why book tours are harder than ever

I happen to be one of those authors who absolutely loves being on book tour. I’ve been on eleven of them (whoa, that many?) and I’m gearing up for my twelfth tour, to promote THE KEEPSAKE. And for the most part they all went smoothly — well, except for the awful morning of September 11, 2001, when I was on the way to the airport and heard, on the driver’s radio, that all flights had been shut down. All I wanted to do was get home and be with my family, but I ended up stranded in Seattle for a week.

Aside from national emergencies, though, I’ve found book tours to be largely pleasant if hectic affairs, with only the occasional travel glitch. But at the moment, I’m sitting in an airport waiting to board a flight that is already seven hours delayed, thanks to thunderstorms in Chicago. I know that this is just one of those Acts of God that no one can predict or control. Lord knows, my publisher’s travel agent has worked heroically over the past few hours to get me to my destination.

But there’s no arguing with the weather.

It seems to me, a frequent traveler, that these airline fiascos seem to be happening more and more often. Planes are crowded and flights are overbooked. The seven-hour delay, the ten-hour delay, the cancelled flights, are now so frequent and routine that a multi-connection airline trip requires the same mental preparation required to charge into battle. I now expect something to go wrong. I expect to miss my connections. I try to get into my destination city the night before rather than the day of. (And even then, as with this trip, I may not make it to my appointment.) I expect to go hungry (pack granola bars!) and arrive exhausted, if at all.

I never, ever check my baggage. Because the airlines will lose it. They see my battered suitcase come rolling by on the conveyor belt and say, “ah ha! Let’s misplace that one again!”

I still love going on book tour. What I don’t love is U.S. air travel. I long for a good, reliable train network that can whisk me from coast to coast. I long for the days when I (on obsessive-compulsive about being on time) could count on arriving as expected. I long for some predictability in travel. It just ain’t gonna happen. Not these days.

So I take a deep breath and just try to be Zen about it. The reward for all the stress is the chance to meet wonderful readers and booksellers. I’d travel to Timbuktu to meet them.

I just hope they’ll understand if I don’t show up as scheduled.

I’m probably stuck in an airport.

8 replies
  1. Rikkesoft
    Rikkesoft says:

    As we have experienced, trains are not always the ideal solution. Apart from the fact that they tend to go on strike quite often, for our last vacation my wife and I decided to take the TGV, a high speed train, from Brussels, Belgium to Narbonne, France. About 1200 kilomters of railroad. When we got on board, we discovered that nearly all the seats around us were occupied by young children. Our worst fear became true: 7 hours of yelling, fighting, crying, running around, being bothered, etc.
    I never was so happy to get out of a train.
    And worse to come: on the trip back home history repeated. So in stead of returning home in good mood, we were frustrated, angry and had the worst headache of our lives.

  2. Tess
    Tess says:

    ah, but at least you got to your destination! I’d be willing to put with a whole planeload of screaming kids if only I could get to where I’m supposed to be going.

  3. Abe
    Abe says:

    Hi Tess,

    There once was a comedian(whose name escapes me) that had an experience with an airline. He had 2 bags and asked the clerk if one bag can go to Chicago and the other to Paris. The clerk said, “I’m sorry, sir, we can’t do that.” The guy said “I don’t know why. You did it last month.” I, too, would rather travel by train. At least when the train stops at a station, you can get out and walk around. Try doing that on a non-stop flight. The last time I traveled by plane I went from NY to Houston with a plane change in Atlanta and my plane landed on the wrong runway at the other end of the airport and I only had 10 minutes to catch my plane. Needless to say, I’m not like OJ who runs through airports, I missed my connection and had to be put on standby for 2 hours.
    Why can’t we all be like Samantha on Bewitched or Jeannie on I Dream of Jeannie and just make a wish and it will be granted? Even then the government would find a way to screw it up.
    Have a safe flight, Tess. Hope all goes well.

  4. Richard S. Wheeler
    Richard S. Wheeler says:

    I’m old enough to remember travelling on the great trains, such as the Super Chief, Twentieth Century Limited, etc. They were a marvel. Good sleeping accommodations, fine dining, a great club car where one could meet and enjoy fellow travelers, fine Vista Dome cars for scenic routes. And they were usually on time. I ache for their return.

  5. april
    april says:

    I don’t want to hear this! I fly out on Saturday morning to go to Maine. This is the first flight of any length with the baby so my fingers are crossed. So, here’s hoping it goes smoothly. The forecast isn’t looking great unfortunately, but there is a great hospice bookstore and the movie theater if it rains. Poor baby is just stuck inside, though, if it rains.

    Have a good book tour (even if you’re not coming to this area)! I can’t wait to read the book. I’ve pre-ordered it so I await impatiently.

  6. Ann Woodburn
    Ann Woodburn says:

    Hi Tess: The last train ride I took was in Egypt a couple of years ago. We went to the Valley of the Kings by way of a Nile cruise.
    When we got on the train we were told that Egyptians could not travel with others. My ex-husband and daughter disappeared and I was left in a cabin with this Indian doctor.Since I barely knew him it was kind of weird. My daughter did reappear some time later and switched places with the Indian doctor. We did have a great trip and
    I’d love to go again. Ann.

  7. therese
    therese says:

    Dear Tess,
    My husband was also in Seattle for the week during Sept 11th, 2001. He was really glad to be there since his job transfer from WTC4 was official 9/1/01. All clients and coworkers he knew, survived.

    On our previous trip to Europe, one train ride from Slovenia to Munich was a night train and since it was during 1992, the cars were packed with refugees camped throughout to sleep across floors and benches, with livestock. I’m sure we were the only people who had showered in recent weeks.

    Fortunately, this recent trip to Europe went smooth, no missed connections or lost luggage. The flight home from London to Minn was awesome with good food, a selection of movies, wonderful environmental conditions and staff. We actually arrived early enough to make the earlier flight to PDX instead of having a 3 hour lay-over. Since my hubby is an elite traveler, we ended up in first class.

    We did have to return to the airport later to claim our luggage, that arrived on time, at 12:30am. I guess this just proves that for every horror story, there is also a blessing in disguise. Or maybe it proves eventually disasters become diluted.

    However, it’s all research for a writer. There’s a story in the good and bad. Happy traveling!

  8. BernardL
    BernardL says:

    I believe you are right about the increase in delayed flights. Assuming if I have less than an hour stopover between connecting flights, I will miss the connection, is a good rule of thumb. 🙂

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