A Good-Bad Day

The good. Made a sales call today. Competitive opportunity. Had done work for this company 14 years ago. (In another post I will reveal how I can pinpoint the date). Get up early, fly, drive, wait. The meeting.

In the rental car for 6 minutes. Phone rings, unknown number. It is the people I just met with asking how long I need to revise my proposal. I say Friday. They say Thursday morning so it can get approved at a meeting that day. They are anxious to get started. BTW, the proposal has to be revised to include more than I had originally thought. 

6 minutes. Not bad.

The bad. The plane is delayed and I will get home really late.

I will still have a smile on my face.

6 Down, 1 to Go

Seven planes, four cities, four client Board of Directors directors meetings in four days.

I am sitting in the Drury Inns in Chesterfield, MO. One meeting, one plane ride left this week. The good news. The meetings have gone well so far and I did not miss any planes. Two of my travel legs required a connection to a second plane.

The one that had worried me for weeks required taking the last flight out of Kingsport, TN in order to make a flight out of Charlotte in order to ultimately arrive in Orlando. The connection was tight to begin with, 50 minutes, and then as I sat in Kingsport with a 30 minute delay, I was close to panic.

I realize that there is no travel snafu that causes the world to end, not even my world. Yet, missing the flight to Orlando would mean changing hotel and plane reservations very late at night, staying at the Comfort Suite near the Charlotte airport (not recommended), participating in an important meeting by phone with 10 people on the other end all sitting in a room (in hind sight, there was one difficult issue that came up and it would have been close to impossible for me to have solved this one if I had not been there in person), and then found a new flight that did not interfere with the other calls I had scheduled between meetings and flights.

I wished hard for making that connection and did. Lesson #1 when praying to the travel gods. Go big. I had prayed to make the connection. I did. However, that plane was delayed 40 minutes and I arrived at that hotel at 12:30 AM. By the time I fell asleep I had time only for 4 hours of sleep (I need more than that to function at a high level). Next time I pray to make the flight and that it is on time, if not early.

As long as I am allowing myself some time to wade in the pity pool I will share that I also have 3 more board meetings on Monday. We are still working on materials for all of these. I cannot make all three meetings since they take place in 3 different cities and they all overlap. I will miss one completely though we are working on materials and I will spend much of the weekend on the phone with the client. I will attend one by phone for 2 of the 3 scheduled hours (they neglected to tell me about extending  the meeting from 2 to 3 hours until after I had committed to another meeting. I join the third meeting 30 minutes after it starts. I fly Sunday to NY and back Monday for the privilege.

During all of this I did find time for the sublime experience of talking to my son at college. I had missed the last two scheduled calls. While there were no major revelations, connecting with him makes my week. It reminds me of why I put myself through all of this. Certainly not for the airport experiences, the crowded flights and the feeling that you get when you do not remember where you are when you wake up in the morning.

It could be worse. Yes, I saw Up In The Air.

Missed It By That Much

The voice in my head Wednesday night night was that of Don Adams as Max Smart delivering one of his famous lines.

The Plan. Monday through Wednesday 6 planes, 4 meetings, 4 cities.

Made 5 of 6. Missed it by that much.

Monday. Up early to head to O’Hare. A call and then a flight to NY. Work all day, client dinner. 

Tuesday. Awake at 5:30 est  for6:30 client breakfast. 7 AM start on a  2 hour meeting with a short window to get to Newark for a flight to Orlando. Meeting goes long. Panic. Make the flight. Long plane ride, get to meeting. 2+hour meeting. Go to hotel by airport. Answer emails. Dinner in room. Try unsuccessfully to get boarding passes. Sleep.

Wednesday. Up at 4:30 est. Dress, get boarding passes, security. The plan is 4 planes, 2 meetings and return home at midnight. Second to last plane was delayed due to weather in last city before home. Arrival gate is last gate at E terminal, the last plane is at furthest gate at B terminal. Two most distant points in airport. Run, fast walk. Sweat, a lot. Plane left 8 minutes ago. Missed it by that much.

Hour on phone  with travel agent. Flight next morning confirmed head to fleabag airport hotel (name brand). First room has electrical problem. In second room at 11:30.

Thursday. Up at 5:30 est. Why all this reference to est? Because I live in cst which makes 5:30 am 4:30 am by the time I get home.  I get home.

Sleep for an hour. Get up and work. Would have loved to have made this a 3 day instead of a 4 day trip. But from a work perspective if I had to miss 1 plane this was the one to miss…by that much.

Be Careful What You Ask For

Be sure that if you are asking/praying/hoping for something, ask/pray/hope for all you need.

Monday through Wednesday I am on 6 planes through three cities not including one layover city that I pass through twice.  A key part of this trip is getting from an early morning meeting in NY to an 11 am plane at Newark in order to get to Orlando for an afternoon meeting. On to Kingsport, TN the next morning. There is only the one flight that leaves NY late enough and gets to Orlando soon enough. If my NY meeting ends on time I have 45-60 minutes to make the airport. Google Maps estimated 45 minutes but said with traffic it could be an hour and 10. Miss this flight and my entire itinerary gets shot to hell, I would not get to Orlando, I am at the wrong NY airport to get to TN and my tickets to TN all assume that I am in Orlando.

So of course the meeting runs late by 20 minutes. I run to a waiting car. The traffic in Manhatten is stop and go. I start to ask/pray/hope. The whole focus of my request to the powers that be is to get to the airport on time.

Surprising, I make it. That is when I realize the needed to ask for more. I did not ask that the plane leave on time or that I get something other than a middle seat for this 2.5 hour flight. So I got neither.

From now on I am asking/praying/hoping BIG. I want it all.

Auspicious Beginning

Heading for an island in the Caribbean. Slowly, very slowly.

Got to the airport 2 and a half hours before the flight as requested by the United in order to get things moving on time. Spent some time in the airport lounge and then headed for the gate.

The plane boarded on time. We found our seats and settled in for the remaining 40 minutes until flight time…or so United said.

So how did I spent the next 2 hours? Sitting in the same seat. With the plane still at the same gate. Just sitting. If you want to get the general feeling of what we were going through find a hard chair, place it about 3 inches from a wall. Sit down. Count to 1,000.Repeat. OK that is enough to get the gist.

Once again United discovers new and novel ways to delay a flight. The pilot announces that he is a replacement pilot. Since he is going out of the country and flying back the next day he had hoped for a room to sleep in. United had been working on it for 5 hours to this point. The plane was going nowhere until the pilot has a room. Over an hour goes by after this announcement. We are still sitting. The pilot comes on a few times with updates mainly saying that the United is working on it, that it is hard to get a “cheap” room during high season and that he is sorry. So are we.

Lots of kids on this flight. The natives begin to get restless. More time goes by.

Finally a room for the pilots. At last we can leave. Right. Uh, not yet. It seems as if 3 pieces of luggage still needed to be loaded onto the plane. Another 30 minutes.  Pilot comes on. Learns that it was really 60 pieces of luggage. But now we are ready to go.

Well, not quite right. The jetway is stuck. Not to worry, mechanics from the City of Chicago—which instead of the airlines operates select jetways including B18— are on the way The jetway gets repaired and pulls back from the plane.

AWAY WE GO.  Right into a line of 15 planes.

Stay tuned. I am sure the rest of the week will be much better. I don’t have to fly again until next Saturday.

At Some Point You Have To Laugh

That was said by the young woman standing in line behind me. Our flight to Charlotte should have left 2 hours earlier. Instead we had been in a slow moving line back out past TSA security waiting to find out if there were some way out of hell.

I am sure you are in no mood to hear another on of my travel horror story but as long as I have them I am giving you the opportunity to relive them with me. Another new reason to delay a flight.

After 14 hours in the office on Monday and a hectic Tuesday morning of emergency emails and calls I left for O’Hare. As it was I dreading the 5 hour two plane trio to Kingsport, TN. The only good news was that at the end of the travels I was to have dinner with one of my favorite clients. If only it had happened as planned.

Instead 15 minutes before the 12:30 US Air flight to Charlotte they announced a maintenance delay. 45 minutes later they announced that the part they needed, it took that long to figure out which part it was, they did not keep in Chicago. The part would need to be flown in. If it came, the plane might leave at 7 pm. The announcement directed us to go to the ticket counter on the dreaded other side of security.

This is one time where being a frequent flier screwed me. I assumed that technology could help get me on one of the three remaining US Air flights to Charlotte or one of the two United flights. Why not, I have high level status on United.

I worked that phone. US Air, United, Us Air again. Different answers each time. Mostly though it seemed as though every flight that day to Charlotte was full. After an hour I realized that I had no choice but to go to the ticket counter. More confusion. There were several lines and no one directing traffic. I stood in the wrong line until I reached the front in time to be told that the person behind that counter could not help me. Into the other line which had to be 50 people deep. Three people behind the counter. No good answers to be had.

If there is a deity with a master plan manipulating world events to the level of my plane travel I have discovered his/her master plan. The purpose of these moments is to provide an environment in which people who would never get the opportunity to converse mingle. People of all races, creeds, colors, and walks of life spontaneously begin sharing stories. They find things they have in common. Mostly what they have in common is their hatred of air travel and whatever airline is causing the day’s frustrations. Sometimes more. The older lady and her even older mother in front of me were on their way home to the city I was visiting. We chatted abut how crowded it got during race week (there is a NASCAR track nearby) and what a nice town it is. As a group we provide each other with solace and understanding.

Well, once it was my turn I was told there were no seats to Charlotte that day. I could have tried leaving the next day but any delay and I would have missed my business meeting. At least person behind the counter was competent. She found a United nonstop to Knoxville that would put me 110 miles away. I took it. I figured I would rent a car and at least be there that night.

On to the United terminal. Finally, a bit of luck, there were only 4 people ahead of me in the security line. But not so fast. I was not given a ticket but a receipt for a ticket the TSA guy informed me. On to another long line to haggle with another ticket agent. Back to security again where the line was now 40 people deep. As I reached my gate my admin called. No rental cars from any company in Knoxville. Hitchhiking was not an appealing option. Fortunately my client agreed to come get me.

For hours later, 11 hours after I left my house I was in my hotel room.  

As I have said before, as long as the plane did not fall out of the sky I can deal with it. Sort of.

Dallas At 2 A.M.

There are cities where the night life is just waking up in the early morning hours.  There are places in the country where the stars burn magically bright. 

Then there is the place where after your late night plane leaves two hours later on a Sunday night/ Monday morning and you are just happy that the cabs came to the airport within 15 minutes and there was a bed in the hotel room. That is Dallas.

Planes And Automobiles

I always wonder if anyone cares to read my tales of travel woe. If you are one who does not, move on now.

Speaking of moving, I have done nothing but for the last 36 hours. I left my office at 12:45. Went to the airport, flew for 2+ hours to Dallas. Rented a car and drove  and a half hours to Pittsburgh, TX. Went to bed at the Holiday in Express In Mt. Pleasant– did you know that it is booked full every Monday through Thursday?

Woke up early today and had a 4 hour client meeting.  Back in the car to drive 3 hours back to the Dallas airport, waited awhile,  flew the 1.5 hours to Albuquerque, got a new rental car and drove the 90 minutes to Santa Fe. I have a one hour meeting tomorrow morning, drive the 90 minites back, get on a plane to O’Hare, drive home and if I am lucky I am in the house by 6 pm.

Its a wonderful life.

Harold, You Da Man

This week in Curacao was spent with my buddy Harold. We have known each other since high school, roomed together a year in college and have stayed connected ever since. We did a shorter trip like this in the Bahamas 10 years ago.

Harold is extremely organized. He planned out the whole trip. Found the air, the place to stay, had dive sights set up, everything. He also did all the driving and 110% of the navigating around the island. I am a negative 10% contribution to navigation.

Traveling with someone else has the potential to be stressful. Different rhythms to how you like to do things and what you like to do. Except that he hated the time we spent shopping for replacement clothes and I could have shopped longer, we generally agreed, were agreeable and got along well. Not bad for being together almost every moment.

This trip would not have happened as well or even at all without him. Thanks for a fun week. Let’s not wait another 10 years. 

My Own Private Purgatory

So here I am. First time on a plane all to myself. Well almost all to myself. There is a flight attendant.

She was having a bad day. Due to flight delays she is only on her 3rd instead of her fifth flight. She will get home late. She is mildly upset. She had no one else to talk to.

I must have looked for a moment as if I wanted to chat. I did not. But for the entire 45 minutes of that flight she did. Nonstop.

She complained to me about all the passengers over the past few days that had been complaining to her. She went on to tell me a story of a female passenger that called her over and just started talking about her travel plans. Eventually this woman asked when the plane, which was late would leave. “Well”, my flight companion complained, “doesn’t she understand that there was nothing that I could do.” There was nothing I could do…to make her stop.

She went on to complain to me about others who had had the audacity to complain to her. Obviously the irony of this was lost on her. Not on me, I guarantee.

She managed to take a potentially first class experience for me and made it coach.  regional jet coach.