Thursday, June 24, 2010

Stuck in Chicago

While many of today’s blogs were written while sitting in a luxurious, comfortable hotel room after a reasonable nap, our story is different. Right now, the Cornell group is huddled at the gate of our impending airplane to Syracuse, sitting, tired, exhausted, sweating, and dying for a shower, all the while with our laptops on our laps, writing these blogs. Why? Let me tell you.

Like everyone else, I woke up this morning at around 7:00 AM, wishing to just go back to sleep, but with longing thoughts of getting to Cornell, nonetheless. After leaving a teary-eyed house, I arrived at El Cerrito High School at around 8:15 AM, with the group awaiting. We soon boarded a mini-bus and enjoyed conversing amongst ourselves, Mr. Ramsey, and Ms. Kaplan. I know we were all nervous, anxious, and wistful to get to our destination. Finally being at ECHS, the long-talked over meeting place where we would begin our traveling process, was a little overwhelming. We have been talking about this moment for weeks, and it was finally here. I specifically remember Mr. Ramsey being overjoyed at the prospect that we were ahead of time and will have plenty of time to get to the airport. Things, however, as we soon learned, do not go according to plan.

Arriving at the airport, personally, epitomized nostalgia for me. The last time I flew a plane was around eight years ago, and I remember how scared I was of boarding a huge vehicle. Now, I just couldn’t wait to get on it and relive that feeling. 

I was glad to sit right around the Cornell group, sadly except for Andrew Woo. I had much fun watching the plane take off, looking at the clouds, watching How to Train Your Dragon, and chatting with everyone. I finally felt like a group, and I really felt like I got to know everyone much better today (the Pinole students, mainly). 

This week, I have been enjoying reading the memoir Four Seasons: A Story of a Business Philosophy, written by the founder, chairman and CEO of the incredible Four Seasons Hotels, Isadore Sharp. In it, he emphasizes the importance of teamwork, understanding between employees and personal cooperation. Although only three of the seven students will be enrolled in the Hotel Operations and Management course, I still began to understand what Issy has been reiterating. It is crucial that there is mutual understanding and a common goal to achieve success. However, one must be prepared to face obstacles in the business and work around them.

We arrived at Chicago at around 5:20 PM Central Time (so around 3:20 Pacific Time). Our flight to Syracuse, New York, from O’Hare airport in Chicago was supposed to depart at 6:59 PM. However, due to heavy rain and even lightening, most flights were postponed, and departure times drastically changed. From expected 7:00 PM, we learned the plane was to depart around 9:30 PM.

Ever since, we have been trekking around the airport, back and forth and back and forth in search of food. It took us a while to look for a restaurant where we could dine. We waited in line for Macaroni Grill for 20 minutes. It kind of reminded me of how Issy had to travel back and forth to London to settle his deal for building a hotel in Europe. The man he was doing business with repeatedly invited him to fly from his hometown, Toronto, Canada, to London, just to have dinner with him. Although Issy became confused and irritated, he discovered that the reason the man called him over was to establish a personal relationship, imperative in later establishing a business relationship. In a way, our long wait to eat helped us get to know the restaurant, as we waited in front of it and read the menu. Then, we actually ate, kind of like doing business. It’s kind of a strange way to look at it, but it is currently 10:20 PM and I am dead tired, waiting in an airport. Also, I was thinking of Issy’s devotedness to excellent hotel service and stressing the significance of “The Golden Rule.” Although we have not reached a hotel yet, throughout our day, I was thinking of how the flight attendants and restaurant waiters did or could have provided that excellent service. I completely agree with Issy because it is imperative that customers are satisfied as to continue business with them and overall, make them feel good.

While eating, we learned that the time was changed to 10:30 PM. Disappointed and frustrated, we enjoyed our time in the restaurant and learned a valuable lesson: things don’t always go according to plan. For example, Issy didn’t expect a great recession and a hiatus in vacationers. He lost a lot of money in the process, but he didn’t cut costs or let go of precious employees. When he was building a hotel in the Caribbean, or anywhere cultural, he always strove to hire people with the same cultural background as the location of that hotel, even if that meant intense training or even letting go of someone who easily could have handled the job. We went with the flow and waited, until we yet again learned that the flight was changed to 10:05 PM, and later, to 9:00. Yet, here we are, still waiting to depart to Syracuse from Chicago, and it’s 10:40 PM already.

1 comment:

  1. Chris,

    You make it sound as though you didn't have a good time in Chicago. You got to see parts of the airport that few people get to see, you got to dine on some of O'hare Airport's finest cuisine and you got to bond with your teammates during a time of stress. It really doesn't get much better than this, does it? :-)

    You had me worried when you described the way you all were aimlessly wandering around the airport looking for food. You almost had me worried for a second that you might keel over from starvation. Thank goodness you all found the Macaroni Grill.

    It sounds like you all got a lot out of the book we provided for you. Doesn't much of what you read in the book come across as common sense? So why is it that so few businesses understand what he wrote? Most customers, when given a choice between being pampered or being treated like they;re dog food, they'll take the option for being pampered.