This one’s for you, Agnes

I worked for Microsoft for 2 years before I finally got the nod to attend Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. Aside from CES, MWC is the largest international event for consumer technology — especially in 2011, as smart phones and tablets were taking off. Nicole was 9 months pregnant with Eli, my mom was coming home to visit and be there for the birth. We finally lived in our first home, and the previous summer I’d realized my dream to buy a motorbike. Life was good, and I was going to Barcelona! The sun was shining on a beautiful spring day in May, so after making the necessary travel arrangements, I decided to take the bike out for a celebratory spin.

Somewhere across our tiny town, Agnes decided she needed to pop out for groceries. She also decided she didn’t need her glasses that day. Agnes was 88, and definitely needed her glasses.

As I returned from my jaunt, I leaned into a curve a few blocks from our home — only to encounter an old lady coming the other way in her SUV, taking the curve way too wide and filling up my lane. I nearly put the bike down dodging her. As I righted my Honda Shadow and resumed my trip, Agnes approached. With her weak vision, she mistook a small depression in the grass at the side of the road for the left turn she wanted to take, and accelerated into it — just as I was recovering from my previous near miss. Again, I leaned hard to try and avoid another homicidal granny, but this time, I didn’t make it. Agnes slammed on the brakes as she crunched into me, shattering both my tibia and fibula between her bumper and the frame of my bike. I completed setting the bike down with my good leg as my remaining inertia drew me up beside her window.

Blinking her sweet little old lady eyes, she rolled down her window and asked: “Why did I do that?”

I don’t remember exactly how I answered, but I’m sure it wasn’t kind. A passing pedestrian helped me off the road, then called 911 while I called my very pregnant bride. When the ambulance arrived and they had stabilized my leg, I asked for two favors: drive not to the nearest hospital, but to the one Nicole planned to deliver Eli at, and: dial the airline for me so I could cancel my flight to Barcelona before the credit card charge went through…

Eli is now a glorious 11 year old young lady, the settlement with Agnes’s insurance company helped us buy a nicer home in Seattle, a year spent on a cane gave me reason to learn to take care of my body, and my career did just fine without a trip to Barcelona. I’ll probably never own a motorcycle again, and the remaining metal in my leg occasionally feels uncomfortable, but on the whole, we all survived. And boy were we grateful that mom had planned to visit!

Still, Barcelona remained on my list of places I wanted to get to. What a privilege then, when 11 years later, I got asked to cover IOT Solutions World Congress — a smaller event, but still in Barcelona!

It was a whirlwind trip. I had only two very full days in town, where I spoke on two panels, and helped work the show floor. In between, I had to return to the airport for the required Covid test for my flight home. Only once all my responsibilities were covered was I able to hop on the subway with tourist intentions. My first stop brought me to the surface in front of the famous Sagrada Familia. I’m sure I’ll mangle the history, so go read the Wikipedia article. I’ve heard it called “strange and beautiful” and that seems about right to me.

I hoofed it a couple blocks outside the tourist trap surrounding the church and found a somewhat authentic meal and cerveza, then took another train to the Gothic Quarter, where I happily got lost wandering the eccentric winding allies, before emerging at another church for some photos.

The Covid test came back negative, so I got a few hours of sleep at the hotel, before heading back to the airport for the flight home. I got to enjoy a couple lounges, due strictly to residual Gold status still held over from before the pandemic. Whether I got Covid in one of those, or on the plane, or after returning to the US, I’m not sure, but a week later I definitely have it. Fortunately, the shots did their job, Omicron is more merciful, and symptoms have been mild.

Abi got it next, we assume others will follow. At this point, we’re just glad to have it over with, so real summer travel can start. Just a few days left of school for the kids, and one more work event, and then we’re off to explore Europe…

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