Planes, Trains, and Automobiles
Whew. Long week in NYC for partner meetings (very productive). Sometimes a trip doesn’t go as planned due to weather. But then you also get a chance to meet some interesting people along the way. Here was my situation
- The AM of departure, all roads into/out of my town were closed due to severe flooding. Thanks to my barista at Starbucks in town, I learned I could take the Evacuation Road out. A winding, 7 mile gravel road through the woods with no defined curbs or lights at 5am. Adds 2 hours to my trip to airport, but I get there.
- Friday AM, I changed my direct flight was supposed to put me in 2 hours early by flying earlier through Chicago O’Hare
- Seated in last window seat on an MD-80 with only a view of the engine cowling (and the noise)
- 2 hours of delays before takeoff
- 4 holding patterns in the air due to severe weather over Chicago
- Diversion to Detriot due to, “Fuel issues”.
- Chemical toilets were full on the plane due to delays
- 1 hour sitting in the plane in Detroit getting refuled
- Pilot noting, “Never seen this in 22 years” – 75 planes on the ground in Detroit and we were among last to get out.
- Wind shear causing pilots to fight to keep airspeed up and plane level while descending into Chicago. I can sensewhat’s going on in the cockpit through the engines rising to max thrust and dropping to idle what seems like every 15-30 seconds.
- Worst landing of my life as plane “dropped” last 25 feet. Kudos to pilots for dealing with very harsh conditions.
- Flight attendant notes most flights out tonight are cancelled, other than Seattle, which leaves at 8:55pm. It was 9:10 pm.
- Called to rebook, no luggage tonight. The “Rebooking Centers” for American in O’Hare are Red 80’s style phones at a counter with no people. Classy. Long lines. Thank god I called on my cell.
- O’Hare staff are breaking out the cots; I got a reservation at a former Holiday Inn 10 miles outside O’Hare. One of the last.
- No jacket, thin shirt. Its 38 degrees and heavy mist, very windy. The Taxi line is almost two blocks long- worse than CES. Thank god for the Motel shuttle.
- It took 30 minutes to get checked in. Their computer system isn’t integrated and they get all reservations via fax. Stack of faxes was 3 inches high.
- Restaurant was closed for the night at the motel. Only option was “Hooters” across the street (I bagged it though the wife told me to go).
- I don’t normally hit a hotel bar, but it was 10:30pm, and I did this night after meeting a few guys in the Shuttle bus- one a Food Scientist from ConAgra, the other does cabinetry work for Whole Foods stores.
- Good conversations, a free round from the bartender.
- Get up at 5am for the first flight to Seattle.
Top 5 Things (Re)Learned
- Always carry your cell phone on your person when on a plane. Minutes may count if your flight is cancelled- start the process as soon as you touch down and can use your phone.
- If your cell phone supports web browsing, save a favorite to the flight information page for your airline/flight #. You’ll get more up to date/detailed status on your current flight or connections this way than the agents on the plane.
- If you’re going to be stuck, book your hotel ASAP. If you’re going to be stranded overnight, there are more plane seats than hotel rooms.
- Be frustrated, yet appreciative of help. It’s okay to be worn down (and it can help). Just be sure to remind the agent/CSR you understand it’s not their fault.
- Talk to strangers, kill some time. I tend to go into, “The Zone” when traveling where I don’t talk to strangers. In situations like this, it can help when you connect with others dealing with the same situation- hear their stories, learn about their lives. Get outside your comfort zone and get distracted for a time.