Thursday, June 10, 2010

Travel Tales at 30,000 Feet.

Greetings from American Airlines Flt 1475 to Las Vegas.  It's been a long day so far.  I got up at 6:15 am, caught 6:50 train into Grand Central.  From there I took the shuttle to Times Square. At Times Square I caught the #2 to Penn Station. At Penn Station I took the 7:53 Jersey Transit train to Newark Airport.  Even then I still had to get on another train to actually get to the airport.  Isn't traveling to the airport just great?  Okay I could have spent $100+ on a taxi, and risked get stuck in traffic on the New Jersey Turnpike.  My other possible alternative was taking AMTRAK.  However the first train that stops near me and goes to Newark doesn't leave until 9:00 am and arrives at Newark at 9:50.  Somehow I don't think I would have made my 10:05 flight.  AMTRAK is no bargain either. A 50 minute train ride to Newark costs $48 one way.  I went from Chicago to Indianapolis and back for $36 last summer.

To me it's absurd that a major city like New York does not have a direct train from midtown Manhattan to either La Guardia or JFK airports.  On the other hand in the past few months I've flown into Chicago, Seattle and San Francisco and been able to get a train straight into the city.  Maybe the travel gods don't want people to leave New York.  I could stay home, but I have the family travel genes and can't help myself.

I don't really like Newark airport when I'm flying American.  It's Continental Airlines hub airport so other airlines seem to be treated as the poor stepchild.  The layout for security is really poor.  There aren't enough tables for people to put their stuff in bins.  If you get behind a travel newbie who doesn't know how get his stuff in and out the bins you can be slowed down.  Probably my favorite scene in "Up in the Air" is when George Clooney's character is explaining to his protege who to avoid being behind in the security line.

When I got to spot where one of the rent-a-cops looks at your boarding pass and ID there was a woman having a heated discussion with the rent-a-cop.  Being a savvy traveler she had taken her laptop in it's sleeve out one of her carry on bags.  The guy told her she couldn't take 3 bags through.  She explained that she had taken the laptop out to make easier once she got to the security line.  He doesn't want to hear that.  He's saying "You'll have to check one of them."  In the meantime all I want to do is get him to look at my boarding pass and ID and let me get on line.  I'm not sure how that was finally resolved.  I wasn't going wait around and find out.

When I fly I like to make things easy for myself and for those around me, especially the flight attendants.  It's not the glamorous job everyone thinks it is.  A smile, "please" and "thank you" go a long way.  Sometimes I check my bag, but since I was taking a small suitcase I took on the plane with me.  I keep it at a manageable weight.  I don't want to have to wrestle with my suitcase to get it into the overhead bin.  On the EWR-DFW portion of my trip I was in row 9.  Since I have frequent flier status I get to board after first class.  When I have a suitcase I make sure I'm at the gate in time to board when allowed.  I want to have my suitcase near my seat.

Sitting in my seat I get to see some of the annoying things people do.  It's really annoying when somebody in row 20 decides to put their suitcase in the overhead bin by row 8.  That means the poor schmo in row 8 will have to put his bag back near row 20.  Ever tried to go towards the back of a plane when everyone is trying to get off?  Also got to love the people who try to cram bags up there that clearly isn't meant to be carried on.  Fortunately they're paying closer attention to what people try to bring on the plane.  Though I'm sure some people do it deliberately in order to game the system.  Why pay for checking a bag at the counter when you can gate check it for free because there's not enough room overhead?

I love non-chess players' perspective on what I'm doing.  I got talking with a couple of the flight attendants while waiting to use the bathroom.  I mentioned that I was on my way to Las Vegas to play in a big chess tournament.  They asked me if there was money, and whether it would be televised.  I told them there was money to win, but no it wouldn't be televised.  One said "That's too bad.  If you won big and saw you on TV, we could say you were on our flight." Wishful thinking.

I love airline people who have a sense of humor.  When I got to DFW I went to the Admiral's Club to wait for my next flight.  You have to show your membership card to get in.  There were two ladies working at the front desk.  One lady was checking in a family of four.  One of the kids asked his dad "What is this place?" The lady behind the desk says "This where your parents leave you while they go on vacation. I'll be in charge of you while they're away."  The kid's eyes got real big, like he thought she might be serious.  Then she told him it wasn't true.  I told the lady helping me that I'm sure some parents would pay a lot more for their membership if they could leave their kids there.  I got on the elevator with the family.  His dad asked him if he really believed what the lady said.  The kid said just for a minute.  I think it was longer then a minute, but what kid wants to admit that he's gullible enough to believe that he would be left at the airport while his parents went on vacation?

Looking out the window of the plane and see nothing but desert.  I think we're getting close.  Signing off before I lose my changes.  Stay tuned for tournament reports.

After I signed off I had one of those truly humorous moments that gave a lot of people in coach a good laugh.  We were starting our descent into LAS and the usual announcement comes on. "At this time please remain seated until the captain turns off the seat belt sign. If you want to use your cell phone once we land please make sure it's accessible."  I very carefully took it out of my bag and as we were making our descent it fell out of my hand.  It went sliding down the aisle past many rows of passengers who were now laughing as my phone went flying past them.  I was back on row 20, and my phone finally stopped sliding around row 8.  Thankfully it didn't make all the way to row 3 in first class.  When it finally stopped someone picked it up and passed to the person behind them.  Row by row it got back towards me.  The last person with my phone looks at me and says "5 dollas".  We all had a good laugh.  I never planned to be the inflight entertainment, but sometimes you have to roll with the punches, or perhaps in this case roll with the plane.


Erabin said...

funny story.. speaking of which, on international flights (at least the ones I were on) I was surprised to hear you could only use your phones after you get off the aircraft rather than after you land.. Of course I didn't listen as I hadn't use my phone in 3 weeks and no one said anything... until I was literally about 10 feet from getting of the plane and the flight attendant said to get off the phone. Good luck in Vegas!

chesstiger said...

Nice report of the travel. Hope the tournament goes well.