A keynote, black ice, and pants: A Latvian tale

tl;dr A year ago, I flew to Riga, Latvia, to deliver the keynote at the first incarnation of RigaDevDay. The trip was definitely more than I bargained for, and now that I have closure (for the most part), the tale deserves to be told.

It started out all so innocently: “Would you be interested in coming to Riga and giving a keynote?”

Preparations

As many of you will know already, I enjoy speaking at international events. I also greatly enjoy giving keynotes, and in this particular case, since it was the first incarnation of the conference, it was even more enticing. (I’d done that once before, when I gave one of the opening keynotes—along with Roy Fielding, of REST fame—at Jazoon.) I’d never been to Latvia (or any of the Baltic states, for that matter) before, so it really was a no-brainer.

As is frequently my wont, we made travel arrangements to have me land a day earlier than necessary, so that I could have a day “on the ground” to recover from the jet lag (alas, I am getting older) and be fresh for the keynote on Thursday. Then the flight home was scheduled for early (6 AM!) Friday morning.

Tuesday

So I left Seattle on Monday, flew through Amsterdam to get to Riga, landed on Tuesday, checked in to the hotel, and basically passed out and slept for 16 hours. I don’t sleep much on airplanes anymore, so that was me recovering from being up for 24+ hours before that. Don’t judge.

Wednesday

Wednesday morning, I awoke about 10am or so, took a long morning to go through email and catch up on a few things. It was a lovely day in Riga—which is to say the temperature was somewhere below zero Celsius, overcast, and slightly windy. As I said, lovely. The hotel had spa facilities, which basically meant “steam room”, “sauna”, “whirlpool”, and even a masseuse. On a day like that, that sounded pretty good, so I decided to check it out. Dry heat, steam, dry heat, a little dip in the whirlpool…. Nice! Very relaxing.

While in the sauna, I glanced out the window. (Yes, they had windows in the sauna—floor- to-ceiling ones, too, and no glaze or tinting on them; fortunately, we were at about the eight floor or so, and there was nothing else that tall anywhere in the near vicinity, so it was kinda nice to be able to see out) Just next door to the hotel was a shopping mall, and although it was kinda hard to tell, it looked like there was a food court or something.

(Generally speaking, I try to avoid eating at the hotel too much, both because it’s usually more expensive and not as good as what you might get elsewhere, plus I was expecting that I’d eat there at least once during the trip so it would get pretty boring pretty quickly. On top of that, I kinda wanted to get out of the hotel.)

So… food court. Perfect. I wanted to touch up the slides for the keynote on Thursday anyway. So I high-tailed it back to my room, took a quick shower, bundled up, slipped on the Vest, the jackets and the the backpack (with its customary load of three laptops—don’t judge, I have my reasons), and trundled on over to the mall.

On my way, I noticed that the hotel parking lot still had a lot of ice around the edges. Those of you who live in climates that get snow on a regular basis, you know what I’m talking about: the center of the lot, where cars are driving and the friction of the tires is melting off the ice and snow, it was clear, but along the edges, where the cars park (and thus don’t get nearly as much friction), there was an accumulation of snow/ice that hadn’t yet melted off. Thinking of my mother, who’d slipped on some ice in Utah and dislocated her elbow, I made sure to avoid the ice.

The mall had a lovely food court, and I found a place at which I could eat, get a few Cola Lights, set up the laptop, review slides, maybe make a few tweaks, that sort of thing. While I was there, I glanced out the windows, and noticed that—this being Latvia, in January—snow had started to come down in a gentle flurry. Aw. My family would love this. Me, I’m not so enamored of snow, having lived in it when I was a kid—and being said kid, having my father force me to shovel the driveway when the snow came down. “To build character,” he claimed. “To let you avoid having to do it yourself,” I claim in return, which to his credit, he’s never actually denied.

A few hours at lunch, and I was ready to head back—the speakers were assembling in the hotel at 6pm in order to head out for the speaker dinner, and it was getting on to 3 or 4, as I recall, and I wanted to get back into the room and do a few things before meeting up and heading out. So I bundled back up, slipped the hood of the hoodie over my head, put both arms through the backpack, and headed out.

As I got to the edge of the hotel parking lot, I remembered that there was black ice on the ground, and the snow, now about an eighth of an inch on the ground, peacefully hid whatever might be underneath it. Thinking, “I should try to avoid that black ice I saw earlier this morning,” I—

WHAM

I went down so fast, I didn’t even have time to throw my arm out to break my fall. Went straight down on my right side, my elbow taking the brunt of it.

And it hurt. I mean, really hurt. Not at the elbow, though, but further up, near the shoulder. I couldn’t really move it. I was on the ground, on my back, and I was, to put it bluntly, like a turtle on its shell: I couldn’t stand up (the pressure of the pack against the shoulder was excrutiating), I couldn’t slip the backpack off (I couldn’t really move the right arm, and trying to slip the left one out required me to put more pressure on the right shoulder), and honestly, I couldn’t figure out what else to do except lay there and mutter profanities.

Behind me, somebody said something loudly, as if calling out, but it was either in Latvian or Russian (I can’t tell the difference), and I couldn’t tell if it was aimed at me or not, so I just lay there. A second later, though, it was clear they were talking to me when they said in English, “Are you all right?”

No, I was really not all right, and I said so. The helpful stranger came over, helped me to my feet after helping me get the backpack off my shoulders, and escorted me inside the hotel. Hotel security came by as we started moving slowly across the parking lot—I suspect they had probably seen me go down through the hotel security cameras or something, but I never found out for sure.

They brought me into the hotel, and hotel staff called an ambulance. The paramedics came by, did some basic diagnostics (“Does it hurt when I touch it here?”), and pronounced that I probably had a fractured arm and/or a dislocation of the shoulder. Atleast, that’s what I managed to piece together from their English (which, I must say, is a damn sight better than my non-existent knowledge of Russian or Latvian).

Now, bear in mind, three or four years ago, when I was assistant-coaching the youth football team my youngest was on, I had suffered a partial dislocation of the right shoulder while helping them practice kickoff returns. So I kind of knew what that felt like, and yeah, this kind of felt like that, but more intense. Still, I’m not medically- trained in any way, and in all honesty, I really didn’t care. It hurt. Deep, throbbing, bone-deep kind of pain.

By this point, as we’re sitting in the hotel lobby, speakers have started to gather in the lobby to go to dinner, and the conference organizers have now come by, only to see their keynote speaker surrounded by paramedics, hotel staff, and a few curious onlookers. This is clearly not good, whatever it is. Andrejs, one of the organizers, comes over to me, asks what happened, starts talking to the paramedics and hotel staff, and is clearly distraught, both out of sheer human concern for another human being, but also (let’s be honest here) because he suddenly saw the keynote going up in smoke.

(And let me be 100% clear here, I don’t blame him for a second. It’s not like it’s easy to replace a keynote speaker—breakout sessions, sure, any speaker typically has one or two sessions they can drop into place at a moment’s notice, but most speakers don’t just have a keynote lying around they can pick up and do. What’s more, this was the first time this conference had ever run. This had to be an ominous opening, at best.)

Next thing I know, the paramedics are packing up, and they’re going to take me to a local clinic for treatment. Andrejs tells me that one of his colleagues will meet me there, because he is responsible for taking the speakers to dinner. I think it was during dinner that they first approached (I think) Simon Ritter about doing a fill-in for me, and as I understand it, that caused no small amount of panic on his part. (Thanks for being willing to step in under the circumstances, Simon!)

(And again, let me be 100% clear here: The organizers did a great job of taking care of me, particularly in light of the fact that they had a conference to run the next day, for the very first time. They were awesome, as you will see as the story goes on, and I am very grateful for everything they did.)

I climb into the back of the ambulance, we go scooting through town, and I end up at the local hospital. Dmitry, the other organizer, is there, and we go into the clinic. There, I am surrounded by what had to be every single elderly individual in the entire city of Riga, all of them basically having done the same thing I did: slipped and fell. (Makes you feel really old, when you find out that your medical complaint is the same thing as people that were—in some cases, quite literally—twice your age.)

Dmitry took a look around, said the Russian equivalent of “screw this”, and offered to take me to a private clinic that happens to be in the same building in which he works. No argument from me, if it’ll get me seen by a doctor more quickly. We pop into his car, drive for a few minutes, I get out, and before long I’m in a nicely-furnished private medical clinic, where a lovely assistant takes my information, asks me to sit, and fetches a doctor. Within ten, maybe fifteen minutes, I’m sitting on a patient’s bed, doctor comes in, does the same sort of preliminary prodding and poking, sends me up the hallway for an X-Ray (and oh, did that hurt, because I had to move my arm in order to help them get good angles on the shoulder), and says, “You have a splinter fracture of the upper right humerus (the upper arm bone) near the shoulder.” He immediately recommends I go to a local orthpedic clinic. Sounds good to me.

Because this is a medical-to-medical transfer, they call an ambulance, I climb in, Dmitry follows, and I’m at the orthopedic clinic. We go in, we wait for a bit, and the ortho doctor comes in. “We would like to schedule surgery for you right away, tomorrow morning.”

Um…. no.

See, at that point in my life, I’ve never had surgery before. Well, no, technically not true, I had my wisdom teeth removed a number of years ago, but I’ve never been “under the knife”, as they say, and I had no idea what to expect. Plus, if you recall my timeline from earlier, I’m going to be flying back to the US less than 12 hours after the surgery was finished? Or, assuming I could push my flight back a few days, I’m going to be recovering in a hospital bed in a foreign country where I literally know absolutely nobody? Nuh-uh, thank you, no.

On top of that—and I mean this very seriously—I had a keynote to do.

When I tell this story, many people stop me and say, “Are you kidding? How could you even be thinking about that at this point?” People, my arm was broken, not my mouth, or my brain. So long as I can think well enough to talk, and talk well enough to be heard, I can do the keynote. And these guys had flown me 5,000 miles to have me do this keynote, so I was going to do the keynote. No hesitation.

The doctor frowns, then says, “Well, fine, we will keep you overnight and give you some painkillers.”

Wait. Hold on. “What time will you release me in the morning?”

She looks at me a little irritated. “I’m not sure, maybe 11 or so.”

Um…. no. See, I have this keynote to do.

At this point, she is really annoyed, with a look on her face that says pretty clearly, What. The. F–k! You stupid American. I am trying to HELP you here. But she doesn’t argue, just sets me up with an IV, drips some painkiller into my arm, and they turn me loose about 11pm or so. Dmitry takes me back to the hotel, and I head in, arm now resting in a sling. Dmitry promised to swing by the pharmacy to pick up the prescription drugs the doctor wrote out (codeine and an anti-coagulant for the flight back), and headed off to do all the preparation for tomorrow’s conference that he’d had to put on hold while he was babysitting me.

The hotel staff see me in the sling, and it’s clear the story has gone around the staff, because I am immediately greeted warmly and with a ton of sympathy. They ask if there’s anything they can get me. I think about it, and say, “You know, a few more pillows might be nice,” since I know already that I am not going to be able to lay flat in bed when—if—I go to sleep tonight.

By the time I reach my hotel room, I have enough pillows to make a fort.

So I do.

While relaxing (or trying to) in my pillow fort, I immediately call my wife; she doesn’t watch Twitter or Facebook religiously, but I worry that if word of this goes out over either of those social media, she’ll hear about it, and make it far worse in her mind than it really is. We talk for a few minutes, and she’s already starting to make plans by the end of the phone call—she’s going to set up an appointment with the doctor for the afternoon when I land. Next, I call my folks. Not because I needed to, but because, quite honestly, I was not really ready to go to sleep yet, and my parents are often a source of comfort to me. My dad (who used to work for the airlines) suggests I call my travel agent to see what they can do to make the trip more comfortable (a la, maybe get me upgraded to Business for the flight across the Atlantic). So I call my travel agent next, and he promises to get right on it.

By this point, it’s probably about 2 or 3am, and I do need to try to get some kind of sleep, so I strip down, jump in the shower (so that I don’t have to worry about it in the morning), and recline in my pillow fort and try to get some sleep.

Thursday

I wake up about 7am or so, after a pretty restless night, as you might well imagine. The plan was for all the speakers to assemble in the lobby around 8, so that the organizers can pick us up and drive us collectively over to the venue (a movie theater they’ve rented for the conference, which is pretty common in Europe) in one fell swoop. Somehow I manage to get a T-shirt on (and I have no idea how I did it, now that I think about it), boxers, pants…

… and that’s when I discover something very important about pants.

One needs both shoulders in order to button pants. Particularly jeans that are a little snug around the waist in the first place.

(Hey, I’m not as trim as I used to be. Don’t judge.)

Well, I often wear my T-shirt out over the pants anyway, so I’ll just zip them up as far as they can go, and then trust in that little flange of metal that sort of “pins” the zipper in place to hold things together long enough for me to do the keynote.

I go downstairs, backpack (stripped of much of its equipment so it’ll be lighter) on my left shoulder, jackets worn on the left shoudler but sort of slung over the right shoulder like some kind of aristocratic cape, and sling firmly in place. The other speakers are waiting, and many of them are concerned and ask what happened, am I feeling OK, and so on. We make small talk, Simon (again, I think, I don’t have a clear memory of this) mentions how glad he is that I’m feeling good enough to do this since he wasn’t really ready to give a keynote on 16 hours’ notice, we head out to the van, and we drive to the theater. It’s not a bad drive, but my head is all over the place and I’m sure I was less than pleasant company while I’m sorting all of what’s just happened—and what all I still have to do—in my head.

It’s about 9am or so, the keynote is at 10, and by 9:15am, I have begun to realize that this whole “trust the zipper” plan is not working. Hitching up one’s pants is one thing, but that’s actually hard to do with just one working arm, and it’s starting to look like my chances of getting through the entire keynote without mooning the audience are getting pretty slim.

It is at this fateful moment that Andrejs makes a hugely erroneous tactical decision: he comes over to me, thanks me profusely for being there and doing the keynote despite my shoulder, and then asks, “Is there anything I can do?”

Um… well… now that you bring it up, yeah: “Can you button my pants?”

blink

Let me tell you, folks, Latvians have this What. The. F–k! look down PAT. Although, in this case, it was really more of a Are you f–king KIDDING me right now?! kind of look. All I can really do is gesture at the shoulder, and lift the bottom edge of my shirt to prove to him that no, really, my pants are not attached at the moment, and I can see in his mind that he’s not really a fan of me mooning the audience, either.

blink

I can see the mental processes flicker across his face as slowly, like a tidal wave crashing into the coastline, it dawns on him that yes, I really am serious, and yes, he’s going to have to do this. His eyes dart to either side as, I presume, he gets the idea in his head how he can somehow pawn this off on somebody else, but there’s no real convenient way or excuse to do that, and nobody else is nearby enough to serve as a proxy or stand-in.

blink

He’s going to have to do this.

He is going to have to button my pants for me.

blink

(Andrejs, for whatever it’s worth, ain’t nobody outside of my family ever done that, either. You are now part of an exclusive sliver of humanity.)

(Not that it’s any consolation, I’m sure.)

You have never seen a man move so fast. Fueled, I suspect, by equal parts embarrassment, adrenaline and sheer “Oh, the things I must do in order to get this conference to run!” professonalism, he reaches down, does the deed, and POW! is out of there at speeds normally reserved for a Star Trek episode. I am sympathetic, but more importantly, I am now relieved, because I no longer have to worry about mooning the audience.

No, it’s going to set in—in a bit—that I have other worries to worry about.

(For the record, I never saw Andrejs again.)

By this point, Dmitry has returned with my prescription—codeine and the anticoagulant, in syringe form—and I happily take the first codeine dose. It is a measure of how much my shoulder hurts that the codeine doesn’t take all the pain away, but it does knock it down enough that I can start to think again. And, of course, I’m starting to think about the keynote, and how I’m going to make this work. I’ll probably need help setting up the laptop, I’ll need to make sure I keep the laptop on my left so that I can use my left hand to tap the spacebar (I don’t use remote clickers), and so on. I’m nervous, so I’m not eating anything, but I am definitely pounding Cola Light, because I need the caffeine.

It’s now 10am, it’s time for the keynote. They introduce me to the audience, they explain that I had an accident the day before and make some noise about it’s amazing (“heroic”) that I’m still doing the keynote (no, guys, it really wasn’t), and then I’m off. It’s probably not my best performance, but the audience laughed in the right spots, I didn’t get any rotten vegetables tossed in my general direction, and I didn’t lose my pants during the presentation at all.

Mission accomplished.

So now, I’m done, and all I have to do is basically hang out for the rest of the day, head back to the hotel, go to sleep, and catch the flight in the morning. While I am contemplating all of this, they start to serve lunch. As I’m looking at the tables and chairs being set up, I’m starting to realize what my next worry is.

See…. the thing about food is, if you put it into your body, it (or, more accurately, something derived from it) eventually wants to make its way back out of your body. And I had just discovered that morning that if my pants get unbuttoned, I have no way of buttoning them back up again. I am now dependent upon the kindness of others to fully dress myself. And, alas, with my keynote now delivered, I have lost whatever “leverage” I might have over the conference organizers.

Once I get on the airplane, mind you, I’m back in safe territory, because flight attendants, they pretty much have to do whatever it takes to help their customers. (And, frankly, from some of the stories my dad has told back when he worked for TWA as a flight attendant supervisor, buttoning my pants will actually be one of the more tame stories they might tell.)

So from now (noon on Thursday) until I board the plane (6am on Friday), I simply will not eat anything. It’s my crude way of avoiding output by throttling input. Fortunately, I can still drink (guys can stand to get rid of that, and we have that lovely hole in the front of our boxers to let us do that—that part, I can manage on my own), and more fortunately, caffeine, such as that found in Cola Light and Diet Coke, is an appetite supressant, so I actually have a pretty good fighting chance at this.

And, as it turned out, either the codeine was also working to help, or I just was simply too wiped out from all of this, but either way I basically had no problems avoiding food for the rest of the day.

I get back to the hotel, ask the front desk for a 3:30am wake-up call and a taxi to take me to the airport at 4:30, then head upstairs to my room to cram as much crap as I can into my carry-on (which is actually a lot harder when you can’t really fold anything propertly), and nestle back into my pillow fort—still fully dressed, since I cannot take my pants off for any reason—to try and get some sleep until the morning.

Friday

I actually wake up before the wake-up call, it’s been that restless a night. I slap some water on my face as a sort of gesture towards hygiene, finish putting stuff together, and when the knock on my door comes at 4:30, one of the young men from the hotel front desk is there to help me with my bags. Very thoughtful. We go downstairs, he walks me through the lobby, and the cab is waiting there for me. He puts my carry-on and my backpack into the trunk, I get in, but then he is talking to the cab driver for what had to be another ten minutes or so. I thought it a little strange, but thought maybe they were school friends or they had some kind of additional discussion about where I wanted to go or something.

Turns out, though, I was wrong—when we get to the airport, the taxi driver parks the car by the curb, then not only gets out to get my bags out of the trunk, but indicates that he will carry them inside for me. (It wasn’t until much later, telling this story to people, that I realized that was probably what the hotel desk staff was telling the taxi driver to do, and maybe even had to slip him a tip or something to make it happen. I wish I’d realized at the time, so I could’ve thanked him for it.)

My travel agent had already called ahead and requested wheelchair service for me, so once I checked in, the taxi guy was free and an airport employee was now wheeling me around the airport. To be clear, I didn’t need the wheelchair, per se, but what I did need was somebody to help me with my bags. Plus, it made it a lot easier to get through security, since they basically shoved me to the front of what little line there was. This was going to be much more important in Amsterdam, particularly when going through the passport line there—I had a two-hour layover, which can sometimes be tricky to make work even when you’re fully mobile.

The flight from Riga to Amsterdam was pretty non-eventful. The flight attendants, when they saw my arm, very quickly instructed me to sit up front, in First Class. (Let’s be clear, First Class on some of these European 737s is basically coach seats, with the middle seat blocked out by a table thing, plus better food and booze.) A nice gesture, and frankly, one I appreciated just for the space. (It turned out there was just two of us in First, among the four rows of seats.)

When I got to the gate in Amsterdam, the woman wheeling me in the chair took me to the gate agent and explained what was going on. I asked—and I’ll admit, it was probably more like a whine—if there was anything up in Business, and I’ll happily spend miles to upgrade. The gate agent, very sympathetic, shook his head, and showed me the monitor. “I have absolutely nothing up there. It’s all checked in full, or I’d move you in a heartbeat.” I sighed, and then asked if there were any pair of empty seats anywhere else on the airplane, even if it was the last row. Again, no dice—the entire aircraft was basically full. Fortunately, I was sitting aisle on the right-hand side of the aircraft in a 2-3-2 configuration, so maybe I could switch seats with my companion on the window.

Being a medical case, they let me pre-board, and mostly that was so that the flight attendant could take the time to put my bags in the overhead. I sit, somewhat apprehensively, waiting for the rest of the flight to board. While I’m sitting there, I make a comment to the flight attendant: “Hey, by the way, would you mind asking the pilot to try and avoid all the bumps in the sky for this one?” He laughs, I laugh.

(Little does he realize he is just one breakfast muffin away from having to button my pants.)

When my seatmate does show up, he takes one look at the sling on my right arm—the very same arm he will have to wrestle with in order to own the armrest we share—and goes very, very pale. When I ask him, “Would you mind if we switch seats?”, he is falling all over himself to agree, and even offers to get things out of the overhead for me if I need them. I tell him no, thanks, I’m just going to pop my codeine (every four hours, religiously), watch some movies, and try to avoid leaning against my right shoulder.

(In retrospect, I realize that he probably had a vision of falling asleep on the flight, jostling my shoulder, and waking from the scream of pain that would erupt from my lungs, fill the aircraft, and probably serve to help identify all of the air marshals on the flight, when they came running. No wonder he was so quick to move.)

(No, not really. He was a very pleasant German fellow, and I’m sure he was more concerned for his fellow man than anything else.)

We land in Seattle at 11:30am, my seatmate grabs my things from the overhead for me so I can get off the plane without having to wait for everybody else to deplane, Charlotte is waiting for me outside, we quickly drive to the doctor’s where they force me to take a set of X-rays (despite having the CD of X-rays that the Latvian clinic sent me home with), pronounce, “You have a splinter fracture of the upper right humerus near the shoulder” (which is exactly what the Latvian clinic said, so score one for European medicine!), then sent me home.

By which time, nature and the airplane breakfast and lunch were calling, so I headed upstairs. A few minutes later, I called out to my wife, “Charlotte?”

A tentative “Yes, honey?” came from downstairs.

“I discovered something very important just now.”

“What’s that?”

“I can, in fact, wipe my ass with my left hand.”

There’s a moment’s pause, then she replies, “Well, good, ‘cuz that was kind of a deal-breaker for me.”

Five days later

I go to the orthopedic surgeon that Charlotte has found for me, Dr Koo, and he suggests that we do surgery to weld the splinter fracture back together. (Looking at the X-ray with him, I see that there is a piece of bone about half the length of the upper forearm that is broken off from the bone itself. When I broke it, I broke it but good, apparently.) I am all in favor of that; let’s get this thing fixed.

“Now, it’s going to be a couple of weeks before we can do the surgery. That means that the bone may have had a little time to heal up.”

“And?”

“Well, it may mean we have to re-break it in order to set it in place correctly.”

“I’m going to be under anesthesia for this surgery, right?”

“Of course.”

“Will I feel you re-break it during the surgery?”

“No, of course not.”

“Then doc, you do whatever the hell you gotta do to fix it. Tell me about it when I wake up.”

He grins.

Two weeks later

Dr Koo and his Physicians Assistant, Claudia, slice open my right shoulder, insert a metal bracket/plate onto the bone, and secure the two pieces of bone together with six screws that are about four inches long. (I’m holding the plate and screws in my hand as I write this.)

That one paragraph neatly summarizes what was otherwise a really nervous experience for me. Like I said, I’d never been under the knife before, and I was really shaky about the whole idea. At one point, walking in to the hospital the morning of the surgery, I had to take a second and take a few deep breaths, because the feeling of “Run away!” was really strong.

But it went well, as these things go.

Of course, the next month was something of a mess, since I effectively still couldn’t use the arm, it hurt, I was on a pill regimen of painkillers, anti-inflammatories, and a couple of other things besides, and I slept a ton. Mom came out and stayed with us for about a month, mostly to help cart my youngest around to his various activities while Charlotte more or less carted me around to mine.

Over time, the pain lessened, the drugs ran out, and then… then came physical therapy.

But that’s a story for another time.

Three weeks ago

Three weeks ago, I strolled into the Dr Koos’s office, lay down on the table, and willingly succumbed to the general anesthesia again, this time so Dr Koo and Claudia could take the plate back out. This time, there was a lot more levity and joking; as I lay down, Claudia grabbed an electric razor and shaved down my upper right chest. The anesthesiologist said, “Bet you didn’t know the surgery came with a free manscaping.” I asked if she could maybe bulk out the arm while they were in there, since this was a free manscaping, and all. She laughed and said she’d see what she could do.

A few hours later, I woke up, bandaged again, but this time with much less pain than the first time (I mean, yeah, I had a huge-ass cut on my shoulder, and that hurt, but nothing like the first time), and much weaker restrictions. “I’m putting you in a sling, mostly to protect you from yourself,” Claudia told me. “But get out of it as soon as you can and move it as much as you feel comfortable, because we don’t want the arm freezing up or anything.” So by the next morning, the sling was gone, and I’m back to wearing T-shirts again. I’m not supposed to lift more than a few pounds with the right arm, and until the incision heals a little more, I’m a little slower when putting on shirts or jackets, but for the most part, I’m back to full speed already.

Closure

The organizers from RigaDevDay were amazing about the whole thing; Andrejs, Dmitry, Alexey, you guys made the best out of a crappy situation, and I really appreciate all your efforts to help me through it. Doing the keynote was the least of what I could do to repay you for your kindness, and honestly, guys, it really wasn’t that big a deal.

To anyone who is concerned about medical care abroad, let me reassure you: there was no medical reason I wouldn’t have done the surgery in Latvia. Everybody I spoke to there was just as competent and qualified as anybody I talked to here in the US. It was purely the fact that I had the keynote to do, and didn’t want to be recovering from surgery by myself (without friends and family around) that kept me from doing the surgery there. Oh, and those two ambulance rides and the prescription drugs? Less than US$100 out of pocket; there is something to be said for “socialized medicine”, let me tell you.

Aside from some sterile tape on the incision today, a scar, and this bag of hardware sitting in front of me that has spent the last year inside my body, it’s as if the whole thing never really happened.

Except for a much healthier fear of black ice, anyway.

I will be back, Riga.

Just… maybe not in January. ;-)