Nerd Guru

Because technical people need good soft skills to get ahead.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Watch This DVD: Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

Once, I had a 10 hour delay/layover in Salt Lake City during which I passed the time by eating 6 Cinnabons. Then, there was that time in Austin when I got lost finding the hotel after midnight in a scary neighborhood where I ran over a dog. Plus, seeing as I'm 6'6", any time the person in front of me puts their seat back it's an adventure in pain.

Bad travel happens. You can either get really angry about it, or find the amusement hidden within. To help you find that comedy, I highly recommend the definitive "everything that can go wrong does go wrong" business travel movie and John Hughes classic: Planes, Trains, and Automobiles (Netflix, Amazon).

Neal Page (Steve Martin) is in New York and trying to get home to Chicago the day before Thanksgiving, traditionally the worst travel day of the whole year in the US. He can't find a taxi (beaten out for one in a cameo by Kevin Bacon), his flight is delayed, and then he gets seated next to the world's most talkative man in the form of shower ring salesman Del Griffith (the late John Candy). Together, they get rerouted to Wichita, break down on a train, ride a bus to St. Louis, and burn up a rental car before finally making it home.

While the whole movie is great, for me, three parts in particular stand out as comedy gold:

  • When Neal and Del have to share a hotel room in Wichita, Neal makes the mistake of letting Del take a shower first. When the water pressure suddenly shuts down while he has soap in his face, Neal flees to the bathroom sink, which is filled with water, as salvation. Only when opening his eyes does he discover that Del's dirty socks were soaking in the basin. Eeew. Then, he realizes that Del has used all the towels and he must dry himself off with a washcloth (we've all been there).

  • Their ride from the Wichita hotel to the bus station is provided by Owen, the son of the hotel owner. Upon greeting Neal, he spits tobacco juice and wipes the excess off his face with his right hand, which he then uses to shake hands with Neal, all in one well-practiced motion.

  • In the movie's definitive scene (and the one that got it an R rating), Steve Martin deals with a less-than-helpful rental car clerk with a powerful monologue that features the f-word 19 times. I think everyone wishes they could, just once, say these things to a really bad customer service representative.
So, the next time you get stuck on that O'Hare layover and the line at Chili's is over an hour long, remind yourself that things could be worse: You could be traveling with Del Griffith. You can either laugh or cry in situations like that. Hopefully, thinking of this movie will induce the former.


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posted by Pete Johnson @ 8:17 AM   2 comments


At 8:14 PM, Blogger Dwacon said...

This one is a favorite... and try to keep from tearing up during that final scene. Sniff...

At 9:19 PM, Blogger Pete Johnson said...

I know what you mean, dwacon. If I haven't seen it in awhile I forget how serious it turns in the last 10 minutes. Despite the silly tone of the rest of the movie, the ending manages to work quite well.


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