Thursday, February 25, 2010

Travel Misadventures

This is a blog post live from the back of a regional train car. While my project has been based in Rochester, NY...and while my apartment is in New York, NY...and while my girlfriend lives in Chicago, IL.

This train is beginning and ending its journey from an entirely different set of cities.

I'm bound for Philadelphia, where I'll transfer trains and catch another one to New York.

Think that doesn't make sense? Wait until I tell you the whole story...

We begin our story in Rochester New York, where after a morning meeting with our client, our team heads to the airport to try and beat the winter storm to NYC.

We arrive, with tickets booked on a 1:20 flight to LaGuardia...

We had to wait in a long line to check in, because US Air decided (were forced) to abandon the self-check in kiosks for the time being. You know, because those things are so inconvenient.

Anyway, we (my project manager and I) wait in a relatively long line before finally receiving assistance individually.

I get checked in for the 1:20, and then go wait with my manager while he checks in. The woman checking him in, who seemed to be a little stressed (it was hard to tell because she seemingly had applied her makeup with an industrial grade paint sprayer), mentioned that she could get my project manager onto a 12:30 flight that was currently delayed.

I was a little miffed that my check-in helper wasn't as helpful, and asked to get included.

She punched some buttons, without acknowledging my request, and handed my project manager his ticket. It was a ticket for the 1:20 flight.

Whatever, we figured it didn't really matter since both were probably going to be delayed, we can be on the same flight.

So we sit around the airport, waiting for our flight to board. The 1:20 got delayed until 1:40 (certainly great on the spectrum of flight delays), while at the gate next door, the 12:30 was announced as not leaving until 2:40.

Sucks for them, we thought.

Our plane arrived, and we were both excited to get on it and get home.

But as we went to board, the gate agent (the very same pancake makeup woman from before), scanned my manager's ticket and refused to board him. Apparently she had switched the ticket, but didn't tell him or print him a new boarding pass. He would have to wait for the other flight.

Sucked for him, and when I approached her, she said I would have the same problem.

'Just scan the ticket' I requested, knowing that it was likely no one actually did anything when I asked to switch planes.

Sure enough, I still had my seat, and on the plane I went.

You'd think that would be a good thing, perhaps the end of the story?

No. No, this is where it gets weird.

We sat on the runway/tarmac/purgatory for a while as we waited for de-icing, and because the plane was initially late in getting to the gate, we missed our initial window into LaGuardia.

Eventually, they let us take off and we fly over to NYC, where we spin around for a while until they tell us, 'We won't be allowed to land, so we're going to go back to Harrisburg'


I grab the US Air magazine and flip to the map pages in the back. Harrisburg, in case you didn't know, is just about as far west from NYC as Rochester is. Not exactly making progress.

We pull up to the gate in Harrisburg, and I'm already assuming worst-case. As the wheels hit the ground, I'm on the phone with our travel department to book a train from Harrisburg to New York, assuming no planes are getting in there tonight.

'There's a 5:35 train from Harrisburg to New York,' the travel agent tells me, otherwise you'll need to go to Philadelphia and switch trains.

The time of that call? Roughly 5:05.

I could make it! I thought. And I reserved a space and quickly made my way off the plane.

Of course, it wasn't that easy. The train station in Harrisburg is about 15 minutes away from the airport. It'd be tight, but I could do it if I threw money at a cabbie and yelled 'Step on it!' (which I kind of always wanted to do anyway)

But wait, I needed my bag, which due to our small plane's size, had to be gate checked at Rochester. A gate check, for those unfamiliar, is when they make you hand your bag over to some guy at the gate, and when you get off, a different version of that guy brings you bag out to you.

It could take 2 minutes, could take 10, high variance for sure.

So I scrambled off the plane and waited impatiently...I could make the train if I could just get my bag, tear through the small airport, and get to the train station.

Tick tock, tick tock.

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity but was probably only 3 minutes, the gate agent in Harrisburg (who was under an oppressive seige from angry Rochesterians) announced.

"We are taking all bags, including gate checks, and putting them on baggage claim carousel #1"

And like that, the 5:35 train went up in smoke.

No baggage handlers in the history of civilization have ever taken less than 15 minutes to offload a plane.

So with that went my direct train, and the chance to get to New York at a reasonable time.

As I sat, frustrated, planning for my 6:40 train (on which I currently sit), I got an email from my project manager.

"Hey, did you land at LaGuardia yet? They let us land"

:::smacks forehead:::

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Don't be a Hero

It's almost Super Bowl Sunday, which means we're also perilously close to the end of the football season (that faint 'yay' you just heard coming from the middle of the country was the sound of my girlfriend cheering)

And as the season draws to an end, we can only hope that the Colts win this Sunday's match-up against the Katrina Memorial Saints. (It's not that I have anything in particular against the Saints, I just want Peyton Manning to go down as better than Tom Brady, because he is, so I'll be a Colts fan)

But more broadly, as I was listening to an NFL-related podcast, I came back to thinking about my own hypothetical football career. No, not my secret plans to make billions of dollars, buy a team and then make myself GM. What I mean are my plans to play in the NFL, if I could choose any position to play.

An important caveat, is that we aren't talking about where you'll create your digital version of yourself in Madden or some other video game. In those circumstances, you go for the glory, quarterback, running back, something flashy. You're little digital self needs to get digitally paid, digital endorsements, and dates with the little digital cheerleaders. He should go big.

But if you had to pick a position to play in the NFL, you personally had to put on a uniform and go out there every'd be crazy not to be a punter.

I know, I know, sounds crazy, but hear me out because I've given it some thought.

Now it's true, as a punter, you don't get the glory that the big time guys get. But if I was going to want to play in the NFL, I would want two things...

- I'd like to play for a long time
- I'd like to not get killed

And hey, if possible, I'd like to avoid getting booed to the point that I'd lash out and spit on a fan or something.

Punter, that's the safe choice.

If you want to be a running back, that's great, have a nice 4 year run until you've been tackled so hard and so long you can't get out of bed. Defensive line? That's great if you want to have the physical equivalent of a car crash 50 times a week. Quarterback? Forget about the physical pounding, you get second-guessed by every armchair genius with a TV.

When you're the punter, no one cares about you (except for the die hards, and they probably don't even care that much)

It's really hard to draw attention as a punter, and it's almost as hard to get the crowd to hate you. Whenever you come in the game, it's already 4th down, the crowd's already disappointed, they likely aren't even paying attention to what you're up to.

And you might not have a huge signing bonus or huge endorsements, but you do make a good living. A quick check of USA Today's database shows that all the punters in the league make over $330k a year, and lots of them bring home over a million.

All you have to do is watch out for those overzealous special teams players that want to light you up, and like Jeff Feagles, you can play forever.

So if you've got a kid that's looking to go pro, tell him to be smart and start kicking