Friday, July 14, 2006

Planes, Pains, and Automobiles

I haven't necessarily been the most active airlines customer for most of my life. Most of the "business" flights I took were aboard military aircraft. But I have done enough flying with civilian airlines over the years to be able to compare and contrast air travel today with what it used to be, and the outlook is not good. Bad for me, because I will be more and more dependent on airline travel as my current business grows.

Case in point is the trip I made from the Redneck Riviera to Chicago for a meeting earlier this week. One of the advantages to using a small regional airport to fly from is that the security screening (at least at the airport I use) is relatively humane, and unhurried. The drawback to using a regional airport, of course, is lack of flexibility in flights, and shuttering of flight operations relatively early in the evening. If you are trying to make connections in Memphis or Atlanta to catch the last flight to Panama City, GOOD LUCK! If there is even an isolated thunderstorm anywhere east of the Mississippi River, flights start to back up at the major hubs and, as a half dozen of us found out, they are not going to hold the last flight to LA (Lower Alabama) for even a microsecond to allow folks on delayed flights a chance to avoid spending an unscheduled extra night on the road.

Silly me, thinking I could sprint from Concourse D to Concourse A in under thirty seconds. I haven't put that much stress on the heart and lungs since the Ole Miss--Alabama game two years ago. And the results of my exertions were similar--no joy.

And, of course, the airline was not responsible for that single storm cloud somewhere over a cornfield in Iowa backing up commercial air traffic in the most technologically advanced nation on the face of the earth. (Go back and reread that last sentence out loud and make sure you finish in a frustrated scream.) So, they weren't going to spring for the hotel room, but they could steer us to a hotel that offered a "distress" rate. I didn't consider myself to be in distress when I first stepped up to the counter, but that described my condition quite well by the time I had verbally fenced for twenty minutes with an agent who never looked up from the computer screen to look me in the eye while she flatly denied that the airline to which my company had paid an exorbitant amount of money to seat me next to a screaming baby for an hour and a half flight on which I had to pay a dollar for a snack, was not going to defray the cost of lodging me until they could cram me into another HATE IT (High Altitude Transit Endurance and Intelligence-insulting Tube) to get me to my final destination.

Luckily for me, I didn't have the time once I did get home to dwell on my mistreatment by the world's most advanced airline industry. In fact, my turn around time at home was less than most of the layovers I have experienced in my air travel of late, and within an hour of arriving at the domicile of my very fat cat (the wife and I are never there, lately), I had strapped my pick-up truck to my backside and was on the road headed for my next meeting for which I was already late and had a four hour drive to reach its location. It is only now, with meetings done, sitting in my hotel room, dreading the feel of the truck re-strapped to my posterior, that I have time to reflect on my cruel transportation fate.

Tomorrow morning I'm going to strap on my boat and tie into a redfish or two--that ought to erase the painful memories of the week.
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