April 27, 2007

You Can't Get to Providence from Here

I've been in transit for two full days, getting nowhere. It all started out so well, but went downhill fast.

San Diego: 9:00 am PT - I'm at the College of Education Honors and Awards Event. It's always a pleasant time, watching this year's outstanding graduates get recognized and shmoozing with colleagues from other departments. I got to stand up there with Karl Richter, our department's honoree.

San Diego: 10:15 am PT - A surprise for our Dean, who is retiring after 7 good years at the helm. Each department is putting on a light-hearted tribute, each more hilarious than the one before. Counseling and School Psychology acted out Kubler-Ross's 6 stages of grieving. Policy Studies did a version of Deal or No Deal. Then came EDTEC's turn.

Space: 10:31 am PT - At this exact moment, Mars transited Uranus on the cusp of Scorpio, thus pissing Uranus off. Nothing good could happen after this.

San Diego: 10:32 am PT - The EDTEC faculty delivered its tribute to the dean in the form of a Powerpoint presentation showing the imaginary new Education building we'll be naming after him, all mocked up in Sketchup on Google Earth as one would expect from the likes of us. No one, unfortunately, had checked out the projector ahead of time, and we stood there flailing around for 8 long minutes in front of the entire College faculty before anything appeared on the screen. The College's embrace of technology has been set back by ten years at least.

San Diego: 10:45 am PT - Escaping any association with our performance, I dashed out the door and headed for the airport. I'm off to do an opening keynote and two workshops for the Rhode Island Educational Media conference, a group of school library/media specialists.

San Diego: 11:45 am PT - After orbiting the airport parking lot for 20 minutes I realize that there are exactly zero open spaces and I zoom away to the off-airport garage. My flight is at 12:54 and I'm beginning to sweat.

San Diego: 12:45 pm PT - I'm the last person to enter the plane. Whew. I nap and polish my presentation over the next four hours.

Washington: 8:48 pm ET - Arrival at Dulles. I go to the screens to see where my Providence flight is and see that it's cancelled. Now what?

Washington: 8:50 pm ET - I join the long line at the United Customer "Service" center. There are two people being served while about 20 line up behind them. This is a significant percentage of the population of Rhode Island.

Washington: 9:05 pm ET - The same two guys are still being "served". I phone June and tell her what's going on and she starts hitting the web. There's no other flight out from Dulles tonight she says, but there's a train that leaves at 10pm that would get into Providence at 7am. My keynote is at 8am. I ponder this while the 20 Rhode Islanders begin to get restless.

Washington: 9:15 pm ET - One of the two "service" representatives comes out to the crowd and points out the banks of customer "service" phones on both sides of the line. They'll "help" you exactly the same way we can up here, she said. You can hold each other's place in line, she added helpfully. "Who's going to do that if we're all over there on the phones?" I asked. Half of us dashed to the phones while the other half held their spots.

Washington: 9:20 pm ET - The carefully cheerful outsourced voice from Bangalore told me exactly what June said, except that she didn't know anything about trains. I step back to my held spot in the line and pondered.... if I leave the line, am I out of the system entirely? Will they not help me find a hotel? Will they dock me some of my frequent flyer miles for insubordination?

Washington: 9:21 pm ET - I dash for the main terminal, grab a cab, and head for Union Station. A $60 ride.

Washington: 10:05 pm ET - The train left five minutes ago, they told me. At least something in DC is being run well.

Washington: 10:10 pm ET -Sitting in Union Station I call United's Bangalore people again and get booked to Providence in the morning by way of La Guardia, arriving at 11am, two hours after my keynote. I fire up the Mac and get a suite near Dulles on Hotwire. I call the conference organizer. She's going to try to swap the luncheon speaker with me, assuming that I can do my thing at noon and the workshop I was slated to give at 2.

Washington 12:05 am ET - After another $60 cab ride, I settle alone into my two bedroom, two bathroom, three TV suite, all for $78 and continue to tweak my presentation.

Washington 1:30 am ET - I go to sleep, knowing that tomorrow will be a better day.

Washington 5:00 am ET - I get up, pack, call a cab and head back to Dullles for my 7am flight. By the time I get to the gate, the departure time has been moved to 7:35. I go online and see that La Guardia, my first stop, is under FAA flow control orde due to weather. They're only letting 35 planes per hour land.

Washington 7:50 am ET - I board the plane, knowing that there is ample time to make the connection even with this delayed start. The plane taxis out onto the runway. And then stops.

Washington 8:00 am ET - The captain says we're under an FAA ground stop order. No one's going anywhere. Even though the doors are closed, it's OK to use cell phones and laptops. I email the conference person the news.

Rhode Island: 8:00 am ET - Meanwhile at the RIEMA conference, the luncheon speaker is mesmerizing the audience with what was meant to be his luncheon talk. One school librarian nudges another and says, "I didn't think Bernie Dodge was supposed to be this cute."

Washington: 8:45 am ET - They allow us to take off. We're airborne for a 38 minute flight.

Rhode Island: 9:00 am ET - In the room where I was supposed to present "An Introduction to Teaching the WebQuest Way", the conference organizers have quickly rounded up some workers from the hotel kitchen to put on a session on decorative fruit cutting.

New York: 9:50 am ET - I reach the sidewalk at La Guardia and look for the interterminal bus to take me to US Airways for the 10am connecting flight. No bus in sight. Someone directs me Terminal B, and they direct me back out onto the sidewalk to look for the bus. No use. Too late to make the connection.

New York: 10:10 am ET - Back at the United Customer "Service" desk, an actuallly helpful agent named P. Mallatt told me that the next flight would get me into Providence at 2pm, arriving halfway through my final presenation of the day. I think about it for a few seconds and just say no. Get me back to San Diego.

P. Mallatt works his magic. He even walks over to the American gates to try to make something work. He proposes that I taxi over to JFK and get a non-stop on American. Or go to Newark or... and finally found a way home through Chicago. He even got me into the Economy Plus seats, too, where the middle seat is kept empty and there's as much leg room as all seats used to have.

Rhode Island: 12:00 pm ET - The morning keynote speaker gives the same talk as he did at 8am. Since he's barely heard over the clinking silverware and plates, nobody notices.

New York: 12:05 pm ET - I board the plan for O'Hare.

Rhode Island: 1:00 pm ET - In the room where I was scheduled to discuss "Blogs and Wikis as WebQuest Tasks", a quickly assembled team of school librarians is performing a selection of songs from Moulin Rouge a capella, even though everybody knows librarians can't sing worth a damn.

Chicago: 1:30 pm CT to 8:00 pm CT - I wander through O'Hare looking for adventure or at least a power outlet. Find one and send mail. After awhile, I realize that I'm running on 3 hour sleep and close my eyes. I doze, and keep waking myself up as my head drops past a certain angle. Repeatedly. Like one of those birds you put in front of a glass of water. Sometimes when I wake up, people are staring at me with mouths slightly open. This continues for six hours.

Rhode Island: 5:00 pm ET - The conference ends. The conference organizers head for the hotel bar and order boilermakers. They loudly vow never to book a speaker from west of Hartford again.

Rhode Island: 5:10 pm ET - Three hundred school librarians pull into their driveways. (It's a very small state) and head for the medicine cabinet, their ears still ringing with the words to "Spectacular Spectacular".

Chicago: 8:15 pm CT - I board the plane for San Diego.

Space: 10:30 pm MT - Neptune slips into Scorpio, deftly blocking the sour influence of Uranus.

Over Colorado: 10:32 pm MT - After not watching The Pursuit of Happyness since I've seen it
three times already, I look up at the monitor and see the start of an episode of The Office I hadn't seen before. Then 30 Rock. Life is good.

San Diego: 10:15 pm PT - I arrive in San Diego after spending 30 of the last 36 hours in cars, planes and airports and accomplishing nothing. It's good to be home.



At 7:40 PM, Mrs. V. said...

What an epic saga! I am sure I laughed more than I should have. I hope I am never in transit when Mars transits Uranus on the cusp of Scorpio- any other space happenings I need to watch out for?

At 7:46 AM, Karl Richter said...

Quite an adventure. Obviously, it was a huge pain in Uranus, but take comfort in knowing it brought out your comedic best. Laugh out loud funny.

At 6:20 PM, Tamara said...

WOW! Now I feel guilty complaining about my 7 hour delay, with no hotel or food vouchers if I didn't get the standby. Only to arrive in Ottawa, in negative degree weather, with no luggage. It came the next morning. :)

At 9:33 PM, Anonymous said...

After I got done laughing -- and then thanking God that that has never happened yet.........

I wondered if you ever thought of video skyping in -- and doing your conference via the internet??

Hmmm -- you are a MAC user aren't you??


ps -- thanks so much for doing WOW2 Tonight!!!


Post a Comment

<< Home