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Worst. Red Eye. Ever.

And you thought my last trip of the summer would end with an uneventful flight back to the east coast. Silly you. For those of you wondering where I’ve been for the past, oh, 24 hours, I’ve been in travel purgatory. I won’t say hell, because it could have been far worse, but it was not ideal.

It all started Thursday night. After finishing up with the afternoon sessions at OSCON (with r0ml bringing the house down yet again), Ian was kind enough to take some time out of the schedule so he and I hopped the MAX (Portland’s kick ass light rail system) into downtown Portland to take in an early dinner. Given that his flight left an hour earlier than mine, I left him to continue on to the airport and decided to drop in on the second half of the Sun BOF before hopping the train out to catch my flight. I missed the Ubuntu BOF that preceded it, regrettably, but did catch Jeff‘s afternoon session so I don’t feel that bad.

As a quick aside, the Sun event was an interesting one. There were a lot of opinions flying around and a lot of interesting questions being asked, and given that it was a casual conversation I won’t document who said what when (what happened at the Sun Open Source BOF stays at the Sun Open Source BOF) – not that there was anything terribly controversial. I will say that when asked for my opinion on where I thought Sun stood on open source, I replied as I have very often in the last few years: I think Sun does some things well, and some things poorly, but generally has their heart in the right place. More than anything, I think they continue to be hurt by some rash and ill-considered statements from executives that are years old.[1] Do I like some of their decisions on a personal level? No. As a Linux user, for example, I wish that my operating system had access to some of the technologies they’ve developed, most notably ZFS after my recent Reiser corruption issues (hence I’m tracking this project). But do I support their right to make those decisions, and even understand them from a pragmatic standpoint? You bet.

Anyhow, it was once I left that session – saying my farewells to the likes of Phipps and Waugh – that things began to go downhill. The MAX ride over to the airport was simple, quick and easy – the last segment of my travel that could be described as such. Arriving at around 10:30 PM for an 11:59 PM flight, I checked the board as I came in and knew that I was in for a long night. The board had our new departure time listed as 3:00 AM. At check-in, the Jet Blue counter rep confirmed that our flight would indeed be departing several hours late, as the inbound plane was held on the ground for over four hours at JFK. That’s what I mean when I say it could have been worse. I wasn’t thrilled about being delayed until the wee hours of the morning, but at least I was at the airport where I could grab a few Mirror Pond IPAs and then stretch out on the floor for some shut eye. My original plan for getting some work done and email answered using Portland’s wifi collapsed when their network became non-responsive around 11:30 PM.

So anyhow, I blearily woke up after about a half hour of fitful dozing to the screams of some poor infant who, like most of us, was not blissfully happy about the goings on and got in line for our newly arrived bird. Once on the plane, I conked out almost instantly. While I’m more or less completely unable to sleep on a moving plane, I am for some reason eminently capable of sleeping on planes parked at the gate. In that context, then, you might be able to see why it was a problem when I awoke an hour later. If I hadn’t woken up, we hadn’t moved. And sure enough we were still at the gate. The first problem was that the motor that starts the engines was inoperative, meaning no engines, and, worse, no air conditioning (did I mention it was hot in Oregon?). The next two problems were computer related. After several plane related reboots, we eventually took off sometime close to five AM PT – almost five hours late.

Generally, when you’re five hours late you can kiss your original connection – JFK not being my final destination – good bye, and today was no exception. My original flight was scheduled to arrive in Boston around 10 AM, which would have had me back in the office in Maine before 1 PM. Instead, I arrived in JFK a bit before 12 PM, and my original flight was long gone. Fortunately, however, another JetBlue flight to Boston had itself been delayed by almost five hours. Rather than weather, this plane was put on hold because someone had backed into it in Charlotte and dented one of the engines, and it took four hours to get an engineer out of bed to look it over an make sure it was flight worthy. Eventually, it got the go ahead and was thus sitting at the gate several hours after it should have departed, just long enough for several of us from the Portland flight to make the sprint over to the gate and arrive just as they were boarding.

Unfortunately, however, the Jet Blue gate rep in Portland, OR had refused to issue me a boarding pass for my second segment despite my repeated requests for reasons I still don’t understand. Initially, the JetBlue JFK folks tried to redirect me out to the main service desk, but before I had to press that issue the flight supervisor took over and issued those of us without them boarding passes. Bless the man. Thus it came to pass that I touched down in Boston a bit before 3 PM, about 5 hours late. Unfortunately, 3 PM on a beautiful summer Friday in Boston is not the time to drive up to Maine, and the return trip took about 3 hours – much longer than normal.

But here I am, back in Maine, this time for the balance of the summer. Apart from a couple of quick visits down to Boston, I’m declaring the month of August a no-fly/no-biz-travel month. I’m trying to get to the emails I’ve received in the last 30 or so hours, but if there’s something urgent I’d recommend you resend it because it might be a little while. I’ll try and polish off the OSCON post I have half written ASAP as well.

[1] IBM, interestingly, is the master at not making such statements. While the rigid message control they maintain over their executive ranks is regrettable at times, the benefit is obvious.

Categories: Travel.

  • http://www.the451group.com Raven Zachary

    Stephen – ack. A horrible experience indeed. You have me worried now. I just moved to Portland and will be taking this JetBlue route to our NYC office regularly. Nice to finally meet you at OSCON!