Saturday, September 22, 2012

United We Stand...Divided We Fly.



I’m up in the air at the moment. Literally.  Flying from Phoenix to Houston.  Two places I enjoy.  Even in 100-degree weather.  Reminds me of Athens.  Not Mykonos, though, because there we have sea breezes. Do you hear the audible sigh?

Scottsdale is home to my US publisher, Poisoned Pen Press, and they’re terrific people.  I always enjoy my time there…even did a video broadcast of my book event this past Wednesday night at the Poisoned Pen bookstore.  But next time there’s a filming I’ll remember to hold in my belly.  Too much Mexican food on this tour.

In Houston it will be all about grandfatherly joy. Okay, fatherly, too, son.  The grandkids are growing up—five and three.  Life is good (puh, puh, puh).

Except if you have to fly anywhere in the US on a US carrier.  What is it with these folks?  They remind me of an old story my Dad used to tell about the art of negotiating.  A fellow walks into an optometrist looking to buy a pair of glasses and it goes something like this:

Buyer:             “Hi, I’m looking to buy a pair of inexpensive sunglasses. Nothing special.  Just something that will do the job.”

Seller:              “Sure, I can set you up. What kind of frame would you like?” 

Buyer:             “Like I said. ‘Cheap.’”

Seller:              “Absolutely, I get you. How are these?”

Buyer:              “How much?

Seller:              “$50.”

Buyer:             “Sounds reasonable, I’ll take them.”

Seller:              “My pleasure.  Now, what about lenses?

Buyer:             “What do you mean?”

Seller:              “Well, with fine frames like this we generally recommend lenses.”

Buyer:             “I thought they’d come with lenses.”

Seller:              “Not at the price I’m giving you for the frames.”

Buyer:             “How much for the lenses?”

Seller:              “$50.”

Buyer:             “Okay.”

Seller:              “Each.”

I’m sure you get the idea, though the story goes on from there to lens coatings, to “Would you like screws to hold the frames to the optional temples?” to a “free” eye exam—“Since you’re buying such a fine pair of glasses shouldn’t we check to make sure you don’t need prescription lenses?”— etcetera, concluding with, “Now let’s protect your investment with an appropriate case.” 

Little did I realize back then how Dad’s advice would be adopted by today’s US airlines. “You’re travelling across the country and want to check a bag?” it will cost you. “Your bag is two pounds overweight,” it will cost you.  “You’re more than six feet tall and want additional leg room so you’ll not need wheel chair assistance at the other end?” it will cost you.  “You want to eat something more than peanuts during your hours in confinement [the plane I’m currently on said nuts to nuts—take water and like it]?” it will cost you. 

As for the opportunity carriers now offer passengers to purchase early boarding privileges or subscribe to some high interest bearing credit card they’re hawking that includes that benefit, what they’re actually saying is:  “If you want room in the overhead rack for that carryon we say you can carry on (one they keep reducing in size to the undoubted unbounded joy of luggage manufacturers), you better buy this feature.”

Yes, I know all about airline clubs and frequent flyer programs, but unless you’re prepared to join a fleet of clubs or fly sufficiently on one or two lines to amass the required status, you’re left to perhaps one of those credit card companies offering “select” privileges at airline clubs.  What is meant by “select” too often means “Select another way inside, fellow, because we no longer honor that program,” or “We only honor the ‘supercalifragilisticexpialidocious version’ of that card,” or “Sorry, that doesn’t apply to this airport, we’re a private lounge.”

And pity the poor soul on a plane today who has no credit card to slip and slide for all the joys of flying offered for a price in today’s skies.  Frankly, I’m surprised there’s not a credit card slot required for toilet time, though I’m sure that’s been considered.  It seems the only thing that’s free these days on many carriers is the video we’re all required to watch of the airline’s CEO touting planned “modernization” which, in airline terminology means, “We’re about to offer you a lot less service at a much greater price.” 

We’re about to land.  So the rant is over.  Until the next leg…assuming I can move the ones I brought with me.

But I’ll be up and moving today (Saturday) at 4:30PM at Murder by the Book in Houston, Texas.  And don’t worry, cash is still accepted there.

Jeff—Saturday

15 comments:

  1. So true, Jeff. There's a lovely spoof safety card going around for EasyJet, which is noted for being cheap and cheerful (with the emphasis on cheap).

    "In the event of a loss of cabin pressure, an oxygen mask will drop down. Insert ten euros into the slot and pull the mask towards you ..."

    SouthWest, on the other hand, are one of the joys of cheap air travel - you nearly always get stand-up comedy as part of the deal.

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    1. Funny you should mention that spoof, Zoe. I saw that very poster and tied to paste it into the blog but it wouldn't post. It's priceless...or rather ten euros.

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  2. And many airlines now charge extra for aisle and window seats. I can just see the next marketing angle to mitigate the fury: XXX airlines is the first to offer discounts on our middle seats.

    It is no longer fun, and they won't even let me sleep on the floor at an emergency exit, 40,000 feet over the Atlantic. Sigh.

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    1. I wish there were an alternative, Stan. Maybe we can get Amazon to digitize us all for wireless delivery anywhere in the world...for $.99?

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  3. I was in Scottsdale once, about 20 years ago. Beautiful, late June, a mere 112 degress F. Sheesh. Damn near burned my hands getting into our car. I'll stick to the more northern climes...

    As for air travel, I've sworn off for the duration of my 'flight'. The "golden age" is always about 50 years in the past. Or, as one science fiction writer wrote (about 50 years ago...) "The golden age was when you were 12 years old."

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    1. I've sort of taken your advice, Everett, and moved on to Houston. Where even the trees are hot. I think NYC will be a welcome relief. But then comes the snow. As for the "golden age," I think it's done these days in plastic.

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  4. The American-owned airlines are the worst-run businesses in what we used to call the free world. Not only have they replaced flight attendants with dominatrixes who treat passengers as a personal inconvenience, but the mileage programs, once a good reason to fly, have turned into bait-and-switch offers. I'll write about that later today and port it tomorrow as a sort of follow-up to your post.

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    1. I think we've been spending too much time together, Tim, because I honestly thought of closing my piece with..."If anyone can follow up on this rant it's Tim...so take it away maestro."

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  5. I will read your rants anytime you write them. The last time I flew I was put in the last seat in the back of a 737. All that meant was I got to practice my perfect posture for an hour and a half. Fortunately, it was the only seat in the row so I got to enjoy California which made it bearable.

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  6. I hate the last row seats. They don't recline and usually the only ones in them are a cops transporting a prisoner. That's not to imply that from time to time one doesn't run across a fine, upstanding citizen like yourself in that nether region, Lil.:))

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    1. I heard that the thing about last-row seats was they were only good if you had diarrhea, or wanted to meet people who had ... :)

      As for dominatrix of the air, that would have to be my last (with the emphasis on 'last') flight on American, travelling cattle class. When the muscular flight attendant came along with the wheelbarrow to fork hay to us poor travellers she greeted me with a snarl, "Chicken or beef?"

      In a vain attempt for more information I foolishly asked, "How's the chicken cooked?"

      She just looked at me. "Honey, it's airline food. It's chicken. Cluck, cluck."

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    2. Zoe, one question: Was the diarrhea before or after the "cluck, cluck?"

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    3. I believe the two may have been almost instantaneous ...

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  7. From here to there, from there to here, extra charges everywhere. But how else can we get to Cleveland where we will be able to hear one another laugh?

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  8. Laugh, Annamaria? In Cleveland?:))))

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