(Business travel really sucks).
Nothing really interesting to report as far as my ongoing daylog sagas. This week took a bit of a turn downwards, mostly due to external factors. Last week I traveled to Austin, TX for work; that was okay (although I hate business travel) because Austin is way better than Houston, which is where I normally end up. Also, since we're being courted by Dell, that meant that in exchange for spending the days locked up in Dell's headquarters in Round Rock I got to eat and drink on Dell's sales budget, so okay. And Austin has better of both than downtown Houston.
Unfortunately, just like last trip, my travel got all screwed up, and I'm still dealing with the consequences.
My car needed some work, so I had taken it to my familiar shop in Boston on Monday as I'd flown out of Boston to Texas. However, there was bad thunderstorm activity in the Northeast last Friday, my planned return date. Since JetBlue doesn't have direct flights from Austin to Boston in the mornings, I'd chosen to fly to New York JFK in the morning on JetBlue and connect to a Delta shuttle flight in order to get back to Boston early enough to pick up my car. Got up at 4am and got on the flight to New York, which was fine except for one brief moment of severe wind shear (+500 feet/-500 feet in ~10 seconds) as we were threading storm cells to get into NYC. I woke up just as it started because people in the aircraft were screaming, including the flight crew, which is never a good sign. I looked at the inflight map, saw we were at 20,000 feet, and went back to sleep.
So we deplaned in NYC. Delta was still claiming my flight was leaving on time, 1 hour and 50 minutes later, so I grabbed my luggage (carry-on, hooray, made the right choice) and hustled over to the AirTrain to switch to terminal 3. Arriving at Terminal 3 I found a scene straight out of Terry Gilliam's Brazil. Unlike JFK Terminal 5, which JetBlue just revamped, Terminal 3 is a 1960s or 1970s throwback. The 'front desk' area is very very small, since it's a Delta-only terminal. However, the roof leaks. A lot. (Aging concrete, I guess). While I was about halfway to Terminal 3 on the Airtrain, the thunderstorms we'd been dodging hit the airport hard (we could see lightning strikes on the airfield from the tram, hitting structures and airliners parked on the taxiways waiting to get cleared to take off). Now when I say Terminal 3 leaks, I mean, badly. Really badly.
So in addition to the numerous plastic bins set out around the terminal area to catch drip leaks, there were ten or twelve areas which apparently were so bad that something semipermanent needed to be done. So the maintenance staff had stretched plastic tarps out under the ceiling some 30 or 40 feet up, each tarp covering maybe 3 by 3 meters square under a leak area. At the center of each tarp, a plastic tube dangled down, and all of those tubes hung low over the queues for the desks, with their ends gathered up out of sight atop the counter area's indoor roof. Seriously. That, with water gurgling down them and dripping around into the bins and onto the carpet where new leaks where, plus the heat and mugginess from the evaporating leak water brought Brazil inexorably to mind.
I checked; the boards said my flight had been delayed 28 minutes, but was still scheduled to depart 1 hour and 40 minutes from then. Excellent. I went to a self-service kiosk, but it thought for a minute before explaining that 'my flight had changed' and that it couldn't check me in; I needed to see a human at the desk. I looked over. There were three lines there, labeled "Baggage Drop" (nope), "Kiosk Assistance" (yep!) and "Sky Priority" (nope). The baggage drop line was maybe 100 people long and there were five agent positions servicing that line. It seemed to be moving relatively steadily; dropping baggage after checking in is pretty quick. The "Sky Priority" line had four people in it and three desks servicing it. Well...okay. I mean, there was a line there, so obviously they were just keeping up, and I'm OK with your priority customers having a better experience. The "Kiosk Assistance" line had maybe 40 people in it and three desks servicing that. I joined.
Problems swiftly mounted. The thunderstorms had resulted in a large number of flights being outright cancelled, whose aircraft couldn't make it into JFK in time on their inbound legs - and every passenger needing to rebook or otherwise complain was in - you guessed it - my line (except, I suppose, for those few who were Priority members). Now, I'm still OK with this, because it's obviously a stressful time in an airport when a thunderstorm is passing through, disrupting the schedule. I make it to the front of the line (third place, actually) in about 35 minutes, leaning me 1 hour and 5 minutes until my revised departure time and 37 minutes to my original departure time. One of the kiosk assistance agents is called away to assist the growing security checkpoint line.
The problem is that now, both remaining desks were taken up by large groups or families, all with complex rebooking problems (they all look like international airline code-share passengers from what I can see of the tickets they're waving). As a result, the line stopped, dead, for 15 minutes. There's not much to be done; they obviously needed the agent assistance, and all agents were working - the three 'priority' agents weren't idle, although the priority line was still only 4-5 parties.
waved over one of the priority line groups. What the fuck?
We grumbled but settled back. Five minutes later, she finishes and does it again. Her desk sign still said 'Kiosk Assistance', not 'Sky Priority', and there were still three other desks working Sky Priority. I called out "Excuse me, does this mean you're taking only Sky Priority customers now?"
She barked back (and 'bark' is the only way I can describe it) "Yes. Deal with it, that's how things are."
I decided that it wasn't worth getting pissed off about, but several folks in my line (which has now grown to over 100 people) disagreed and start grumbling-to-shouting. She turns her professional smile on the Sky Priority customer and ignores us. Two minutes later, a red-vested manager walked by, so I grabbed him and pointed out that he now has *four* agents working the priority line which was then 3 people long, while 120 (by this point) people piled up in the Kiosk Assistance line. Someone next to me pointed out that the desk agent in question switched without warning or apparent instruction and was also being very rude; I keep my mouth shut about that. The manager, looking harassed, asks what I need. I point out politely that I just need to check in, because their kiosks won't let me, and that I've been in the line for 40-45 minutes of my 'arrive an hour before flight time' period. He facepalms for a moment and then says "Give me a minute." A couple of minutes later, another employee starts canvassing the line for those who just need to check in, and sends us (me in front) to the manager, who is now manning a previously-empty desk. I get my boarding pass in about 1 minute and head over to security, whose line is now past the "45 MINUTES FROM THIS POINT" sign. I quietly tag a security agent and show him my boarding pass, which has my original flight departure time on it, which is now perhaps 10 minutes away; he winces and says "You'd better come with me," and shoves me into the Priority security line. Huzzah.
I get through security and to my gate - and my flight is delayed. Again and again. The departure time goes from 1:55 (original) to 2:18 (first delayed time, the one I'd been working with at the desk) to 2:37, to 2:55, to 3:30, to 4:00, to 4:30, and so on. It becomes apparent that the problem is that while the aircraft is there, and the pilots are there (by 2:55, those were in place) there is no cabin crew available - the crew scheduled for this flight never made it to JFK. They're waiting to have a reassigned crew arrive, deplane their flight and make it to us.
We got away from the gate at 7:15pm.
The worst parts? Well, two flights going to the same destination, scheduled to leave after us, both left on time. Those of us who tried had been unable to switch seats to that flight, although apparently those with connecting tickets in Boston had been given priority. The only food available in the terminal was either the usual airport snack-food-for-flight vendor or Burger King. I realized that I hadn't eaten that day at all (coffee at 4am had made me wary of my stomach for a 3 hour flight) so I was eventually forced to eat Burger King, which I loathe. Also, there weren't nearly enough seats in the terminal for those waiting for various delayed flights, so I had spent most of the time either sitting on the floor or walking off the resulting cramps.
Having said all that, once we got onto the plane, we were outbound and off the ground in 5 minutes, and the flight time to Boston was 24 minutes. When ATC gives them good routing, jetliners can get from NYC to Boston really, really quick!
Got out of the airport at 9:05pm. I'd been calling my garage to see if they could leave the car out for me, and had found out that no, it wasn't going to be ready. They were pretty sure that the biggest item on my list, the air conditioner not working, was due to an electrical fault. Good news: much cheaper than replacing the compressor. Bad news: takes time to diagnose and find the fault. The car could be ready that evening with no AC (ugh) or ready Monday with an AC. If I got back to Boston by 7pm I could pick it up. I'd originally planned on that, but...yeah.
Called Hertz, rented a car, and imposed on some very, very kind and good friends in the area. Drove to their place outside Boston Metro and settled in for a weekend of unplanned away-from-homeness.
Cue today. This morning, well, see, my air conditioner? Yeah, it turns out it *is* the compressor. Which adds $1400 to the bill, and means they would have to keep the car until Tuesday. I told them I can't afford that now, and to button up the car (now pissed because it means I really should have been able to get it last Friday). I had to give a presentation (remotely, thank goodness) so I couldn't leave their house before 1pm, but afterwards, jumped in the rental to take it back to Logan and then take public transit back across the entirety of Boston to my garage. I was 3 miles down the road when the phone rang. It was the shop, of course. Um, er, well, one of their fixes unfixed itself, so it's going to take until Tuesday *anyway*. Back to my friends' place. Bless them.
So this whole thing is compounded by the following factors: 1) I'm out of prescription medication (I generally travel with a 5 day cushion, but I was almost out before leaving, and CVS wouldn't refill it when I still had 1.5 weeks left). 2) I need to move out of the friend's place I've been staying in for the summer, and had planned to do that this weekend. 3) My brother (and my nephews) are visiting our father this week, and I had agreed to go up to get family time. So now I'm burning days with them.
Fuckity, fuck fuck fuck.
Oh well, at least I can do my laundry here.