Nerd Guru

Because technical people need good soft skills to get ahead.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Running Diary: The 18 hour travel day, Part 2

In Part 1 of this Running Diary, which started yesterday and prompted an attempt to record the events real time, I got hosed. Two canceled flights caused what should have been an easy 4 hour trip from Portland to Cincinnati into an 18 hour ordeal of a lot of waiting. To top that off, I'd miss the Pop-Up Video version of the Lost Season 3 finale. I suppose that's what Tivo is for.

Mostly, this turned into a recording of absurd observations, although I did score yesterday with my tactics to get access to ticket agents that I'm particularly proud of. Then again, I did spend 9 hours at the Portland airport yesterday so I can't be that smart.

When I last left off yesterday, I staked out a spot at a restaurant at the Portland airport where I had to buy something trivial in order to justify my claim on a table. I had ESPNHD at my disposal, but I also had to pee. As I pondered what the ethics are of if I packed up my stuff to use the bathroom, could I come back to the same spot without buying anything else, SportsCenter held a series of live interviews from the Super Bowl site in Arizona and I got a tip from my wife:

3:33p, PST - LaDanian Tomlinson is on damage control after having is toughness questioned for missing the AFC Championship game with an injury. Political posturing on SportsCenter may be a sign of the apocalypse. Etiquette update: I just got offered a refill for a 2nd time and this time I took it. The pressure mounts.

3:45p, PST - My wife just alerted me to something from the Civil Aeronautics Board called "Rule 240". Earlier, when the guy next to me in line asked about other airlines, the ticket agent told him they couldn't do that. Apparently if you ask about Rule 240, they have to. This is worth giving up my spot for. Gonna go check it out.

4:05p, PST - The ticket agent was very nice about Rule 240 and looked up every major city between Portland and Cincinnati for me, but nothing was available. Because of the time difference, there's a wave of flights that leave West Coast cities for the East in the early afternoon and because of how my delays fell, I missed my chance at all of them. Doh!

4:26p, PST - At some point in history, the following conversation took place:

Executive #1: "We have to find a way to cut costs!"

Executive #2: "Yes, I know and I've been researching some solutions."

Executive #1: "What's the best one so far?"

Executive #2: "Well, if we replace the regular toilet paper we put in the public restrooms with some cheaper product we can get from a fine grit sandpaper manufacturer, we could save TENS of dollars a month!"

Executive #1: "That's brilliant, let's do it!"

4:40p, PST - Getting caught up on email since I'll probably be a zombie tomorrow (or, as my 6 year old daughter would say, a "zompie"). On a related note, Amazon just told me I made $0.79 in referrals for the month of November. What's sadder: the amount I earned or that it took them 2 months to tell me that?

4:47p, PST - Listening to Van Halen's The Best of Both Worlds compilation while slogging through FY '09 planning emails (which I know some will find absurd that I'm doing, but this is our planning process), I can't help but be reminded that the David Lee Roth years featured a harder edge and plenty of covers (most notably Roy Orbison's Pretty Woman) while the Sammy Hagar era was more about wider appeal with songs about love that chicks could dig. My heavy metal friends circa 1986 in high school (particularly Ginther, who drew"Van Hagar" logos all over his Pee-Chee folders) were pretty devastated by that sequence of events that resulted in songs they hated (he later scratched out his artwork).

In retrospect, the Roth songs are all much, much better and not used to sell inferior Pepsi products.

5:35p, PST - It turns out that I wasn't granted a $7 meal voucher for my 12 hour delay, but TWO $7 meal vouchers. That let me pretty much clean out the cookie bin at Quiznos. Their cookies were baked yesterday instead of the one I sold out for so I could watch ESPNHD earlier, which was to days old. I wouldn't call them "fresh" per se, but "less stale" or the kinder "fresher" than the others.

5:41p, PST - You know you're having a bad day when the guy running the x-ray machine at airport security sees you and says, with a puzzled look, "You're STILL here?" 4th time through security is a charm, I'm told (is that a record?).

6:16p, PST - I keep forgetting that I'm missing the re-air of the Lost Season 3 finale with extras. The promos for that made it seem like it'd be like Pop-Up Video, but I guess I'll have to wait to see. I'm pretty psyched for the new season to start. While I haven't been able to get into the whole Find 815 alternate reality game, I've religiously been watching the mobisodes.

6:20p, PST - There's no physical plane here at good old Gate D7, so I somehow doubt we'll be boarding in the next 14 minutes. All 9 of us waiting in the area, that is. Oh wait, my posse just got here, meaning, the other two guys who got screwed out of the same two flights I did so there's 11 of us now.

6:33p, PST - We must be boarding, right? Uh, no. Still no plane. I have a bad feeling about this.

6:45p, PST - No plane but we've been assured it is landing.

6:49p, PST - The plane got here, supposedly we're boarding in 10 minutes.

7:16, PST - We take off.

9:57p, PST – Welcome to Los Angeles! Why is it you can leave 15 minutes late for a flight and magically you “make it up in the air” and arrive on time? I never understand this. It implies they aren't always flying at an optimum speed unless they need to work on their on time record, so why not just always fly at that speed? I'm sure I'll get an angry comment response from a pilot on this, perhaps even my new ophthalmologist brother-in-law.

The approach to LAX was pretty awesome because we swung over downtown LA right on top of Staples Center, almost like we were riding Soarin’ at one of my beloved Disney parks. I, of course, had to change terminals but I had the time because I have a 2 hour layover here.

Then something weird happened. The connecting tunnel at the midpoints of terminals 5 and 6 at LAX looks more like a maintenance hallway than a walkway. In the middle of it was this steel door marked as something like “SteelCurtain security area” and upon approaching this door, it closed. Then, imagine the loudest, most muffled PA system saying, “WARNING, STAY CLEAR OF THE YELLO MARKED AREA!”. An extremely annoying buzzer accompanied this as well.

Sure enough, there was a yellow marked area and my fellow walkers and I, many of whom were on the same flight I was, obeyed as the message repeated itself in Spanish.

Only, it never stopped. We all stood there for 10 minutes listening to this horribly loud warning over and over again in seeming perpetuity. I started to laugh out loud when I realized I could never properly capture the scene. Of course, as I took the picture below, the doors opened and we continued on our journey:





Now for an odd coincidence: I’m leaving out of the gate next to the one me, my daughter, and wife few out of on our annual Disneyworld vacation 3 years ago when we were living here in SoCal. It’s an extremely weird experience because I haven’t been to this airport since then. Instead of going to the McDonald’s I got my daughter breakfast at 3 years ago, I’m partaking in a 5 cheese and tomato CPK ASAP offering.

10:43p, PST – Got some time to kill so I’m watching a Seinfeld DVD.

11:18p, PST - At least with the sound muted, Romney looks pretty presidential and McCain looks just unhealthy. I worry about that guy.

11:23p, PST - Boarding begins early.

11:41p, PST - Of course, I am seated in a middle seat next to a lap sitting infant for a red eye to end my journey. Better yet, with mom and daughter next to me, dad and twin brother are behind me. As to door closes, though, there is a row with two empty seats and at the mom's suggestion I snag it so they can have more room.

11:55p, PST to 7:04a, EST - Hazy sleep. At 6'6", 250 lbs, I don't fit terribly well in an airplane seat for sitting purposes let alone shut-eye. Plus, while the twin brother snoozes, his sister is quite unhappy. They are both about a year old and it's not their fault that they don't have their usual surroundings. I've been there. She's just cranky and confused. Unfortunately, she's also loud as she wakes me up about 5 times over the next 4 hours.

7:11a, EST - Why is it that when you are taxiing to the gate you can turn on your cel phone but they specifically tell you that you cannot turn on any other electronic devices? Like my MP3 player is going to cause radio interference that my Blackberry wouldn't. I need to ask Bing about this.

7:25a, EST - Miracle of miracles, despite being booked on 3 different itineraries in the last 18 hours, my bags arrive at baggage claim!


8:02a, EST
- I think I just got taken. Wouldn't it stand to reason that if you were a cab driver for a living that having change is a vital component? It's a $27 flat fare from the airport to where I live and I got $40 cash from the ATM at baggage claim in preparation for this. I hand the guy the bills and ask him for $8 back, thinking I'm giving him a decent $5 tip for 30 minutes work.

Then, he tells me he has no change and could I please go into my house to look for different bills. What the heck?

I go in and am unable to find anything smaller than a $20 and left with a quandary almost like the giving up my seat thing in Portland: Do I stiff this guy $7 or tip him $13 on a $27 fare?

I decided it was good travel karma for next time to just give him both 20's. I'm a sap sometimes, I guess, but at least now I'm home.

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