What is that buzzing?
I'm not sure. Sounds vaguely ominous. But when my phone rings at 3:15 in the morning, I don't wonder "My god, who can be calling me at this hour?" I know. And Caller ID has nothing to do with it.
"Morning, Halley," I say before she can get the first word in. "You're up early."
"Are you awake?" she wants to know. No, I always pick up in my sleep. But I don't say this, because I know she does -- then has no recollection what she's said. This can be a lot of fun, but it's not really fair, so I don't do it on purpose. It's just that anyone who goes to sleep before 8pm has to expect to be waked up occasionally, even by the most well meaning of callers.
"Yeah, I'm awake. Reading The Constant Gardener by John LeCarré. It's pretty good. Damn fine piece of work, actually." But Halley doesn't want to hear about gardeners, constant or otherwise.
"You know what you need?" she says. And before I can even hazard a guess -- a stuffed ostrich? days of wine and roses? nights in white satin? a year's supply of Hamburger Helper? -- she says: "[some unpronounceable French] triple lifting cream."
"Took the words right out of my mouth," I say. "That's very spooky," I tell her. "I was just sitting here wishing I had some triple lifting cream."
She has the decency to laugh at this point. After all, she called me. Had I called her, the shoe might have been on the other foot.
"By the way," I say, "did I miss a segue there, or was that the world's most seamless non-sequitur?" I guess so, as, now that I think about it, there was no preceding discussion. It's pushing the Hour of the Wolf, and The Divine Ms. H has rung me up to extol (one has to suppose) the considerable benefits of some cockamamie girl shit.
Suddenly the buzzing is back. Damn, what the hell is that?
"Have you taken leave of your senses?" I ask, concerned that I've somehow infected her with my own problems along these lines, though this hardly seems possible over the telephone. Still, despite the over-touted and now thankfully elapsed Decade of the Brain, we are only just beginning to scratch the surface of the mind. Mine is fairly well abraded at this point.
"You know what I did?" she says, changing gears again, triple witching cream already long forgotten.
I can't imagine. Well, I can imagine, but I know it's a rhetorical question and that I'd better not try. I learn slowly, but I do learn. Usually the hard way.
"No, what'd you do? I can't imagine."
To do this in dialogue would take all night, so I'll just tell you, if that's OK. Halley's coming out here for this conference at the University of Colorado, Boulder's local emporium of Higher Learning®. The theme is yet another form of cockamamie girl shit, in this case "Women in Technology," as if there aren't already enough of them. And it's never the nice ones. It's all these relentless power bitches amped up on C++ and Java.
"Do you think they even know how to fuck?" I ask. "Look, I realize I'm a man and all, but maybe I could do a remedial workshop on reproductive biology. I'm a little rusty, and it is on short order, but maybe I could work something up. All part of the service, you know?"
Halley says that's OK, maybe next time. But it wasn't about that. It was about lunch plans for tomorrow, which is now today, such uncertainties being integrally interwoven with the vicissitudes of the temporal red shift. If you catch my drift. Anyway, we were going to get together with Eric Norlin of Ping Identity, which meeting I've been avoiding for a couple of months now. However, I figured with Halley there he wasn't likely to hit me. Halley and Eric have talked a few times via email, possibly by phone, who knows, but they've never met. So Halley was wondering what he looked like. Which is only natural. For example, I'd like to know what you look like, and I don't even know who you are.
Curiously, Halley was unable to see the one picture on Google Images that is clearly marked "Eric Norlin" because -- get this -- she had porn filtering turned on. "Why?" is another question entirely, but beyond the scope of the present monograph. Actually, it's two questions: 1) why wasn't it turned off? and 2) why did Norlin's picture therefore fail to appear?
It took me a while to debug the problem, but when it became clear we were seeing different sets of images, I asked her if she had filtering on. Uh huh. When she turned it off, she could finally see what Eric looks like.
Or, I should say, what he looked like, as this shot was taken some years ago when Norlin was a brash young punk covering the NSA for The Washington Post (I suspect he must've used a pseudonym back then). Don't get me wrong, he's still a punk. He's just not quite as young. I told Halley I'd email her a more recent photo. I took this one myself late last year.
It's a little shocking what a couple years at Ping has done to him, but he does seem a bit more serious these days. And focused? My god, just look at those eyes! This is why I abandoned the high-tech entrepreneurial rat race. I mean sure, having a fuckload of money would be nice. But I have my principles to think about. And my looks.
But recursively nested digressions aside, none of this was what I was supposed to guess that Halley had done. It was this. She was scheduled to arrive at Denver International at 12 on Monday, whereupon I would pick her up and we'd meet Eric for lunch downtown. Good plan, especially as Halley told me he'd specifically promised not to get violent. However, upon closer inspection of her itinerary, she noticed she was due to touch down not at 12 noon, as we'd discussed, but at 12 midnight. This pretty much put lunch out of the question.
"Maybe it's the triple lifting cream," I say.
"Could be," I say. "This is a pretty serious fuckup, Toots."
But then she says, "Wait! Maybe I could change my ticket and come in tonight!" followed by much typing and "web surfing" and, ultimately, no dice. Otherwise, I'd be at the fucking airport right now. And as she's flying in on something called Code Blue Airways (!!!), I'm not putting a whole lot of stock in that midnight arrival time.