First post-ALA post (or “Why C&I 7.8 will be delayed slightly”)

I discussed the lead essay in the forthcoming July 2007 Cites & Insights with some of you during ALA, noting that the issue was basically written, just needed a little more trimming and editing, and would probably come out the day after I got back from DC–which, presumably, would be today.

I still hope to publish the issue the day after I get back from DC. But that turns out to be tomorrow. After decades of luck in avoiding snowin during Midwinter, my luck ran out (at least a little bit) with a different sort of weather problem. To wit, I got to San Jose International Airport today at about 1 p.m. PDT–roughly 33.5 hours after leaving the Grand Hyatt in Washington to catch a shuttle to Dulles. I expected to get home around 3 p.m. Tuesday; instead, I got home around 1:30 p.m. Wednesday.

I’m sure some of you have experienced worse–heck, you may even be experiencing worse as I write this. My brief chronology:

  • 6:20 a.m. Tuesday 6/26: Shuttle to Dulles, reaching airport at around 7 a.m.
  • 9:30 a.m.: American flight to DFW takes off a few minutes early, gets in right on time (11:35 a.m.)
  • 12:25 p.m.: I’m at the gate where the American 12:55 p.m. flight to San Jose is supposed to be loading–but it’s now scheduled for departure at something like 1:45 p.m.
  • 2 p.m.: The plane (100% full) pulls back from the gate and gets in line for takeoff.
  • 3 p.m.: Given rain, progress has been slow, but this flight is now the first in line for westbound takeoff. And westbound takeoffs are shut down. We pull onto a midfield taxiway.
  • 6 p.m.: We return to the gate; after four hours of running the plane generators, there’s not enough fuel.
  • Everybody on the plane is told to go back out to the ticket counters to rebook. After various attempts at standby or rebooking, I run out of options…along with several hundred others. (The only San Jose flight later than 11:20 a.m. to go out at all is the 3:15 p.m. flight–which departs at around 9:45 p.m., and probably incurred a penalty for violating San Jose’s noise curfew.)
  • Even in the first class/Gold/Platinum frequent flyer line–or maybe particularly there–it’s VERY slow going to try to get Wednesday standby or new confirmed seats (everybody’s told that everything’s sold out until Thursday or maybe Friday; this turns out to be either false or intermittently true), and I finally wind up with a baroque confirmed booking (flying to Orange County and from there to San Jose, leaving midafternoon when storms are likely to be troublesome and not getting in until 7:30 p.m.) and a standby boarding pass for the first SJC flight out (7:55 a.m.)
  • At this point, getting a hotel room makes very little sense: Everything near the airport is sold out, and the only deals I can find are $200 to $250 plus a $20-$25 30-minute shuttle ride each way. Since it’s now 1 a.m. and I’d obviously need to be back at the airport by 6:30 or so to be there for possible 7:55 a.m. takeoff, that figures to be $300 for about 3 hours of sleep and a shower. Not worth it. So, along with a few hundred others, I head back through security (before it shuts down at 1:30-2 a.m.) to sleep inside the airport (there’s really no place to even sit outside the security area, at least in the American complex). I believe some 600 people couldn’t get standby passes before the ticketing shut down at 1 a.m., and were stuck either going to a hotel or making the best of the outside facilities.
  • American did at least one thing right: They invested in a few hundred lightweight foldable cots, so people could do something better than lie on the floor–and they made several hundred blankets available. With such comfort, I probably got an easy 60-90 minutes of something resembling sleep.
  • Based on weather forecasts, we were hearing the worst–it might be even worse today and continuing until Sunday. I figured that if the 3:25 flight didn’t get out, I’d give up at that point, get a hotel room, and try for Thursday…
  • Fortunately, American’s standby-rollover algorithms are pretty clean (placement is almost entirely based on when your original flight was scheduled to take off). I wind up #15 on standby for the 7:55 a.m. flight–and get real hopeful when they’ve gotten to #11 and I see that 12-14 all have the same last name. Turns out there’s exactly one seat left–but the parents of the teen in the family decide to send him ahead.
  • Next flight 10 a.m. This time, I’m #8. Then #9. Then, glory be, #4. The flight’s delayed (but mostly preboarding, then a little because of catering), but I get on, the weather seems to be holding at overcast–and at 11:15 (I think) we pull back. As promised, once we’re past the Sangre de Cristo mountains, it’s a pretty smooth ride (and the $5 turkey/shaved parmesan/turkey ham/lettuce wrap isn’t half bad, actually).

So there it is: My 24 hours (almost precisely) at DFW. Right now, I’m running nearly on empty, with no real deep sleep for a day and a half. This could clearly have been a lot worse. OK, so they didn’t feed us (except first class) or give us free drinks during the four hours, but the lights and air conditioning were on, the johns were functioning, and it was clearly a legitimate weather problem, not an airline issue. (They did provide water or orange juice after a couple of hours.) Four hours isn’t seven; some people spent two days getting through DFW, not just one.

Odd. My wife suggested that maybe I was getting too old for the outbound flights–American Eagle to LAX midafternoon on Thursday, June 22, followed by the red-eye from LAX to Dulles, But even in coach, I did get 2-3 hours reasonably decent sleep on that flight–and Grand Hyatt gave me my room at 6:15 when I got to the hotel, so I could crash for a few more hours. This was my first experience “sleeping” in an airport; I hope it will be my last. Maybe I am getting too old for that sort of nonsense. Maybe not.

So, maybe I’ll have C&I ready tomorrow. Maybe Friday. Maybe not. I think it’s a good issue, with a section on copyright, a Library Access to Scholarship piece, another chunk of Making it Work, a couple of other features–and a lead essay that I’ve already mentioned to a few people. Soon.

I may post later about why Twitter-during-conference really didn’t work for me, for ALA. I might post about other things…

Meanwhile, a little thought experiment (“picture in your mind’s eye”) that may say something about the underwhelming success of a revolutionary mode of transport.

Picture in your mind’s eye half a dozen really cool people. Let’s say Halle Berry, Will Smith, George Clooney, Angelina Jolie, Bruce Willis–I don’t know. Choose your own.

Line them up. What a spectacle of coolness!

Now put them all on Segways and get them moving.

What do you have? Dorks on Parade.

At least most of the security guards at the DC Convention Center didn’t have the “I love this Segway because it means I don’t use up any of those doughnut calories” look I’ve seen in some other cases of “official Segway” use–but still…

And that’s it for a highly unofficial and inconsequential ALA post that at least says why I’m a little slow with some other things. If the above is a little less coherent than usual, you can guess why.

4 Responses to “First post-ALA post (or “Why C&I 7.8 will be delayed slightly”)”

  1. DFW is cursed! Cursed, I tell you!

    (That’s where I got stuck trying to get home from San Antonio. V. similar story, right down to the timing, as you noted.)

    Glad you made it back in one piece. Er, as many pieces as you plus baggage accounts for, anyway.

  2. walt says:

    One piece. Until some future job requires it, I’m being ALA Casual, so only had a carry-on.

    I do remember once, going to Midwinter in San Antonio with a morning connection in DFW, library people who had been there all night (in the airport or a hotel) because weather prevented them from getting out the previous day.

    It’s too bad about the weather problems in DFW and American’s problems given that ground personnel have been cut back to the bone (although I appreciate that they do need to at least break even, and are the only major American airline never to go bankrupt). The new Terminal D is a lovely thing, with better design, much better restaurants (and a nice variety of them), and a generally sleeker feel than the A, C, and half of B terminals. And the new Skylink connection is impressive. And most American personnel were as helpful as they could possibly be and, of course, were “in this all together” with us. But a few were surly to bed, surly to rise… I’m not sure who to blame for the insistence of some passengers for holding literally hour-long seminars on every possible way to get to California on every combination if airlines, while nobody else can get to the service desk. And I do mean literally hour-long at one point.

  3. Genevieve Williams says:

    Wow. I will not complain about the 2-hour delay at National and ultimately getting into Seattle two hours late. Yikes! (Though someday I shall have to post somewhere about my partner’s co-worker who took 30 hours to get from Phoenix to Seattle, in part because a co-pilot had a heart attack during takeoff. True story.)

    Speaking of Segways, did you see the Segway tours of Washington? I spotted at least three, in a city that during the two months out of the year (May and October) when the weather is nice, is one of the more walkable places I’ve ever lived. And they all had helmets. Probably necessary, but I’m afraid that the phrase “dorks on parade” also occurred to me…

    I see you’ve since gotten C&I up, and I look forward to reading it.

  4. It got worse at DFW, I wound up there (but I did leave the airport) for about 48 hours, from early evening Thursday through early evening Saturday. Glad you are home, and really glad that I am.