On The Beach

This week, my job has me in Santa Barbara. Jennifer’s a bit further north, in the same county as I am, but in the city of Santa Maria. It’s been pretty hectic this week, what with me zipping from Santa Maria to Lompoc and down to Santa Barbara. But, on the whole, it’s been pretty good, despite the long hours in the car. The drive from Lompoc (pronounced “LOM-poke”, I found out — not “LOM-pock”, as I’ve always pronounced it) to Santa Barbara on Highway 1 is absolutely beautiful, with all kinds of neat mountains and trees and twists and turns. I love driving on mountain roads. The regional manager who was behind me, following along the way, does not. When we drove from Santa Cruz to Santa Clara a couple of weeks ago, with her following me, she complained about how I have a tendency to accelerate on those curves, the same curves where she’s applying her brakes.

Well, okay. No more manic driving when a regional manager is trying to follow me to a training site. Important lesson, that.

Benthic Creatures has conducted this same sort of training of mollusc handlers and the molluscs in several other states throughout the country. Molluscs everywhere have been using the same shell polishers for years, and California’s one of the last to implement the same new technique. And within the company, there’s a common saying: “California’s just different.” Most states implement these changes on a statewide level, but California — being California — does it on a county-by-county basis. Each county in California is like a different state. It really is, especially when it comes to implementing policies and procedures for shell polishing.

Santa Barbara certainly feels like a different state than Solano County, where I’m from. My hotel room is decorated with neo-Spanish style decor, including a miniature palm tree — bonsai, southern California style — sitting on the table next to my laptop. And, of course, since it’s Santa Barbara, my room has a ceiling fan, and a standing fan hidden away in the closet. But, oddly, no air conditioner. Which means, I suppose, that this hotel generally caters to those with a preference for broiling temperatures in the summer time. It’s December now, of course, so it’s tolerably cool here. I like it.

I have become oddly jaded with regards to business travel. I admit that I get annoyed with all of the time on the road for this job, and I’d much prefer to stay at home. But I find odd things to complain about. “My room doesn’t get a decent internet connection,” I whine. It’s only 20kpbs, not the 50+ that I’m used to. And this hotel doesn’t even offer a broadband connection, like so many of the other hotels I’ve stayed at. And there’s no customer parking at this hotel; only valet parking, for which I shell out another $7.00 per night. And… and so on.

The place where I’m working is kind of odd as well. Example: the elevator has buttons for three floors. Inside, the floor indicator goes up to three. Yet, the building only has two floors. Perhaps this is a metaphor for Santa Barbara in general: something about reach extending grasp, I suppose.

My hotel, though, is right on the beach. I can look out my window and see… well, I can see the parking lot of the hotel next door. I can hear the ocean, though, and I know that when I go out the front door of the hotel, it’s just a hundred yards or so to the shore. I’ve walked down there a couple of times in the evening, just to hear the ocean and the gulls and smell the air.

And this evening, after I was finished doing the training at the Social Services office, I decided to wander through downtown Santa Barbara. I’ve never been here. Well, actually, that’s not quite true; three years ago, I was at UC Santa Barbara for a UC conference on information technology. But back then I never got to go downtown. There are dozens of fascinating little stores in downtown Santa Barbara, with names like Masks of Venice, and Gentlemen Antquarians. There are big chain stores, of course, like Borders and Starbuck’s (huzzah!) and Banana Republic; but enough independent stores to redeem the overwhelming presence of the chain stores. I even bought an odd little gift for Jennifer in one of the small shops; it’s kind of a strange gift but I think she’ll like it.

And that is the plus side of business travel. Going to new places; exploring new downtowns to discover new treats. Assuming, of course, that you’re in a town with some sort of character to it.

And the training itself has gone great. The people here in Santa Barbara are so very nice, if a bit dizzy at times. I’ve gotten great evaluations, and the handlers that I’ve trained are all very friendly and receptive to what I have to train. I’ve really enjoyed working here. And I got a wee surprise yesterday when I discovered that the classes I was to teach on Friday were canceled, so I get to drive back up to meet Jennifer a day early; perhaps I’ll sit in on the classes she’ll be teaching then.

Or, perhaps, I’ll just sleep in.

That is part of the southern California lifestyle, isn’t it?