The first week and a half was Chicago. A couple of days of thrilling things like opening a bank account and applying for my social security number. Banks are different over here. There are only two account packages that were offered, and both only have a monthly fee of $8 which is waived at the drop of a hat. And banks are open on Saturdays! The horror.
The week on the beach was a good break. In the end, with public holidays, transition leave and beach time, it was three weeks between stopping work in Australia and starting on a project over here.
Of course, the coffee is still almost universally rubbish. To counter that, we spent quite awhile in Chicago hunting for the perfect burger. After being repeatedly scared off by threats of three hour waits we finally had a really good one the afternoon I was flying out.
And the first project was in Plano, Texas. That’s a suburb of Dallas. And a complete wasteland. It’s a dead-flat plain, smeared with office parks and strip malls. I didn’t know what a strip mall was until I got down there. I see why they inspire such horror. Around Plano is basically nothing, but fortunately we stayed in a hotel in another suburb about 15 minutes to the South: Addison. Addison at least has a strip of franchise restaurants, and kind-of-bars. The highlight of that was the evening we ate dinner in a Greek restaurant, while watching a car on fire across the road. Metre high flames and plumes of black smoke. Very exciting.
By ‘we’ I mean the ThoughtWorks team. Just two other travellers. They started to think I liked Starbucks. I tried to put a stop to that, but I couldn’t help but be excited at almost drinkable coffee. Sigh.
Dallas has three redeeming features: first, Texas BBQ — hell yeah! It’s completely unlike anything I’ve had and really amazing. Half a pound of meat, served on paper, eaten with your fingers, no sauce, sitting in a dirty shack. Well worth it. Lockhart’s Smokehouse in Oak Cliff, if you’re ever down that way.
Second is the 6th Floor Museum. In the Old Texas Book Depository. That’s right, a museum dedicated to the assassination of JFK. It’s actually a good museum. Small enough to really see; respectful without being sycophantic; and complete: it finishes with the conspiracy theories. In one corner they have recreated Oswald’s perch, as it was when they first found it. Down in the plaza outside it’s a different story. There’s an ‘X’ on the road at The Spot. And the grassy knoll is covered in lunatics delivering speeches and handing out pamphlets. Again, if you’re there, then go.
And finally, my accent was quite novel. Apart from the teasing and joking from the team, I walked into a pub and wanted to order a beer. I made the mistake of trying to order by name, instead of just pointing. There’s a San Francisco beer I quite like called ‘Anchor Steam.’ Some of you would have already seen where this is going. I had to repeat myself several times. The waitress went to stare at the beer fridge. Conferred with a couple of other staff. And then returned with another waitress. She’d brought over a Brit to translate for me. Sigh. The trick is to really hoe into those ‘Rs’.
Working with the client was kind of fun. I spent a day pairing with a very junior client dev. She was from Louisiana. She has only been in a taxi twice. At stand-up, the next day she said that pairing was fun but a bit difficult to follow. A helpful ThoughtWorker then said “That’s just Giles.” Very quickly she said “Oh, but I love his accent!” In a Southern drawl. So I’m playing up the Australian thing. They’re all my mates, and there are no worries to be seen anywhere.
I’ve finished up in Dallas, and spent the weekend back in Chicago. And now I’m on another plane. This time I’m off to San Francisco. Joining a big team out there, I’ll probably be here until September, I think. The client is at 2nd and Mission, and we’re staying in hotels around Union Square. This should be quite a lot of fun.