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Chris G. Williams Beware: I mix tech and personal interests here.
I've long felt there was a special place in hell for American Airlines employees. Now I realize that, at the very least, they won't be alone. Northwest Airlines has managed to earn a special place in my heart as well.

The last few weeks, I've been "forced" to fly NWA instead of AA. I say "forced" with a smile because while nobody actually held a gun to my head, I still didn't really have a choice in the matter. When you're booking short notice, you take what's available.

So... on one of my recent (2+ hour) flights, there was "diminished" AC. If by "diminished" they mean "non-existent", then they're right on the money. The flight attendants give surly a whole new depth of meaning. (I thought AA was bad, and they are, but these guys are worse.) 

At least when you contact AA, you get a response, and quite possibly bonus miles if you have a legitimate complaint. NWA doesn't even respond. Probably due to the sheer volume of complaints they receive each day.  I do like how the web form segregates emails based on complaint or compliment before you send it.  Probably saves them the trouble of actually reading them.

So yesterday was especially bad. My flight left SC more or less on time, and was completely packed... screaming babies and all. I had a window seat, which was ok (better than a middle seat) I guess, although I prefer the aisle since I'm tall. Not much leg room with the window seats.

It's only an hour-ish to Memphis. I'm squished in next to the window, with some kind of support thing crammed into my side and all I really want to do is read my book and be left alone. So of course, we know THAT is not going to happen. I get stuck next to chatty cathy who wants to tell me all about her dog that she had to leave behind while she goes on a cruise and by god this flight better not be late because if it is then she will miss her connecting flight and miss the first day of her cruise and then there will be hell to pay because she'll be damned if she paid $2300 just so she can miss the first day of her vacation and somebody will answer for this. IF we're late.

I can honestly say, it's the first time I've ever secretly wished my flight was delayed. It's not, however, the first time I wished I carried a tazer in my laptop bag. These kinds of thoughts can get a guy in trouble.

So we get to Memphis more or less on time. My travel agent has a rather twisted sense of humor and lately tends to book connecting flights that start boarding before the first flight has actually landed. Today was no exception to that and so I'm sprinting through Memphis (again) trying to make my connecting flight. Well, I made it... but only because it was an hour late. Sadly, my seat neighbor had a different connecting flight so I don't know how well she fared.

So I sit in Memphis. I'm not a huge fan of Memphis, although it is infinitely better than DFW in some ways. They don't charge for AC power in Memphis, so that's a plus. DFW has better transportation though. Seems like there's more food choices in Memphis, although it's still ridiculously overpriced. While I suppose I can justify $1.25 (instead of 99 cents) for a BK cheeseburger, I do have a bit of heartburn paying nearly $3 for a double cheeseburger. Especially since nearly every BK I've ever been to charges 99 cents for Dbl-Chz.  But I digress...

Eventually we board. One nice thing about the flight from Memphis to Minneapolis is the plane is big enough that I can actually stand up straight with cracking my head open. That's pretty much where the fun ends. The downside to a bigger plane is... you guessed it... more people. You don't actually have any additional room, in fact, other than vertical, I think you have less.

So I board, enjoying my vertical freedom for the 8 minutes it takes me to get from the front of the plane to my seat (in row 41 OMGWTF!)  I should probably mention, it's a middle seat. the flight is nearly packed, so probably no switching around either.

I sit down, and wait... and wait. 46 rows with 6 people in each... 276 people board, trying to cram all manner of bags, boxes and god knows what else into the overhead compartments. At this point, things are looking ok. There's nobody in the window seat next to me, so... and then tragedy strikes... I see it walking down the aisle. Sometimes you just KNOW it's headed your way. Sure enough, it stops right at my row. I'm not sure, but I think it was speaking in slow motion.. in that odd roaring sort of way people speak in slow motion when someone just knocked a vase off the end table...  I'MMMM INNNN THEEERRREE...  *sigh*

So... we move and it crams itself into the row, up against the window. My hopes and dreams of a peaceful flight have now been irrevocably shattered. My sole consolation is that there is someone, no... someTHING, more miserable than I am... although not by much.

Finally they close the doors. Fortunately the AC was actually working on this plane. Eventually we take off. I'm not sure, since I was slipping in and out of consciousness at that point, but I think we sat on the runway for about 10 minutes before taking off.  The thing next to me immediately starts shutting the AC vents (including mine, WTF?!?) complaining of being cold. I figure it must have something to do the the sheer amount of surface area for the AC to hit. Eventually it drapes itself in a jacket that could shelter a 4 man squad and I turn my AC back on full blast. I consider pointing the vent at the thing beside me, but I'm trying to play nice.

If you've ever tried sleeping in the middle seat, you know its just not happening. No matter which way you face, there's somebody there, and if you try to stay facing forward, you end up with your head tilted back and your mouth wide open in a homer simpsonesque sort of way. If you lean forward... people think you're sick and ask you if you're ok. Basically, you're screwed either way, with no chance of any meaningful rest.

If I can't sleep, then I might as well read. Apparently the thing next to me is sensitive to light, as it practically HISSES at me when I reach up and hit the switch. Whatever. Smiling to myself, I start flipping to where I left off in the XNA book I'm reviewing.

There's no chance in hell of getting my laptop out, so I'm reading through the code and semi-parsing it in my head... this combined with warmth and fatigue pretty much trigger my internal screensaver and I'm done for... so for the next 2 hours, I'm twilighting in that weird place between fully awake and fully asleep. At some point, the guy in front of me thinks it would be a fantastic idea to lay his seat back as far as possible. I don't notice initially, and thankfully I'm not claustrophobic.  When I do finally notice, I end up using the back of his seat as a forehead rest and get a few minutes of uninterrupted sleep.

I shouldn't have bothered. At this point I find out that we're still an hour away (HTFDTH??) and the thing next to me is staring in rapt fascination at the lightning outside the plane and probably praying to some elder god to come devour us all.

Eventually we land. At this point, I discover I have no small amount of pages and voicemails, mostly from Bill and Theo who have been undergoing a similar experience, only earlier, and have since been circling the airport for the last hour and a half waiting to pick me up.  (Sorry about that Bill.)

So I finally get to the hotel at nearly midnight... crash almost immediately and get up at 5:45AM completely exhausted so I can be at work by 7. 

Fortunately, this is my last week of traveling. I work remotely next week and then after that I'll be living in Minnesota. Pretty soon you'll be reading reports of my easy 15 minute drive from home to work.... or not. Posted on Monday, August 20, 2007 11:12 AM | Back to top


Comments on this post: travel, a recap...

# re: travel, a recap...
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And that's exactly why I don't fly alone (or fly in business class if I am alone), because I'm the hulking beast that I know people are thinking "OMG, don't let him sit next to me."

Oh well, another reason to lose weight :). And just ask George what I'm capable of while flying next to on a plane :).
Left by Jason Olson on Aug 20, 2007 12:28 PM

# re: travel, a recap...
Requesting Gravatar...
As a person of substantial girth myself I can't imagine how this thing was cold. I'm *never* cold. Cool perhaps, and thats with the bedroom windows open in mid-January, but cold? This thing you speak of was obviously a mutant of some sort.

I try to get an aisle seat so I spill out in that direction instead of onto my fellow rowmates :)

Don't get to fly much tho, but even I know the headphones are the Life Saver vs chatty kathys. Whether I want to listen to something or not I play something, anything, when someone sits down next to me. Sorry, don't want to be rude, just don't want to idlly chat with a stranger the entire trip who usually is incapable of picking up the subtle and not-so-subtle clues that I'm done talking. Did my opening up a book and start to read not clue you in? So, the headphones must be used. If someone is so clueless as to try to speak to me, point to the headphones then make the "so sorry/what can one do" gesture, go back to reading or sleeping or whatever.

I'd probably be grouchy like flight attendants if I hadda put up with airlines every single day, too.
Left by stevenc on Aug 20, 2007 1:45 PM

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