What Do You Expect?

I generally expect things to work out – except when I’m traveling. Experience has conditioned me to expect the worst when I leave home.

I expect the airplane will be overbooked, the schedule delayed, or the flight cancelled. All these things have happened to me.

At the hotel, I expect

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Make a Joyful Noise

On a recent trip I wound my way through the airport, seeking the hotel shuttle. Not transferring planes as I normally do at this hub, I navigated unfamiliar territory: traversing terminals, ascending stairs, snaking through corridors, and riding an elevator. The sign lead me outside for a moment and then back in…

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Don’t Wash Your Hands at the Airport

As I made my way through airport security on my recent trip, I was randomly selected for a chemical scan. After passing a gauze-like material over my hands, the female TSA worker popped it in a machine for analysis. To my shock and her dismay, the machine beeped and turned red.

This development earned me the special attention of receiving a pat down. As she guided me past a long line of fellow travelers, I wondered if this unexpected development might actually end up saving me time going through security. I was wrong.

While we waited for a male TSA worker to conduct the pat down, I wondered aloud how I managed to set off the sensor. “I just washed my hands,” I mused.

“That does seem to catch a lot of people,” she replied.

If soap is setting off the senor then either the machine is too sensitive or they need to buy different soap.

I was quite apprehensive about the pat down, but the male TSA agent carefully explained the process and conducted it with great gentleness. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Frankly I think it bothered him more than me. I passed the pat down and assumed I was good to go. Not so. He then did a chemical check of his gloves and the sensor again beeped and turned red. A supervisor arrived quickly and I was ushered into a private room. I began to wonder if I was going to make it home.

The supervisor and agent both put on new gloves and this time the supervisor gave me the pat down. If the scan of his gloves came back testing positive for chemicals, I was hosed. Fortunately it did not. I was free to go.

While the first scan may have come up positive because soap residue on my hands, that didn’t explain the positive match on the second test. Then I realized that neither the first or second scan was done by an agent wearing new gloves. They likely had chemical residual on their gloves from other passengers, fellow travelers who passed through security undetected and would be getting on a plane with the residue of potential bomb-making chemicals on them.

Although I would be boarding a plane after a rigorous security ordeal, I didn’t feel any safer.

Dealing with the Daylight Savings Time and Jet Lag the Same Weekend

I’ve never been a fan of our twice-annual time change, in and out of daylight savings time. My perspective is to pick a time and stick with it. This is in part because of the hassle of resetting clocks, but also because it takes my body about a week to fully adjust.

I also struggle with jet lag after traveling. That, too, takes a few days for my body to recover.

This past weekend, I was able to experience both, the switch to daylight savings time Sunday morning and an airplane flight, spanning two time zones, Sunday afternoon.

I think that the first partially offset the second. But then there was the return trip, from which I am in recovery from the jet lag.

Even so, dealing with the adjustment to daylight savings time simultaneously with jet lag, is better than dealing with them on separate occasions.

What do you think of daylight savings time?

Please Turn Off All Electronic Devices

I have owned and enjoyed an iPod Nano for many years. Though I don’t use it much for music, it is a regular source for listening to podcasts and lectures.

Almost from the start, however, I’ve encountered intermittent difficulty in turning it off. There are some tricks to accomplish this posted online, but they only work some of the time. When these workaround solutions don’t resolve this issue, I either just let the battery run down, forcing it to turn off, or dock it with my computer, thereby bypassing the problem.

Although this is mildly irritating, it’s not a big deal. At least not until recently.

In preparation for a trip, I loaded my iPod with hours of recordings. While waiting to board my plane and during the preflight process, I listened to it.

When the instruction came to turn off and stow all electronic devices, my iPod was unresponsive. And the tricks to make it cooperate didn’t work either.

What would a flight attendant do with a device that can’t be turned off? I didn’t want to find out, so I pretended that nothing was amiss and shoved it in my bag, feeling only a slight twinge of guilt for my non-compliance.

Waiting for Sand

I understand the phrase “pounding sand” to be a reference to a futile activity, but “waiting for sand” was a new one to me.

This week, while awaiting takeoff of a small commuter plane, we endured a lengthy and unexpected delay.  Finally the explanation was given.

The plane was “unbalanced” and we were light in the tail section.  To correct this they needed to add weight in the back and were waiting for bags of sand to be delivered and loaded onto the plane.

Now if this weight imbalance was a safety issue, then I welcome the delay.  However, if this was done merely to make the plane fly more aerodynamically in order to save fuel, then I’m a bit miffed.

Because of this delay, I missed my connecting flight, as I’m sure was the case with many of my fellow travelers who had even tighter connections then me.

As a result, I understand “waiting for sand” to mean a needless and unwarranted delay.

“Waiting for sand,” seems to be the norm in the airline industry.

Who’s in Control?

When my bride and I returned from our recent trip, we allowed plenty of time to make the trek from hotel to airport — more than three hours, in fact.  However, a series of unforeseen events conspired against us, making our schedule tighter and tighter with each progressive twist.

As each delay transpired, it became less likely that we would make our flight.  I kept telling myself, “We will either make our flight or we will not; there’s nothing you can do about it.”  Therefore, I might as well just relax and watch events unfold.

My sage advice, however, was easier to say than to do; it is more viable in theory than in practice.  As the clock ticked down, I became more unnerved and on edge.  Fortunately, airport security at MCO was smooth and efficient — despite me forgetting to discard the bottle of water from my carry on.  (It was intended to enjoy with the breakfast that we had to skip.)

We arrived at the gate, breathless, haggard, and hungry, mere seconds before the call for final boarding.

As we settled into our seats, I tried to calm my frayed nerves.  I was reminded of the fact that while we can’t control the things that happen to us, we can control our reaction to them.  In fact, it is the only thing that we can control — and I have done a poor job of it.

I’m Back!

A few months ago, in my post “The Work of Publishing Periodicals” I explained why I hadn’t blogged for awhile — for 21 days to be exact. (Prior to that, the dubious record was 14 days — see “The AWOL Blogger is Back .”)

In my entry, I blamed my absence from the blogosphere on attending a convention.  First I was busy trying to work ahead in anticipation of being gone, then I was gone, and then I was catching up from being gone.

So what’s my excuse this time for an embarrassingly long, record-setting, four week absence?  Another convention!  This time it was the ATA (American Teleservices Association) convention in Orlando.  It was a great event and time well spent, but once again, the ramifications of attending precluded time to blog.

It’s not that I don’t have anything to say, I do.  I just haven’t carved out the time to do so.

Perhaps this blog will jump start that process — and if not, expect another long delay between posts!

Credit Cards Supplant Cash

There was a time when I traveled quite a bit.  Nowadays, it is infrequent.  As such when I do travel, I am always treated to something new, to a different way of doing things.

On my last flight, instead of the usual admonition of providing correct change for our various in-flight purchases, the new rule was no cash — credit cards only.  The flight attendants were equipped with some nifty hand-held credit card terminals, complete with a self-contained mini printer.  While this didn’t seem to quicken the speed of the transaction (if anything, it slowed it down), there are several benefits to a cashless process.

Most importantly, it is more sanitary.  No longer must the flight attendants alternate between touching germ-laden cash and preparing our food.

Next, it is more convenient for passengers.  I suspect that nary a passenger would be flying sans credit card, whereas some might be cash strapped.  (I’ve been there a time or two).  Having the correct amount is no longer an issue, plus for those on an expense account, a credit card makes it easier to track of purchases.

It is also more convenient for flight attendants.  They no longer need to handle money and are no longer challenged in finding change for those who only have larger bills (I’ve been there as well).

Lastly, I suspect that people spend more when they use plastic.  A case in point was my seatmate, who flashed her card four times during our three hour flight: twice for adult beverages, once for earphones, and a final time to eat (she actually bought two meals.)

Traveling still isn’t fun — but at least it’s interesting.

The Joys of Traveling

You may think that I was AWOL last week, having not posted anything since October 3.  Actually, I have been extremely busy.  At the beginning of last week, I was at the ATA (American Teleservices Association) convention in New Orleans.  It was a great convention, but the preparation for the trip, the travel, and the recovery from being gone have pre-occupied me for several days.  After working all day Saturday, I thought I was caught up, only to realize this afternoon that I had overlooked an important task on Friday.  Although that is now complete, I am behind from the things I should have done this afternoon.

Regardless of all that, here are some travel related thoughts:

  • It took two hours to fly from Chicago to New Orleans — and then two hours to get from the airport to my hotel.
  • A pre-flight announcement shared that the plane’s restrooms would not be available for the two-hour flight.  There is nothing like being told that there are no restrooms to convince you that you really need one.  After de-planing to use the airport facilities, we were told that the plane’s bathroom issue would be resolved before takeoff.
  • United’s check-in kiosk tried to upsell me twice.  First, five more inches of legroom for $39 (as I recall) and then something else for $19.  Someone in a hurry could unwittingly press “yes” to either option in their haste to obtain tickets.
  • United also lacked the option to purchase a “snack.”
  • In contrast, Continental gave me a snack on the return flight.  What a pleasant surprise — and quite satisfying as well.
  • Like every hotel room I’ve stayed in, this one also wasted water: a dripping faucet and leaking “flapper valve” on the toilet.  If every room is likewise functioning, I wonder how much water is wasted annually.
  • I lacked change to tip the shuttle bus driver.  Thinking I was being clever, I asked if he had change for a five — he offered me two ones.  I’m not sure if he was mathematically challenged or just greedy.  Actually, I do know; how sad. 

Anyway, that is the saga of my travels; thankfully a wonderful convention and lots of great people there, made it all worthwhile.