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After a pleasant and relaxing weekend of fun, dancing in the Poconos… - Who has time for a journal?
March 30th, 2008
04:23 pm


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After a pleasant and relaxing weekend of fun, dancing in the Poconos at the Independence Squares Fly-In, I'm stuck in Allentown because of weather conditions in Chicago:

Due to WEATHER / LOW CEILINGS, there is a Traffic Management Program in effect for traffic arriving Chicago OHare International Airport, Chicago, IL (ORD). This is causing some arriving flights to be delayed an average of 1 hour and 44 minutes

The flight was supposed to leave at 5:52pm (and United sent me a text message confirming that it was on time). By the time I got to the ticket counter, it was delayed until 8:30pm, since our plane was delayed in Dayton, scheduled to go to O'Hare first, then the round trip to ABE. The agent was very helpful, but not optimistic about getting me to SJC, SFO, or OAK until the next morning's flights. Even if I got to Chicago, my flight to San Jose was dicey, since it might not be delayed long enough, or it might be cancelled. ABE-to-SFO seemed workable in the morning.

(Eek! The text messages keep rolling in for my original reservation. The ORD-SJC flight was supposed to leave 8:25pm, and arrive 11:04pm, which is marginally past my bedtime. Departure was originally on-time 2 hours out, then delayed, first to 9:20pm, then to 10:15pm, then 10:39, which would arrive around 1:20am.)

It was a bit of an adventure. I didn't bother going through the security checkpoint for an unlikely flight. I found a seat near the ticket counters. Both my laptop and my cellphone were low on battery (since I didn't notice until too late that both halves of the outlet I used in the motel room were operated by the light switch near the door, and I kept turning off the light, killing power to the laptop and the attached USB phone-charging cable). After a long search for a vacant seat near an outlet (since lots of people looked like they were waiting to meet people on incoming flights), I found plenty of seats near baggage claim, but there didn't seem to be any Wi-Fi nearby. I spent some time fiddling with it, and charging both the phone and the laptop.

The airport has some nice displays of nearby major companies, including Just Born. I'm not a fan of Marshmallow Peeps, but their Peanut Chews looked worth trying. But I didn't see them in the gift shop. Somebody failed in the integrated marketing. It was just an annoying tease!

Eventually, wandering back to my original seat, I found an outlet there that's easier to see when you're on the other side of the room looking under the seats. By this time, the flight had been cancelled. I could also see the huge line at the ticket counter. I booked a free room at the Four Points by Sheraton with 4000 Starwood Preferred Guest points (almost the last of the several thousand points for getting their credit card - free for the first year, and well worth the 20 minutes on the phone listening to sales pitches to get them to cancel the card).

The ticketing line seemed as long as ever, but I joined it. Meanwhile, since the United web-site hadn't been helpful, I called one of the two different toll-free numbers suggested by the text-message alerts (800-UNITED-1 and 800-241-6522). The voice recognition seemed to work OK for my Mileage Plus number, etc., but the live agent apologized for needing the information again (although a weekend conversation had already given me inside knowledge of a software upgrade in progress). She had a slight accent, and might have been in India, but she soon booked me on the 6:15am (Ugh!) flight to IAD and thence to SFO, arriving shortly after noon. I can take Caltrain (with the silly SFO BART-to-BART connection) to Stanford, work half a day, then take the shuttle to Jonathan's office off-campus, and carpool home.

Nobody wants to fly at 6:15am, so the seats were still available. My outbound flight had been a more civilized 7:40am SJC to IAD. I was looking forward to a regional jet to Chicago (I think) instead of the little Saab on the Dulles flight, but I'll rack up a few hundred extra miles on the less-direct routing, almost enough to go over 50,000 (and a Standard free ticket, since none of my recent trips have had any Saver free seats available).

The ticket line had shuffled forward about 1 spot, but I think it was just people adjusting their spacing. I thought about suggesting to the cute-ish guy in front of me that the phone reservations people didn't seem to have a line, or even offering my cellphone if he didn't have one, but he wasn't making any eye contact, and my phone battery was still ominously low. I decided that I'd given the folks nearby a chance to overhear my conversation, demonstrating the correct way out of the situation, and they were free to follow my example or not.

I got a sandwich, then went down to the ground transportation area to figure out the Sheraton shuttle. They were in the chart of nearby hotels, claiming to be across the street, and they had a toll-free number, but they weren't in the auto-dial in the telephones below. Lesson: Always travel with a charged cellphone. I called, and they sent over their van. Yes, the hotel is across the street, but it's facing a runway, and not particularly near the passenger terminal. The driver had a wry wit, making light of how dead the place seemed (I was the only customer around, although the conference space was still being cleaned up after some kind of function).

The room is fine, with free internet (wired). I may go visit the hotel nightclub/bar, which supposedly has a DJ, unless the van driver was joking. The shuttle van service starts at 5am, so I won't stay up late.

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[User Picture]
Date:March 31st, 2008 03:15 pm (UTC)
Now I'm at Washington Dulles. Mechanical trouble delayed our flight out of ABE for 2 hours. I missed my connection by about 15 minutes.

My connecting boarding pass belonged to Kramer/Thomas, who also seemed to be flying IAD to SFO. I never thought to look at the name on the 2nd boarding pass, but I noticed that it was Economy Plus (sad, because I hate extra leg-room, since I have short legs, and I usually want a pillow behind my back, to get my knees past the edge of the seat). Thomas has Premier status, and gets a gold boarding pass, which I also noticed, but I assumed it went with the Economy Plus seating, and thought "Oh, well, whatever" on my way to the security screening. At 5:30am Eastern time, it's 2:30am at home, so I think I was doing OK as far as functionality goes.

I'm stand-by on the 12:22pm flight, and confirmed for 5:00pm (arrive SFO 8-ish). They just announced a gate change for the first SFO flight, so I'm on my way. Gate changes imply trouble, but the confusion might improve my chances of a stand-by seat!
[User Picture]
Date:April 1st, 2008 04:43 pm (UTC)

Beware the IAD's of March

It was a pest at times, it was the Dulles-est of times, wandering the concourse, one stand-by flight after another (#7 on the list, then #2, then not listed for the flight delayed past my confirmed flight).

Highlight of the day: I was on a wobbly seat near an electrical outlet outside the Red Carpet Club, when a young-ish Euro-guy saw me with my laptop, and asked about wireless internet. I told him it was spotty, and $9.99/day (and didn't work with iPass), and there were also internet kiosks. He wandered off, then returned and asked about getting to DC and back before his evening flight. Off the top of my head I knew about the Washington Flyer to the East or West Falls Church Metro (I can never remember which). He asked about cheaper alternatives, and I vaguely recalled the WMATA bus, which I found on the net (cash fare: $3.10 each way, to Rosslyn), and he headed off.

I arrived home safely (on a big ol' 777, even) on the 5:20pm flight, which took off around 6pm and landed around 9pm. Then to the BART station, where (highlight of the evening) I spotted Linc Madison, who I chatted with until his stop, and then I transferred to Fremont, where Jonathan took me home.

Lowlight of the return-trip mess: I didn't get to visit the Mack Truck Museum, just on the other side of the airport in Allentown (only open 10am-4pm, Mon-Wed-Fri):
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