Friday, December 01, 2006

Milwaukee Travel Story

My experiences with travelling about the country as a Shelby trainer have been largely routine, without any major hangups.

Until now.

This trip is going to make up for all the smooth travels I've had so far. At this moment I am in a hotel room instead of training at the United Methodist Church of Whitefish Bay (near Milwaukee) because of the first major snowstorm of the season. The church is closed, and there are no flights available for me to get home today.

The adventure started on Wednesday, though, while I was having lunch with Susan before heading to the airport to catch my first flight. I received an alert from American Airlines automated service informing me that my flight from Richmond to Chicago was delayed. Instead of departing at 2:40, the flight would leave at 5:00. This was quite a problem as my flight from Chicago to Milwaukee was supposed to leave at 5:10, so my connection was impossible. I called American and discovered there were no later flights from Chicago to Milwaukee that day, so they booked me on a Delta flight that would leave an hour later from Richmond and would put me in Milwaukee two hours later than originally scheduled. As a result of the delayed arrival, my ride from the airport to the hotel was unable to make it, so I had to take a taxi instead.

That wasn't the end of it for Wednesday, though. My flight from Richmond was delayed simply because Atlanta refused to give clearance and let our plane take off; they were back logged during the airport's "rush hour," and our plane would have to sit on the tarmac for half an hour while we waited for Atlanta to tell us we could get en route. By the time we took off our estimated arrival time was exactly the same as the departure time of my flight to Milwaukee. Even though the stewardess requested that the passengers who had time to wait please refrain from standing until those with close connections deplaned, the aisles filled immediately upon the indication that it was safe to stand. I literally had to run from my arrival gate to the departure gate, which was in a different terminal in Atlanta. The stewardess showed me a shortcut that was faster than waiting on a tram (I'll use that bit of info again, I'm sure), and it was still only by God's Providence that I arrived at the departure gate in time to board. The plane I was to take from Atlanta to Milwaukee had been delayed because of a minor maintenance procedure, and that additional 15 minutes was what I needed to make it in time.

Unfortunately, my checked luggage did not move so fast as I from plane to plane. As soon as I arrived in the baggage claim area, I heard my name announced to come to the Delta baggage office. I found the out-of-the-way and unmarked office eventually, and there learned that my baggage was being sent on a later flight and would be delivered to my hotel after it arrived. So I had no choice but just to find a taxi, get to the hotel, and hope that my luggage would be there in the morning. Gratefully, it was.

After I arrived at the hotel and got checked in, I was quite hungry, so I went to the hotel restaurant, which was still open. I stood at the "Please Wait to Be Seated" sign for over five minutes while no one came up to the reception area. I found a card on the reception desk that listed a phone number for the restaurant. I called it and asked the person who answered if the restaurant was open. When he confirmed it was, I asked if he would come around to the front and seat me. Moments later he appeared and escorted me to a table. Just one more little story for this trip.

The day of training on Thursday had its own share of challenges, what with the computer lab not being quite ready to go with the software, the number of Shelby licenses being too few to handle all the trainees and the regular staff simultaneously, and the fact that several students could not remember their passwords. But eventually we did make some headway in the training department, which was good, because it would turn out to be the only day of training available to us.

Overnight the first major snowstorm of the season swept through the midwest, dumping up to 10 inches of snow over parts of the Milwaukee area. I got a call at 7:00 a.m. that the church was closing for the day and there would be no training. Not only that, but the airports were closing, so I would likely not be able to fly out early either.

Sure enough, American Airlines confirmed that my flight home was cancelled. I rebooked on the first available flight the next day, which was at 5:50 in the morning. I'm not partial to those early flights, but it was either that or wait until 6:50 the next evening. I made arrangements with the hotel to stay another night, and settled in for a day working from the hotel room on my laptop. It was uneventful, but I watched the snow fall and fall all day, until late afternoon.

At about 5:00 p.m. Central, Susan called me and told me that American Airlines had called our house and informed her that my flight for 5:50 in the morning had also been cancelled. I immediately checked the flight status on line and confirmed it was listed as Cancelled. So after I finished talking with Susan, I called American and rebooked once again, this time for the 6:50 flight Saturday evening, exactly 24 hours later than my originally scheduled flight.

And that brings us up to my current status. It is Friday evening, and I have another day to wait until I can fly home. In the morning I will call the front desk of the hotel and see if I can arrange for a late check-out. If I can't, I'll be spending the day at the Milwaukee airport. At least there is a good sized mall in the airport; many of the locals apparently go there to shop even when they aren't flying out. So it has a good food court and, hopefully, Internet access.

We'll see what adventures tomorrow brings. Maybe I'll get another story or two. But actually, I hope I don't.