Well, that was interesting.
This week was the conference down in southern California, for my new job–my first business trip ever. The conference itself (training and updates on the database software we use) went just fine. So, as you may guess, it will not be discussed here.
No, this post will be about the travel itself, which turned out to be a long and seemingly-endless series of disasters.
It all started when I arrived at the airport in San Francisco on Sunday afternoon for my flight to Ontario. Now, SFO apparently has a policy that you have to check in at least half an hour before departure. Unfortunately, I did not quite make this deadline, and so when I arrived at the United desk, they would not allow me to check in. I had to wait for the next scheduled flight–five and a half hours later. I didn’t get to my destination until midnight.
This was unfortunate, but still, it was only an inconvenience (and, really, it was nobody’s fault but mine). Little did I know that it was only the beginning.
Once I landed, I made my way to the Doubletree, where the district had reserved me a room. Now, I had been under the impression that the room had been paid for. But, as it turned out, this was not the case; apparently, there is a state law that bars the district from paying in advance for accommodations, and so I would have had to pay for the room myself and get reimbursed. However, nobody had said anything about this, and so I was not prepared to do so. (No, I don’t have a working credit card at the moment; I canceled it a couple of years ago when they raised the interest rate to an unacceptable level.)
There I was, stranded with nowhere to go, and exhaustion coming on fast. What to do?
After a fair amount of panic, I ended up going across the street to the Motel 6 (which, astonishingly, was by far the nicest example of that chain that I had ever encountered; I can recommend them unreservedly). In the morning, I renewed my stay for a second night, canceled the reservation at the Doubletree, and headed for the conference.
At this point, I was already feeling like I’d had more fun than the trip was worth. But the best was yet to come.
On Wednesday, the second and last day of the conference, I was scheduled to fly out at 6:50 pm. However, that morning, a major front was coming down from Alaska, and San Francisco was getting hit particularly hard. And SFO is prone to delays in bad weather. (My guess is that it’s susceptible to flooding because of its location on landfill right on the bay shore.)
So, at about 11:45 that morning, I got an email that my flight had been canceled–and my reservation moved to about 11:30 the next morning. Which left me with nowhere to sleep.
Naturally, I completely panicked. But despite my frantic calls to United, there was nothing to be done over the phone. So, after the conference was over, I returned to the Motel 6, picked up my bags, and headed for the airport to see what could be done.
As it turned out, I was able to talk myself into a seat on a slightly earlier flight (8:30 am). And, wonder of wonders, I got them to take pity on me and give me a discounted room at the Holiday Inn through a “distressed traveler” program. So, if nothing else, I was at least going to have a comfortable night.
Next morning, after a good dinner, a couple of movies and a sound sleep, I got to the airport well on time to catch my plane. What do you think happened?
That’s right. Delayed. I got to sit. And sit. And wait. And wait. The weather in San Francisco was seemingly not going to let anyone in. I kept checking the FAA weather alerts; they were talking about a two-hour delay, a three-and-a-half-hour delay…
I was well and truly exhausted at this point, of course, and ready to do just about anything to get myself a seat back to the Bay Area. The only stipulation was that I had to be able to get back to SFO to pick up my car. Unfortunately, none of the limited options were workable. Southwest was flying successfully into Oakland, but they apparently have no agreements with any other airlines and so I would have had to pay my own way. I also considered San Jose, but there are no direct flights there from Ontario–and the airport shuttle was $92 to take me to LAX or to John Wayne.
Seriously, if I could have afforded either of those, I would have just rented a car and driven home. So I really had no choice but to sit and wait. Finally, wonder of wonders, they called for boarding at 11:30. We took off at noon, and landed in San Francisco at 1:30. (And, yes, the rain was bad and there was water on the runway, so I guess the delay was justified.) I finally made it home at about 4.
After which I completely collapsed.
So. Lessons learned?
First, I should have been more selective about where I flew, and on what airline. Clearly, I should have taken Southwest out of Oakland. Chalk that up to inexperience; I simply went with the lowest fare Travelocity gave me. But now I know better. (In particular, I’ve relearned just how horrible United is.)
Second, I realize now that I should never make assumptions about how any part of my trip will be paid. Again, inexperience.
Third, I really need to have an emergency credit card. I will take care of that ASAP.
Anyway, I did survive, which is something. I even managed to learn a few things at the conference. With any luck, this first encounter with business travel will be the worst, and it’ll only get better from here.
But really, in the end, I think I should have known better than to set foot once again in the festering hellpit known as the Los Angeles Basin. Every time I go, I have a worse time than before. Eventually, it’ll sink in that I just don’t belong there.
Update: I took video of my landing in SFO. It’s now on YouTube.