Monday, March 18, 2013

March Madness At Savannah Hilton Head International

So here's the timeline: On Sunday evening the NCAA Tournament bracket was released. Immediately after that, the NIT schedule was released, and at approximately 10:30 PM on Sunday evening I learned my assignment: Tuesday night in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

On Monday morning, I called travel and couldn't get a flight until much later in the day - thanks largely to the St. Patrick's weekend exodus. So I got a seat on the 6:25, complete with an upgrade.

But once I got to SAV, Atlanta was shut down. There was a tornado watch and several planes were diverted into Savannah. This added to the mayhem at an airport that does very little activity (at least outgoing) in the evenings.

Since there was an indefinite delay I waited in the gate area. I sat on the floor close to the desk so I could monitor the off-mic updates while I charged my cell phone and read my book.

By the way, how is it in this day and age we don't have cell phones that can be fully recharged in a minute? We put a man on the moon, right? I can send a message halfway around the world in a millisecond, but I have to sit in one place while my phone interminably juices?

Sorry about the digression. My proximity to the activity gave me a keen read on human behavior, and it was kind of like watching a bell curve in a petri dish.

Lined-up customers went from frustrated to irate to resigned to their fate. The (one) gate agent went from overwhelmed to extremely rude to mildly helpful. The diverted Atlanta-bound plane from Fort Walton Beach off-loaded and re-boarded before our doors even opened, adding to everyone's misery. I simply canceled my hotel in Tuscaloosa and thought about where to stay in the Atlanta area tonight.

We finally took off (pictured above) 3 hours and 20 minutes late with an arrival time more than 4 hours behind schedule. Now I consider myself a pretty hardcore veteran traveler. I can handle a crappy seat on an airplane or a long delay, but turbulence sucks. We flew right through the storm, and I closed my eyes and gripped my hands on the armrests like a scared little kid.

The phrase I use with my colleagues about the NIT is "The Victory Lap." After a long, hard basketball season there's one or a couple nice, low pressure games. Unfortunately it timed out with the low pressure in the Georgia atmosphere.

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