This is part 2 of the story, to read part 1 click here.
Thursday morning, June 14th. I arrive at Denver Airport at 4:30AM. Catch my flight to MSP. All is well. Connect to Duluth. While waiting at the gate, the agent announces that the plane’s bathroom is not working, so “if you have to go, or think you’ll have to go, please use the facilities directly across the hall.” I knew that was a Facebook moment. Pretty funny and made me remember that I was in Middle America now. This plane is REALLY tiny; maybe holds 40 people. We board, leaving behind any carry on, except for my purse and my computer. We’ve boarded, and the flight attendant tells us that aside from the bathroom not working, there is a nasty storm arriving and we have to hurry to get out before the airport closes due to weather. Hurry! Hurry! We all board, and then we wait. There’s one more passenger. A young man, a paraplegic, who is flying home to Duluth, having competed in an athletic event. OK…we’re ready to go. Prepare to leave the gate. Oh, wait, someone really has to go to the bathroom. And, then the power of suggestion takes over and several people have to go. OK. We won’t leave the gate quite yet; the flight attendant allows folks to get off the plane, use the bathroom at the gate and then re-board. Finally, we’re ready.
Yes, you guessed it: when we finally pull away from the gate, the storm has settled in and now we cannot depart. So, we wait about 30 minutes on the runway and then we leave. Bumpy doesn’t even begin to describe it. Good thing it was only a 28 minute flight. Arrive Duluth about 20 minutes delayed.
As I deplane, I pick up my compute bag and head straight for the ladies’ room. This airport must be 50 years old! And, the ladies room? Well, let’s just say that none of the mid-century modern amenities are there: brown paper towels, stacked on the wet counter, trashed Formica and…well, you get the picture.
OK, I think. It’ll get better. I get my luggage (because remember, I’m now being forced to check my luggage) from the carousel. Go outside to get a cab to get to the hotel. The cabbie has lived a life; you only have to look at his face to know that. I get in. Beautiful little community. Very green and lush. And, yes, it’s raining pretty hard. As we’re driving to the hotel, I notice that this car has large flood lights on either side of the front windows; much like a police car. I ask the cabbie about it; yes ,he says, this used to be a police car. ‘I bought it for a song when I started driving a cab.’ He tells me that this storm will probably spawn some tornadoes and to be sure to find out where the tornado shelters are at the hotel. Really, what an adventure.
We finally get to the hotel. I have about 90 minutes before my keynote, only I can’t get out of the car! Because it’s a police car, the back doors can only be opened from the outside. Who knew? I finally disembark and head into the Baker’s Island Inn Resort. Resort? Really? I head to the restaurant. Very sweet family atmosphere. Still raining very hard. The first of the automated calls from Delta come in to my voice mail, to tell me that my outbound flight later that day has been delayed. Then, the second call comes in.
My routing was Duluth to Minneapolis St. Paul to LAX. I finish lunch, loving the thunder and lightning, and beginning to wonder what the rest of the day holds for me. While I teach, I get two more calls from Delta, the last one saying my flight from Duluth to MSP has been delayed 3.5 hours, which means I won’t make my connecting flight.
Working with the FC travel agent (who was wonderfully patient), we rebook me on the last flight from MSP to LAX on Thursday night. One more call from Delta was the tipping point. I wasn’t going to make the connection….wait, being very resourceful, I realize I could drive from Superior/Duluth to MSP and catch that last flight.
The hotel calls a cab. The van arrives, windows wide open. Now, remember, it’s been raining and it’s still quite humid. A sweet young woman gets out of the cab and tells me that the air conditioning in the van isn’t working and we’ll just have to have the windows open. OK…I just want to get to Duluth airport to being the 2.5 hour drive to MSP. Lots of construction in Superior, so what normally would be a 25 drive became a 45 minute drive.
Finally, I get to the Hertz counter in Duluth. I get a car, and begin the drive. There’s construction on the one highway to get me to MSP. The rain is gone, so it’s beautifully clear and still light out, even at 6:30PM. Driving, singing, thinking if I’m going to make the flight….driving, car dancing, thinking if I’m going to make this flight. Finally, I’m in the Twin Cities vicinity and don’t see one sign indicating that I’m near the airport. Not one. Although I’m using the Hertz Never Lost GPS, I’m still not certain that I’m driving in the right direction. Drive through Minneapolis, and now getting into St. Paul. Finally, a tiny tiny tiny green sign telling me to get off the highway to get to the airport. GPS is telling me to continue on the 35E. I decide, in an instant, to follow the GPS instructions. Eventually, I get to the airport. I only have 45 minutes to departure time. Yikes! Hurry!
Finally, arrive at the airport and I don’t see one sign for Rental Car Return. Somehow (I still don’t know how), I get into the Rental Car Return area for Terminal 2 (I needed to be at Terminal 1). Round and round I drive through the Rental car area, not seeing one human being to tell me where to drop this car off. Only 35 minutes now to departure time. Ultimately, I see a person from Alamo and ask him where the Hertz return area. Just as he’s about to tell me, his colleague drives up in a van and says “Follow me.” So, I follow him.
What a mistake!
Mr. LeadFoot drives out of the terminal area. I follow him and end up in Terminal 1. Good for me. 28 minutes to departure. As I am gathering my belongings, the Hertz rep tells me that his computer isn’t working and I’ll have to go inside to return the car. Yikes! Now picture this: me, my two red rolling bags behind me, moving as fast as I can….I finally get to the counter, where I encounter a VERY long line of people waiting to rent a car. I walk up to the counter to confirm that this is the correct line. The young man tells me it is, and since I’m Hertz Gold Club, I could just stand there and he would take care of me as soon as he was done with his client. 25 minutes to go. I decide that I’m not going to make the flight, so I get on the phone with Delta. I’m on hold…
Finally, this young man is able to take care of my return. Just one problem: the car is from a franchise, the young man behind the counter is new, and he’s not sure how to process my return. He calls on a colleague, who is busy flirting with a client. I’m still on hold with Delta. If I can’t cancel/rebook my flight, my ticket becomes invalid and I’ll have to purchase a one way ticket home. Can you feel my stress level?
The Hertz agents told me that they could not issue me a receipt, since the rental was with a franchise. When will I see a receipt? ‘Oh, gee, I don’t know…it could be a few weeks.’ What? How do I submit my expenses?, I think to myself. 12 minutes to boarding and I knew I wasn’t going to make the flight.
Just as I’m done with Hertz, the Delta agent comes on the phone. She kindly re books me, tells me that there’s no charge since the situation was Delta’s fault (that’s refreshing, wouldn’t you say?). OK. Now, I need to find a hotel for the night.
As I get on the tram at MSP to get to the main terminal, I look up at the Departures board. Yes, the flight I thought I’d just missed, has been delayed by 30 minutes. For a nano second, I considered trying to get there. Then, reality: I just didn’t have it in me to hustle through the airport, with my luggage…
I get to the ‘on airport grounds hotel’ board at luggage. Standing there is a woman, about my age, who is struggling with her belongings and making her reservation. I strike up a conversation with her, and learn she’s gotten a great deal at the close Holiday Inn. So, I call them, make a reservation and head outdoors to wait for the shuttle. It’s now 10PM. I haven’t eaten a thing since lunch at the hotel (which feels like a life time ago). I’m cranky, hungry, and still have to wait to get home until the morning.
Anita (I soon learned this woman’s name) was happy to have someone to talk to. It went like this: ‘So what’s your name mine’s Anita where are you from I’m from Portland and trying to get to Detroit for a family emergency I have a husband and no kids and we run a business together I’m really enjoying talking to you do you want to grab a bite when we get to the hotel I wonder how much longer before the shuttle gets here….
Just like that. No punctuation. No anticipation of an answer to any of her questions. And, NO, I didn’t want to share a meal with her…or anyone else for that matter. I just wanted to get home, Antie Em. J.
At the hotel, I got the next to the last room. Shuttle pick up at 4AM. Yes, 4AM. That wasn’t so bad. The day before it was 3AM…
Friday, June 15 dawns. Everything, I mean, everything worked out just fine and I get back to LAX by 9:15AM local time. Feels like I’ve lived an eternity in the past 36 hours.
Ah, the joys of travel..
Author: Andrea Edwards
Andrea Edwards is a Senior Consultant and Director of Client Results for FranklinCovey’s Western Region. She is passionate about helping clients achieve their wildly important goals.
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