So I went to NYC again last week. This time there was no shopping on 5th Avenue or strolling in Central Park. There was lots of grueling, hard work. Not really?. I did go for work, but we had as much fun as we did anything else. As much fun as Planes, Trains and Automobiles can be?
We left Monday afternoon on a direct flight to Newark (after a 45 minute delay that seemed like a big deal at the time, but would prove to be the least of our travel issues all week). As soon as I turned my phone back on when we landed ? it was ringing like crazy. My client (who had taken an earlier flight and was already in the city) was at our hotel and they didn?t have our reservation. I didn?t have our confirmation numbers with me ? not sure why ? but he had just been hanging out in the lobby for an hour with no room. Great. The confirmation numbers are on my desk in my office in Fayetteville ? and even if I could convince someone to go up there and get them ? they don?t have a key? So client finally convinces the hotel to let him have a room at the rate they?d given me over the phone weeks ago ? and he checks in. He makes a point to phone and tell us, ?only check in for one night ? we?re not staying here ? you?ll see when you get here?. Great. The place is a dump. Turns out it wasn?t bad, but the service was awful. The guy at the front desk when we got there watched us haul our bags up the steps and in the door in the rain ? never offering to get us help. He muttered under his breath the whole time about ?no reservations? and that he was ?doing us a favor?. He wouldn?t let us use a company card ? out of spite. It wasn?t a pleasant experience. I?ve never seen a hotel with such unfriendly amenities. Their mini-bar had computer sensors under the items ? and warnings that if you removed anything for longer than 2 seconds ? it was as good as purchased.
So Tuesday. Raining again. Harder this time. We pack up everything and leave the hotel before New Yorkers are even considering getting out of bed. We check into another hotel (after spending 2 hours the night before on the phone trying to get reservations) and leave our bags at the front door. This hotel is more than accommodating. We head to the Saatchi building for all-day meetings. Tuesday is relatively uneventful ? except for the table full of sushi and sake that we had for dinner. Yum.
Wednesday was really the beginning of the end. The plan was to take a car service out to Union, NJ and visit a Wal-Mart, Target and Babies ?R Us (the agenda for the trip was to onboard our new team in NY to the Baby/Family business at Wal-Mart) since there are no such stores in the city. We had GPS. We had Google Maps directions. We still managed to get lost for 2 hours in New Jersey. It got kinda ugly with our car driver, and at one point he threatened to make us get out in downtown Newark. We talked him down from the ledge and finally managed to find Target. Wal-Mart and Babies ?R Us were both within a mile so we got dropped off and had to walk. (Note: This isn?t like walking a mile in pedestrian-friendly Manhattan. This would be like walking the ?mile? between Target and Wal-Mart in Fayetteville. In wet grass.) So what was supposed to be a nice afternoon of store-walks turned into an all-day ordeal. We finally got back to the city and ate at a great Indian restaurant for dinner. Then we turned lamo and crashed around 6 for what was scheduled to be our last night in NY.
Thursday. This was the kicker. We check out of our hotel and schlep all of our luggage to the Saatchi office for some morning wrap-up meetings and to get back in touch with our office back home as there were a couple of pieces that needed to go out last week. So we get up to the office, set up shop (in a corner office that overlooks the Statue of Liberty!) and get some work done. Our flight is scheduled to leave Newark at 3:30. Car is coming at 12:30. We make amazing time getting to the airport ? and we?re there in plenty of time at 1:15. I check my monstrous bag and we head to the gate. I make the mistake of eating airport pasta, and we settle in at the gate ? Josh with his iPod and me with the last few chapters of Harry Potter 3. We don?t notice at first, but there?s trouble brewing in the airport. We start to notice an increase in cancellation announcements over the PA ? and we decide to go check on our flight. Delayed 1 hour. About this time is when I get an email on my blackberry that the cell phone service in NWA is out. Great. No wonder no one is returning my calls. Client is back in the office, wondering where we are. My team is working to get art out the door, wondering where we are? We keep a close eye on our flight. Delayed another hour. Grr. So we?re starting to get a little worried. The monitors are littered with big red letters reading ?Cancelled?. Not having any luck getting through to anyone back in the office. About 30 minutes later, Josh decides to walk over and check on our flight. It?s been taken off the board. Perfect. So we go over to the Continental service desk with a hundred-or-so other saps and await our fate. We are almost last in line, and this cute little old man comes over and half-whispers to us that there?s another service desk in the next terminal ? no line. We take off. We are almost running through the terminal ? desperate to get the next flight out of here. We turn the corner and run smack into a line twice as long as the first one! It seems to be a little better organized and it?s moving (slowly, but moving), AND it?s across the hall from Ben & Jerry?s. So we stay.
After about an hour in line, we get up to the desk to learn there are no flights back to NWA that night. Of course there aren?t. He offers to get us on the same 3:30pm flight the next day. I don?t think so. So we venture into other airlines ? something we should have known better than to do. So we leave the service desk with tickets for a flight at 5:30am the next morning ? on American ? out of LaGuardia. And since Continental Airlines is not liable for any consequential, compensatory, or other damages when it cancels reservations? we were released back into the wild with little-to-no hope for a hotel room for the night. We call our favorite car service to come retrieve us. Again. Meanwhile I wait in line for my luggage. I am to learn that it will take 3 hours to retrieve my bag from ?a secure area?. Maybe less ? maybe more. I finally reach an agreement with the Baggage Claim office that my bag will travel on the next flight from Newark to XNA on Friday ? and I will pick it up in Fayetteville. Foolproof plan. So we call 6 hotels before we find one with 2 vacant rooms. And we head back into the city ? approximately 8 hours after we arrived at the airport. Josh ? luggage. Me ? no luggage.
Our hotel is within walking distance of Times Square so we decide not to be lamos again ? and we head out for dinner. We find a BBQ place that doesn?t look TOO touristy? and we drown ourselves in BBQ sauce and something they call ?Fall off the Porch Tea?. Mmm
. We have a good time and try to focus on the fact that there are WAY worse places to be ?stuck? and that this isn?t the end of the world. Back to the hotel ? we ask the front desk about the airport shuttle. Yep ? free airport shuttle. Sweet. I buy a toothbrush from the front desk and go up to my room to finish reading HP and feel sorry for myself because I have no luggage and I have to wake up at 4 in the morning.
Friday. We get to the front desk to learn that there is indeed no shuttle to the airport. Of course. So we hail a cab at 4:30am ? not easy. Get BACK to the airport. Check-in goes smoothly. As we?re standing in line for security, we notice that our boarding passes have ?SSS? printed in big bold letters in the corner and that the woman checking IDs has marked them all up with pen ? that can?t be a good sign. And it wasn?t. We are both asked to step aside and TSA commences searching our things. I?m pretty sure they went through every piece of paper in my laptop case? Then they come and pat us down like criminals. So we finally get to put our shoes back on and rejoin society on the other side of the security rope. We get to the gate. I am literally on the last chapter of HP. We start boarding as I am on THE LAST PAGE! Josh is laughing at me as I get up in a huff and practically run onto the plane so I can finish my book in peace. The plane ride was uneventful ? I slept the whole time. Back in XNA. Only half expecting to see my luggage. I go to the Continental check-in counter and get the story I was expecting. ?No luggage ? and we?re not really sure where it is or when it will get here. Here?s an information booklet (that I would only notice later is entirely in Spanish) that explains our policy and here?s your claim number.? Sweet.
I spend the next few days calling the 1-800 number every 4 or 5 hours to check on my bag. No luck. Each time I called they assured me my bag was scheduled on ?the next flight?. My bag finally arrived Sunday afternoon!! That is ridiculous.
So. 4 nights, 3 different hotels, 2 different airlines, and 1 cancelled flight later I am back home from New York City. I have no pictures ? which I know is disappointing. But knowing that I lived out my own personal episode of Seinfeld is worth the trouble.