Friday, September 01, 2006

And now for something completely different...

This was going to be a podcast, but I don't have time to record it before hopping on the plane. For those of you reading this blog for online safety information, news, or tips, you can save yourself some time. This entry is just a chronicle of events that happened to me on my last two speaking engagements. It may well stand as a monument to my stupidity, but what the heck. No one's perfect. So here goes.

Last week I was invited to participate in a two hour roundtable discussion on crime sponsored by the Republican Assembly in Carmel, New York. After a quick trip to Google maps, I saw that it was about a three hour drive, so I accepted the invitation.

The morning of the roundtable, the forecast was for rain. I wasn't looking forward to a hour drive in the rain. I headed out the door at 5:00 AM, a full five hour before the start of the event. Plenty of time, right?

Obviously, by that question, you have surmised the answer was a resounding no. I got about an hour away from home when from the rear of my car came a sound that sounded like a dozen ball bearings the size of tennis balls in the tumble dry mode.

It was raining buckets and I had no intention of getting out to inspect the damage, but from the sound of it, I thought my 1989 RX-7 convertible was history. Fortunately, because I own a motor cycle, I had to take the RV AAA policy to have it covered. That includes towing for 100 miles and roadside repairs.

I didn't anticipate any repair here, but being about 50 miles from home, the towing would be a must. AAA said I would have a flatbed within 30 minutes. An hour later it arrived.

Grabbing my umbrella, (at least something was going right) I hopped into the truck. After asking what my problem was, I told him that I thought I had blown the rear, and that I would need a 50 mile tow. With AAA RV, no problem, right?

Wrong. We were on the Garden State Parkway and all he could to is tow me off. He could tow me to his shop where I could call for another tow. (Thanks Parkway Authority.) He suggested I call AAA so that they would be there when we got there and then got out to deal with my car.

A few minutes later he had the car on the truck, but I had decided to wait a few minutes to make call because I didn't want them getting there before us. Good idea, right?

Got you this time. It was a good thing I didn't call.

When he got back in, he asked what led me to think that I had blown the rear. I told him about the sounds. He said, "You do know you have a flat, right?"

DOH!!! It wasn't the rear. I had felt absolutely no difference in the way the car handled when it was flat. I would have expected a flat a 65 mph to give some other warning other than a sound that was unlike the sound of any flat I had encountered in the past. Well, at least I wasn't going to be new car shopping.

The plan was to go back to his garage, see if he had a tire, and get me back on the road in time to make the roundtable. No such luck.

He had neither a new tire nor a used tire. By the time anything opened in time to buy one, it would be too late to make the roundtable. I called and let them know I wouldn't be able to make it on time.

I only had a donut spare and if you know anything about them, they are rated at about 50 mph for 50 miles. Once you go 50 miles on one, it is basically ready to die of old age. So 120 mile at 65 mph in the rain, was not an option.

He mounted the donut and instead of taking the Parkway home, I took to low speed Rt. 9 route and made it home and sent a follow up apology e-mail.

They were very understanding and told me that they were having a similar bigger event in Buffalo on Sept. 1, but hesitated to invite me, because it was so far away.

After thinking about it for a while, I decided to accept this invitation, but this would not be a drive. After checking flights and hotels, I didn't find any bargains, but neither would it break the bank.

I almost always fly out of Philadelphia even though Newark is a few minutes closer. I just like Philly better. Parking is easy and not three miles from the airport like Newark.

On Aug. 31, I left home at noon for a 4:30 flight and the hour and a half drive to the airport. Plenty of time even with the heightened security at airports, right?

Well, I'll let you wonder about this one as I continue to part to of my monument to stupidity.

You know how you sometimes drive on "automatic pilot" on trips that you make over and over and over? We'll that was me today. About an forty-five minutes into my trip to the airport I had reached the Marlton circle. As my peripheral vision picked up a Turnpike sign, I little voice in my head shouted in a not too friendly tone, "Hey, idiot! You're going to the wrong airport!!!"

Well, I shouldn't have any problem unless the TSA admonishment to to arrive three hours early we really true. Well, I'll try to make this short. I arrived at Newark parking lot by 2:00. It took a half-hour to get to the terminal.

I had checked-in online and printed my ticket last night. At least I could go right to security. Crossing my fingers, I stepped into the terminal, up the escalator, and toward security where I saw a line that was at least 5 or 6 people long.

The TSA agent check my ID and wished me a belated birthday (two weeks ago).

I thanked her and about a minute later, I was stepping through the metal detector. Where another agent was in conference with the x-ray operator. He asked to see my ticked and said, "Is this your bag?"


"I'm going have to check it. After you get all of your things, please step over to that table."

I had carefully planned to contents of my carry on luggage to avoid this kind of thing. What could it be? As it turned out, for some reason, the belt I had packed showed up very dark on the x-ray.

Checking the departure board, I saw that my flight had a gate change, but was on time. Even with all that I had an hour and a half to kill, or so I thought.

I stopped a Pizza Ono in the terminal and had a late lunch. Listened to my iPod for a while and rested my eye. Then I made my was to the gate and started writing this.

The flight was scheduled to board at 3:50. It is now 4:22 and the flight is being delayed with a new time of 5:30, because our plane landed in Terminal A and we are in Terminal C. They have to tow the plane over here.

If their estimate is as accurate as AAA, I might be here for a while.

Ooops... Prophetic words... I just looked up and our new time is now 5:44.

Okay, that's all for now. I'm going to save battery power and sign off now. Hopefully my next entry will be a very short one from the hotel in Buffalo.

Well I'm in Buffalo, but it's 10:00 PM and as you may have guessed, things have not gone all that well.

Right after I signed off they updated the departure time to 5:14 which made everyone happy at least until 5:14 passed and we were not yet on the plane. We eventually made it to Buffalo at 7:15.

I made it to the hotel by 8:00, settled into the room, and to my delight found that there was free internet access. I checked my mail and the found a message from Carrie that contained the attachments I had asked her to forward to the folks running the Buffalo roundtable. That meant she has sent them.

Finally things seemed to be falling into place. I was in the middle of a great roast beef sandwich when I got a call from Carrie. The email she sent to the Buffalo folks kept bouncing.

After finishing the sandwich, I located the business center so I could print out the attachments. More good news. The printing is free. I sent the first page to the printer and saw the dreaded message, Toner Low, along with the streaked printout that attested to the validity of the message.

I called the front desk. No one would be able to do anything until tomorrow. So it was back to the drawing board. Fortunately, I had a bit of experience with low toner techniques and did something I dubbed the HP rhumba. You remover the toner cartridge from the HP printer and shake it too and fro to redistribute the toner. Each time you do the dance, you can get a few more clear copies.

Eventually I eeked out enough copies to take with me in the morning. Who knows what adventures await me in the AM. Only time will tell.

It's 9:30 AM and I'm sitting in the meeting room. I made it, but not without one or two more mishaps. At the risk of being picky, I have to mention that breakfast was less than what you would expect from $9 for two eggs, toast, juice, and coffee. For those of you who know me and know that I will eat anything you can pierce with a fork, complaining about food is not something I do very often. The over light eggs were over hard and dripping in butter to the extent that the cholesterol police would put them on their ten most wanted list and I'm still burping up the garlic from the one home fried potato I tasted.

The roundtable is from 10:00 to 12:00, so after breakfast I went to the front desk to request a 1:00 check out. That was no problem except that when I tried to go back to the room to get my things for the meeting, my key wouldn't work.

After getting a new key, I walked the three blocks to the meeting and didn't even have a close call with traffic. When I got there I met Kathleen Lisson who's mail was bouncing and to my relief, it wasn't another brick added to my monument of stupidity. She told me her email was over quota.

I'll cover the meeting in my next blog and hopefully end this entry with no more than a sentence or two.

Well the roundtable is over. I just had another great roast beef sandwich and I'm waiting for the airport shuttle. So rather than wait for the other shoe to drop, I'm going to post this blog and work on the next one that will cover the roundtable which was very interesting.

So long from Buffalo...

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posted by Art @ 2:03 PM   1 comments


At 2:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

it's quite funny reading it now that you're back home safely and even managed to make it back at all with Ernesto in tow; i'm amazed and grateful you were able to keep your 7:30 appointment this morning... huge thx


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