Last thursday, at 4pm, I was supposed to take a plane from San Francisco to North Bend to celebrate a good friend’s 70th birthday, who had came all the way from France with his wife. He’s a huge golfer and one of his dream was to play Bandon Dunes. We had planned everything to give him the experience of a lifetime.
We all met at my office and drove to the airport. Once there, we checked-in, went through security, and we were walking to the gate when a screen announced that our flight was cancelled. Really? OK. Let’s just get on another flight to get us close to our destination, and we can drive there. Destination: United customer service desk.
A smiling dude asked us what happened. We explained the situation to him (including the birthday, the fact that we had to be there before 8am etc…), he briefly looked at our tickets and declared that there is nothing he can do, but he was happy to refund the tickets. We asked him if he could at least check, and he said no. After a few exchanges in the most polite way, we convinced him to at least look if there were other flights that would get us closer. He turned on his computer, type a couple of letters, and then told us there is nothing, but he could go and get his manager. He left and went to sit down on the other side of the desk, chatting with someone else (the manager never came).
In the meantime, two of his colleagues noticed the situation and decided to jump in. They were very helpful, and clearly embarrassed by what happened. Despite all their efforts, nothing was available for us to fly anywhere near our destination. They offered to put us on waiting lists etc…
With no flights available for 48hrs, our only option to get to Bandon Dunes was to rent a car. It’s an 11 hours ride. But what the hell? Since the plane was cancelled, there must have been other folks impacted, and that should give us some flexibility with our tee times.
Obviously, we had to wait for our luggages (up to 2 hrs according to United) to come out. While two of us went to take care of the car, the others waited for the luggages. We rented a mini van for the one way trip (we had confirmed with united that we could use our return tickets). By the time we were driving, the luggages had arrived, so we were on our way. At 6:15pm. On a friday night. And we had to cross the Bay Bridge, coming from the airport. Traffic.
We took a couple of short cuts, and made it through the bridge by 7pm (which was quite good) and were finally on our way. Estimated arrival time: 6am. Ouch.
We were driving fine, and at 11pm, we saw a sign indicating that all vehicles will be screened north of Redding. Screened? What does that mean? We didn’t really know, so we continued. At some point, we switched the radio to the AM updates. “Chains required”. WTF? Chains?
We had never realized we were going though the mountains, and obviously, didn’t have chains. We went all the way to the check point, thinking someone there will sell chains. No luck. The folks checking the vehicles told us to check the gas station a few miles behind us. We went there, and nothing. We looked around, asked folks, checked a 24hrs Wallmart. Nothing. No chains. It wasn’t the “chains” season, so everybody was out. What do we do?
Go back home? It’s a long drive. What if the weather gets better? Well, they actually forecasted worst weather for the next 36hrs. We finally decided to stay at a motel. Of course, the first one we picked was full, but the second one had vacancies. By the time we went to bed, it was 1:30am.
We decided to wake up at 5:30am to check on the weather and the situation. It was exactly the same. Chains required. We had until 8am before the first store open. Back to sleep for a couple of hours. At 7:30am, we brainstormed, and decided going back home was now a serious option on the table, especially since the weather forecasted at Bandon Dunes was 50mph wind, and 1.5 inches of rain.
We decided to call Hertz, to ask them if there is a price change in case we return the car in San Francisco. Yes there is! It is twice more expensive! I tweeted to them, hoping for someone more helpful, but they replied that I should talk to customer service (yes, according to them, twitter is not customer service). Basically, we had to find chains, since going back home was suddenly looking very expensive!
By 9am, after going through yellow pages, we finally found some and by 9:30 we were on our way. By 4pm, we arrived at Bandon Dunes.
We played the day after. It was actually a gorgeous weather. All those obstacles that wanted to prevent us from fulfilling a dream. But we didn’t give up. There was always one of us to remind us of the dream, and that we were not going to let events stop us.
What is true here is also true in the business world. Persistence and perseverance will lead us to unexpected and beautiful places.