December 2017

In the old days meant your grandfather set up a slide projector and gave an actual lecture about where he'd been.  My grandfather often was paid for such entertainment, or on occasion he bartered his skills to get a free berth on a trans-ocean ship which were a common and often luxurious means of transportation up until the 1970s.  in 1978 the United States passed the Airline Deregulation Act, the beginning of when travelers traded luxury for low cost.  Sorry, there is no going back!

But before we get to the topic at hand, let's have a small musical tribute to the late, great Antoine "Fats" Domino, who died at age 89 on October 24, 2017.

Here's "The Fat Man", recorded in 1949.  Fats is on piano, there's a stand-up bass, a simple drum back-beat, with some saxophones in the background.  Fats scats a muted trumpet with his voice, if you don't think that's truly awesome then you might suffer from poor musical taste and its no wonder no one wants to ride in a car with you.  The recording is an artifact that proves rock and roll is really just a branch of rhythm and blues, and that you don't even need a guitar to qualify.

 The Fat Man, 1949

By all accounts, Fats was a great guy and fame did not affect him in the negative ways we have witnessed with so many other entertainers.  Rather than eat out, he would bring his own cookware on tour and prepare beans and rice in his hotel room.  When he had a house with 24 foot ceilings built, he did it a few blocks from his boyhood home in the lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans, so his neighborhood friends could visit, drink beer and continue to taste his cooking.  Read about his life here, and/or read an interview from 2007 while you kick back and hear some of his recordings, to celebrate a life well lived.  

If you go back to 1940, The Fat Man is based on a boogie-woogie song, "Junkers Blues", by Champion Jack Dupree.  Junker's Blues was ahead of its time both musically and culturally, there seems to be more heroin today than ever before. Dupree was an interesting guy, an orphan, a  prizefighter, a musician, a cook, a prisoner of war and NOT a junkie all rolled into one.  Fats' theory that singing about being fat was going to draw more listeners than singing about getting high was proved correct when The Fat Man sold 1 million copies.  Dupree died in 1992, and his house did not have 24 foot ceilings.

Junkers Blues, 1940

Today, travel stories have a different connotation than they did 50 years ago.  Today, they often mean horror stories. But bad stuff happens all the time when you fly, and it gets boring hearing about it.  Did you ever hear anyone ask "and then what happened"? after you rattle off how many hours you were "stuck on the tarmac"?  No. If someone asks you "how's it going?" they don't want to hear about the three meetings you had cancelled this morning.  Here's the multiple choice answer, pick only one:  Great! OK. Crappy.

At the risk of boring you during these holiday times, I will pass on a few travel stories of my own, including some travel tips.  My stories don't focus on problems, I look at peoples' reaction to them.

Boring travel stories

My first observation that the Airline Deregulation Act was changing things was when I sat next to a guy on PeopleExpress Airline flight who brought an automobile tire as his carry-on item. I was a big fan of PeopleExpress, they had reguilar fares from Newark to Gatwick for $99 each way, and flights from Boston to Newark were $19 or $29.  Beers on the plane were only a buck!  A victim of its own success, PeopleExpress sold out to Continental, which is now part of United.

PeopleExpress commercial

At the DFW airport car rental return, ten years ago.   I pull in and there seems to be quite a few people standing around, some of them irate.  "I have a plane to catch, can't you get someone out here to make my receipt?" was the general theme.  I glanced over a couple rows and saw the problem.  Someone ran over the receipt guy. His thigh is bent 90 degrees and he is in shock.  A few people are looking at him, but no one is even trying to talk to him.  You'd think that customers might shut their pie holes and wait for the ambulance to carry the guy away, but that's not the world we live in. By they way, you should slow down and be careful in parking lots, so you never have to resort to the tired old "I didn't see him" excuse.

I end up in first class maybe every fifth flight.  What did Mel Brooks say?  It's good nice to be the king. In this day, it is no longer feasible to post the clip from "The History of the World" but that movie seems like a role model for the present administration.  Trust me, you will meet the worst people in business class.  Especially when a flight is going to arrive late. "tell the captain, I have a twenty minute connection...  I'll never fly this *&^% airline again!"

Once I was on a plane where the landing gear light indicated that the front gear was not locked.  The captain announced that we were rerouting to an airport with the best runway foaming (Dulles) and that we would cruise for 45 minutes to burn off excess fuel.  We were advised to review the safety card, and be extra sure those of us in the exit row knew how to open the door.  This is the only time I have seen all passengers actually read the instructions.  We landed OK but the plane was chased to a stop by a large group of firetrucks.  Then we had to wait for a portable staircase ramp to get off the plane.  The issue was most likely a failed sensor reporting a nonexistent problem.  After all that, you would not believe the complaining when we were put onto a bus to take us to DCA airport.  Even if there was a spare plane to make that 20 mile hop, a bus was surely the fastest way.

These days there is a fight over luggage space in the plane, another self-inflicted wound caused by airlines charging $25 to check a bag.  If you are in the last boarding group, it is vertually certain there will be no room for your stuff.  The last time I flew United, which I seldom use, they put me in the last boarding group and forced me to check my bag to make a few bucks off me. Imagine my surprise getting on the plane that was half full and there was room for 100 roller-bags in the overhead compartments.

I fly American a lot, coming up to two million miles.  If I could change one thing about them, I would make them stop hawling credit cards on every flight; this is a practice they adopted when they merged with US Airways.  Obviously, it makes money for them or they wouldn't do it, and I have an American Airline-affiliated credit card myself.  But I am willing to pay a few bucks more for a few more minutes of silence.

It seems like there are a lot more "Bad Dads" flying these days.  How many times have you sat next to a guy that shoves a tablet into his kids hands, tells then to be quiet and keep the window shade down the entire flight so that Dad can watch his own movie?  Way to go, making such good memories for your kids. If you are a little kid reading this, ask Mommy to take you on the next flight because Daddy is such a jerk.

Regional carriers are now servinghas training school for pilots.  On a recent trip from LAX to San Diego (a 20 minute flight) teh pilot overshot teh runway and went out to sea for 15 minutes.  He annouced something about obstacles on teh runway, but I am pretty sure he did not have the flaps set. when he finally landed he hit the brakes hard, got the speed down to maybe 30 mph, then revved the engines like it says on the checklist.  But you are supposed to brake with the engines first, to avoid melting the whel brakes.  Whe we got to the gate, teh door remained closed for 10 minutes.  Turns out he overshot his parking place and we were waiting for a tug to pull us back a few feet.  Nice. Glad we lived through that.

Tucson airport has a runway that faced teh prevailing winds (northwest to southeast). There is also an orthogal auxially runway that is less than half as long, as you can see in the photo. One time I was on a plane that was circling around west of the airport, waiting for a thunderstorm to move.  Storms here are very localized; the pilot actually go permission to land the plane on the aux runway while lightning was hitting the southeast end of teh longer one.  The runway was of course wet.  This was the one occasion I have been on a Boeing 737 where the pilot locked the  wheels up ahile landing.  My guess is that he required a change of underwear afterwards.  Still, it was great to be home, the alternative is that the plane would land in Phoenix and passengers would have to figure out surface transportation for the 100 mile trip. I rented a car for less tjhan 2 hours one time to make that run.


Travel tips

Always wear a long sleeve shirt.  In the unlikely event (hah!) you might sit next to a fat smelly person with scabies, this will prevent you from having skin-to-skin contact.

TSA precheck costs $85, it is worth it, and someday it will prevent you from missing a flight.

If your flight is late, and lands at 10:20PM, and your connection was scheduled for 10PM, don't get all angry and push people out of the way so you can get to the gate where your flight just left.  You can't go back in time... just walk to the checkin desk at the gate you just landed, and calmly ask to see the preprinted hotel vouchers they just printed up.  You can pick if you ask nicely: Quality Inn, what else ya got?  Sure, I'll take the Hilton, thank you Ma'am!

spreaking of getting angry, it does not help in a travel situation when you are talking to people who you need on your side (feel free to be angry at fellow passengers...).  I have seen a pushy "elite member" at a car rental company get stuck with a tiny Hyundai when he reserved a full sized car.  I got the nicer car as the car rental guy was really platying with him.  I heard him warn the parking lot guys that they had a jerk on their hands and to make sure he left in the small car.

Every week in your life you probably throw away 20 plastic bags.  Then when you travel, you grab a new bag from the hotel closet.  Why not put some used grocery bags in your luggage and reuse them?

Stupid stuff

Why is luggage with built-in battery pack allowed for sale? Batteries are unsafe, so lets's throw some more into the overhead compartment.  Did you notice there are more fire extinguishers on planes these days?  Here is a blogger telling you about "smart luggage".  It even has a built-inscrew driver in case you need to remove the battery! Maybe it should come with a halon extinguisher.  A built-in laundry bag? what will they think of next!

Smart luggage described with a Canadian accent

The more featuire you put into a bag, why are the wheels non-replaceable?  If you travel a lot, you will be throwing away a your rolling bag after three years.  Thanks for increasing entropy in the universe by sening more lithium to the dump!

Meanwhile, World View in Tucson is busy recreating the Hindenberg Experience.

Oh, the humanity.

Check out the Unknown Editor's amazing archives when you are looking for a way to screw off for a couple of hours or more!

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