Friday, July 21, 2006

Did you know the zip code for United baggage claim is 60-666!? Well, I do now and I know why.

As I mentioned on my previous post, I flew into St. Louis for a visit and then was tuning up for a trip to NY to meet my team's boss and the rest of the network there. Let me point out that the show, the event and the subsequent meetings went great! I got to see my older brother, ate a terrific (if expensive) meal at Smith & Wolenski's in Manhattan and stayed in a pretty nice hotel. However, it wasn't the case for the whole flight. It all started with a conversation with a snippy united clerk that went something like this:

"You need to go now and get on an earlier plan, the next one might be delayed." Said Mr. Clerk, brusquely without eye contact.
"Oh great, thanks for the heads up," I cautiously state "this won't affect the baggage that you just check in under my original flight will it?"
"No. You are meeting the same flight so even if it goes on the wrong plane, it will get there." Said looking over my shoulder at the people behind me.
"OK, but won't that mean that the luggage would be late it the second plane was/" I seriously queried.
"No, you'll be fine but you have to go now." He bluntly stated.
"OK, if you are SURE my bag will make it, I will need everything first thing in the morning?"
"Yes. You are fine. Hurry along. Next Please." he said dismissively.

Welllll...good news is, I got on the early plane. Bad news is, they kept loading possible "delay" passengers on it until it was 45 minutes late and then we had a lovely half hour sit on the tarmac waiting to take off. Not to be deterred from going farther off course, we make it to Chicago. I hustle down to my connection and after convincing the gate agent she can't give away my seat as I am, in fact, standing in front of her I board up and...after a 30 minute delay. We are ready to take off. Here comes the fun part. Apparently, there is a big storm over the NY-Newark area and we and we need to land at Washington Dull-ass due to the fact that...and here is the kicker...we DON'T HAVE ENOUGH FULE TO CIRCLE IN THE HOLDING PATTERN IN NJ! Great, wonderful, fun. We are assured they will try to turn it around as fast as possible. Note, that right now, I'm looking at getting in after midnight and to my hotel an hour to an hour and a half later. Of course, hurray, this is not quick 20-30 minute turn around...oh, no, an hour and a half sit down on the tarmac as they try to find someone to get the FULE HOSE un-stuck from the wing. (Imagine my confidence level at this point folks.) Well, it happens and after a nice stand in line (apparently we aren't the only re-routes in the United army) we are off to Newark. Landing in new was, of course, a conga line to the terminal, but hey -- NOTHING -- compared to the trip so far. Until, of course, the baggage conveyor stops and I'm one of 3 people standing there waiting. I quickly assume the worst and stop in to the claims office and, yep, my bag is still in Chicago. At 2 am with a trade show and embassy meeting the next morning, I'm told that they'll "do their best" to get the bag on the 9:30am flight out to NYC. Oh joy, oh glee, oh happy day. One thing to mention here. The constant in-and-out of A/C and new climate set off my sinuses and had me kicked around and apparently the germ tube air circulation of the flights did not help. At 2:30 am in New Jersey, I know that I am sick and that my voice and head and on the verge of breaking down. Well, I missed the last train into the city thanks to our lovely baggage delay and now I hop a $90 cab right into the city and right to my hotel. Huzzah, I have arrive, sans baggage, but I am here in one piece. It is pushing 4 am, United tells me I am eligible for reimbursement for the lost luggage and cost to me to get things to live on but that means hopping right out of bed at about 7 am, getting a shower, getting out to have a suit fitted ASAP and then off to my trade show. "Screw it" I think "if that is how it has to be, oh well, adapt and overcome."

7 am comes way, way, WAY too early and I beat the snooze mercilessly but eventually submit and wander to the shower. Long story short, a safety device was stuck and no hot water in the shower. They send someone up quickly to fix it, I rinse my fat ass down and I'm out into the streets of Manhattan in yesterday's clothes heading to the nearest Men's Warehouse. I love these guys, really I do. Not only had the team in San Francisco hooked my up with a great light weight set of suits for the summer trip to New York, they had turned it around fast and got me a great deal on just what I wanted. Albeit, the suits are in Chicago, but I know where to go when I need some help. So, in I go and I tell the salesman I need the fastest suit up and turn around in history. One hour later, I have been suited up from Florshiem shoes to "no worry" shirt and it has been altered and I am OUT the door and on my way to the trade show. Score again for Men's the will alter the suit if I loose the weight I'm working on, for free. Score two, hell, gold stars all around.

As I mentioned, show/event went great, no news is good news there. My older brother worked the event like a champ even though he was a guest on short notice and I am again amazed on who the guy I grew up with turned out to be. Waldo Sr. on Wall Street...who would have guessed?

And now...the trip home. Welll, of course, stormy weather is approaching and I'm hoping to beat it out of the airport, but the crew at United decides to screw around and delay the baggage load and jetway pull back and 10 minuets after we are supposed to be in the air, they announce that LIGHTNING has been spotted and due to union regs NO ONE will be getting anywhere near the plane to take off the jet way or finish the last THREE bags that need to be loaded. So, there we sit for two hours all in from that delay and the cattle line to take off. Note: I didn’t get the worst of it, a co-worker leaving to visit San Francisco sat on that tarmac for FIVE HOURS waiting to leave and did not make it to her destination until 6 am Pacific time, so this next part is a little more irony that whine. We leave, hit Denver, and since I was able to call United from the plane before we took off, I'm set for the 9:50 flight heading to San Jose. Philly Piggy is hopping to pick me up at around 11 and whisk me home. We take off on time, no delays, beautiful! Gonna finally have a leg make it on time. Nope. Mid-flight it is announced that we will be routing to Salt Lake City for a medical situation. Seems that someone it ill. Turns out it was a panic attack that induced severe hyper-ventilation. Awwww. Anyway, another hour and a half turn around on the refuelling and bag pull-off for our nervous wheezer (what is with these turn around times) and I am heading the San Jose. I get in after midnight, I get home in a half hour, I get to bed by 1:30 am. I'm in to work the next day. I am sick as a dog!

Due to a work overload and this trip, I can't just suck it up and stay home but have gone in diligently the whole time since arriving back. I've probably infected the whole office. But, I am alive, and I know why the zip code for United ends in 666.

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