Changing Plans… Or "How Not to get To Startup School"

How do you deal with a changing plan? Since all plans seem to change all the time, maybe this is better phrased “how do you deal with plans”? Here I'm going to share my plan to get me from Washington, DC to Startup School in Cambridge, Mass and how the team managed to deal with it.

Here was the overarching plan: On 14 Oct, I was signing away my life by buying a condo just outside Washington, DC. I wanted that to happen at 9am in case something went wrong, I figured we could still make it to the bank, post office, etc, etc. Then, I was scheduled to jump on a train at Union Station at 10pm and have a relatively quiet and uneventful trip to Boston's South Station by 8:15am the next morning, catch mass transit/a cab to Harvard to make it to the beginning of the conference at 9am.

Well, the best laid plans….

First, due to closing documents being delayed, our appointment was pushed back until 3:30pm. This wasn't a big deal and I figured that even if the closing took 4 hours, I could catch the Metro by 8pm and get to Union Station by 9pm. Still lots of slack in the schedule. T-6.5 hours to train, T-17.5 hours to conference, stress level Low.

We were there at 3:20 and we waited. And waited. And waited. At no time did the title company give any update, information, or ETA of being able to start. Finally at 5pm and after reading every issue of Wired they had, we began the process. T-5 hours to train, T-16 hours to conference, stress medium.

About 5 minutes into the process, we found that there was a particular bank document missing. If the bank had still been open, we could have gotten it without problem. Since the bank had closed minutes before, a trip was required the next morning. The agent was fast and informative and we managed to get it all wrapped up just before 7pm. T-3 hours to train, T-14 ours to conference, stress medium.

Getting to the train, on the train, and the first 6 hours were without excitement or event. I identified another pair of Startup School geeks and where they were seated, but didn't make contact. Fast forward to 7am… T-2 hours to conference, stress level low.

Then we stop in Providence, Rhode Island. And we're not moving. After tracking down the conductor, we discovered that there was water on the tracks ahead and we couldn't go anywhere until an Amtrak Rep came to investigate it. T-2 hours to conference, stress level rising.

By 8am, we got the bad news. There was 12 inches (30 cm) of water on the tracks and the train could only travel through a depth of half that. We were stuck and it was undecided if Amtrak would secure us alternate travel . T-60 minutes to conference, stress level rising.

The saving grace was the woman sitting across the aisle from me. She was taking her son to check out Harvard and had already started researching alternative transport. A bus was leaving from Providence in 20 minutes and would allow us to get to Boston's South Station by 9:30am. I went to the geeks I identified roused them with a “If you're going to Startup School, come with me” and our merry band grew to five fellow geeks. We walked the few blocks to the station, bought literally the last seats on the bus, and hit the road. T-40 minutes to conference, stress level medium.

When we finally got to the conference at 10:15, we had completely missed the first two presentations and half of the third presentation. We were soaked, ended up sitting on the floor, but we made it.

The best part was when they cancelled our train back out…

All in all, the plan was almost completely obliterated by everything from incomplete information on our part to government beauracracy to Acts of God. Could we have done anything about it? Maybe. Would I do it again. Without a doubt.