Business or Pleasure (Part 1)

Part 1 of my expedition to visit friends and explore the company that I work for. 🙂

I wrote most of this while on my various flights of this trip, so please excuse the perspective change. 🙂

As I sit here drinking my soda as if it were scotch, I reflect on the events of the day. My first scheduled ride with Uber worked marvelously. I have found that each driver for Uber/Lyft have their own stories and are happy to share them with you. My driver was an ex-Marine and he had some strong convictions about the current political Administration in this country. As a “middle-of-the-road” type of person with politics, I enjoyed the conversation. My arrival to the airport was flawless as was Security. I purchased a TSA Pre-check pass that really cuts down on all the mess of the TSA. I was able to throw my bags on the belt and walk through. I was able to find my gate quickly and I starting watching the planes.

I am happy to say my fascination with an airport and aircraft has not left me. My plane arrived on time and I finished up texting with friends before boarding. This flight was a small regional flight and based on the time of night, the plane was only half full. We all could have had our own row. I had been specific when purchasing my tickets to ensure a window seat for myself. I enjoy watching the plan taxi around the airport and the various mechanical parts of the wing move as we take off and land. My favorite part is take-off as the speed of air around the wing pushes the plane up from the runway. We had arrived at the critical point where the pilot would give the engines that last nudge of power before liftoff, when suddenly the wheel brakes and reverse-engines activated. My busy brain tried to formulate what had happened as we taxied over to the holding area. We made our way back to the gate and had to de-board the plane. I don’t read too deeply into “the signs”, but this was not a good start to a long trip.

I was unaware how the next decision I made was going to define the rest of the trip. The reason I enjoy planning trips so much is the exactness of it all. Fly here, connecting flight, fly there. The dates and times are so aligned that any delay over 30 minutes really does mess the rest of the plan. The technical side of my mind loves this type of stuff. Unfortunately, the delay I experienced was a good example of how something can really mess up the plan.

“It’s all ‘part of the plan’…”

I could have arrived in Chicago about 5 minutes before my connecting flight or I could wait to see what was going to happen with my original plane. Well, no mystery here, I waited. Based on the time of day [night], there were no other connecting flights, so I would have to be put up in a hotel in Chicago to make the morning flight.

I am happy to say that the plane was repaired and we took off the runway with ease this time and ascended into the dark night. For some reason, the flights going from south to north ascend to a phenomenal height of 38,000 feet (11,500 meters for you metric readers). I had only done one other night flight in my travels and even after the delay, I really enjoyed myself. The small plane carrying less than 30 passengers was almost cozy. People watching TV shows on their phones and tablets. A few people in the back having a very detailed conversation. We travel over sleeping humans far below us. I feel very separate from the world up here. I imagine this would be the same feeling that an astronaut might feel, if only in space for a couple of hours at a time. I can think freely up here without distraction. My phone is off, my window only shows darkness, and the steady bass of the engines create the correct amount of white noise. It reminds me of that Star Trek Voyager episode called The Void. Only darkness.

The magnificent speed and altitude had almost made me not notice the simplicity of this particular aircraft. The age of the plane shows in the lack of screens in the back of the seats, or available Wi-Fi, or app to explore the food menu. My grandfather would appreciate the functional nature of this machine. It is quiet, peaceful, and reserved, much like my grandfather.

We arrived at Chicago O’Hare, which admittedly, is spectacular at night. I was provided a voucher for my hotel stay and taxi ride. What the person did not tell me was the complexities of the ground transportation outside. Remember, by this point, it is after 11:00PM Central Time, so my body and mind are not at 100%. I was advised by a very friendly taxi driver that I had to speak with the official in the middle. I made my way over and they got me set-up with a ride. I know that airlines have a hard job when they have to find a room and travel arrangements at the last minute, but I don’t think they could have found a “hotel” further away from the airport. While the room was nice enough, the night staff were less than together. Remember, I was the one that had to wait for a plane to be repaired and had to be transported here by taxi. Time to wake-up! I made my way to my room and collapsed.

After a less than restful 4 hours of sleep, I dragged myself down to the lobby to find an older couple waiting for the pre-arranged taxi had been told about. Finally, a stroke of luck! So I had the helpful taxi driver and the helpful hotel guests. The trip was looking up from the night before and I was on my way. I made it past Security, after a less than pleasant interaction with a TSA checker, and found my gate. I was pleased to see that my plane was scheduled to be on-time. After about 30 minutes, my phone buzzed and the airline application showed a new notification, “Flight Cancelled”. To be fair to the airline (which I was losing a lot of faith in, up to this point), my final destination was a small town and not easy to get to by plane. My face as I approached the gate must have had all of the past 15 hours of crazy on it as they could see I was not in the mood to be messed with. They let me know that the next flight was at 6:30pm. I knew there was no way I would survive in the airport that long. (They should have super-early check-in at hotels for this reason. I did find an interesting answer for that later in the trip…) The more experienced person behind the desk found me a flight leaving in an hour to another small town less than 40 miles from my destination. I took it and sat down.

This was not supposed to be the hard part of this trip.

One of the many aspects of this trip was going to be the use of Uber and AirBnb to really get a feel of the platforms and seeing if I was up for it. (I had booked a very nice room on my last trip, in Ocala, FL and really enjoyed it.) The room I booked when I arrived was nice, but the host didn’t seem to know that I was coming. The room was fine, but the feeling of the house was just strange. I was not running on a lot of sleep, but still. I decided that after my airline adventure, I needed a hotel. A real hotel, not some 2.5-star thing. I went onto on of my many travel apps and found one nearby and packed up my bags very quickly. I have not had a feeling like that very often, but you have to feel comfortable when you sleep. If not, what it he point? The hotel only had suites, but the price was reasonable and I could finally relax. I contacted my local co-workers to confirmed I had arrived safely and just took a deep breath.

I went to dinner with a co-worker friend of mine from the area. I am taking a series of trips to see my virtual co-workers in-person and to observe different parts of the company that I work for. I have only spoken to these people via online channels at work. Meeting these people in real life was quite nice and interesting. It is hard to read a person by their texting. It is also nice to meet someone from work outside the workplace. After I basically absorbed my dinner, (I was hungry after all that travel and delays and such) we walked around the historic downtown area for a while. Walking was a good change from all the sitting I had already done. Also, it gave us time to chat about “all the things”, big and small. I enjoy a one-on-one deep conversation. These are my favorite.

This friend of mine had gone through some recent medical procedures and the walking around was more than she had done in a while. I felt honored to be included in her “breaking-free” celebration. It was something that I have never experienced. I have been very blessed with personal illness issues. I don’t have many and when I do, they are minor. I would like to know why every third female I know between the ages of 20 and 30 have some sort of “unexplainable” condition that the doctors are unable to figure out. Has anyone else experienced that?

After our rather long outing, I made my way back to the Hotel to chill before an early bedtime. The next day was a full day of shadowing in a new department at work. I needed my sleep. What new adventures awaited me?

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