Stranded in the airport and the choice has to be made for the woman business traveler -- wait out a series of successive standbys to get to your destination or pull the plug, get a room and start over the next morning? Sometimes you have a choice. Here's what I've learned.
That "up in the air" (aka George Clooney) feeling can take over -- and you lose perspective -- buffeted from one destination and deadline to another, one business gig to the next. When do you put your feet back on the ground and stand firmly in the time zone of the moment? That's what jet lag does, keeping you out of focus and zapping your energy, especially if you're among those of us who travel a lot but don't have the highest-level frequent flyer status. I'm writing from Chicago, where I arrived nearly 6 hours ago from Paris, with a supposed 1.5-hour layover to San Francisco, and my body clock says it's tomorrow.
Learning #1 -- don't make an international transfer from O'Hare again if I can avoid it. Walking a couple of miles underground to go through domestic security was the pits after crossing an ocean (as Meg Ryan stressed emphatically in the movie French Kiss) and exacerbated by the jaded United reps (they seem to collect in Chicago). Sadly they could care less about your experience, even though you're struggling a bit while trying to navigate the various steps between international and domestic transfers.
Learning #2 -- sometimes you have to stop, rest up and start over the next day. That was my decision after an 8.5 hours from Europe (easy), a 1-hour line in domestic United security (dreadful), flight postponed indefinitely for "a mechanical" (x-rated), one especially helpful Red Carpet Club agent (thank you!) and the prospects of one rolling waitlist after another. United may safely claim to be #1 on "ontime arrivals," but I doubt those metrics cover all the cancelled flights. So, with some history, I made the call --booked a room and took an early flight the next morning to start the week off productively.
I checked into the Chicago O'Hare Hilton, stretched out, took food in, emailed and blogged -- and, relatively quickly, crashed. As Peter Finch screamed in the movie Network -- "I'm as mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore!" That's called taking care of yourself.
Learning #3 -- pack a change of underwear and change of clothing essentials in your carry on. I didn't, but fortunately hotel room hair dryers and complimentary shampoos are terrific tools in an emergency. I was fresh as a Monday morning the next day.
Learning #4 -- it was satisfying to take back some control from the so-called "friendly skies" of United.