Not an architecture post, so if you are looking for technical content, skip this post.

This week, I am in Nashville Tennessee at the Gartner Application Architecture, Development and Integration conference and the Gartner Enterprise Architecture conference.  I’ll post seperately on content, and ideas, that I’m going to adopt.  I may even disagree with an analyst or two (yiikes!) but I’m really enjoying this content.  For those folks who work in Enterprise Architecture or in any derivation of strategic architecture, I heartily recommend this conference.

Travel to get here is a story that I am compelled to tell, for the sheer red tape of it.

Last year, I was going to come to the Gartner conference.  It was in San Diego and I had purchased tickets on Alaska Air.  I didn’t get to go, so my ticket from Alaska air was just sitting on my desk, waiting to be used.  This year, with the conference in Nashville, I called the travel agent and asked to pay the change fee to use it.  No go.  Alaska doesn’t fly to Nashville, and their code partner, American Air, wasn’t going to accept the ticket.  The agent told me that to use last year’s ticket would cost $1,300.  To buy a new one was less than $500.  Clearly, it was cheaper to throw away last year’s ticket!  That was 90 minutes I’m not getting back. 

So I booked my flight on American Airways.  It was not a direct flight.  I would change planes in Houston.  Fortunately, I had only a 60 layover.  The travel site failed to register my frequent flier number, but I figured I’d take care of that at the Airport. 

So I got to Seattle Tacoma airport about 75 minutes before flight time, normally plenty of time to catch a flight.  Except that this was Sunday, and the cruise ships had let off a huge group of travelers all wishing to return home.  The airport was packed.  It took nearly 45 minutes to check my bag and another 15 minutes to get through security.  I got to the gate just as they were due to begin boarding.  Whew.

No boarding.  We just sat.  After a few minutes, the gate agent announced that the flight time was delayed by two hours.  There was a part not working in the cockpit of the plane.  The airline was calling other airlines to see if one of them had the part on hand (not kidding… they went begging for parts).  Many passengers just sat.  I decided not to sit.  I went to the gate agent and asked to move the connecting flight to a later flight.  That way, if I got to Houston late, I wouldn’t miss my connection.  No problem.

The agent promised to make an announcement in 20 minutes.  After 30 minutes, I figured they were going to cancel the flight and, wanting to get a jump on all the passengers who were now waiting in line at the gate desk, I called my travel agent and asked for another flight.  Had to cancel the entire round trip and rebook on Northwest airways.  Turns out the flight on Northwest was going to be cheaper anyway.  While I was on the phone, the American Air flight was cancelled.  100 cell phones lit up at once.  I already had my alternate ticket.  Good call. 

However, I had to get my bags from baggage claim and go recheck in to Northwest.  The flight was two hours away.  It would be close.

Baggage claim didn’t take long.  Maybe 20 minutes.  So I go back up to check in to Northwest.  Cruise traffice was even heavier, and since Northwest flies international out of Seattle, there was a LOT of folks in line.  The line was HUGE.  Almost an hour in that line.  My plane was about to board and my bags were finally on the belt.  Time to sprint to the flight…

Oh, wait… security.  Again.

This time, I had purchased the flight that day.  This time, I got the special treatment.  I got to be patted down and have my bag inspected.  So five minutes before boarding begins, and I’m begging with the TSA agent to let me skip through the frequent flier line to go around an hour-long security line.  She takes one look at my boarding pass, sees the SSSSSS that says “he’s in for a fine time” and sends me through.

TSA is great.  I love these guys. I don’t care what anyone else says.  They are professional, quick, thorough, and they keep me safer, by a long shot, than the patchwork quilt of security that was in place five years ago.  Thank God the democrats didn’t back down with Bush opposed creating the TSA.

As efficient as they were, I got out of there in 10 minutes.  Flight was boarding… in the South gate.  I needed to ride a subway to get to the plane.  So I’m sprinting to the subway station.  (Not a pretty sight).  I had a pepsi in my bag.  I leaked.  On my paperback book.  So here I was, running through the terminal, dripping brown soda in a steady stream behind me. 

Got to the gate and checked in.  Got on the flight, panting and sweaty. 

And then sat.  This flight had a mechanical problem too.  We sat for 40 minutes at the gate, in a hot plane, before they got it fixed.  Great.  I still had a connection, this time in Memphis.  The layover was, once again, an hour, and there were no later flights.  If I missed the connection, I’d be spending the night in Memphis.

Got to Memphis.  I bolt out of the plane (leaving behind my windbreaker), and head for the other flight at top speed, once again tearing through the terminal.  Got to the other gate… an no need to rush… that flight had been delayed for TWO HOURS.  The plane hadn’t arrived in Memphis yet.


The next flight arrived and we got to Nashville fine, but a trip that was supposed to last a few hours turned into an odyssey I won’t soon forget. 

By Nick Malik

Former CIO and present Strategic Architect, Nick Malik is a Seattle based business and technology advisor with over 30 years of professional experience in management, systems, and technology. He is the co-author of the influential paper "Perspectives on Enterprise Architecture" with Dr. Brian Cameron that effectively defined modern Enterprise Architecture practices, and he is frequent speaker at public gatherings on Enterprise Architecture and related topics. He coauthored a book on Visual Storytelling with Martin Sykes and Mark West titled "Stories That Move Mountains".

3 thoughts on “Showing up can be the hardest part”
  1. And I thought my experience was bad…

    I went to the same conference and ended up having both my leaving and returning flights take an additional 2 hours.  I just had to sit in a cramped seat for a while.  In comparison, my trip experience appears to have been a walk in the park.

  2. But we had a delightful time at the Sun Studios restaurant.

    There could have been worse things then spending the night in Memphis; after the conference I took some vacation and spent a day in Memphis, which was thoroughly enjoyable.   And Graceland is a must see.  Elvis is making a lot of people a lot of money even from the grave.

  3. @Brenda,

    Good to "see" you, again.  Yes, it was nice to run into other travelers stuck in the same bind and to "share a pint" along the way.

    Hopefully, we’ll see more of each other in other Architect functions here in the Seattle/Redmond area.

    — Nick

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