Nerd Guru

Because technical people need good soft skills to get ahead.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Running Diary: The 18 hour travel day, Part 1

I'm having a Planes, Trains, and Automobiles kind of day today. It is Wednesday, January 30 at 2:25p, PST as I type and I usually don't go for stream of consciousness entries. Even my usual Running Diary's are typically told in past tense and, truth be told, I write them after the events have transpired not as they are happening.

But today is different. Everybody has had a bad travel day and I'm having one right now. But with wireless access and 5 more hours to kill before my next flight, I thought I'd try to find some humor in this situation and share. This entry might end up sucking and it is admittedly more for me than it is for my faithful readers, but I'm guessing everybody can at least relate to what I'm going through today.

Background- Why am I traveling from Portland to Cincinnati today? Because I'm trying to sell my house in the greater Portland area in the worst housing market in 40 years. The house we bought in April 2006 had some wood flooring issues that took 11 months to resolve. The good people at Lowe's came through for us after an evil and soulless flooring manufacturer claimed that the breathing habits of my family were the cause for the finish chipping off the 2500 square feet of wood we had installed, not any faulty manufacturing on their part. I'm not making that up, the manufacturer actually put the breathing thing in writing.

Lowe's was awesome, though, and dropped the manufacturer regionally, and just made everything right. I came back to Portland to approve the work and put the house back together so we could get it back on the market. Originally I was supposed to be on an 11:45a, PST flight that would land in Cincinnati at 7p, EST. Then, fate heartily laughed at me.

9:58a, PST -A friend of mine is kind enough to give me a ride to the airport and came right on time. You have to appreciate that and it looks like a good start to my travel day.

10:21a, PST - I love the airport kiosks because I hated when you'd burst into the terminal and see that huge line, no knowing how much it might hold your day hostage. I check in and have to shift some clothes from one bag to another to make the weight limit, no big deal. I left Portland with 3 dogs and a ridiculously packed Ford Explorer on Labor Day weekend and have quite a bit of things my family needed that we had to leave behind. Barbie's, winter clothes, some DVDs, etc.

10:29a, PST - Security is pretty easy and my flight isn't scheduled to leave for awhile, so I walk over to where the better post-security food is in Terminal C. My lunch consists of two slices of cheese pizza and a bottle of water. Price: $8.34. That becomes relevant later.

11:15a, PST - I got to my gate and assume the boarding will begin the usual 30 minutes before departure, but we are told there is a problem with the door from when it was opened from the previous arrival. My friend Bing spent quite a few years in the aerospace industry and told me once that it's best that you not think about the physics of flight or all the things that could possibly go wrong. The airlines and the plane manufacturers do an amazing job of keeping us all safe and there are about a bazillion things that could break, but really, the door broke when they opened it? Tonka doesn't have this problem with it's products.

11:22a, PST - We are told that they have no idea how long it will take to fix the problem and suggest people start inquiring about rerouting their trip. This announcement causes several hundred people to get in line at the gate, but I have another plan. I go back out through security to the ticket counter, where I find there's no line. Score! The agent there didn't even know about the problem yet (but got the call while I was standing there) and told me there was a 1:23p to Salt Lake City (hello Jason Alba) and then a connector to Cincinnati that would get me there at 10:45p, EST (about 4 hours later than originally scheduled).

Knowledge is power, right? Now I know what my options are but don't want to switch yet given that my luggage is still on the other plane and that the fix might take less than the hour wait and still get me home at 7p.

11:31a, PST - After going back through security I get back to the gate just in time to hear the announcement that the flight will get delayed at least 8 hours while they wait on parts to fix the door. Seems to me you could cast the new parts yourself in less time than that, but I hustle back to ticketing.

11:37a, PST - Score again! No line and I get on the flights I was told about before. Now I have about 90 minutes to kill but realize that I'll be getting home to late to meet a deadline so I go in search of electricity in a good wi-fi spot.

11:45a, PST - 3rd time through security, but I find my spot, get caught up on work, and write a future blog article inspired by my recent DVD viewing of the Seinfeld Season 2 episode "The Deal"

12:57p, PST - I hand my boarding pass to the gate agent and when she feeds it to the machine, it sounds off an alarm that sounds like they've found that tall, bald, white, terrorist they've been looking for. Instead, they tell me that my connecting flight in SLC has been can canceled.

What are the odds you'd get booked on two separate canceled flights like that? Several thousand to one, I think. Why can't my lotto ticket buys come up like this?

1:35p, PST - I have three choices, all of which suck:

A) 7p departure to LA and a red eye to Cincinnati that lands at 7a the next morning.
B) 10:45p departure to Atlanta and a connecting to Cincinnati that lands at 9:30a the next morning.
C) Same flight I was originally on, but tomorrow.

Now, I realize this is hardly as bad as living in a hut in Rwanda and that I'm having a better day than either John Edwards or Rudy Guliani, so I try to take a positive attitude with this. I have a healthy family who loves me and getting pissed off at an airline isn't going to take that away from me..

I choose A) because not only does that get me in earlier but if something happens in LA, virtue of being raised there I have plenty of family there I could shack up with.

1:57p, PST - It takes quite awhile to locate my luggage, but I am assured it will be on the LA flight with me. For the trouble of having been subjected to multiple canceled flights, I get offered a meal voucher. It is good at any restaurant at the airport and is worth $7. Yes, I can get two more pieces of pizza but I'm on my own for that water bottle.

2:25p, PST - After filling my wife in on the situation, I find a counter service restaurant with an electrical outlet and ESPN-HD. I get dirty looks from the staff as I look for a place to sit and respond to the unspoken demand that I buy something by getting a Diet Coke and a cookie. As I go to eat the cookie, which is wrapped in Saran wrap, the sticker on it says it was baked two days ago and, boy oh boy, does it taste like it.

3:00p, PST - SportsCenter starts and feeds me Super Bowl hype. That lady who asked Tom Brady to marry her yesterday was pretty hilarious as was his "I'm a one woman man" reply, which makes him sound like a sweet guy. I'm not sure if the irony in that statement of his lies in the fact that he left his last girlfriend because she became pregnant (not so sweet any more) or that he could have said, "I'm a one Brazillian super-model man" (why I'm obsessed with using "Brazillian" as an adjective there is unclear to me).

3:11p, PST - Can I get an etiquette ruling on this? If I pack up my bag and go pee, do I have to buy another stale cookie in order to justify getting my seat back? What's the length of time a small purchase buys me? I'm literally the only person sitting in this restaurant, if that's a factor, and they already offered me a drink refill. Hmm, I'm not sure and will hold it instead for now.

I'm going to publish this now on the off chance that I can actually get this etiquette suggestion while I'm sitting here. A Part 2 will come, though.

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