Sometimes life throws you a curve ball. Sometimes it throws you a curve ball, followed by a sinker, a wicked change-up, then a knuckleball. Yeah, that's my story this week.
I was asked to come to Redmond to work on a training and certification project for Microsoft. I've made a number of trips to Seattle, so making arrangements was nothing new. The company bringing us out had us booked into a hotel that wasn't really close to the MS campus, and I didn't feel like dealing with a shuttle back and forth all week, so I decided to rent a car for this trip. Ooh! New and exciting! I'll finally get to drive around the area and begin to really get a feel for the layout of the Seattle area. I made arrangements for the car, had the flight booked, hotel was set, so last Sunday I started my travel adventure.
Please note, all names have been changed to protect the innocent. From me.
An associate of mine, I'll call him Bill since that's not his name, was coming for the same project and arrived a couple of hours before I did. I had let him know of my plans for the car rental, but had told him there was really no point in waiting 2.5 hours after his very long flight just to catch a ride with me. Well, as soon as I touched down, I got a text message from Bill with his cell phone number, then got a call from Bill. Turns out Bill's flight had been delayed in Salt Lake City because of snow, and he was still at the airport. I offered to take Bill to the hotel once I picked up the rental car, and plans were made.
So I picked up my bags from the carousel (after about a 25 minute delay) and headed over to the car rental stand. When I made my reservation with Steve's Auto Rental (again, not their name), I chose them not because they were the cheapest (they weren't) or the most expensive (they weren't) but becuase they were one of the lowest cost rental places with a gate at the airport, even though you had to take a shuttle to their actual site. I mention that specifically because when we got to the gate at the airport, it was closed and we were instructed to take the shuttle directly. Finding the shuttle was fun, but the shuttle driver finally found us (the lot told him the wrong pick up point) and we made our way to the lot to get the car.
Back in 2003, I had lasik laser vision correction performed so I no longer had to lug my glasses around. Second-best health thing I have done for myself, and I highly recommend it to anyone who wears glasses. Why do I mention this? Because I turned 40 the Friday before I left for Seattle. Still not seeing the connection? My driver's license expired when I turned 40. Still guessing? I never got around to removing my glasses restriction from my license when I had lasik done, so I went down to the DMV, on my birthday (why do anything in advance) to take the vision test in person and get the restriction removed. Which means I have a temporary license card until they send me the new one in 2-3 weeks.
I told you that to tell you this - when I went to get my license out to complete the rental of the car, the temporary card wasn't in my wallet. Gone. Must have fallen out at some point between Friday and Monday and just wasn't there. So I rummaged around trying to find it, hoping the counter clerk might take pity, but that's the one thing she absolutely stuck to was not renting to me with an expired license. Fortunately, Bill was there with me and he took the reservation and the car. Whew! Situation resolved.
It still took a long time to get through the process of getting the car, even with the proper documentation, so it was nearly 30 minutes later before Bill was able to go get the car. He pulled the car up to the front door of the lot, where our luggage was, and leaving it running to warm up the heater (did I mention it's cold in Seattle this time of year?) he got out and stepped around back to open the hatch on the back of the SUV import, but couldn't get it open. We both tried to get it to open, to no avail. The "handle" as it were was not terribly obvious, so Bill went back to the driver's seat to see if there was a secret latch needed to open the hatch when he realized that the driver's door was locked. With the car running. Well, at least we knew why the hatch wouldn't open.
Bill went back in to the rental agent and explained the dilemma. And we waited. Because they have no spare keys for the vehicles. And the rental agent wasn't really sure what to do. Shortly, Bill spoke with a manager who attempted to make a replacement key based on the keycode for the car. No dice. A short while later, the manager made another key, thinking the first key wasn't made properly. No dice. The guy who really knew about the keys was driving the shuttle, and we had to wait for him to return. He tried to make a key, same result. Eventually, he tried making a key using the keycode for the other vehicle of the same make/model, just in case, and it worked. We quickly loaded our luggage in the vehicle and headed towards the hotel. And arrived just a scan 3 hours after my flight landed.
Fast forward to my return trip on Thursday. I arrived at the airport shortly before 8am for a 10am flight back to DFW. Having plenty of time, I meandered through the bookstores to get something to read on the flight back, then waited for my regular food spot to open so I could get "lunch" before getting on the plane. I got to the terminal about 40 minutes before flight time, 10 minutes before boarding should have started. And noticed that my flight number was on a different gate. And was showing a delayed flight time. Noon instead of 10. So, i stood in line to see what the story was, and the gate agents start relaying a lot of information. First, we'll all have to go pick up our luggage from the baggage claim area and recheck at the ticket counter. Then those who are terminating their flight in Dallas won't have to pick up their luggage, but everyone else will. Then those who are connecting through to Cancun won't have to pick up their luggage, and they've already been moved to a different flight, but they were processed before the rest of us were. Then the gate agents (now plural instead of singular), started handing out cards with the American Airlines reservation number on them so we can call and make other arrangements, because now the flight has been bumped back to 3:15pm instead of noon. Only I didn't get a card, because I'm next in line, and apparently it will take less time for me to wait to talk with the gate agent than it will to call in.
The 11:30 flight to Dallas was already overbooked because of the adjustments they made to those with connecting flights, but they got me on standby. But they did go ahead and book me a confirmed seat on the 1:30 flight to Dallas. Good thing that Seattle to Dallas is a popular route, because some folks were booked onto later flights, but at least I think everyone got an alternate flight arranged with minimal difficulty.
While waiting for the standby line for the 11:30 flight, I received an automated noticiation that the flight originally scheduled for 9:50am, then 12:00, then 3:15, had just flat been cancelled. Suddenly I was really glad I didn't decide to just wait and stay on the original flight. As expected, I didn't make the 11:30 flight, which didn't actually leave until 12:00, so after they cleared the flight, I was called up to get my boarding pass for the 1:30 flight. Then I went back to my corner to wait.
While waiting for the 1:30 flight, the gate agents started making announcements about that fight being full and those who had not already checked in for standby but were wanting standby weren't going to get standby on that flight and to wait until the next flight at 2:50. 1:00 came and went, and the plane we were supposed to get on to fly out at 1:30 wasn't at the terminal yet, so no one had deplaned and the crew had not started cleaning the plane when we should have been boarding. Huge surprise given the way the day had gone thus far.
At about 1:15, the gate agent started asking for those with flexible travel plans to check in at the counter, as they were going to offer them $300 flight vouchers if they would take a seat on the 2:50 flight, which they pointed out *was* running on time. I was really, really tempted to volunteer my seat, but since that would have put me back in Dallas (if everything were actually on time) at 9pm and my wife isn't crazy about driving in the dark, I passed on the offer for basically a free round-trip back to Seattle and stuck with my booked 1:30 flight.
Which started boarding at 1:45.
Once I finally got on the plane, I realized that I was in a bulkhead seat, the first row immediately behind the first class section. While I initially rejoiced at the notion that I'd have all kinds of leg room, I also realized that I wouldn't be able to stash my carryon on the floor near me. And since that particular seat had no room in its overhead bin (that's where they store the "emergency" supplies), I had to stick my carryon items in the overhead compartment across the aisle. Fortunately, I had just bought a new (and fairly long) book, so I pulled that from my backpack and settled in with lots of legroom for a four hour flight with a good book.
As it turns out, the flight didn't have any issues once we took off (just after 2pm) and with the tailwinds helping push us west to east, the four hour flight only took about 3 hours. All in all, I arrived safely, although later than I would have liked. The flight didn't take off until well after I was originally scheduled to land, but again, it could have been much worse. I could have been with the group trying to get to Cancun who ultimatly missed their connecting flight. Or the group going to Ft. Lauderdale who opted to reroute to Miami and drive to Ft. Lauderdale from there. Or the couple trying to get to Panama City who ended up having to stay overnight in Dallas to catch the first flight the next day. I was able to sleep at home in my own bed and didnt' have to drive another 4 hours in a car following a landing.
Can't wait to see what transpires on my next flight back from Seattle. In February.