Sunday, June 29, 2008

When They Zig, Unfortunately I Zag

From in the air to ATL

Today’s long trip to Tampa is another lesson in adaptation. The whole thing starts with an afternoon flight to allow me to complete volunteer work on Field Day. Seemed simple enough. Event ends at 1 p.m.; flight at 4:15 p.m. – no significant committee since the bids have really made our choice for the upcoming CoSIDA Convention.

Arrive at XNA and at the check-in kiosk – do you want to travel on an earlier flight? Hmm. It’s through Cincinnati, leaves an hour earlier but only gets to Tampa 35 minutes earlier. Don’t know, it seems counter-intuitive to reach west central Florida via the Ohio Valley rather than Atlanta. Oh, and it will cost you another $50.

OK, goes against my travel sense. Why rack up another $50 particularly with a new sheriff in town. I’m good; plus I can watch most of Stacy Lewis in the US Open at what goes for a bar at XNA.

I zig. Unbeknownst to me, the world just zagged. This is the way everything has gone the past three or four months.

Who knew a massive line of thunderstorms from Birmingham to Atlanta would force my flight to be delayed five hours. Miss any kind of connection. Miss the last event of the day at the convention. Miss the chance at a decent night’s sleep to make up for the weekend.

As a side note, the farce of loading the plane twice was relieved by the work of the gate agents for Delta at XNA. I’d seen the radar picture on my phone, but the agent was insistent that I come around to look at his station to look at the browser to prove it wasn’t because the flight was half empty and Jet A is through the roof. The other passengers in line were leaping to that conclusion. He sensed it, countered it and won some respect for his crisis management.

Come to think of it, he employed his own aggressive disclosure. Here’s the radar, here’s when we’ll give you the next updates (a schedule he kept during the whole five hour delay), here’s the scoop on your next flight you can’t make, here’s the best I can do for you. A grim smile and a “good luck” on boarding, but the kind that gave away a to-those-about-to-sleep-in-the-airport-we-salute-you attitude.

Contrast that with the 13-hour odyssey last year heading to San Diego for convention. I’ll skip the airline name, but that was nothing but a rude rumor-fest as the whole family was left to fend for itself. Nobody likes to be treated that way. That’s one of the points for Wednesday’s presentation – Fan First Philosophy, who’d you rather have explaining your bad news to the fans – you or the media?

Riding through the chop now over B’ham I know I’ll be lucky to find a room, if not sleep on a bench in the airport tonight. But I am on the way, and that was more than it seemed like it would be earlier. Another grinder day in which sheer determination is required.

At this point, fatalism takes over, a sense of God’s will. Either this trip will work out, or it won’t. The presentation will go off, or it won’t.. Even Field Day turns out that way with some of the worst operating conditions in my eight years of events. We came up four contacts short of equaling last year’s total, but the sheer effort it required – long, painful work to get those 256 contacts – made it seem like we’d scored 500. Still, the score will be down.

Sisyphus will now pick up the rock, and start to work it back up the hill. Wish him luck.

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