23 July 2008


We went down to Hilton Head South Carolina for an industry conference this week. Why? Why? do they put fast paced meetings in slow laid back places that think of productivity as a character flaw?? Turtles stomping through peanut butter get things done faster!
I had it all planned out. We would leave on the earliest flight Sunday so we could be there for the day but wouldn't have to spend Saturday night. Then we would leave on the latest flight Tuesday avoiding another night away from our beds...
Our flight out of Boston was on time, but getting out of North Carolina was like pulling teeth. The plane that was supposed to take us to HHH from Charlotte was late arriving, so they gave our gate away to someone else, leaving the arriving plane on the tarmac to wait for the gate. Then after we finally loaded up 40 minutes late we got our chance to sit on the tarmac for about an hour while we waited to take off. Many of our peers were stuck in Charlotte overnight including... No, more on that later.
We stayed at the Marriott Resort down there that they spent an hour selling to us at the hearth show in March. We had a discounted price for the conference but it was still a couple of bills a night. We were pretty surprised to find such an outdated room, with a broken sliding door (that overlooked a dilapidated parking garage missing tiles), a broken tv (no news except the USA Today they automatically gave us and charged us $0.75 a day for), a toilet that was not bolted down (don't ask!), and a 'Welcome' 3" long cockroach who greeted me in the bathroom.
Good times...
We missed the group gathering on Sunday so we headed down to the beach for a couple of hours before the evening reception. It is the ugliest, most boring beach I have ever seen. It is long and straight with packed sand, umbrellas and resorts as far as the eye can see. The air had a quality of slime that didn't leave you and the ever present haze sucked all color from the sky. The water was tepid, murky, and waveless. Lake Michigan has more wave action on a calm day. Heck, my little stream has more action! Warm water creeps me out, too. Like finding the warm spot in a pool. Not right. Not at all! A couple of our friends were stung by jellyfish when swimming in said murk.
We were surrounded by golf courses, but we largely ignored them as I can't stand golf and the attitude that prevails with many participants. My Father-in-law said it best, "I'll play golf when I am too old and feeble to play a real sport."
So we froze our butts off in a conference room during the day, ate catered chicken meals, and attended to business. The beach party reception was moved indoors due to the haze, heat, and humidity... Business was more of the same. Shortages, fighting over raw materials, losing market and ground to Europe, focus on our markets being lost to others...
Time to go home!
I remember making a mental note of a Hampton Inn about a mile and a half from the airport thinking we could spend the night there if they cancelled our flight. A bit of a risk when you take the last flight of the day. I kept saying out loud "I can't wait to get home." "We get to sleep in our own bed tonight..."
We got out of the airport with little trouble. Then a little over an hour into our 50 minute flight we noticed that we were flying in a circle. Then a little turbulance. Then the pilot came on and said there's a thunderstorm over Charlotte so we are in a holding pattern for fifteen minutes. Fifteen minutes later he comes on again and repeats. Twenty minutes later we break our circle and take off while starting to drop in altitude. Could it be?? Are we cleared to land? Pilot came on and said we're out of gas, storm is holding steady, so we are diverted to bfe North Carolina to refuel.
A few people are not used to being on a small plane much less in turbulance. I do have to give credit to an extremely overweight lady that I thought would whine, panic and be a pain in the rear. Her dh was the one freaking out and she was trying to make light of the situation by comparing it to an amusement park ride. Good for her. It didn't help the guy across the aisle from me release his white knuckled death grip on his chair, unfortunately. He looked pretty horrified. I have traveled so much, and been in way worse situations, so I just hunkered down to take a nap. We landed, refueled, and waited for the 'all clear' to head back to Charlotte.
No snacks on the plane btw, and no beverage service. Our little hour flight was approaching three hours at this point.
Cleared to head to Charlotte. About thirty or forty planes were diverted or delayed so chances were good that most of us would still make our connections.
Yeah, right. Not in my world.
Boston was one of the handful of flights that made it out on time.
No flights until tomorrow. Using the term tomorrow loosely as it is about 11:45pm. I called the airline to re-book for first available morning flight. Then we stand in line to get tickets re-issued. We get a hotel voucher and Art called to try to get a hotel room with a shuttle. We quickly settle for hotel room, period, as they all seemed to be getting booked fast! We move outside and stand in a ridiculous line for a taxi to said hotel. Pay $24 to cabbie, and $60 for hotel. We get to the hotel and reserve a taxi for five hours later when we would have to head back to the airport. $24 for cab back to airport after 4 3/4 hrs sleep and a quick shower.
When we got to the airport we realized we were lucky to get a hotel room at all as we see bleary eyed travelers with red cross blankets and cots strewn all over who toughed it out in the airport all night.
I also want to give a little credit to US Airways for helping people with reservations, hotel accomodations, and giving out food vouchers to displaced passengers. It wasn't their fault for the storm, and they among all the other airlines are having difficulties with finances...
Thank heaven it was our last (planned) trip of the year. I am fried. I just wanted to be home the whole time we were away. I am glad to be home. My dog was "in the doldrums" for half the time we were gone. Zoi was mad at the babysitter, and Izzy was clingy. They didn't like us being gone either.
There is no place like home!

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