Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Not easy leaving the Big Easy

What I should do:
  • Spend time reflecting on how much I enjoyed the conference.
  • Add more to the poster session entry about the great people I had a chance to talk with and how small the world really is (shame, ending a sentence with is).
  • Detail sessions I attended on Sunday as they were great professional development opportunities even though I didn't get to attend the want I really wanted to see because it was cancelled (insert annoyance here).
  • Talk more about what a great welcome we had in New Orleans and how wonderfully resiliant the people there truly are.
  • Mention the opening session on Saturday evening included not only Madeline Albright, but also the mayor of New Orleans and the Lt. Governor.
  • Describe the very tasty breakfast I had at Cafe near the hotel on Monday morning.
  • Spend time discussing the wonderful young woman I heard at the session I attended in place of the cancelled podcast program.
But, I'm exhausted and cranky about the weather on the east coast Monday morning, the less than stellar performance from US Airways, and the extra travel day I lost because I was unable to get OUT of New Orleans. So, here's what happened.

I spent Monday morning packing and made sure I had time to walk a few blocks down from Hotel Monteleone to a charming little cafe on Royal Street, Cafe Beignet. Since I'm not a seafood fan, I wanted to be sure I at least sampled a beignet for breakfast. It was a charming place, located next to a police station. I waited in line, placed an order for beignets and a large orange juice (no coffee for me) and found a spot to relax while waiting for my order. Within minutes I had three freshly baked beignets, still so hot from the fryer - I nearly burnt my fingers- and heavily dusted with powdered sugar, placed in front of me. Wonderful.

Insert moment of appreciative silence for fried dough here.

After breakfast, I had time to play tourist one last time while wandering around the French Quarter a bit before going back to the hotel for a final look-see through my room. I checked out of the hotel and was picked up by the prearranged airport shuttle (nice job ALA giving us the chance to reserve the shuttle online beforehand so we didn't have to redial eight million times trying to get a reservation) in a timely fashion. The trip to New Orleans's Louis Armstrong International Airport was quick and I settled in with my newly purchased crossword puzzle book and diet pepsi to wait for my boarding call.

And wait for my boarding call.

And wait for my boarding call.

And wait for my boarding call in vain.

Finally at 3:00 pm the perky (grrrr) US Airways representative said our connecting flight to Philadelphia had been cancelled due to the bad weather. This is where I state I am more than pleased NOT to have been on the plane with storms consisting of thunder, lightening, and rain. Not a great flyer on my best day I can only imagine the angst of being stuck unable to land due to rain. While in line we chatted and heard horror stories of a flight to DC having to circle the airport for five hours waiting to land. No thanks.

The gentlemen in front of me were from New Orleans and told us if there was a coonass flying the plane, we would have gotten there. I was glad to have read Sandra Hill's contemporary romance series featuring a cast of Cajun characters and understood his reference. I just had to laugh.

We had a choice, stay in New Orleans for another evening and fly out the next day or take the last plane to Syracuse, NY and stay the night there. Add to that there were no guarantees we would be able to get out of Syracuse the next morning to reach our actual destination. Either way, no flights would be heading east that evening.

We were told to line up, a full 737 plane load of us; it wasn't pretty. Two hours later I still had not made it to the desk for reassignment and they were babbling about giving them our names so our luggage would not end up in Syracuse. This is where I mention there was only ONE person doing the reassignment. Why? She did the best she could, but if the plane was waiting on all of us why was she not given any assistance? Give them their due, I did get my luggage before it left for Syracuse.

Five hours at the airport and what did I have to show for myself? I had a reservation for 7:30 am the next day, my lovely green suitcase of dirty clothes, and an urgent need to find a hotel near the airport for the evening. Six hotels and a call to travelocity later, I was able to share a shuttle ride and have a late dinner with a librarian I met in line who, incidentally, had talked to me at my poster session on Saturday afternoon. Our shuttle driver recommended the restaurant next to Fishermans Cove Seafood, walking distance from the hotel. Dinner, a roast beef po boy, was pretty tasty. I retired back to the hotel to listen to airplanes take off and over my room and dread the 5:00 am wake up call. The airport shuttle was scheduled to pick me up at 5:45 am. I slept with hope to travel another day.

An interesty aside ... the plane bound for Syarcuse was delayed for two hours as we were leaving the airport. They were not deplaning (aargh - what joy) and were still on the tarmac when the shuttle drove by on our way to the hotel. Way to dodge a bullet.

Groggy from lack of sleep, I was none the less thrilled to get on the airplane for Charlotte, NC and my connecting flight home. Naturally, US Airways had other ideas. Seems the weather was a foe again this morning in Newark. My 12:55 pm flight was delayed another hour. The marine reservists waiting to go home to Dayton were not pleased.

  • I did several more crossword puzzles and fill ins hoping to inspire my brain.
  • I began another of the advance reader copy novels I picked up at the exhibits in New Orleans (some good, some so-so).
  • I wandered the airport and had a Nathans hot dog for lunch.
  • I resisted, with great effort, the lure of cinnabons.
  • I listened to my MP3 player so as not to overhear the many, many, many, cell phone conversations around me.

I boarded the plane with glee at 1:45 pm. The flight crew consisted of a bunch of comedians; the pilot explained he'd use the tertiary afterburners to make up some of the two lost hours from the morning. The flight attendant told us not to worry, there were indeed oxygen masks in the bathroom. Of course, this was the same person who told me I shouldn't have moved aside to let the pilot off the plane and assured me he could run, but he couldn't hide when it was time for take off. The other flight attendent kept saying we were soon to be landing in Columbia (I was hoping South Carolina and not South America) instead of Columbus. When we were preparing for landing she told us to have a nice day in Charlotte and gave the local time. Like I said, comedians.

We did indeed arrive at the airport ten minutes ahead of schedule. I don't want to know how. I thought it best not to ask. On the bright side, it took me all of 20 minutes to get off the plane, retrieve my luggage, locate the shuttle to my car, and be on the interstate headed home. Probably the shortest part of the trip.

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