This message comes to you from the tiny yet somehow pleasantly ergonomic keys of my new netbook, from the posh confines of my room in the Hampton Inn, and from the stultifying heat of Yuma, Arizona. I am on the first business trip of my semi-professional career, and damn it feels good to be a GMstah.
This week, GM shipped me to their desert proving grounds in beautiful Yuma, Arizona, deep in the Sonoran Desert. It is 106 degrees outside. I have been informed that this is a particularly cool week. So, in short, it’s a little different than Michigan.
The plane ride from Detroit to Phoenix was fairly standard, but the flight from Yuma to Phoenix was… an experience. For the not-quite-hour-long flight, I was in row seven of nine in a tiny turboprop plane with a single flight attendant, two large propellers, and a planeful of prayers. The flight wasn’t actually that bad, if a bit unnerving, but then we started to land — and veritably dove straight into Yuma. I’m talking like a thirty degree descent here. Felt like a Blue goddamn Angel.
Anyway, Yuma is pretty cool. Except for the fact that it’s incredibly hot. All the time. But the city is desert-neo-adobe-quaint and the proving grounds are just as neat as Milford, if substantially smaller. It’s covered in red rock and dust, though, so it’s easy to imagine I’m testing Mars rovers instead of Range Rovers. (That’s admittedly a bit of a lie for phraseology’s sake. Range Rovers are made by Tata Motors, not GM. But Yukon XLs are pretty close. So shush.)
By far the most interesting and unexpected part of the GM Yuma proving grounds, however, is that they are located on the US Army Yuma proving grounds. The drive to work every morning (which, by the way, is in the absolute middle of nowhere) passes by one tank and two large artillery cannons, and there are signs all over the grounds reminding us we have to yield to any military vehicles. I watched military paratrooper training today as I drove, and the absolute, unsettling, oppressive desert quiet is interrupted fairly frequently by what I can only assume are ordinance blasts. And once, by a muffled, colorful chime that sounded like clock tower meets Close Encounters. Still not sure what that one meant.
Other random business travel perks: GM bought me a spacious hotel room — and none of this collegiate roommate business — and I’m given $46 per day for food. Which, in Yuma, is ridiculous. Also, Las Vegas. Assuming we get the all-clear to leave the grounds, they also bought me a room in the Luxor Las Vegas on Saturday night. And in Vegas, the per diem is $71. Which, anywhere, can include booze. Whether I can get GM to front my high-roller gambling remains to be seen.
Other random business travel drawbacks: due to approaching deadlines and the temporal magic of time zones, by lunch on Thursday I’ll have put in a forty hour week. And there’ll be probably thirty hours plus to go.