Monday, August 31, 2009

Still Amazed After All These Years

I've written quite a bit in the past about the perils of business travel...particularly air travel. It's certainly not glamorous, and it's often exhausting. That said, I have to confess. When you strip away all the hassles, air travel still blows me away.

Think about it. Board a plane in Atlanta. Drink a couple of cups of coffee and eat a snack, do a little reading, watch a couple of episodes of West Wing, maybe get a little work-related stuff done, and then you get off the plane in Seattle. When you look at a map, it really hits home how amazing this really is. No matter what inconveniences or frustrations go along with it, waking up in one city and having dinner in another one that's clear across the country is still pretty darn amazing.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

That's 3 Bags, Sir

I really can't figure out the airlines. Gate agents make a big announcement before boarding about how travelers are only allowed to carry on two bags. One regular bag, such as a roll-aboard suitcase, and one personal item, such as a purse or computer bag. Yet, I regularly see those same gate agents turn a blind eye when passengers board with bags hanging all over their bodies...and clearly more than three!

Many experienced airline travelers disagree with my decision to check my bag. They would much rather carry their bag on board, thereby avoiding the often long wait at baggagee claim at their destination. I, on the other hand, am willing to lengthen my check-in time and to wait at baggage claim in return for other benefits. By not carrying on luggage, I do not have to worry that all of the overhead bin space will be gone by the time I board. And because most of my flights involve a connection, I like being hands-free at the connecting airport. My one carry-on is a backpack so that both of my hands are free while walking from one gate to the next. One to hold my Starbucks, the other to be checking email on my Blackberry. Finally, I prefer not to have to put a second bag under the seat in front of me, so that I can more freely stretch out my legs during longer flights. So...everyone determines which advantages are most important, and then acts accordingly.

My beef is with people who want the best of both worlds, and don't care who they inconvenience. On a recent flight, the guy seated next to me in first class arrived late. By the time he arrived....with three carry-ons...the overhead bin space was nearly gone. He proceeded to rearrange other passengers' belongings, and then shoved his larger bag up against another bag, without regard to whether he might be damaging someone else's stuff. He then became frustrated when he couldn't find space for his second large bag, so he enlisted the help of the flight attendant. In my opinion, the flight attendant should have called him out on having three bags, and required him to gate check the third one. Instead, she started checking each of the full overhead bins to see if some additional rearranging could be done. In the end, she spotted my backpack. Keep in mind that I have already agreed to the prior mentioned inconveniences of checking my bag, in order to achieve the benefits that are important to me. Now the flight attendant requests that I place my backpack under the seat in front of me so that my seatmate can use that space in the overhead bin for his illegal third bag. As you can imagine, I was not a happy camper.

So IS the limit really TWO carry-ons? If it IS, then please enforce it. If it ISN'T, then please stop saying that it is.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

I'll Take the Compliment AND the Discount

Attending church recently with family in Blaine, WA. Son-in-law Jared leading worship. Fellow band member sees me sitting next to my daughter Rachel in row 2. Band member: “Is that Rachel’s brother sitting down there with Rachel?” Jared: “No…that’s her dad!” Me (later, upon hearing the story): happy to take the compliment. Rachel: Maybe not amused??

After church. Local restaurant. Everyone hungry for something different . Brunch to the rescue. Senior discount ($3 off) mentioned in menu. Me: “How old do you have to be to qualify for the senior discount?” Waitress: “It’s available to anyone age 55 and older, sir.” Me: Thrilled to be getting a senior discount for the first time. Me (two seconds later): depressed that I just qualified for my first senior discount.

Later the same day. Picking up a few things at the grocery store. Rachel and I in checkout line with her boys. Cashier (talking to my grandson): "Have your daddy lift you up so I can show you something." Me: “Well, actually I’m his grandfather.” Cashier: "Grandfather?? Whoa! Lookin’ good, Grandpa!" Me: Beaming, and feeling totally OK about qualifying earlier for that senior discount. Rachel: Maybe not amused??