Saturday, September 24, 2005

The Gambler...(long post alert)

"You've gotta know when to hold 'em.
You've gotta know when to fold 'em.
You've gotta know when to walk away.
You've gotta know when to run."

A smart man once sang those words. Or maybe it was a rich man?

I'm safe and sound in good ol Dover, DE now. But let's go back a bit, shall we?

THURSDAY, September 22, 10:30pm:

I learn my coworker's flight on Contential (the same 1st leg connecting flight I'm on) is canceled and he makes backup plans on another airline. Unfortunately he's heading to Columbus and I'm not. We can't stay in our hotel rooms any longer due to the influx of Houston residents fleeing Hurricane Rita.

I was on on hold with my cell phone for two solid hours trying to get a hold of Contential, on the hotel phone on hold with my company's travel agent, and on line trying to book any backup flight I could.

I managed to get THE ONLY flight out of Austin on Southwest at 8pm Friday- just about the time the Hurricane was to be beating down on Austin.

I got fed up with being on hold on both phones and hung up. My coworker informed me that he had gotten an alternate flight at 7:10am on Friday. So this meant that I had to get up at 3:30am, and run him to the Houston airport, return to the office, work all day, and then pray that my flight would leave Austin that night at 8pm. This would put me in Baltimore at midnight, allowing me to get home around 3am.

Being up for 24 straight hours, does not a happy Del make.

Before going to sleep that night, I checked my flight status online and it was still saying I was a go for my original flight. But, really, how reliable is the Interent when it comes to up-to-date information? Would you risk your life on it? Let's face it, the Internet is wonderful, but I would still feel the most assured if a real person told me my flight was a go. Too bad that wasn't going to happen. Been there, done that, spent 2 hours.

FRIDAY, September 23, 3:30am:

I got up and tried both numbers again. No dice. I checked the weather and the web, same story; your flight is on schedule. Uh-huh, sure it is. I went and took my shower and thoughts started running through my head how THIS might be the last shower I get for a long time.

Then it hit me.

What if I try and actually CHECK IN online. It shouldn't let me check in and print my boarding passes if the flight has been canceled should it? Not that I could print them anyway, but I could get a little more verification, right?

Sure enough, it was letting me check in, AND it was going to let me print my boarding pass.

At this point I had to make a major decision. Do I go to the airport with my coworker, turn in the car, and try and actually board the same initial flight into Houston that he was told personally was canceled? I was running through the scenarios in my head. Maybe it had to do with his connecting flight? He was leaving out of Houston later that I was. Maybe they were just telling callers that so that they could free up some space and get him to take a different flight.

I put all my chips on black and rolled the dice.

We turned in the car and headed off to our respective airlines. People were EVERYWHERE. Both security lines extended out of the queues and wrapped around back and forth like the line for Space Mountain in Disney World.

I thanked myself silently for getting there so early. I rounded the counter to Contential Airlines and not a single person was in line.

Oh shit. This can't be good.

I walked over to the self-check in and crossed my fingers as I entered my information.

Please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please let me on this flight!

Some computing cycles later and it asked me if I need to check bags and spit out my passes!

Thank you God! SUCCESS!

The high-roller wins! I broke the bank. Like the smart man said, you've gotta know when to hold 'em.

After not being intimately searched this time, I walked to my gate feeling like I just cheated death. I hopped on the airport's wireless Internet and canceled my backup flight (you've gotta know when to fold 'em), and then boarded my plane (you've gotta know when to walk away)for the chaos of Houston.

I was one of about 40 people on a 737 headed toward a category 4 hurricane. Flying in to Houston was a once in a lifetime experience. Because it's not everyday that you see 8 lane highways completely empty. This city of 4 million people looked like a ghost town. I could count the number of moving cars I saw on my fingers. Nobody on golf courses. Nobody at stop lights. Nobody anywhere.

We landed and I caught my connecting flight. This one was full, as I expected. We were one of the last flights to leave Houston that day, as the airport closed down at noon.

Like the smart man said, you've gotta know when to run.

I had a long flight ahead of me on a stuffy plane, so after some small talk with the people next to me, I decided to just catch up on some sleep I missed that morning.

"...So when he'd finished speakin, he turned back towards
the window,crushed out his cigarette and faded off to sleep."

It's good stuff people. Words to live by.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Staring down a bullet...

We'll folks. I'm in deep shit.

Breaking news tells me that I can no longer fly home. They're shutting down GWB airport at noon, but aren't accepting any inbound flight- even if you connect and fly right back out. I'm on the phone as I type, trying to re-route my ass around this country to get back home before this damn storm blows me away.

The best part is, the mass exodus from Houston is sending everyone toward me and naturally I have to be out of my hotel room by tomorrow morning.

(do you see what I mean about my luck?)

Here's what I think. I think everytime our technology detects a killer hurricane coming toward the US - something that would cause massive loss of life and property - the U.S. should be permitted to launch a tactical nuke into the eye and detonate that damn thing. Something just powerful enough to disrupt the pressure systems causing the storms. Sure you'd have to worry about fallout and environmental issues, but at least you could worry about them in a house that's still standing!

Anyway, back to my problem. (Did I mention this sucks?)

Some random thoughts going through my head:

  • Maybe I should find a laundry mat here before I begin to stink since I only have a limited amount of clothing.
  • Can I, in fact, recreate the scene from Forrest Gump by jogging all the way home?
  • Can I pawn my company laptop for a plane ticket? (psst... wanna buy a laptop?)
  • Can I blame this mishap on George Bush? After all, it's HIS airport that's screwing me.
  • I should be exempt from traveling for work for a LONG time.
  • Since I am a daily user of Bill Gate's software, I think he should help me out a bit here.
  • Is there any company left in the world that I can speak to a REAL PERSON if I have a problem?


This blows. Literally.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Ok, it's not funny anymore

It would seem that I'm some sort of hurricane magnet. Each city I travel to seems to get wiped out by a hurricane after I leave. This time I'll be cutting it closer than last.

My flight home leaves Friday morning out of Austin. But the kicker is that it connects in Houston. Yes, that's right. I'm flying INTO the storm. Timing is everything here. If I can get in to Houston, I'm pretty sure they'll let me leave from there.

I'm a little hesitant to come back to Delaware because tropical storm Phillipe is lingering off the Atlantic coast. And if I come back, I may drawn it in toward the Delaware coast. Maybe I should go hang out in Kansas or something. Maybe even France.

If worst comes to worst I can just keep the rental car and drive it all the way home. It's a 4x4 Explorer, so it can handle a decent amount of flooding if needed.

Why does this shit always happen to me?

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Don't mess with Texas

At least that's what the shot glass I have says. I guess I'll find out for myself soon because the next destination in my never-ending travels is Austin, Texas.

From what I hear, Austin is a city that is known for it's live music venues. It's a pitty I probably won't get to enjoy them. I'm not much of a club person, but I do appreciate smaller brew-pubs or coffee houses with live music.

But this trip is all about work. We've got lost hurricane time to make up for so our project team is getting together at our Austin office for four days. I can already feel the blisters forming on my typing fingers.

This time I think I'll make sure I pay my power bill before I leave...

If you need me, I'll be right here...

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Tuesday, September 13, 2005

I told you so... (part 2)

See, there is actually some justice in this world...


or here...

You know what gets me? If I would have just been a little more stubborn and tried to not move on with my life, I'd be getting a check for about $20,000 in back pay right about now. Figures.

Monday, September 12, 2005

I told you so... (part 1)

Just check back... you'll see I was right all along...

Sunday, September 11, 2005

4 Years Later

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My parents can tell you exactly where they were and what they were doing when JFK was assinated. I can tell you where I was and what I was doing the moment Space Shuttle Challenger exploded.

Everyone I know can tell you where they were and what they were doing at 8:46am four years ago today.

That particular morning I was working for the USDA, Natural Resources Conservation Service. I was scheduled to have an interview with the C.I.A. for a position as an image analyst later that day. The interview was set up through a friend of mine who works there and had come to visit me that particular weekend. My friend was also a former employee of the USDA, so she decided to stop by and catch up with all her old coworkers.

By the time the second plane struck the towers, we had the TV on at work, watching in disbelief. When the news broke about a plane striking the Pentagon, the station showed live shots of the immediate aftermath. My friend instantly broke into tears.

The area that the plane struck was the same area that she was assigned to work to for the past few months. Her office was destroyed. Her new coworkers killed. If she had not taken two vacation days to come visit me, she too would most likely be dead.

What do you say at a moment like that?

The butterfly effect of that day sent shockwaves of insecurity and change throughout the world. Still to this day, the images and actions of 9/11 remain fresh in my mind. And with me traveling for work, not a minutes goes by that I'm not standing at an airport somewhere, waiting in line for security, realizing over and over again, what it took to put America in this state.

Like each generation before me, I have my life-altering event. The one single thing that globally changes the way we live each and every day.

May we learn from the events that led up to these disasters, so that our children won't have to write blog entries like these.

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UPDATE: I just finished watching The Flight That Fought Back on the Discovery Channel. This was an excellent program and I recommend it to anyone who just feels the need to know more information and a personal look at the heroes on Flight 93. Excellent material.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Birds-eye view

It would seem that in this day and age, the Internet is considered to be a necessity of life. This guy is in New Orleans and has set up a live web cam pointing outside and has posted some pictures and blog entries about living through Katrina.

I was watching his web cam for a few minutes and I was surprised to see a) dry streets, and b) vehicles moving about. Granted they're not busy streets, but still a vehicle manages to slip by once in a while.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Yeah. That about covers it.

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Thursday, September 01, 2005

And the rains came...

"She had come like a thief in the night. ...and one by one dropped the revellers. ...and died each in the despairing posture of her fall. ...and Darkness and Decay and the Death held illimitable dominion over all." - adapted from Poe

Life is different now. More different for others than it is me. But different nonetheless. I'm not going to list statistics and breaking stories because I think we've all seen enough of that this week. But I am going to put a link here to the American Red Cross so that we can all do our part.

As you may remember, I am/was scheduled to be in Jackson, MS next week for my job. Watching the news all week I wasn't really sure if Jackson was spared due to it's geographic location being slightly north of ground zero. I'll admit that I was somewhat relieved to hear: 1) that my client is ok. 2) My trip was canceled.

Instead of getting all your news from blood-thirsty TV networks trying to outscoop each other, take a gander at this email excerpt that was sent out to our project team regarding the actual conditions in Jackson.

"Hi all,

I just spoke with [Client], and he gave me an update on the status of going to Jackson. He says that there are still thousands of people without power in Jackson (himself included) and it could be a while yet before all is restored. [Client's agency] still has no email or internet connection and they don't know when that will be restored. The Traffic Engineering group will be mobilized to assist in recovery efforts, but they can't yet get to the coast. [Client] expects that they will be able (and required) to do that about the time we are scheduled to get there. There
are no hotels available and there is no gasoline for sale in Jackson (people have lined up for 8 hours based on the promise that a truck is coming later in the day)."

Now look how far north Jackson is from the coastline. I'd imagine being along the coast would be a living hell.