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Why NOT to travel for work

I had an interesting day recently… and I hadn’t realized how terrible it really was until I told the story start to finish. Definitely blog-worthy and a good segue into what my next post was going to be anyways.

My story starts with loud, obnoxious noises…


KNOCK… KNOCK… KNOCK… KNOCK… KNOCK….
“grumble, grumble, zzzzzzzzzzzz”

KNOCK… KNOCK… KNOCK… KNOCK… KNOCK….
“grumble, moan, grumble,  zzzzzzzzzz”
The knocking at my door was slow, steady, and piercing. I slept hard.

KNOCK… KNOCK… KNOCK… KNOCK… KNOCK….I stirred briefly, but did not rise.

KNOCK… KNOCK… KNOCK… KNOCK… KNOCK….Exhausted and annoyed, my mind settled on the first reasonable explanation it could imagine: road work. I hope it stops soon…

KNOCK… KNOCK… KNOCK… KNOCK… KNOCK….
Alright, that’s too close to be road work. I spill out of bed and stumble in the darkness, pausing briefly to lean against the wall. Through the peephole of my hotel door, I can see the security guard growing impatient.

KNOCK… KNOCK… KNOCK… KNOCK… KNOCK….As I open the door, a barely recognizable “hello?” escapes my throat. Dry-mouthed and still asleep, even I’m not sure what I just said.

“They said I should wake you,” he answers.
“What?”
“They said I should wake you.”
“What? Who?”
“The power is out, and they said I should wake you.”

Confused, annoyed, tired… I’m silent.

“The front desk said I should wake you because the power is out.”

In my mind, he’s clearly mistaken – I should be sleeping. I reach to flip the light switch, as if I would prove him wrong. As if the light would shame him for waking me… but the light doesn’t shine. Apparently, the power is out.

“The power is out,” he explains again, obviously ready to move on. “Ok. Thanks.”

I shut the door and stand in the darkness for a moment as my mind catches up. Suddenly I remember my 5:30 flight. I asked for a 3am wake up call the night before, and their automated system must not have been working. Oh no, am I late? I feel around frantically for my phone on the desk next to the bed. I wake the screen, but it doesn’t light up. Dead. Apparently the power is out.

Thankfully, I find my watch and the backup lights in the hallway are on – it’s 2:50am. I prop the door open and brush my teeth. I finish packing in the dark and leave the hotel, and as I do, I notice that the whole block is out. “What happened”, I wonder but don’t care – I’m finally heading home after 10 straight days of 13+ hour long shifts.

I arrive to the airport earlier than planned – a good sign. The rental car agent is very slow, and there’s another renter ahead of me, but I don’t care – I’m going home. I dig into my breakfast – a leftover, cold, sandwich from the night before. I had actually purchased it for a homeless man outside of Quiznos, but by the time they finished making it, he was no longer loitering around. It isn’t a very good sandwich, but I don’t care – I’m going home.

The wait at the gate is uneventful, but I do manage to charge my phone a bit. I walk onto the plane and take my window seat. I pull the shade down and ready my headphones, but the plug won’t fit into the jack on the armrest. Something was jammed in there, and I wouldn’t get to sleep with music – but I don’t care, I’m going home.

The rest of the passengers board as normal. A flight attendant closes the door and they make their announcements, but the plane doesn’t leave the gate. Eventually, the captain tells us about an issue with the computer, but we should be able to leave soon. An hour later, “soon” turns into an “indefinite”, and we’re invited to leave the plane, as long as we stay close. I try to sleep. It’s noisy with chatter and complaints, but I don’t care, I’m going home.

Apparently, United was experiencing a system-wide outage. ALL of their flights were grounded. There was no use in trying to re-book or get on any standby lists, as the whole system was down. All we could do is wait. Our flight finally departs 3 hours late. We’re told not to fret, as the system-wide outage would have delayed connecting flights as well. It’s out of my control, so I don’t care – besides, I’m going home.

20 minutes before we land, the pilot tells us they don’t have any specific connecting flight information. However, he does tell us that if our connecting flight was scheduled to leave after 11:30, the plane would be waiting. Apparently, I would miss mine. Suddenly, I care.

As soon as we land in Denver, I check the flight status on my phone: Delayed, estimated departure 12:05pm. It’s 12:04. I rush to the gate anyways, hoping for good fortune, but the plane is gone. I call customer service, and they tell me the first available flight is tomorrow afternoon. I could get on standby for a flight today, but I’d have to do it at the customer service desk. I tried to take a picture of the line at customer service, but even a panorama wouldn’t cover it. As much fun as waiting in line is, I decide to pass.

I call my girlfriend to tell her what’s up. She checks other airlines, but nobody has flights. Even flying to KC or OKC would have me home later than driving the entire way. It’s clear what I need to do.

Only 2 of the rental car desks have agents, and neither of them have drops in Wichita. I walk to the Hertz desk where a lonely phone waits for me. The voice on the other end is chipper, and surprisingly, so am I. Neither of us are excited that a car will cost $245. I ask her if there is anything she could do to make my day better. She speaks with her manager tells me that if I’d be willing to drive a minivan, it would only be $65 and they’d waive the drop fee. Brilliant.

The drive is long but calm. Hertz gave me a cell phone charger so I wouldn’t have to stop to buy one, so I manage a couple of phone calls on the way. I sing to the radio or to myself, but mostly, I let my mind drift into thoughtless autopilot.

I had very little sleep, was rudely woken, and lost an entire day to travel. I needed a shower too. Everything I had planned for that day would have to be done tomorrow. And this all came on the tail end of 10 very long, consecutive work days far from home. I didn’t even get to have a real birthday… but in the end, you can’t get upset over the things you can’t control. I had more than enough stress over the past two weeks, so this day was just a match on an already burnt-out fire.

 

Besides, I was finally home.

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