October 19, 2002



Scenes From An Airport


Stand by for random thoughts delivered from Gate A6 in America West’s terminal of the Phoenix, Az. airport.

Well, first, immediately, my thoughts are on America West and how hugely they suck. I have yet to have a good experience on this airline. This is my third time flying them in the last two months and they are the absolute worst airline I’ve been on. They make Southwest look good. They make Delta look good. They make Air Tehran look good. The seats are tiny and narrow, the rows are crammed in so tightly that your knees are practically jammed into the person in front of you, the flight attendants are surly, and the pilots suck: "Would you like that landing with two bounces, or three?" And now they’ve marooned me in Phoenix.

My intended itinerary tonight was to fly from DFW to PHX, leisurely spend the next 45 minutes strolling three gates down from my arrival gate, and then catch a final flight from PHX to BUR, touching down in beautiful downtown Burbank, Ca at 8:26 p.m.

Well. That obviously didn’t happen.

First, it rained in Dallas. When it rains in Dallas, bad things happen, especially when it rains as hard as it tends to rain there. DFW sort of turns into the aeronautical equivalent of a roach motel: planes check in but they don't check out. So the flight I was supposed to be leaving on didn’t get there until after it was leaving. We finally boarded and then sat around for a year or two until someone in the cockpit started the "You were waiting for me to start the engines? I was waiting for you to start them!" conversation. Twenty minutes later they started them and we got around to flying to Phoenix.

Naturally, we couldn’t fly a direct route. No, we had to zig this way and zag the other to avoid clouds and turbulence and bogies and to burn off enough time to make me miss my connection. Sure enough, we landed three minutes after my Burbank flight took off. It was an on time departure. They were quite proud of that.

But no worries, they have a seat waiting for me on the next flight out. That leaves in 2.5 hours. That flies into LAX. And, no, they can’t offer me a meal voucher or cover my unexpected $60 cab ride home or comp me an upgrade to make up for the inconvenience – they don’t do that if it’s weather-related. "Sorry!" the customer service drone says with a chipper smile. "Sqlllchzt" is the sound I imagine my fist makes smacking into her porcine features. Repeatedly.

So here I am, stranded in Phoenix. Lucky you; it’s got me writing a ‘stake. And while some of you are no doubt making snarky comments about "Oh, God, another travel entry?" I’ll just point out that, hey, at least it’s an entry.

So… random thoughts that aren’t related to planning the celebration I’ll have when America West goes out of business…

JournalCon. It sucked that I missed it. More specifically, it sucked that I missed out on doing it with Steve. For me, JournalCon was sort of the after-dinner mint for the main course of entertainment that riding up there on Harleys with Steve was going to be. That’s what I was really looking forward to, and I was heavily bummed that I couldn’t do it, and I felt bad about bailing out on Steve and leaving him to make the run solo, especially at the last minute.

I did feel bad about missing JC2K+2, too, of course. I was going to get to meet Michael and Chris Naze and see Mo and Lucy again. I was going to get to marvel, in person, at the human train wreck that is Javina. I was going to karaoke for the first time ever (I was thinking of doing Sinatra, or maybe Harry Connick). I was going to feel uncomfortably uncomfortable around Diane and Tamar again. I was going to observe the phenomenon that is Pamie and (now, this isn’t a slam against her, it’s just an opinion) be able to gaze upon it in puzzlement in person and continue to just not get it. And, hey, maybe she’d bring Stee and I’d finally get to meet him (because I secretly suspect that they’re shacking up together). And, of course, JC2K+2 was going to be the fertile grounds for yet another M*A*G adventure which would be faithfully reported in a subsequent website.

But, alas, it was not to be. You see, Vegas didn’t get the memo.

The week prior to JC2KI+2, I was in Las Vegas on business. In fact, technically I was there for the two weeks prior since I came home over the weekend. But I was in Vegas and, well, where there’s Vegas there’s gambling and where there’s gambling… there’s Chuck. And there’s Chuck… and there… and over there… So I did me some gambling.

I did it because renting a Harley to ride up with Steve was going to be really friggin expensive – four days was going to run me about $750 between rental fees, insurance, double insurance and insurance insurance. And that’s on top of the roughly $2000 deposit they wanted before I was even allowed to look at a bike. So when I found out I’d be in Vegas on business, I of course made the logical plan that I would win this $2750+ by playing poker and craps and blackjack and the slots.

Vegas, however, didn’t get the memo. Or maybe it was garbled in transmission. They were down with the gambling part, very much so; all smiles and "how ya doing"s when I stepped up the tables, all grins and "sure, whaddaya need" as I made my betting motions. They were solidly behind the notion of me gambling, that part came through loud and clear. Winning, however… Well, maybe that’s the page that went missing from the fax. Page one with "Chuck will gamble" came through in fine, strong 72 point type, but page two reading "and WIN" in big sparkling multicolored letters… Well, I guess that page got jammed in the machine or something. Whatever happened, they didn’t get it. And I was not permitted to win.

Well, that’s not entirely true, I did win a little bit. I did very well playing poker, in fact I had a fantastic run at the Mandalay Bay casino, where I won something like 14 or 15 pots in a row, so many that everyone started folding without even looking at their cards when I bet. I won more than $100 in that run and promptly got up and walked away. I had similar luck playing two nights at the Luxor, made a tidy little profit at the Mirage. Poker-wise, I held my own. Maybe the poker room fax was working.

Unfortunately, I seem to have a newly discovered congenital defect: I cannot walk past a craps table without losing an obscene amount of money. I would get paid off in the poker room and then have to walk past a craps table on my way out … and I’d just drop my winnings off there. The worst example of this is the time I walked up to a table and, while the dice were flying through the air, tossed the dealer $50+ dollars worth of chips to bet all the numbers, and… the dice and my chips hit the felt almost simultaneously … and the dice came up 4/3. Seven out: my bet was a loser before it even hit the table.

Blackjack treated me slightly better, and there was one quarter slot machine at Luxor that donated $200 some odd dollars toward bringing me back to even, but I kept walking past those damned craps tables.

Vegas not only didn’t get the memo, it had absolutely no interest in financing my San Francisco trip once I explained what it said. Once that toddling town was finished dancing on my debit card, I simply could not afford JournalCon. And so Steve had to go solo. Sorry, Steve…

Update: [Insert string of blue-tinted, sailor-inspired curse words here.] It’s boarding time for my 2.5 hours later than I was supposed to get out of here flight, and guess what? No aircraft. My first flight was late, my second flight left without me, and now my third (replacement) flight isn’t even here. Wait, update over the PA system… No, sorry, the plane is here, it just isn’t here – it’s in the hangar. Being repaired. No, they don’t know what’s wrong with it or when it’ll be ready but the estimated time of repair is 10:00 pm. But don’t go anywhere and keep checking back every ten to fifteen minutes if you do go anywhere. We’ll let you know if anything changes.

Good God. Can I find the words to express just how much I hate America West? Yes, I can. Dare I use them, for fear that their raw power breaks the Internet? No, I dare not.

Update: I just had two arguments with the girl at the check-in counter and one with the very much not assisting guy over at the Traveler’s Assistance desk. They are remarkably unified in their insistence that weather delays are not their fault and they’re not required to provide meal vouchers or shuttles or to assist in continuing interrupted travel on competing airlines. It’s almost as though they’re reading from a script, a script written by someone with absolutely no grasp of the concept of customer service. No, you don’t have to do any of those things for me, but it would be good business if you did. An unhappy customer tells everyone that they’re unhappy (sometimes they do it online), and that old saw about even bad publicity being good publicity only held true for movie stars in the 40’s. Here in the New Millenium, one would think you’d want to keep a frequent flier happy in hopes that he becomes a frequent flier with you. But no, they’re not required to blah-blah-blah. And they’re not sorry about it, either.

Update: I’ve watched three people go up to the counter to check on the being-repaired plane’s progress. The marquee behind the counter is scrolling "ETR 10 p.m. Check back every 10 – 15 minutes for more information." The girl behind the counter’s advice is "Check back at 10:00." (45 minutes from now.) Her tone of voice says that these people are morons for checking for more information.

Update: I just made the girl at the check-in counter cry.

Update: Hallelujah! Our plane has been repaired and is pulling up to the gate even as I type. They need to do a security sweep of the plane, have it catered, round up a flight crew, and then they’re start boarding us just as soon as possible. Expected departure time: about an hour from now. (So much for "as soon as possible.")

Observation: The "security" crew has been summoned to sweep the plane (for terrorist devices, one assumes). On seeing these people, I do not feel secure. If you’ve been to a McDonald’s lately and been asked "would you like fries with that?" by a surly, pimply-faced teen in a too-big stained uniform shirt with a crooked clip-on tie, then you may have already met one of these security screeners. Every single one of them must have had to have failed an intelligence test to be here.

Update: We’re finally boarding, at long last. I’m due to get in to LAX at midnight, then I’ll take a 30 minute +/$50 cab ride home. Total travel time: 10.5 hours. Thank you, America West.

And now, reading back over this entry, I have to agree with my critics: these travel entries suck.