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Monday, January 13, 2014

Update On My US Trip- Attitude is Everything

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Chicago Ohare Airport
I've been in the US for nearly 6 days by now, on a work related trip. I've gone through 7 airports so far, 5 flights, and a lot of nights of little or no sleep. I'm not sure whether I'm exhausted or not- ask me in a week when I get home and I'll tell you- but I am having a great time and really enjoying myself.
It's not that this trip has gone perfectly well from the start- there have been snafus and ups and downs, which I'll get to in a minute, but even with all these things that are going wrong, I have no complaints about how things are going, and I'm not letting it ruin my experience- people decide whether they want to have an easy time or hard time, and attitude makes a huge difference in whether or not it'll turn out like that.

Lets start out with the first snafu.
I booked a flight from my home country to NY, leaving on the 8th of January. I, for some reason, assumed that it was an overnight flight, and would only arrive in NY on the 9th of January. So, I booked my ticket from NY to Cleveland on the 9th of January, 6 hours after when I assumed I'd be arriving, since I needed time to travel from JFK to La Guardia airport.
Ha.

My flight arrived on the 8th of January, and I had 30 hours to "kill" in NY before my next flight... which fortunately I discovered a few days before my arrival, so I was able to arrange to sleep at a friend's house that night, and also managed to schedule 4 meetings/interviews within that space of 30 hours, in addition to getting together with a bunch of friends at a restaurant. So that was perfect, and that little snafu was taken advantage of to the fullest.
Ha ha.
Had one meeting the day I arrived, got together with friends, slept over at my friends house, and then "murphy strikes". I discovered my leg was super swollen, which concerned me, because being very pregnant and having just taken an international flight, I was at risk for a blood clot in my leg, also known as Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) which can be very dangerous, and possibly even result in death, and one swollen leg, especially after a flight, was a typical symptom. So this wasn't something I wanted to play around with- I called my dad who is a doctor, who heard my symptoms and recommended that I go to the ER, but suggested that I first call my uncle, who is an ER director in a hospital in NY.
He also was very concerned after hearing my symptom, and suggested that I go to the ER nearest to me, where he used to be the ER director for 15 years... I did that. Fortunately, I took out travel medical insurance so I wasn't worried about the cost. Though I was worried about missing my meetings that I had scheduled that day- two were in person meetings, and one was a phone meeting, and possibly having issues with my flight that evening. People were telling me that I'd be in the ER for hours, and to be prepared for nasty nurses and doctors at that hospital, but I didn't let them deter me or get me into a bad mood.
I decided that since an ER visit was in the books, I'd make the most of it, and try to "fully experience" the current American healthcare system, and keep a good mindset.

I had luck that my uncle used to be the ER director there, because he still had connections, and I didn't have to wait so long in the triage area, and then once I got into the actual ER, I had doctors walking up to me, saying "Oh, are you Doctor So and So's niece? He asked me to check up on you."
These are some people who work in places like hospitals that are very overworked, underpaid, and under appreciated, and I decided that no matter what, no matter what happened or what people did, I'd be pleasant and cheerful and polite and appreciative to them, and with that, hope that people would respond in kind.
I think it worked, because even staff members who looked grumpy beforehand had their face lighten up with my bright and cheery "Good morning! Thank you so much for the hard work you're doing!" and I wasn't given a hard time by a single staff member- only lots of smiles and compliments back.
I got an EKG (because my heart rate was elevated, probably due to stress/nervousness) and then an ultrasound of the veins in my leg... And fortunately, I was cleared- no abnormal EKG, no clots in my leg... turns out it was the benign, normal pregnancy leg swelling... After three hours in the ER, I was good to go.
While I was in the ER, I got two visitors who I wouldn't have seen otherwise, and met a really sweet nurse from my current country of residence who made it her mission to take care of me. :-D
Honestly, as much as it was annoying to have to go to the ER that morning, I actually had a fun time. I met lots of great staff at the hospital, got to see how things work with my own eyes... and actually, I realized how perfectly it worked out that I accidentally stayed in NY an extra 30 hours- because I had connections to the hospital in NY because of my uncle, but wouldn't likely have had the same type of connections if I had flown directly to Cleveland and needed the ER there... I don't know if my ~3 hour ER visit and the pleasant time I had there was because of my uncle's connection or my attitude, or the efficiency of the place, but I'm not discounting the likelihood that his connections helped, at least to some degree.
One meeting I ended up missing, but ended up having a phone meeting with her later, and I made the rest of my scheduled meetings. So it didn't really mess up anything after all.

When I flew in to the US, I didn't have to deal with TSA agents at all. But so far, I've gone through security with TSA agents twice.
People like to gripe about TSA and how terrible the agents are, how they are rude and annoying and brusque and really ruin the traveling experience.
I dunno.
I had no bad experience with TSA. Maybe I was just lucky... or maybe it's the attitude thing.
I know TSA agents have a bad rap. I think most people are mad at the agents for the rules that the TSA put in place, and some take out their resentment on these stricter rules on the agents whose job it is to enforce them. Being a TSA agent is a pretty thankless job, and it doesn't help when people show resentment to the TSA agents.
I decided that I would greet every TSA with a cheery "Good morning/evening" and a big smile, and thank them truly for what they do in helping keeping this a safer place. I told them that I know their job is pretty thankless, but I really appreciate what they're doing and the importance of it. These agents were transformed after I talked to them, it seemed. Ones that seemed grumpy beforehand broke out in a wide grin, and started chatting with me. I decided to opt out of the metal detector and the "naked scanner" and ask for a pat down instead, again, very politely, because I haven't researched enough about the safety of them and pregnancy, and I didn't want to take risks.... The TSA agents who gave me the pat down, again, were very sweet and polite and professional- I didn't feel violated in the slightest bit, and thanked them when they were finished.
So, 3 times so far with TSA, 3 times so far with a pleasant experience.

Saturday night I went out to dinner with a blog reader that I've been in touch with for a few years already. We had a great time, and when she went to drop me off at where I was staying, I didn't think to call first, and no one was home, and she wasn't answering her phone.
I was a little worried about what to do, but then I decided to try out a neighbor of hers, who had also offered to host me, and said that I could definitely hang out at her place, but she was going out to an engagement party... and oh- did I want to come along? I went with her to the engagement party (didn't eat anything, so I felt less bad crashing), for someone that I knew but not well, but ended up seeing a bunch of old friends of mine who were there that I wouldn't have seen otherwise, had I not come back to a locked house after my night out with my friend... :-D So things worked out beautifully!

The other pretty large snafu I had so far on my trip was this morning. I'm currently in Chicago, and I have something important planned in Kansas City for tonight.
I had booked a ticket with Frontier Airlines to Kansas City, with a stop over in Denver, leaving at 7:30 am, and arriving with a few hours to spare before my arrangement tonight.
A wonderful lady drove me to the airport- Ohare- this morning, and we arrived at 6:30 am, and had a hard time finding the terminal that Frontier Airlines flew from. Eventually we found it, and I lugged all my luggage to the desk, and they say "You're flying to Cancun?" "No... Denver." "You're in the wrong airport." "What?" "Yea- Frontier flies to Denver from Midway Airport in Chicago, not Ohare."
Oh. My. Gosh.
Head bang.
I looked at my e-ticket, and there it was. Midway Airport. Why I thought it was Ohare Airport? Well, as a non native Chicagoan, I didn't even know that there was more than one airport to choose from...
Unfortunately, Midway Airport and Ohare Airport are over an hour apart from each other, and there was no chance for me to make the flight. And even more unfortunately, the next flight Frontier offered from Chicago to Denver only left at 2:45 pm, after which I'd have to fly back to Kansas City, and there was no way on earth I'd make it there by 7 pm, when I needed to be there.
I decided that I'd take Greyhound instead... It's not TOO far from Chicago to Kansas city... but the shortest bus ride would last 12 hours, and wouldn't even get there on time... We checked out other bus companies and couldn't find any! Same with Amtrak.
I decided to look on Orbitz and see if there were any direct flights from Chicago to Kansas City that would get me there on time, and fortunately there was. For only 250 dollars. And it would arrive only 1 hour later than I was originally supposed to land in Kansas City...
So... I booked that.
Its a learning experience, this whole traveling for business thing. And I found out from friends that even native Chicagoans mix up the airports and go to the wrong one, so I felt less stupid as a non native Chicagoan making that mistake. Now I know not to only check which airline I am flying with, and which time, but also the airport that I am flying from... 250 dollars isn't cheap, but there certainly are more costly mistakes and lessons...
So now I am sitting in the airport in Chicago, waiting for my flight.
I truly believe that everything happens for a reason, and I wasn't meant to be on that flight. I may not always know the reason why things happen, but it wasn't in the books for me to be flying to Kansas City via Denver... And it worked out fine, with my being able to get another flight to Kansas City, and I'll be able to make my engagement tonight.

I'm now sitting in the airport, using the computer, surfing the net, updating my blog, etc...
I had some time to speak to my husband, find out how he and the kids are doing- amazingly well- I am super proud of him and how much of a capable dad he is...

So... I don't know. I don't know how many people would stress out/freak out if they had the snafus that I did, and how many people have pleasant experiences while traveling, etc... But I really think that my choosing to look at the positive, my choosing to have a good attitude and make the most of what happens, even if its not what was expected, is what's allowing me to have a really enjoyable trip thus far.


16 comments:

  1. KellyK(@RNCCRN9706)January 13, 2014 at 8:04 PM

    I'm the blog reader that went to dinner with Penny on Saturday. She's grace under pressure and a quick thinker on her feet! I'd have never guessed she was panicked about what to do when the first host wasn't home! Glad everything worked out in the end!

    I had a great time Penny! Was so nice to meet you in real life!!

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    1. Aww thanks! I tend to not panic externally- just internally... :-D I loved meeting you as well!

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  2. When you travel multiple times in a year I think it's worse. I fly home about once a year and I feel it's tolerable. It depends though on the people and all.

    Are you thinking of moving back to the States since you did some interviews? :) I hope you have a great trip! :)

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    1. No, not moving back. It wasn't job interviews. It was media interviews about the organization I am working for, and am here in the States about. :-D

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  3. Wow! That's all I have to is wow! Hope all the snafus r behind u. Safe travels!

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  4. I believe that attitude is everything. On one flight we had from Canada to the states the plane was late leaving and of course alot of travellers were upset. We did not have to catch a connecting flight so it did not matter what time we got into the states. Well we did arrive but our luggage did not. We went to the baggage dept and the lady said I was the nicest person she said she had ever dealt with, most are so angry. I told her that she did not lose my luggage therefore I had no reason to be upset with her. We picked up a couple of toothbrushes etc and we were fine for the night. The next day they delivered our luggage to us at the hotel. For us not having our luggage arrive was not the end of the world and I guess our attitude towards others showed that. Just another experience with flying.

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  5. I used to travel for work a lot and attitude is EVERYTHING. People forget this so often and the unique thing about airports is that the person you're talking to is often the only person who can fix your problem in time to salvage your trip.

    I've also had road warrior types make the same Midway-O'Hare mixup :)

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    1. Thank you! And yes, I feel less stupid now knowing how common the airport mix ups are.

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  6. Hi Penny,
    Have a save trip. I have been reading your blog for a while, but never commented, I wanted to say that I admire very much and love your recipes. Hope the rest of your trip goes as planned and have a save trip home

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  7. I never realized that you could brighten up someone's day with a simple thank you until I called Wells Fargo customer service twice because I had a problem with my account. Both times the person on the phone were professional and friendly and fast but they sounded kinda like they were walking on eggshells. When I thanked them, they sounded relieved and happy for the comment. Guess I was one of the few who don't call yelling and angry.

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  8. Travel safely and come home soon.

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  9. I agree that attitude really helps while traveling. I despise traveling, but I am an amazing traveler. With so much that can (and will) get messed up on flights, etc., it's best to just roll with it. Sounds like you're great at doing just that!

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  10. Attitude helps while travelling, like in life generally! I really wanted to tell you I admire you because you: 1. travel alone 2. across the sea 3. left kids at home 4. you manage to keep up with such a busy schedule 5. with great attitude - and on top o fall that: 6. while being pregnant!!! you are like a superwoman! :) Have a nice and safe rest of the trip, thank you for sharing it with us!

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  11. Attitude helps while travelling, like in life generally! I really wanted to tell you I admire you because you: 1. travel alone 2. across the sea 3. left kids at home 4. you manage to keep up with such a busy schedule 5. with great attitude - and on top o fall that: 6. while being pregnant!!! you are like a superwoman! :) Have a nice and safe rest of the trip, thank you for sharing it with us!

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  12. Traveling mix-ups are always so much easier to handle without babies and toddlers in tow! I've come to love the few times I can hang out and people-watch at airports without any other demands on my time. Its about the only guilt-free place to just hang out there still is. I hope the rest of your trip goes smoothly!

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