For the first time in a over five years I got the chance to attend the annual American Meteorological Society meeting. I always look forward to conferences, not only because of amazing and cool things I can learn about, but because of the people you meet and the connections that are made. This year was no exception with the five days that I got to spend in New Orleans. I was lucky enough to go because my co-founder Joel Gratz was asked to speak about our company on a panel during the student conference over the weekend.
We arrived in New Orleans in the late afternoon on Saturday and were picked up by the fiancé of a member of Joel’s ski team at Penn State. She took us to dinner one of the most delicious restaurants in Uptown. Not only was it delicious, but our waiter brought us plenty of drinks, shots, appetizers, and desserts that we never ended up paying for (don’t worry, we tipped well). That night I was joined by her dog Keeper on the sofa, the first of many nights spent on a sofa during the trip.
The next morning we got moving early and headed over to the conference for our first official day. Without getting into the specifics of who the speakers were, etc. it was a very good selection of talks and panels. During our moment in the limelight, Joel was able to share the advantages, pitfalls, and quirks of working in the weather field in the private sector; something that stood in contrast to the line of academic and government employees that sat on the panel. We also had numerous students approach us afterwards both wanting to know more about what we do and wondering about internships, etc.
That night we met up with Joel’s actual roommate from back in Boulder and moved into his hotel room for the rest of the week. While thankfully we each had our own place to sleep, I got the very uncomfortable sofa bed (and ended up sleeping on the actual sofa instead). The other thing I had to get used to at night was not worrying about grabbing a jacket when I went out, something that is second nature when you live in Colorado. However, between the heat (for mid-winter) and the humidity, I always felt gross.
The following day was the first official day of the main conference which I spent jumping between panels and trying to meet new people. Somehow over lunch I managed tagging along with the group from Rutgers University, a group I would end up spending a lot of the week with. That afternoon I had the luck of running into many co-workers from both my years spent at the National Weather Service (NWS) and National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR).
That evening the expo hall opened along with all the free giveaways and food you could handle. This was followed by the Harris party, infamous as one of the crazier nights at the conference. As the over 5000 attendees entered we were all given various Maris Gras decorations from beads to boas to hats. I spent the night dancing away with the friends and after we all had to disperse I headed over to the hotel where we talked and laughed our asses off at British comedy before heading to bed around 4am.
After a short four hours of sleep, it was time to head back to the conference and meeting back up with people. I only made it to a few sessions before I headed back to my hotel room for a mid-afternoon nap; a requirement to survive the night ahead. That evening was the University of Oklahoma/Lockheed Martin party at the House of Blues in New Orleans. However, that was not the highlight of night, but rather when we headed over to Cafe du Monde for fresh beignets and hot chocolate around 10pm. Afterwards, I met up with a few other friends and we hit up Bourbon Street, a requirement if you visit New Orleans. There we had hurricanes from the bar where they were created and danced the night away somewhere else. Finally around 5:15am, I wandered in the door after another very late night on the town.
Wednesday morning I dragged myself off the sofa once again after only a few hours of sleep to grab breakfast with a friend. I only had a few hours left before I headed to the airport and spent the entire morning saying goodbye to new friends and exchanging contact information. However, the trip home was ended up being a whole new mess of it’s own.
Because of a large line of severe storms that drew a line directly between New Orleans and Houston (where my connection was). The flight ended up leaving almost two hours late and had to take a very VERY large detour, so large it lengthened the flight from 50 minutes to over two hours. After landing in Houston, I ran to the service counter to see if we were going to be able to get home that night. After pushing the buttons on the self check-in screen over and over I was able to find room on the last flight of the night which got us home around 1am. It ended up being the whirlwind end to a whirlwind of a trip.
ps. The trip was finally capped off with returning to my car in the economy lot at 2:30am, only to find that one of my tires was flat.