The first business trip of 2013 is in the books. And what an adventure it turned out to be! All started out well but went downhill quickly once I arrived at Louis Armstrong International Airport in New Orleans. It’s not exactly the end of the world to wait for your luggage. I know many would beg to differ (that would be those who carry on) however it doesn’t bother me. Once I’m where I need to be, waiting an additional 15 minutes is something I will put up for the convenience of not being inconvenienced lugging around a bag, lifting it into the overhead bin or dealing with the liquid restrictions. Now some will argue about lost luggage, however, it’s a risk I’m willing to take. In all my travels, this has never happened to me (knocking on wood right now). But every once in a blue moon, I regret not carrying on and this would be one of those rare times. It took 45 minutes for the first bag to appear, and when they did the priority bags were not the first ones out. Next, came a 30 minute wait for a taxi (there were a whooping 5 people in front of me). I’ll spare you all the grisly details but will share a few highlights below on my brief 48 hour trip…
Highlight #1 – Gus
Gus was my taxi driver, a veteran and native New Orleanian (is that a word?) who spoke perfect Southern English. After asking where I was headed, he asked me where I’d come from. As soon as he knew I hailed from Washington (state), he exclaimed “I think the Seahawks will win the Superbowl.” Then I knew he was no ordinary cab driver. As we chatted about football, he advised he would avoid the interstate because of the Sugar Bowl so he would take surface streets instead (the fare is a flat rate so it didn’t really matter which route he took). Soon I found myself in a neighborhood where they proudly displayed “Thou shalt not kill” signs.” Things that make you go hmm…
Highlight #2 – Beignets
Okay, if you haven’t been to New Orleans you may not know of a little place called Cafe du Monde. You may not know what a beignet is. It is a french donut – fried dough dowsed in powered sugar. Safe to say once you’ve had them, you can’t miss out on future visits. I was excited to head there bright and early one morning. I ordered three beignets (smallest order) and a water, paid my $2.65 and dived in to my first one. Then I was full. Dang, this wasn’t good. I’ve been wanting beignets forever. I forced another half one down before giving up and heading back to the hotel. Of course, now I wish I had the ones I left behind.
Highlight #3 – Joyriding in an elevator
Friday morning we worked from the small office my boss rents in the CBD. She had to head to her condo to meet a service man and I decided to stay and work a bit longer before heading back to the airport. As she was headed out the door, I realized my bag was still in her car. We headed back downstairs to the parking garage. She reminded me I had to go back up to the 14th floor and switch to another elevator bank to reach her office. Yep, no problem. Or so I thought. Oh, I remembered to get out on 14 and go to the left and around the corner to catch another ride up to the 24th floor. The doors open and yes, you guessed it, I knew immediately it was not the right place. It was then I realized I wasn’t paying close attention and couldn’t remember exactly what floor we were on. But how hard could it be? There was only a few possibilities… pick a number between 14 and 39. So after playing the lottery and getting off on several floors (when I was alone in the lift, I would stick my head out). When others joined me, I would get off at whatever floor I hit so I wouldn’t look stupid. Finally, I realized at the rate I was going, I would miss my flight so I headed back downstairs to the information desk. That’s when I also realized I had no idea the name of the company. Stammering and stuttering, I was able to provide enough information that she could confirm I wanted floor 25. Lesson learned – do not assume you know where you are going and always, always, always – take your mobile phone with you (it was safely sitting on the desk).
Highlight #4 – Dispatch
Remember the movie “Airplane” and the two bickering announcers proclaiming that the white zone was for loading and unloading only? I got to hear something similar yesterday as I rode to the airport. Comments like “do you know you are rude?” “You’re girlfriend is ugly, no wonder you’re in such a bad mood!” “How dare you interrupt me when I giving out orders! What is your damn problem?” “Are you really not going to answer me after interrupting me?” “This better be an emergency! (No answer.) Either it is or it isn’t. You’d better be dead if you aren’t answering me!” Hard to imagine this was a professional car company and not some soap opera playing out over the radio. It did make me smile and was quite entertaining.
There were a lot of little things – given a city view instead of a river view (gone are the days were I would just accept this and made them move me), slow elevators (again, had to ride one up to the 11th floor lobby then switch to another bank for room floors), renovations (starting at the ungodly hour of 6:30), internet outage, closed fitness center – that made this two days more than a little challenging for an impatient person like me. But as usual, even a day removed, I find it more humorous than frustrating.
Last lesson learned is traveling on the Friday before the end of the winter break. The airport was a nightmare, filled with families who travel once or twice a year and don’t know the first thing about travel dos and don’ts, and those who should know better. The lounge was the worst. It felt more like a daycare center than a place for a business person to relax and get caught up. I left 5 minutes after arriving. What made this worse was the acknowledgement from the staff that there were several complaints from others as my hasty departure was noted. Really? Then shouldn’t you actually do something about it?
Let the joys of traveling begin for another year… can’t wait to see how things shake up next week as I head East once again to Philadelphia.