Monday, February 4, 2008

Another Scary Day Flying Across the USA

A shitty week had progressed to an even shittier weekend and ended up in a downright anal Monday. A couple of posts ago I wrote about the most depressing day of the year. Well, Dr. Arnall was wrong. The most depressing day of the year is not the 3rd Monday of January. It is the first Monday of February. He was not too far out with his formula. But then again, this is only applicable to me and not to all of the world.

After spending most of the weekend on the phone or pushing out emails in an effort to manage the correction of a bug in one of our main systems, unsuccessfully I may add, I decided late Sunday afternoon to take the first plane to Monterrey to go and manage the problem on the ground. Mythologically speaking: A prince on a white horse riding out to fight the dragon for the hand of the princess. The only problem is there is no princess at the end of the battle. Only a workable computer system and hopefully a happier user community.

So I duly got up at 3:30 on Monday morning, drank my mug of coffee to clear the cobwebs, and there were a lot to clear seeing that I haven’t slept much the past three or four nights, and headed for the airport. The first problems started shortly after 4:30 am when I was driving in pouring rain between two 18-wheelers and received a call from my team in Mexico, telling me that what we planned the previous day did not worked. The system died on us during the night. (We humans are so good at giving non-human things human traits and I guess we do it so that we can understand these things better. If computers don’t get infected with viruses, they pick up bugs.)

Well, my 6:15 am fight still departed on time even though there was a 20 minute airport-wide delay on boarding any flight because of the lightning strikes in the airport region. Ascending into the clouds thick with rain and thunder, I thought we were doing well getting out of the airport, but about 10 minutes into the flight the cabin attendant informed us that the pilot is turning around, heading back to the airport. That’s all. No further news, no reason why. Well, there goes my connection flight in Houston and my carefully planned day. After we landed the pilot came on the ether and only told us that there was some malfunction and that we might have to get back into the terminal. But it was kinda weird that fire trucks, ambulances and the police immediately surrounded the plane when we got to a halt.

When I called my wife after we deplaned she said kind of shock. “You were in that plane?” I said what do you mean? She said: “I saw it on the local news. They actually broadcast a Continental aircraft doing an emergency landing because the craft had a fuel leak or some instrument showing a fuel leak.” We dumb asses were left totally in the dark. They told us nothing. Well, it didn’t feel like an emergency landing. I have been in one of those landing once in Johannesburg, South Africa. That was scary. On the other hand, I have to admit, the pilot handled it well. By telling no one on the plane he diverted any form of panic among the passengers. And maybe it was not such a fatal problem and he had enough belief in himself to land the plane safely.

To make a long story short, we eventually lifted off again at 9:30 am and again we were on the local news by them filming the take off, (local news channels are always short on good stories and they are always creating more sensation than anything else) but this time the pilot took nearly three hours to complete a usual 2 and a half hour flight to Houston, causing me to miss my connection flight for the second time today. I am certainly having one of those flying days again. Luckily I got a seat out on the next flight to Monterrey and the layover in Houston was only 2 hours. But my day was shot. I didn’t even attempt to go to the office and went straight to the hotel, decided to manage the rest of the day by phone.

By happy hour I joined some colleagues in the bar, enjoyed two margaritas the way the northern Mexicans make them (2 measures of tequila, 1 measure of Cointreau, and you fill up the rest of a small champagne glass with real lime juice) and forget about the wasted day.

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