I promised him, and that was my mistake. I was determined not to let it ruin his day.
On Friday I told Benjamin that he and I would take our bicycles to Arbor Hills Nature Reserve, a hilly area in west Plano set aside for walkers, runners, and mountain bikers to live peacefully alongside our smaller-brained brethren of the natural world. Sunday’s weather was supposed to be nasty, and I had some work to do for a customer at about noon on Saturday, so we decided that early Saturday morning was the time to go.
That night, while working from home to complete a scheduled task, I heard from a co-worker that a customer’s planned disaster recovery test was going to start early Saturday morning. “But your part probably won’t start until later, after I do my part,” she said (except that I’m paraphrasing to conceal the details). I originally thought this would take place Saturday evening, only slightly interrupting a planned date night.
I told Shannon that I might not get to take Benjamin for that ride. “Oh, he will be so disappointed. He told me it was going to be the best day ever,” she said (and I didn’t change that quote at all).
I informed my co-worker that I would take my laptop, because when on call I have mobile internet access. If needed, I could take a break from my ride with Benjamin to do my work, and then resume our fun.
If only it had worked out that way. (click any pic to enlarge)
Seconds after Benjamin clicked his seatbelt, my phone rang. It was for a normal weekend support call, which are fairly rare even when I’m on call. At that point I could have easily gone back inside and worked the case from the desk I have set up for that purpose, but instead I connected to our VPN from right there in the van, in our driveway. Benjamin got bored and got out to play while I finished up.
About 10 minutes into our drive to Arbor Hills, I got a call directly from customer doing the disaster recovery testing, saying he was ready to begin our software’s part of the test. I pulled over to talk to him (I’m not lying). “J will have to complete her part first. I will let her know that you’re ready, and we’ll get back to you when you can start testing.”
I contacted J and let her know we were enroute, and she said she could call me when I needed to take over. I pulled back onto the road and continued our drive.
Benjamin and I walked from the parking lot to the restrooms. The sky was pure blue and I barely needed a jacket over my long sleeved tee. As we approached the van on our return walk, my phone rang.
I got on the call and, while working from the passenger seat, watched Benjamin ride a small circuit within my line of sight. Every 10 minutes or so he rode up to the door and I opened it. “Are you almost finished, Daddy? I want you to ride with me,” he said.
“No, not yet, son. I’m getting closer, though,” I responded, truly unsure of when I would finish. As the noon start time for my other task approached, I worried that I might not get to ride with him at all.
Finally, at about noon, we got everything to the point that the customer could test (they had to make adjustments on their network), and my laptop battery gave up. I called my contact for the noon project.
“T, I’m working remotely and my laptop just died. As soon as I can get to a power outlet, I can get started.” I already had set everything for him the day before, so that he could complete his work without me as soon as users were out of the system. It didn’t matter to him when I started, once users were out.
After conferring with Benjamin, who had seen a coyote thanks to a friendly mountain biker, I put his bike back in the van and headed for a nearby McDonald’s. I could plug in and he could play, and we would just ride bikes at Arbor Hills afterward. No worries.
I leaned down and looked under every booth and table, but found no power outlet. I shifted gears. We would eat, and then go find a place where I could plug in and complete my work. Part of me worried that if I did that, he and I would not make it back out there at all.
As we finished eating, I got the attention of an employee who was walking around cleaning the tables. “Could you please tell me if there’s any way I could plug in my computer.”
“Yes,” she said.
She walked over to the restrooms and pushed aside a wheeled mop bucket to reveal a power outlet. I quickly moved our things to the booth nearest the restrooms and snaked my power cord back to the plug.
About two hours later, I called Shannon. “Benjamin’s getting pretty bored with McDonald’s. Could you please bring something out here that he could play with, and bring his clothes? That way he and I can still ride when I’m finished, and then I can just take him straight to your mom’s.” He was gonig to spend the night there while she and I had our date night.
Thirty minutes passed and I finished my work at the moment Shannon pulled up.
Benjamin and I had nearly three hours to spare before dark. Little did I know that something would happen that made it hard for me to fall asleep later that night.
(to be concluded)