Saturday, December 20, 2008

Still Matching My Poster

Okay so, let me just tell this tale of my never ending ability to completely suck at traveling.

This tale begins friday morning. I get up nice and early, and put on my nice shirt that I decided I would wear for my poster presentation. I made this decision long ago so that I could pick the appropriate colors for my poster, because it is a proven fact that if you clash with your poster people are less likely to want to talk to you.

I check out of my hotel, luggage in hand, and walk to the corner where the shuttle bus picks up. I have plenty of time and am pretty proud of myself for sticking with the plan thus far. I wait for the shuttle. No shuttle comes. I see fellow conference attendees with their poster tubes in hand just walking to the conference center. I was only about eight blocks away, but I just really didn't feel like wheeling luggage through the streets of San Francisco. Well eventually I hit the fifteen minute mark, and realized that if I was going to make it on foot I needed to start walking. So walk I did.

I made it to the conference center with enough time to check out the luggage checking booth. There was like a mini airport station set up where you could check your luggage for a fee of $10. I had heard a rumor also, that they didn't charge the airline fee of $15 to check a bag either. So pretty much, if this was true I was saving $5, and not having to deal with luggage all day. And guess what, it was true! This was nearly the highlight of my day.

The best part was that the line was not very long, so I had ten minutes to go over to the other building and hang my poster up and get ready for that to start. I had kind of planned on being at my poster between 8 and 9, and then taking a small break to get coffee and food, and then going back from 10 to 11. I ended up talking to various people, practically without any breaks, from 8 to 11:30, when I hastily departed for lunch.

I got back from lunch, took down my poster, and replaced it with one of my regular letter size versions that I had printed up for people to take if they wanted, which was probably the funniest thing I had done in awhile. I booked a ride on the SuperShuttle which was nice because they picked me up right outside the door of the poster session.

At the airport I soon learned the importance of checking your flight status before you leave. My flight was delayed 1.5 hours (the exact time of my layover in Minneapolis), because we were waiting on an aircraft to arrive from some place with horrible weather. When I arrived in MSP I ran clear across the airport to try to make an impossible connection. I had 4 minutes, and it took me 10 minutes. Even if I had made it in 4 I think I would have been too late. The two people at the gate were amazingly nice, even though I was amazingly angry. I was labelled a "distressed passenger" meaning that since the delay was technically weather related they could only give me a discount on a hotel, not a free hotel. They also gave me a voucher for a $13 dinner and a $5 breakfast. Thanks a heep.

So I called the number they gave me and booked a room at the Park Plaza, which was $60, because I really wasn't keen on being one of those people who were getting mats to sleep on from some closet in the airport. The Park Plaza also had a free shuttle service, so I called them up and the man said a shuttle was on its way. Well when I booked the room, the woman said it was a 9 minute shuttle ride. It was said with much confidence. I waited ten minutes, along with a bunch of others frantically trying to find the appropriate shuttle, when I hear this woman say, "Is anyone else going to the Park Plaza?" From there I managed to find myself agreeing to share a taxi with her and this other man, which would cost us $10 each. Fine. Apparently this woman's delays were not at all weather related, so she got a free hotel room. I was pretty jealous but also pretty tired. We are in line to check in and this woman says, "I could probably get a room with two double beds and then you won't have to pay for a room." I say, "really? That would be great!" And that is how I ended up sharing a room with Zina, the med student at McGill who is currently doing her residency and had a horrible time with their physics exam.

And let me tell you, it was pretty spectacular to wake up maybe three hours later to catch the shuttle back to the airport and still be wearing the clothes that match my poster.

I got to the airport and promptly spent my $18 of food vouchers. I had to buy an assortment of pastries, because apparently a bag of coffee beans doesn't qualify as 'food'. Whatever lady.

I finally got on a plane this morning, and I could start to see the end of this traveling ordeal. Until they decided the plane was broken, and we would be getting on a new plane. So we all get off this plane, walk ten gates to where a working plane is, and board the plane. again. Surprisingly enough it did take off. It even landed in Appleton, which was my destination of choice. And my luggage made it too. And over thirty hours later, I'm still matching my poster.

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