by Matthew Sanderson
More care could have been given to scheduling my flight. I was a co-chair for a professional institute. My colleague, who is actually good at planning and preparation, arrived the day before. My flight was scheduled to have me in an hour late. Biffed that one. Well, it was a meeting that would be easy to facilitate and while I wished I would have scheduled the flight earlier, I couldn’t make the change. Under no circumstances should you imagine my colleague was upset about this. However, my colleague joked we’d meet up around midnight after my flights were delayed or cancelled. My colleague is a soothsayer.
At the connecting airport, we all deplaned and scurried off to our various destinations. I slung my backpack on and noticed that the bottom of it was wet. I was not carrying water or any other beverage so it had to come from somewhere else, source unknown. The dampness on my backpack was not obviously colored, sticky, nor had an odor. Since I had it on my hands, I will continue to believe it was just water and no one will convince me otherwise.
The contents of my backpack included three auxiliary phone chargers, personal Samsung tablet, work iPad, and work laptop. Of all of this technology, the only thing close to the waterlogged portion of the backpack was the work computer. The compartment was not wet and the computer seemed dry. I moved the device and continued about my business.
I had plenty of time to make my connection and get properly caffeinated. Time for boarding approaches and we start getting updates. Plane is not here, but on the way. Plane is on the way, not here yet. Plane is here, on the way to the gate. Plane is at the gate and about to deplane. Then it goes to radio silence. There’s a 20-minute delay. Sorry folks, another 20-minute delay. But what’s the delay? Plane is here, people are off, but it’s still delayed?
On the 1+2 plane there’s not much room for humans or all of the cargo they bring. When the airline says, “overhead storage space is limited,” they mean limited. Unfortunately, someone did not heed those words and wedged their property into the overhead storage so effectively, that it blocked in another passenger’s bag and rendered both of them stuck. I mean STUCK. I did not have first-hand observation, but the comment I overheard the flight staff tell the passenger whose bag was a hostage of the wedged bag was, “If we just yank it out, we run the risk of deploying all of the oxygen masks.” The apparent surgical care required to dislodge the property put the flight an hour behind.
Once the plane took flight, all was good. Very smooth flight, polite staff and passengers, same style of tiny plane (by commercial standards).
Once at the destination, it was time to gather my checked bag and secure ground transportation. In this case, “secure” means get me and my stuff to the counter of the company where I prepaid for their service. Many times, shuttle services are perfectly fine, but not exactly speedy. That’s just part of the deal. No problem. Two of us sat and waited for a third customer to arrive. After waiting, the third customer was there all the time, had advised the service he was there, but for some reason, they couldn’t find him. It was like a Where’s Waldo, but Waldo was in a room all by himself. Once everyone realized we were ready to go, off we went. At this point, I’ve missed two of the three hours of that day’s prep. Can’t do anything about that so I resolve to participate fully in the final hour of activities then really make up for missed time the next day.
The next day, after some troubleshooting, we found a computer. So good! Let’s get it connected to the projector. Where’s the projector? It was on the order, where’s the hardware? After some urgent but not yet panicked texts with local arrangements, a projector is delivered. We go to connect it to the computer. Hold that thought…
The projector only has a VGA input. The wonderful staff at the hotel brought an HDMI-VGA converter. But wait, the laptop is an Apple. The staff had that available as well. Good job on the staff. We’ve got a computer, a projector, a room where we can control the temperature, and all of the expected attendees are present. We start the institute smoothly and all is going well.
The institute was such that my colleague and I were the organizers, but not the presenters. At some times, we had responsibilities that took one or both of us out of the room. When I returned to the room on one of the occasions when both my colleague and I had stepped out, one of the attendees quietly but very quickly came to me to share some news. While I was out, the ceiling began leaking. Because the room is full of experienced professionals, they put a container under the drip, correctly assessed the issue to be non-urgent, and went about their business. I contacted one of the hotel staff who called an engineer. He and I met and I pointed out the problem. Back outside the room he said he was going to go upstairs since the leak could be coming from an overflow in the bathroom over the meeting room. An overflow from the bathroom.
Upon returning to the room, I interrupted the presentation. “Sorry to interrupt. Thank you for letting me know about the leak. I’ve contacted hotel staff and they’re checking on it right now. Just to be safe, let’s move persons and personal property out of the splash zone since the water might be coming from the bathroom upstairs.” Calmly, deliberately, and very quickly, a semi-circle developed outwardly from the drip. Luckily, the ceiling tile remained intact, the drip never increased to a flow, and the leak was determined not to be from a bathroom. The remainder of the day was successful as were the next two days of the institute.
What’s the lesson here? Plan to arrive at your destination much earlier than necessary. That’s on me. Don’t be the person who shoves their luggage into the overhead with a pneumatic ramrod. If you’re dependent upon your technological hardware at your destination, put your device in a waterproof zipperbag. Maybe use two. Maybe bring two computers. Maybe bring five pounds of rice to put your dampened device in. Maybe some issues are so statistically infrequent that you choose to take your chances with carrying a naked device in a carry-on and in the next 10 years, you still have no issue.
Some travel issues cannot be predicted or avoided. That’s life. If we expect same day travel from coast to coast, we have to expect some minor inconveniences to get such an enormously beneficial service in the first place.
As a bit of an epilogue, the bricked computer has been resurrected. I am not a technician and do not want to offer advice, but the way it was reanimated suggests that water wasn’t the issue at all. Again, sometimes the super cool things we rely on will also cause inconveniences.
Next time you plan a meeting, ask yourself, “What could go wrong?” If you haven’t freaked yourself out entirely, accept the fact that something will go wrong and you’ll have to adjust. Live, learn, move on.
Matthew Sanderson has been attending and occasionally planning education conferences nationwide for over two decades. Matthew brings an end-user perspective to meeting and conference planning.