I spent most of last week in Milwaukee (actually Menomonee Falls), Wisconsin, searching for the cause of a crash in our software that is adversely affecting a client. I flew into Milwaukee on Monday, spent three days on the client site and planned to fly back home Thursday evening. Thursday morning I glanced at my Google Calendar on my iPhone for my departure time. This is what I saw:
An 8:35 departure would give me a full day with the client who leaves by 5:00 pm every day. Such a late departure also gave me a little time to explore Milwaukee if only by car. Some time during the day, United Airlines sent me a text message confirming my flight. I visually scanned for the words “on time” and did not read the rest of the message. Of course, it had my correct departure time—6:35 CST.
At 5:00 I leisurely left the client site in Menomenonee Falls and drove due east as far as I could. I jogged south until I found an eastbound through street and then headed east again. I continued this way until I finally found Lake Michigan just a bit north of downtown Milwaukee. Along the way, most of the landscape was urban and often poor. On the “Ideas Network” (Wisconsin Public Radio) they had a show about the best places to live in America. The local host put a Wisconsin spin on it and listeners called in to chime in about how great/crappy their city was. If only I had a few slices of cheese and some crackers, I might have qualified as a Wisconsin citizen at that moment.
View Milwaukee trip in a larger map
Lake Michigan was large. Larger than I expected—I couldn’t see the other side. I inadvertently took a wrong turn onto the Lake Freeway and had a brief tour of Milwaukee Bay before I turned around and took another stab at downtown Milwaukee. I had set my iPhone to take me to the old Pabst Brewery but using Maps on the iPhone for navigation is not as ideal as a standalone GPS. The main shortcoming is that Maps will not automatically compensate for a wrong turn and adjust the course that it chose earlier. Instead you have to tell it to remap the course from your current location and that operation should definitely NOT be done while driving. I’ve also grown very dependent on Portland’s “Next Intersection” signage so I found myself turning around and remapping several times during my week in Wisconsin. Eventually, I found my way to downtown and the famed but now decrepit Pabst Brewery.
Noticing that I was soon approaching my goal of getting to the airport two hours prior to departure, I set my course for General Mitchell International Airport. Twice along the way I missed a turn but I did not panic since I had given myself so much leeway. At approximately 7:00 pm I attempted to checkin at a kiosk for the regional airline that was to take me to San Francisco but it could not find my record locator. Curious, I pulled out my printed itinerary to get the flight number. My heart sank when I finally read my actual departure time. My plane had left just 20 minutes before.
I can’t begin to describe what ensued but if I did I would surely have to use words like “panic” and “meltdown”. Having never missed a flight in my life, I had no idea what my next action should be. I also knew that there would be a financial penalty to be paid and had already started to imagine how much that could be and how I would explain it to my superiors. Or if I would have to pay it myself. Furthermore, United, my main carrier for this trip, had closed down operations for the night and didn’t even have anybody at their luggage office. I called Bill, my old boss at EFI, who has given me great advice in the past in all matters EFI corporate. Unfortunately, I had to leave voice mail. Sometime after that I remembered an acquaintance from college who had left a voice mail earlier in the week. I sent him a message on Facebook that said I was going to be in town another night if he wanted to get together.
I wandered back upstairs to find a comfortable chair and gather my thoughts. I found a very helpful lady at the traveler’s information desk who listened to my story and told me about the “stranded traveler” discount that she could get for me at a local hotel. Already I had begun to contemplate the prospect of sleeping overnight at the airport so this was a relief. It wasn’t long before Bill called and reassured me that these kinds of things did happen and that I could put it on my expense report. That was a huge relief and I had finally calmed down enough to think clearly. I got the stranded traveler voucher from the information desk and was soon aboard the shuttle to the hotel.
After I got into my room, I called United and arranged a flight the next day. Departure from MKE was 4:00 and my connecting flight was out of Chicago. Having settled that, I plugged in my laptop and went to Google Calendar, which I had begun to suspect had screwed me. I took a partial screenshot of the calendar display from my laptop:
Aha! I had correctly entered the time! A few seconds later I pulled up Google Calendar on my iPhone and took a screenshot of the day’s agenda. That is the screenshot that appears at the top of this article.
As I fumed over Google’s bug, my college buddy called and asked if I’d like to go out for a few drinks. My reply could not have been more affirmative and he said he’d be over in 15 minutes. We drank until closing time and I woke up with a slight hangover, but we had a great time. We didn’t know each other that well when we were at Wartburg but we graduated the same year and found that we have had similar experiences in our lives.
The next day went smoothly. I arrived 4 hours prior to my flight (because hotel checkout was noon) and amused myself with my iPad. I had a little more than enough time to change planes in Chicago and my flight landed in Portland ahead of schedule. My kittens were all glad to see me and I was glad to flop down on my own bed at the end of the day.