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Thursday, May 18, 2006

Virginia Beach is wonderful. . .Expedia is not

Had to go to Virginia Beach to speak at a conference. I booked my air travel through Expedia back in February. I was flying out Mother's Day, so early that morning I checked my schedule to see if there were any changes, as we got a whole lotta rain in Maine and I was worried the flight would be delayed/canceled.

I logged into my Expedia account to check the departure time of my first flight. There was no such flight. I panicked and double-checked my itinerary in my account at Expedia. It claimed the flight was the one I had input. So I called the airline directly, Delta. They told me the flight had been changed to one that was leaving 15 minutes earlier. I called the car service company and because of the rain, they were headed out to come get me right then and there. Some roads had been washed out, etc, so they wanted to make sure I'd make the flight.

So I panicked, took a quick shower and was thankful I had packed the day before. I had to get Chris up to help me get my last minute things together. The driver was waiting and I went out to tell him I'd be out in five minutes. He actually looked at his watch, told me I had asked for a pickup at 7:45 am and I told him I had 10 minutes and to be patient. Good lord, what a jerk.

So, kissed Chris, didn't have time to say goodbye to Bandit and Guin and flew out the door. The driver talked about his vegetable garden the whole way.

I got to the airport, checked in and called Expedia when I got to my gate. The woman was not helpful. She actually had the nerve to tell me the change had been made a week after my booking and they sent the change to my email address. Hello? The original itinerary was in my Expedia account. There were NO changes. She still didn't get it. I told her I was never going to use Expedia again. And I'm sending them a nasty snail mail letter with the printed out itinerary with today's date on it that shows the original itinerary and NO changes.

Don't use Expedia. Ever.

Flew through exciting Cleveland. Yes, I'm being sarcastic. It's the most boring airport. Got to Norfolk around 2:30, took a cab to the Virginia Beach Resort and Conference Center. Right on the beach!

Now, the 2nd edition of my book, Net Crimes & Misdemeanors, wasn't officially due out until this week, but my publisher promised to have 20 books sent to the hotel on Saturday so that I could offer them to the attendees.

Guess what? No books. Called the publisher, he was mad, promised to call me first thing in the morning and hope they arrived then. I was not having a good weekend.

My room was on the 7th floor (that seems to be my floor lately at hotels, ha ha). It was a suite with separate living room, small kitchenette and a balcony overlooking the beach. Very cool!

Connie Kirkland from George Mason University, who booked me for the conference and is also a good friend, called an hour or so later. She'd arrived with my other friend, Cheryl Creed, from UVA and Anne Kakol, also from GMU. I quickly changed and Connie and Anne came to my room to meet Cheryl downstairs and go for a walk on the beach.

It was a nice walk. Connie and I haven't seen each other in over two years, so we caught up on a lot of things. It was good seeing her and crazy Cheryl again!

We went to the hotel bar and ordered mimosas (Cheryl sticks with beer). A guy sitting next to me turned out to be Chris from the "Congratulations Chris and Dawn" we saw on the marquee in front of the hotel. They'd gotten married at the hotel on Friday and his bride was out with her friends, so he was hanging out at the bar. We adopted him.

Connie took off for a dinner with some other friends and we chatted with Chris, who is in the Navy. He and Cheryl hit it off really well. Anne and I were starving, so we went to her room to order room service before they stopped serving (because of Mother's Day). We waited for Cheryl, the food came, and waited some more. We talked a lot and finally I ran downstairs to roust Cheryl.

She promised to be up soon.

Went back upstairs, ate some of the food, then both Anne and I headed back down to the bar. We ended up ordering two more mimosas while Cheryl and Chris yakked it up. I finally begged off at 9 pm and went to my room, read for a bit, then crashed.

The next morning, got up early, took a walk on the beach, went back to my room, showered, changed into my suit and headed downstairs to set up. Called my publisher. The printer sent the books 2nd day instead of overnight and said the books should arrive before my talk.

The room was full, with about 70 people from all over Virginia - advocates, law enforcement, campus security, etc. Connie introduced me, the books arrived just in time, and I was "off to the races." I covered stalking, IM safety and blogs, as well as Myspace and Facebook. I profiled GMU and found two students (male and female) who had put too much info in their profiles. I was asked a lot of great questions.

I was also excited to see my book! Sold all but one, which I kept for myself. My shipment didn't arrive until yesterday.

Spent the rest of the day having lunch with a cop from the Chesapeake Sheriff's Dept. This is a good story:

In December of 2003, I was flying home from speaking on a Radisson Cruise (still my most favorite speaking engagement). Flights were delayed into Boston and when we got there, it took forever to get our bags. So I'm at baggage claim, waiting and waiting. A black guy next to me, dressed pretty spiffy, was waiting for his bags, too. We chatted a bit and I said, "You're a cop, aren't you?"

He was shocked. Now, having trained so many cops, I'm pretty good at picking them out, even in civilian clothes. We traded business cards and I told him I may end up in his neck of the woods someday. And I did!

It was a fun lunch, and he hung out with me at the conference for a while.

After the conference, went up to my room, changed into comfy clothes, then went to Connie's room aka the party room. Bottles of wine were open, people were chatting and everyone was having a good time. We decided finally to go out to eat.

Seventeen of us piled into the hotel shuttle van. Two of the skinniest (not me, ha ha) got way in the back where the luggage usually goes. People were on other people's laps. It was hilarious.

We ate at Chick's Oyster Bar and Restaurant. They put us in a separate room, kind of an enclosed porch. Good choice on their part. We were loud. It poured rain at one point, which was cool. Dinner was hectic, a riot and wonderful food. We had a group photo taken at the end, which I hope to put up when someone sends it to me.

We piled back into the van to the hotel, went back to Connie's room, got crazy, watched Deal or No Deal, then Connie kicked us out.

Got up the next morning, walked off my hangover on the beach, then went upstairs, packed, drank coffee and headed downstairs to check out.

My flights home had changed again, but not by much. I went to the airport gift shop to buy souvenirs for everyone, called Chris and he was telling me how bad the flooding was. This is when I'm glad our house is on a small hill. We had no problems at all.

Then my flight was delayed an hour. Newark had shut down due to the rain. Called Chris. It was gonna be a long day.

Finally got Newark, found out my connecting flight had been delayed so that I'd still make it and miracle: It was the same plane I had just gotten off of. I bought some Combos to eat, a water and got back on the plane (no, not the same seat).

Finally made it home, the roads weren't bad and the sun actually started to poke through.

Chris had taped 24, so I watched that while he cooked dinner. What a good show! I'm mad because I'm going to be in D.C. this coming Monday and will miss it again, unless I make it back to my hotel room to watch the finale. Either way, Chris is going to tape it again.

So, this weekend I fly out on Saturday to go to the Book Expo in DC to sign copies of my book on Sunday. I'm mad because the Expo web site "forgot" to put my signing in their listings and the guy I emailed who handles this told me basically "tough luck." I can bet if I was Stephen King, he would have put me on the list right away. Jerk.

I'll post the book's press release tomorrow.

1 Comments:

Blogger John said...

I also had a horrible experience using EXPEDIA that I decided to run a website to alert travelers about how EXPEDIA cheats customers. EXPEDIA lied to me and tried to keep money for a service that was never provided.
Please read this: http://www.victimsofexpedia.com

Good luck travelers

6/21/2006 09:01:00 PM  

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