The Alarm Bells Were Going Off In My Head


My flight out of Austin yesterday morning wasn’t what I’d describe as an early morning flight, but it felt like one. The flight wasn’t scheduled to depart until 7:00 a.m., but when you live an hour away from the airport, that necessitates an early departure from home. I left the house yesterday morning at 5:10 a.m. In case you’re wondering, I set my alarm for 4:00 a.m. When possible I attempt to schedule a non-stop flight from Austin to Washington Reagan National Airport. Consequently, I was a little surprised that I had a connecting flight out of Dallas Love Field.

Actually, the lag time didn’t seem significant. Arriving at Love Field shortly before 8:00 a.m., the flight to Washington National was scheduled for 8:55 a.m. I’m not sure how long I set at the gate awaiting the departure before I took my boarding pass out of my backpack. Looking at the flight number, I was confused. It didn’t match the flight number posted on the signage at the gate where I was sitting.

I went back and looked again at the listing of departing flights. There were three departing Southwest flights to Washington D.C. I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “Of course they were Southwest flights, after all you were at Love Field. Duh!” There was the one departing at 8:55 a.m. that wasn’t mine, another scheduled for 9:20 a.m. and one at 10:40 a.m. By the process of elimination, it was a simple choice, I intuitively headed for the gate for the 9:20 a.m. flight. It was gate #3. The earlier flight was at gate #2. The two gates were across from one another.

Just to be on the safe side, I took the boarding pass back out of my backpack to double-check the flight number. You already know where I’m going with this story. Mine was not the flight scheduled to depart at 9:20 a.m. I won’t tell you how long I sat at the gate looking at my boarding pass with a state of disbelief on my face. Why would Southwest Airline book me on a 7:00 a.m. flight to Washington, dump me out in Dallas and make me wait over 2 ½ hours to catch a connecting flight when there were two earlier flights?

My first thought was that this had to be a mistake. Yet, how do you argue with a printed boarding pass? The closet I came was to ask the two gate attendants what time the 10:40 flight arrived in Washington. I can’t remember if I was pleased or disappointed when they said 2:35 p.m..

Normally when I go to Washington for a meeting, I stay near DuPont Circle or the Foggy Bottom Metro Station near Georgetown University. I guess it is all about location, location, location. I like the architecture in that area. This time I was doing something entirely different. I was staying near National Airport in Arlington, VA. It was all about the money. I got a really good deal on a 4-Star hotel. Why pay $249 a night when you can get one for less than half that amount? Besides that, I had stayed at the Hilton in Crystal City last summer when I attended the annual meeting of POW/MIA Families. In fact, over the weekend I had received an invitation in the mail including hotel information for this year’s meeting in June. It was scheduled for the same hotel as last year and the one where I have reservations for this week.

With time to kill on my hands, I looked up the website for the Hilton Hotel in Crystal City, VA. I wanted to know which metro line to take to get to the hotel. The first thing I noticed in looking at the hotel website is that it is only rated as a 3-Star hotel.

Despite the fact that I had stayed there for 3 nights less than a year ago, it didn’t resonate with my memory. I was sure I had booked my reservation at a 4-Star hotel. Instead of asking the question regarding Metro Line I had telephoned to ask, when the phone was answered by the hotel attendant, I asked: “Do you mind checking to see if I have a hotel reservation for tonight?” The answer that was provided set off alarm bells in my head. “We don’t have a reservation under that name.”

Despite the fact that my cell phone is identified as Austin Forest, I don’t make hotel reservations under any name other than my own. If I didn’t have a hotel reservation at the Hilton in Crystal City, at what hotel did I make a reservation for using Priceline?

The line: “Hello Houston, we’ve got a problem”, was playing itself out in my head. The only way to access my electronic records from Priceline was to log on to the server at work. To say that was easier said than done is an understatement. I had tried to log on from home several times over the past two days with no success. What was I going to do?

Somehow being clueless as to the name of the hotel where I had reservations for the next three nights seemed like a bigger problem that having to wait until 10:40 a.m. to catch a flight out of Dallas to Washington. Truth be known, it could take me the extra time to sort through hotels near National Airport to figure out where I had a reservation.

I had the sense that locating the hotel where I had reservations might be like looking for a needle in a haystack. How many calls can one initiate to different hotels asking: “Do you have me down for a reservation”, before one actually begins to feel pretty stupid? Don’t say it! That wasn’t even a nice thing to think.

I can hear the General now? She would never have left home without written confirmation of the hotel reservation in her hand. And just for the record, she wouldn’t have had to look to find it. She would have known exactly where it was filed. Sometime overly organized people can come off a little too self-righteous for my taste.

If it really is “all about the adventure”, finding the name of my hotel was going to be an interesting game to play. Under the auspices of “winners and losers”, I was going to have all the motivation I needed to try and try again until I came up with the winning name. The room reservation was already paid for on my agency credit card. In addition, it was only a fraction of the cost for another hotel. I could not afford to lose. I had to be a winner!

Scanning a listing of hotels in Arlington, VA, the website for the Westin Hotel looked interesting. For one thing, it was listed as a 4-Star hotel. Secondly, it was a SPG hotel. I can’t remember what SPG stands for, but I am a member. The only benefit I can think of associated to membership is free Wi-Fi. However, my biggest concern is that the website identified rates starting at $309 a night.

Unlike the game of “I Spy”, I had absolutely no frame of reference other than the 4-Star rating to go on. I asked the person answering the phone, “Can you confirm for me that I have a reservation for tonight? After providing her my name, she asked: “What are the days for your reservation?” Alarm bells were going off in my head again. If they had to ask the date after I had already asked whether I had a reservation for last night, I was worried.

You have no idea how relieved I was when the person on the other end of the line affirmed that I had a reservation. To make the deal even sweeter, the Metro Station was directly across the street from the hotel. It doesn’t get any better than that!

All My Best!




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