Many of us make extraordinary efforts to accomplish our tasks, to fulfill our assignments and to “Get the job done”. And, if you’re like me, occasionally you wonder if anyone notices or cares.
Last winter I was to fly from Boston to South Carolina, via North Carolina, departing at 3pm and anticipating arriving at 5pm. The day and night prior to my leaving it snowed, and snowed, and snowed some more. BY 9pm there were 6-8” on the ground. I checked my flight and surprisingly, it was still scheduled to take off.
I did some calculations. If I was to fly out, I would have to get my dog Jack to the kennel (more like a five-star hotel for dogs), which is a 30 mile drive in the opposite direction from the airport. And I’d also need to allow additional time for the no doubt slow going drive into the airport (typically about an hour’s drive but sure to be at least twice that, if not more, in such conditions.)
Thus, since I wanted to be at the airport no later than 1:45pm for my still scheduled 3pm departure, I’d need to be headed to the airport by 11:45am. This meant I’d need to drop Jack off at 9:30am, allowing me the two+ hours to get to the airport. So I’d need to leave the house and head to the kennel by 8:30, allowing myself an hour for the 30 mile drive.
And I had to shovel my (fairly long and wide) driveway which would take at least an hour, so I’d need to get out there…well, right now came to mind, as it was already 7:00am.
I checked my flight one more time. It was still showing as on time. I called the airline and they confirmed the flight was still a go. I questioned whether it was worth the effort. After all, the client would certainly understand if I wasn’t able to make it. The engagement involved some 10 interviews and my not getting there would certainly affect their schedules but surely they too would understand given the weather conditions. I decided “the show must go on” (and besides, I’m a New Englander at heart and I wasn’t about to let a ‘little snow’ keep me from travelling.
I spent the next hour shovelling out the driveway and backed out onto my unplowed street. I almost immediately got stuck. I was able to dig myself out after 20 minutes and made it to the main road which had been plowed earlier but now had a new 6-8” on it. I made my way, very slowly, to the kennel. I dropped off Jack and headed to the airport. The only vehicles out were snowplows. The drive to the airport was slow going, mostly behind plows doing no more than 15-20 miles an hour. I made it to the airport at 2:05, all the while assuming I’d be told, by a counter attendant looking at me as if I was nuts for being there, “Of course your flight has been cancelled. Have you looked out there?”
To my continuing surprise, my flight was still on the board, the lone flight that hadn’t been cancelled. The airport was virtually deserted, there was no one in front of me as I passed through security and there were only 12 other passengers waiting at the gate.
TO everyone’s surprise, at precisely 2:35 they announced our flight. Well, actually, it wasn’t announced. There were so few of us at the gate, the attendant merely came over and told us we could board.
We got on board, they closed the doors and we pushed back from the gate. They de-iced the plane. And then nothing. We just sat there a few feet from the gate. After an hour had passed, and the pilot came on to tell us there was a mechanical failure and we would have to go back to the gate, which we did after another 5 minutes or so. After another 20-30 minutes the pilot came on to tell us that they weren’t able to get the bridge out to the plane and we’d have to move to another gate, which we did.
Once at the gate we waited about an hour for the technicians to come on board. Once they arrive, they went to the back of the plane and worked for another 30 minutes or so. By this time it was 5:45pm…and it was still snowing. The technicians finished their work and the pilot announced, “flight attendants please prepare for takeoff” and we pushed back again. We then waited another 45 minutes until the equipment was available to de-ice the plane a second time.
Once de-iced the plane began to move to the runway, only to stop after only a minute or two. The pilot then came on to tell us that the mechanical failure had returned and we’d have to go back to the gate, which we did. It was now 7:15pm. We deplaned and went to wait inside at the agate. About half of the people decided to call it a day and, after arranging to get their bags, leave the airport, wishing those of us determined to stick it out good luck.
10 Minutes later we were told to go to another gate where another plane was waiting for us. The six of us passengers made our way to the gate and some 20 minutes later we were told we could board. We pushed back from the gate and the plane was de-iced for a third time. To everyone’s surprise, at 8:10pm we headed to the runway and minutes later we were in the air (for a change, we didn’t have to wait behind other airplanes on the runway as ours was the only one out there.
The flight, though somewhat bumpy, was uneventful and we landed in Charlotte NC at 10:25pm, a mere 7:25 hours after I first boarded the plane. And I still had a two hour drive ahead of me to get to my hotel in Columbia SC.
There was only an inch or so of snow on the ground on my route, but temperatures were right at the freezing mark and there was black ice. As I slowly made my way along the 90+ mile route I passed at least a dozen vehicles off the road and several major accidents.
I made it to my hotel at 12:45am, some 17 hours since my journey began. I was still questioning my decision to make the journey under such conditions and not having just postponed the engagement. “Nobody will even notice or acknowledge all you’ve done to get here,” I thought to myself as I fell asleep.
I was up at 6:30am, hit the gym and grabbed some breakfast, and made my way to the office, arriving at 7:45am.The client met me in the lobby and escorted me to the room in which we’d be working and introduced me to the team members. She then announced they had a special award for me. I had no idea what this was about.
She then announced, “BJ, in recognition of your undertaking travel under extreme winter weather conditions at significant personal risk and in support of the organization’s Proposal Process Improvement Initiatives you are hereby awarded ‘The Order of the Golden Snowflake”. She then handed me a certificate and a medal in the form of a golden snowflake in a case.