Published 3/1/2007

Extreme travel: Surgeon drives cab to Annual Meeting—from Phoenix

Neither ice nor snow nor a sleepy cab driver could keep this fellow from his ICL

Getting to the 2007 AAOS Annual Meeting was challenging for many participants. But few can match this story, told by Adolph V. Lombardi Jr., MD, of New Albany, Ohio. Dr. Lombardi, a faculty member for two instructional course lectures (ICL), originally planned to fly to San Diego from Columbus, Ohio, on a 5 p.m. flight. But an ice storm kept the plane grounded till nearly 11 p.m.

“I’d been up since 5 a.m.,” he recalled. “I’d done six cases and arrived at the airport at 2 p.m. We’d already begun boarding when the storm hit, and at least we were allowed off the plane for several hours during the worst of it. At about 8 p.m., we reboarded and waited another three hours while they de-iced the wings—twice.”

The first leg of Dr. Lombardi’s journey to the Annual Meeting ended in Phoenix, at around midnight, local time. When he checked with the ticket agent, he found he was on standby for the next two flights out (8 a.m. and 10 a.m.), but wasn’t guaranteed a seat until the 5 p.m. flight. “I knew I would miss my 7 a.m. ICL,” he said, “but if I waited for another flight, I’d miss both my 11 a.m. meeting and my 1:30 p.m. ICL.” He decided to rent a car.

Forty-five minutes later, after collecting his luggage, Dr. Lombardi stood before the Hertz rental desk. The agent quoted him an $89 rental fee, and asked if he was a Triple A member. Dr. Lombardi admitted he was, and the agent keyed in the Triple A rate. The rental rate nearly doubled.

“I told him I wouldn’t use my Triple A card, but he said that the rate had already gone through. As I thought about it, I realized I was pretty tired, so I decided to cancel the car altogether and call a limo,” said Dr. Lombardi.

The limo wouldn’t arrive until 6 a.m., so Dr. Lombardi changed his plans again. He hailed a cab. “The first driver admitted he didn’t know the way to San Diego, so he called a buddy who did. We set off, stopping once to pick up a second driver and gas the vehicle, then to pick up the first driver’s visa (both drivers were Somali immigrants), and finally to drop off the second driver, whose home was too out-of-the-way for us to go to pick up his visa.”

Dr. Lombardi started to doze in the back seat, but abruptly awoke when he felt the van begin sliding off the road. “I made the driver pull over and we both rested a bit, then I got behind the wheel and started to drive. At dawn, the driver woke up and asked if I would pull over so he could say his morning prayers. But he wasn’t ready to start driving again, so I kept going.”

As they neared San Diego, traffic got heavier, and Dr. Lombardi pulled over to get directions to the convention center. “At this point, the cabbie admitted he was overwhelmed by the traffic and was afraid to drive. ‘You’re doing a pretty good job,’ he told me, so I kept on driving,” said Dr. Lombardi.

When they finally pulled up in front of the hotel, the valet opened the back door and greeted the cabbie, “Welcome to the Marriott, sir!” Dr. Lombardi paid his $600 bill and proceeded to his 11 a.m. meeting. But before he returned to Columbus, he was frequently pressed to relive his two-day marathon.

“It’s the best travel story I’ve ever had,” he admitted. “You feel like you have invested all that time and money in preparing for the meeting, and you’ve just got to get there. I put my faith in God and everything turned out great.”

Can you top Dr. Lombardi’s adventure? E-mail your story to AAOS Now at aaoscomm@aaos.org