Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Spring in Florida

We just got back from a trip to Florida. It wasn't spur-of-the moment, but it wasn't that long-planned, either. A little more than a month beforehand, my thesis was given a defense date, and that's what prompted the trip. I booked almost immediately, going with the cheapest airfare option, which ended up putting me in Florida a little more than a week. Over the next week, Jonathan decided that he'd also go, since we hadn't been in Florida since Christmas and we had a bunch of things to catch-up on anyway.

We took a red-eye out of San Jose on Sunday night, which wasn't fabulous, but it wasn't the worst experience, either. We were able to gate-check our roller-bags, which made for an easier transition in Atlanta. Monday was pretty low-key - I slept, Jonathan worked, and we saw some Melbourne people. Tuesday, I left for Tallahassee around 10am, and spent the night with Heather, my old roommate. I also got coffee with Aaron, a colleague from grad school.

Wednesday was my thesis defense, and although it took longer than I expected, I passed. I now have some revisions to do, which are at the forefront of my daily routine at the moment. I celebrated with another coffee hour with Aaron, and then dinner with Heather and Steve at One Fresh Stir Fry, my favorite restaurant in Tallahassee. I was pretty exhausted, so Heather and I played some Wii MarioKart before I went to bed. My Thursday started early, as I had a meeting at 9, a meeting at 10, an impromptu meeting immediately following that one, and then a few errands to run while I was on-campus. I got on the road around noon, so I got back to Melbourne around dinner. I caught up on some online things, then went to bed as the guys went downtown to the St. Patrick's Day Block Party.

Friday started as a workday for me, and as the boys headed to Orlando around dinner for a weekend conference, I drove to Vero to have dinner and spend some time with BK and Tori. Saturday, Jonathan was in Orlando. I went to Port St. Lucie for my friend, Michelle's bridal shower, and then I spent some time with Tori in Melbourne. Jonathan and I spent Sunday with his family in Fort Pierce. Monday morning I had a dentist appointment, then I saw my mom for about an hour and a half, and I made it to Melbourne in time for lunch with some friends. Then we dropped off our tax information with our accountant, and spent the rest of the afternoon working. We had Thai for dinner, and I fell asleep pretty soon afterward. Tuesday morning we worked, and then we left for the airport... (and that takes up the rest of this post, so if you're not interested in the traveling aspect, nothing exciting happens after it, LoL).

We were booked on a 4:30pm flight that connected in Atlanta and took us to San Jose, where we would land about 9:30pm. But, on the way to the airport, there was an accident that caused traffic. Dead-stopped traffic (bad luck #1). And, we were less than a mile from the scene, with no exits between us that would allow for a re-route. So, we sat there. We didn't move for a long time. We eventually inched here and there. Time went by. I began to panic when we hit an hour before our plane departed. Fifteen minutes after that, I called the airline. I had always been told, and have read online as well, that if you know you are going to miss a flight, call ahead (and Jonathan was also under this same impression). The idea is that something can be worked out, the sooner the better. Well, that wasn't the case yesterday. And maybe it's not the case anymore. Or maybe it's just not the case with Delt@. After multiple voice-prompts, I got a woman who tried a few different things before finally offering me a flight to San Francisco, which connected through Minneapolis. It was only about an hour after our first flight, and got us in two hours later. But, it would cost $171 EACH. I wasn't thrilled, and handed the phone to Jonathan. After only a few seconds, he had determined that it didn't matter whether we re-booked now or later, so we opted to wait (good decision #1).

We eventually made it to the overpass where the accident was, and we were routed off the highway and back on, but in a VERY slow process. Turns out, the accident happened less than ten minutes before we were stopped, but cost us much more than ten minutes to get past. Bryan tried hard to get us there as fast as possible, and we began the mad dash about 4:03. After our boarding passes were checked, we told a security agent our dilemma (good decision #2). He helped by making the aisle wider and allowed us to ask people in line if we could skip them. Everyone obliged and we began to feel that we'd have a chance. But, that was halted when there was a problem with the trams. For whatever reason, one was closed. This caused us to have to wait behind a barrier (bad luck #2), which slowed down the tram process by several minutes. On the tram, we shoved things back where they went (we threw things together after getting through security, in an effort to save time), and decided that there would be no trying to stay together. Once the tram doors opened, it would be a free-for-all to try and make it to the gate. The first person there would just stall until the second made it. The doors opened, and we took off running. Jonathan got an early lead, but I was close behind, hollering "excuse me" left and right. We came around a corner and I had to slow down. We were easily lugging 75 pounds each, between our roller bags and laptop bags. It was rough. I instantly regretted not being able to sprint the entire way, but in the end it wouldn't have mattered. The gates were out of order, and Jonathan got past 74 and hit 76, looking around for 75. I saw 75 first, and read that our flight had been moved to 73. And, just like you see in the movies, I ran up to the desk of 73, huffed and puffed out "Atlanta" while throwing my boarding pass onto the counter, and was promptly shown the window, with our plane pulling away from the jet-bridge. As I caught my breath, the agent explained that they close the doors ten minutes before takeoff, and my watch showed 4:27. We had missed it by 7 minutes. Jonathan showed up as I looked at my watch, and I repeated what I had just learned.

To their credit, both the agent who broke the bad news to me, as well as the other one at the desk, immediately took my boarding pass and began searching the computer for other options. However, after they realized that they couldn't get us on a later flight with the same route, they told us we'd need to go to the main Delt@ customer service area. Jonathan immediately began heading that way, and there was only one person in front of us, so it went pretty quickly. However, the woman at the counter did not know California very well, and was trying to put us on a flight to Los Angeles, rather than San Francisco, which I explained was our second-choice airport (if you're also not familiar with California geography, LAX is approximately 400 miles south of SFO). She then mentions that she can't do anything anyway, that we'd need to use a courtesy phone and speak to someone at HQ anyway. So, we head over there. Jonathan gets a lovely woman from Atlanta, who books us on a flight to SFO via Salt Lake City. It will get us to California only an hour later than the original, and will only cost $100 total for both of us. So, we book. Then, we head to the gate, take a moment to relax, and then we take turns going to change our shirts and drink some water.

The flight to Salt Lake wasn't bad. We were on a newer Delt@ plane, which had individual screens. I listened to some new Broadway soundtracks and played the trivia game until I had the highest score, LoL. I also got through several magazines, which had been piling up at home. We landed on-time, and as soon as we got off the plane we saw that our flight was delayed for 45 minutes (bad luck #3). The Delt@ flight to SFO before ours was delayed 90 minutes, so I thought it was weather right away. We found a place to put down our stuff, and Jonathan went to see if he could get us on the first flight instead of the second. That didn't work, but it was a long shot anyway. Then, they changed our gate. So we moved again. Jonathan looked for a customer service area, but wound up on the phone yet again. He was told that it was a mechanical delay, and that we may qualify for meal vouchers. When he came back, I took our boarding passes to try for the vouchers (good decision #3). I was ultimately unsuccessful, as it was deemed weather, though the woman checked again.

And then it got delayed again (bad luck #4). It went from like 8:30 to 9:15, then to 10:00. At this point, it's after 9, and we realized that we're going to need to eat (since we woke up on Eastern Time, it's after midnight for us. And although we had sandwiches on the plane and bought snacks, we were hungry). So, Jonathan went to find food around 9:30, with the idea that we'd eat it on the plane. And, it ended up being good decision #4, since he had to go pretty far to find anything that was open, and even they only had one item left... so we planned to share a pepperoni stromboli from Sbarro for dinner. I was shocked that it wasn't even 10pm, and there was no more food to be found. But, about 9:40, they announced that we were delayed again. The rain in San Francisco hadn't gotten better, and the projected take-off was now 11:15 (bad luck #5). So, we ate the stromboli. It was pretty good.

At 10:45, I heard several people ask the gate agents (which had changed multiple times already. And at this point we are the only gate with people in the entire terminal) about boarding. They were told that at 11pm, they'd hear from the Captain. And, at 11:05, we began boarding. We didn't actually take off until about 11:40 (bad luck #6). It was a regional plane, so we needed to gate-check our roller-bags again. But, it was jet-way checking (meaning you get your bag at the jetway at the other airport), which we greatly prefer to regular gate-checking, LoL. We had our seats moved back a row so that we'd have the recline option (good decision #5). Jonathan was able to sleep a little bit, but I couldn't really get beyond closing my eyes.

It's at this point that I should mention that I'd panicked off and on all day regarding our ride back from the airport. We had a friend lined up, but after the first change, Jonathan had trouble getting into contact with him to update him and make sure the change in airports was fine with him. He did, eventually. But, since we had multiple delays in Salt Lake, hours went by before we heard back from him (turns out he was napping, LoL), and we had started discussing other options, which were all not that great, given the time of day and the rain situation. But, in the end, Andy was there when we walked out of the airport, and we got home just fine, albeit after 1am. It was not the ideal day of travel. And, now we know the processes of re-booking due to mechanical problems, and because of natural disasters, and because of personal delays.

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