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APRIL 6, 2009   


Two pieces of flooring side by sideI should have taken the morning rain turning to snow as a warning that I'd have to deal with changes today.

It started out innocently enough—after many samples and much discussion we'd agreed on a greenish-brownish sheet vinyl material (smaller squares at right). Today the flooring guy arrived at 8:30 to give me an estimate on the installation cost. I figured we were good to go.

Ah, but wait. Because of the size of our room, slightly over 12 feet wide, he'd have to put at least one seam in, something that bothered him more than it did me. "Have you thought about vinyl tile?" he asked. This would solve several problems and make for a quicker installation. But no, I hadn't thought of it.

OK, back to the store for another round of samples. We found something very similar and maybe—just maybe—when he calls me with the price estimate I'll be able to decide which material to use. Or maybe there will be a new wrinkle to deal with.

Check the calendar

When the flooring guy left I put that decision aside and began tying up a few loose ends for our upcoming trip to the Grand Canyon. In a rare burst of planning I'd made airline, train and hotel reservations months ago, but still needed to arrange for a rental car and a place to stay in Flagstaff. It's a little complicated since we're traveling by train, bus, on foot, bus, rental car, and air.

I was patting myself on the back as I typed the dates and places into my calendar program until I noticed that I'd made the flight reservations for the wrong week. You know that sinking feeling that hits you in the gut as you double-check and realize that yes, you screwed up big time.

The rest of the morning was a blur of phone calls to Continental and web searches on Orbitz, Expedia and others, with an occasional phone call to Joanne to see if she could modify her work schedule.

Long story short: Continental was no help at all. They would charge a $300 rebooking penalty plus the cost of new tickets. So we'll throw away the first batch of tickets, pay three hundred dollars for new ones on a different airline, and come home a day later.

So, lesson learned? Well, I see where travel agents could really earn their keep. Even at minimum wage, the hours I've put into planning this trip probably add up to more than I'd pay a travel agent who'd get it right the first time. And no matter who does it, immediately put all the dates and arrangements on a single calendar or piece of paper rather than having separate notes in a folder. Once I started putting them together the problem became immediately visible.

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2009 APRIL