Thursday, June 14, 2007

My NYC Reunion - or... WHY did I miss traveling for work again?

Remember me?

I was in New York this past Monday and Tuesday for The Man... the first time I had been back to the Big Apple since leaving my job with The Previous Man last August. I was in NYC all the time for The Previous Man and was itching to get back as I haven't had to travel at all for The Current Man and I actually kind of missed it. Many of you who have been long-time readers of my Lost blog may remember that several Season Two posts were written on my laptop outside of Gate D4 in LaGuardia as I inevitably sat there waiting for hours because of flight delays. This week, the oh-so-fond memories of that airport came rushing back as I found myself once again praying to either land or take off.

On Monday, I got to O'Hare in Chicago a bit early, and was all excited to get a seat via standby on a flight that was leaving about an hour earlier than my booked flight. How naive! I forgot that NO TRIP will EVER go smoothly when both O'Hare and LaGuardia are involved.

I boarded the earlier flight at 2 PM, and after everyone was seated and we were awaiting take-off, the pilot came over the loudspeaker and announced that there were substantial air traffic control issues in New York at the moment, and we had been instructed that we could not leave for another hour. However, they of course HAD to push the plane away from the gate in order to make room for the next incoming flight... or, as some more cynical travelers would say, to still show an "on-time" departure. That's right, all that counts in the airline's statistics they like to tout is the time that the plane left the gate, not the time the flight actually goes "wheels up."

So, there we all sat on the plane in some little corner of the runway grounds for an hour. It was at this point in time that I wished I had brought some food with me. I had been so excited about getting an earlier flight to NYC and therefore being able to meet a friend for dinner that I forgot to have a Plan B. Critical error!

Salvation.Eventually we took off, and when the stewardesses came down the aisles with drinks, I chose to spend/waste $3 on a jumbo pack of M&Ms "just in case." And then I promptly ate 2/3rds of the bag. Plus a cup of tea. The combination of those two caffeinated items made me nauseous, so I had THAT goin' for me, which was nice.

To add to my nauseousness, the plane started making fairly tight circles in the air... which was shortly to be explained by the pilot, who came over the speaker again and said that we had now been told to remain in a holding pattern in the air until further notice, because there were still air traffic issues over LaGuardia.

Less than a half-hour later, we heard his voice again. It's NEVER a good sign when the pilot's speech starts out with, "Well folks, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but..."

The "bad news" was that we were running out of fuel. ?!?! What?!?! Nevermind wondering how that could be possible when the flight was fairly short... it didn't matter. They stated that we had no choice but to land in Hartford, Connecticut. So... I knew that was going to tack at least an hour on to the travel time, and I was now REALLY mad at myself that I didn't bring any food with me.

The guy next to me was freaking out because he needed to be at a meeting for work that evening. The woman on the other side of me (oh, yeah... I had the MIDDLE seat, too!) didn't speak English and kept trying to ask me in Spanish what was going on, but I don't think she understood my feeble attempt at an explanation. The couple two rows behind me had a two-year-old who screamed at the top of his lungs for no apparent reason. It wasn't crying, it was screaming. Even my iPod couldn't drown it out. You could sense the tension amongst the passengers!

When we landed in Hartford, we were informed that we were refueling at a terminal that was scheduled to be torn down, and therefore there were no food vendors open for us. That information just made me all the hungrier. We were also told, "You can get off the plane if you want to, but if you do, you're on your own." The guy sitting next to me decided to take that risk... he thought he was better off trying to find a rental car and driving to his destination. I hope it worked out for him! As he was gathering his things and exiting the plane, I froze in horror as it hit me that I FORGOT TO PACK MY SHOES that went with the suit I was going to wear. I was only going to be in NYC for one day, and the sole purpose of my trip was a press event early Tuesday morning. I knew there was now no way I would get to the city in time to find a shoe store... so as we could use cell phones while we were on the ground in Connecticut, I called the friend (Miss M) that I was going to meet for dinner that night and explained my predicament. That'll do!Miracle of all miracles, she just so happened to be in front of a Banana Republic store when my call came in, and they just so happened to have a pair of black heels in my size that she found within 3 minutes. She bought them for me and a crisis was averted. Then I called a co-worker who had a flight from Chicago that was leaving about 3 hours after mine. She said that everything leaving Chicago was now delayed, including her flight, by three hours. No surprise there...

It was 4 hours after we had taken off from Chicago that we took off from Hartford and toward NYC. Finally we were cleared for landing in LaGuardia, and we touched down in New York... 3 hours late.

I had no flash, sorry!The highlight of the day was that I did get to see my friend, the shoes that she found for me would work, and we had a wonderful dinner and one of my favorite drinks in the world, the the Mata Hari, at Employees Only.

I got to my hotel around 10:15 PM... it was a five-star hotel (The Current Man is not as cheap as The Previous Man was, at least!), but the staff did not have their act together at all. The guy next to me at the check-in said that he lived at the hotel four days a week, and he didn't recognize any of the staff! He thought perhaps over the weekend they fired everyone and hired a new group of people?!?! Anyway, it took a full 20 minutes for me to get a room because they had to "find" one for me, because they were "kind of sold out." So much for the late arrival guarantee that was on my reservation...

Finally they located a room for me, which was a downgraded room ($60 less - still $600 though!) but they assured me I wouldn't notice. Damn straight I wouldn't notice because I was about to fall over from exhaustion! I checked to see if they still had my co-worker on the list of people who hadn't yet checked in, as I knew she would get in much later. They said she was on their list (but I later found out that she had the same sort of experience at check-in and ended up with a Smoking room, which is the worst).

Tuesday morning came very early. The work event went well, and I wanted to head to the airport early to avoid the domino effect of delayed flights that would inevitably happen once it hit evening time. I got back to LaGuardia and had a standby voucher for a 3:55 flight (my booked flight was at 4:45). But we all know that it couldn't have worked out for me, now could it? Actually, it worked out for very few people that night. Because of what appeared to be some dark clouds in the distance and a rain shower that lasted approximately 5 minutes, they started canceling flights out of LGA (and particularly those going to Chicago) left and right. All flights that were not canceled were pushed back to 6 PM.

Original with salt, please!Once you've traveled through LaGuardia more than, say, TWICE... you come to expect that you will be delayed at least two hours. There is no point in getting upset about something that neither you nor the gate agents can control. So, I changed into jeans, bought two gossip magazines featuring "Stars without Makeup" and "Stars who Beat Cellulite" and settled into a chair in the gate area with an Auntie Annie's hot pretzel.

Around this point in time I emailed a co-worker of mine from The Previous Man, who was also in NYC on business and supposed to fly back to Chicago that night. I forewarned him about the situation developing... and he checked his flight and sure enough, it had been canceled. He ended up getting rescheduled on a 6 AM flight Wednesday morning (which also got canceled... so he switched airlines and flew out that afternoon). The friend I had had dinner with the night before was now in Ohio... and her flight back to NYC was canceled, so she was stranded in Ohio. A current co-worker of mine was at a conference in Washington D.C. and her flight to Chicago ALSO got canceled, so she was stranded as well. Unbelievably, the flight I had originally booked was one of the only flights that ended up actually leaving LaGuardia that night. Once again, I got home a few hours late, but at least I got home!

What is the moral of this tale?

It is this:
Worst airport ever: LaGuardia!

- e

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