaica (the suburb of New York I am in) is not particularly interesting in the dark. I do manage to find some mobile phone and electronic stores, however they don't open until around 9:30.
By the time they finally open, I'm a little stressed from wandering the streets with nothing to do for so long, and a little nervous about making my 12:30 flight - I have about a half hour walk back to the hostel and not sure how long it takes to get to the airport. So instead of shopping around I pretty much grab the first sim card and travel adapter I find. End up paying US$60 for each, more than I would have liked to pay but it saved worrying about credit as I got unlimited local calls + local and international sms for the month. I think I might have even sent enough texts to get my money's worth!
Anyway, I make it to the airport fine and I'm on my way to the busiest airport in the world, Atlanta. Via Charlotte of course - for some reason flying direct is always more expensive in America. The flights are pleasant enough, I have good company on the first and three seats to myself on the second.
I don't remember exactly when it happened, but on some flight (possibly bus) I remember a blind girl getting on. She proceeds to pull an eee pc out of her bag, plugs her headphones in and starts typing away with the laptop open just enough to get her hands between the screen and keyboard. Firstly, what an awesome way to use a computer, and secondly it was nice to see technology used for something really enabling, in balance to the frivolity so commonplace on the internet.
Atlanta might have been home to the busiest airport in the world, but I didn't really notice. I guess they'd soon learn to manage all the people coming through. The people at the information desk are really friendly - I have a couple of hours to kill before the shuttle bus to Athens arrives, so I spend the time looking for a map. I've neglected to take any notes about Athens previously, and there's no free internet available at the airport so I don't really know where I'm going once I get there.
Anyway, I'm telling my story to this middle-aged guy at the information desk, and when he hears I'm headed to a computer conference and write software for a living he comments:
"You look pretty fit for a guy who spends all day on the computer."
Nawww, thanks dude! Unfortunately he doesn't have a map of Athens, so I just go and wait for the shuttle. Eventually someone else comes to the same stop and I start making conversation.
"You headed to Athens too?"
"What's in Athens for you?"
"Oh, there's a conference happening."
"Hey, the International Workshop for Plan 9? Me too!"
It was at this point in the conversation Maht pointed at his t-shirt, which had plan 9 written all over it had I been paying attention. Unfortunately I was too focused on navigating the conversation!
I sound a little odd introducing myself as sqweek, but for the next four days of presentations, festivities, nerd talk and hack sessions Rowan takes a back seat. No one knows who he is, and yet they know me.
I am sqweek.