August 19 2009

By title, you might have thought this blog entry was about the pace of initial input from the IBMers laying the foundation for the Lotus Knows IdeaJam, which kicks off in just a couple of hours.  Sorry.  It's just about my feet.

See, in all that "glamourous world of business travel", I had eight stressful hours yesterday getting from Chicago to my aeroplane to Sydney.  Actually, the stress started Monday morning, when two potential issues became apparent: 1) that there were thunderstorms approaching Chicago, right about the time for my originating flight to San Francisco SFO, and 2) that all other westbound routings from Chicago O'Hare were completely sold out for the day.  That meant I had no options to get out before the thunderstorms, and in turn that I might not get to SFO in the first place or otherwise be stuck there and miss my connection.  This lead to a frantic packing of a carry-on with as much of my clothing as possible, and a mad dash to the airport (thanks again love).

With some coaching from my colleague Lewis Turek, I ran to the gate of an earlier SFO-bound flight and asked for a standby seat.  2.5 million miles into American Airlines actually paid off, and I became #2 on the standby list.  This earlier flight started delaying, though, and the gate agent eventually made the helpful suggestion that standbys from the later flight should just go take the later flight.  That was until the later flight posted a two-hour delay.  So I ran from O'Hare L4 to H15 and then back to L4 to reclaim my position on the earlier flight's standby list.  I was eventually granted a seat in the second-to-last row, but at least I was in the air -- though without my luggage, which I had "voluntarily separated" from.  We took off about 15 minutes after my original scheduled flight and were within sight of SFO at 9 PM.  Seemed like good odds for the 10:40 PM connection, until we slowed down due to "fog" (can someone remind me never to connect at SFO kthx).  And circled.  And flew out to Outer Mongolia.  And circled again.  And slowed down.  And speeded up.  And landed -- at 9:51 PM.  

Upon gate arrival at 10 PM, I wondered if I could possibly make the Qantas flight.  Of course, that wouldn't be easy, either.  I had to wait for everyone to deplane, then run halfway across SFO to the international terminal -- where only half the gates are connected to the secure "sterile" area.  Of course, Qantas was not at one of those gates.  Still running, I arrived at the security checkpoint at 10:25 PM and thought I was OK.  That was until I was turned away because i did not have a "Qantas boarding pass".  I didn't realize there was a difference, especially since both are oneworld alliance airlines, but I was sent back to the Qantas check-in desk.  So close, but now I felt like I was certain to miss the flight.  

Back at Qantas's check-in, the sole remaining agent asked if I was Mr. Brill, handed me a Qantas boarding pass, and answered "yes" when I breathlessly asked her if she was now going to hold the plane for me.  I hustled back to security and to the gate...the second-to-last passenger to board a 747-400, at precisely 10:37 PM.

On board, things were wonderful.  Qantas had, for whatever reason, allowed me to select a premium economy seat online, and it was mighty nice.  But I was still wondering about my bag.  Now I thought I had done something clever -- while in the air on the first flight, I used my Blackberrry and "sent" (queued for sending)  my wife and my friend Kathleen my luggage claim check information, asking them to call American and trace the bag in the morning.  Both tried, but American just put up the deflector shields -- he hasn't landed yet, how could he know that his bag didn't make it.  Of course I knew -- I had barely made it, and only because I took matters into my own hands and had a bit of status with an airline.  The average traveler would have been sightseeing at Alcatraz on Tuesday instead of tucking into Sydney rock oysters on Wednesday.  Anyway, here in Sydney, I was told my bag was en-route and would arrive here Thursday.  Francie, keep an eye out.  Meanwhile, my suit, dress shirts, ties, and toiletries (ouch) were in that checked bag.  How do you shave with a blade exactly?  And where in Sydney would I find a ready-to-wear suit?  

These mysteries were eventually solved, and I'm set for adventure the next few days.  I've caught up with a few mates already, and had a wonderful dinner at Sailor's Thai Canteen.  Considering it's the middle of winter, today's 20 degree sunshine in Sydney was a reminder of why I love this city so much.  I may be IdeaJamming now (in my jammies, no less), but I'm ready for the real work to start tomorrow.  Seems likely that my 3 PM meeting in Mascot will start with some interesting discussion of my journey.

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