Leavin’ on a Jet Plane

Standing on the sidelines at the Superbowl, sitting courtside at the finals of the US Open, watching the World Series from the dugout; these are the situations that lead many massage therapists into the field of sports massage.  The possibility of living something we may only have watched on television since we were young is a powerful motivator and being part of a team or working with the top athletes in their field can be a very appealing aspect to the profession. For those who have experienced that, there is something to be said for sharing in such a memorable experience and feeling like you helped contribute to the success of the athlete or team.

To many of those looking in from the outside, being a sports massage therapist may seem like a glamorous job.  Don’t get me wrong, being involved in a professional sport is a fantastic job and I appreciate every day I get to do it.  I travel to fantastic places in countries I would never have gone to were it not for my job.  I get to see and learn about other cultures, experience amazing things, and best of all meet wonderful people from around the world.

However, there are aspects of the job that can be a bit challenging.  Because I work for a global organization and we have tournaments around the world, we sometimes have a bit of a commute to get” to the office”.  It is this commute that can make this job seem less than glamorous.

We all see and hear about the great and neat parts of working with professional athletes, but I would like to share a story of a recent travel experience that I had just to show it is not all fun and games.

Just to give a bit of background to the story, when we work a tournament, we need to be at the event on Friday in order to start work on Saturday.  The tournaments usually run until the following Sunday and we travel home on Monday.  Now, when the event is overseas we may need to leave on Thursday or even Wednesday depending on how far we must travel.   If you have not flown lately, the changes in the economy have led to fewer flights, more crowded planes and airports, and less room to accommodate for any kind of hiccups in your schedule.

I was flying to a beautiful city in Spain on the Mediterranean Sea when my flight out of Tampa was delayed due to weather.  Now I try to plan for things like this and schedule ample time to make my connecting flights.  This time however, it still was not enough of a window and I missed my connection to Europe.  Depending on the flight schedules, the next available flight to Europe may not be until the next day but since I needed to be at the tournament for a Saturday start, I had the airline look to get me there any way they could.  While their intention was good, the results were not so wonderful.

I was booked on a flight to Dublin but the connection time was so short that I was not sure if my bags were going to make the flight.  That may not seem like too much of a big deal but we travel with our tables so without them, it is nearly impossible to work like we need to.  The other bit of fun was that I was to change airlines and therefore I had to get my bags in Dublin and then check them in to the next airline.  Now being this was in Europe, I had to clear customs, check to see if my bags were there, then go through security again and make it back to the next gate to board my flight.  Because of the rush to get me to my destination the connection times were quite tight.  To make matters worse, I also was issued paper tickets because the other airline was out of the network so not only did I have to recheck my bags I had to have my paper tickets validated to get my boarding passes which added one more step.  In Dublin, the ticket issue went well but only one of my bags arrived which seemed a bit odd seeing how they were together in Philadelphia.  Anyway, I rushed to recheck the bag and then made it to my flight as they were boarding.

At my next stop, I was not so lucky.  I arrived from Dublin into Lisbon and had to go through customs, go to baggage claim to see if my bags were there so I could recheck them in and get my paper ticket validated and hopefully make it to the plane.  The first problem was that only one bag made the flight from Dublin.  I retrieved this and headed to get my paper ticket validated.  This is where the real fun begins.  They could not take my ticket because they could not find the number in the computer system.  By the time they call a supervisor, it was too late to make the flight.  I was then told I needed to get another ticket issued for the next flight.  When I went to do that I learned the hard way that when you change airlines and miss a flight, the original airline must reissue any tickets.  The best part was that the original carrier does not reissue paper tickets over the phone.  I was told by the representative “that is the beauty of electronic tickets”.  Well I will make sure to tell their airline not to issue me any paper tickets.  Oh, that’s right; I am never going to fly them again if I can help it.

So, I am now stuck in Lisbon with no ticket, one bag and I am about to scream.  The only option I was given was to purchase another ticket to Barcelona and then to my final destination.  Since there was no other option, I paid $490 for a ticket to get me where I needed to go.  I rushed through check in and barley made the flight.  When I finally arrived, I was excited to find that all of my bags were now missing.  It is now midnight and I have been traveling for 33 hours at this point.  I fill out the necessary paperwork and proceed to locate the driver from the tournament who I hopefully picking me up.  Well, since I have been delayed and delayed, there is no one there and I have to take a $150 cab ride to the hotel with a driver that speaks very little English is not quite sure where he is going.  I arrive at my hotel at 2am and since I have no luggage I need to wash my clothes as I am due to be into work in 7 hours.  I make it to the site on time and have to treat athletes until 7pm.  I just wanted you all to know that caffeine is my new best friend.  My bags do not arrive for three days so I am quite good at washing things in the sink by the time this tournament is over.

Once my bags arrive and I am back to normal, the tournament is actually wonderful and the town is great.  I ended up getting a shirt and some socks from the tournament and then had to go buy some essentials but it all worked out in the end.  Since this was my first real experience with lost luggage and severe flight delays, I chalked it up to a learning experience about being a bit more prepared for things like this.  I believe in the end it was a total of 34 hours from door to door.  In order to work in this field, you are going to have to accept all that goes along with it.  But trust me, the rewards significantly outweigh the challenges.

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