Friday, July 31, 2015

Poor Planning & Appropriate Patience - The Hague, Netherlands

Until Thursday of last week, I was convinced I was flying from Dublin to Den Haag (the Hague), on a 6 am flight on Saturday.  I do not excel at dates and times, but when I read a date, thought, "that's Sunday," and had a brief panic about whether the dates for my accommodations and my flight matched up, everything turned out to be on Sunday.  Who knows how I managed to get Saturday stuck in my head.  Once everything was sorted, and I had an extra day in Dublin, I felt a lot of misguided relief.

From Tuesday of last week, work was crazy.  I'm not going to go into it here, but come Thursday, I was struggling to meet a deadline I was afraid I couldn't possibly meet.  I worked a 15 hour day on Thursday, an 18 hour day on Friday, then worked from 6 am on Saturday until after 2 am on Sunday. When I managed to get everything tested, merged, tested again, and pushed, I felt tremendous relief.  I had about 45 minutes before I had planned to leave for the airport.  I wouldn't be sleeping, but I was ready to go.

At 3 am, I logged in to Uber and requested a car.  No cars available.  This is when the fear started to creep in.  I ignored the flashes of worst case scenario.  My computer was packed.  My phone was not great for searching, and my terrible through the floor wifi access was not helping.  I found a cab company online that had merged with some uber like app on another site.

The site swore I could book a taxi online, but I could not find out how on my phone.  I checked Uber a couple more times, figured out how to download the app for the other company, then couldn't register.  They wanted to send a text message to my phone.  My phone had no SIM card.  My iPad had a SIM card, but a text message sent there did not work.  I had a skype phone number but a text there didn't work either.

At approximately 3:50 am, I gave up and pulled out my laptop.  I didn't think I had time to walk to a train station / find a bus to get to the airport early enough.  I was beginning to imagine going to the airport and buying a ticket for the next flight to Amsterdam, no matter what the cost.

I could not register for the site on my laptop either.  Still the problem with no phone.  However, I found the online link for booking a taxi.  While I was fighting with the site, I was also compulsively checking Uber on my phone.  I book a trip on the site.  It says someone will be there in 7 minutes, but it conspicuously says no driver has been selected.  After 10 minutes, I call the company.

They explain there is no driver available, and they are trying.  All the while, I'm checking Uber.  I explain that I have a 6 am flight, and need to get to the airport, and they say they will try.  Just as the web site finally updates to say a driver is on his way, I somehow book an Uber Black car.  (Nicer cars than Uber X and more expensive.)  Now, at 4:15 am, I have two cars on their way, and as soon as I leave the apartment, I can't check Uber, because my phone has no SIM card.

I head down to the street, and a taxi pulls up in front of me.  I get in and I'm on my way, right?  Except that as we approach the first intersection, I notice the keys in my hand.  I was supposed to drop them in the mailbox on the way out.  We turn around, I drop off the keys, and we head for the airport.  During my conversation with the driver, I realize that this is neither of the cars I had booked to come pick me up.  I apologize to whatever future driver has as much trouble or more than I did because I stood up not one, but two taxi reservations.

I get to the airport around 4:45 am, and there are a lot more people than I expected, but not terribly so.  I make it to the gate by 4:50 am, and I start to relax.  The flight was nothing special, but not bad.   Flying in to Amsterdam, I saw windmill farms out in the water.  Not at all where I expected to see them.  Those Dutch are all about the windmills.

At the airport, I zipped over to baggage claim in record time.  And then, I waited.  And waited.  And waited.  Half the bags showed up.  The rest just would not show up.  Finally, over an hour later, my bag and another 20 backpacks from some scouting troop arrived.

While waiting for my bag, I had a chance to reflect on some poor decisions in packing.  I expect that at some point on this wild journey I'm on, I will lose one of my bags.  I try to accommodate that possibility when I pack.  Here is how that is supposed to go.

My carry on bag gets a full change of clothes.  It gets my computer which should not be in a checked bag.  It also gets things I expect to use on the flight, like my kindle, and my phone which I will almost certainly use at my destination.  It should not get my iPad.  My iPad is my backup computing device if I lose my carry on bag with my computer in it.  My carry on usually also gets either my hoodie if things might be cold, or my rain jacket if it might be raining.

My checked bag gets all of my toiletries which won't pass through security.  It should get my iPad.  It gets a full change of clothes.  It also gets all of my miscellaneous power cables, and adapters for international travel, including my power strip that I inherited.  It gets whichever of jacket or hoodie that didn't go into my carry on.

Finally, my towel goes into whichever bag has the room for it.  I prefer it in my carry on, for nostalgia reasons.

Here are the things I did wrong during final packing at 2 am after 20 hours of work on the back of 2 days of short sleep.  I put the power adapter for my laptop in my checked bag.  If my checked bag didn't arrive, I had power for my laptop for the life of one battery charge.  I think this is normally 2-4 hours of heavy usage, and believe me, my laptop experiences very heavy usage.  I put all of my electronic devices in my carry on bag, and all except for my iPad power cable, all cables were in the checked bag.  At that point, I had compromised most of my backups for electronics and could have been in a very bad place if I lost one bag, or a not great place if I lost the other.  I think I need to write out a packing guide for myself.

I also need to plan out my travel better.  I should have already had a car booked to take me to the airport if that was my plan.  I'm not sure if I can really say lesson learned or not, but lesson lived through.

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