Friday, August 15, 2008

On The Road Rants

In the spirit of my fellow bloggers like Liquid Egg Product and Chess Loser here is one of those non-chess rambling rants. Maybe I should subtitle this "Planes, Buses and Hotels".

In the past 6 weeks I've spent almost 4 of them not in my own bed. I've been in 5 different airports, 1 bus station, 3 hotels, 1 college dorm, and 1 summer house. I've been to three countries. Oops make that two countries. Texas is not a country. I got two new stamps in my passport. Yes! I actually got a Canadian stamp in my passport. All I can say as much as I like to travel, I'm glad I don't have to get on another damn airplane until October when I go to California to walk the marathon. (Shameless plug. Not too late to contribute!) If if throw in the two trips to the JHS and Elementary Championships there are two more airports and three train stations.

So what have I learned from all this travel? Thank goodness I travel for fun, not for business. I don't think I could do this every month.

Hotels are a rip off. They get you on the food and drink if you eat and drink there. Hotels in California love to nail you on their home grown vintages. I can get a decent bottle of cheap California wine at the grocery store for the same price as a glass at the LAX Hilton. They get you on the Internet if you want to have it in your room and not come down to the lobby every time you want to check your email or post to your blog. Don't even open the mini-bar door if you don't want to risk getting hit for a $5.00 can of soda. If you're at a large tournament like the JHS Nationals don't expect room service to deliver your food when you want it. Room service? Another huge rip off. The only time I have room service is if someone else is paying for it.

Hotels like to think they're being green by leaving little signs saying to hang your towels up if you don't need new ones, or leave a card on the bed if you want your sheets changed. However how green is it when every day they take out the once used cake of soap and bottle of shampoo and replace them with new ones? How green is it when they come in to clean your room, and leave every single freaking light on in the room? Come on now. I'm a big girl I can come into a dark hotel room by myself after my evening round is done. I don't need Tom Bodette of Motel 6 leaving the light on for me.

Airports! Another rip off. You can't bring liquids through security so you're at the mercy of the newsstand operators and food vendors who charge $2.00 for a little bottle of water. I can buy a case of water at Costco for the price I would end out paying for enough water to get me to Korea. Fortunately I don't have to worry about that because Korean Air doesn't nickle and dime you to death like the US carriers do. I'm getting ahead of myself on the airline rant. It's a good thing Korean Air doesn't charge you for water because in Seoul they check your carry on luggage and take away liquids at the gate even after you've gone through security. They don't mess around over there.

Oh yes I was talking about airports. How is it that a gigantic airport like DFW can have security check points with 4 tiny tables for two lines that merge to a single scanner? After you've been standing in a line that hasn't moved for 15 minutes somebody comes up and says to people in the back of the line "go to gate so and so and there's another security check point with only a two minute wait." Then there's LAX with the security double whammy. You check a bag and you got to take the bag yourself over to the scanner for checked luggage. You can't simply drop the bag there, you have to wait in line. Then after you stand in that line you have to go to the regular security check point to get to your gate.

La Guardia Airport in New York is a farce. There are too many planes flying in and out of there and not enough gates. I suppose after all the airlines get through cutting their flight schedules in half that won't be an issue. I guess American Airlines will be cutting out the 6:59 AM flight to Montreal. There were 11 passengers on the American Eagle plane that seats 80. I've been on a private plane with more people. Coming back from Dallas we landed on time, but then it took another 15 minutes to find a gate. The pilot was referring to La Guardia as a postage stamp of an airport in NYC. He's probably from Dallas.

Thank goodness I have Gold status in American Airlines frequent flier program. I don't have to pay for checked bags. It has some other nice benefits like getting to board in group one, and getting to check in on the business or first class line at the counter. That's the good news. The bad news is I have to fly 25,000 miles a year to keep it up. Usually I manage at least one flight that someone else is paying for. My travel to scholastic nationals was not on American, and unfortunately Korean Air is not part of American's network. However Iberia is, so I got miles for the free trip to Spain. KER-CHING!

"How can we charge you? Let us count the ways." Want food? $$ Want your own bottle of water? $$ Want a headset to watch the movie?? $$ You're bringing luggage with you? $$. I thought I had heard it all when it comes to nickling and diming passengers to death, but I heard a new one. I was talking to the guy sitting next to me from Montreal to Dallas. He had flown up there on US Air (US Dare). They were charging a dollar for those paper luggage tags that are sitting on the counter when you need one for a checked bag. Gimme a break! They're going to charge you for checking a piece of luggage, and then they want you to pay another dollar to identify it. Note to self: Make sure all my bags are are already tagged.

Introducing the frequent traveler's best friend. The little gizmo pictured below is the greatest thing since sliced bread.

That is a mini power strip made by Belkin. It has three outlets and two USB ports for charging. In that picture I have my computer and cell phone plugged in two of the outlets and my Mon Roi and iPod plugged into the USB ports. It's great when you're in a hotel room with too many electronic things to charge and not enough outlets. It's also a great way to make friends at the airport. Outlets at the airport are few and far between. If you scrounge around you can find random outlets in places, but you may have to sit on the floor to use them. Often if there is an outlet, somebody else is already using it. That's where this thing comes in handy. You offer a spot on the strip in exchange for plugging it into the one outlet. I made all sorts of friends in O'Hare and LAX with this toy. I think the frazzled mom with a dead battery on her DVD player was tremendously grateful that I had room for her so that her kids could watch a movie while waiting.

I won't be getting on an airplane again for awhile, but that doesn't mean I won't be traveling. Next stop: Pawtucket, RI for the Blackstone Chess Festival Open. I attended school and college in New England for 5 years, and never played a tournament in Rhode Island. I'm finally completing my chess tour of the New England states. Being a total glutton for punishment I'm playing in the Open Section because I've had it with playing 1300 and 1400s. The Open section is for players rated over 1600. I'll be safe from old geezers and little monsters with low ratings.


Anonymous said...

I feel your pain! As a musician I have the good fortune of people paying me to travel to places to play. That is the good part. The actual act of traveling can be a little crazy at best. Last year on my way back from a festival in BEAUTIFUL Pagosa Springs, Colrado, the bass player and I were told to move to the "puffer" security line of the Denver airport. There was no rhyme or reason for the move. They said that is would get us through "quicker". It did not. When we asked why were there and if we could move back to the line, their reply was: "No we need to have people go through this line to justify the cost". Don't even get me started on trying to travel with an instrument!

All that being said, I appreciate the fact that they are trying to keep us safe. And I also appreciate the fact that they have to deal with a lot of cranky people. My easy way to deal with airport security delays is to get there REAL early, get through the lines and sit down and enjoy a nice cup of coffee and either read or play some chess on the lap top!

Have a good one,


Polly said...

I'm always amazed that when I carry my Chronos clock in carry on luggage that I don't get some security screener freaking out over this metal encased object that consists of a few batteries, a couple of wires, computer chip and LED screens. If I didn't know what it was, I'd be freaking out. I guess taht's why I play chess and don't work for the TSA.

chessloser said...

excellent rant there...i use hotels for sleeping in only. IF i can get a comped breakfast, i'll take it, but i won't eat at the hotel ever. and airports are just huge ripoffs. i really really really hate flying now, way too much of a hassle...and i get crap for my chess clock all the time...i have to explain its a damn clock, not a bomb...

Polly said...

CL: I've never gotten hassled about my clock. Maybe 50+ women don't fit the potential terrorist profile. Do you look like a terrorist? LOL On the other hand I don't exactly fit the typical Chronos clock carrying chess geek profile either. :-)

Anonymous said...

Airports can be seriously hit-or-miss. The two I have to use most often are Houston Intercontinental and Fort Lauderdale. Very fortunate these airports seem to have their acts together. Quick security checks, never have had problems.

Atlanta, of course, is an absolute demon.

Texas is not a country.

Beg to differ. We even have our own power grid!

Polly said...

LEP: Spoken like a true Texan

"Texas is not a country.

Beg to differ. We even have our own power grid!"

When I get a stamp in my passport for entering Texas then I'll belive it.