Tuesday, June 05, 2018

I Just Flew In...

...and boy are my arms tired...

...from punching American Airlines people in their fracking throats.

I was trying to get to Michigan for Debbie's mom's funeral. American had the best fare with reasonable times both going up and bringing both of us back to Florida. I book the flight no problem. I get to the airport no problem. I get through security no problem. We all board the plane no problem. The plane pushes back from the gate and problem. Some sensor somewhere in the bowels of the airplane was giving nonsense readings. So was the backup sensor. So there we sit, ten feet from the jetway, waiting for maintenance. Maintenance gets there and the first thing they do is shut off the AC inside the plane. This was a completely full flight, mind you, sitting in full sun in Florida with outside temps already edging up to 90. The pilot kept coming on the intercom every 15 minutes or so to assure us that it will be "just a few more minutes."

After about 45 minutes of everyone on the plane getting increasingly sweaty (and ripe), the pilot says he is going to tell the maintenance guys that they have to get the AC back on and to assure everyone that the gate people had verified that we would all be able to make our connections in Chicago. A few minutes later, the AC came on, then numerous minutes after that, we were given the all clear to take off.

Yet oddly, 10 minutes or so later, we were still sitting in the exact same spot where we had been for the last hour. Finally, the pilot comes back on to inform us that turning the AC on while repairs were going on had blown out the power to everything on the port side of the aircraft, including the fuel pumps.

"...and we kinda need those."

Yuk, yuk, yuk.

So more fews of minutes while we wait for the maintenance guys to get back and try to get things working. They fail and the pilot pulls the plug on the whole deal. So over two hours after we pushed back from the gate, we were rolled back up and "de-plane-ed". No idea when or if the plane would ever take off and by that time, that day's flights were already full. Finally, the gate agents are told to clear us out of the gate to make room for another flight, and off we all go out through security to the main American counter at which there was exactly one agent at the customer service station. For an entire plane-load of people. Well, OK, not exactly one agent; more like some fraction of an agent because she was doing double duty as some sort of concierge-to-the-really-really-important-passengers while also trying to work through a line of 100 or so people.

[Aside: There were about a half-dozen people on the plane who were on their second attempt to leave Tampa, as the early morning flight to Chicago the previous day had also been cancelled due to mechanical problems. In other words, I wasn't unlucky; this is a chronic issue.]

An hour or so later, I finally get my turn and I get booked on basically the same flight leaving the next morning. I asked where my checked bag was and found out that it was still sitting in the dead plane waiting for me to request it to be taken off. What?!?! Fine. Get my bag, please. I get boarding passes for the next day and head down to baggage claim to wait for my bag to show up.

That process went something like this. Everyone sits and waits. Eventually, the alarms go off and the lights start flashing and the Friendly Male Voice (tm) comes on advising us to not ride on the luggage carousel and to be sure we have our own bags because many bags look alike and not to stick our tongues in light sockets or poke ourselves in the eye with a screwdriver or run with scissors. Finally, the little garage doors open, the belt begins moving and dozens of hopeful people rush up to the carousel.

And one bag comes out.

Then everything shuts down, only for the entire sequence to repeat again in 15 or 20 minutes. Four hours later, my bag is the one that pops out. I consider myself lucky; there are still a dozen or so people waiting for luggage.

Fortunately, I had decided to drive myself and pay for long-term parking rather than bum a ride from someone. I tell American to shove their hotel voucher deep and on a slant, grab the car and head for home. I hit the Z-hills Domino's for some grub, then eat while making phone calls to let everyone know what was going on.

My flight the next morning leaves at 7am, so I'm supposed to be at the airport at 5am which means leaving here at 4am and getting up at 3:30am. By the time I'm done eating and talking on the phone, it is after 10pm, so I don't even bother with going to bed. I just set an alarm and doze on the recliner.

The next day, getting to Chicago is uneventful. I find my gate, verify my departure time, go grab a (very pricey) bite to eat and wait. The screen at the gate has a count-down clock showing how long until boarding starts. When it has about 15 minutes left, it suddenly jumps back up to 35 minutes.

Crap.

The gate agent grabs the mic and says, "Pftz jpwmzkin fjwnn wkjfhi alakj kj wjpoieajghahf. Klajr fjoinfj klahauoiehjht jlkuotuiwuier jijithe hteh. Thoiuewr oiu."

We find out later that we were delayed because our crew got held up on their previous flight when the door on their inbound plane started to fall off mid-flight. But it was all good; no one got sucked out of the plane like last time(s), and we finally got in the air and made it to Flint in time for me to make it to the viewing and Rosary for Debbie's mom. We got through the funeral, took care of most of the thank-you's, divided up who was going to follow up on what, said our good-byes to everyone and started for home.

Well, we tried to start for home. Due to a big storm making a mess of things in Chicago, our flight couldn't get cleared for take-off. At least this time, we were immediately "de-plane-ed". We had a fairly tight connection in Chicago, but it was also delayed, so we were hopeful we would make it. To make sure we would get home, we had the gate agent grab us seats on the later flight. After less than an hour, we were herded back on the plane and took off. We made it to Chicago in good time and started taxiing up to the gate.

And taxiing. And taxiing. And taxiing. And taxiing. Finally the pilot came on and apologized; we had landed in Indiana and would be driving the rest of the way to Chicago O'Hare.

Yuck, yuck, yuck.

After driving for longer than we had just flown, we were sent off to some sort of penalty box for showing up too fast, where we sat for another 20 minutes or so. Finally we get to the gate, grab our stuff and head for our connecting flight.

Now somewhere along the way, Debbie had tweaked her knee pretty good, so she was moving kinda slow. And naturally, because we came in on a baby jet and were leaving on a 737, we had a little less than five miles to walk through O'Hare to get to our connecting gate. We got there just in time to see our flight being pushed back.

OK. We're OK. We have seats on the next one that leaves in a couple hours. I go up to the gate agent to get boarding passes for the next flight. Before I can say anything, the woman gives me The Hand, and tells me she's too busy and that I need to go stand in line at the customer service desk.

Bitch.

So we go stand in line with a hundred other people at customer "service". After a half-hour or so, some pretentious asshole in a beard and turban announces that the customer service desk was closed and we would all have to go to the other desk in the next terminal.

At this point, I'm getting a little testy. I have a few choice words for Mr. Pretentious as well as a suggestion for where he can... um... store his turban. Oh yea? Go ahead. Call security. Kick me out of the airport. I'll walk to Tampa, and I'll probably get there faster.

Anyway.

We finally gimped to the other customer service desk which, of course, had twice the line as the first one. We spotted some customer service phones, but on closer inspection, they were all out of order. Because this is American. Above the non-functioning customer service phones, a screen was showing scenes of exotic places we could be going to if we weren't trapped at Chicago O'Hare. Mixed in with the idyllic scenes was a slide with a customer service phone number.

Bingo.

Debbie grabbed the cell and in about two minutes we had seats, the flight number and a gate. Off we went at top speed, which wasn't much. I recall being passed by a ninety-year-old woman with a walker. But we got there, Debbie grabbed a seat and I went to stand at the (empty, natch) desk at the gate. There was one person ahead of me who was obviously a newbie air traveler. She asked me why there wasn't anyone working the desk. I said, "Oh, someone will get here fifteen minute before we board. Someone may walk up before that, but they will just use the computer and pretend you don't exist." She looked at me like she was trying to figure out if I was pulling her leg or not. When there was around 25 minutes left on the countdown-to-boarding clock, a guy came up to the desk and started banging away on the computer. She started talking. He never looked up or gave any indication that she existed, then just walked away. The poor woman looked at me in complete amazement. I said, "That's customer service, American Airlines-style." Everyone in line behind us just chuckled. It really is astonishing what you can get used to....

In any case, the gate agent showed up precisely 15 minutes before boarding, we got seat assignments, boarded on-time and made it all the way to Tampa without anything falling off the plane. The one up-side of missing our connection was that our bag had made the connection and was waiting for us outside the American baggage service area. We had our luggage and were in our car heading home while everyone else on our flight were still waiting for the baggage carousel to start up.

So, yea. American Airlines. Never again. If my choices are American or riding a bicycle, look for me peddling in the bike lane.

And please understand; I'm not in any way blaming any of the "customer facing" employees. For the most part, they were as frustrated and clueless as the passengers, doing what they could for as many people as they could as fast as they could. Granted, a couple seem to take perverse pleasure in the suffering of others and even tried to add to it in whatever petty ways their bottom-of-the-totem-pole position afforded them. But they were a distinct minority.

No, this is a management problem. Maybe the flora and fauna growing in American's c-suites should be forced to fly in steerage with the deplorables several times a year, just to get a taste of what their cost-cutting looks like for their employees down in the trenches as well as their customers. The most poignent moment of the entire clusterfuck was waaaaaay back at the very beginning when at around the one-hour mark of sitting 10 feet from the gate, the pilot came on and apologized yet-again and assured everyone that he was doing everything in his power to get the plane off the ground because this was his last flight before getting some down time and seeing his wife and kids.

Yea. Life in these united States.

And I'm going to stop now before this becomes the Great American Novel.

P.S. Dear American; just in case this little diatribe comes to the attention of your Customer Care Department (or whatever you call the people from India you contract with to try to offer freebees to smooth ruffled feathers), don't waste my time calling. I don't care if you give me free airfare for life, I'm never flying American Airlines again. Thank you.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Marge Wiklanski/Boris, RIP



Debbie just called a little while ago. Her mom died peacefully May 12, 2018 around 11pm.

God Bless You, Mom.

You will live forever in our hearts.

Thursday, May 03, 2018

Good Bye, Dozer


As Jon Katz says, you did what you came to do and it was time for you to go help someone else.

Love you always, buddy.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Rain, Rain, Go Away!

I don't really mean that; things are pretty dry around here, but they are a whole lot less dry than they were 48 hours ago. We've had two days of everything from light sprinkles to thunder-lightning-horizontal-rain-OMG-it's-TEOTWAWKI! It looks like it is finally over, so maybe I'll get some clean-up done on my couple days off.

Speaking of a couple days off, on my last couple of couple of days off, we got this done:

Our Fortress of Solitude (with gaping hole)

 
Inside our Fortress of Solitude (with gaping hole)

Not sure what we are going to do about the gaping hole. No combination of standard blinds matched the odd size of our RV-plus-extension-plus-Florida-room-width porch (one reason it took us the better part of six years to make this simple improvement). I'd like to build something free-standing that would fill the gape (is that English?), but the company that makes the blinds doesn't sell the fabric in bulk. I have some shade fabric we bought like six years ago, but it really looks ugly next to the grey:

Ugh....

The company that we bought the brown stuff from now has grey fabric, but it's a lot darker than the blinds, so I'm not sure it would be much of an improvement. But for now, another project checked off the list; only 7,429 to go.

One of which is to get this site away from Google. I have a solid possibility. It costs money, but not very much (less than $50/year). It will likely be somewhat painful to move all the accumulated crap to something else, which is exactly why Google thinks they can get away with anything. At this point, I'm just ready to be done. I started this thing with a paid web host, then moved it to Blogger (before it was Borg'ed by Google) to save the pittance I was paying the host. One of those decisions that seemed to make sense at the time, but was probably not a great move in retrospect. TANSTAAFL. Now it's looking like I'll be taking this thing full circle back to a paid web host. The difference will be the physical location; my original host was in Alaska and the one I'm considering is in Iceland. So the latitude will be similar, but the longitude certainly will not be.

So now I have to figure out how to migrate everything and how much disk space that's going to take and how much monthly data gets burped up, etc. I'm sure Google will be very helpful....

Not much else going on. We still have no clue what we are doing about our parents, both of our jobs still suck dead bunnies, and all the news media can do is scream RussiaRussiaRussia!!! and BombAssadBombAssadBombAssad!!! (sigh) I can't even force myself to care enough to criticize all the stupid.

Other than to say this: If we continue in the direction that things seem to be heading, the US government will wish it never stopped hiding all those flag-draped coffins.

Well, the sun is out and it is just now getting up over 70 degrees, so I should go outside and wash some siding.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Kill Moose and Squirrel!

[Well, there was a Youtube video of Boris and Natasha right here, but apparently Google has a problem with someone using Google to link to Google. This is why I am currently shopping for someplace else to have this blog.]

So now the evilly evillest of all evils, those Rascally Russians are poisoning aging double-agents who were pardoned and exiled from Russia in a spy swap nearly a decade ago. Like all the other blame-the-Russians stories, this one is really hard to swallow.

First, unless the UK has Abby Sciuto working for them, there is no way they had evidence pointing to Russia a day or two after the "poisoning". As any cop, detective, prosecutor, etc. can tell you, even in a high-profile case, you are talking weeks if not months. Only on TV can a complex chemical analysis be run in the time it takes to air two boner pill ads and a weather update. That goes double if the unknown substance is suspected of being a lethal Cold War-era nerve agent. Not to mention that there is a treaty that both Russia and Britain are signatories of that details how this exact situation is supposed to be handled. Rule number one is evidence must be turned over to an international body, which the Brits refuse to do. One suspects that the reason for doing so has a great deal to do them not having any.

Then let us consider the minor fact that Russia destroyed all its stockpiles of such chemical weapons which was verified by international observers. The formula for Novichok is public domain and could be made anywhere by anyone. So we are to believe that the Russian government went to the trouble of secretly synthesizing a known Soviet nerve agent that was sure to be tracked directly back to them, then smuggled it into the UK so they could poison a double-agent who knew nothing of value about Russia, mere days before the Russian presidential elections.

Riiiiiiiiight.

In terms of pure stupid, this ranks right up there with "Russians hacked the DNC!" and "Russians hacked voting machines that aren't even connected to the internet!"

And then we have the Mueller investigation and the completely off-the-rails idea that a few planted Facebook jpegs from a Russian troll farm gave the presidential election to Trump. I love how the windbags in the MSM are trying to play this thing both ways. One minute they are mocking Internet Research Agency for only getting around 19,000 hits on the Hilltendo video game while also claiming that the only reason Hillary lost was because of IRA ads. Sorry guys; you can't have it both ways. Either Jesus arm-wrestling Satan, or Muscle-Bound Bernie in a banana hammock were just so much internet flotsam, or they were part of one of the most successful psy ops in human history.

And if it is the latter, then we need to just pack it in now and give up, because we've already lost. Look; if our "democracy" is so fragile that it can be completely undone by a silly Flash-based video game, then what could it possibly matter who sits in the Oval Office (or Congress, or the Supreme Court, or any Governor's Mansion, or state legislature)? Just run up the white flag already, and pass the Drambuie; 'cause this sucker is goin' down.

Meanwhile, back in the reality-based world, on top of everything else we have to deal with, both of us are having serious work issues. We are considering lawyers. Yea. It's that bad. At this point, I could give a flying sack of hippo dung about my job. I'm already past my average length of stay with any given employer, but Debbie has a different attitude towards work. And it really may not matter given that how things are going with Debbie's mom and my parents, I'm not all that sure we're even going to be living here much longer.

Gotta go work on taxes.