Thursday, 12 April 2012

Travels and Tribulations

Today's entry is not about birds. Not that I didn't hear a lot of birds calling in New Hampshire this morning,(I had a few hours free to explore some not so hot birding spots), and I did see a few commoners, such as Robins and Black-capped Chickadees.  But, no, this is story is about the journey.

The day began very nicely in the Porter Airlines lounge, which I would recommend to any traveler.   Free coffee and soft drinks, comfy chairs and Internet.  And a nice, quick flight to Boston, where it should have been a milk run to Manchester after I picked up my rental car.

Okay, it did start well, as the good folks at Enterprise, North America's friendliest car rental company, picked me up at Logan airport in Boston and whisked me to the pick-up office in a timely manor.  While on the airport bus I used my GPS app on my iPhone to find my hotel in Manchester.  Address entered, I put the phone on my belt, and went inside to get the car.  No worries, they were fast and efficient and I was ready to go in minutes.  I tossed my stuff into the car, plugged in my phone charger and reached for my phone.  And then I looked for my phone.  And then I panicked, a little.  No phone.  Not again.  I have left my share of phones on airplanes, and in cabs and now, it seemed, on a bus.  I looked again.  On and under the seats.  Went back into the rental car office.  No phone.  Looked on the ground where I got off the bus.  Nothing.

I asked them to check with the drivers.  Perhaps one of them found my phone.  No one reported a lost phone on a bus.  When the busses arrived, one by one I entered and searched them with no success.  This was like looking for and not finding a bird reported on E-birds Rare Bird Alert.  It was the Roadrunner all over again!

It could have been maddening if not for the sheer lunacy of it.  It always happens to me and not at the best of times.  It was after 11pm.  By the time all six airport pickup busses had come and gone it was closer to midnight and I had to admit defeat and go on with my life.  I still had my Blackberry from work, and I had already lost one of those.  Better my personal phone than my work phone again.  I gave the Enterprise manager my number and asked them to call me if the phone showed up.  The woman behind the counter suggested I use Apple's Find My iPhone feature.  Ah ha!  Except that I am in the states with a Canadian phone and had data roaming turned off.  Find my iPhone didn't find my iPhone.  It didn't "just work."  As a last resort, I tried to call my phone I but couldn't hear it ring in the office or in or around my car and if someone had found it, they weren't answering.

With no GPS, I needed directions to Manchester, so I asked if they could print me up MapQuest directions.  No worries there, the good folks at Enterprise were quick to help with that too.  And off I went.  There was no clearly marked exit sign for the rental car lot and I almost drove over the tire exploding spikes as I tried to exit the wrong way.  This was getting better and better.

With a little manoeuvring and backing up and a lot of luck I found the exit.  Turn right and right again and go toward I93 N and you will be well on your way, only an hour late and really, what is an hour in the grand scheme of things?  Except, when I finally emerged from one of the Boston tunnels made famous in The Big Dig,(you should check it out sometime), I found that the entrance to I93 N, the only way to Manchester that I knew of without a functioning GPS, was closed.  Now I was lost in downtown Boston and it was close to midnight.  Great.  Now what?

The Blackberry has a GPS.  Perhaps the worst GPS on any Smart Phone ever built, so I gave up on that idea rather quickly.  I drove in circles around the closed highway exit, opening my window and asking other lost drivers if they knew another way to I93.  The first one did not.  But the second one, who was also heading toward I93 said to just follow them.  Whew.   Except, I was thinking, what if they were having me follow them into some dead end ally way to kill me, or even worse, rob me of my last remaining cell phone?  Never mind, it would make a good story if I survived.  On I went.  But real life is never as exciting as imagination and after a long series of right and left turns into what seemed like the middle of nowhere, they pointed out the window to my right and low and behold, there was an entrance to I93 N.

Except it was nothing but construction cones and darkness.  I slowly climbed the ramp, so slowly that it was not nearly fast enough for the tractor trailer behind me and as I slowed to figure out what lane to merge into, the truck nearly rammed me from behind and the driver blared on his horn to let me know how dissatisfied he was with my lack of Bostonian Driving Skills.  I had forgotten to close my window and as I finally picked up speed onto the highway, a gust of wind blew my rental car agreement out the window, with quite a flourish.  Well, at this point, why not?

The rest of the drive was mostly uneventful, except for the taxi driver who refused to let me change lanes when more cones loomed up ahead and I had to get over before I crashed into them like a crazed crash test dummy.

It was not over yet.  I still had to find my way to the hotel, and even with Mapquest directions still made a wrong turn or two that I had to recover from.  Eventually I pulled into the hotel parking lot, and went in to register for my room.  Room?  What room?  We don't have a reservation for you, I was told.  Huh?  I was sent a confirmation number from the hotel.  I have it on my Blackberry.  In the car.  I had to go back out to the car to retrieve it.  I come in and they tell me, oh, this reservation is for tomorrow and, at 2am, it was far too early to check in.  I almost lost it.  Trying to remain calm, I said, "You mean, you won't let me stay here tonight?"

No, no I was told, they just have to change the reservation to have me check in "yesterday."

Fine.  Today, tomorrow, yesterday, I just wanted to sleep.

It all did work out, I am glad to say.  In the end, I did arrive safely at my destination, was given a room with a view of the New Hampshire Fisher Cat's ball field, with a very comfy bed and two complimentary bottles of water.

Oh, and that elusive bird, ahm, lost cell phone that got this all started?  When I went out to the car to get my luggage, and opened the driver side door, the glow of the overhead lamps from the parking lot revealed a glint of metal.  It was the clip from my leather phone case, wedged between the seat and the seatbelt strap, where it anchors to the floor.  It was there all along, just like so many birds I have chased this year.  I checked the phone.  4 missed calls by me and the ringer was off, or I'd have heard it ring 3 hours earlier and, perhaps, none of the above would have ever happened.

But what fun would that have been?

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