RDU -> ATL ->ATL->TPA->MSY->CZM->SFO-RDU>OMG!!!
It’s Tuesday night. Or maybe Wednesday early morning. Not quite sure, but it’s already been the kind of week to write about. At least two of my friends have exclaimed this exact sentiment at me while checking in to make sure I’m alive.
I’m writing this mainly because I’ve had a lot of time sitting around in places without wifi and because I imagine it’d be funny if I wasn’t too tired to laugh.
But also because I want to put out a reminder to be kind, no matter what kind of day you’ve had.
Let me start by recapping how I got to be awake at this ungodly hour recounting my week. Throughout the end of last year I had a few clients trying to book me for various things that kept being delayed and I found out middle of last week that of course, two people wanted me in opposite ends of the world at the same time this week. Of course. One thing was a kickoff meeting with a brand new client and one thing is a continuation of a project for a former colleague I didn’t want to let down. So I last-minute-scrambled and managed to book flights, hotels, car services etc. to be in Tampa Sunday, get on a cruise that would let me off in Cozumel Tuesday, fly to San Francisco and hitch a ride north with my new colleague Wednesday, have my kickoff and be home by not terribly late Friday night.
And yes, by the way, the cruise was for work. For anyone who is unsure whether being a consultant who travels a lot is actually a cover going on fun, extended vacations, here’s the highlight reel of my last several days:
Wednesday: Spend most of my afternoon and evening sorting out logistics and booking travel for my insane itinerary that is to begin in less than a week. Pour myself a large, celebratory glass of wine and feel relieved it somehow all seems to have worked out.
Thursday: See giant winter storm scheduled for Southeast (I live in Durham, NC and was planning to fly to Tampa.) Blow it off because I’m from Maine and Southerners are usually wrong about snow anyway.
Friday: Check weather again and begin to mildly panic. Look up last minute flights out a day early, add a day to hotel room, and feel proud of proactive behavior. Rush to pack and get to airport, leave on time, then get to Atlanta for my connection and notice the big wall of red on the notices board. Get on slightly delayed connection and wait. And wait. And wait some more. Get a text message saying flight I’m sitting on is cancelled. At approximately midnight.
I immediately call to be put in rebooking queue and get off plane. Check for remaining hotels (ha!), MinuteSleep (double ha!), half-jokingly post on social media about suggestions of best places to sleep in airport. I give up waiting to rebook that night and eventually sweet talk MinuteSleep guy into renting me the last air mattress and trek to the International terminal to find the quietest, darkest place I can. Wrap my rented pillow and face in extra scarves I’ve conveniently over packed, take a Tylenol PM, and hope for the best.
Saturday: Wake up from my quasi-nap slightly sore and groggy but determined to get on the first flight I can to Tampa. By some sort of magic, or more probably, other people having missed their flights, I get a confirmed seat on first morning flight. I board, snuggle in with my laptop, and use 75% of my allotted monthly data in the 3 hours I’m waiting on the tarmac.
I eventually make it to Tampa and wander around nearby mall in attempt to stay awake long enough to keep my schedule sorta normal. Around 6, casually look up address for port I need to be in next morning and see an online check in option. Driven out of pure nosiness, try out online check in. See that I’ve been scheduled on a cruise out of a different city. Screenshot and text to client hoping he’ll confirm that we have old confirmation numbers, spend next several hours sorting out details and come to conclusion that I need to be in New Orleans next morning. Book new flight and collapse into bed.
Sunday: Blurrily wake up and get on plane to New Orleans. Shockingly take off and land on time, then rest of the day consists of people watching and waiting in line. Get confirmation that we won’t be able to record any of the research sessions we’re planning and make up backup plan for taking copious notes.
Monday: Run research sessions from 7:30 am to 10pm on a cruise ship. FYI, the conference rooms on cruise ships look just like the conference rooms in hotels, but add waves. I check email at lunch break and see that the kickoff meeting I have scheduled on Thursday needs a lot of prep of a different kind than I was ready for. Also realize that the suckage of wifi at sea is no joke. Waves pick up and I test my immunity to motion sickness. Luckily prevail. Gulf of Mexico: 0, Amanda: 1.
Tuesday: Wake at 6 am to speed pack and get interrogated by Mexican immigration. Get to Cozumel airport the advised 3 hours early and have 2 hours and 56 minutes to wait without wifi. Not surprised but also really could have done more efficient things with myself. Stare longingly outside as I barely remember what fresh air smells like.
Have uneventful flight from Mexico to Atlanta but on landing I see that my SFO flight has been way delayed. Fortunately get on earlier flight that has also been delayed, but lose the priority seat I’d booked and end up in middle seat near the back. Not the worst of things, I know, but I really could have used that free drink in the priority seat. Proud of myself for keeping sanity and only having to use restroom once.
Then we land and like the savvy traveler I am, I open up my rideshare app as soon as we get to the gate so I can be asleep as soon as possible. Car will arrive in 6 minutes, enough time to fish my coat out of my bag and refill my water. I start making my way out of my seat and immediately get rammed by the purse of the woman in the seat behind me pushing past me. Ow. Then my driver cancels.
I take a deep breath, order another ride, and squeeze my eyes shut tight to prevent any rogue tears. I eventually get to hotel just behind a shuttle bus crammed full of people, who it turns out, don’t have reservations and spend what feels like hours arguing with the poor clerk to let them book rooms that they do not have. I get that they’re stressed, but on a scale of one to even, I can’t.
In the last week I’ve slept at home 2 nights, 1 night in the ATL airport, 1 night in Tampa, 2 nights at sea and I’m now in SFO. I’ve been on 5 flights and in two countries and spent a grand total of about 15 minutes outside. I’ve talked to nearly 60 research participants and run 25 remote studies while prepping for a kickoff.
I’m not actually complaining about all that. I’m building a business I’m passionate about and have clients all over and sometimes that means travel shenanigans occur. I try to keep a good sense of humor and roll with things I can’t change. But jesus bloody hell I could have used a little kindness today.
So, when I finally got to talk to the clerk, I decided to be as nice as I could. I asked how his night was going, joked around a bit, and wished him luck with the rest of his night. And ya know what? I feel better. I think he might too.
Sometimes you’re going to have a shit day or long week and you’re going to be tempted to let your negativity spread. You can give in, be a jerk, and end up ruining someone’s day. Or you can decide to be the kind spot that you would have appreciated. I recommend the later.
But mostly, be nice. It’s better for everyone.
Send your travel best wishes or other thoughts to me @MandaLaceyS