Oh, the Joys (???) of Business Travel

Several years ago I experienced a week of travel that can only be described as a descent into madness.  It’s a little long, but I thought you might enjoy my ‘travelogue’. I entitled it, ‘So, how was your week?’

If you would indulge me for a few moments I would like to tell you how my week went.  Let me start by saying that I have only three iron-clad rules of travel: 1 – never check luggage (cram it in a carry on, rewash clothes enroute, do whatever you must!), 2 – never fly USAIR (walk, hitchhike, lay down on the terminal floor kicking and screaming, whatever it takes), and 3 – always leave enough time to make critical connections.  Given that I live by these platitudes, I had a rather remarkable week.

Now I knew this could be a challenging trip as I was to be in four cities in two different countries, on ten flights, in three hotels and two rental cars all in six days.  But I had made this trip before and, despite a few of the usual hassles, it has always gone relatively well.  However, because of the many major formal events I was attending, I needed to pack suits and shoes that made it impossible to consider a carry-on.  So I broke my first rule and thought, just this once, I’ll check a bag.  After all, how bad could it be?

Sunday.  The trip started out benignly enough with a flight from Spokane to Minneapolis, one I know so very well.  Well enough in fact that I not only wave at the people out the window but I know their names (did you know that Fred Fernspackle in Kansas still hasn’t got his corn crop in???)  Three hours later I arrived in the lovely Twin Cities.  I was on time, in the right terminal, on the right airline and with my luggage… for the first and last time on the trip.

The slow descent into madness started with a 90 minute delay on my connecting flight from Minneapolis to Boston, from which I was to catch a connection to Frederickton, New Brunswick, Canada.  In Frederickton I would have a one hour drive to my client where I would be attending a gala kick off of a major campaign we had been planning for two years including a formal dinner at the palatial home of one of the wealthiest families in North America and three public events that involved a total of about 1,000 people.  So I was a bit anxious to get there.

We arrived in Boston with just less than one hour to make my connection.  No sweat.  However, arriving in Boston and getting off the plane in Boston are two dramatically different things.  The combination of taxiing and sitting and waiting for other planes (filled with people who were obviously more important than us) put us at the gate with now 35 minutes to make the connection.

Logan airport in Boston in built like a big horseshoe, a big unlucky horseshoe.  I arrived at Terminal E at the far end of the great horseshoe.  I deplaned and looked frantically for some help to find my way from a domestic Northwest flight to an international Delta flight.  I may as well have been seeking the lost city of Atlantis.  After several unsuccessful attempts to get directions I found a TSA supervisor who looked intelligent and he politely told me that I needed to go to Terminal C, and to get there faster I should walk and not take the shuttle bus.  So off I went sweating along an outside sidewalk that was mostly rubble under construction and dodging whizzing shuttle buses (probably taking people in air conditioned comfort to Terminal C).  I arrived at Terminal C with now 15 minutes to make my flight to find two discomforting signs.  The first was the total absence of people and the second was a huge Jet Blue counter.  It was at that moment that I first began looking for Rod Serling, a sense that would repeat itself over and over again in the days to come.

Two bored Jet Blue girls shook their heads when I told them I was looking for a Delta flight.  “Delta hasn’t been in this terminal for nine months.  Who told you that?”  I decided not to tell them it was the guy in charge of everyone’s personal safety.  They pointed me down a long hallway and informed me that Delta was, “as everyone knows”, in Terminal A.  So I was off again for ten minutes of walking to two more terminals until arriving in Terminal A.  I ran up to the surprisingly empty security line, ticket in hand and three minutes to make my flight.  The nice young man in dapper blazer informed me that I needed to see a gate agent to get a proper boarding pass for Delta.  So over to the ticket counter to the nice young woman in dapper blazer for a boarding pass, back to the security man and through security to a plane mostly boarded but, by the grace of God, not yet departed.  Sweaty, tired but relieved I found my seat – in the very back of the plane with the added feature of non-reclinivity – and sat back (figuratively, not literally) for the short flight to New Brunswick.

Being in the back of the plane I was also last in line for Immigration once we arrived in Frederickton, and I was hoping my rental car person would stay past midnight to rent me my car.  I was through Immigration just before midnight and I had a shot at getting on the road and to my hotel by 1:30 am.  So I just needed to grab my suitcase and car and out the door.  Of course the main problem was soon apparent…no suitcase.  It seems my luggage had signed up for the overnight Boston Discovery Tour without informing me.

Now the Frederickton, New Brunswick airport at midnight is not exactly a beehive of activity.  In fact, the only person around – with the exception of the baggage lady who quickly disappeared once she saw that the passengers outnumbered the bags on the belt – was a young kid in a security guard outfit.  I guess he really was a security guard (he had a really cool radio, after all) and he pointed out to us the small stack of forms on a small card table left there for just such bagless folk as we.  I filled mine out and looked for a phone number to call to check on my bag’s status – no number available.  I looked for the tracking number to trace my bag’s progress to my hotel – no tracking number.  Just the bepimpled young security guard who smilingly reassured us that our bags would get to us the next day.

Fortunately the plump little rental car agent was still there and dutifully got me my car so I was off to my destination, sans luggage.  At 2 am I was washing out my unmentionables in the hotel sink and hanging them to dry and to bed for a quick 5 hours of sleep.  Tomorrow would certainly be a better day.

Monday came, and Scarlett lied.  After donning my marginally clean underwear and socks and pulling on my old smelly shirt I spent the day working with my client (keeping downwind whenever possible) believing that my suitcase would arrive in time for the gala dinner event.  I was to pick up the wife of the president and the wife of the Board chairman at 4:30pm.  At 3:00pm I began the frantic calls to the airport looking for my lost luggage.  After finally locating the phone number that was so conveniently unavailable the night before, I called to find out the whereabouts of my luggage.  The nice baggage person on the end of the line in Frederickton – also conveniently unavailable the night before – was only too glad to help.  All she needed was, you guessed it, the tracking number. “I have no tracking number” I told her, and the pause and sigh at the other end indicated that my bag may be lost forever. It turns out it wasn’t.  At 4:05 I made a frenetic trip to a local drug store for underwear, socks and toiletries, and was invited by the president’s wife to come by and rummage through the president’s closet for a suit of clothes.  Just as I was about to leave for the rummage process, the bag, in Doug Henning-like fashion, appeared at the front desk.  The evening was saved and, surely, tomorrow would be a better day.

Tuesday was a better day, for the first half.  The events went flawlessly and by late afternoon I was zooming my way back to Frederickton for a flight through Montreal to Boston for a quick overnight, before flying to Greensboro, North Carolina the next day.  Surely the worst was behind me, after all there are only so many travel gremlins that can be let loose on a person in one trip.  That theory lasted until I entered the Frederickton airport.  My first stop was the counter for my boarding pass where I learned that my flight was ‘seriously delayed’ (as opposed to ‘jokingly delayed’, I guess) and I would be rerouted through Toronto, arriving eventually in Boston just 45 minutes later than originally scheduled.  Doable, I thought.  However, the catch was that the flight was boarding and I needed to get there quick to make it.

I hurried down the hall only to reach down and feel the rental car keys in my pocket.  Oops.  So over to the rental car counter to drop off my keys and grab my receipt.  Good news, only one person at the counter, and he was looking over his rental agreement.  However, sometimes one person is all that it takes.  This kindly man was an older German fellow who was likely a retired contract attorney.  With pen in hand and reading glasses squarely fixed on his nose he was asking the now familiar plump little rental car girl to rule on several judicial questions regarding the legal implications of the fine print on the back of the rental form.  It was clear from her befuddled expression that her training may not have even mentioned that there was as back side to the rental agreement.  As I looked behind me to see the trail of people boarding my plane coming to an end, I apologetically laid my keys on the counter and said, “mail me a receipt” and was off.  I got through security just in time to run onto my plane and settle in for the flight to Toronto.

Now the Toronto airport is, to me, the epitome of sadism run amok.  I am convinced it was designed by an illiterate marathon runner.  You see, the halls and walkways are endless and the signage is all but nonexistent.  Knowing this, I was pleased to see that I had a full 75 minutes to make my connection, and even with the need to clear customs and immigration, that was plenty of time.  And so it would be on any normal trip.

We deplaned in Toronto at Terminal One and once again there was no one to be found to give directions.  This time I politely passed by the several TSA people (been there, done that) and found a ticket counter person who pleasantly instructed me to walk down the hall, past the shoeshine stand, by the monitors, around the corner, down the escalator to the waiting buses which would whisk me away to Terminal Two, where I would make my connection.  So off I went, down the hall, past the shoeshine stand, by the monitors, around the corner, down the escalators and lo and behold, a bus full of people was waiting there.  I walked to the nice Indian woman in dapper blazer (I think I would like to own the dapper blazer business) and said to her, “Terminal Two?” to which she replied in broken English, “back of the bus, there is room” pointing to the waiting bus with her official pointing thingy.  So I arrived at the bus door and two very nice Air Canada pilots gave me space to get on.  The doors closed behind me and we were away.  I greeted the pilots, a man and a woman, and asked them where they were off to. “Paris” the nice young woman replied.   “Wow” I said, “that sounds like fun.”  She smiled and returned the questions, “and where are you off to?”  “Oh, I am only going to Boston.” I replied.  When the word ‘Boston’ came out of my mouth it was as though a small alien creature just emerged from my forehead.  They both looked at me with pale incredulity and said in unison, “BOSTON?!??!”

Somehow I just knew that the next bit of news was not going to be good.  “You are on the wrong bus; this bus doesn’t go to Terminal Two.”  I appreciated the information but didn’t see the big deal.  I replied, “Well, I’ll just get off at the next stop and get on the right bus.”  “You don’t understand,” they replied, again almost in unison, “this bus goes out to the International Terminal.  It will take you at least a half an hour to ride out there and get a return bus back to Terminal Two.  Do you have a half an hour?”  I looked at my watch; 7:05 and my flight leaves at 7:55.  “Not really,” I replied.  They promised to get me some help when we arrived and so I held on for the Toronto Terminal Bus Tour.  I always thought that these shuttle buses went rather slowly, but it was amazing how excruciatingly slow a bus can go when, with every rotation of the tires you are getting further and further away from your desired destination.

We arrived at the International Terminal (I think we were still in Canada, but it was hard to tell) and the nice female pilot zoomed in ahead of me and found an official bus person in a dapper blazer and informed her that “this poor man was put on the wrong bus and needs to get to Terminal Two to catch a plane to Boston.”  No problem, I was assured.  So I thanked her and she was off to fly her plane to Paris (although just the fact that she stood near me made me wonder if somehow she ended up stuck in Beirut for the weekend).  So a blazered bus official took me back out and I climbed aboard the bus all by myself and we departed back for the main terminals.  As we pulled out I said, “so we are going to Terminal Two, right?”  “No, I can’t take you to Terminal Two”, he replied, “I can only take you to Terminal One, there you will have to catch the shuttle to Terminal Two.”  I sat in silent disbelief as we returned with tortoise-like speed to, you guessed it, Terminal One.

I jumped off at Terminal One and inside the door was an official looking person and I asked him, “How do I get to Terminal Two?”  “Terminal Two????” he asked me as though I had just said something disparaging about his mother.  “Why did they drop you off here if you want to go to Terminal Two??”  At that moment I thought those thoughts that you never share with your children.  Trying to keep composed at, now 7:35, I said, “Yes, and Terminal Two is…..”  “Oh”, he replied, “well, you just go up the escalator, down the hall, past the shoeshine stand, by the monitors, around the corner, down the escalator and there will be a bus there to take you to Terminal Two.”  I stood there stunned, and sure enough, as I looked around I realized I was standing within ten feet of where I deplaned from Frederickton some 50 minutes ago.  And off I went.  Up the escalator, down the hall past the shoeshine stand…well, you know the route by now.

I arrived back at the same doors and looked into the eyes of the same Indian woman and said, “Terminal Two!” “Oh yes,” she replied, you don’t want this bus, you need the next one.  This one will take you out to the International Terminal.”  Good to know, just 45 minutes late!

I did finally get on the right bus and when I walked into Terminal Two I knew what Ponce de Leon must have felt like when he discovered Macchu Picchu.  It was the Terminal of Gold!  Then the walk began.  Four endless hallways leading to more hallways until finally, at 7:50 I found the luggage carousel where, surely for over an hour now, my green suitcase had been monotonously rumbling around in endless circles waiting for me.  NOT.

I stood and fought off my impending insanity as I realized my luggage was lost…again.  I walked over to the nice man behind the computer screen and informed him of my recalcitrant luggage.  He looked it up on his little screen and proclaimed, “Oh, you checked in late for the flight in Frederickton.”  “Yes,” I responded, “because my original flight was ‘seriously delayed’ and I was put on this flight.”  “Well, I am not sure your luggage made it, but keep your eyes on the carousel” he said cheerfully.  Now I was about to share with him that nearly an hour had gone by since my flight landed and the chances of my luggage having not yet arrived were about one in a million… when suddenly, dropping out of the chute all by itself like some zephyr from the heavens was my battered green suitcase.  Right there, at this moment, an hour after landing, there it was.

As I returned to the counter to inform the man of the miracle, I could almost see Rod Serling sitting in his chair, staring into a camera saying, “submitted for your inspection, one man lost in a web of bizarre travel incidents that are taking him dangerously close to the edge of absolute madness…” Instead it was the same man who smiled and returned my boarding pass and I was off to negotiate customs and Immigration, recheck my bag (once they pried it from my boney hands), and on to the gate now 15 minutes after it’s scheduled departure time.  I was then to find out that it was delayed because “several people from another flight were delayed, so we are waiting for them.”  God bless airline incompetence!!

On to Boston one hour late. In Boston where I deplaned and claimed my bag and grabbed a cab to my hotel.  Now I grabbed a cab because I had been told that the hotel had no airport shuttle.  As we drove up to the front door and I was scrounging for $15 to pay for the cab I noticed that we pulled up right behind… you guessed it… the airport shuttle bus.  To bed, still believing that tomorrow will be a better day.

Wednesday.  Up to a foggy morning in Boston for the simplest of travel assignments.  Go to the airport and get on one flight to Greensboro, NC, rent a car and drive to your client.  So that’s what I did.  To the airport, through security, to my gate.  The sun came out, the plane was on time and all was well, finally.  I got a nice seat and settled in for the 85 minute flight to Greensboro and a noon lunch with my client.  We taxied out and were now “second for take off” according to our pilot.  We maneuvered into position and sat for a moment just short of the runway.  The short moment, however, became a longer moment, which turned into a very long moment.  I watched as the flight attendant was summoned to her phone by the lovely double ‘bong bong’ sound and, upon hearing from the cockpit, she rolled her eyes and sighed, and hung up the phone.  The same sensation came over me as when I said “Boston” to my two pilot friends in Toronto.  Nothing good can follow flight attendants rolling eyes and deep sighs.  Sure enough, we were informed that “a valve in the engine seems to be stuck and we need to return to the terminal and talk to a mechanic.”  So off we went back to our gate.

Once we arrived the door was opened and, by virtue of sitting in the first seat, I was up next to the flight attendant ready to deplane.  After some confused discussions with the ground person, she informed me that I could get off and return to the boarding area.  So off I went back down the hallway, up the escalators, around the corner and arrived at the counter at the boarding gate.  Greeted by the perky counter agent and announced that I was back off of the Greensboro flight and ready to be rerouted to Greensboro.  Great, first in line and soon to be sent off to another flight.

She took my boarding card and began to punch in data into her computer screen.  As I stood there a strange realization came over me… there were no other passengers behind me.  Apparently no one else had gotten off the plane.  I pointed that out to her and she agreed that it was quite strange.  Upon calling down to the gate I heard the person on the other end say, “Why did anybody get off the plane?”  She looked at me and I said, “They told me to!”  So she quickly printed out a pass and took me back down the escalator around the corner and to the gate to find the whole plane load of people standing in the hallway with very confused agents running around trying to find out where we go and what we do.

Now a strange thing happened and I am not sure how it happened but once we got word that, indeed we could go back up the escalators, and around the corner to the gate agent and get re-booked, I was suddenly in the back of the group.  Try as I might to regain lost ground, I found myself standing in the long line looking up to the gate agent where I had stood all alone just three minutes earlier.  25 minutes later I arrived, yet again, at the counter where the still perky agent noted with some regret that this was indeed my second visit to the counter.  Her regret deepened as she had to inform me that the next flight to Greensboro had seats available but it was, alas, leaving soon and I would not be able to make it.  “You needed about 20 minutes more to make that flight,” she informed me, and no, I did not throw things, I just smiled and said, “so, where do we go from here?”

Well, the options were limited but there was a flight to Charlotte, about a 2 hour drive from my client.  It left in 30 minutes but it was delayed due to hurricane Ophelia.  I could probably catch it if I hurried and, oh by the way, it is on US Air.  But there was a catch, my checked baggage.  She called down and they agreed to send my suitcase to a carousel downstairs where I would reclaim it, go outside and walk to US Air which was at Terminal B. With a little luck I might still make it.  She handed me my US Air boarding pass which I accepted with the same enthusiasm as if she was handing me a dog turd.  But it was a chance to get at least a few hours with my client, so I pocketed it and off I went.

Down the escalator, through the hallway, around the corner and to the carousel where, joyfully, my bag did appear within a few minutes.  Out the door, down the now familiar sidewalk and into Terminal B. I did pause for a moment to consider the fact that I was actually running through an airport to catch a USAir flight hoping that it was sufficiently delayed by a major hurricane moving through the area into which I was about to fly.  Hmmm.  I now had only 5 minutes to get to my gate and I was relived to see no one at the ticket counter so I ran up to a very nice lady agent at the counter and announced breathlessly, “I am on the flight to Charlotte that leaves in five minutes from a canceled Delta flight an I just need to check my bag in.”  I lifted the suitcase onto the scale and handed her my boarding pass.  I really thought I had a chance!

The nice counter lady looked at my boarding pass with great interest and examined it for a surprisingly long period of time.  I again explained that “I just need to check my bag” and I would be off to catch the flight.  Undaunted she continued her examination of the boarding pass, finally looking up to ask, “Do you know your flight number?”  How does one respond when a trained airline counter person is looking at your boarding pass and asking you for your flight number?  I did my best to display no sense of incredulity and simply suggested that it might actually be printed right there on the boarding card in her hand.  She once again began her careful inspection of the boarding card and, as if she had unlocked some secret code, smiled and acknowledged, “oh yes, here it is.”  She placed the boarding card on the counter, poised her fingers above the keys, paused and looked up at me and said, “Will you be checking any bags?”  Queue Rod Serling…

I now spoke very slowly and clearly as I knew I was in real trouble here.  So I said, “Yes…I..just..need..to..check..this..bag.”  I learned later that she was new on the job and to her credit she soon realized that checking in a person for a flight was well beyond her current level of training as a person hired to check people in for flights, so she summoned a supervisor.  The supervisor was very fast and even though my flight was now closed, due to the hurricane delay he magically cajoled the computer system to spit out a new boarding card (apparently the one I got from Delta actually was a dog turd).  He triumphantly handed me my boarding pass and said, if I hurry, I will probably make the flight.  “And the tag for my luggage?” I asked.  “Luggage, I didn’t know you had any luggage” he responded with furled brow.  “Well, your luggage certainly won’t make it to Charlotte on this flight.”

I remained composed, politely handed him back the magic ticket and we started over from the beginning.  We checked every route at every conceivable time and, in the end, I declared the day an unnatural disaster area and at 9:30am I accepted a boarding pass on a flight leaving at 4:40 pm directly to Greensboro.  Now since I do strategic planning I thought perhaps a good strategy was needed so I decided that I could salvage the day by camping out in the lovely Northwest World Club of which I had been a member for five years.  They have a large and comfortable club in Boston which I have visited several times and there I could make calls, work on my laptop and perhaps still have a relatively productive day.

Standing in Terminal B I made the decision to trek off to the club which was, of course, back in Terminal E.  Once again along the sidewalks of Logan, now waving at passing buses with drivers that I have almost come to recognize (Hi, Bill, how’s the wife?).  I arrived at Terminal E and felt like I was home.  Good old Northwest Airlines, this was my airline, these were my people, I was, after all, a Platinum Elite level frequent flyer with them.  They knew me and loved me.  (This sense of love and belonging was not diluted from the knowledge that Northwest had declared bankruptcy the day before!)

I asked a counter person for the location of the Club and she informed me that it was across from Gate 3.  I realized that meant I would have to go through security but with seven hours to kill it was no big deal.  I made the amazingly long walk to security and joyfully found no one in line, so I breezed up to the security person, handed her my boarding pass and ID and smiled.  Once again my boarding pass has treated like doggy doodoo.  She looked up and informed me that I was in the wrong terminal.  I replied that all I wanted to do was to go the Northwest Club.  She replied that I could not go through security in this terminal unless I had a boarding pass for a flight out of this terminal.  Now that did make some sense so I asked her what I should do and she suggested I go back to  the ticket counter and ask for a gate pass.  That should work, I thought (after all, these people love me!)

So back on the long walk to the ticket counter and to my dear counter lady to ask for a gate pass.  “Gate pass?  Gee, I don’t think I can give you a gate pass.  Let me call the supervisor.”  She returned with the verdict.  “No, I am sorry; you have to have 24 hour notice to get a gate pass.”  I smiled and responded with just a small bit of venom in my voice, “When Delta gives us 24 hours notice of their engine failure I will be glad to give you 24 hours notice for a gate pass!”  As I walked away I decided to try one more tactic.  I would talk directly to the folks in the Club, so I called and spoke to a nice lady (surely wearing a dapper blazer) who confirmed the 24 hour rule.  However she did mention that I could use the Continental Club which was located outside security.  That would work.  Of course the Continental Club is in… Terminal C.  After another walk on torn up sidewalks that is where I ended up for the duration of the long day in Boston.  Using conference calls and e-mail I managed to have a relatively productive day and returned to Terminal B to clear security and await my USAir flight to Greensboro.

To my delight we boarded the Greensboro flight on time and I had an open seat next to me so I settled in for a routine flight.  After all, what could go wrong now????  As our 4:40 departure time came and went I rued my confidence.  At about 4:50 the pilot comes on to inform us that, due to Ophelia, we were being rerouted, and that they were waiting for their clearance.  So we waited with them.  And waited.  And waited.  At 5:35pm they came on to announce to us that they had “good news and bad news.”  The good news was that they had received the coveted clearance.  The bad news was that the clearance would take us hundreds of miles out of our way and our flight time went from 85 minutes to 2-1/2 hours.  So we were away 90 minutes late for a near cross-country length flight on a little Canadair Regional Jet.  We managed to bump our way along the frontal edge of the hurricane and slip into Greensboro 2 hours late.  There was one bit of good news, my bag was actually there!

Now Thursday went without a hitch for one obvious reason… I never went anywhere near an airport.

So it’s Friday and all that is left of this journey into the Twilight Zone is to take two flights home and fall into the arms of my understanding wife.  But between Greensboro hotel and wifely arms lay yet more fun.

Having obtained a boarding pass in Greensboro I proceeded to drop off my bag at TSA.  In most places you just leave your bag, but here you are required to wait for the inspection to be complete.  Ahead of me was an older Asian couple who did not appear to have been in the US for long.  Apparently the lone TSA guy had discovered some suspicious residue on the zippers of a huge, overly stuffed duffle bag and so he donned rubber gloves and headed in.  We watched as he unpacked piles and piles of clothes, souvenirs, camera equipment and what not.  It was as if Mary Poppins packed the bag, as stuff just kept coming out and coming out.  As the guy worked his way through every item the line behind me grew and grew to where, by even conservative estimates, the new people joining the line were in for 2+ hours of waiting if this procedure was repeated for everyone already in line.

Finally, the TSA guy was joined by a second TSA guy who, prior to helping me, joined the first TSA guy and together they began the job of repacking this monster duffle bag.  As expected, things did not go in as easily as they came out, and soon the older couple was frantically waving their arms and shouting things in some foreign Asian language as the two TSA guys were stuffing items in with all their might.  At the end, they were both laying on the duffle bag jerking on the zipper with all their might.  Any chance for the survival of anything fragile was long past and the poor Asian couple stood with the glazed stare of disbelief as the zipper finally gave in and closed.  Looking at the expression of despair on their faces I said a quick prayer for a residueless report.  After a careful examination of my results, the TSA guy declared that I was “clean.”

My ‘plenty of time’ planning was now in shambles and I hurried down to my gate, situating myself at the window where I could see my little plane sitting in the sunshine all prepped and ready to whisk us to Minneapolis.  “So close,” I thought, “so close!”  Then another boarding time came and another boarding time went.  Soon the nice counter agent lady came on to say, “We have a small maintenance problem with the plane.  It seems the little button on the door under the plane will not close properly, so we have called a mechanic to take a look at it.”  Sure enough, up drove a van and a very young man got out, pulled a huge screwdriver out of a toolbox in the back, climbed under the plane and, while lying on his back, began prodding the plane.  I sat there considering the fact that the Northwest mechanics are out on strike as I watched the substitute mechanic poking around at the fuselage of the plane that would soon be carrying me 35,000 feet into the atmosphere.  Whatever he did, it apparently worked as we were soon boarded and away.  2 hours later landed in Minneapolis only 45 minutes late.  Miracle of miracles.

I was off the plane and ready for my last leg. I found a monitor and my flight and gate, and, of course… my delay.  Upon checking with a blazered gate agent I learned that there are equipment problems that have my flight delayed for 45 minutes.  So it was off to the club to sit and make calls and work on the laptop…you know the story.  45 minutes turned into 90 minutes and we finally boarded our 11:19 flight at 12:25.

From my 1-C seat I had a good view of the cockpit and galley area.  After everyone had boarded and the doors were closed again we sat for what I know recognized as a troubling length of time.  Soon the cockpit door opened and the pilot emerged and engaged in a spirited conversation with the flight attendant who, upon hearing the news, rolled her eyes and sighed (they must teach them this in flight attendant school!!!) and soon she was re-opening the main door.  The pilot came on to tell us that “we need to get air to the engine in order to start it, and the air trolley is not working, so we need to get off and check and see how we can get the air we need to start out engines.”  Why not?  After stuck valves, jammed door handles, and countless delays, what was a little shortage of air?

So the pilot got off the plane, helped the ground crew hook up a hose to the plane, and soon the engines started up (this is a big jet, mind you!).  We reclosed the doors and soon were ready to depart.  The 11:19am flight lifted off at 1:05pm for the last leg home and those loving wifely arms.

I doubt I’ll ever have this type of trip again, but who knows.  So six delayed flights, two canceled, lost luggage and a couple of hundred trips around the Toronto and Boston airports, I am finally seeing the hills of Spokane in the window.  As I write this I wonder about my next several months of travel that require an average of 18 flights per month.  Should be fun.

Anyway, that was my week.  So, how was yours?