AERA Philadelphia 2014: Travels and Tribulations

I'm in Philadelphia for this year's Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, or AERA. This conference is a big undertaking — I think of it not just in terms of the 15,000+ people and their research, but the collective time, effort, and money that goes into everyone's travel arrangements, hotel reservations, and conference registrations. It's a big number, whatever it is, and as an attendee of the conference I feel like I have a duty to see that the funds that sent me here are well-spent.

To those ends, I had planned to catch an early flight from Denver and to get to Philadelphia in time to attend some late-afternoon sessions and tonight's AERA presidential address. I didn't make it. I spent most of the day yesterday getting my posters ready and packing for a 10-day AERA-NCTM conference marathon. Instead of getting a good nights' rest, I packed and prepared into the early morning and headed to catch the early bus (3:20 AM!) to the Denver airport. I ended up missing that bus by just seconds but caught the 4:40 AM bus which still gave me ample time to get through DIA for a 7:00 flight.

We got on the plane, backed away from the gate, sat for a moment, and then heard the pilot explain that there was a problem and we'd be pulling back into the gate and waiting for maintenance to give the plane a look. His explanation was intriguing: There were two ignition systems for the engines, and the systems for each engine work independently of the other. Somehow, one of the systems had failed on both engines, which the pilot said was very unusual. To make things even more strange, the plane next to us was having the exact same problem. We sat there in the plane for almost 3 hours before the problem was resolved (how, we were never told), our plane was de-iced, and we were in the air.

I had hoped to be in Philly at 12:30 local time but it ended up being closer to 3. Then I waited for a hotel shuttle to arrive and was the last of 10 people to get dropped off at their hotel. By then it was about 5:30 here, which meant my total trip had taken about 12 hours and I'd done it on no sleep. With 9 days of conferences ahead of me, now I'm just looking for some rest. Really, at times like this I can't help but ask, "Why does anybody bother?" Rested, tomorrow I hope to spend a day at the convention center answering that question.

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