I had a great time in Tampa. I can't speak for the rest of the attendees, but I didn't notice any mass exodus after I staggered into the hospitality suite beaten but unbowed, delayed but not too late. To the contrary, my grand entrance was greeted by what appeared to be warm welcomes. But then at that point I wasn't wearing my name tag...
While I found the Southern Florida weather a tad warm from the perspective of someone adapted to the Pacific Northwest, a French member noted that it was similar to the vacation mecas in the south of France. She found even the middle of summer in Oregon a bit too chilly for her tastes. The climate controlled environment inside the hotel could have been anywhere, any time of the year.
Some of the attendees found time to venture out of the hotel to partake of the attractions offered in the Tampa area. Some of us barely found enough spare time to attend the scheduled AGA events, let alone seek out external amusments. The well stocked hospitality suite opened early and stayed open well into the wee hours for those caught up in the ever-present card games and jigsaw puzzles. Conversations ranging from chatting to serious discussions were in plentiful supply, as were humor and tales of triumph and trivial. Time for sleeping was in short supply, but isn't that why we have normal life - to recover from AGAs?
The debate event at the AGA had a lot of similarities to some of the threads on Top1 - except in Tampa we managed to focus on the important issues of the day, like the growing business of smuggling Canadian toilets across the border, and how it relates to the actions of the Federal Reserve. Ok, so it was pretty much like a "real time analog" Top1 after all. We did have a handful of Top1 members at the AGA, but I must point out that emoticons make poor self-portraits, and I couldn't have picked of them out of a line-up from their Top1 postings. Those that missed it should'a been there...
On the business side, most of the actions of the Executive Board were pretty mundane - the necessary nuts and bolts details of running any corporation. A recurrent theme was finding ways to increase both the number and participation of Intertel members. If you'd like to host or organize an Intertel event in your area, your Regional Director can help notify other members in your area.
The vote with the greatest potential significance was to establish a more substantial Intertel presence on the Internet. The proposed website would offer a variety of attractions for both current and prospective members. Contact the website committee if you'd like to get involved in the project.
I used the web to research every step of my trip to Tampa - even to the point of pulling up the layouts of the gates and the local weather reports for each of the various airports I'd be passing through. I checked the status of my flight out of Portland before I left home, and every indication was positive. Of course when I got to the airport I was informed that my flight had just been cancelled, and I'd be improvising my way to Tampa. So much for best laid plans.
The trip did require many hours sitting in planes and airports, but then I'm way behind on my reading, and I managed to get through a couple of Linux magazines as well as four issues of Scientific American while in transit, so the time wasn't completely wasted. The inefficiencies and uncertainties of airline operations do waste a substantial percentage of the total trip time. I spent more static time waiting at airports for the next stage in my journey than actually in motion going somewhere.
After the chaos and delays of my trip to Tampa, my return trip came off nearly exactly as planned. I left the hotel at 4 in the afternoon. There was a major storm system that made the ride from Dallas/Ft Worth to Portland pretty bumpy - at times too rough for my eyes to track a line of text across the page of the magazine I was reading. But the wings stayed on, and I got home around 1:00 AM, having gained three hours chasing the sun across three time zones.
The variations on the basic theme of humanity that pass through a hub airport are pretty amazing, and I like to think I contributed a bit of additional diversity to the mix. I have to admit that, in spite of all the delays and agravations, crossing the continent by air was far faster than driving a car cross country, and trivially easy compared to doing the trip in a Conestoga wagon!