23 May 2011

The next time you tell someone it must be fun they travel for business....

So, although I've had a bit of a hiatus on the business travel front, I had to head to North Carolina today for a quick, one-day meeting with one of our Kantar OpCos.

I always love how, when people find out you travel for work and they don't, they usually ponder out loud, and right to your face, how fun it must be to travel for business.  Going all those fun places, having it paid for....

And so all of my friends who DO travel for business, and some of you put me to shame with the amount you do, have our war stories from the road and here's mine from today.

Day started out pretty normal although there was "weather" in Missouri and the thoughts were that it would head towards Chicago thus putting flight departures in jeopardy.  But by the time I got to O'Hare, things were running fine and my flight still showed as leaving on time.  But that's where it starts going a little funky.

I was able to go through Premium Security which usually means a shorter line and with people who normally fly for business, know the routine and don't take long to get through.  But not today.  It was backed up something fierce and well, given that we shot and killed the #1 leading terrorist in the world, I could forgive it.  Until I got up to the conveyor belt and started pulling out the laptop, taking off the shoes, etc.  There was this couple who was traveling with their cats (in those little pet carrier type duffel bags) and I guess one of the cats decided to share with everyone his nervousness by having some explosive, target-spraying liquid joy which went all over its owners and on the floor.  THANK GOD the woman in front of me yelled back to me to look out because I damn near stepped in it in my stocking feet.  I heard one TSA agent drop some nasty language and there was another unlucky TSA guy who had to come over with spray and paper towels to clean it all up.

I overheard the one owner saying "Well, she's a nervous flier".  A TSA agent standing by her said "Well, some people just don't understand these things".  Really?  Look, I'm a pet owner and even _I_ realize that my dog is a schizophrenic traveler which is why we don't bring her to the airport.  If your pet can't take it, don't you think you're doing a bit more damage to them?  ughh.  Drive a damn car already.

So the incoming flight (to my one leaving) pulled up at the gate about 15 minutes late and the gate agent was too busy schmoozing with some of the Executive Premier Platinum 500K World Rulers to go down the jet way and get those waiting, off the plane.  Eventually our pilots and flight attendants show up and head down to turn around the aircraft and whilst the pilots were looking over the plane, they've found a "mechanical issue" that needed attention.  At least they found this before we all boarded.  Well, you likely won't be able to see this in the picture, but the "mechanical issue" was a huge gouge that was on the front nose fuselage.  Yep, they must have hit a bird or space shuttle debris.

Here is a lovely mechanic plotting (with a black marker) the area that will eventually need to be replaced.

So thankfully since Chicago O'Hare is United Airlines global hub and headquarters, there was a spare plane sitting around and with only about a 35-40 minute delay, we pushed back from the gate.

The flight was uneventful thankfully and we landed in Raleigh-Durham about 20 minutes later than originally scheduled.  My pre-arranged ride to the hotel was waiting and ready to go and off we went.

We arrive at the Courtyard Marriott, I wave goodbye to my ride and go to check in.  Oh, Mr. LoCicero, we have this waiting for you.  We unfortunately have overbooked and we've arranged for you to stay across the street.  Now this can go one of two ways, either a worse location or a better location.  Thankfully I've been here before and the suggested new place is a big step up.  It's actually a conference center that's run by the UNC-Chapel Hill Business School.  Good room, good digs, free pantry for all guests that has unlimited free soda and Dove Ice Cream bars....what's not to like?

However, my 0.4 mile trip between the two locations was an adventure from hell.  After being given my "walk" papers, I was told that they had called a ride to take me over there and it was just 10 minutes away.  10 minutes became 15, became 20 and finally this broken down taxi-van showed up.  The front desk clerk ran outside to ensure this was the right ride for me and it was.  I got in and he looked at me and said, where are we going?  That's my first warning sign.  I told him the Rizzo Center across the street and he looked at me like I was speaking Hungarian.  So off we go.

I asked him if we were in the wrong lane and he said know that he knew where he was going.  About 2 minutes later we pull in, to the aLoft hotel?  Um, this isn't the place dude.  I told him once again, I'm supposed to go the Rizzo Center.  Oh, he knows now and off we go.  I don't think we turn the right direction and I make him stop.  He says he DOES know where he's going and now he's getting mad at me for questioning him so much.  I pull out the iPad and fire up the Google Maps GPS and see that he's totally going in the wrong direction.  He promises me he knows how to get there.

We pull up at what looks like a regular apartment building and he jumps out getting ready to dump me off and I tell him that I'm not getting out until I call back to the Courtyard.  I talk to the front desk guy and tell him we're not even close to the place.  He asks me if the driver has taken me to the aLoft hotel and I laugh saying that we've already been there and this is the second place.  He lets me know that he'll call back to the driver and tell him where to go.

We finally get here and from this point on, everything has been grand.  I can only imagine what tomorrow will bring.  Fingers, toes, eyeballs and hair crossed.