I got sent to Texas for work. My new job has their HQ in Austin, and they were sending me to go shadow my Austin equivalent and learn how they do things. I was excited! I was going to Texas! I was going to eat all the TexMex and go to all the live shows and meet some cowboys! I was going to be warm! Very very excited. 8am in London. (2am in Austin). Showed up on time to Heathrow (which is pretty miraculous considering the epic night I'd had before hand - a friends party turned into something slightly more debaucherous than I expected, and I didn't get crash out till the very early hours of the morning - whoops!). No worries checking in, got on the plane and tried to crashed out. Best I managed was a sad little doze. And our plane was delayed on the runway - we arrived in NYC whole 40 minutes late.
12noon in New York City. (5pm in London. 11am in Austin). I was met outside the gate by an Agent who had a neon orange envelope with my connection boarding pass in it. Grabbed my luggage, checked it in for the new flight and legged it through customs, and then security. I took my shoes off, had my laptop out and was scanned by TSA's full body xray thing - I was super efficient about the whole thing, and the second I was out of the scanner I had my gear and was off for the gate... sadly, just in time to see my plane roll away. Siiiiigh.
I walked the long walk back through the terminal to the concourse to American Airlines ticketing section where half a dozen other missed connections were waiting. A few people couldn't be helped (one nice man who stood in line with me was from Cairo lost his shit when AA told him they couldn't help. To be fair, the AA agent helping him was a pretty aggressive horrible lady). I was lucky, my AA agent was super lovely, and managed to get me a flight to Austin, but via Houston. Also from a different airport across the city.
They got me a cab (which another rude guy tried to hijack) and I rode through NYC to La Guardia. I got a quick look at NYC, past a few stadiums. The sun was setting, so I got a quick look at the Manhattan skyline, and I was sad I didn't have more time to spend out that way! There was more fun security business (the millimeter wave body scan this time, instead of the backscatter kind) and I made the United (yeah, AA got me to switch airlines so I could make the last) flight out to Houston. I was sat in the very back row, in the middle of a row of three, right by the bathrooms. Gross. Worst seat ever. There was no sleeping on this flight, despite all my efforts.
Some random time in Houston. (Still random in Austin + in London) Arrived in Houston with no luggage (it was checked in to the AA flight to Austin that I missed) so that was easy. Was scared about missing my Austin connection, so I legged it fairly quick through the concourse, practically dancing as I waited for the train to terminal B. I should have saved my dancing. My 10.55 flight was delayed. The plane showed up around 11.55 instead. Oh delayed planes. It was a bit of a disaster - they were asking for people to volunteer to fly the next morning because the flight was overbooked. I avoided her gaze - I definitely wanted to get to Austin. The plane was a little tiny one, two seats on each side. It seemed like a short flight, for which I was very very glad (I was well over flying after flight number three).
1.15am in Austin. (7.15am in London) Mad dash off the plane (so many mad dashes!) towards the baggage claim. I was hoping against hope that a) the AA Baggage Office would still be open and that b) my bag had made it to Austin before more. I was lucky, they were just closing up as I got there. I handed over my ticket stubb and they (after a very tense 10 minutes where we had a conversation about what I had to do to get my stuff if they didn't have it) wheeled out my very distinctive bag. I did a dance! I was very glad to see it.
1.35am in Austin. (7.35am in London) Next stop was Avis. I had a car reservation and I was all keen to pick it up and get back to the hotel. Except first the calculated charge was huge. Turns out the UK government had put the wrong birthdate on my UK drivers license when I traded my NZ one in - they had made me three years younger, which made me under 25, which made the insurance huge. Gaah. After some quick negotiation and passport proof it was changed, and it the price was back to something reasonable. Except that Lloyds, fucking Lloyds, had activated their fraud concern thing and blocked all my funds. I called them, but they'd put me on hold, and because I was roaming the call was spensive, and I ran out of credit. Which I couldn't top up, as my card was blocked. I had cash, but Avis wouldn't take cash as they needed the assurance of a credit card in case I totalled the car. I almost cried. Instead, I got in a taxi, and headed out to my hotel.
2.45am in Austin. (8.45am in London) Turns out you can't check in to my hotel without a credit card. I cried at the desk, completely defeated after an epically rubbish day. I had no way to contact anyone, and no one really to contact - I didn't know anyone in Austin. The lady took pity on me, and said that if I took care of it the next day, and had someone come down to the hotel with a company credit card, then that would be fine. I thanked her for her kindness, and I felt very very small, and completely humiliated.
Conveniently, my hotel had free wifi, and with it being just a bit before 9am in London, I had people I could get in touch with. My best friend was online (I love that she starts work earlier than everyone else, and was around to help) - she was able to Top Up my phone from across the pond, and after some failed wrangling with the online Top Up process, she promised to go out and get a Top Up voucher for my phone.
Also, everyone from work was appearing online, so I sent a quick, awkward message to my manager to say that it was all going horribly wrong and I wasn't sure what to do. He promised to take care of the hotel costs, and someone from the office would take care of everything else. Whew!
I think I crashed out around 3.30am (in Austin. 9.30am in London). When I woke a few hours later, ready for the Austin work day, my phone had been topped up (yay for besties!) and I could call Lloyds and yell at them (yay! Access to funds!). I'd finally made it to Texas, and things were slowly coming right.
It was an epic failure of a trip, where (almost!) everything that could have gone wrong did (I'm very conscious that I could have lost my bag, I'm so so grateful that I didn't!). Still, in the end I made it safe and sound. Things can only go up from here.
So yeah, woo Austin! Made it!
Note: the journey back was just as bad. Missed connections, delayed flights, lost luggage, and when I finally did get my luggage back? My awesome case had been broken. Fuck you, American Airlines. You are rubbish.