On Facebook or the pictures of this blog, it would appear that our family travels very often and without any major problems. On Monday, I opened up about difficult traveling overseas can be for me since I almost always get laid out for a day or more by the stomach bug. You can read about that here if you missed it:
In light of all the flights cancelled and people stranded by winter storms in the Northeast US, I have another confession to make:
We’ve spent countless hours wasting our vacation time away through no fault of our own and it makes me angry.
I put hours into our trips to make sure that we optimize our methods of transportation, the amount of time we spend waiting in lines, and even the time it gets to areas of interest. In fact I actually plan things almost to the minute to make sure we squeeze out every ounce of vacation time that we can get. Most of the time, it works out great. Sometimes, it absolutely does not.
A few years ago, Joy and I spent wasted hours sitting on the tarmac on a China Eastern flight at Shanghai Hongqiao Airport. No information was given aside from lame excuses and they didn’t feed us at all during the 5 hour ordeal. Did I mention that the flight was only supposed to take just over an hour? Talk about being hangry by the time that was over!
On a trip to Thailand a few years back, Joy and some friends of ours decided we could beat Bangkok traffic by trying what was at the time, the NEW Airport Express Rail train that would take us 1.5 miles from our hotel before taking a cab the rest of the short distance (that area has much less traffic so I figured we could circumvent all of the congestion). The Express train was the antithesis of Express. We waited on the platform for what seemed like an eternity in spite of the fact that signs and staff advertised multiple frequencies per hour. In fact, the agent at the ticket booth told us to run down to the platform because the train was about to leave. Once on the train, it stopped multiple times on the non-stop route.
Upon arrival at the taxi lane outside the station, there were no taxis except 2 shady dudes that didn’t want to take us. Then one decided that he would take us but drove erratically in the opposite direction of our hotel while yelling strange threats at us in Thai. We eventually arrived at our hotel 20 minutes later (the ride should’ve been 5 minutes in that traffic) after we yelled at him back threatening to call the police on my Thai cell phone when he tried to kick us out onto the street in a random alley. All in all, we wasted over 90 minutes on what should have been a 25 minute trip and got harassed.
The end of our amazing Bali vacation culminated in a finger pointing match between barely English speaking agents from All Nippon Airways (ANA) at Narita Airport outside of Tokyo. Our flights had been operated by Singapore Airlines and Air China, neither of which had agents at the lost luggage desk. We had made multiple efforts to ensure that our bags were transferred between Singapore and Air China at our transit in Beijing. We knew when we arrived Beijing that our bags had made it that far. Yet, none of the ANA contract agents for Air China could find out bags in the system. They even suggested that it might not be their fault because we may not have followed procedures (whatever that means). I gave up arguing after we wasted about 2 hours at the airport before heading home empty handed with no assurance that our luggage would be found. No one could locate our luggage for the next 48 hours. It magically showed up a few days later.
Just in case it seems like I’m only pointing out problems that happen abroad, I’ve certainly wasted many hours in the US. In 2012, TSA PreCheck still had “random selections” where they “randomly” chose not to allow trusted, vetted, frequent travelers (we were and still are one of those) to have fast-track screening. On a very busy day in Chicago O’Hare, Joy and I, along with several others got “randomly” selected to wait in the 45 minute wait for security screening while 7 TSA agents sat around doing nothing in the 2 unutilized PreCheck lanes. Instead of 5 of those guys getting their lazy butts in gear to open up 2 more lanes to augment the 3 saturated lanes, no one did anything. So when I asked another agent why those guys weren’t helping and why no Trusted Travelers or PreCheck vetted travelers were getting through, his answer was “those guys are busy doing their assigned tasks” and “if we just let all of you PreCheck guys through, sooner or later you’ll start bringing stuff that poses a threat to the aircraft and other travelers.” I really wanted to throttle that guy at the time…he has since been forgiven 🙂
I could tell a number of other stories that accentuate why our travels aren’t always peaches and roses….but that might actually discourage some of you from finding your adventures. The point here is that even when you’re a pro at planning and excellent at working logistics, life and people still get in the way. I used to get REALLY agitated by some of these things and still to this day lose my cool once in awhile. I’m working on that. In the end, life isn’t always fair and you won’t always be reimbursed for the hassles you incur and that’s okay.
I’m learning to just let it go. Getting angry and pointing out where others failed doesn’t solve the problems or retrieve my lost time. It usually just embarrasses Joy and sets an awful example for Little J. The best solution is to relax and be grateful for the great experiences. A few rough experiences among the many good give a trip character. Maybe I’ll look at all that “wasted” time as “character-building” time from now on…