It’s A Short Story

This week’s trip brought a collection of short stories that all came together to create one memorable trip.

Chapter 1- The Tale of 5 Boarding Passes

Have you ever wondered how to collect 5 boarding passes in less than 12 hours? Look no further! I have your answer!

Boarding pass #1 was for my original booked flight on Southwest  from Denver to Oakland on Tuesday evening. However, that flight was cancelled, for reasons unknown, mid Tuesday morning. Frustrating, but I did appreciate the advanced notice.

Boarding pass #2 came when I was able to rebook on another flight on United from Denver to San Francisco that left just 15 min prior to my original flight. I can deal with that.

So I head up to DIA around the time I planned to leave, get to my gate and get settled in-  just in time to hear the announcement that this flight was also cancelled. Evidently, the plane had literally been struck by lightening on it’s approach to Denver, and needed to be pulled out of service for maintenance. I was glad it hadn’t been struck while I was on it, I guess.

Boarding pass #3 occurred when United took it upon itself to rebook me on a flight later that evening. Except that flight didn’t arrive into SFO until 1am, which would then be followed by an hour drive. That wasn’t really my idea of a good time, so I was already on the phone trying to rebook.

Boarding pass #4 was the result of my co-worker and I  both trying to rebook on another Southwest flight the next morning from Denver to Oakland at 8:25. Evidently, she is faster than I am with the app navigation, because she got the last seat and I got the “sorry this flight is sold out” message. So I had no choice but to book the 9:15 Denver to SFO flight.

Boarding pass #5 came from some savvy, frequent flyer persistence on my part. Since we were supposed to share transportation and had prep work to do for our meeting later in the day, I kept checking the 8:25 flight to see if someone got struck by lightening and wouldn’t be needing their seat after all. Sure enough! Around 9:30 pm a seat opened up on that flight, and after a call to Southwest I was rebooked on the 8:25 to Oakland.

Is it really any wonder that after all that, it took me 3 times of scanning the wrong pass at the gate, and 5 min of arguing with the gate agent that YES, the Denver to SFO boarding pass was the right one for trying to board my Denver to OAK flight? Give a girl a break!

You too can collect all 5 boarding passes just by following these few easy steps!

Chapter 2: Sea Kayaking in Wal-Mart

Just as I was leaving my house to head to the airport, I happened to check my email, and noticed two emails from Wal-Mart.com.

The first email was to thank me for my purchase of 2 sea kayaks for a mere $698.

The second email was to regretfully inform me they had to cancel my order, due to being unable to verify all my billing data.

You can imagine my confusion (and relief), since I had no recollection of placing any orders for sea-kayaks. Nor was I aware of any seas in which to kayak in our lovely Colorado. I also can’t  remember the last time that I shopped on Wal-Mart.com.

(It is possible this could have been another case of early onset dementia. Refer to Chapter 4)

I checked the credit card this was supposedly billed to, and sure enough, there was the charge for $698. Followed, thankfully, by the refund of the same amount.

What was more puzzling, though, was the fact that this is the same credit card that is constantly send me fraud alerts, or randomly declining my charges, for transactions that I am actually making. Like trying to buy tacos for a grand total of $32, 5 min from my house.

While I appreciate the concept of the fraud alerts, and also appreciate them trying to keep my information safe, I begin to feel there may be a flaw in their system if they decline my transaction for $32 tacos, but I don’t get as much as a whisper for them when someone else purchases kayaks for $698, at a place I never shop.

So I decide I need to call and explain the flaw in their system to them.

The only thing I got from that call was less logic applied to the explanation than is apparently applied to their fraud detection system. No one had any answer as to why tacos would trigger a high alert, but sea kayaks seemed of no concern.

They could agree I probably needed a new card, either way, since some sea loving criminal had obviously gotten their grubby hands on my number.

All I can say is, thank goodness Wal-Mart’s fraud detection system seems to operate better.

And so sorry, Mr. Sea-Kayaking Identity Theft. I hope this doesn’t mean you’ll drown on your sea adventure.

Chapter 3: Titanium is Higher than Platinum

Amidst all the fun I was having booking and re-booking multiple flights, I began to think the hotel personnel might be wanting some attention too, and realized I would need a place to sleep in Denver, so I could be up bright and early for round 2.

Of course when I logged on to search for hotels, every hotel within a 10 mile radius of DIA was sold out.

Evidently there was a lot of lightning striking and boarding pass roulette occurring this particular evening.

As any of you who know me know, and as my co-worker pointed out, I am not very good at taking no for an answer, however.

What good is having Titanium Elite hotel status, if it can’t turn a “no” into a “yes”?

So I call the Marriott reservations line to invoke my Titanium Elite, guaranteed room, ” we will kick someone out to welcome you” perk.

The first agent I spoke to tried to tell me that that perk was only good if invoked 48 hours prior to needing the room. Not only did this not work for me, but I was pretty sure that was inaccurate as well. So without wasting a lot of time going back and forth with her, I decided talking to someone at the Elite benefits desk might be in order.

I started to despair when that agent started out by telling me that indeed, there were no rooms available for that night but there were several open over the next few nights, then paused like he expected me to take him up on that offer. I had already explained the reason I needed a room was because my flight was cancelled and I was rebooked on an early flight the next morning, but he somehow thought presenting this option would make me go, “Oh! Ok then! I’ll take a room on Thursday night instead! Thanks!” ??

Evidently my reluctance to accept that offer transmitted through the phone lines, because he chose to quickly move on to options that might actually help me that night.

“I have status with Marriott and I thought that guaranteed me a room when needed?”

“Yes, it does guarantee a room for Platinum members”

Which is how I found myself uttering the phrase: “And I’m Titanium, which is higher than Platinum, so I should be able to get a room as well”

It took a little more “searching” on his part, and him patching me through to Gwen at the front desk of the airport Marriott, but he got it done.

And Gwen is now my new BFF. Not only did she get me a room, she put me in a suite that I seriously considered just booking from now until eternity and making it my home.

Chapter 4: Signs of Early Onset Dementia

I finally make it to CA, check into the hotel that really is starting to feel like a second home, and have plenty of time to unwind and prep for the evening meeting that made all of this worthwhile to begin with.

We head back to the hotel after the meeting and decide to change and head out in search of a late dinner and possibly (definitely) an adult libation or two.

I ride the elevator to my floor and then something happened that has never happened before.

I literally COULD. NOT. REMEMBER. MY. ROOM. NUMBER.

I have had momentary lapses before, especially after being in multiple hotels in the same week. But usually if I just stop for a second, focus and take a deep breath, I could quickly recall the right combination of numbers.

Not this time.

I walked down the hall to where I thought I remembered my room being, stopped in front of the door I thought was mine, and tried my key.

Nothing but a blinking red light.

I then did the slow, sad circle in the middle of the hall, looking for anything that would trigger recognition.

No luck.

I walked all the way to the other end of the hall to try the door in the same spot on that end, hoping I just zigged when I should have zagged.

Again with the red light.

Then I tried a couple random doors, just because I’m not a quitter.

Finally, I realized what I was going to have to do.

I was actually going to have to go down to the front desk and tell them I was an idiot.

I walked up to the girl at the front desk and decided to open with:

“Ok, you have to promise not to laugh too hard”

“Ok” she says with all her customer service training behind her, but I can see she is dying to know what comes next.

“I forgot what room I’m in”

Of course she laughed.

“Ok, I totally deserved that. You can tell that story as much as you want when I’m gone’

She looks me up and gets me my room number and a new key.

“I’ll just write that down for you here” she offers helpfully as she hands me the key.

“That’s probably a good call”

It’s sadly possible I’ve forgotten other great stories that happened on this trip before I had the chance to write them down for you.

Chapter 5: No Good Deed 

Once I found my way back to my room, I managed to change and find my way back to the lobby to meet my co-worker to head out for dinner.

We manage to find our way to the restaurant, but only because she was navigating, and I pull into the parking lot adjacent to the restaurant to park. It is pretty packed, and I pull into the only open spot I find. I get out to pay the meter, but the machine will not take my card. (I’m getting a complex when it comes to cards with magnetized strips). But it doesn’t like my co-workers card any better. Thankfully, someone in the row right behind us is pulling out, so I move the car to take that spot, and my co-worker walks over to feed that meter. We have more luck this time and head into to dinner.

Or so we thought.

After some great food, we come back out and as I start to climb into the car, notice a piece of paper flapping under the wiper. That can’t be what I think it is!

Sure enough, it a pretty little parking ticket worth $30.

How is this possible? We parked. We paid the meter. We followed all the rules!

Because of that little problem with “no” I mentioned before, I am climbing out of the car to take a picture of our meter, that still has time left on it, and already searching the ticket for a phone number.

Which is when I realized. Since the meters are not directly in front of the parking spot (which would be logical) but off to the right side (or so we thought) we had logically paid that meter. When I got out to take the picture, however, I realized we had paid the meter for the car next to ours, and left ours (on the left side of the car) blinking red and beckoning the parking police.

You’re welcome, random stranger, whose $30 ticket we are now paying. How does one expense a parking ticket?

Chapter 6: Mystery SOLVED!! 

Because we’ve covered airlines and hotels in this collection of short stories, it only seems right to include Uber.

And Amazon.

After another evening meeting tonight, I was headed back to Oakland for an early morning flight back to Denver. So I call an Uber, and off we go.

I never get car sick. Tonight, however, I was doing a lot of deep breathing to keep everything in my stomach where it was.

It wasn’t just that my driver was driving like the world was on fire, the shocks in his car probably should have been replaced at least 10 years ago. So every bump and turn in the road, turned my Uber into a carnival ride.

I was able to solve one of life’s great mysteries on my ride, however! Anyone who has read any of my posts, knows of my adventures with Amazon and packages being delivered (or not) or disappearing into the shipping black hole. I have finally discovered what happens to all the Amazon packages that never make it to my house!

IMG_0616.jpg

I know it’s a bit blurry, but it’s hard to take a good photo when you’re flying down the road at 90 mph.

But at least now I know where to look for all my missing packages!

In short, this weeks travel has fully prepared me for my upcoming 3 week vacation. I’m sure travel for fun will be much less eventful!

Things Seem a Bit Foggy…

This week was a quick trip to Salt Lake City for dinner with a client.

At first I was excited, because I can actually get a quick direct flight from right here in COS without having to drive all the way to Denver!

Alas, when I looked at my two daily options, one put me into SLC way too early for my 6pm dinner, and one put me in too late.

But I wasn’t really in favor of spending 1/4 of my exactly 24 hour round trip on the road back and forth to Denver.

So instead I booked connecting flights with my dear friends on United out of COS. I did make sure the connections were in Denver, however, just in case my United friends continued their near perfect streak of travel issues. At least I would be within driving distance of home.

My trip to SLC was relatively uneventful. My super long 17 minute flight from Colorado Springs to Denver was a little bumpy, but who had time to really care.

I had just enough time on my 50 min layover to get some water and be ready for boarding.

My actual time in SLC, while with very few hours actually awake, was pretty nice. It was a beautiful evening in the bowl, and a pleasant dinner with good company.

I set my alarm before drifting off for 6am to make sure I had time to get to the airport and get the ever important coffee, before my 8:25am flight.

Except.

Having got my coffee, and starting to become pleasantly awake, I walk up to my gate just in time to hear them announce that we are on a “ground hold” from Denver flight control, due to “freezing fog” in Denver.

Wait. What?

Freezing fog? Is that really a thing?

I have traveled a lot for a lot of years. How have I never heard of frozen fog at any other time, on any other trip? Not to mention my slightly more than a few years on this planet. I’m quite sure I have never heard of freezing fog at any point during this time.

I make a note to consult with my super smart 3rd grade friend, Christopher, who I happen to know, through his mom, is studying weather.

They continue to say that at that point, the delay is only set for 30 min, and everyone should be good on their connections, so I decide to finish enjoying my coffee.

As the coffee continues to clear the un-frozen fog in my brain, however, I realize I am hearing the ongoing boarding announcements for the Delta flight to Denver, that is also scheduled to leave at 8:25.

Something is wrong with this picture. Both flights are heading to Denver?

Check.

Both are scheduled to leave at 8:25?

Check.

But somehow, the Delta flight is actually boarding and not delayed, while us lucky United passengers are sitting here at the gate and at least 30 min delayed.

Curiouser and curiouser.

I decide not to get too worked up yet. Maybe the Delta crew just haven’t gotten the message, and all those people will actually just sit on the plane during their ground hold, instead of in the slightly more comfortable terminal.

But I just continue to watch as the Delta plane is loaded, the doors closed, and it pushes off the gate.

Sure enough, it takes off merrily on it’s way to Denver as planned.

What kind of weather is this that only affects one airline and not another?!?

I bite my tongue, and take a deep breath, and decide as long as we leave at 9 and my connection is intact, all will be well in the end.

But of course we don’t.

At 9, instead of coming on to announce we will be starting the boarding process, they come on to announce that we are now on another delay for at least another hour, because instead of the Denver fog un-freezing, it is actually getting more frozen. And now I will definitely miss my connection

Now I can’t help myself. I must inquire.

So I walk up to my United agents and ask if they can explain what I obviously missed in 3rd grade weather, about this frozen fog that can affect one airline and not another.

Of course they missed that day in 3rd grade too, and have no answer for me, except that since United has the largest fleet, they are often the most affected by weather issues.

But not to worry! They have already rebooked my connection to the 3:45pm flight to COS.

I literally can not form a response to this, despite being fully loaded with coffee, except to  give them my tilted head, scrunched up eye look.

I take another deep breath and decide continuing the conversation is going to be pointless, so instead I head back to my seat, while I pull up the Delta app on my phone. Sure enough, their 8:25 flight is en route to Denver and still on track to touch down in about 20 minutes time. I also see that they have another flight heading to Denver at 9:59, that is also, miraculously, showing on time.

So I make my way over to the Delta desk directly across the terminal from my United desk.

“I was just curious, if this was accurate, and if your 8:25 flight actually took off to Denver with no issues?”

“Yes”

“And your 9:59 flight is still on time and not delayed?”

“Um, yes I think so. Let me check. Yes. It’s on time”

“Hmmm. I’m just a little confused, because I’m on that United flight right there, that was also supposed to take off at 8:25 to Denver, but was delayed due to weather. So, I’m not really sure how the weather isn’t affecting your planes”

“Yeah, I heard those announcements, and I was wondering what that was about.” Then she looks at me. “But, um, sometimes, it’s the type of aircraft that is affected or not”

I just give her my “I don’t really know what to say to that” look and move on.

“Ok, so are there any seats still left on your 9:59 flight?”

She consults her computer. “It looks like there are 4 seats left”

“Great, thanks! I’ll be right back”

I turn and walk back across the hall to my United friends, wait for them to finish finding solutions for the other un-connected passengers, and when it is finally my turn, I ask them to push my ticket to Delta, so I can travel with an airline that appears impervious to weather.

“But that will only get you to Denver. You won’t have your connection to Colorado Springs”

“I’m pretty sure I can manage” is all I say. I don’t say that even if the United flight did manage to take off at 10, I wasn’t exactly planning on sitting around DIA until 4pm waiting for a 17 min flight.

To the agents credit, he pushed the ticket to Delta without much more to-do, except to say that he has never really been able to figure out the way they manage weather delays either. I just give him a smile, thank him for my Delta voucher, and head to my Delta gate to check in.

5 min later, I have a boarding pass, and another 5 min after, we are actually boarding the plane. While the United crew is still sitting at their gate.

Besides being a bit more bumpy than normal upon approach to DIA, our hour long flight flew by, and I land to what appears to be a sunny, 45 degree day in Denver.

I hop on the train to the main terminal, call an Uber as I ride up the escalator, and walk out to Arie waiting for me at the curb.

Arie is a tiny Asian grandpa, who seems genuinely excited when he sees he has to drive me to Colorado Springs. I assume it’s the triple digit fare that helps with this.

As soon as we leave the airport, Arie literally drives his Prius like there are monsters chasing us, and we make it from DIA to COS airport in an hour and 30 min flat. That might actually be a record, even for me, who has had a speeding ticket or two.  I could take driving lessons from Arie, I think.

And at 3:45 I had had my lunch, unpacked and was sitting comfortably in my house.

Ticket to Ride

I just returned from a visit to our Nations capital and a visit with all my colleagues. I was very grateful that they ordered in some warmer temps prior to my arrival than they had been experiencing recently.

On Wednesday night we were lucky enough to attend a team building event at the Capital One Arena and watch, what I was told, was an exciting game of basketball between the Jazz and the Wizards.  I will admit that I may have spent more time eating and socializing than actually watching the game, but since the scoreboard read 74-74 the one time I did look at it, I’ll take their word for it.

Standing in front of the arena waiting for an Uber after the game, I couldn’t help remember the other wonderful Uber adventures I’ve had in our fair capital. (Remember my driver who drove in circles and confused the airport with Arlington National Cemetery? Good times).

While this Uber ride turned out to be relatively uneventful, I wasn’t so lucky on my previous trip to DC a  couple months ago.

We had gone to see a Nationals game as a team on that particular trip, and, as you can imagine, there were quite a number of people pouring out of the stadium and requesting Ubers after the game.

There are also multiple gates leading out of the stadium and onto many, very different streets around the stadium.

And if you are from out of town, you may or may not be aware that there is an Uber “pick up spot” outside one of these gates.

The group I was with fell into the may not camp.

So we filed out of the gate nearest our seats, divided into two groups, and took off to the nearest corner, to request an Uber using the cross streets over our head.  One group went one way, and myself and my new boss went the opposite.

We requested our Uber and proceeded to watch it’s progress on it’s way to find us. I think the original ETA was about 5 min. However, as we continue to watch the progress, we begin to notice that the Uber seemed to be moving in the opposite direction and the ETA is getting longer, not shorter.

After the estimated 5 min and a few more has passed, and we seem to only be further from having our Uber arrive, I decide to give our driver a call.

I get her on the phone, and immediately it is clear there is much confusion as to where we might be.

I spend several minutes telling her where we are based on the streets (which in my mind should be the easiest landmarks, especially for someone whose business it is to drive on said streets) and when that fails to help her locate us, I start naming every landmark I can spy with my little eye.

Meanwhile, obviously not cluing into any of my landmarks, she is trying to tell me where the Uber pick up spot is using landmarks of her own, which may have been effective, if I was from the area, and had ever been to that specific part of town before.

But neither was true.

Then she proceeded to tell me we would need to walk to her, because all the streets around the stadium were closed and she wouldn’t be able to get to us, even though I gently informed her that I was watching numerous cars drive on those streets as we spoke.

I finally decided that this may be a fruitless venture, and told her I would cancel my request so she could just find someone who knew where the pick-up spot was.

My boss and I decided to walk down a few blocks, further from the stadium, before requesting another ride, in the hopes that we would have either better luck or an Uber driver who actually believed in GPS.

Of course the other group had somehow found one of DC’s best drivers and had already been picked up and were halfway back to the hotel.

We get to our new “pick up spot” and request another car.

This one is about 8 min away, but at least seems to be moving in the right direction in the first few minutes, so we are hopeful. About 5 min in, my phone rings. IRead More »

Let’s talk about Uber, baby

I feel like there has been a big part of my travel life that has been largely excluded to this point.

Uber.

I know there are Uber lovers and Uber haters out there, but I happen to be one of the former.

When I travel to places such as NYC and DC, where you will never catch me behind the wheel of a car, dealing with all those whirling dervishes others call traffic, I become, quite literally, an Uber VIP. I love them, and they, in turn love me.

I know people who are like, “yeah, but if you take an Uber, you have to like, talk, to your driver”.  Gasp!! Anything but that!

I actually like talking to my drivers. I have had a great many fascinating conversations in Ubers. And don’t even think about challenging me to Uber trivia. You will lose.

I’ve also had my share of odd Uber drivers. Like the guy who wanted to stop for a bottle of wine. Or the ones who have wanted me to drag my bags 5 city blocks so they don’t have to go around the block.

But my driver to the airport last week may have claimed the Number 1 worst spot.

I should have known I was in trouble when I put in my pick up spot as the hotel I was staying at, and instead of pulling up to the front door, as most normal people would do, he pulls over at the end of the block and sits there, evidently waiting for me to come to him.

The doorman and I spend a few moments debating on whether that is my car, and then he runs down the block and tells my driver to pull up and get me. He pulls up, pops the trunk, and leaves me to fend for my own bags. Okay, fair enough. Women’s equality and feminism and all that. I can toss a bag in the trunk with the best of them.

I settle myself in the back seat, and we take off for the airport. Or at least this is what I assume, as that is what I entered as my destination.

Now, I will admit, that I do not always pay very much attention when in the back of an Uber. If my driver is not the talkative type, or I just don’t feel like talking, I may just settle in and surf my phone. Or nap. Or whatever. And I hadn’t slept very well all week, so I just tucked in and was staring rather blankly out the window. After about 10 minutes of what should have been a 20 min drive, at the most, something started nudging the back of my brain, and I started to focus on the scenery outside the window.

Which is when I realized I had already seen this scenery about 5 min or so ago.

Not wanting to jump to conclusions, I decided now was a good time to engage my driver in conversation.

“Ummm, we are going to the airport, right?”

“Yes. That’s where you want to go, yes?”

“I do, but is this the way to get there? I’m pretty sure we just went in one big circle”

“I’m just following my GPS” He waves the phone in his hand emphatically for effect.

“Are you sure you didn’t miss a turn or something? Because we’ve driven by this building twice now”

“Do you know how to get there? You have directions?”

He did have me there. I can be rather directionally challenged. And I do live in a place where we have big mountains by which all navigation occurs. Take me away from those and north, south, east and west take  way more brain power to decipher.

“Well, no. I’m not from here. But I’m pretty sure we have to cross the river at some point. And not keep driving by the same building”

“I just follow my GPS! Maybe it re-routing because of traffic”

Now I have spent a lot of time in NYC lately. I know traffic. We were not in traffic.

I decide to play along. But now I am watching his GPS.

We approach the river again. The GPS is very clearly telling us to go left to cross the bridge.

We go right.

And start the circle again.

“Ok. I’m pretty sure we were supposed to go left there, and that’s what the GPS said. I think maybe I should navigate now.” I pull out my phone and start to pull up my maps.

“Ok, fine. You want to do it. Fine”

“While I’m getting this pulled up, why don’t you turn here, and head across the bridge.” This much I can figure out without my map.

So we finally make it across the bridge. Where his GPS and a HUGE sign say to keep right for the airport. Which way do we go?

You got it. Left!

And end up in the line of cars heading into Arlington Cemetery.

I realize I didn’t get a lot of sleep and may have been looking a little rough, but I really thought with a little makeup and some body work that morning, I was still passing for a live person. Not someone who needed to be taken to the cemetery.

And not only that, but my driver is literally just sitting in the line to proceed into the cemetery.

Now I am flabbergasted and more than a little irritated.

“What are we doing?? This is definitely not going to take us to the airport! This is a cemetery”

“I don’t know! I just go where it says! I..”

“Ok, well first, you need to go out that exit right there and get us back on the highway”

At least he seemed to listen to me better than the GPS.

We make it back to the highway.

“Now we just need to follow the signs. They are everywhere!”

Not that I trusted that for a minute. I still told him every turn to take.

“Can I just make one suggestion? If you are wanting to drive an Uber, I would suggest you at least learn the way to the airport.”

“I know the way to the airport!”

Of course he did. My mistake. Cemetery, airport. Easily confused.

Believe it or not, we finally made it to the airport, and I didn’t miss my flight.

If only the story ended there.

I am never anxious to leave feedback for my Uber drivers, and most times never do until the next time I request a car.

Not this time.

As soon as I dropped off my bag, I was on my phone to leave feedback on this ride.

Except my lovely driver hadn’t ended my trip and was still driving around on my dime. Probably trying to find his way out of the airport.

I text him and said “Ummm.. You need to end my trip”

I keep checking. For the next 15 min. Until he finally ended the trip.

And charged me about $10 more than it should have been.

I gave him a very good rating. And left a very long feedback message. My hope is he will not be long for the Uber world.

But despite all this, I am still an Uber lover.