Wednesday, February 28, 2007

To and Fro We Go

My youngest son received his private pilot’s license at age 16. “Aren’t you afraid to let him fly an airplane?” a few of my friends asked when he started taking lessons. My response was always the same. “But flying is his heart’s desire, and statistics prove that the drive to and from the airport is far more dangerous than the flying.” Yes, that was and remains true. But still, my mother-heart was relieved and grateful when, after each flight, I heard his vehicle pull into the driveway, knowing that whether by air or via hard road, as my grandma used to call it, my “baby” had made it safely home.

Fast forward: that “boy” is now 36. He’s a husband, a father and a very hard worker. Although he hasn’t piloted a plane for years now (but maybe again, one day), he owns a motorcycle, a truck and a minivan. Yes, he is a go-er, a do-er . . . a man. And yet, when he makes the five-hour drive to visit us, it’s as though time has stood still. I still breathe the same sigh of relief when I hear the horn toot, the signal in our family that We Long Distance Travelers have arrived. (We also toot the horn when we depart, waving like goofballs when we drive away, which is when I once again begin waiting for the “we made it home” phone report.) Yes, I have been and will continue to be a dedicated Waiting One.

NEW POINT OF VIEW: By plane, train, limo, taxi, automobile bus and ship, from here to there and back again we business travelers go. We sit, we jog, we rent, we buy and fly, we Mapquest. We stare at departure boards until we’re numb, or struggle to read them on the run. We sleep in comfy beds and lumpy ones (or maybe it’s just my hips), eat healthy food and handfuls of junk. (Okay, I’m speaking for myself there.) We talk on the phone while writing notes, resort to concourse conference calls when flights are canceled and often overcome amazing odds to give “face time” to people we’ve never met before.

All the while, those dear to us anxiously await word that we have arrived, or departed on time, or have finally returned to our hotel room after a long day. Even though our Significant Others are busy laboring at their own jobs, taking care of the kids, holding down the fort or licking their hind quarters (bless you, Kornflake the Wonderdog), they undoubtedly utter a sigh of relief or happy tail-wagging yap when the call comes, the door opens or, yes, our car horn toots.

Today’s blog post is dedicated to those who wait with expectant dog breath (hopefully limited to the canine variety), who greet us with a familiar back-pat or embracing arms, a phone message or a check-in door knock. This is dedicated to those who faithfully long to hear from us.

If you’re a road warrior (even if you’re home now), I herewith encourage you to STOP and take a moment to give a personal and hearty THANKS the Waiting Ones in your life.

If you’re a Waiting One and your traveling man or woman sent you this link without much else in the way of explanation (or none) as to WHY they sent it, please know that the flight attendant might have just requested they turn off their electronics, their battery was nearly dead, the meeting is just beginning or they're fading to black at the end of an impossibly long day.

And yet, what they wanted to let you know right this minute but couldn’t is THANK YOU. Thank you for waiting. “Thank you for the sigh of relief you utter when I depart," (well, you know what your loved one means ;>)), "or arrive. Thank you for caring.

Thank you."

Thursday, February 08, 2007

The Little Call That Wouldn't . . .

Due to circumstances beyond my doofus self's control, I recently had to cancel a flight. No problem-o. (Okay, BIG problem-o, which is why I had to cancel, but I mean the canceling itself was a piece of cake.) I went on line, received my electronic cancellation confirmation and away I didn't go.

The exquisitely bad news about this scenario (apart from all the physical reasons why I had to cancel): my AA frequent flyer miles (which cost me $7.50 to use when I booked this now canceled flight) either had to be applied to this same destination within a year (which doesn't at this point in time seem likely), or I could pay a nifty $75 to add them back into my account. So, $82.50 not to use my miles. Sweet, huh?

The day I was originally scheduled to depart on the defunct vacation was a sad day, but it became sadder when my cell phone rang. The "caller" turned out to be an automated voice, the voice of the nifty automated flight status alert I always set up when I book a flight on line. The recording wanted to let me know my flight was on time, but that there'd been a gate change.

"Just rub salt in my wound, why dontcha," I said to Computer Woman before I hung up. Then I logged into my frequent flyer account to see why on earth I received an alert for my canceled flight. Yes, my account showed I wasn't going anywhere, but apparently canceling your flight doesn't automatically cancel notifications (?). Who would have guessed? While searching for the trail to discontinue the alerts, I toodled around the website until my clicking finger nearly went numb. WHERE WAS IT? The trail was easy enough to follow when I scheduled the alerts, but now that the flight was canceled, all trails were gone.

Finally I gave up and phoned my airline. The kind and professional agent who took my call was as stunned as me to learn the auto-alert didn't automatically cancel. "We need to look into this!" she said, with bold authority. "Hold on while I call tech support." (Hear the thunder of stamping hooves racing off to save the day.)

La-la-la. La-la-la--la-la. "Okay," she said when she returned, a note of triumph in her voice. "The tech needs the confirmation number given to you when you set up your auto status. Do you know what he's taking about?" It was obvious she didn't.

"Yes, I know what he's talking about." Dregs. "But it never occured to me to keep it. I know that sounds dumb," I said, feeling my shoulders slump in my own defeat, "but they have like a billion numbers or letters in them and . . . I don't ever recall seeing a place where you can handily just e-mail yourself the numbers, and. . . ." Okay, I think, I'm currently lame in body AND mind. I don't even like listening to me right now. Rather than sounding like the savvy business traveler I am, I sound like a whiney punker.

Pause. "Let me talk to him again," she said. "Hold on." Looooong pause. Finally, however, I heard those fatal words. "I'm sorry." And she truly sounded like it--bless her valiant heart. "He said he can't do anything without that number. I told him," she said, now sounding as whiney as myself, "that your outbound has connections and that your return flight is very early morning with that 2-hour pre-flight notification scheduled you mentioned. But he said without that number, he can do nothing."

Nothing. Nothing can be done. I simply had to live with The Little Call That Wouldn't ... STOP! Of course I'll be smart enough to leave my cell phone turned OFF on my defunct return flight day, but still, there will be those messages automatically reminding me, NEENER-NEENER! You didn't get your vacation!

So, traveler beware. Be smarter than this Foolish One. (Although you undoubtedly aleady are.) If you set up those nifty alerts, also set yourself up for the possibility to be able to cancel them. Or, join the ranks of those of us (me) who will be reminded of all the places we're not going--every delay, gate change and status alert of the way.