Monday, December 22, 2003

Family vacation notes 

I am awake in our hotel in Durango at an incredibly early hour, afflicted by jet lag and the hot, dry air pouring out of the electrical heating system. I really dislike sleeping without fresh air, or even just circulating air. The rest of my family not only hates fresh air, they admit as much (number one son: “Dad, I’m an indoor-type of boy.”). So I have to live with SFA. That would be the Same Fucking Air. I may have to resort to Tylenol PM just to get a good night’s sleep.

Yesterday we traveled to Durango, via Denver, and things went both terribly and according to plan. Terribly, in that we had to work our way through a six (6) hour layover in Denver airport. According to plan, because, as my wife would say, we “meant to do that.” It seems that by accepting an incredibly long stop in Denver we were able to save roughly $400 per ticket. While there were moments yesterday when I thought that six hours in Denver for $400 X 5 was a bad trade, it actually didn't even rank in my running list of hideous travel experiences. In the event, I was able to play around with my new digital camera, stuff a bunch of Christmas cards into envelopes, drink two beers, surf the web via a wireless connection I picked up in the bar, eat a tuna steak, get a poorly-executed chair massage (price = 1% of our savings from the five hour layover), read from my book and the huge pile of newspapers and magazines I lug around, watch the people (who are generally much more attractive than in New Jersey) and delete a bunch of superceded emails from my Inbox, which is about as productive as I usually am on a Sunday afternoon. And, apart from a constant stream of sarcasm, the children behaved well, so we didn’t have to threaten any unenforceable sanctions.

The only unscheduled glitch was related to the capacity of the little propeller plane that United proposed to fly over the Rockies to Durango. A few minutes before flight time they announced that our plane was subject to “weight limitations.” They asked people to volunteer to be bumped not because there weren’t enough seats, but because the people in the seats, plus their baggage, just added up to too much weight. Since I didn’t see any real “belt over, palms back” fatsos in the gate area, it must have been the bags. Hey, it was probably our bags, in that we are humping clothes and ski equipment for five people and Christmas presents for something like 13 people.

The troubling part was that having asked for bump-volunteers and not getting any, they did not actually force anybody off the plane. Instead they announced that they were “crunching numbers” to figure out whether the number of children would let them fly without kicking somebody off. I did not find it comforting that the success of our flight over the Rockies in the snow turned on any employee of United Airlines, up to and including the CFO, “crunching numbers,” or that the inputs to such number crunching included the difference between a child's weight, eye-balled by the gate attendant, and an adult's weight, also so eye-balled. But we made it.


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