The Chronicles of Yanick: Pitch Black

Jul 7, 2011 / By Yanick Champoux

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I am freshly back from YAPC, which unlike what you might be thinking, stands for “Yet Another Plane Cancellation” (more details on that later).

I officially landed back on Ottawan ground last Friday, and somewhere around Sunday, I began to write the retrospective of my very first YAPC (spoiler: I loved it). A few hours later, I was still at it. One day and lot of keyboard banging later? Still churning text like a short-circuited matrix printer. By then it was pretty obvious that this was developing into a story larger than the “slam, bang, thank you CPAN” recap that I had originally intended.

At that point, I had a choice. I could either step back, collect my editing wits and rework the text into a concise, informative executive summary of the pertinent parts of my adventures. Or I could indulge in my gonzoer instincts and just splurge into a rambloctious blow-by-blow account of my 144 hours of fun and hugging in Asheville, eschewing factual reporting for a more visceral impressionist take on the atmosphere and spirit of the event.

Guess down which one of those two paths we are now going?

So, boys and girls, please make yourself comfortable. Sit back, clip your seatbelt, and relax as we ready ourselves to take the scenic route to YAPC. I’ll try to stick to a semi-chronological order, which means that I will begin at the beginning. Maybe not the beginning beginning — my youth was a fairly uneventful and boring one — but a beginning that provides both scope and a springboard to this odyssey.

Gooooooood Morning CPAN!

And that would be last Sunday. More precisely, at that unholy, god-forsaken time that some people charitably refeer to as 4 o’clock in the morning. I mean, seriously, even witches stick to a more civilized midnight, and birds (you know, those creatures who aren’t just satisfied to wake up early, but actually sing about it. The little freaks.) generally set their alarm not earlier than 5:30am.

Aaaaanyway.

perl Build.PLane; make trip

So there I am, emerging from sleep like some eldritch spawn birthed from the dark-filled abysses that lie beyond the human concept of timezone. Mercifully, the fortuitous conjecture of a mind filled with the excitement of what is waiting ahead and body too shocked to actually complain (“what you do mean, we’re up and running? Brain, I want a reading of the circardian clock right now“) gives me the energy to do what needs to be done. I cheerfully slither out of bed, gleefully ooze my way to the shower, merrily tumble down the stairs, happily slur a summon for a cab, tenderly bode my good-byes to my loving wife (who — supreme act of love if there is one — managed to get up to do the wavey thing) and, hop!, I am on my way to Asheville, North Carolina.

The trip itself goes without an hitch. I breeze through customs without being patted, scanned, probed or otherwise engaged in unpleasant rubber-gloved activities. Flights are on-time and speedy. Very speedy, actually. I still don’t know how the pilot managed to make the Ottawa/Charlotte connection in half the advertised time, but he did it. The second leg, from Charlotte to Asheville, is on one of those little propeller plane, which allows me to hum the Indiana Jones theme all the way to my final destination. All, truly, is hunky-dory.

Welcome to Asheville!

Touch down! I am in Asheville! Well, Fletcher. Which seems to be, technically, where the Asheville airport is. But this doesn’t matter: I am there. Time for the final segment of my journey, via the hotel shuttle. So I go to the help desk, where I’m promptly identified as French-Canadian (the lady manning the desk had a daughter-in-law from Québec City enabling a baseline for the identification process). How she managed to detect my subtle, almost-undetectable accent, zaille ooell neevar know. But that’s not terribly relevant to our story here.

Eventually, the shuttle arrives. The driver confides that he’s still waiting for a few passengers, and ask me if I wouldn’t mind to wander with him to the restaurant (after all, for regular people who aren’t tuned to the timeless limbo that comes with plane travelling, it is lunch time). I agrees, and led him to this allowed munching location (yup, turns out that he never strolled within the airport before, so 20 minutes after landing time, I was already playing the role of the native guide. Go figure). One fries purchase (for him) and one coffee acquisition (for me) later, we amble back to the shuttle, where we have two of expected travellers. One of them is tall, crossword and tasbasco-tattooed fellow. That’s right. My very first contact with YAPCians is via Ingy döt Net. 30 minutes after landing time, and the awes-o-meter is already at 11. This is going to be good.

The driver still has to wait for a few dudes, so we chat a little bit. Like pretty much everybody else, Ingy was craving the sweet, sweet taste of caffeine at that point so — old rugged Asheville airport denizen that I was at that point — I bring him to the coffee station. Fast forward a few minutes and the rest of the shuttle passengers show up. We all squeeze in the van, and it’s up to the hotel we go.

This is Hotel California, You Can Check In But– oh. No, Sorry, Actually you Can’t Check In

A few minutes later, we are at the hotel. We are fairly early, and quickly discover via the massive throng of hackers in the lobby that rooms aren’t quite ready. Which provides everybody the perfect occasion to socialize a little bit with their jetlagged brethren. I quickly localize Mike Doherty and manage my best timed entrance ever (there is nothing like seeing someone check your twitter feed, slide to their side and utter a suave “yeeeees?”).

Fast-forward a little bit. We finally all get our rooms (yay!), and as tradition demands the majority of the crowd are going to go out and swarm a local pub/restaurant. In this case, the targeted establishment was going to be Lab. Thanks to the efficiency of peeps who knew what they were doing, I get a seat in a car and make it there with the rest of the hungry mob. Some pleasant discussions, yummy local beer and delicious venison nachos later, we make it back to the hotel, where nice cool beds await us. Tomorrow, we are to be sprung for the main event.

To be continued in the second part of the Chronicles of Yanick: Rise of the Perlmongers

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