6.05.2009

My Night in Puerto Rico


How did a trip to St. Thomas end up with me spending a night in Puerto Rico? The answer is a business trip that felt more like The Amazing Race.

This past Wednesday, I was slated to present to the Governor of the US Virgin Islands on our economic development work down there. Because the meeting was scheduled for 1 pm, and because June is now considered off-peak for travel to St. Thomas, I had to fly down the day before, fly up the day after, and spend two nights on island in between. And there were no direct flights from Philadelphia.

So on my way in, I had an almost three-hour layover scheduled in Miami. Having never been, I was kind of looking forward to having extended time, if even in the airport, to catch a vibe of the place. Plus, I had plenty of reading material to make good use of the down time.

Unfortunately, our flight out of Philadelphia was four hours late getting out. So by the time we touched down in Miami, I had missed my connector. And, at 7 pm, it was getting relatively late in terms of alternative options.

I guessed there were no more flights that night to St. Thomas, and was correct, so I assumed I'd easily have enough time the next morning to catch the first thing out and make it on island in plenty of time to prepare for my presentation. I figured that because the delay in Philadelphia was mechanically related, I'd get a hotel voucher, spend an unanticipated but relaxing evening in Miami, and start all over again the next morning.

Except that the first thing out to St. Thomas from Miami the next morning apparently didn't leave until 11 am, and was full anyway. "What about through San Juan," I asked, my voice betraying a sudden desperateness in my plight. "No, that doesn't get you into St. Thomas in time," replied the kind representative. Now my brow is increasingly furrowing, as I contemplate what my options might possibly be at this juncture.

The kind representative was quick on his feet. "I could get you into San Juan tonight, and you could fly out of there first thing tomorrow morning, and that would get you in." Brilliant! I made it to the gate as they were boarding, got on, and starting thinking about my chances of landing a hotel room in an unfamiliar city that wasn't originally on my flight itinerary.

We landed in San Juan after 10 pm, and as I made it to customer services, my heart sank as I realized how empty the airport was becoming. Thankfully, I found another kind representative, who said he'd see what he could do.

Complicating matters was the fact that my original itinerary involving US Airways to Miami and American to St. Thomas. So I was talking to a representative from American, but the fault lied with US Airways. But I was in luck. The kind representative (from American) said he had spoken to his counterpart at US Airways and had secured me a hotel voucher.

I had a little trouble physically getting to the US Airways desk - I may have broken some federal laws in terms of going through doors I shouldn't have - but eventually made it, secured the voucher, and found my way to the hotel, which was conveniently located inside the airport. And I also got some meal vouchers, so was able to decompress in my room over chicken Caesar salad and bottled water at 11:30 pm.

The next morning, I checked out and, within two minutes, was in line for security. And shortly thereafter, I was touching down in St. Thomas, with plenty of time for breakfast and presentation prep.

The rest of the day also went smoothly, as my business partner and I made our way to the Government House, met with the Governor and his staff, and then afterward enjoyed a lush hike to and swim in Magens Bay. We concluded our successful day with a pleasant dinner with his fiancee at a lovely restaurant overlooking Magens Bay on the north side, and then opted for dessert at a second restaurant along the marina on the south side.

Needless to say, I slept well that night, two long days behind me and a travel day home ahead of me. I'm glad most of my business travel involves subways and short walks locally, and train rides and day trips for clients outside of Philadelphia. And I'm glad that, when my business does involve a plane ride, it's to a place as gorgeous as St. Thomas; and that, even when delays throw carefully planned schedules out of the window, things still work out in the end.
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