Getting There: Staying on course when traveling takes a wrong turn
What idiot said “getting there is half the fun?”
That’s what went through my mind when I did a “day trip” to Los Angeles: two door-to-door 10-hour trips just for a three-hour face-to-face meeting with my most important consulting client.
I knew my trip was doomed when I went to pick up my rental car at LAX and there were none available. I pleaded with the employee that I had been up since 1 a.m. local time and I needed to get to an important meeting on time.
The woman said, “I can give you a mini-van.” Fabulous! If it has an engine and wheels, I’ll take it. Even in LA where people drive their egos, I abandoned my Ferrari persona for a Chevy minivan.
I should have known there was a problem since it was the only vehicle left on the lot, but a road warrior never gives up. As I opened the door to the van, I was met with the unmistakable odor of vomit. The vehicle was clean, mind you. It just reeked.
So, off I drove, windows down and made my meeting on time. When I returned the van five hours later, it still reeked of vomit, but now with a nice overtone of cigar.
On another trip a few years ago, I booked the last evening flight from JFK to LAX. I helicoptered to the airport, arriving just in time to find the 6 p.m. flight was delayed due to incoming equipment. A promised 8 p.m. departure never happened, and the delays kept coming in 30-minute intervals until it was clear we were going to be on a red-eye. Worse yet, after all other flights left, every bar and restaurant in the terminal closed.
In its generosity, the airline wheeled out some MREs (meals ready to eat) from a back closet and we feasted on stale crackers and government surplus cheese, until one passenger took the initiative and picked up the phone.
A half-hour later (and still hours before departure), 10 pizzas were delivered. “We’re not paying for those,” the airline supervisor screamed. “We’re not asking you too,” smiled the passenger, who then sold every slice for about $5 apiece. PS: We did eventually take off, arriving at LAX about 3 a.m.
Then there was the time I arrived late one night at Newark airport from a sad trip to see my dying mother. I had a crucial meeting in central New Jersey the next morning, so booked the last hotel room within 30 miles at a run-down Howard Johnson’s.
In the dark airport parking lot, I got off the bus at the wrong stop in a pouring rain (with no coat or umbrella) and was soaked by the time I found my car. God was telling me something.
I dried off the best I could and drove to Interstate 287 and arrived at the Ho Jo’s motel an hour later, tired and hungry. I was ready for a meal of those famous fried clams and a little ice cream. No such luck. The restaurant was closed as were all other eateries within 10 miles. That night’s dinner consisted of Pop Tarts with a side of humble pie.
Jim Cameron is a longtime Connecticut commuter advocate. Contact him at CommuterActionGroup@gmail.com