Monday, February 27, 2017

What a Long, Strange Trip It Was (Emphasis on Long!)

(Regarding the title of this post...my apologies to the Grateful Dead)

Now that it's over and I can laugh about it, here's a little story about a trip to interview for a job (my new job, actually) in Indianapolis last month...

As originally booked, I was supposed to fly out of Harrisburg, PA at 2:30pm and arrive in Washington, D.C. around 3:30pm. Then, I was to catch a flight in D.C. at 5:15pm that would land me in Indianapolis at 7pm. After picking up my bag and rental car, I would've gotten to my hotel around 8pm at the latest. A good night's sleep and I would be fresh and ready for my interview the next morning. What's that saying about the best laid plans of mice and men...?

I got to the airport in Harrisburg in plenty of time...I parked my car, checked my bag, went through security, and got to the gate by ~1:30pm. Plenty of time, right? However, my flight to D.C. got delayed 20 minutes. Okay, I thought, no big deal. Then it was delayed another 20 minutes, and then another. It started to look like it would be tight making my flight to Indy but I still wasn't that worried. In the meantime, I felt a tap on my shoulder and turned to find my former boss (with whom I'm still on good terms)...he happened to be on the same flight to D.C. and was waiting at the gate. We started chatting and when the flight got delayed again, we decided to go talk to the gate agent. After checking on the computer, she told me there wasn't another flight from D.C. to Indy until tomorrow morning. I told her that was no good because I absolutely HAD to get there for my interview the following morning. She said "then I'd suggest driving to D.C. to make it." Can you believe that? I suppose given the sorry state of air travel these days that I shouldn't be surprised, but it still blows my mind that the best she could do was tell me to start driving.

My former boss said he'd drive me because his flight in D.C. was a bit later and he couldn't afford any more delays either. While we were discussing this, two fellows in line behind us chimed in and we started chatting with them. They were in the same boat: one was heading home to Indy and the other was trying to get home to Denver. We asked if they wanted a ride and they said sure, so we all went and had the airline take our checked bags off the plane, piled into my former boss' car, and we hit the road for Dulles. By this point it was 2:45pm and it's typically a ~2 hour drive to Dulles...it was going be tight. Miraculously the traffic was very light and we were dropped off at the terminal by 4:35pm! The fellow heading to Denver didn't have a checked bag so he ran to make his 5:20pm flight. The other fellow was in the National Guard, had spent the last six weeks training at the fort here in PA, and was on his way back home to Indy.

We got to the ticket counter and tried to check our bags. The airline wouldn't let us because it was less than 45 minutes before departure (which is their policy). I explained that I absolutely HAD to get to Indy that night and that I needed to get on that plane but she wouldn't budge. I asked if there was a later flight to Indy on another airline...no luck on both. The other fellow had managed to have the airline book him a hotel room and get him on the first flight to Indy in the morning. The best they could do for me was a 10pm flight to Columbus, Ohio. I'd then have to rent a car and drive three hours to Indy. Having no choice, I took it. Hearing this, the fellow asked if he could ride with me as he'd rather get home that night. I said sure, so he changed to the same flight. We had five hours to kill so in return for me driving him, he bought dinner and beers which I thought was a fair trade.

After dinner we had over three hours to kill before the flight. I called to change my rental car pickup to Columbus and to let my hotel know I'd be checking in late. At this point I was exhausted and still had a 90 minute flight and a three hour drive ahead of me. Before the flight took off, the hotel called me back and said they were overbooked and that they'd given my room away. I could not believe it...what else could possibly go wrong?! Thankfully, they then told me they had booked me a room at a much nicer (and more expensive) hotel and paid for it, so it ended up being free for me. It was the one thing that had gone my way all day.

We got on the plane around 10pm, flew to Columbus, and were greeted by icy roads and frigid temps. By the time we got the rental car and our bags, it was 11:35pm, and it was slow going on the highway because of the ice. Eventually as we got further west toward Indiana, the roads cleared and I drove faster. We had a good long chat (he was a very nice guy), and when we got close to his exit near Indianapolis, he called his dad to meet us at a 24-hour White Castle.

By the time I dropped him off it was ~2:30am. I made it to my hotel a little before 3am, checked in, and went right to bed. My interview
 was at 9am the next morning but I was so overtired it took me a while to fall asleep. I eked out as much sleep as I could, skipping breakfast to squeeze in as much rest as possible. When I woke up my limbs and head felt so heavy I could barely move. I had bags under my eyes that made me look like Uncle Fester. All I had time for was a quick shower, getting dressed in my suit and tie, a quick pack of my bag, and down to check out and head over to the company. A Red Bull on the way to pep me up and that was how I faced my interview. All things considered, I think it went very well. Thankfully, my travel home the next day was uneventful and I now have a story worthy of Planes, Trains, and Automobiles that I can look back on and laugh about.

So there you have it, my adventure! In retrospect, it was a real comedy of errors but at the time, it wasn't quite so funny! Do you have any travel disaster stories? If so, please share them in the comments below as I'd love to hear them and commiserate with you!

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