The Latest Trip to San Diego Was... ???

Friends and Family,

We just returned from another trip to San Diego for my clinical trial, and the trip was… well, I’ll let you decide. It went one of two ways, depending on how you look at it:

THE FIRST VERSION: It started out as a mess. We had our tickets backwards, so that we were scheduled to fly FROM San Diego TO Portland in the morning, and then return to San Diego in the evening. As we attempted to board the plane in Portland, the ticket agent spotted the problem and pulled us out of line. She had us call the Alaska Airlines reservations number, where I was told that there would be a $222 dollar change fee for the morning ticket, and that there were no flights available coming back to Portland. After I got off the phone, the ticket agent told me that cancelling the flight back meant that we had just lost the price of our return ticket (not to mention that booking a last minute ticket on another airline was going to cost a fortune). I planned to get tickets back to Portland on another airline when we landed, but we were already pretty tense. We finally got it resolved so that we could fly back through Seattle to Portland, which would get us back in Portland very late. We barely made it on the plane before they closed the doors.

However, the scheduling at UCSD had gotten screwed up, so we didn’t know if my first appointment in San Diego was going to be at 11 AM or 1 PM. The email response I got back from my Clinical Trial Coordinator before we got on the plane: “I think it’s at 11 AM, but I’m not sure. I’m on vacation.” We didn’t know whether we should drive straight to UCSD, or whether we had a couple of spare hours. AFTER we landed, we got a last-minute email saying that the first appointment would be at 11. We made it on time for my appointments, and there were no changes in my CT scans.

We raced back to the airport to try to get on a direct flight that would get us to Portland five hours earlier, but we missed it by minutes. We eventually flew to Seattle, then raced to the other gate five minutes before the plane to Portland took off. However, we had it wrong. The plane BOARDED at that time, but didn’t depart for another 40 minutes. More waiting. Once we got on the plane, the pilot announced that the gates in Portland were backed up, so we would be delayed…. getting home even later. We finally got home and into bed shortly before midnight.

HERE'S THE SECOND VERSION OF OUR DAY: We had our tickets backwards, so that we were scheduled to fly FROM San Diego TO Portland in the morning, and then return to San Diego in the evening. After the Alaska Airlines reservation center couldn’t find a solution, Mindy, the on-site ticket agent, saved our day. She worked rapidly and calmly to repair our tickets before the gates closed. Using multiple back-door administrative overrides with the help of her coworker, she changed our tickets so that we flew out on time, and routed back through Seattle rather than losing that return ticket. She found a way to do it at no charge to us. Her act of kindness got us onto the plane just in time, and with no change fees whatsoever. She was our hero!

We got a lucky break with scheduling at UCSD. Our favorite Clinical Trial Coordinator filled in at my appointment, and she is always a treat. Of course, the highlight was when Dr. Patel walked in and announced the spectacular news: NO CHANGE in my CT scans… AGAIN! I have now been on this medication for six wonderful months longer than the average, and I’m still going strong! How lucky can one guy be???

We got out of the hospital quicker than expected, and arrived just after a direct flight to Portland had closed their jet-way doors. However, it planted the idea that there may be times in the future when we can get to the airport early enough see if we can bump up to an earlier flight. This may make future travel days easier.

We flew into Seattle, and then we had more time than we thought to catch the next plane. The pilot on that plane to Portland announced that the gates in Portland were backed up. Rather than waiting on the runway, he took the plane on a scenic detour… right over Mount Saint Helens! We were fortunate enough to be on the “view” side of the plane. We were so close that I had to lean over Genevieve to see into the crater! Better yet, it was a prop plane, so it flew lower and slower, making the view that much better. What an adventure!

We got home late, still talking about how Mindy had saved our day, saved us a boatload (planeload?) of cash, and showed us the difference that kindness can make. I will be writing a letter to her boss to express our appreciation.  

So which view of this day would you guess I would adopt?

Here’s my answer: When we got back to the San Diego airport on our way out, I bought something at one of the shops. After she rung up my purchase, the clerk asked, “How has your day been?” I paused to think, and felt a big grin spread across my face.

“Spectacular,” I said.  

Now tell me: How has YOUR day been?



NOTE: Join me on Saturday, June 11th for the Lung Love Run Walk to raise funds for lung cancer advocacy and research. My team, Live Lung and Prosper, still has room for new members or for those of you who wish to donate. Here's the link: