Saturday, July 28, 2007

Just Another Day Traveling in the Good ol’ U.S. of A.

Friday I experienced one of those frustrating traveling days that come along every now and then when traveling in the USA - hurry up and wait, time after time. A day that Time cannot be commanded nor controlled (not that one ever can), but just had to be accepted with a grudge and a sigh.

It started out with me in the lobby of the hotel at 5:45 AM, on time for booking out and taking the 10-seater shuttle minibus (van) to the airport. But the hotel clerk took his time booking me out. I load my luggage into the van and told the driver I am ready, lets go.
Uno momento, por favor”, he exclaim while showing me a small space between his thumb and forefinger.
“What for? I’m going to be late for my plane.” I told him. He didn’t answer me, just went back into the hotel. Paciencia, patience, I tell myself. It’s then that I noticed they are waiting on another person to be on the van. She casually booked out of the hotel and then still had time to walk to the back of the hotel, to the restaurant and breakfast area to fetch a cup of coffee for the road.
She probably wasn’t late; she might well have booked a ride for 6 AM. I am the one being purposefully delayed by the hotel staff so both can be taken to the airport by the same van. It makes sense, in a perverse way, but only if I don’t miss my flight. I calculated I would have enough time, but I also knew what was coming. I have been part of this situation before. It was going to be a high speed race to the airport with flashing headlights for cars to get out of the fast lane; bodies bouncing up and down as we feel every indent and pothole in the road; bodies swinging left and right because lane changes was sudden as the van weaves between other traffic. I sat upfront with the driver, calmly watching cars flying past; at least this morning’s driver was driving fast, but he was pretty good at it and he never took any uncalculated risks and we had no near misses. The woman, sat behind me, never said a word the whole trip and I don’t think she had a single sip of her coffee either. It probably would have spilled all over her.

All the racing was for nothing though. Arriving at Monterrey airport I discovered my 7:20 AM flight to Houston, TX was delayed by 2 hours due to massive thunderstorms and driving rain in Houston the previous evening, forcing Continental and probably all airlines to ground all planes. So our plane never arrived and we had to wait for it to come from Houston, which set off a chain reaction that would reverberate through the rest of my day and the day of thousands of others. The delay in Monterrey meant I missed my connection flight to Lexington, KY and I was subsequently booked to fly from Houston to Memphis, TN and then on to Lexington. OK, so I was to arrive in Lexington at 5 PM, only 3 hours later than originally planned.

I had breakfast in the Monterrey airport at my usual place, Wings, did some work on the laptop and the 2 hours wait went by quickly. We arrived at Houston and departed for Memphis on time. However, arriving at Elvis’s town we could not dock at our designated gate, another plane was double parked and we spent 25 minutes on the tarmac. After we eventually docked I ran from terminal C to my departure fate in terminal A, only to arrive there to be told that the Lexington flight just left. Great! I missed my connection flight to Lexington again!

From experience I know not to get angry at this kind of thing anymore, because missing connection flights and flight delays are part and parcel of flying in the USA. I was supposed to fly the Memphis-Lexington stretch with Northwest airlines, but they had no more flights to Lexington for the day and I was passed on like a distribution package to Delta Airlines to fly me to Cincinnati and from there to get a connection flight to Lexington. Great another connection flight! I departed Memphis at 5:30 PM and arriving at Cincinnati in rainy weather, the place was packed to the rafters with irate travelers stranded due to more storms raging from the Midwest to the Northeast. It became my halfway station for the next 4 hours.

Well, my 9:10 PM flight was delayed to 9:20, then 9:45, then to 10:30 and eventually at 11 PM I departed for the short flight to Lexington. Why didn’t I just rent a car and drive the 2 hours to Lexington? They had my booked luggage, somewhere, and I was hoping to still get it when I arrived at my final destination. I hoped! But not to be. With all the changing of planes and airlines my luggage got stranded in Memphis, I guess, because it never made it to Lexington. The rain still pelted down when I arrived in Lexington and in the undercover parking lot I looked for the Maxima, couldn’t found it and then realized I came to the airport with the Mazda Miata. So my day was not over yet. The Miata is designed for dry, sunny weather, to take the top down and to feel the wind in your hair, not for rainy, stormy nights. It meant the drive home was slower than usual, looking out for major puddles on the road that can cause the car to plane, and taking corners carefully to ensure the backend does not slide out on the slick roads. I eventually arrived home at 12:50 AM. I had a call on Saturday afternoon from the airlines saying my luggage arrived and that they would deliver it to my house the Saturday evening. Oh well, just another day traveling in the good ol’ US of A.

I can’t do anything to control bad weather, and I will continue to travel a lot more in my life, and where and when these two meet delays will cause me to be stranded in some or several airports. Not much I can do about that, but I promised myself to travel lighter and to keep my luggage with me at all times, where possible. Maybe that will allow me more opportunities to take earlier flights and be more flexible in the future

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thursday the 9th of August was my travel nightmare. Trying to catch a 1:00pm flight from Baltimore International to Louisville on Southwest, a 20 minute rain and thunderstorm passing through from central to the east coast created a snowball effect of long delays and pilots running out of flying time. At 10:45 my flight was cancelled and after standing in line for 2Hrs I was rebooked for 1:00pm Friday and was in a taxi on my way back to the Hotel to sleep and catch up on email the next morning before I set out for the airport again... just another fun day travelling :-) Adri