Monday, April 21, 2008

Spring Carnival

After getting together with some CMU alumni in Austin last year to celebrate Carnival, I really felt like I missed it and had to go back this year. I booked a flight, but hadn't booked a hotel because it was really expensive. And then I broke my ankle. I looked into canceling, but it was a non-refundable ticket. I could have changed it, but I don't have any immediate plans to fly anywhere and Travelocity couldn't tell me what I might be able to recoup of the change fee due to my injury. So after talking with my parents and my fraternity big brother Mike, I decided I would go anyway, rent a car and spend the first two nights with Mike and Doug in their house about half an hour from campus. Saturday they had plans to go to Doug's alma mater in Ohio, so I booked a room for that one night not too far from campus. I also rented a car for the first time ever so that I could get around without having to walk so much.
I woke up at 4:30 Thursday morning for my 7am flight. Of course there was no traffic, so it was easy to get there, and no problems checking in. As expected I went through extra screening since of course the crutches and cast set off the metal detector. Once I was able to sit down in the screening area they sent my crutches through the xray machine and tested my cast for explosives residue, then a thorough pat down. I bought breakfast from one of the only places that was open and went to my gate and read my book until boarding. The plane stopped in Atlanta, then continuing on to Pittsburgh. I would have just sat in my seat reading, but there was a crew change and they couldn't let me stay. They got me a wheelchair to go up the jetbridge, but once we got to the terminal I walked to the bathroom. Unfortunately there was another flight to Pittsburgh that was majorly delayed due to an equipment problem and since our flight wasn't full, they let the other passengers onto our plane. So instead of having an empty seat next to me for my foot like the first leg, there was an overweight woman. Getting these other people on delayed us out of the gate, first just getting them on, then getting the correct paper work. It was after 1 by the time I got my bag and rental car. For some reason my GPS didn't power up, I never did figure out if it was the power cord or the car's outlets. Fortunately it was pretty easy to get to Mike's with some directions over the phone.
We drove to campus and went to the fraternity house, which was mostly dead other than Ned, who was an alumnus when I was an undergrad and always comes back for Carnival and is drunk the entire weekend. After chatting a bit, we checked out the booths on the midway and then went with some other alums to PHI, the nearest bar to campus. We hung out there for a while, catching up with other alums and a couple of older undergrads. The place was packed with CMU alumni from various years. Afterwards we went back to the house to hang out with alumni and the active brothers before heading back to Mike's house.
Friday morning we got a later start than I would have hoped driving back to campus for the buggy races, and to add to it the college radio station was having massive technical problems so we barely got any information. We arrived just before the end of women's races and sat down in the chute. Between the heats I chatted with a few former sweepstakes chairs I knew from my years. There was some good action- SigNu and PiKA were neck and neck until PiKA spun into the hay bales, but kept going; KDR lost their windscreen and kept going. I cringed as a former safety chairman, but as a spectator it was good in the same way as NASCAR crashes. The top teams rolled awesomely as expected but some teams had terrible rollouts, one barely made it into the chute. Amazingly the 20-year old course record was broken by two organizations. After the race I hobbled to the top of the hill hoping to catch up with other buggy alumni, but the place was pretty well cleared out by that time. I walked back to the house for some lunch and to hang out for a bit, then drove back across campus to watch a presentation on the history of buggy, and say hi to some other buggy alumni. After a while Doug made it to the house and we drank from their private beer stash before getting dinner at a nearby restaurant with a good beer selection. I was exhausted and ready to leave by 11, but it took a while to get Mike out of the house. I left my rental car on campus and Doug drove us all back to their house.
We managed to get going a little earlier on Saturday, but they started the races earlier and Doug and Mike dropped me off at the starting line just after the second women's race started. I sat on the wall in front of GSIA and got up to see the finish, but couldn't see much. I did get a pretty good look at some of the buggies as they went by to go to the brake test. It was a much better look than seeing them whiz by in the chute, but no crashes. The results were pretty amazing, with PiKA bettering SDC's Friday record and edging them out of the top spot by 0.15 seconds, giving them a record seventh straight win. After lunch Mike and Doug left for Ohio and I checked into my hotel and took a half hour nap. I went back for the awards ceremony- the house won second place in the booth competition and felt like they were robbed. I went out for a rowdy dinner in a little Chinese restaurant near campus with my "family." Fortunately we were way in the back so we weren't bothering other patrons, and the staff was very patient and didn't mind the drunks throwing ice and whatnot too much. The undergrads I sat with were pretty amazed that I graduated eight years ago, and I got a few comments like "I was in middle school when that happened" to my anecdotes. I said a couple words as the oldest one there. The alumni at the table split the check, which worked out to be less than 30 dollars including a hefty tip. On the way back to campus I stopped in at PHI again, hung out with some alums from my era, then with a PiKA alum I knew from buggy for a little while before sitting down at a table with one of the undergrads I'd met at dinner. There was a party going on at the house when I got back. I was down near the dance floor for a little while, but once it started filling up I went and sat down upstairs since I couldn't dance and was worried about being stepped on. I was really tired and fell asleep before I managed to drag myself back to the hotel.
Sunday I putzed around my hotel room, reading my book, surfing the internet. I checked out, swung by the house but it was empty, and then got some lunch on campus. I went for a wander across campus to check out the start of the new Gates center and an addition to an adjacent building. I headed back to Mike and Doug's house but beat them back and read my book some more. After catching up on what had been going on, we pretty much sat around and vegetated before I left for the airport. No problems returning the car, there was no line to check in for the flight. Security had a big line but it was moving. After picking up some dinner I got to the gate and found out that it had been switched to the gate next door. The flight was actually on Delta Connection, so it was a smaller Canadair jet. It wasn't bad, I had enough room for my legs since it was a bulkhead row. In Cincinnati they had a wheelchair ready for me because I was worried about making my connection, but we had managed to get in a little early so it wouldn't have been a problem. The terminal my connection departed out of was very strange to me- there was a whole wall of doors that had two gate numbers and little desks between them. Once through the gate it was still a ways down a hallway to get to the appropriate exit to the tarmac. The aircraft was even smaller than the first. At first, before we got to cruising altitude I had my cast leg out in the aisle, but eventually I managed to get comfortable enough with it out of the aisle that I slept until the flight attendant woke me up to put up my tray table. The first parking shuttle filled up before I could get on, but the second one that came stopped right where I was standing so I was the first one on.

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