Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Chicago, Chicago, that Toddlin’ Town [Part One]

I am fortunate enough to work for a company that not only encourages its employees to get training, but hounds them into it. Also, they feel it is important for their developers to be certified in what they do. To the point of hounding them about it.

So I decided to combine the two, taking Java Boot Camp training in Chicagoland.

Saturday, I dropped my wife and children off at the airport, early early. I had big plans for the day, such as making the house uninhabitable for a week (like, so nothing would spoil, rot or stink when we all got home). Most of these I accomplished, but I also got to play tennis with Atti for the first time in six years, visit my family and have Rob over for some intense Mario Kart action!

Then I completed my cleaning duties and finished packing. I had time for a shower and some last-minute preparations before it was off to the airport.

I arrived at the airport two hours before my flight because of some problems checking in online. I am a paranoid traveler and I wanted to be there to be able to circumvent any potential problems with the ticket well in advance.

No problem. I checked in and waited, half-sleeping, half-reading and half looking out the window to see if I could see Cliff loading my plane. (“That’s right, monkey, get to work!” I would have shouted if I’d seen him, even though I know he wouldn’t have been able to hear me. I believe he still would have known I was yelling at him.) Finally, I hear my flight number called out for a different ramp. What the…? I grabbed my bags and sprinted down the hall, staggering to a halt, muttering apologies that I thought it was a different ramp and they said that it was no big deal that it happens all the time. Well, they dealt with it better than I did.

The flight consisted of me turning pages in The Bonehunters, a quick nap and watching The Golden Compass, which lasted just until we landed in Toronto. I did not know where to go, but I got oriented fairly quickly and made my way to the international flights area. Three minutes too late.

I was held back from the flight because there was not enough time to get from one place to the other and so, I was put on a second flight. I was in line to get my boarding pass when that flight was canceled. So, they were saying that the next flight would be at 7:00 the next morning. Inconceivable! However, waited in line until my turn to book whatever flight awaited me.

The guy at the front looked about two steps away from a vein popping in his head and I commiserated with him about the stress of being the only guy in line. He laughed. I feel we bonded. And it was all a mistake. I was apparently booked on a different plane that would leave in an hour and a half. All good things! So I thanked my new best friend and went off to turn some more pages while I waited for my plane to board.

The bad: About a half-hour after I sat down to wait for the plane, I looked up and noticed that the takeoff time was different than it had been. Departure was delayed by another two hours. Ah well, there was time to get a burger, and continue on my quest to polish off Steven Erikson’s sixth literary behemoth. (Really, that sucker is 1200 pages!)

The good: Apparently I did bond with that check-in clerk type guy. I was bumped up to first class where the seats are extra wide (my bum thanks that check-in clerk – but not in the way you’re all thinking), the drinks come in glass tumblers and the televisions apparently have no sound. I was going to watch Chuck but there was, as I said, no sound, so I turned, once more to The Bonehunters.

I have no idea what time the flight touched down – it was something like seven o’clock or something in Chicago time, which would have been 6 our time. I wandered over to where taxis are and waited in a line about 25 people long. It would have been distressing if there hadn’t been in the neighbourhood of thirty or forty cabs waiting. The driver drove me, though he grumbled about leaving the airport area and lost revenue for awhile. Then when we finally reached the hotel (after a couple of wrong turns and a phone call to the hotel itself) he informed me that the credit card machine was broken. Marvelous.

So, we found a Mac’s that had ATM and I paid him, grumbling to myself about his incompetence while, I’m sure, he was still grumbling about being so far away from O’Hare. Whatever. You drove, I paid. Can we just get over it now? And so, I checked into my hotel around 8:30.

So, the first day of my travel, I left my house at 5:00 am on no sleep and arrived at the hotel at 8:30 local time. And I turned down a direct flight to Chicago because I would have had to get up too early. I cost myself probably six hours or more in travel time.

That’s all for now. Later, I’ll tell about the actual training itself.


El Cliff said...

Did they have to make a call over the intercom for you, specifically? If so, I am forced to hate you know. Crap like that causes major, major problems for the baggage people on the flight.

Aaaah, the convenience of air travel. So majestic, so absolutely f'ed up on a consistent basis.

Finally, I'm glad to see your abilities to function on little to no sleep have been kept strong.

Oh, what the Hell was the cabbie's deal? Does he not realize that if he stays at the airport, sure, he'll have a great spot...but he'll also be bankrupt? Absolute genius, that one.

Liam J. said...

1. They did not have to make a call for me specifically. It was a "Everyone on flight XXXX to Chicago should now be on the plane. Hurry up, you losers." Also, I did not have any checked luggage.
2. Consistent. Apparently, it was a mechanical problem that led to the canceled flight. Better they found it before takeoff, so I'm not too bitter there. And weather delayed the flight to Chicago.
3. I am an insomnomaniac.
4. It was how far the hotel was from the airport. Apparently, there are a lot of hotels really close to O'Hare but I was in a community called Oak Brook Terrace which is some twenty minutes away.

El Cliff said...

Well, if ya didn't have checked bags, who cares? :)

Weather sucks. One delay on one leg of one flight causes absolute friggin' chaos for an entire day. Everyone trying to make connectors, their original flight is late, so other flights either delay (if they're expecting a lot of people), or leave without them, thus leaving people to try and stuff on to other flights on a standby basis...aaarrgh. I hate weather.

I, too, am currently motoring through a bout of insomnia. It's not too bad, because I'm not tired, yet, so it just equals more time to read.

I still don't see his complaint. You're a cabbie...you take people places. Shut your stupid face, and do the job you chose, zippy.

Liam J. said...

Actually, I haven't been suffering with insomnia in awhile. It comes, it goes. I deal with it.

Yeah, I won't say I hate weather. I'll just say I hate travel. Next time I have to book some training, I think I'm going to find something a little closer to home.

El Cliff said...

I think your goal should be training in an unexpected, and kinda weird, location. Like, seeking out a Networking course in Bismarck, North Dakota.

And then, on your downtime, you could drive the townspeople mad with constant demands for the locations of jelly filled donuts and/or German battleships.

Liam J. said...

I am noticing a distinct lack of Bismarcks, people!

El Cliff said...

How in the Hell do you people have the gall to refer to your town by this name?! I'd imagine you do a brisk tourism trade in disappointment!