Friday, April 13, 2007

If This Is Thursday, What Circle of Hell am I In Now?

Well gentle readers, the saga continues. After a short, restless night at the Double Tree hotel, I took a taxi back to O’Hare for what I hoped was a short, uneventful flight to Ottawa. By the time my flight was scheduled to leave for Ottawa, I would already miss my first presentation, but I knew that last night.

The weather was better this morning in Chicago…better being a relative term. Checking in was simple since I had no bags to check. But I had neglected to consider that a one-way international ticket and no checked bags are the code words for “special treatment,” which translates into, “Sir, would you please step over here so we can do an additional search of your person.” At least he was gentle.

Expecting the American Eagle flight to Ottawa to be on time was obviously too much to ask. We left and arrived 30 minutes late, which meant I was now pushing my luck to make it to the hotel in time for my 1pm presentation. After quickly clearing immigration, I went over to the United Airlines baggage claim desk, still believing that United had sent my luggage on its earlier flight that morning from Chicago to Ottawa. After determining that my bag was not at United, I went back and waited for the luggage coming off the American Eagle flight. My bag wasn’t on that flight either. I had to wait another 30 minutes before I could talk to an American Airlines representative in Ottawa, because there are only two of them, two women who do everything. They sell tickets, they check bags, the work as gate agents, and they roll wheelchair-bound passengers to the curb for ground transportation, which was evidently what they were both doing while I stood there waiting.

After finally filling out the paperwork for my lost bag, I jumped in a cab and rode in from the hinterland location of Ottawa’s airport to the Crowne Plaza Hotel, site of the CAD Camp event. I got to the hotel at 1:30pm, 30 minutes after the scheduled start of my second presentation of the day. Amazingly, three attendees were still in the room, waiting for me. So I did an abbreviated version of my presentation.

Then, after doing my 2:30pm main-stage presentation for a larger group, I got back into a taxi for the drive back to Ottawa Airport. The same two women were at the ticket counter, checking passengers back in for the American Eagle flight back to Chicago, where I was scheduled to connect to a United Airlines flight to Phoenix. The woman politely informed me that she had not yet found my bag, and also told me that according to her computer, my United flight to Phoenix had already been canceled. But have no fear. She had found me an alternate routing to Phoenix: a seat on a Royal Jordanian flight to Las Vegas, connecting to a US Air flight to Phoenix, arriving at 1:14am. I would need to check with American Airlines once I reached Chicago.

For whatever reason, checking in for an international flight in Ottawa with a one-way ticket and no luggage did not trigger the same cavity search TSA found necessary at O’Hare.

The American Eagle flight was more than 30 minutes late leaving Ottawa, which meant that my 1 hour connecting time at O’Hare (assuming the American Airlines representative in Ottawa was wrong about my cancelled United flight) was quickly evaporating. The flight back to Chicago was uneventful, but after arriving in Chicago 30 minutes late, American had no gate for our plane, so we proceeded to sit on the tarmac for 20 additional minutes. The plane started moving again, but stopped 100 feet short of the gate, because now there was no ground crew available to position the jetway.

Finally, at 7:55pm, I was able to leave the plane. I quickly found a monitor and discovered that my United flight to Phoenix was indeed NOT cancelled. Not only that, it appeared to be operating on-time…obviously an anomaly considering the past 48 hours in Chicago. So here I was at gate G14 and I had less than 15 minutes to get to gate B19.

Now, I don’t know how many of you have ever changed planes at O’Hare, but it must be more than half a mile between those two gates. I ran. And ran.

And I made it. I actually reached gate B19 to find a crowd of people waiting to go down the jetway. But I didn’t have a boarding pass for the flight. So I made my way to the kiosk as politely as possible, panting and dripping sweat from the clothing that I had now been wearing for more than 38 hours. I explained to the gate agent that I needed a boarding pass and gave her my name. She typed a few keystrokes into her computer and immediately told me that the flight was oversold and they had “already released my seat.” To which I replied “unreleased it.”
Somehow, she managed to do just that. I boarded the United flight and had a totally uneventful trip to Phoenix, managing to finish the novel I had started that morning and even watching a DVD I had brought with me. We landed in Phoenix to find it actually cold and raining, hardly what I had expected.

The shuttle to the Scottsdale Plaza Resort, the site of the COFES conference I had come to attend, stopped running at 9pm, so I had to take a Super Shuttle to the hotel. Amazingly there was only one other passenger on the shuttle and I was the first one dropped off.

The first people I saw upon my arrival were Evan Yares and Lynn Allen. I had called Evan from O’Hare and asked him to please go to a store and buy me a pair of jeans, a couple of shirts, some underwear and some socks. So I could finally change cloths. I sat and had a drink with Lynn and her husband. Okay…several drinks, but I earned them.


  1. Evan Yares - now there's a name that brings back memories of night diving with sharks in the reefs around Bali (how's that for a trip in the way back machine?)

    If you get a chance - say "hi" to him for me and ask him how things have been. I'm still making PC's if you want to look me up. ;-)

  2. Obviously, I had a chance to spend some time with Evan in Phoenix this past weekend. But your comment lacked any idenfication, so I wasn't able to pass along your greetings. Who are you?