Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Panic Turned Pathetic Turned Miracle

Last night’s typical preparations for today’s business trip:

*Fire out confirmation e-mails for the next few days’ doings.
*Stay up late to pack everything. (Even though I hate it, I’m always a last-minute packer.)
*Don’t get everything packed (never do), so set alarm for EARLY morning wake-up to finish.

This morning’s preparations:

*Check e-mails.
*Set up Flight Status Notifications for AA flights.
*Shower and finish packing, making sure each product I use during and after the shower is also packed in my flight bag.
*Unplug charging laptop and pack it.
*Unplug charging cell phone and pack it.
*Print copy of itinerary to insert in my back-of-the-room book sales’ suitcase I have to check, which contains books, which is why it weighs 42 pounds.
*Get in car for airport. (Retired husbands make handy limo drivers.)
*Use curbside service to check in, and check bag.

"WHAT?! They can’t find my reservation?"

After checking the spelling of my name and listening to me repeat, several times, my flight number and destination, Curbside Check-in Man says he’ll have to go inside to investigate. I tuck the collar of my Transition Travel Coat (going from a snowy 19 degrees here in Chicago to a rainy 70 in Irvine CA, so I wear the trench coat with a zip-out lining) up around my ears and wait. And wait.

Finally, I ask Curbside Check-in Man #2 if I’m naming the correct airport. After all, I told Man #1 I’m going to Irvine, John Wayne Airport, but I notice my e-mail flight confirmation, which I finally drag out of my itinerary packet, says Santa Ana.

“Let me see that,” he demands. Frustrations run high when it’s cold. His eyes scan the document. “Yup, we’re checking the right flight. But you’re here on the wrong day. Your reservation is for tomorrow.”

"WHAT?"

I check it myself. Sure enough, it says Thursday the 24th, which is tomorrow.

Dollar signs fly before my eyes. How did I screw this up? Trying to morph an economy ticket into a last-minute purchase will likely cost me thousands.

I tell my husband, who is still standing on the curb waiting for the parking Gestapo to make him move along, to go to the cell lot and wait for a call. I kick all my bags inside and get in line, then remember a major rule of the road: call the airlines while you’re standing in line. My first attempt to right my DUMB WRONG receives an “All circuits are busy” message.

Perfect.

My brain keeps repeating, HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?! I sent my itinerary to the good folks who hired me, a friend who’s taking me to dinner tonight, my husband . . . . How did nobody notice I booked an incorrect date?!

Kick the bags. Move forward. Try not to panic.

What if the airlines can’t find a way to get me to my speaking engagement by tomorrow night, what with today's overbooking?!

I am now officially PANICKED!

I fan through my packet of travel documents and check the hotel reservation, which the kind folks who hired me arranged, as opposed to the airline tickets I screwed up.

WAIT! I don’t check in there until tomorrow, either! WHAT?!

Then the light dawns: some time between last November, when I made the arrangements, and today, I received a brain disconnect as to which days I actually leave, speak and return. Seems my RAM shortage set all systems to GO, but a day early.

OF COURSE YOU DON’T LEAVE UNTIL THURSDAY! YOU SPEAK AT LAFF NITE ON FRIDAY! (And aren't you the funny one!)

(Do you think we lose our traveling rhythm when we’re off the road for a few weeks? Seriously, do you think we do? In last week’s post I said I was so sick of the home remodeling chaos that I longed for a road trip. I wonder if my own preposterous power of suggestion is what caused this false start.)

I phone my husband, tell him to come get me, give him the short version of my stupidity. My saint of a man calmly circles back around, pulls up where he dropped me off, gets out of the car and helps me sling my bags back into the trunk.

“I absolutely cannot believe I did this!” I yelp as I fasten my seat belt. “How did this happen? After all, I forwarded YOU my itinerary, too! You should have known I’m not supposed to leave until tomorrow!”

Silence.

Pathetic, Charlene. True, but simply pathetic.

This mess is not his fault. It’s mine. I need to own it and forgive myself. I need to phone my friends and tell them dinner’s not until tomorrow. (Even they knew that.) I need to show up when I’m supposed to, speak when I’m booked, and return when I’m scheduled. I need to go back home to my chaos.

Yes, I need to go back home to my chaos, leave my stuff in the car and give thanks that for the first time in my life, I’m packed and ready to go an entire day early.

Another miracle in the life of a road warrior.

1 comment:

Jon said...

Panic, Pathetic, Miracle – then - Reschedule - call the restaurant – no problem.

At a conference in PA in October, I had the pleasure of having lunch with and listening to our speaker - a very funny lady - tell stories on herself! I invited her to dinner and heard even more stories (she has lots of material!.) Little did I know I would become part of one of her stories!

Upon learning that she was coming to my part of the world to speak, I invited her to dinner the evening she arrived - she even offered to pay!

My wife and I discussed which of our favorite restaurants we should go to, called and made reservations, based on dates she had provided us over 2-3 emails - good to go! Now just look forward to an enjoyable evening.

Two days before what what sure to be an enjoyable evening with my new friend, I got an email announcing she would be in the day before we had agreed upon weeks earlier. Being something of a road warrior myself, and having some similar traveling scofflaws, I didn't question the scheduling expertise of this very seasoned traveler. I advised my wife and daughter," I guess I screwed up again - Charlene is coming in on Wednesday night, not Thursday night."

So I called the restaurant and changed the reservations.

On Wednesday morning, we were sitting in my office making new plans with our daughter, who works with us. She and her husband were going out and we were to babysit their 6-year-old son, Spencer - so we just said, we will take him with us to dinner with Charlene – she will love him." Problem solved.

Then the phone rings....."Jon, were we to have dinner tonight or on Thursday?" I replied, "well, it was originally on Thursday, but when I got your email, I changed it to Wednesday - my wife just assumed that it was one of my all-to-frequent mess ups!

She then advised us that it was in fact on Thursday night, as originally planned and that she had mistakenly left for the airport a day early. She was on her way home from the airport with her very patient, tolerant, understanding husband. No problem, we said, I will call the restaurant again and change our reservations back to Thursday night. Darn, now she won’t get to have dinner with Spencer because he is having “daddy night.”

Then I read on her travel blog that the whole thing might be either her husband's or my fault for not advising her that her travel day was on Thursday not Wednesday! Nope – keep reading – we’re off the hook – she is taking full responsibility – whew!

I don't know what her husband is going to do to resolve his guilt, but I am going to bring a couple of nice bottles of wine to dinner tonight.

I think there may still be another chapter to this story – stay tuned!

Jon A. Giberson