Speaking at two SQL conferences in the last two months (SQL Down Under in New South Wales, and SQLBits V in Old South Wales), I've had some flights to do. This isn't normally a big deal, but both times I managed to have some stress getting home.
Firstly, I should point out that both conferences were really good. Very different to each other — SQL Down Under was held at a university campus in a country town, SQLBits was in a 5-star hotel with conference centre — but both great events. There's something about having a conference with a dedicated technology that makes it special. At TechEd you brush shoulders with people who have very different areas of expertise, but at a dedicated SQL conference, you end up having a lot in common with just about everyone.
At SQL Down Under I got to catch up with many people from around Australia that I see only a couple of times a year. Friends that I know from previous trips to Wagga, or from user groups I've visited, TechEd, even the occasional class I've taught. The content is always good, and it's great to see people honing their skills in presenting. This year one of the highlights was seeing John Walker present for the first time.
At SQLBits, I got to meet many people for the first time (first time I've done a SQL conference in the UK). I got to see old friends like Simon, Jamie, Tony & Darren again, and meet people like Chris, Chris, Allan, James & Martin (of course there are many more names I could list). I had never heard any of these guys present before, so I tried to get around to as many sessions as I could. I was disappointed that the sessions I was giving clashed with Brent's, but I was pleased that I could meet him for the first time.
Coming home from Wagga, I had to meet a flight taking me from Melbourne to Adelaide. I had allowed plenty of time to make the transfer, but when the flight out of Wagga was well over an hour and a half late, I knew I couldn't make it. There was a fair crowd of SQL people at the airport, so we were joking about different tactics that could be used to help me make the connection. The flights were with different carriers, so apart from letting me check in for the second flight on their computer, there was nothing the Wagga staff could help with (they were very nice and helpful though, let me use their printer and everything). When I got to Melbourne, it turned out that the flight I was booked on had been cancelled, and my ticket transferred to a later flight, which I managed to catch. Home later than expected, but crisis avoided somehow…
Not so lucky on the way home from the UK. My flight to Australia stopped at Bangkok on the way, and as I got off, the crew were saying that we had an hour and a half. I got back to the gate in about an hour-fifteen, only to be told that I was too late. Apparently the 90 minutes was from the wheels touching down to the wheels taking off again, and we only had about 30 minutes in which to get back to the gate (bearing in mind that at Bangkok airport you need to wander down from the gate to a security area, and get re-admitted to the Departure area, before returning back to the same place you got off the plane in the first place). 24 hours later I got on a flight to Australia, but not before a stressful night trying to work out how best to get a replacement ticket, considering that nowhere in Bangkok was open for the first 16 hours I was accidentally in Thailand.
It hasn't put me off the idea of travelling to conferences. Everything that happens gives me a story to tell, and I guess these last couple of months have just given me more stories than I expected. If you're into SQL, and there's a SQL conference near you, you should really try to get to it. Just pray that you have a better time getting home than I did.