We are home safe and sound, as I write this, even if still trying to recover physically from almost two weeks away from home (I spent the week ahead of CFUnited 2006 at a different work-related conference in Los Angeles, and was home less than 12 hours before leaving for DC). I feel blessed that we made it home safely yesterday, even if our ultimate itinerary looked nothing like what we had planned both for DC itself and for travelling home, and that I have three days before I have to venture back into the office. Deb and Ian are still sound asleep, I have the windows wide open, it is beautiful outside this morning, and I have my first cup of my own coffee in exactly two weeks.
Our travels home had an ominous foretaste, as it turned out, as we went to dinner Friday evening. The Metro train to Bethesda experienced the generic “mechanical difficulties” en route and we had to switch trains before making it to dinner.
I had arranged early Friday morning with the hotel for a shuttle ride to the airport for our earlyish (7:00 am) departure home, although having the shuttle company indicate that they would be there for a 4:00 am pickup seemed a little extreme. We made it to the lobby by about 10 minutes ahead of 4, after getting up with the alarm set for 3:00 am. 4:00 am, however, came and went with no sign of the shuttle, and at 10 after, the hotel called the shuttle company to find out where the shuttle was — no definitive answer other than that it must be running a few minutes late. At 4:20, we had the hotel call for a cab.
We finally get to the airport at about 5:15 am, still in plenty of time to get checked in and run the security screening gauntlet at Reagan. On check-in, we learn that our 7:00 am flight is now a 7:45 am flight, and that we have less than 20 minutes in Atlanta — Delta is recommending that we re-book the legs of our flight after the DC-Atlanta portion, and we head for the dreaded black Delta Direct phones. Because there are three of us, the best they claim they can do for us is to get us to Altanta on the original flight, and then a next-day flight from Atlanta to Salt Lake City and ultimately to Idaho Falls. Much muttering ensues…
After getting through the security screening, and waiting near the gate, I approached a Delta counter person named Ayalesh A to ask about lodging for the night in Atlanta, given the change in plans foisted upon us by Delta. After explaining what had happened, she worked miracles and got all three of us plus Jeff onto the non-stop DC-SLC flight Saturday evening, and onto the last SLC-IF flight. She pulled our already-checked bags back from the bowels of Reagan, and explained what we needed to do to reclaim them and check back in. It took her 30 minutes to work all of this magic, and how she did it we will never know. End result: we were now going to at least be home the same day, even if 8 hours later than originally planned, and on a non-stop DC-SLC flight. It is only through people like her that I run into occasionally that I have any confidence that anyone working with the airlines in the US has any idea how to make travel actually work and that there is some concern for the customers. This is the second terrible experience in 8 days with those nasty black Delta Direct customer service telephones, both of which have been overcome by an individual person at a counter in a big city airport faced with solving problems of people whose travel plans have been thrown into a blender by as-yet-unexplained problems with the airlines.
So it is now 6:00 am, and we have almost 12 hours to kill in the airport. The one up-side we can see is that we may get to watch the two World Cup quarterfinal games scheduled for Saturday. After much napping, a session of kicking a soccer ball with Ian in the airport concourse (joined for a few minutes by a little boy and his dad!), and watching two soccer games with crowds of friendly people from all over the world whom we had never met and will likely never see again that share a love of the greatest game in the world (and the two teams we wanted both winning exciting, reasonably well-played games!), we finally board the flight home. Smooth sailing for the rest of the journey and we arrive home and fall into bed somewhere around 11:30 pm.
A very long day, considering the 2 hour time change between DC and home, but that bed and the silence of nighttime in Idaho Falls was both wonderful and welcome! I have a to-do list as long as my arm (things like lawn work, dealing with photos from the trip, catching up on some of the World Cup games we missed, tracking down software tools mentioned at the conference, catching up on laundry and sleep) for these next three days before heading back to work on Wednesday, but I get to do it at home with my family!