March Travel Madness

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I’m in the midst of four consecutive weeks of business travel. It more or else looked liked this.

Two weeks ago I drove from northwest New York to southern Connecticut for an IBM analyst event. Six hundred miles there, night in one hotel, meetings all the next day, night in a second hotel, analyst event, six hundred miles home, arriving around 11:30 PM.

Last week I was in DC. Less driving, but I flew to National Airport, went to the hotel, had a meeting with a colleague, then dinner with business partners. The next day I took part in a morning discussion about Linux for government and was done by noon. Because I was originally supposed to have meetings that afternoon, my reserved flight home was at 9 PM. However, those were scrapped and I was left trying to understand how to get home earlier. One option was to rent a car and drive. If all went well, it would take about 6 1/2 hours. Another option was to change the flight. US Air wanted over $600 to do that, and that was simply not going to happen, in this or any other economy.

So I went to the airport, prepared to sit it out. When I checked in via the machine, it asked if I wanted to take the earlier flight. I said “yes,” just waiting for it to ask me for my credit card to bill me $50. It didn’t, but rather offered me seat selection. I got the exit row aisle. Plane left on time and I was home around 5 PM. Too easy. I should have known.

This week was a bit more involved. The primary, compelling event causing me to travel was OSBC. I gave the third and final keynote at the conference in San Francisco on Wednesday.  Around that were meetings, face-to-face interviews, two video interviews, one phone interview, schmoozing, business calls, and a little sleep.

The flight there was fine but filled with little annoyances. I gate-checked my bag for the first leg of the trip and it took American over 20 minutes to get the bags to all of us waiting in the boarding gate tunnel. I found a great spot near my next gate that had an outlet for my computer, but the wifi was too weak to be usable. The plane ride itself was fine, though my stomach was a bit upset so I slept a fair amount. We landed on time around 10:30 PM and somehow I was in my hotel room in Union Square by 11. I did some email and got to bed around 11:30, but my body and my brain thought that was 2:30 AM ET.

The flight home on Thursday was not fine. I got to the airport in plenty of time for my 1:30 PM flight to Chicago, but the waiting area was bedlam and the flight was 45 minutes late.

Two words.

Spring Break.

The airline had not assigned me a seat before I got to the airport and this is usually bad news. It frequently means that the flight is overbooked, so while your seat is “guaranteed” it is not so “guaranteed” that they can tell you where it is. I was eventually given a middle seat. When I inquired why I got this when we had booked several weeks before and requested an aisle (because I’m 6′ 4″), I was more or less told that I should sit down, be quiet, and just be glad I had a seat. There were over 40 standbys for the flight and, while I got my seat, very few of the standbys did.

The plane was a 777 so the middle seat I had was in a bank of five seats in row 19. I got into the plane early enough to stow my roller board overhead, and felt I might still have a fighting chance to make my connection. It was supposed to be an hour and twenty minutes connection time but we were already 45 minutes late. Sometimes with a good tailwind and routing you can make up time but, in any case, it was out of my control.

I settled in, the doors closed, we sat there and then there was an announcement “Flight attendants, disarm doors.” That’s what they do before they open them. A late passenger? Nope, a maintenance issue. It didn’t take too long and off we went.

We landed 30 minutes before my connection, I booked it out of the plane, caught the shuttle across the airport, and got there 10 minutes before the flight. It’s not that they wouldn’t let us on the flight, it’s that the flight left early. There were at least six of us that they stranded in Chicago because that was the last flight. I half considered the rental car thing, but decided against it, even though I drive to and from Chicago three or four times a year. I was tired.

To the airline’s credit, they gave each of us rooms at the airport Hilton for the night at their expense. I was booked on the 6:40 AM flight. So I got up at 4:30 AM on Thursday, showered, dressed, walked to the terminal, got through the maze and disorder that was security that morning, and got to my plane. We took off on time, and I got home by 10 AM.

So Thursday was screwed up. I was exhausted and had to cancel my morning calls. I worked all afternoon and today was a very long and extraordinarily varied day filled with many context shifts from call to call. It was interesting, though strange at times.

So now I can rest, at least until Sunday. Then I fly to London, have meetings on Monday afternoon, fly to Zurich on Tuesday morning, train it to Bern, talk at OpenExpo on Wednesday, train it to Stuttgart via Zurich where I have a 12 minute connection time, and spend two days working in southern Germany. A week from tomorrow, Saturday, I fly home.

You know, I really think I jinxed myself by bringing a complete extra change of clothes this week. Maybe the gods of travel decided that meant I really needed to get home a day later. I expect everything next week to go without a hitch.

Famous last words.


One Comment

  1. Walli named you best speaker. Congrats.

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