Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Broken plane

I was supposed to fly to Cleveland yesterday for a business meeting, and ended up not going because the plane broke down.

In spite of the fact that it was an early morning flight, with a return to Chicago later in the afternoon, I was looking forward to the short trip. A prominent high-end gift company was flying me out to meet with their lead design director and one of their top executives in the likelihood of establishing an ongoing consulting relationship. I would become one of their outside go-to guys for product design, ..which is good news, obviously. Some steady freelance work for me, and something outside the toy industry (which I do love, but after 17 years, gets a little monotonous). It will be nice to work some different muscles.

I had been emailing and speaking on the phone with the lead design director there, who as it turns out, is an old friend of mine from high school. We hadn't seen or heard from each other in the 30 years since, but I had noticed recently that he popped up on the Classmates website. His name is John Smith. Out of a sea of John Smiths in the world, I knew it was my friend since he was the only John Smith at Minooka Community High School, class of '79.
So I dropped him a note to say 'hi'.
I received a warm reply from him bringing me up to date on things at his end, and it turns out he pursued a career in illustration after graduating high school. Cut to now, and he's heading product development at the Things Remembered company. As I said, John and I were friends in high school. Even back then I had a good drawing hand and John had seen that I ran with it over the years. Along the way I had also acquired a lot of experience in product design, which is what he's now involved with every day.
Needless to say, our phone chats over the last couple of weeks have been fun. Certainly business talk and the potential of working together to create some beautiful stuff, but reconnecting after 30 years has been the icing on the cake. I was psyched for the meeting.
It was only going to be for a few hours, but meeting face to face with them would accomplish a lot.

So, I drove to O'Hare for my 7:42 flight, checked in, and boarded the jet, portfolio in hand.

And we sat there for 30 minutes, before they asked us to get off the plane.
There was a maintenance problem with the jet.
What's more, United didn't have a back-up jet available, and there were no other flights on which to put us.
We would have to sit and wait. Indefinitely. Until they fixed the plane, or got a stand-by flight.
My meeting time was quickly shot, because my return flight was at 3 PM.

I waited 2 hours before deciding to leave the airport and drive home. I phoned John and explained the situation, and he sympathized with my frustrations. There was nothing either of us could do except agree to reschedule our meeting, which is pending.

I may have dodged a bullet in avoiding a potential plane crash yesterday, but it doesn't inspire my confidence in United Airlines.

At least I didn't have any guitars to check in.

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