Sometimes It Takes A Village To Move From A To B
Even the self-sufficient need a hand when the going gets complicated
I was on my way out the door to flag a cab to JFK for an international flight when I got the text from my assistant, Jessica: “Check your email—it looks urgent.”
The morning (and the night before) had been tough. The usual pile-up that happens before a long trip—loose ends to tie up and a bevy of last minute requests—were on top of a rough night personally. I was in that state of readiness to throw myself into a cab and nap on the way to the airport.
No such luck.
The email Jessica spotted was related to an application for an additional accreditation we were seeking. According to the message, we had seven days to furnish security-sensitive documents and to obtain a vendor number from the city of New York, or our application would be rejected.
Just like that.
Even on a typical day, leaving town for five weeks isn’t easy, but with this new wrinkle, we were in a pickle. I immediately called the proper government number and was routed through three different people (after explaining the situation to each person, of course). Now running late for the airport, I pinged Jessica and headed down to the corner, bags in tow, to hail a cab.
Only now it was the turnover hour between shifts, and that meant that NYC cabs were scarce.
So, the minutes got longer and I found myself wondering if it was even possible for me to make it to the airport in time. It would soon be rush hour; the traffic was becoming heavier already.
Mercifully, after I don’t even know how long alternating my cab-flagging arm in the air, an off-duty cab stopped, asked where I was going, and for once did not shake his head and speed away when I replied plaintively, “JFK.” Instead, he pulled up, got out and put my bag in the trunk.
We were cutting it very close to get there even two hours before my international flight. At best, it looked like we might pull up an hour and a half before. And that was if we were lucky.
In the meantime, I got back on the phone with Jessica and we tried to navigate the city’s online portal to obtain a vendor number and search for the sensitive information they requested, all while bobbing and weaving in traffic.
If you’re starting to get nauseated, then you know just how I felt.
Getting greener in complexion by the minute, we went in literal and figurative circles trying to obtain a vendor number (their site kept freezing when we’d submit, so it would never complete the registration). Jessica was a wonder, filling out forms with the information I’d give her, calling people and searching for other ways to get the necessary attention and response from the government agency.
I was practically hanging out of the window at this point to quell my rising tide. At some point in the 20 minutes that followed, I arrived at the airport, with Jessica’s assurance that she would pick up where we had left off and see things through.
After that, things calmed down. Temporarily.
The overnight flight was rather uneventful (and not all that restful, as it turned out). I awoke a bit groggy in London and with a short layover ahead (short for Heathrow, that is), I knew it was time to pick up the pace.
Checking messages online I could see that Jessica had been making progress in registering the vendor number. We were getting closer!
Security moved at an even pace until my bag was flagged to be searched. At Heathrow, that can easily add 20 or 30 minutes to your journey. I’m not kidding. I’ve seen it happen to myself and others twice in the past couple weeks. I wouldn't have been surprised to find that several people didn’t make their connecting flights after being flagged for a search.
Now with even less time to spare, I searched my email for the check-in notices for my two remaining flights (yes, a 4-legged journey) so I could obtain those boarding passes in advance. The only emails from the airline were the ones notifying me those flights had been canceled. Yes, that’s right. Canceled.
With the time difference between the USA and the UK, Jessica was fast asleep. I called my colleagues in Europe to let them know that my next two flights (after the one I was boarding) had been canceled. I had no idea how I was going to get to my final destination and join them.
My colleagues clicked into high gear immediately, checking into the cancellations, and searching all available flights. We were taxiing when I hung up the phone; my colleagues assured me not to worry—they would work on getting me to Portugal while I was in the air.
After my flight landed, I found myself in an airport where I could only message my colleagues; all call attempts resulted in a dead line. I went to the flight and rail counters in the airport to find another way to my final destination. The counter agents did their best, but there was no good option. Plus, anything booked at the counter (versus online) would be more expensive. By this time Jessica was awake (thanks to an early rise) and responded immediately when I let her know what had happened.
Between everyone, I made it. My colleagues found a flight and Jessica was able to book it. With the delay, I missed one of the events I was supposed to attend, but thanks to my colleagues, I had a discounted ride from the airport and a place to stay while I waited for them to join me a few days later. I arrived many hours later, safe and sound, welcomed by a warm greeting.
Three days after I landed in Portugal, we received the approval on our application. Jessica had been able to submit the data I gave her with the vendor number she had obtained and our certification came through.
None of us can do it alone. Sometimes the village it takes to get something done is more apparent. Sometimes we think we are doing it all ourselves, when actually there are people behind the scenes. Who are the people in your village? Have you thought about what they mean to you lately? For me—this time, it took a kind cab driver, an amazing assistant, and some truly caring colleagues. All I know, is I am eternally grateful.