When Being Type A Pays Off

Have you heard of Strengthsfinder?  It’s a personality test that claims to be able to identify what your natural strengths are.  The idea is that we should all be learning to maximize our strengths instead of working on our weaknesses, because we’re never going to be able to turn those weaknesses into strengths.  In any event, one of my strengths is “Strategic,” which Strengthsfinder defines as being able to see clear direction through the complexity of a situation.

I bring this up because this way of thinking or seeing the world came into play earlier this month when I went to Taipei for a two-day workshop on December 11 and 12.  Here’s how the Charlotte Cooper thought process unfolds:

  • There’s no point in going all the way to Asia, staying for two days, and then coming back home.  I’m staying through the weekend.
  • My sister and I are not visiting our parents in Abu Dhabi this year, so I’ll invite my mom to join me.
  • United does not offer a single-stop route from Dallas to Taipei.  I will either have to stop in San Francisco or Denver before stopping again in Tokyo.  Not ideal.
  • I have several friends and clients and prospects in the Bay Area.  I’ll buy a ticket on my dollars to San Francisco and build on a day before and a couple of days after my Taipei trip, then I’ll buy a ticket from San Francisco to Taipei on the client’s dollars.  Yes!  Fun times in San Francisco, and only one, weary stop on the way to and from Taipei.

The workshop started on a Wednesday, but the client recommended that I arrive on Monday to give myself a chance to get over the jet lag.  That meant leaving San Francisco on Sunday, December 9, so I booked my ticket to leave Dallas on Saturday, December 8.  That gave me an evening of fun with friends before leaving for Taiwan.

Do you remember what happened on December 4?  Weather forecasters issued dire warnings for north Texas and nearby parts about massive ice storms.  Here’s the thing.  Weather forecasters often issue dire warnings that turn out not to be in proportion to the weather that follows.  Just a couple of weeks earlier, they forecasted all sorts of terrible, dangerous weather the week of Thanksgiving.  We got cold temperatures and lots of precipitation, but that was it.  So on the morning of Thursday, December 6, I thought we had another case of the meteorologists crying wolf.

And then I got a fateful e-mail from a friend who informed my writing group that Jim Cantore of the Weather Channel had arrived and set up camp in Dallas.  Y’all.  My blood pressure spiked.  When Jim Cantore shows up in your area, horrible, horrible weather follows.  I read the forecasts, and my adrenaline started pumping.  Here’s some more Charlotte Cooper thought process:

  • If what the weather forecasters are saying is true, and it must be because JIM CANTORE is in town, it’s going to rain ice that accumulates inches on the ground starting tomorrow afternoon.  Then we’ll get a little break, and then it’s going to rain ice on us again Friday night and Saturday morning.
  • Holy crap, my flight is not going to take off on Saturday.
  • Holy crap, if my flight does not take off on Saturday, I AM NOT GOING TO MAKE IT TO TAIPEI FOR MY BUSINESS TRIP.
  • Holy crap holy crap holy crap holy crap holy crap.  I can’t miss my business trip because of stupid weather!
  • I have to leave earlier.  I’m calling United.

I called United, and the agent advised me to leave that day.  I hadn’t even started to think about what I needed to pack for ten days out of town that would mix warm weather in Taipei with cold weather in the Bay Area and business and leisure.  There was no way I could leave Thursday, but I could go into superfast mode and leave on Friday.  The United agent advised me to take the 3:15pm flight on Friday because it was a 747.  This was important for two reasons:  (1) bigger jets have better avionic equipment that allows them to manage through bad weather better, and (2) United owns the bigger jets, and it contracts with smaller, regional carriers for the little jets (the ones where you gate check your bag by the airplane door).  As you might imagine, United prioritizes deicing its own planes before the planes of its contractors.  I had a much better chance of getting out of Dallas on a jumbo jet than a regional jet.

With that done, I reserved a taxi.  I don’t find taxis in Dallas to be reliable, so I asked for an 11am pickup, leaving enough time for the taxi to be late or a no-show and for me to call the taxi company to send another taxi.  I sent an e-mail to my client letting him know that I’d be billing him for a night in San Francisco because of the ice.  He seemed unconcerned.  Then the weather forecasts got even worse and experienced travelers on Facebook laughed at me for thinking I would be leaving town, so I booked a rental car to go from DFW to IAH just in case my rescheduled flight got canceled.  I sent another e-mail to my client informing him of my backup plan, and he laughed at me.  I thought about packing, but the thought of it made me tired, so I decided to wait until the morning.  To justify the procrastination, I made a list of things I needed to pack.  I also made sure I knew where all of these items were (again, more procrastination justification).

And then the ice started in earnest, and the power went out.  I didn’t think anything of it, until I realized that my cell phone, which I also use as an alarm clock, might die before I had to wake up.  I went to post a request for someone to call me in the morning on Facebook, and got reminded that my internet access also requires electricity.  I used precious juice on my phone to make my plea, and then I went to sleep under an extra blanket because the heat in the house also runs on electricity.  Here’s some more Charlotte Cooper thought process:

  • What is that beeping?  What’s beeping at 6:30am?  Hey!  My cell phone still has a little juice!  What is that beeping?
  • Fantastic – the backup batteries on both the phone and the alarm system are low.  One power outage too many.
  • I’m up, so I might as well get ready to go.
  • F*.  No hot water.  Sorry, world, Charlotte Cooper won’t be showering today.
  • F*.  No coffee – the coffee maker won’t work.  There’s cold brew in the fridge, but the power company has no idea how long the power will be out.  I shouldn’t risk opening the fridge or freezer.
  • I should check how bad the ice is.
  • F*.  I’d better have the taxi pick me up at 10.
  • F*.  All the phones in the house are cordless.
  • F*.  I can’t get through to the taxi company.
  • F*.  I’m STILL on hold.  My phone doesn’t have enough battery for this.
  • F*.  They forgot to write that I’m going to the airport.
  • F*.  It’s 10:30am.  I’m going to have to drive myself to the airport.
  • Yay!  The taxi is here!

My taxi driver didn’t speak much English, but he might have been the nicest man in the world.  We survived the scariest taxi ride of my life (which is saying something because I have taken a lot of taxis in my twenty years of working), and I made it to the airport at 11:30am.  The plane took off half an hour late, and we skidded a couple of times going from the gate to the takeoff runway, but I made it to San Francisco in time for dinner, and the rest of my travels to Taipei were smooth as silk.

People think I’m crazy with my backup plans and strategizing, but I’m ok with that.  The fairy tales don’t tell you this, but it’s the OCD planners who get the happy endings they wanted in the first place.

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1 Response to When Being Type A Pays Off

  1. Pingback: Type A Travel to Taipei: the Mom Version | Travel, Food, and Life

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