Mickey's Mail - 3/28/18 - Travel Nightmares
One of the very best things about my job as the CEO of the Bridgeport Regional Business Council is that I seldom must fly anywhere on business. That was not the case in my previous positions where I would sometimes have 20 or more “fly-away” business trips a year. And I guess I could never prove it, but it always seemed I had more than my share of flight delays and cancellations, and, spoiler alert, I don’t do well in dealing with this type of adversity.
Last week, I attended the Connecticut Business and Industry Association’s Annual Retreat near Orlando, Florida. Several BRBC board members sit on this board, as do several other CEOs from greater Bridgeport. It is an important opportunity for our group to stand up and speak up for our region.
The trip down to Orlando was uneventful, and it was an excellent retreat which focused on political advocacy for business interests, primarily at the state level.
The trip home, though, was not uneventful. I was booked on a Jet Blue flight into Westchester County Airport on the very day our fourth northeaster was set to hit us. As Scott Appleby’s Weather Alerts became more and more dire, I decided to change my flight to early evening of the day before the storm was to hit Connecticut. Since I had frequent flyer bona fides, albeit somewhat outdated, I felt that I had outsmarted Mother Nature.
Wrong! What I failed to realize was that the northeaster had already begun snaking up the east coast, and all the big cities south of our state had been affected. I also didn’t realize that the thunderstorms, and TORNADO warnings in Orlando might affect our ability to take off from sunny (ha!) Florida.
What happened next was rather torturous since JetBlue began sending me delays on my cell phone. The first one was for ½ hour. No big deal. But then they began to pop up in rapid succession, with additional one hour delays each time. It got so that I dreaded looking at my phone.
Of course, what I feared the most was a notice of cancellation, which would have been especially cruel after five delay notices. I had already surrendered my rental car and had left my hotel. When I had left from White Plains airport on the way down, my wife, Jackie, had kindly offered to drive me, so I had no personal vehicle parked at the airport, but I was also dependent on Jackie picking me up. Meeting me at 8:00 PM was one thing but meeting me at midnight, well that’s a different story.
Fortunately, I was able to book a car to take me home. And that big northeaster was still many hours away from CT. We flew over at least part of it, and experienced panic-worthy turbulence (another reason I’m glad I don’t fly much anymore). It was nice, by the way, in the vein of “misery loves company” to share this experience with Tim Shearin of Pullman & Comley and Tom and Mary Lynn Santa of Santa Energy, who suffered through this trip with me.
I sprawled into my house at 1:30 AM, deliriously happy to be home safe and sound. And then I learned that JetBlue had cancelled all flights into the NYC area for the next day (later that day), including the one I had originally booked. And their flights for the next few days were booked solid.
I know many of you have much worse travel stories, and I have a few humdingers myself, and during the hours I had to sit and wait at the Orlando airport, all those bad memories came flooding back to me. If you are so inclined, let me know your worst flying experience, and I will share the best (i.e., the worst) here on this blog.
I will continue to drive all over Connecticut representing the BRBC, and you won’t hear me complain about that. Just don’t ask me to fly anywhere, except once in a great while.
And for those of you who do fly all the time, I respect you greatly for what you do. I did it myself for many years. But with old age, my patience for the inconvenience of air travel has worn very thin. Except when it all goes smoothly, of course.
Downtown Bridgeport Parking Meters
When I began my job here 17 months ago, the City of Bridgeport was in the process of installing big, fancy new parking meters on select streets in downtown Bridgeport. The meters would take a picture of a license plate of a vehicle if the meter was expired, and the owner of the vehicle would shortly receive a $40 ticket in the mail. At first, the credit card feature was inoperative, but eventually you could use your credit card in the new meters.
These meters very quickly became hugely unpopular with downtown merchants who felt that they were driving away patrons who might frequent their business establishment.
Our Bridgeport Chamber of Commerce (BCC) got involved and although it took quite a while, the city finally decided to remove these new meters and install simpler ones that will still accept credit cards.
Here’s what one of the leading downtown merchants had to say to Karen DelVecchio, our BCC Executive Director, about our involvement: “On behalf of the merchants and myself, thank you for bringing the Bridgeport Chamber’s voice and the BRBC to the table. I think the city saw it was a big enough problem to finally take action over the meters/parking. Without you at the table, it would have a steeper climb. It’s a small step for business growth but welcomed.”