OSTS Conference Adventures

I was invited to a (mostly) Intel-only conference this year, and I had quite an adventure getting there.

The bad luck started when my co-worker, Matthew Wilcox (Willy), flew in from Canada to Portland on Sunday. He was supposed to arrive at 5:45, but got delayed in Chicago. They spent an hour and half fixing (and inspecting) a seat on the plane. It was an exit row seat on a full flight, so they couldn’t just leave it broken. I can’t imagine how the poor mechanic who had to fix it must have felt, with all 150 impatient passengers watching them. Willy made it into Portland at about 8pm, and we managed to grab dinner.

Willy and I went into work on Monday, since our co-worker Kristen Accardi was supposed to give us a ride out to Skamania Lodge in the Columbia River Gorge. We discovered via IRC that our co-worker, H. Peter Anvin (HPA) had been rear-ended on his way to the airport that morning. He was fine, but his car’s bumper needed a little work. Luckily, he was the third car involved in the accident on a freeway on-ramp. The car behind him was totalled. HPA did make it up to Oregon on a later flight that evening.

Around 2pm, Willy and I called Kristen, because we hadn’t seen her at work or on IRC. Kristen is 7 months pregnant, so we a bit concerned that something had happened. It turned out she had been missing for most of the day because she was taking a routine diabetes test. Some people get gestational diabetes in the last trimester, so they make you fast for half a day and then make you drink a large quantity of sugary water. An hour later they draw blood and check your glucose levels.

Kristen arrives at 3pm and we pack up and leave. We’re supposed to pick up another co-worker at the Portland Airport, so we’re trying to avoid rush hour traffic. As we walk to the car, Kristen tells us about the glucose test. She says she doesn’t feel great, and she probably needs to eat something. We get in the car and Kristen starts driving and eating an apple. About a block later she says, “I have to barf,” and pulls over.

Kristen really doesn’t want to drive after that point, so we have something of a dilemma. Kristen’s car is a manual, and I’ve never learned how to drive a stick. Willy has a Canadian driver’s license, but he’s carless and walks and buses everywhere. He does know how to drive a stick. It’s still a bit awkward for him to drive Kristen’s car, since he learned on a Mini in England, where they drive on the opposite side of the car.

Willy takes over the driving, and soon gets the hang of it. I notice that he keeps slowly drifting and then somewhat sharply correcting, but I think it’s just because he hasn’t driven in a while. As we go over the 405/84 bridge, Willy has to make a rather abrupt lane-change while trying to downshift rather fast. A truck passes us and yells something at us. We catch up to him again, and he yells, “Your right tire is flat!”

We exclaim in dismay, and he continues to give us advice: “You’ve got about this much air left. Be careful on the ruts. Wouldn’t want you to hurt your car.” We smile and nod and wave. Willy laughs an comments (with his British accent), “I love Portlanders. Not only will they yell at you that your tire is flat, they’ll try to have a conversation about it.”

We pull off on the OMSI exit to inspect the tire. Kristen throws up again in front of a really fancy restaurant. (Luckily it was closed at the time.) I go to the bakery across the street to get her more barf bags. It’s an environmentally friendly place, so it doesn’t have plastic bags. I take some paper bags, but hope that we don’t have to find out how well they hold liquid.

We decide not to take the time to put on the spare tire, and instead drive to a gas station to pump up the flat tire. We scrounge up three quarters to use the air compressor. Unfortunately, the tire starts to deflate soon after. Then I remember what my Dad (who is an automotive teacher at Longview high school) would do in this situation. Spare tire in a can to the rescue!

Spare tire in a can is this aerosol container with foam inside. The foam reacts with the rubber in the tire to seal the leak and produce air that inflates the tire. It’s about $4 and totally worth it to have in the car. Both Willy and Kristen have never heard of it. The gas station happens to have one can left.

The directions on the can say to start with a deflated tire. We drain most of the air out, screw the hose from the can onto the tire valve, and squirt the foam into the tire. The tire inflates about half way, and the can says to drive to the nearest gas station and fill the tire some more. We go to use the air pump again, only to discover that it had a sign that said:

CAUTION: Do not use this air pump after using aerosol spare tire products. This may cause an explosion and bodily harm.

We decide not to push our luck. I call my dad to ask which directions (the can or the air pump) are correct, but he doesn’t answer his cellphone. We decide to drive on the tire as it is. The trip is fairly uneventful after that, and we arrive at Skamania Lodge intact. The tire seemed to inflate more as we drove, so the warning might have been true.

The next day, we don’t see Kristen until the evening. Turns out she was up all night barfing. Worse, she found out it wasn’t related to the diabetes test. Her husband and brother-in-law had been drinking on Friday, and her husband was fairly hung over the next day. It turns out that both Kristen’s husband and brother-in-law had the stomach flu. Since I drove up with Kristen, I’m now living in fear of getting it too…