You never forget your first one

My very first conference has nearly finished. Nearly…

In February, when I first started working for Conferenz, I created a program for NZ Building Law and Regulation Conference. I couldn’t wait for the “show” to begin. On Tuesday  I finally flew to Wellington, where  my conference took place. I was really excited to meet all speakers, to hear what they actually had to say, to see reactions of delegates and to deal with all unforseen aspects of the event which gives me that buzz and for which reason I enjoy working in event management.

I was a bit nervous at the beginning. I think I forgot to mention half of the stuff I was supposed to mention in my opening speech. But after that, it all went smooth! Presentations were interesting and visitors seemed to enjoy the offered topics. Speakers were delighted for the opportunity to present at the event and sponsors were happy with their deal. Food was delicious 🙂 .

After the conference to  its finalpoint, I was really stoked, a bit proud of myself 🙂 . I was running a bit late so I rushed out of the hotel jumped into taxi and drove off to the Wellington Airport. “Hm… it seems quite windy today…” A taxi driver with an Indian accent responded: “Quite windy?? Quite windy maam??  Where do you come from? I have never experienced such strong wind in my life and I’ve been in Wellington for past 35 years. Quite windy she said…” We arrived to the airport and as I opened a door to get out of the car the wind almost took them with it. A taxi driver with an Indian accent spoke up again: “Wow maam! Don’t break my car! I have six kids and I have to feed them every day and for that I need my car. Please, be careful! The wind is really really strong.” I don’t know… is it the accent that made these taxi drivers angry or was he rally angry… I couldn’t really tell…

I rushed in the airport building. I couldn’t check in as all the flights have been suspended. I have met Mr. Green, one of my speakers and followed  him into the VIP lounge. I just sneaked in, in this chaos noone will really notice… Soon after we found somewhere to sit down, it was announced that all the flights have been cancelled. Was I disappointed? Not really. Not after observing a huge plane parked just outside the building dancing, shaking and bouncing in this stormy wind. No way I want to be in the air in these conditions…

“Get a taxi and go back to the hotel.” my boss told me. Easier said than done. There was a huge line for taxis outside the airport and all the hotels have been sold out. Finally I was sitting in a taxi. “Go to a hotel on Cuba Street,  I’ve found a room there for you.” were further orders from my boss. “Uuu, Cuba street. that’s an interesting area!” my taxi driver said, this time with a Fijian accent. “Here, I’ll take you to the rare entrance to the hotel, it’s easier to access it by car. And there is a gay club right next door, if you feel like partying!” Hm… tnx…  I’ll pass…

The hotel was actually really nice. Top range rooms, friendly staff, good food. Another taxi driver picked me up first thing in the morning. With a Serbian accent she said: “Lana? Where are you from? Slovenia? Aaaaaaa, pa sto ne kazes (why don’t you say so)? I’m Serbian!” She continued talking, a bit in English a bit in Serbain: “How is in Slovenia?” “I don’t know, I’m in NZ…” “Oh yeah, so am I. But I’d rather go back. Tamo ti je bolji social life (it’s better social life there)… But it’s very expensive. Noone wants to buy Gorenje washing machine anymore, everyone has to have Bosch one. Znas (you know), it has to be German or American. How’s politics in Slovenia? Ma politicari su svuda isti (politicians are everywhere the same)…” Lady, it’s 5.30 in the morning…

My morning flight was cancelled. Still due to severe weather conditions. My next flight was cancelled as well. “I’m sorry Lana, there is no flight to Auckland today, the first one available is scheduled for tomorrow morning. Hamilton? Yes, I can get you onto a  Hamilton one. Tonight is the only one available. Would that be all right?” Sure… I have the whole day to  figure out how to get from Hamilton home… I sneaked back into VIP lounge. Still chaos everywhere. Comfortable seats, warm, plenty of good looking food and heaps of time to put together this blog 🙂 .

After 10 hours at the airport… First flight to Hamilton was about to start boarding. One more hour and it will be my turn to finally go on the plane! Woooohoooo, I was really excited! Unfortunately not for long… “Dear passengers, we inform you that the flight number 1234 to Hamilton has been cancelled. Please call 0800 1234 1234 to book another flight. Please bear in mind that all the flights have been sold out and your first chance might be on Sunday. We apologise for the inconvenience!” Aaaaaaaa, are you kidding me!? I almost burst into tears, ran to a ticket selling counter and nearly cried to the lady bagging / threatening her to get me on any plane anywhere, I don’t care as long as I get out of here! She must have felt sorry for me because somehow she found a stand by ticket for the flight to Hamilton that was just about to board. “Now run! And good luck!” were the last words I heard from her.

People were slowly boarding on the plane. While I was waiting to see if they will take me along, I called Jetstar, another flight company that was flying from Wellington to Auckland. “Can I book a ticket for tonight? $300? I don’t care, as long as it takes me out of here! Here are my credit card details but please don’t charge it just yet, I’ll either confirm or cancel the ticket in next few minutes. I’m so so sorry and thank you very much for you understanding!” “Maam, you can board the plane.” “Can I? Thaaaaaaank you so much! I would hug you right now but my hands are full! Mr. Jetstar, please cancel my ticket! I’m sooooo sorry, but I just got on the plane!” There was a tiny little plane and I jumped on it as the last one. “Excuse me maam, let me see you ticket? Hm, wait here a moment?” “Sorry? What’s wrong? Please just don’t send me out of the plane! Please, take me with you! I will go in the luggage compartment if necessary just get me out of here, pleeeeeeease.”

I was able to stay on the plane. The wind was still hauling outside and I questioned a little bit the ability of this tiny aircraft to manage this trip, the plane was namely dancing on the floor. But at that moment, I didn’t really care. I just wanted to go home.

After a surprisingly smooth flight we landed in Hamilton. Wes was waiting for me there and I have never felt happier! My car is still in Auckland but I’ll deal with this later. Right now, I need a shower, a bed and a biiiiiig hug 🙂

The next day… I’m happy! Tired, but happy. And I am looking forward to my next conference – in 10 days in Wellington… 🙂 !

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