The Road Goes Ever On

I’ve recently returned from a business trip to San Antonio, TX. I’m generally not very keen on traveling, but I’d like to think I had a great time. The trip was full of strange experiences, few of which I expected.

To start, I decided before the trip that I wanted to take advantage of this departure from the ordinary, and to make sure I didn’t retreat into some of my familiar habits. As such, I didn’t play any video games, and I even limited my nerd-out time to just a few episodes of Battlestar Galactica here and there.

On a side note, I’m pretty disappointed with myself for not having watched this show before. But I’ll get more into this another time.

Now, I’m an introvert; I can’t just decide not to spend time by myself, unless I want to implode in a giant ball of negativity and low self-esteem. So instead of games, I decided to bring some books I haven’t read in a while. To be honest, it had been too long. The Fellowship of the Ring helped sate my nerdy appetite, and helped me calm down after long days of social interaction. A good quote from the foreword gave me some fuel for rumination:

“But I cordially dislike allegory in all its manifestations, and always have done so since I grew old and wary enough to detect its presence. I much prefer history, true or feigned, with its varied applicability to the thought and experience of readers. I think that many confuse ‘applicability’ with ‘allegory’; but the one resides in the freedom of the reader, and the other in the purposed domination of the author.”

The primary reason for my excursion was to help build a home with my co-workers in San Antonio through Habitat for Humanity. I’ll freely admit that I’m not very coordinated with a hammer, and I honestly didn’t know that a chop-saw could be tilted along multiple axes before working on this house. That said, I had a great time (minus the 95° Texas sun) and was thoroughly enthused by the hard work and goodwill of the people around me.

I’ve never worked with Habitat for Humanity before, but I learned that the new homeowners participate in the building process by working for at least 300 hours on these homes. Not only that, but the time has to be spent not only building their own home, but also assisting in building other people’s homes.

The investment concept also astounded me. Groups that choose to donate to Habitat for Humanity are, essentially, creating a loan fund that continues to facilitate multiple house projects. The new homeowners do have to pay back the investment, but without the same kinds of interest. The money then continues towards additional houses.

If I’m anything, I’m a skeptic. I have a hard time hearing things like this and not giving someone ‘the hairy eyeball.’ I mean, this kind of philanthropy doesn’t seem to fit in with the cosmic background bad-attitude. Most people who want to feel good about having lots of money just throw it into a charity and that’s that. Habitat puts white-skinned nerds and CEOs on ladders with hammers and ‘nail aprons.’ Most seemingly benevolent organizations usually absorb enormous donations and forward a pittance to those actually in need. This one seemingly directs the influx of money into other projects and cases needing it.

I don’t really know where I’m going with all of this, but I really enjoyed seeing people work hard to help people, even if they didn’t know what they were doing and were out of their element. Like myself.

During the week I was in San Antonio, I worked out of the local office of our company. I found later that this meant I was on the 9th floor of a busy office building, sitting in a far corner of a cubicle maze. My normal work conditions are quiet. I mean, very quiet. My voice is used for sound recording, and my desk area is inside, essentially, a sound-limiting cube. Working in an enormous room with hundreds of technicians talking loudly into phone all around me was, to say the least, uncomfortable.

I also had more than a fair helping of barbecue and Mexican food, visited Austin for a day (and saw a little of where Portland got ‘it’ from), cycled and walked the ‘riverwalk,’ and tried more than a few local beers.

All things considered, I’m glad I was able to, proverbially, ‘get away for a while,’ but I don’t think I’d like to again. I was away for a week and three days, which proved to be too long. Too long to stay in a hotel room, no matter how fancy. Too long to eat out and drink with people in social situations night after night. Too long to go without video games and my wife. Call me boring, but I’d prefer to stay home and be comfortable, if I have the choice. Too much adventure, too much excitement.

I sometimes wonder if I’m a hobbit.

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