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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

One response to “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles”

  1. Lists in a blog rocks 😀