First of all, we were flying United Express ... which is actually Air Wisconsin. They fly little bitty (50 seats or so) planes like the one pictured below. We had booked our trip on-line via Travelocity and got all sorts of information about our arrangements ... the one piece of information that they seemed quite interested in communicating to us was that the flight left from O'Hare's "Terminal 2", rather than the regular United gates of "Terminal 1". As this piece of information came up repeatedly, I took note of it, and, when we headed out to O'Hare on Wednesday morning, told the taxi driver that we needed to go to Terminal 2. What they hadn't communicated to us was that there was no way to check our luggage for our flight at Terminal 2 AND that there is a new "security" measure in place that you can't check your bags any closer to your flight's departure than 45 minutes prior!
Now, I am no "novice traveller", so we'd scheduled ourselves to get to O'Hare with (what we thought was) plenty of time to spare. We got to Terminal 2 about 1:15 before our flight was due to take off ... it took us about 5 minutes to figure out that there was no "check-in" area for United Express, only three touch-screen terminals where a check-in desk ought to have been. We got our borarding passes and then tried to get anybody's attention for getting our luggage checked in ... after being totally brushed off by the other airlines' staffs, we found a phone related to the United Express terminals and waited maybe another 5 minutes for somebody to pick up on the other end. They told us "Oh, you need to take your bags over to Terminal #1 to check them in!" ... so, we get a cart, load up everything, head back outside and over to Terminal #1 to get the curbside check-in ... for which we had to wait about another 10 minutes. Again ... we had NO IDEA about the "45-minute rule" until the skycap punched in our tickets and said "well, I can't check your bags!". He then suggested we go INSIDE and check our bags there ... so we drag the bags (and, mind you, we have two kids in tow as well) into the terminal and get into another line. We get to the desk and, of course "Sorry, but due to security rules we can't check your bags"!.
Of course, travelling with two kids involves a TON of luggage, so we had WAY more than we could possibly try to carry on one of these miniature planes. The gal at the desk said "I can get you on the next flight out" like she was doing us a HUGE favor ... we were there (arriving before 8am) for a 9:15 flight and the "next flight out" was at 2:30pm! Since they were not budging from the stance that there was no way in hell we could check our bags for our flight (which was, mind you, still about a half hour away), we grudgingly took her up on that and started to try to call ahead to tell folks (hotel, car rental, the in-laws, etc.) that we were going to be delayed.
We now were faced with the prospect of keeping an 8-year-old and a 4-year-old amused for a minimum of 5 hours at the airport. I say "minimum" as the 2:30pm departure kept creeping back (and changing gates), until we did not see the insides of a plane until 4:30. Thank the Gods that the Children's Museum has an "airport play area" in Terminal 2 ... I don't know what we would have done if we weren't able to throw The Girls at that for the majority of the time! But, was our ordeal over with at 4:30? NO! We were, after all, flying United out of O'Hare ... and what does virtually EVERY United flight out of O'Hare do? That's right, it pulls out of the gate and sits on the tarmac for an hour (increasing the cooped-up-in-the-plane time for The Girls by 1/3 of what the planned total had been). We finally get into the air about 5:30pm ... over 8 hours later than we were supposed to have!
We had not been successful with connecting with The Wife's dad while at the airport, but had left many messages to the effect that we'd appreciate them coming to pick up The Girls so that we could head right out towards Tampa. Fortunately, they did get the message and were waiting for us when we got off the plane. It was taking forever for the baggage from our flight to come up, and The Wife went to check with their service desk ... infuriatingly, OUR BAGS HAD FLOWN ON THE 9:15 FLIGHT and had been sitting there all day. WHAT THE FUCK!!! The whole reason that we were stuck at the damn airport all day was that there was "no way" that our bags could get processed in time for us to get on that fight, yet here they were. Needless to say, I was willing to rip the skin off of anybody who looked sideways at me at that point!
Ah, but were our travel travails over yet? Nope! It took us about 5 hours to get from the Jacksonville airport to the outskirts of Tampa where our training was supposed to be. According to the gal who had booked our hotel, it was "just off of the expressway" and "we couldn't miss it". Unfortunately, I did not have a map or other directions for the hotel (my bad, I know), and took her at her word on that. We pulled off of said expressway at about 2:15am and went looking for the "can't miss it" hotel. Well, this was the Tampa Palms Golf Resort, which has a couple of dozen hotel rooms on its second floor (it's right next door to the office park where the corporate offices are, so books visitors for there frequently). At 2:15am we could find NOBODY who had even HEARD of it (and whoever was supposed to be answering the phone at the hotel was AWOL), and half the streets down there are called "Tampa Palms", leading us on a lot of wild goosechases. We eventually found the other hotel option we'd been given and pulled in there to ask their front desk guy if he could point us to where we needed to go (with the backup plan that we could at least stay there). Fortunately, he had a little map print-out handy, which showed where our destination was ... about four miles past the expressway (we hadn't gone that far in search of it). Armed with this new info, we were eventually able to get to the hotel, get into our room and get to bed by about 3:30am ... surely to be bright and rested for our 9am training ... NOT!
But, wait, there's MORE! One of the challenges The Wife and I are going to have with working together is that we have totally opposite work patterns. I need to have everything I'm working on spread out around me and visible at all times. She needs to have everything stuck into an envelope or file folder and tucked away out of sight. She had, in preparation for our journey "organized" all our stuff ... which meant that it wasn't around for me to stuff into my briefcase for the trip ... however, once things are filed away, she is loath to pull them out, so neither of us had the address of the company handy when we dragged ourselves out of bed on Thrusday morning. I did the only sensible thing and looked them up in the phonebook. The only problem was that the phonebook was 2 years old and the company had moved in the meanwhile. So, we take about a half-hour detour to where they used to be, calling when we got close to get detailed "where do we park" kinds of instructions only to be told that they were located "just around the corner" from where we started out. Needless to say, Thursday was not much fun.
Friday was OK, but ran 3 hours longer than we expected (causing us to have to blow off more plans with The Wife's family), and we got back to Jacksonville about 1am ... I spent pretty much all weekend trying to recoup for lack of sleep and stressed nerves.
Anyway, this is over a week old, and I see it's run way long in a bad TMI sort of way, so I guess I'll just tuck this in behind a cut.