Tech Wreck

Thursday, October 15th, 2009, 12:47 pm

When it comes to discussing events that I cover I have two rules:

  • I never, ever complain about covering a Hold-Em-only event, not after my nightmarish time working the $50K H.O.R.S.E event in 2008.
  • I never, ever complain about covering a tournament where English is spoken at the table, not after I couldn’t understand a goddam word during the LAPT event I did in Argentina.

If the format is simple and I can understand what the hell is going on, I’m not going to complain. Final table lasts 28 hours? I’ll sleep when I’m dead. The food is leftovers from an Alabama chain-gang? I need to lose weight anyway. It’s colder than a meat locker in the tournament room? Perfect time to beg for swag. I keep a sunny attitude and go about my business.

So when I tell you that there were times this past week in Aruba when I was thinking Very Bad Things you may wonder what made me crazy. Aruba is, after all, rather a nice place, what with the sun and sand and the Caribbean and all. The tournament itself is a breeze compared to the World Series, with the whole field in one room and play wrapping up by 8:30pm for the first four days. And this year I brought my girlfriend along with me (yes, I have a girlfriend, don’t look so surprised) and most nights we went out for dinner and drinks after I finished work. There’s was plenty of time for fun and I think if you asked most folks who went down there they’d say they had a great time.

There were, however, complications along the way that put me on super-hyper-mega-lifetilt. Let’s take them in turn:

We woke before the dawn and headed for the airport with plenty of time to spare. Until there was a huge pileup on the Parkway West just past Robinson. Which we got stuck in for, oh, 90 minutes. We got to IKEA before traffic came to a standstill and there we sat for nearly an hour. Didn’t move. Couldn’t move. Nowhere to go. And as the clock tick-tick-ticked along we went from having plenty of time to cutting it close to we’re-missing-our-flight. When you’re calling the airline from the car trying to rebook your flight you know you’re screwed. We finally cleared the crash site and, ignoring the ambulances and police cars lining the road, I drove like 90 miles an hour to the airport. The only way we were gonna get there in time was to park in the short-term lot (hope I can get reimbursed for that) and literally sprint for the US Airways counter. And with my camera gear on my back and laptop slung over my shoulder and a packed suitcase tottering behind sprinting wasn’t easy.

We got to booking with 30 minutes to spare. And there we were told…we couldn’t check our bags or get our boarding passes. The system wouldn’t let us check in because it was too late…even though the goddam plane would be sitting there for another goddam half-hour. The folks at the counter told us to go to another line to see about rebooking…and there we were told they couldn’t help us. With steam almost literally whistling out my ears I started to get a bit vocal about my displeasure and we were guided to another counter to see about rebooking. Lots of folks who’d been held up by the accident showed up red-faced and puffing but for them I felt nothing. I just wanted to find a way to get us to Aruba that day. And, miracle of miracles, Terri at US Airways pulled strings and twisted arms and found a way for us to hopscotch our way down the coast and finally hitch a ride to Aruba.

So we fly to Charlotte, thence to Miami. Ever been to Miami airport? It was designed by the Marquis de Sade, at least that’s the only explanation I could come up with. The structure defies logic. There are no signs telling you how to get from one terminal to another. None. To get to our next flight we had to walk past the security checkpoint and go around it and then through a…door. No signs. Nothing to indicate that this door led to another 50 gates and not an employee lounge. I texted my brother to see if he’d ever been there before and he said, “Why do you think immigrants take rafts to Miami instead of flying?

So we get to Aruba, get to the hotel, check in and hit the bar for a Balashi. And everything’s fine. The next day I wake up and head down to the tournament room to see what’s up, say hello to folks I know, take some pics. I head back to the room and try to upload the photos and my computer won’t recognize the SD card. This has never happened before and it’s happening NOW?? “Come on!!,” I begged, sifting through the Windows Vista control panel and being told my card reader was disabled for some reason. “But I didn’t DO ANYTHING,” I whined and turned to the Google for  an answer. But I had trouble connecting (a portent of things to come) and after scowling at my screen for an hour I had to plug my laptop in so it wouldn’t die. I put the card back in…and it worked. No clue why it wouldn’t work on battery power but everything was copacetic plugged in, but that’s what happened. I looked at myself in the mirror and my hair was 30% grayer. Time for more Balashi.

The tournament started Monday and we had trouble connecting to the internet. Now, this has happened in the past in Aruba, you have this island paradise and all of a sudden 500 online poker players invade and clog the pipes with sit-n-goes and tournaments and porn surfing and YouTube. But it’s always usually gets better after a day or so. We spent a pretty penny upgrading the Radisson’s capabilities, but either the tubes just got overwhelmed or something else was afoot. Because we could not connect to the ‘Net. And this problem lasted, well, the entire tournament. There were literally hours at a time where I couldn’t post anything. Couldn’t upload photos. Couldn’t do squat. Instead I kept hitting the Refresh button, in the vain hope that THIS TIME the wires would connect and my bits and bytes would broadcast to the world. At times I couldn’t tell if what I’d written had posted because WordPress puked and I couldn’t get the blog to load. So there I am like a goddam idiot trying to refresh TWO pages to see if my goddam post posted.

Making things worse is that bland, passive “Problem loading page” screen that comes up when shit don’t work. I think what REALLY got me pissed was how that phrase wasn’t capitalized or in boldface or there wasn’t a half-dozen exclamation points after it. It didn’t say PROBLEM LOADING PAGE!!!!!!!! It said “Problem loading page”. As if this wasn’t something to get worked up about. It happens all the time. In fact all day and all night you’re gonna have a Problem Loading Page. Deal with it, jackass.

And so instead of taking pictures or writing as many posts as I wanted I had to sit there and try to stuff what I’d already written through the tubes. Our staff knew there was a problem (everyone was talking about it) but the IT folks down there couldn’t fix it, Aruba not being as tech-savvy as Silicon Valley. I could believe that people were jamming the network because even though Aruba is a tropical paradise a lot of these poker zombies were no doubt holed up in their rooms twenty-tabling and downloading vast quantities of porn and streaming movies. But we were still having trouble connecting on Friday night, when even the most degenerate Scandi clickfiends were doubtless out looking for a pint or chicks. And so I sat there with tears in my eyes thinking “Oh please, oh baby JESUS, please let my Hellmuth chip-update post so I can write something else, oh mother of GOD!!”

So, there were frustrations. I knew covering the final table would be a challenge because we’ve never gotten WiFi out by the pool and that means running in and out of the hotel to post updates. The PokerNews crew of Garry, Eric and Don were there so I didn’t have to worry about missing some crucial hand while I was furiously writing up some other crucial hand. It rained again this year so the final table was held in the bar/restaurant next to the pool, which was fine. Play ran into the going-away party Sunday night (in part because the final four players discussed a chop for over an HOUR before deciding to just play it out) and so I ran back and forth between poker and party snapping pics. Which brings me to another technological fail:

So the tournament is over and I’ve been outside in 90-degree and 90% humidity conditions for eight hours. I’m soaked with sweat. I’m a bit stressed. I had to run back to the room to give Lindsay a wristband so she could get into the party and then run back, contributing to my sweaty/stressed state. I write up my post and decide to head back to the room, have a quick wash, and change clothes. It’s not a long walk to our building but when you’re carrying 25 pounds of gear and you’re tired and thirsty it’s long enough. I walk up to the room, insert the key…nothing. I insert the key…nothing. I INSERT THE KEY…NOTHING!!! This was the second time during the week that the goddam key didn’t work. And I was PISSED. I had to haul my ass and my gear all the way back to the front desk, getting madder and madder with every step, to have them recode the key.

Now, I had the magnetic-stripe key in a separate part of my wallet, it wasn’t rubbing against any credit cards or anything. I explained the situation to the desk clerk and, summoning vast quantities of self control, toldl her that this is the 2nd time this has happened. I should say that the Radisson staff has always been extremely friendly and helpful, they’re great. But the clerk says, “Well, it can become demagnetized if it’s around electronics…” and here she looked at the camera dangling from my neck, “like a camera”. I nearly lost it there. I didn’t have the goddam key inside my GODDAM CAMERA. At times like these it’s best to count to ten before saying anything and I think I counted to 67 before I even risked exhaling.

So that was the frustrating bits of the trip. I should say that there were some good parts as well. Watching Liv Boeree and Lacey Jones wearing dresses and chicken-fighting in the pool, that was a good part:

Had a couple of very good meals with Lindsay, which was twice as nice because usually when I’m down there I’m just grabbing something from room service. Nice to actually wander off the Radisson grounds and enjoy ourselves. Got up early a couple of times and went swimming, Lindsay went scuba diving three times. I felt guilty about getting tilty when I’m working in Aruba, but work-tilt is work-tilt.

I posted a bunch of pics to my Flickr page and I still have to go through a bunch more this week. Maybe I’ll post more this week…there’s the one of me and Liv in the pool, but that’s on Lindsay’s camera…

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