Planes, Trains, and Automobile "fails"

Discussion in 'Trip Reports' started by aviators99, Apr 29, 2011.  |  Print Topic

  1. aviators99
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    aviators99 Silver Member

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    I should preface this report by saying that normally I am a smart guy. I mean, in some circles I am actually well known for my intelligence. I will admit, however, that with middle age I am sometimes in a completely different category altogether. Below is my embarrassing story of the past 24 hours.

    I had a Federal Court hearing to attend on Wednesday in Washington, D.C. I was also honored enough to have an opportunity to attend the FT Awards in NYC on Thursday. I wouldn't have flown across the country to sit in the audience, but since I was going to be in DC anyway, why not hop on the US Shuttle up to LGA, which is around 1 mile from where the FT Awards would be held (Citi Field). Also, since I would be in NY, I could try UA p.s. F JFK-SFO, and connect back up to SEA from there. I've wanted to do a proper comparison of VX F to UA p.s. F for a while.

    On Tuesday, I flew SEA-DCA on AS without incident, other than the fact that the WiFi was not working. This was particularly problematic for me as I was helping prepare some stuff for the Judge for the following day. It's amazing how I've become so reliant on GoGo in the short time it's been around. Also, it's been so reliable that the thought of it not working never crosses my mind, other than to make sure I always have a book on hand.

    As soon as I landed in DC I started hearing about the bad storms that were on the way. I began to be concerned for my US flight on Thursday (a 2pm flight). The only problem was that I booked it in non-refundable F. Thursday morning, the weather was pretty horrible. I looked at the flight status of all of the other shuttle flights, and they were all canceled. Of course, mine was still showing "on time". I was fairly sure that if I took the flight, I would be pretty late to the FT Awards. But when I called US, of course they told me that I could not get a refund since my flight was on time. Being late to the FT awards really wasn't an option I wanted to chance, because it would have made more questionable my whole reason for 1) Staying an extra night in DC, 2) Spending $3k on UA p.s. F, 3) being away from the family for an extra 2 days. So I quickly got dressed and got a cab to the train station, just making the 11am Acela.

    During the train ride, I kept checking flight status. Suddenly, I noted that the 1pm flight left and landed *on time*! It was not looking good for getting my refund. After I arrived in Manhattan, I kept checking flight status. It still showed on time at 1:30pm. However, I went on flightaware.com and saw that the flight plan had been changed to depart at 3:55pm. Obviously a ground delay. I called US and of course they had no idea what I was talking about, and wouldn't refund anything. The plane left the gate at 2:17pm, and did not take off until 4:12pm. At that point I was finally promised a refund. So far, so good. I had made the right decision.

    But now I was not so close to the FT Awards. Since my friend who would accompany me to the awards works in Manhattan, I went to his office, and we took a cab together to the event. We walked over to the Waldorf Astoria, and the doorman got us a cab. It was a yellow Prius. The driver was in a bad mood, because he had just come from Queens with a $39.80 fare, and the woman getting out of the cab gave him $40. I still had my luggage (A VX crew rollaway and a laptop bag), so I put them in the trunk. We told the cabbie that we are good tippers, so that calmed him down. We were dropped off at the event. I went upstairs, saw some people I knew, then suddenly it hit me like a ton of bricks. I'm usually a very calm person, but I became extremely anxious when I realized that none of the 3 of us (my friend, the cabbie, nor I) remembered my luggage in the trunk.

    I felt completely helpless at that very moment. It seemed to me that no matter how much money I had, and no matter how well connected I was, I was screwed. In these bags were a $5k laptop, all of my clothes for the trip, my jacket, my car key, some medication that I need to take daily, and my book. Believe it or not, the book really irked me. It is a book that doesn't come out for several months, and a friend of mine gave it to me after having been asked to review an early copy. I was halfway through reading it. Also, the VX crew bag is irreplaceable.

    I started making calls. I called "311", which is the number in NYC for dealing with taxi issues. They informed me that there are 6 police precincts around the city where cabbies are supposed to return lost items. I also called my Amex Centurion Concierge, not expecting much help. But he did a bunch of legwork for me, calling back 311 and explaining about the medication and asking them to try to escalate things. Everyone whom I told what was going on asked me, "Did you get the cab number?" and "Did you get the medallion number?". Of course, the answer was no. And the answer to the next question was "Yes. I am a moron." And I paid in cash. I decided to leave the FT Awards before the actual ceremony started, to go to the closest Walgreens, where my prescriptions are on file. They gave me one pill of each of what I needed. I also bought various toiletries. Next to the Walgreens was a little store with what seemed like second-hand clothing, but some of it seemed new. It's the sort of store that before this incident I never would have walked in. But I got sweatpants, undergarments, and a shirt. "Great," I thought. My first time in UA p.s., and I'll be wearing sweatpants, which I don't think I've worn since I was 10 years old.

    Of course, I was telling the story to anyone who would listen, and the cab driver who took us to Walgreens came up with an idea that I thought was ingenious! Ask security at Citi field to review the security video to see if they could see the cab number! I did just that. And after a while, they did locate the point on the tape where I was exiting the cab. But alas, they could not make out the number. I continued to call the precincts, with no luck. After the awards ceremony (which is sort of a blur to me), I went outside to try to get a cab back to Manhattan, to the W Union Square. There were no taxis around at all. I called a couple of car services, and nobody would come out to get me. Most of the attendees were staying at one of the LGA airport hotels, and they had a shuttle service for them. So there I was with the security guard for Citi field, hoping that a cab would come by. Then someone who works for the Mets came by. I don't know his actual job, but I'm going to pretend that he's the Assistant to the Traveling Secretary. He gave me the number of the car service that works with the Mets. I called them, and they said they could have someone there in 40 minutes. "Better than nothing," I figured. Also in the parking lot, they were very busy filming Men in Black 3, and Will Smith was there.

    About 20 minutes later, a cab came by. He said that he saw me waiting for a long time, but he had a fare before. He needed business, so he figured he'd take a chance and come back to see if I was still around. But I didn't want to stiff the car service (especially since I had already given them my credit card). I called them up and they said it would be no problem, and they would cancel it for me. I have a feeling they were still going to be longer than they anticipated.

    The cabbie was upset over what happened to me, and made lots of suggestions. He suggested I call 311 back and ask them to send a "GPS message" mentioning a reward, for example. But they wouldn't do it. He asked me about the car. I told him it was a Prius. He said that around 1/3 of the Prii in NYC come from this one particular garage. That was interesting. It also meant that 2/3 of them do not! I couldn't see what he was doing, but I think he was browsing the web while he was driving, because he suddenly had the number of that garage for me. So, I called them.

    Garage: Hello
    Me: Is this the cab company
    Garage (annoyed): No, this isn't the "cab company"
    Me: Is this the garage?
    Garage: Yeah

    I explained about the luggage, and asked if he would post a reward sign. He said, "No. Call back in the morning. The whole fleet is out now <click>". The cabbie asked me to describe the other cabbie. He said that since he was caucasian, there's an even better chance that his car comes out of that garage. Okay...

    The cab dropped me off at the W (actually, on the opposite side of Park Avenue). I was half way across the street when I heard him yelling "Sir!". I ran back over. He asked, "Give me your number. When I see any Priuses, I will ask them, and if I find anything I'll call you." It seemed odd, but at this point, why not? So, he gave me his mobile, and I called him from mine.

    Before I medicated myself with enough Benadryl to overcome the anxiety and fall asleep, I tried all 4 precincts again. Nothing.

    I normally leave my ringer off when I go to sleep, but left it on last night, since I had given my number to many people. I was awoken by a TXT message from my friend at around 8am, with an unrelateed message. I started down the list of precincts again. No luck for any of them (One of them said, "We haven't had any luggage dropped off here in 2 years! <click>").

    Then, I called that garage. The one with the minority of prii ;-)
    Garage: Hello
    Me: Yes, I was just calling to check to see if a Prius turned in some bags left in the trunk overnight?
    Garage: Yeah, we got em.
    Me: Say what?
    Garage: Black bag with red wheels, and a laptop bag?
    Me: Yes!
    Garage: Yeah, it's here. You want to come get them?
    Me: Yes!

    I took a cab to the garage (which was right by Citi Field). I was proudly dressed in my sweat pants, 2nd hand shirt, and dress shoes. And there were the bags, in perfect order. Everything was there, even my book (oh, and the laptop). I left an envelope for the cabbie. I also sent a TXT to the cabbie from last night, who suggested this garage. I think he's sleeping, but hopefully he will get back to me, and I can reward him too.

    The lesson of how minute differences in time and actions can have such drastic effect on things never ceases to amaze me, even though I learn it all the time. My decision to take the train made me on time for the event, but I certainly wouldn't have lost the bags. The decision to call the car service to cancel the car from Citi field to the W made it so that I was in that cab with the cab driver who suggested the right garage. Etc, etc, etc.

    So, here I sit in the United First International Lounge, awaiting my p.s. flight to SFO that boards in a half hour. I'll append my notes on that later on.
     
  2. tommy777
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    tommy777 Co-founder

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    ouch.... Great seeing you last night and thanks for sharing
     
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  3. gleff
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    gleff Co-founder

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    I am absolutely thrilled you got your bags back. What an incredible story! Great to see you, wish it could have been untainted by this experience..
     
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  4. IMGone
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    IMGone Silver Member

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    MrsBobSgt likes this.
  5. moa999
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    moa999 Gold Member

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    Well done... and great detective work.
    One of the reasons I always pay for cabs with my card where I can - and keep the receipt with the car number...
     
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  6. TRAVELSIG
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    TRAVELSIG Gold Member

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    Great story with a great ending.
     
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  7. kiwi
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    kiwi Gold Member

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    Dang autopilot mode. Glad it turned out well in the end.
     

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