ODTUG – The Adventure Begins

I had to get up early (about 4am friday morning UK time) to catch my first flight on the journey over to New Orleans for ODTUG 2008, I got to the airport with plenty of time to spare, everything was going well…or so I thought.

If you travel often enough, then sometimes you’re going to have bad journeys and I guess this was my turn for a bad-one.

When I checked in at the airport, the woman at the check-in desk just didn’t give me that ‘warm fluffy feeling’ that she knew what she was doing. You know how some people inspire confidence and
others don’t? She was definitely in the “don’t” category. In fact as I waited for my flight, I checked my emails and tagged this line to the end of an email I sent to Dimitri:

“I have a funny feeling my luggage is going to go missing for some reason”

My journey down to Heathrow (my first flight of three), was probably one of the most turbulent I’ve ever had. To make things worse, the planes were being stacked up at Heathrow, so we had to keep circling until it was our turn to land. This meant we had to circle through the same (or at least it seemed the same) bit of turbulence 4 times. By the 2nd or 3rd time around this, there started the unmistakable sound of people being sick all round the plane. Even though I don’t really get travel sick myself, I was starting to feel a bit ‘green’ at this point too.

Once I got to Heathrow, I only had 40 minutes until my connecting flight to Dallas. I always plan to do a little work on the flight between the UK and the US, because it helps to pass the time. However about 10 minutes into the flight (literally just after taking off), the person in-front of me put her seat right back into the “I’m practically sleeping on your lap” mode. Now as much as I like my Macbook Pro, it still has to obey the Space-Time Continuum laws and it was impossible to even open the screen with her seat all the way back. Luckily the flight wasn’t full so I moved over to the seat next to me (which was empty obviously), and as soon as I did that her boyfriend (who I was then sitting behind) decided to put his seat fully back (I’m 99% sure he waited for me to move before doing it).

Anyway, I decided enough was enough, and did something so shocking he wasn’t expecting it…I actually tapped him on the shoulder and said “Excuse me, your seat is too far back and I can’t work, can you move it forward?”. That’s right, all notions of ‘being British and not causing a fuss’ went out the window and the guy actually was so shocked I’d done it, he did actually move his seat far enough forward so I could work.

So, great, I could now pass the time by doing some work. It’s a good thing too, as there were so many crying babies on the flight (I stopped counting at 6) that the chances of sleeping were next to nil (for me anyway, the couple in front of me had no such problems apparently).

Anyway, once I landed at Dallas I went straight tot he baggage reclaim bit (well, after the obligatory customs clearance) and just as I was walking into the baggage claiming area. I heard the words that no traveller (especially after a long flight over the atlantic) wants to hear…I heard my voice being called over the announcement system and was told to make myself known to help desk. Well, it turned out that the words “I have a funny feeling my luggage is going to go missing for some reason” came back to haunt me, as indeed they had lost my luggage (I really wish I’d emailed Dimitri and said “I have a funny feeling I’m going to win the lottery this weekend” instead).

So, there I am in Dallas Fort Worth airport, with no case and I think to myself (since nobody else there would have cared!) “I’ll go and stock up on some provisions”, well I can honestly say if you’re ever in the situation were you have had your luggage lost and need to buy a toothbrush, razor, spare t-shirt etc, you’d better hope you’re not in Dallas FW airport, as there wasn’t a single shop that I could buy anything like those in (come on…is there really no market for selling toothbrushes in an airport shop?!?!).

Oh, and connecting flight between Dallas FW and New Orleans wasn’t great either. They changed the departure gate twice, which meant racing between gate A and B and then from B to C (even though there’s a shuttle, there’s still a lot of running involved, not exactly what I needed at that point).

So, once I got to New Orleans airport I had to fill out a claim form for my luggage (again they didn’t inspire me with confidence, so perhaps I’m not holding out much hope of seeing it again). I jumped into the nearest cab and all I can say is that I have never been driven so fast in such busy traffic before, I glanced at the speedometer at one point and we were doing 120MPH. Just when I thought things weren’t going too badly, the tax driver made the classic mistake of setting off at a traffic light when the traffic light hadn’t even changed, causing him to bump into the car infront (luckily at more like 1MPH than 120MPH), still it meant sitting in the back of the cab for 10 minutes while they shouted at each other (I made sure the meter was turned off for that bit, so at least the entertainment was free).

I checked into the Hotel, which was the first trouble-free experience of the day, a special thanks to the girl on reception who managed to rustle up a nice ‘mini travel-kit’ for me, so I do now at least have a hotel-sponsored toothbrush, razor etc.

I gave Dimitri a call (it was about 10PM friday evening by now) and we went out for a walk to Bourbon Street for a look round, some food and a very well earned (or at least well justified) drink.

It’s my first time in New Orleans, but I’m loving it so far, Bourbon Street is a crazy place, I’ve been to lots of crazy places, but something about Bourbon Street just seems even crazier than most.

Oh and for those travelling out to New Orleans for the conference and wondering what the weathers like? It’s hot with a capital H…it is HOT. When I landed it was about 85 degrees (when I landed in Dallas it was 97 degrees apparently). So you can pack light…just not as light as me!

So, anyone know a good tailor in New Orleans? The thought of having to race out and buy a new suit, shirt, tie, shoes etc for my first presentation on monday isn’t really that appealing right now!

3 thoughts on “ODTUG – The Adventure Begins

  1. Michael H.

    Hi John,

    Excellent story!

    I hope this trip’s altercations don’t shun you away from returning to NOLA, in the future.

    I personally felt the weather was great for this time of year, matter of fact soon after you guys left the weather got even more humid and hot. I think you enjoyed some of the best weather in New Orleans, during June!

    I also enjoyed your presentations, you’re a great speaker!

    Michael H.



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