Sunday, February 8, 2015

On the way to Ireland

So Michael and Nancy have started another adventure.

But first, a little background.

During his last five years at Fidelity, Michael’s Boston-based team worked with a group based in Galway, Ireland. He always enjoyed the working relationships he had with the Ireland team, and he thinks that they liked him because he wasn’t as uptight as the Boston folks.

Last fall, one of the Galway-based Fidelity VPs contacted him and asked if she could arrange a call to discuss a possible consulting project. Sure, he thought, thinking she meant that he would be consulting remotely, since that was mostly how he had worked with them in the past. But during the conference call, when they said they would like Michael to come to Galway, he had to ask if they were serious. After they assured him that they were, he asked how long they had in mind.  Two months, they replied. After taking several deep breaths to slow down his racing heart, he said that he would have to think about it—which he did for 2.5 seconds—and told them it sounded fine.

The first problem, however, was that they wanted him to come before Christmas, but he was already booked on a project until the end of January and couldn’t get away. They said okay. When he heard a week later that a close Fidelity colleague was going to Galway for ten days during the first part of December, he thought that was the end of it.

Well, it wasn’t. Fidelity Ireland told Michael that they still wanted him to come, but that they had to look at next year’s budget and get back to him. In mid-December, they let him know that the funding had been approved for him to spend four weeks working in Galway, beginning in February.

Of course, Nancy wanted in on the deal, but wasn’t very enthusiastic about spending a whole month hanging out in Galway by herself while Michael worked. So they decided that she would wait to join him until his last week on the job, and then they would take a couple more weeks to drive around the Emerald Isle together before returning home. They also decided that since it had been over twenty years since they had visited Michael’s brother and his family in France, they would take the opportunity to cross the Celtic Sea and spend a few days with them in their home in La Rochelle.

Youngest daughter Stella gave her parents a copy of Fodor’s Guide to Ireland for Christmas, and Michael started working on a detailed itinerary.

As he began planning this adventure, Michael realized that six weeks away from his responsibilities as president of the Cincinnati Young Single Adult Branch of the LDS Church would be a hardship on other branch leaders and the local LDS community. Since the usual tenure for those who preside over YSA units is about three years, and since Michael had already served in this calling for more than four and a half years, he and the stake president concurred that this would be a good time for a leadership change. On Sunday 8 Feb 2015, Michael was released as branch president.

The moment Sunday’s testimony meeting ended at 2:15 pm, Michael dashed to the airport to catch a 4:15 pm flight.  As it turned out, he need not have rushed. When he checked his bag at CVG, he was told that bad weather had cancelled his flight and he would not be able to get to JFK for his direct flight to Dublin. So the airline rerouted him through Boston. (Apparently Delta’s computer system was not keeping up with reports of the monster snowstorm that was about to batter the whole northeastern US.) By the time Michael got to the gate for the Boston flight, he found that, yes, it had been delayed due to weather, rendering it highly unlikely that he would make his Paris-to-Dublin connecting flight. So Michael returned to the agent and asked if there were anything out of Atlanta—or anywhere else south of the storm.  Yes, they could get him to Atlanta, and then on a KLM flight to Amsterdam, and then on an Air Lingus flight to Dublin. Michael was very impressed at the level of service and concern all Delta personnel showed as they helped him get him to his destination.

On the trip to Atlanta, he sat beside a Delta pilot who told him more about the flying industry than he had ever imagined, e.g. how pilots and flight attendants bid for assignments.  He also got a very interesting account of the Delta/Northwest merger and some of the cultural challenges employees faced as a result.

Terminal F in Atlanta is not like the rest of Hartfield-Jackson Airport. For one thing, it is much newer, more spacious, and not as utilitarian as the other terminals. Michael had been told that since the flight didn’t leave until after 10:00 pm EST that there would be no dinner service, so he had blackened tilapia at a good restaurant in the terminal.

The KLM flight was on time and the Dutch crew very efficient and friendly. Michael was able to stretch out in his otherwise unoccupied bulkhead exit row. The attendant asked how he managed to get that seat since they normally don’t assign them before the flight--more evidence of the great Delta staff!

It turned out that there was an in-flight dinner service after all, but Michael was already full of tilapia, so he asked the attendant to not disturb him if he were asleep. Worried that he would not be able to sleep (based on previous overnight flying experiences) he had brought along some Ambien, so he took one and settled in. Then remembering that one tablet hadn’t worked when he flew to New Zealand last year, and since he was a little anxious due to all the flight changes, he threw caution to the wind and took a second one. When he woke up and asked the attendant about the dinner service, she said that they had done it already and that he had been sound asleep. He really must have been out if he hadn’t been at all aware of the cart going up and down the aisle and trays being passed. He checked the time and discovered that he had slept for four hours! The attendant also said that she had kept an eye on him because he had been sleepwalking. Good thing he was confined within a highly controlled environment! No more double-doses of Ambien for him!

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