Thursday, November 1, 2012

Home From Market

I know that many are suffering from the effects of hurricane Sandy and I don't mean to make light of their plight. My prayers are with those that came home to devastation and a few others that are still making their way home as I post this.

If you follow this blog you already know that my experience while traveling is "bumpy" to say the least. Canceled flights, lost luggage, weather delays, sick crew members, you name it, I've experienced it while trying to get from here to there. This fall while attending International Quilt Market I shared my wicked travel gene with the entire industry in the form of hurricane Sandy. Early in the week I was teaching on the east coast of Florida and all of the "spaghetti" tracks for the storm that were shown on the Weather Channel clearly showed the front heading out to sea. Once Mother Nature realized that I was on the Florida coast, the models changed and Sandy did her best to make a B-line For the shore.

Outsmarting disaster is my main goal when I travel, so having experienced weather delays before, I headed for Texas as the feeder bands began. I was confident that the wind and rain would be long gone days later when I would make my trip home. As the storm started to build, much of the conversation on the Market floor revolved around who was getting home, how, and when. With market ending and Festival beginning, hundreds of hotel rooms were scheduled to change hands. If you requested to extend your stay, the hotels promised to do their best to try to accommodate you.... At a higher, much higher, rate.

I was scheduled to fly from Houston to Orlando, then Orlando to Pittsburgh on Southwest. I didn't even bother trying to check with the airline until my last evening in Houston. When I finally did, much to my surprise my reservation was confirmed and boarding passes were issued for on-time departures. While everyone else was scrambling for someone to share a room with, I finished my orders, picked up a few last minute items and started to say my last good-byes. That's when my phone rang. My son called to say that my Orlando to Pittsburgh flight was cancelled. No problem.

When you have the travel record that I do, you become accustom to a few bumps along the way. I had already checked with my friend in Florida, who happened to be attending a funeral in Orlando, and I could stay with her at her sister-in-laws.  Nice weather, friendly people, welcome accommodations. It is all in having a plan B, C, D and occasionally E.

Plan B, overnight in Orlando, was scrapped when I spoke to the airline. It would be two nights in Orlando, possibly three. Jacksonville? I have a daughter attending college in Jacksonville. I've made that drive many times.  I actually rented a car and drove home from there during the last ice storm that paralyzed everything south of the Mason-Dixon line. The Southwest operator offered to get me into Jacksonville at 11:35pm, for an additional $315. On to plan D. Columbus Ohio? That would be drivable. Possible, but not until Thursday (it was Monday at the time) and an additional $249. Orlando was looking pretty good.

I checked in at the Southwest counter at Hobby Airport for my flight to Orlando. On the off chance that I could get closer to home or at least close to a more familiar bed, I asked the counter person if they had anything going to Louisville, Kentucky. Louisville is a little less than two hours south of my oldest daughter and the twins.

"Yes, I can have you there by 9pm" were the nicest words I had heard all day! Done. No matter what the fee. Stranded out of town can be both miserable and expensive, but stranded out of town with an unexpected opportunity to visit with the grandchildren is worth the price! My evil travel gene had instantly produced an unexpected bit of luck! I whipped out my Visa. "No need for that, we don't have change fees here" were the next words from the Southwest agent. Really? That never works for me. I had already spoken to Southwest customer relations earlier. Those were the very helpful, polite people that quoted me the change fees! "No problem, no fee". She did make sure that I understood that getting from Louisville to Pittsburgh would be my responsibility. I didn't bother her with the details, but getting me home to Pittsburgh would actually be Grandpa's responsibility. He could drive out and pick me up and have an excuse to see the kids too.
Quick calls to my husband who called my daughter who arranged for a rental car that I could use to drive the hour and forty five minutes to their home in Covington, KY and I was on my way. The smooth flight to Chicago gave no indication of the horrendous weather out east. We landed in Chicago a bit early and I decided to get something to eat before heading to my next gate. Waiting in line for my Chicago style hotdog my text message alert went "ping". Southwest was notifying me of a gate change. Impressive service! I arrived at gate B19 and looked at the board. Flight 842 to Louisville was scheduled to leave right on time.  This was going too smoothly.... The gate agent announced that they would begin boarding immediately after they boarded the flight leaving out of adjoining gate B 17..... to Pittsburgh.

That is correct. Hours ago in Houston there was no possible way to travel to Pittsburgh because of the storm. Customer Relations assured me that nothing was flying in. Absolutely no connections were available that would get me home before Wednesday or possibly Thursday. However sitting in Chicago, waiting for my flight to Louisville I watched as the gate agent booked 3 people through to Pittsburgh. I questioned the seat availability. The gate agent offered to transfer me to the Pittsburgh flight. In my travel world you have to know when to hold them and know when to fold them. With my luck the wind would pick up and that plane would need to be diverted. Probably to Orlando.

Instead I chose to keep my seat on the flight to Louisville. I would rather change planes, pay $82 for a rental car and drive a few hours for kisses from Grant and Madeline than risk another flight change that might not get me home. If you are keeping score, this is FIVE, count them F I V E trips to International Quilt Market that I have had some issue getting home. This time I got to snuggle, play and get hugs and Halloween kisses from the twins. I going to score this one:
Evil Travel Gene 4
Karen 1.

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