Tuesday, March 27, 2007

DevConnections Traveling Whoa's

James and I are currently in the Charlotte Airport waiting on our flight home; we only have 9 hours left. Coffee Time!

Ahh... where do I start? I guess the beginning. I'm going to break down the last 2 days into a couple of paragraph's here and know that the actual reality of all these situations was much worse (at the time) than how you might think. If you are not one that likes reading pity party stories, look away. However if you are one that appreciates a good mini 'drama', please proceed to read this post... Here is an outline of what all went wrong, here you go:
  1. Airport Computers Down
  2. No Cell Phone, No Credit Card
  3. Bumped from Flight
  4. Wrong Hotel
  5. No Booth or Supplies
  6. Lacking Customer Service
  7. No Internet at Resort
  8. Delayed Flight Back
  9. Slumber Party in Charlotte
If you'd rather have the whole story in all it's glory, here it goes from...

The Beginning
So I woke up around 6am on Sunday morning and got all my stuff ready and walked out my door at 6:45 to go pick up James. I got to James' place around 7:30 and we leisurely drove to the airport and parked the car in the 'Red Lot'. We got a great parking spot, so immediately I thought "by golly, this is gonna be a great little trip, things are already working in my favor.".

Airport Computers Down
We arrived at the kiosk check-in at 8am, and our flight didn't leave until 9, so we had plenty of time... or so we thought. The line to check in was HUGE. Apparently, the computers weren't working and the line was backed up and wrapped around all the ropes, spilling out into the main hall area. We just got in line and began waiting... As time got closer to 9am, the customer service reps called all passengers heading to Charlotte to jump to the front of the line (this was us). It was obvious that we weren't the only ones that was being inconvenienced by the computer problems, so this made it "ok" for me.

We got done checking in around 8:45 and bolted toward the security check point. This gave us approximately 15 minutes to get through the security line and run onto our flight. This is where the trip got off course.

No Cell Phone, No Credit Card
At some point I realized I had forgotten my cell phone in my car, there was no way I could go back now, I'll just have to use Jame's cell to call the family and do all my business networking calls once in Orlando. Damn! I also realized I didn't have my credit card with me, nor did I have a company credit card. I was going to have to put this whole trip on my debit card (directly out of my own checking account. Luckily, Jennifer and I just got our tax refund back and had some extra money. I'll have to get reimbursed once I get back... Double Damn!

Bumped from Flight
So, back to the whole "airport" scene: We made it through security and rushed up to the gate to get on the plane before it took off. Luckily (sarcasm) the flight was delayed a little bit, so we had plenty of time. To top it off, the workers at the gate had no computer system; they were using dot-matrix printouts with old-school pencil style seating confirmation checking. James and I didn't even have seats yet, nor did we have tickets from Charlotte to Orlando. We were supposed to get these taken care of with these ladies at the gate. However, they clearly didn't have time to deal with us (not their fault by any means). It was crazy!

Oddly, we weren't the only ones with this problem either; there were approximately 10 other passengers that had tickets, but no assigned seats for this flight either. Fwhat!? It was obvious that the ladies working the gate were stressed to the max and at their wits end. They had all kinds of people waiting to get seats assigned to them (including James and I). To top it off, they were dealing with impatient passengers that were upset due to the delayed flight, no computers, and crappy dot matrix print outs to manage the seating arrangements.

Once I realized that they didn't have enough seats for all the passengers waiting on seat assignments I spoke up and said "If you need volunteers to take another flight, you can reschedule us to a later flight. As long as we are in Orlando by 2pm". She was cool with that, and James appeared to be cool with it too. I'd rather be on a more 'relaxing', less stressful flight anyway. As it turned out, we got a flight through Pittsburgh instead and there were like 12 people on the flight. It worked out just fine after all.

Wrong Hotel
So we made it to Orlando and we got a cab to the "Marriott". Unfortunately I didn't know which Marriott it was, but I was 95% sure it was the "Marriott Grand Cypress"; that sounded right anyway. I told the cab dude (Alex) to take us there and he did. Once we got there, I quickly realized that this place wasn't the right one. I took my laptop into their lobby and pulled up devconnections.com to see where the convention was being held at. It was the "Marriott World Center". Duh! I asked Alex how much he would charge us to go there, and he said $12. Cool, this would keep at or around $50. Deal!

No Booth Supplies
So James and I got checked into our room around 5pm (3 hours after we needed to be there). We rushed up to the room and then rushed down to get our booth setup. As it turned out, I still had to give our product giveaway to Heather before the keynote (which was in 20 minutes)... The product was back up in the room. The tricky part was that the "booth" people left in 30 minutes, so I had to hustle. I ran up there, got the product, ran back down, gave the product to Heather, and busted my butt into the expo hall to get our booth setup before the "booth people" left for the day.

We found our booth number, but there were no boxes or crates there for us. I thought, "no big deal, they took them back behind the scenes since we hadn't shown up to setup the booth". I went back to the back to gather up our crates, but they had no record that anything had been shipped for Data Dynamics. What!? This isn't right, Tim sent me an email indicating that the crates should arrive in Orlando by the 21st (which would have been 4 days ago). I called around to find out what was going on, but this was a problem. It was Sunday evening and not many companies would be working on a Sunday night (it was around 6pm by this point). My expectations were very low that I would get this resolved tonight. I called the Marriott shipping department and they had closed for the day. Exhibit Pro would more than likely be closed for the day and Hellmans (the "booth people") were leaving for the day real soon. It was obvious that we weren't going to have our booth setup for the 'Welcome Party' at 8pm tonight. CRAP!!

Lacking Customer Service
I decided to go back up to the room and call Exhibit Pro and leave a message for Elfi. I needed somebody to call me
first thing tomorrow so I can get to the bottom of this. The booth needs setup before 9am tomorrow morning before the expo hall opens the flood gates. The booth isn't the easiest thing to setup and it is going to take us some time to get everything organized.

We got up to the room and I called the number that 'Elfi' gave me in case there were any problems. When I called, I was quite surprised that somebody answered the phone at Exhibit Pro. I asked for Elfi and the the guy on the other line (Randy) said she wasn't in and won't be in until tomorrow; he recommended that I call back then. I politely asked him if he could help me real quick. I needed to find out where my package was sent... I feared that it had got sent somewhere else in Orlando. Randy, very quickly wiped his hands clean by saying "I'll have Elfi call you because I don't know anything about your package". It was clear to me that I was interrupting something because he was talking to somebody in the background as he picked up the phone to answer it. Judging from his immediate response to me, he wanted to get off the phone as quickly as possible; this was not his problem. I (very politely) asked that he try to help me...

Even though I was at wits end with all that had gone wrong with my day so far, I was very cordial to him because he didn't know what I had been through so far. I just wanted to get to the bottom of this. I asked if he could please try to help me through this and I explained the 'booth' situation from the beginning. He was very annoyed by the fact that I didn't just accept his invitation to just "forget about it until tomorrow". He got a bit rude with me and I ended up giving up the fight, for I didn't see a need to argue with him as he clearly couldn't provide me with my booth supplies tonight anyway. Once I hung up, James could tell that this guy had just about pushed me over the edge. This was piss-poor customer service. I would have been much happier to have left a message for Elfi than to have put up with his incompetence. I do not hold the grudge against Exhibit Pro, they've always been very professional with our our supplies and have offered great service; this grudge will just be applied towards "Randy".

No Internet at Resort
I decided to get online to email Tim and try tracking the package myself. Wouldn't you know, there is no internet working. I fought with it for a little over an hour. James and I did all we could think of to try and get an IP address, but nothing was working. I called tech support and talked with a very nice lady. She stated that she was going to setup my account and that I should be up and running in about a minute. I hung up and waited for about 5 minutes or so before trying again... Still nothing. I called back and she put me through to "Dillon", the tech support guy that handles the hotel's network. He was absolutely awesome! He and I worked through all the various options for about 10 minutes, and it turned out that the problem was with east wing of the hotel and it wasn't just my computer. He reset the router to see if that would work and told me to give it about 30 minutes or so.

As if it wasn't blatantly obvious, this was not a "good day". :) The good news is that I didn't blame anybody and I was still smiling.... See? :) I realized that today's problems were nothing more than a series of unfortunate events. Before anything else went wrong, I put on my running gear and went for a run to releive a minor stress level. After my run (which
did help my stress level by the way) I tried the internet again and still nothing... I called tech support yet again and they sent up a new network cable. Needless to say, this didn't fix it either.

James and I had no internet the whole time we were in Orlando.

Delayed Flight Back
Ok, so we made it through Sunday after all. Monday had minor problems, but nothing like Sunday. Tuesday came and again, no problems... at least until we got back to the airport. James and I had joked the whole time that if we had anymore problems with flights and travel plans that we weren't going to travel together anymore.

The show ended at 2pm and James and I went directly to the airport. We got to the airport around 3ish and checked in at the front desk. We asked the lady at the counter if there was any chance that we could get an earlier flight. She said that we could take the 5:20 flight (1 hour and 30 minutes earlier) for a $25 fee. We thought, "Ehh, what's an extra hour and a half?". We grabbed a bite to eat, killed some time in the book store, and then decided to go pass the security check point and wait the remaining 2 hours by the gate. We hung out there for about an hour and a half. Just as the flight was getting ready to board, we decided to go get some coffee because I was just about to fall asleep.

We got some coffee and came back to the gate, as we got closer to the gate we saw that a huge line had formed at our gate. OH NO!! Say it ain't so!!!
The flight was delayed! It was pushed back to 8:45 (2 hour delay). We couldn't believe it. We are never traveling together again. We waited in line at the desk for about an hour and a half so we could see what our options were. We met some very nice people. Some were very upset at the way that US Airways had handled the whole thing; there were no announcements as to what was going on and this has been happening a little too often with their airline. For example, see 'Bumped From Flight' section above... that was also on US Airlines...

Once we got up to the booth, the lady at the gate informed us that the next flight to Columbus wasn't going to be until 9:45am (+12 hours from then). We decided to get to Charlotte and wait, rather than staying in Orlando. This is going to be a long night...

Slumber Party in Charlotte
Right now it is 2:30am and James and I are waiting patiently for the sun to come back up so we can prepare for the 9 o'clock hour...

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