Saturday, June 28, 2008

Early morning travel complaints

OK, it's not quite 5 AM, I've been up since 2:30 (!!!), and I've had no caffeine, so I'm a little cranky. To blow off some virtual steam, I'll share a few pointed observations from the last 20 hours or so:

1. When you're sitting in the gate area, surrounded by groggy travelers at 4:50 AM, do NOT put your cell phone voicemail on speaker so everyone is forced to listed to the recorded inanities of your friends and family. It makes us want to throw you in front of an oncoming aircraft. I'm talking to you, Mrs. Unbelievably-Tacky-Orange-and-Yellow-Hawaiian-Shirt. I don't care if you wanted to share those voicemails with Mr. Unbelievably-Tacky-Red-and-White-Hawaiian-Shirt next to you. Listen to your own damn voicemail and tell him anything important, preferably in a soft voice befitting this ungodly hour.

2. To Ms. Unbelievably-Rude-TSA-Agent: I'm sorry you have to be at work at 4:00 AM. It sucks. I know, because I'm here at 4 AM too. In order to reduce the suckage ever so slightly, I offer you a friendly good morning. In return, you don't look at me, don't talk to me, put your gloves on at a pace befitting the banana slugs in my garden, and bark some orders at the bedraggled line of travelers behind me. Finally you condescend to take my ID and boarding pass, still neither looking at me nor speaking to me. If you hate your government job with a reliable salary and full benefits that much, quit and find something else to do. I'd suggest fast food, but I doubt you'd meet even their standards.

3. While we're on the subject of the TSA... All your instructions tell us to be at the airport 2 hours early for domestic flights. Even though that's rarely necessary, I hauled my sorry carcass out of bed at 2:30 to be here 2 hours before my 6:15 AM flight (What the hell was I thinking??), only to be told that security doesn't open till 4:30. If you want us here 2 hours early, have the checkpoint open! Standing around holding my laptop and bag o' liquids and gels at o'dark thirty isn't my idea of a good time.

4. To the proprietors of the fine establishment in which I spent last night (or at least the part of last night preceding 2:30 AM--did I mention that's when I got up?): Fix your key card system. When I get back from a late meeting at 10 PM (the night before I have to get up at 2:30), I expect my key card to work. When I schlep back to the office to tell you it doesn't work, don't just verify that it's programmed for the correct room and send me back down that looonnnngggg hallway to try again. It still didn't work. If reprogramming the card fixes the problem, as your maintenance person told me, then you should have done that in the first place. I admit I need more exercise, but not at 10 PM the night before I have to get up at 2:30.

5. To the operators of LAX: When flights leave at ungodly hours, and we aren't allowed to take more than 3.5 oz of liquid through security, have the coffee stands and breakfast concessionaires open. It was like a tomb when I got here, and even now there are no vendors open in my gate area. Does anyone wonder why there's so much air rage, when people have to get up at 2:30 to catch flights and are then deprived of caffeine? I think Homeland Security should work on that problem.

6. The managers of the nationwide airport shuttle company I used on my visit (rhymes with Pooper Puddle, sort of): If I make a reservation for a specific time, there's a good chance that's the time I'll want airport transportation. There's an equally good chance that I won't want to wait on your charming little concrete island for nearly an hour for a van. And there's a *really* good chance I won't enjoy arriving at my hotel with about 15 minutes to spare before setting off for my first meeting. If your passengers make reservations, can't you plan ahead a little?

Don't get me wrong--my trip has actually gone fairly well. But the fact that I can describe it that way in spite of the above issues tells you how inured we've all become to the misery of the modern travel experience.

And finally, lest you dismiss me as just another whiner, I'd like to give many kudos to Portland International Airport, my beloved home airport, and especially its OUTSTANDING TSA staff. Yes, I used "outstanding" and "TSA" next to each other in the same sentence, and sarcasm wasn't involved. PDX TSA staff are friendly, helpful, and incredibly efficient. They all deserve bonuses, as well as the gratitude of weary travelers like me. Thanks for getting my trip off to a great start.

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