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Shoulda Thought Of That Before I Left – More on Worst Trip Ever

June 26, 2013

By 6:00am I was ready to kill the guy who made that safety announcement.

For the safety of yourself and your fellow passengers please do not accept packages from people you don't know.

I estimated I had endured nearly two dozens of those warnings in the past 6 hours. It would have totally ruined my night’s sleep were it not for the fact that I was sleeping on the floor, in my clothes, under a bench at gate C3 in the Atlanta airport. “Annoying Man” was just one more many things that made it a tortuous night.

Fortunately, all that would be over soon. I had decided to sleep at this particular gate because that’s where my 6:30am flight to Charlotte was taking off from. Twelve hours of travel the previous day, a night on the floor, no shower or shave. I couldn’t even claim that I would be more cheerful after my first cup of coffee. . .I don’t drink coffee.

As I stretched the kinks out of my back I checked the departure board. My flight was moved to another gate. Instead of gate C3, it was now departing from gate Cx? I’ve travelled a lot. I’ve never heard of gate Cx. I wandered over to the WAY too cheerful information booth person who seemed to have no qualms about setting up shop in my makeshift bedroom.

Can I help you?

Yeah. The board says my plane is now departing out of gate Cx. Can you tell me where that is?

That means it’s been cancelled.

There was probably a correct response. but in the state I was in, I had no idea what it possibly could be. I stared at her blankly, kind of like people condemned to eternal purgatory probably do.

Do you want me to reschedule you on a later flight?

That had to be the stupidest question I had ever heard. If she had followed up with “Please don’t except packages from stangers” I might have gone right over the counter at her.

Well. . .sure. I mean, I’ve already slept in these clothes once, so that’s probably a good idea.

Well, there’s a chance we can get you on the 8:30 flight.

How good a chance?

50/50.

I’ll sit in the aisle.

If not, there’s definitely room on the 10:30 flight.

I was supposed to be at the Microsoft offices in Charlotte at 9:00am for the start of the class. Pretty sure I wasn’t going to make it.

I shuffled to my new gate and tried to avoid falling back asleep for fear I’d miss the boarding call.

I made it on the 8:30 flight and I didn’t have to sit in the aisle. I was so wiped out that I was asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow. . .well, that little thing on the back of the seat they call a pillow. Without Annoying Man telling me about the dangers of accepting packages from strangers, I slept like a rock.

I woke up as we started to make our descent. I’m not sure if it was a twisted sense of humor, or if the flight attendants were as tired as I was was, but as we started to descend they came on the intercom.

On behalf of your flight crew, we’d like to welcome you to Atlanta’s international airport.

I really was in purgatory.

Fortunately, we really were landing in Charlotte. And even better, my bags arrived with me. I was honestly surprised that they’d managed to arrive on the same flight. As I went to pick up my rental car I realized my next problem.

I’d never been to Charlotte before. I had no idea where the Microsoft offices were. This was in the days before smartphones and Internet cafes.

I can handle this. I’ve flown all over the world. I’ve found my way around cities where I didn’t speak the language. Surely I could track down the Microsoft office. Asking the guys at the rental car desk was useless.

Then I had a thought. Corporate Travel had booked my hotel. I was staying at the hotel where all the Microsoft visitors stayed. Chances were that someone at the hotel could direct me. Of course, I’d never been to this hotel before either. The hotels provided little 3×5 cards at the airport with directions. They were very convenient. They were also wrong.

I suppose they might have been considered correct if you already knew how to get to where you were going. But no problem. I was an Eagle Scout. I considered myself pretty good with directions and a map. I was pretty sure I could figure it out.

I couldn’t figure it out.

I found myself driving along the same stretch of road in front of the Charlotte Coliseum, over and over.

20130626-004320.jpg
(Photo credit: bigbluehistory.net)

I was close . . .I think. The street numbers indicated the hotel should have been right next to me. But even in my tired, unshaven, slightly smelly state I couldn’t have failed to recognize a Marriott Courtyard. It just wasn’t where it was supposed to be.

At the end of the street the road turned the wrong way and I did a U-turn and tried it again.

On the third, or it might have been the fourth trip down the street I finally admitted defeat. I figured, “My wife’s not here, I can ask for directions.” I pulled into the next parking lot with the intention of throwing myself on the mercy of the receptionist in one of the many office buildings.

I nearly ran over the curb. The sign said,

Welcome to the Microsoft Corporation - Charlotte campus. Please check-in with the receptionist in Building J.

I staggered into the classroom about 11:30, to a surprised instructor and some confused looks from students.

Sorry I was late. It’s too much to explain. I’m gonna go take a shower and shave and I’ll be back after lunch. Can one of you point me to my hotel?

I was off by over two miles.

This is part two of a two part series on my worst trip ever. Part one explained the dangers of listening to 6 hours of Country music.

Rodney Bliss is a blogger, author and IT Consultant. He no longer goes to Charlotte. He lives in Pleasant Grove, Utah with his lovely wife and his 13 children.

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