road warrior life health

I attended a business meeting in our nation’s capital this week. It was a very long flight from my home base in Northern California to Washington DC. It is impossible to get non-stop flights from San Francisco into Washington DC’s Reagan National Airport, the most convenient airport to my meeting, therefore, I had to factor in transfer time to my total travel time. After correcting for the time zone change and taking a taxi to the hotel, it meant I would arrive at the hotel just past midnight.

I always have trouble sleeping the first night when I go to the East Coast and I usually end up feeling more or less sluggish for the first few days of the trip. Since I was leaving on Tuesday and returning on Thursday, I knew I wouldn’t feel 100% the entire trip. So, I decided not to pack my exercise clothes. I needed the space since I planned to work on the plane and that meant packing a lot of paperwork in my “wheelie” carry-on suitcase. I was pretty sure I would be too tired to exercise on Wednesday morning, and the meeting I attended went too late and started too early on Thursday for me to reasonably believe I was going to squeeze in any gym time. So I flew sans sneakers.


Travel incompetence

Who would have thought I would get my best exercise of the week because of incompetence? Mine and the airline’s. I missed my scheduled flight home from Reagan National because I stayed a bit too long at the conference…the last speaker being the best of the day. Although I booked my ticket on US Airways, the flight was actually being run by America West. The folks at the America West counter graciously rebooked me without charge, but I now had to fly from Dulles International Airport—about 45 minutes away. I was given my boarding passes and directions on how to take the Metro and a shuttle to Dulles.

Once I got to Dulles, I discovered the gate information was not printed on the boarding pass. I asked a US Airways representative where to go and she said, “Take the shuttle from the main terminal to the C terminal. Your flight is at gate C7.” I toddled out there with time to spare so I found a restaurant near my gate and sat down to enjoy a meal before the long schlep home.

About ten minutes before boarding, I sauntered to the gate only to discover, to my horror, that C7 was not the gate my flight was leaving from. The agent at that gate told me to go to D30, at least a 10-15 minute walk away. Since it was now the boarding time and only 20 minutes before the plane’s scheduled departure, I decided to run. I couldn’t bear the thought of missing yet another flight.

I took off fast, tearing through the crowds while dragging my wheelie behind me. I made it in 5 minutes and, although it felt like a 5K, it was probably only a half mile or so. I got to gate D30 with 10 minutes to spare. Panting and moist with sweat, I informed the gate agent I was here for the flight to Las Vegas. The gate agent looked at me with disdain and said, “Sorry, this is not the right gate. You should be at the Z gates.” That means taking the shuttle back to the main terminal again.


Close to tears

Close to tears, I set off running again. I made it to the terminal shuttle and hit the Z gate region running again. At last, gate Z7 listed my flight (get it Z not C7). The America West agents were apparently waiting for me. “Are you Pat?” they asked, “You just made it. We are ready to close the doors.”

Frustrated and relieved at the same time, I started to tell my story to the flight assistant waiting at the plane door. Unlike everyone else I had dealt with, she didn’t brush me off or tell me to calm down. Instead, she said, “You look like you could use a hug.” She opened her arms and folded my sweaty self into her ample body, all the while patting me on the back and saying, “You’re here now. You made the flight. Just get on, relax, and enjoy the fight.”


The bottom line

As I climbed into my bed at 2:30 the next morning, I realized that as bad as it seemed at the time, this travel misadventure had its benefits. I got my exercise and I got a hug.