Travel Gripes

Jan 05, 2004

Air travel is at an all-time high for me. It’s always frustrating... so I couldn’t resist the opportunity to share some of my recent thoughts and observations: E-tickets. It always amazes me when I see long lines at the ticket counter and no waiting at the e-ticket kiosks. What are those other people doing? It’s analogous to the early days of ATMs, I guess. Some people must just not trust the machines, so they wait for a live body. Security lines. I am one of those travelers who always gets to the airport early. I don’t want to miss a flight and then have to make excuses to my clients. But sometimes I think I must be stupid. The people who arrive late and can’t possibly make it through the line end up being whisked ahead of the rest of us who got there early! There’s no justice in that. Special security screening: How they decide who could or couldn’t be a threat is baffling to me. The last time my wife and daughters went with me on a trip (it was to our annual Hot Firm Conference, held in San Francisco this year), my 12-year-old got marked “SSSSS” on her boarding pass (meaning special security screening). I may be ignorant of it, but I have yet to hear of a single terrorist incident on an airline involving a 12-year-old girl! Window shades: Why is it that those who want to watch a bad Tim Allen movie or see a “Will & Grace” rerun episode take precedence over those of us who spend half our waking hours on airplanes and want some natural light? The other day I had an “America Worst” flight attendant get all angry with me on a Boston-to-Phoenix flight because I didn’t want to lower my shade to enhance those who were watching the video monitor’s viewing experience (you wouldn’t want those watching “Daddy Daycare” to miss a crucial moment, would you?). He couldn’t understand why the reading light wasn’t sufficient for me (it was aimed squarely at my elderly seatmate’s crotch)! Coffee shops: So many times they aren’t open in the morning! What’s that about? The other day at SFO, there were literally hundreds of us waiting in the gate area for our 6 a.m. flights and both coffee shops that serviced our part of the airport (inside the security-screened area) were closed! When the woman finally showed up at 5:45, about 70 people lined up— risking missing their flights— for a danish or bagel that the airlines no longer provide to us. Talk about a wasted business opportunity! It reminds me of the guy I once heard about whose father-in-law bought him a sub shop. They went broke because the idiot closed the place at lunch time so he could dine elsewhere! Flight attendants: Why do they speak like robots in a weird sing-song voice when they make their standard announcements? Why do they put the one attendant who barely speaks a word of English on the PA announcing where your connecting flight gates are? Why do the Song (Delta’s new Southwest wannabe) attendants refer to themselves as “your Song talent” instead of “flight attendant?” Why do some travelers still not know that flight attendants don’t accept tips? Why do some people still call them “stewardesses” (that ended in the ‘80s)? What is a “purser” (that’s another one they are referring to on some airlines now)? Rude people: If you want to see the worst behavior anywhere, just get on a flight. A few weeks ago on my way to San Diego, I had an amazingly embarrassing experience. When we landed the plane and got ready to get off the plane, a clone of the old gal with sunglasses from the Old Navy commercials was anxious to get off. Of course, she barged past about five rows of people to end up right behind me in the tight line of those waiting to de-plane after ordering another passenger to hand her her full-length mink coat. I suddenly felt a sharp pain in my kidney when the nasty lady punched me in my side not once, but twice, as hard as she could. Then, she said, “You stepped on my foot!” I was so shocked I didn’t know what to say besides “Sorry.” Ten seconds later I realized that I missed my opportunity to tell her what I really thought about her— that she was a miserable, hostile person who, if worried so much about her feet, should have waited her turn like everyone else to get off. The best advice has been and always will be to bring a good book. Preferably something calming! Originally published 1/05/2004.

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