There’s a very good reason I haven’t posted for a few days. I’ve been in Rhode Island all week for a conference. The conference was nice, but there are few things I dislike more than certain aspects of traveling.
- Airport Internet – Given the prevalence of business travelers, given the prevalence of folks wanting internet access, I really hate being stuck in an airport without free internet access. No, DTW in Detroit, I do NOT want to pay for a “Boingo” hotspot just to have internet access for my 2-hour layover. Instead, in the future I’m much more likely to try to avoid your shitty internet-charging airport.
- Loud Airport Cyborgs – I think I could list about a dozen travel issues related to people and their cell phones…the need people seem to have to make a call the MOMENT the plane lands, distracted drivers, restaurant cell phone use, etc. But the one that bugged me the most this trip were the airport “cyborgs” with what look like semi-permanent head implants, talking as loudly as humanly possible while either strutting around the airport or standing around the gate. NO, Mr. (yes, 99% of Airport Cyborgs are men) Cyborg Businessman, I do NOT care to hear your conversation with your business buddy that drowns out the rest of the tri-state area. What’s laughable is that 9 out of 10 of these very loud Cyborg “business” calls sound like no more than mindless chattering, usually with another like-minded Cyborg Businessman with seemingly nothing else to do than bother those around them. It’s certainly hard to imagine a sophomoric conversation about your golf game or the cute waitress at the bar being important enough to require a headset bio-mechanically welded to your skull.
- Boarding the Plane – In what I deem to be the recurring theme of this post, I’ve decided I am FAR too nice, compared to the rest of the human race. What so difficult to understand about the gate agent saying “keep clear of the boarding area until your zone is called”? And why must the boarding process be a race? The most laughable to me is the “honor” of “gold” members or other frequent flyers getting to board the plane first. On all four of my flight legs this week, the plans were small (CRJ’s?), with no difference in any of the seating, no “first class”. But yet without fail, about 10 minutes before they start to board the plane, a cadre of Hairy Old White Men (see previous posts!) or Airport Cyborgs line up close to the “red carpet”, and race to show their importance by boarding the plane first. ESPECIALLY when ALL of the seats were small and cramped, as they were on my flights this week, the LAST thing I want is to sit in the airplane. But for the “boarding race” crowd, the “prestige” of boarding first evidently outweighs the extreme discomfort of actually sitting on the plane.
- Carryons - One of the worst things that happened to air travel was when airlines started charging for baggage. Thus began the infatuation people had with only bringing carryon luggage and bags. Hence the grumpy guy with a bag that’s CLEARLY too large to fit in the overhead bin, who insists to the gate agent that he’s “done this all the time”. Then upon boarding, after blocking the aisle for 5 minutes trying to stuff his massive dufflebag in a bin 80% as big as the bag itself, sanity finally prevails and he’s forced to check his bag. This is directly related to #3 above, and the rush to board, where people will board “out of order”, just in an attempt to avoid the dreaded “planeside bag check” and obtain one of the treasured overhead bins. Do you know how much more relaxed I am when I travel, than the poor saps who participate in the Carryon Wars? I check one piece of luggage big enough to hold nearly all my stuff, and don’t have to worry about lugging bulky bags through the terminal, don’t have to worry about rushing to board, and don’t have to worry about finding space for my bags in the overhead bins.
- “Sprawlers” and the armrest - Another case of me being FAR too nice compared to other folks. Let’s face it, space is at a premium in coach. But the LAST thing I want is to be rubbing elbows with the 300-lb Cyborg businessman for the duration of the flight. Leave…Me…Alone, and keep your body and personal items in your own tiny little traveling space. But, alas, for most folks (and by “Folks”, again I refer primarily to men, since they are by FAR the worst at this), it seems to be a fight to carve out as much space for themselves as possible. Nowhere is this more evident than the armrests between seats. By the very nature of airplane configuration, if YOU place your arm on the armrest, the person next to you has less space. You are sending the NOT so subtle message that YOU are more important than your row-mate, and deserve more space than your neighbor. I believe the last time I actually used the armrest in an airplane was 1985 or so. I keep waiting for another “nice” person to be seated next to me, where the armrest is a DMZ, without intrusion or competition between your and your neighbors’ elbows. It’s been 27 years of traveling, and I’m still waiting…
- Reclining seats – In yet another case of me being too nice…I never recline my seat in an airplane. For one, it’s not like doing so suddenly thrusts you into a realm of extreme comfort. But more importantly, I just don’t want to cramp the space of the person behind me. Silly me, for trying to be nice. It’s always SO pleasant to sit in a plane with your knees up around your ears, and then after the plane lifts off, the person in front of you, jams their seat back as far as you go, leaving you little room to do anything other than contemplate your miserable existence for the duration of the flight.
- The half-can of soda – Really, Delta? Are your profit margins SO razor-thin, that the whole operation depends upon only providing a half-can of soda during the wonderful “refreshment” stage of the flight? I’m an adult. When flying all day, you get dehydrated in the dry air of an airplane cabin. When you offer your meager drinks and snacks, is it too much to ask to get an ENTIRE 12-oz can of juice or soda? How much are you saving by pouring half a can into a plastic cup, and saving the other half for another flier? Please, Delta, just add 25 cents to the price of my ticket to offset the cost of treating me like an adult and giving me an entire can of soda.
- Rental Car checkout - GOOD…FREAKIN…GOD. I MADE the rental car reservation months ago. I gave you my name, address, payment information, telephone and cellphone, mother’s maiden name, name of my pet hamster when I was 6 years old…WHAT…THE…HELL…ELSE are you entering into the computer when I arrive at the rental car counter to get my car? Why the HELL should it take 10 minutes to check out a car?
- Driving in a strange city – I guess this could just be entitled “driving in general”, given the rudeness of drivers, but things seem amplified when you’re driving in a strange city. I’m sorry, local resident, unlike you, I CANNOT talk on my cellphone and weave all over the road while I’m trying to get to my destination. I’m sorry I can ONLY go 5 MPH over the speed limit, clearly not fitting into the local culture where everybody seems to treat the speed limit more as a suggestion than as a law. I hope you take comfort in riding my ass, violently swerving into the other lane to pass, giving me a stare (or a finger), and then violently swerving back in front of me and cutting me off. Never mind that with all the heavy traffic on the highway, you’ve only gained 100 feet of real estate. Never mind that all you’ve done is ensured your arrive at your destination 1.8 seconds sooner than you would have otherwise. It’s ALL about you making a “statement”, and ensuring that I know my relative place in the world compared to you. Bravo, local driver…Bravo. Well played.
- Noisy hotel neighbors – One more case of me being FAR too nice. When I get to a hotel room, I’m as quiet as a church mouse. If I have the TV on, I have it on very low. If I’m moving about the room, I’m trying not to stomp on the floor and bother the person below me. If I’m traveling with other folks and want to talk, have a beer, etc…I DON’T turn my hotel room into a temporary, neighborhood bar. When I’m in the hall I DON’T stand in the hallway outside of other people’s rooms and have a very loud conversation. When I get back to my room late or night, I DON’T slam the door and wake up the entire floor. In other words, when I stay in a hotel room, I actually try to be cognizant of the fact that there are other PEOPLE around me.
I could go on, but you get the idea. Traveling doesn’t HAVE to be a nightmare. If only people were considerate of those around them, business travel could be tolerable. But alas…people are, well, people.