June seems to be the month that is most difficult for me to travel to customers. Even though today’s blog doesn’t directly address laboratory informatics issues, many of you also travel and will appreciate these issues.
In any case, last June, I was kept from my bi-monthly customer visit by volcanic ash: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/apr/17/volcano-disruption-flights-grounded-ash
Fortunately, I’d visited the customer enough times that missing one trip didn’t affect us, much, and we just continued to work as usual, but it was a long gap between our planned April and August visits between seeing people in-person. But you can’t control nature and we all knew that there wasn’t anything we could do but accept it.
This past week, though, my entire trip was a disaster. Let me be clear that I’m not referring to anything that happened with regard to the customer. They were great, I was excited to meet them, it’s an interesting project, and I can’t say enough good things about that part of the trip. No, I’m referring entirely to the travel part of it.
I’ll skip all but the major problems or I’ll be griping to you all day because it was one of those trips where it was just one thing after another. Anyway, part of the return trip problems were the United Airlines computer system going down for five hours: http://hosted2.ap.org/txash/f7ded15e4d4846268a17b79c1c4b7cb8/Article_2011-06-18-United%20Airlines-Computers/id-20fa5083d3934ac2908fa61bad7120eb
Although they planned we’d be manually boarded and because that sounds simple but possibly slower, it didn’t sound like that big a deal. BUT for the fact that you still need a boarding list because you can’t just board people without knowing they should be on that flight. And where do you get that list but the computer. So, getting the lists was a long and painful process and it sounds like some flights didn’t get theirs. Plus, those people with non-paper electronic tickets on their PDAs had to find a way to get proof to the boarding agent that they really had a ticket and I’m unclear what proof the airline was accepting.
Fortunately, and I won’t explain what it took for the airlines to get our passenger list, but they did get it and we did board just two hours late (at Midnight instead of 10 p.m.). Even then, we didn’t quite make it home. Sadly, we were almost home when the cabin of the airline started to fill with smoke and we had to make an emergency landing. They grounded the plane and the sad story of being rebooked and getting home just continues from here. Being quite close, many of us thought we’d just be put onto a bus for the 1.5 drive but no such luck and, by the way, the rental car agencies weren’t renting cars until 6 a.m. so that wasn’t an obvious alternative, either.
In the end, I’m starting to think that I should stop travelling in June. Having these problems two years in a row, I’m starting to feel pretty crabby about it all.