Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The worst of travel

If you asked me two weeks ago, I would say it was one of my favorite things--both personal and business travel.

This weekend tempered my expectations a little. Let me tell you about it.

It started Thursday morning. I was feeling pretty confident walking out the door in the morning that I had things together. I hadn't made a list this time, relying on my previous travel "experience" (I usually travel 4-5 times a year for work)

About half-way to the airport it occurred to me that I had forgotten the book I needed to read for my book club. I'd been saving it specifically for this trip so I was pretty disappointed not to have it along.
Then, one by one, I realized how many more things I'd forgotten. My Greek homework. some brochures. my cell phone charger. I was nearly hyperventilating by the time I got to the airport, so I called my friend Kim and we caught up while I sipped a 'calm-down' latte.

I was going to West MI, but thought it would be faster & cheaper to fly into Chicago, rent a car, and drive up to the conference I was headed to. (And it should have been!)
After getting off the plane I eventually found my way to the rental car shuttle--carrying a suitcase, a large wheeled briefcase, a laptop bag and a 4 ft long display--and got everything worked out for my rental car. (which always takes forever, because I'm not 25) I walked out to the spot where they told me my tiny economy car was parked, and instead there was a teal Nissan Cube.

So I triple check the parking space # and what they wrote on my paperwork, pile all my things inside and get in the car to leave, puzzled.

When I get through the maze of cars to the exit, the gate attendant looks at my paperwork and says " Lady, you're in the wrong car." So I turn around head back with no idea where I'm going (rental car lots are confusing!), get lost, flag down an attendant and burst into tears.
I can be such a baby.

Thankfully this lady was really understanding. I asked them to find the car I was supposed to take (a Nissan Versa), which they brought over and had someone move all my luggage over to the new car. I pulled myself together and got on the road...where I sat in city traffic for 2 hours before breaking free for the two more hours it takes to get to Grand Rapids.

My work was very slow and pretty uneventful (not a good thing), and I was feeling a little discouraged getting ready to leave. 5 hours before my flight left I hopped into the car to head back to Chicago.

I took the tollway to get into the city and since I was paying for an I-Pass, went to the far left lane and tried to get through the gate. But the sensor wasn't tripping to lift the gate. So I backed up, pulled forward several times. Meanwhile, a line of cars pile up behind me waiting to get through. Finally an attendant came over, told me the pass was giving them an error and I had to pay cash.

I get into the city at 3pm on Sunday afternoon expecting smooth sailing. I hit crawling traffic for 20 miles before arriving at O'Hare.

Chicago traffic

3.5 hours later I arrive to drop off my rental car, but I have to make a complaint about the I-Pass. Wait in line, nervously check watch. Repeat.

I finally board the shuttle with 1 hr 15 minutes before my flight. I'm the third person on the shuttle and the old man driving the bus is waiting for it to fill up. The minutes are ticking by and I'm a ball of stress. We leave...and it's now 55 minutes until my flight departs.

The shuttle drivers announces the stops. Guess who is on the last stop? That's right, this girl.

At this point it seems like every single person is taking a much time as possible to make me late. 10 feet before my drop-off I grab my 4 pieces of luggage and bound off the bus before it comes to a complete stop. punch my flight info into the self-service check in machine as fast as possible and get a print out saying I missed check-in.

by 4 minutes.

no exceptions made. (despite my plea that I could wait a week for my luggage!)

After standing line for 20 minutes at customer service, I was told there is another flight out to SD, in 3.5 hours. There are 5 open seats. "You're #1 now, but you could be #31 by the time the flight boards." (Thanks for the assurance!)

At this point I have a breakdown which I share on Twitter because E is on a hike back home and not answering his phone. (Thanks to all of you that offered support!)

Airport chilis

After a margarita and chips at the airport Chili's, I wait at the gate and am finally told I'll board the plane. We then sat on the plane waiting for a broken taillight to be fixed, the wings to be de-iced. Then we sit on the runway because there is a weather back up.
I spent the entire plane ride behind a 6 ft girl wearing a top-of-the-head bun AND a hooded sweatshirt, who also moved every 5 minutes so I couldn't see the movie being played. Even after I mentioned I couldn't see the movie and could she tilt the seat back?(she was sleeping anyway!), she still sat up directly in front of the screen.
(ps. the movie was Made in Dagenham, which was awesome)

I got home after 15 hours of traveling (a trip that usually takes 7 hrs max) and was not a very nice person until I woke up from 9 hours of sleep in my own bed.

Reading this story, I feel like my problems were just a few normal travel inconveniences and I'm a big baby. that's probably true. Thanks for letting me share anyway!


Unknown said...

Eek! That sounds extremely frustrating, but I'm glad you made the whole thing work out in the end. I can be a ball of stress myself sometimes, and you probably handled that better than I would have done! Good job!

Micah and Catherine said...

I feel like even the most seasoned travellers have an off day. Glad you made it through it though.

Amanda said...

Oh man, that sounds so frustrating! I think I would have broken down crying too! I'm glad you survived - you totally handled it better than I would have!

steph c said...

Are you kidding?? I would be extremely pissy and upset about this too. It's sad to think that it might be "normal" travel nowadays.. if my flight is so much as an hour pushed back, I get antsy. At least you got home safe and sound <3 Margaritas always help!

beka said...

I have SO been there. And you're right, while it is baby-ish to get so upset about it, it is just SO frustrating! I get anxious and angry and frustrated and just want to go HOME when I have bad traveling experiences like that :)

Glad you found a margarita. I find that tends to make all things better! :)

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