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Archive for the ‘War Stories’ Category

The Stalker

There once was this girl who took the same flight to NY every week. And because she was on the same 7:00am flight in and the same 5:30pm flight out, she sat in the same exact seat. Every Monday and every Thursday. It was her favorite seat on the whole plane, and since no one else seemed to care for it she was quite pleased to sit in it every week.

After a few flights, the girl noticed another lady who also had a favorite seat. This lady took the same flights as the girl and sat in the exact same seat, right next to the girl. The girl noticed that this lady had an established routine: she would carry a travel pillow for her back, take out a sci-fi book during take-off and landing, and watch Stargate: Atlantis on her laptop during the flight. Being a nerd herself, the girl identified with the lady and thought maybe they could strike up a travel friendship, since they had some things in common.

So the girl started saying “hi” to the lady when she got to her seat. The lady would politely say “hi” in return and would go about her routine, never making much conversation. She didn’t seem to recognize the girl, the girl noticed. This went on for several weeks.

One day the girl noticed that the lady started sitting in First Class. “Hmmm…” the girl thought. “Perhaps she achieved Executive Platinum status and now gets upgraded to First Class! What a lucky lady!” She wished her plane acquaintance well and didn’t think much of it.

A few months went by. Then one day the lady wasn’t sitting in First Class anymore…she came back to her regular row and in the seat next to the girl again. Thinking this was a perfect opportunity to strike up a friendly conversation, the girl looked over to the lady and asked curiously “Didn’t get your upgrade to First Class this week?”

The lady stared at the girl in a slightly flabbergasted manner and nervously smiled. “Oh…no, not this week.” She suddenly fidgeted and looked around, surprised that the girl seemed to know her. She cleared her throat, put her travel pillow behind her back, took out her sci-fi novel and started to read it silently.

After the initial descent into the air, as if on cue, the lady brought out her laptop and started watching a sci-fi TV show. But, Stargate: Atlantis was not playing this time…instead, to the girl’s surprise, the lady was watching Eureka.

“Oh,” the girl exclaimed, “you’re no longer watching Stargate?”

The lady fidgeted nervously in her seat and looked at the girl with surprised eyes. “Oh…no…I finished that series a couple of weeks ago. Now I’m watching Eureka,” she said with finality, then averted her eyes and turned back to her show.

Suddenly unsure about the odd vibe buzzing in the air, the girl smiled at the lady and tried to explain “…I remember you because you always watched Stargate: Atlantis during the flight.”

The lady nodded and smiled weakly. Then she turned back to her show. Every now and then she looked slightly uncomfortable. The girl frowned.

The following week, the lady was sitting in an entirely different row. She had not been upgraded to First Class, and she chose not to sit in her usual row next to the girl, either. She was several rows away. When the girl passed her in the aisle, she turned to say “hi”, but the lady averted her gaze and pretended not to notice. The girl was sad.

About eight months later, the lady appeared back in her old, usual row next to the girl.

This time I kept my mouth shut.

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Recently while traveling back home from a client, I encountered some pretty dicey weather. This gave me some new fodder to blog about.

Weather is often the enemy of travel. It can cause minor delays, major delays, and even overnight stays at airports. It can also completely shut down an airport. In most scenarios, weather can lead to just plain frightening travel.

For instance, take my most recent trip back home. When descending into my local airport, my plane was struck by lightning. Yes, read that sentence again – STRUCK BY LIGHTNING. Now, the truth of the matter is, lightning doesn’t really cause damage to planes that are in-flight. If you go back to your physics books, lightning causes the most damage when it strikes something on the ground. However, it is scary nonetheless. When it struck, it looked like a small explosion. Those of us that happened to be looking out a window when it occurred (me), were freaked out for about 5 seconds. I thought we had lost the engine. It’s amazing what crosses your mind when you think you’re going to die. When I realized the plane was still flying 5 seconds later, I calmed down and readied myself for the landing. Then I relaxed in the frequent fliers club for an hour (drink in hand) and gathered my nerves for the next flight in my journey. Luckily, no major incidents with the second flight…

I’ve also been on flights where the turbulence made my stomach do flip flops. It’s not fun when the plane drops unexpectedly. After over a dozen years of flying, I don’t mind it when the plane shifts sideways or suddenly hits a bump and ascends. What most freaks me out is when the plane drops. I’ve been lucky not to experience too many drops that were more than 20 feet myself…I might just give up traveling altogether if that were the case.

After doing some contemplating, I came up with a list of “travel” related incidents that have occurred to me over my consulting career.

Updated: Nov 2015

  • # of times I’ve been stranded in a non-destination city overnight: 3
  • # of times I made it to my destination but my checked-in luggage did not, due to weather: 2
  • # of times I made it to my destination but my checked-in luggage did not, due to airline stupidity: 3
  • # of times I’ve left the airport without my checked-in luggage because they “couldn’t find it”, and then they called me an hour later to return and come get it (yes, due to airline stupidity): 2
  • # of times I’ve had an airline courier deliver my lost luggage to me: 3
  • # of times I’ve had to hand wash clothes in the sink because I have no luggage: 2
  • # of times my plane has been struck by lightning: 1
  • # of times my plane has been delayed by more than 2 hours: too many times to count (this is just laughable now)
  • # of times I’ve been moved to a completely different airline due to delays: 3
  • # of times I’ve been stuck on the tarmac for more than 2 hours: too many times to count (also laughable)
  • # of times my plane has dropped “significantly” in the air: 2
  • # of times I’ve been yelled at by a baggage agent: 1 (but the whole group was being yelled out, not just me)
  • (and just for clarification) # of times I’ve yelled at a baggage agent: 0 (luckily, I’ve kept my cool)
  • # of times I’ve had to wait more than 1 hour for my checked-in luggage at the baggage carousel: too many times to count (crying now, not laughing)
  • # of times I’ve arrived into an airport so late, due to delays, that there were no bathrooms available to us once we got off the plane: 2 (I’m not even kidding)
  • # of roller luggage bags I’ve had just in my consulting career: 7
  • # of fantastic airline pilots, ticket agents, baggage agents, and flight attendants I’ve encountered: too many to count (I had to throw this in there, because it’s true. I’d hate for everyone to be negatively biased by the “funny” bad stuff on this post.)

Safe travels to all of you fellow consultants!

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When traveling to Pennsylvania, I usually fly U.S. Airways. Although this is not my airline of choice (I have premier status elsewhere), I don’t mind traveling on other airlines from time to time to give myself an opportunity to find out what they offer to customers.

Some things I love about U.S. Airways: they offer a “trendy” selection of mixed cocktails for purchase; their selection of food for purchase is vast and has a good mix of healthy and fatty; their flight attendants are friendly and helpful.

Some things I don’t like: legroom comes at a premium; the technology at their gates is outdated; the communication at the gates has been minimal, in my experience.

To be fair, in my home airport U.S. Airways is a minority air carrier. Therefore, not much has been invested there to attract new customers. After flying them a few times, they are low on my list of preferred airlines, but that opinion might be different if I lived in Phoenix or the east coast.

Below is a smattering of funny incidents that happened in a single day of travel. I could not make this stuff up if I tried!

Heard Friday during my 10 hour commute home on U.S. Airways:

Passenger 1, smug: “I get to go ahead because I have Platinum status.”

Passenger 2: And you’re proud of that?

In a crowded walkway in the airport:

Cart service woman, to the pedestrians walking in front of her: “BEEP..BEEP..BEEP…”

(her cart’s horn wasn’t working)

On the plane, the aircraft had just pushed away from the tarmac. Suddenly a small commotion starts at one of the emergency exit rows. An airline attendant is staring at 2 kids who are in the exit row. (side note: this is a big no-no – you must be over 18 years of age to sit in an exit row, amongst other rules)

The airline attendant was looking for 2 adults to switch with the kids. Otherwise, we were not going to be able to take off. (side note: the exit rows are usually preferable seats, as the legroom is 3-5 times longer than regular coach seats)

Airline attendant to a male adult passenger: “Sir, would you mind switching with one of these kids?”

Male adult passenger, pointing to his seat: “I’d prefer to sit here on the aisle.”

I think all of our jaws dropped. She blinks twice at him and then asks an older lady sitting in front of me instead. This woman gets up with a smile and switches seats without uttering a sound.

After straightening out the situation, she looks at all of us and says “Thank you.” Then she briefly glances back at the male passenger and says “We can take off now.”

While waiting for the parking shuttle, in a small crowd of people:

Passenger 1, on her cell phone: “Within 2 hours of taking the medication, a rash appeared.”

(pause as her caller speaks)

She looks down at her body: “Well, it’s all over my hands and arms.”

(pause)

People sitting next to her start to shift uncomfortably. She doesn’t notice and actually starts talking louder.

“No, it’s not itchy. It’s red and bumpy. I don’t know if it’s anywhere else.”

Someone sitting on her bench gets up and moves to the curb’s edge.

Finally, we all see the shuttle approaching. As it pulls up, she puts her cell phone on her shoulder, grabs both of her bags with each hand, and enters the bus. She chooses a seat near the back.

No one sits next to her.

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War Stories: Grown-Ups

once upon a time a consultant takes a trip back home. he takes a taxi from the client site to the airport, checks into his flight, waits through the surprisingly short line in security, and sits at the gate. when his *super awesome platinum* status is called, he starts to board the plane, earlier than most passengers (yes!), then proceeds to move down the jet bridge. then waits. then moves forward a bit. then waits. then takes a few steps.

after feeling a bit like cattle, he finally spies the opening to the aircraft. he sighs, pulls his computer bag behind him and carefully boards the plane. after looking longingly at the passengers in first class (is that a pre-flight beer?), he shuffles past them and then halts immediately.

this is what i see…

Male Grown-Up 1 is standing in the aisle next to a row of seats with his arms in the overhead compartment. he is tall and wearing a casual suit. he looks like someone in executive management. Male Grown-Up 2 is sitting in a middle seat in that row. he is wearing a white polo shirt with khaki slacks and glasses. he looks like a middle-aged nerd.

Male Grown-Up 1: “Move your bag!”

Male Grown-Up 2: “No!”

Male Grown-Up 1 then takes a laptop bag out of the overhead compartment, places it on the floor of the aisle, and puts his roller board suitcase in its place. he starts to look for another place for the laptop bag.

Male Grown-Up 2: “Don’t you dare move my bag!

Male Grown-Up 2 then stands up. i hold my breath and look around the plane. naturally, all eyes are fixed on the dramatic events unfolding before us. you can cut the tension in the room with a knife. there are no airline attendants nearby. i look back.

Male Grown-Up 2 then gets into the aisle (Male Grown-Up 1 lets him), pulls the other guy’s roller bag out of the overhead compartment, and puts his laptop bag back in.

i inhale a small, audible gasp.

Male Grown-Up 2 then sits back down and crosses his arms across his chest. Male Grown-Up 1 starts to reach for the laptop bag again (i assume to move it again).

Male Grown-Up 2: “Don’t touch my bag, dude!

with the addition of the word “dude”, i can tell Male Grown-Up 2’s anger level just rose significantly. i desperately look around for an airline attendant. suddenly, i see one start walking towards them from the back of the plane. she is looking at them with interest. hooray!

Male Grown-Up 1: in a sweet voice, “ma’am, is there any way you can assist us here? this gentleman’s bag is small enough to fit under the seat in front of him, and he refuses to remove it from the overhead compartment.” he then points to his own, larger roller bag that obviously won’t fit into anything but an overhead compartment.

the guy’s bag is small enough to put in front of him? and he won’t move it? i can see people are starting to take sides…

did the flight attendant just roll her eyes? she stands firmly upright – wow, is she 6 feet tall? then she folds her arms in front of her.

Airline Attendant: “i can’t make him move his bag, sir.” she looks annoyed.

what? seriously?

Male Grown-Up 1 stares at her with a gaping mouth. there is a pause that seems to last for 10 seconds.

Male Grown-Up 1: “thank you for your assistance.”

was that a hint of sarcasm?

defeated, Male Grown-Up 1 takes his roller bag towards the back of the plane and attempts to find another spot in an overhead compartment. no one else moves – instead, we all watch him bunk his suitcase somewhere else and then walk to his seat. everyone stays completely silent.

i look back at Male Grown-Up 2 – he looks very smug. his hands are still folded across his chest.

i continue moving towards the back of the plane, ecstatic to finally sit down. i notice that Male Grown-Up 1 is only sitting 3 rows behind Male Grown-Up 2. i wonder if this will all be forgotten by the end of the flight.

i roll my eyes. Grown-Ups….

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once upon a time on a project far, far away (ok, maybe not too far away), there existed a project team. on this team were several really cool people:

  • Tonya (single female, early 30’s – totally fun),
  • Cedric (married male, mid-30’s – totally fun),
  • Victor (married male, late 30’s – dictator-like personality),
  • Donovan (gay single male, early 40’s – fair but firm and totally fun),
  • Julian (male with girlfriend, mid-30’s – totally fun but quirky),
  • Chad (married male, mid-30’s – shy, but totally fun), and
  • me (demographics intentionally hidden – anally cautious but fun)

we didn’t realize at the time that this was going to be the best project any of us had ever been on.

the client was pretty standard – a fortune 500 firm with lots of employees and a location in a metropolitan area in the midwest. they seemed to be nice people to work with and had a nice big budget for the project. so we settled into a routine and started to get to know one another (this was my first time working with most of the project team members).

after getting to know each other fairly well, we started to go out together on the weeknights. side note: back in my 20’s i could easily party on the weeknights and live off of 4 hours of sleep. after about 28, my body decided to be “old”…

so one night we feel fairly frisky and decide to have a party at Cedric’s house – he and Julian both happened to live in that city, whereas the rest of us were travelers. so we put on our party clothes and swing by his pad. we meet his wife (and 3 hilarious dogs) and start eating and hanging out. next thing you know, a bottle of Patron pops out and the shot glasses get passed around.

after we’ve all had about 3 shots (in about an hour), the room starts to get really wobbly. i look over and see Victor taking shots of Patron in the corner of the room by himself. Chad looks half-way passed out on a couch, and everyone else is laughing so loudly that they are red in the face. i look at my watch and it’s only 10 o’clock.

Tonya sees this, immediately gets up and starts shouting “let’s go clubbing!”

this is followed by hysterical laughter, and to my surprise, a bunch of adults getting their coats on. so we go out into the 20 degree weather (it’s the dead of winter, by the way), and take a cab. we decide to go to this fantastic 80’s nightclub in downtown.

naturally, when we get there we immediately buy a round of shots – something disgusting like Jager or Goldschlager. this is followed by a series of cocktails.

people in our group start taking over the dance floor and suddenly we’re mixed in with the locals. after getting our groove on to classic favorites like “Dancing Queen”, “Staying Alive”, and “Billie Jean”, we start sobering up.

some time has passed by this point so i take a headcount of who’s left. Donovan and Chad have already left the premises. julian and i are busy dancing with some new friends on the dance floor, and Victor is in a dark corner of the night club because he “doesn’t dance”. he’s nursing a beer. Cedric is standing by the dance floor, watching the dancers.

where’s Tonya? i scan the dance floor and see her lip locked with some complete stranger. he’s starting to get “handsy” with her, so i go to her rescue. now Tonya is about 5′ 8″, gorgeous, and muscular (she works out for about 2 hours everyday). i am short and totally non-muscular. this guy (who is now pressing her tightly against him) is about 6′ 2″, muscular, and obviously happy.

i grab her arm and say “hey, it’s time to go.” she looks at me with a drunk stare and says “i think i’m going to stay. go ahead without me.” i raise my eyebrow at her and grab her arm again and say “no, it’s time to go!” at this point, the horny stranger looks at me, shields her from me, and says “go away – she said she wants to stay here.”

seriously? after picking up my jaw from the floor, i pull her out of his arms (after several good hard yanks and multiple glares from the guy) and across the room to join Victor, Julian, and Cedric. i then yell “it’s TIME TO GO!”

they see the look on my face and don’t ask any questions. it’s already 1 o’clock. so we stumble out of the night club and fail to flag down a cab. since our hotel is only about a half mile away, we just start walking. we kind of know where we’re going, but we end up walking through dark alleyways and strange streets. at one point, Tonya has to puke. she bends over a pile of discarded newspapers to do her business. Julian and i help her back up and continue our trek. as we start walking up to the hotel, Tonya pukes again in some hotel bushes…much to the dismay of the bellhop. she mumbles something about “i never puke!”

i say my good nights to the guys once inside and walk Tonya up to her room (note that we’re good friends, so there is nothing “off” about this situation). in her drunken stupor she mumbles something about going back to the night club. i tell her that she needs to rest and then lay her down on the bed where she instantly passes out. i remove her shoes, cover her with a blanket, and leave.

the next day we were obviously tired, but smiling…we laughed about the previous night as we described the details to our client friends.

later that day, Cedric walks over to me, grins, and says “you really are a good friend.” i feel warm and fuzzy inside.

all in a day’s work…

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