I was stuck in Chicago recently on my way from PennWell’s corporate offices in Tulsa to do an interview in Albany. I raced a mile from one terminal to another and missed a connection by about ten minutes - which wouldn’t have felt so bad if Small Times Publisher Patti Glaza and Senior VP Christine Shaw hadn’t made their connections either, but they did.
And it wouldn’t have been so bad if the O’Hare Hilton had any rooms available, but it did not. Instead, they offered me the list of other hotels in the area... which are not, to say the least, at quite the same level. After 25 phone calls at two in the morning I found myself in the last place even remotely near the airport that had a room - the Days Inn in Skokie.
I know why they call it the Days Inn - because you don’t want to ever spend a night there. The people were friendly enough, but the room was, well, skanky. Rumpled blankets, a TV that didn’t work, flickering light bulbs in the cinder block hallways, no hot water.
Really. No hot water.
Which wouldn’t have been that bad either if I hadn’t been going to Albany for this interview. But it was a different sort of interview. Instead of me interviewing someone else, I was the one being interviewed - for a Fox TV episode of Nano-Now, a weekly show hosted by Albany Nanotech’s communications director, Steve Janack.
Needless to say, I showed up a little worse for wear. I’d been on the road for two weeks. My brain was fried. My body was tired.
Then I got into a cab at the airport. The first thing that hit me was the smell of incense. Then I noticed the tie-dye décor. The cabbie himself looked like Jerry Garcia, or one of the ice cream guys - Ben or Jerry, I forget which one has the glasses and the beard. Psychedelic music danced off the radio speakers. I melted into the seat, feeling grateful for the respite. For twenty minutes I could forget about nanotech, high tech, any tech. Calgon, take me away.
And then the cabbie turned around and said to me, “Hey, did you hear this is a big high tech area now?”
He proceeded to tell me all about Albany and the nanotech-related development going on there - about which he was very well informed. There was this big nanotech training center, he said. And companies setting up shop. And some big firm was going to build a chip fab. I sat up, listening intently.
“And did you hear about the big merger?” he asked.
No, I said, I hadn’t.
“Yeah, Fairchild and Honeywell are going to merge.”
I looked at him quizzically. Really?
“Yeah,” he said. He turned around to look at me and winked. “They’re going to call it ‘Farewell Honeychild.’”
I was smiling when I entered the TV station and, thanks to that cabbie, relaxed during the interview. Later, I told Janack about the conversation in the cab. He wasn’t surprised. The local chamber of commerce had initiated a project, he said. They were training taxi drivers to tell visitors about all the local tech-related development and to promote the region. The joke, apparently, was a bonus.
David Forman is editor-in-chief of Small Times. He can be reached at email@example.com.