Sunday, August 4, 2013

Blogworthy...Part I

Blogworthy...Part I

I haven't blogged in quite a while. To the three of you who read this blog the reasons should be obvious. But in case you happened to stumble on this posting by accident, the main reason I stopped blogging, paused if you will, was simply...I got tired. And angry. This year I have traveled roughly 90% of the time and the deals I have been working on have been complicated and difficult to reach conclusion. As the weeks wore on I became less enamored with recounting my travel woes and it began to show. As my wife said to me at one point "You've gone dark" (I had a number of friends from work say the same thing...and they weren't even talking about my blog). So I stopped, took a break and thought about once again closing down The Middle Seat. And then I waited some more.
During the ensuing weeks one more theme became apparent to me and it was this: what I had been writing about was basically the same thing with different twists that I was finding less and less interesting and entertaining. Sure emergency landings are exciting and dealing with less than competent wait staff can have its enjoyable moments but perhaps...not every week.

So imagine my surprise when two weeks ago...I began to live a blog post...and a pretty good one at that.

It started two weeks ago on a Sunday. I was traveling to a two week negotiation where we would all be Clearwater Beach, Florida. I hate traveling on Sundays but not this time. Negotiations or not, Florida wins every time as a destination to negotiate...especially when it competes with such "garden spots" as Hammond, Indiana or Nitro, West Virginia (I could do an entire blog about that place but on the best days the theme would be worse than dark). Because I was leaving for two weeks I decided to take a car service so my family with four drivers now (including Florida bound me) would have my car available instead of having it rack up parking fees in Philadelphia. I don't like taking car services for the following reasons. They show up earlier than I want so I get to the airport too early and sit among the masses waiting to board. The drivers can sometimes decide "lively conversation" is in order and will talk my ear off about things that I don't much care. They drive too fast or too slow and take routes that don't make sense to me... I know this is a very first world problem. Mostly I don't like not being in control.

The ride to the airport this particular Sunday was benign. The driver arrived about when I would want him to, he did not speak and he drove about the right speed. He did drive me around the neighborhood for a while until he found the highway but I didn't care...I was headed to Florida. The only "family members" not jealous of me were Chase and Murphy...they sensed this might be the time I never came home and their mood reflected it. When I arrived at the airport, the security lines were excessively long. It was around 11:30 AM and in the summer...families travel so planes seem more crowded because they bring a lot of stuff...and kids. The long lines were a non-factor to me as I am now part of the new "pre-check" group that the TSA established a year or two ago. Recently Philadelphia joined the program and it eliminates one of the worst travel hassles...the security line. With pre-check, you skip ahead of all the people in the winding boundary lines and once they check your ID and boarding pass you simply place your bags on the belt, taking nothing out of your bags, leaving your shoes on and you walk through the detector...I even wore a baseball hat through with no ensuing frisk job or anything. It is travel bliss...the masses hate pre-check people. I usually wave on my way out.

I arrived at my gate to a mob of people (three flights leaving within half an hour of each other with room to hold only about half a regional jets worth of people in that part of the terminal). It looked like a scene from Contagion where people are waiting in line for food rations. My plane arrived from where ever it had been and it appeared we were on time. Moments later the desk agent explained that "There is a small mechanical issue inside the plane that is being fixed" so they pushed back the departure time to 1:30 pm. A half hour late. I had a connection in Atlanta but I still had adequate time. Thirty minutes became sixty and sixty became ninety. Suddenly we were told it was a hydraulic leak (the whole time I thought they were fixing a broken tray table) and the flight would be leaving "At about 5PM". I located the pilot and was going to ask for his take but he was on the phone asking for dispatch and he provided me this little nugget of information. "I said I need dispatch...look, even if we do leave at 5PM...which I think is highly doubtful, I have now just lost my flight attendants to another flight..." I had what I needed. I started to walk towards the parking garage while I called my preferred airline to re-book for tomorrow. After waiting for a call back which would take between 13 and 19 minutes I explained the situation...apparently to a non-flyer. She wanted to know why I wanted to re-book when the plane was now going to leave at 5PM...a mere three hours from now and nearly six hours after I had arrived at the airport. I explained that I did not believe the flight would leave at all that day but if it did it would be well after 5PM and I would be stuck in Atlanta. She finally got it and re-booked me for a flight the next morning. I walked to the parking garage to retrieve my car...which was in my driveway at home. Another reason I hate taking car lose travel flexibility. I called my trying harder rental car company and they rented me a car that I picked up and drove home. At 3:15 PM my five hour airport tour was over for the day. I had checked my bag (I never do that but I had two weeks of clothes jammed in the bag) and figured I would see it mid-week at best since the airline could not quickly locate it for me as I left the airport.

I settled in for dinner with the family later that day (along with two depressed dogs) and went to print my new boarding passes at 11PM...only to discover that since my bag had departed on the 1PM flight to Atlanta that had been delayed until 5PM that eventually left at 9:52 PM, my preferred airline thought I had made the flight and cancelled my outbound flight to Atlanta and kept my mid-day flight to Tampa. I called the airline and was told by an attendant-bot I could wait on hold or wait for a call back between ninety and one hundred and twenty other words the earliest they would call would be 12:45 AM. I had no choice. I went to bed with a 12:45 AM wake-up call on the docket. I slept like...


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