July 25, 2002

Next up on my hotlist of "things technology should provide to improve Howard's quality-of-life" -- weather control.

My itinerary for this last business trip was supposed to involve 1) a trip to Nashville, and 2) getting home on Tuesday. This changed when said itinerary ran headlong into a chunk of severe weather over Chicago. My plane never left Baltimore (but we got to sit out on the runway and watch "The Rookie"), so I ended up doing a conference call with the folks I was to meet in Nashville. You know, if we could have just done a conference call in the FIRST place, this would have been much easier.

Before I could get my hands on a ticket from Baltimore to Salt Lake ("No, I don't want to do the stop in Nashville anymore"), I had to circumnavigate United Airlines' customer service system. That experience was unpleasant enough in and of itself that I've been tempted to rewrite their "friendly skies" motto to reflect how the apparent shortage of employees who can actually be helpful, friendly, and competent all at the same time has resulted in skies that are only friendly if you are actually on an aircraft. Outside of the planes, you run a serious risk of crossing paths with a customer service representative, possibly on the telephone (assuming you can figure out how to reach a human being when you call their service numbers) where they are empowered to tell you to go back to the airport and stand in line.

(Had I stood in line for an hour, I might have been able to avoid spending 45 actively unpleasant minutes on the telephone. Oh, the irony.)

By contrast, I had the opportunity to sit next to a United pilot (no, not in the cockpit) on the way from Baltimore to Denver, and even though that flight was delayed three hours (on the runway, thanks to the SAME storm system that clobbered Chicago but that now had a hankering for shutting down air travel for a chunk of the Eastern Seaboard the size of, oh, the Eastern Seaboard) that experience was really quite delightful. We talked about all kinds of stuff, passing the time amicably. His wife loaned me a mechanical pencil, and three NY Times crosswords that she'd abandoned. I used one of my pens on the crosswords (that's my nod to Extreme Sports -- doing the NY Times crossword in ink), and the pencil for some schlocky doodling.

I digress. The point was that my replacement flight got delayed by the same storm, and I ended up missing the last leg. I found myself alone in Denver, paying for a (steeply discounted) hotel room, so I could get a few winks before the next available seat to Salt Lake.

Finally, Wednesday morning rolled around and I got to fly home. I bought a new mechanical pencil, and successfully doodled a Tausennigan Ksssthrata -- not that we'll be seeing one anytime soon, but when the story calls for these critters I'll be able to draw them. I also had a nice chat with the folks next to me, and one of them even asked for a Schlock sketch. So I gave him one. Flattery gets you all KINDS of places with me.

Tired of the travelogue? Me too. The next update will prep you for my trip to Comic-con, and will likely announce NEW T-SHIRTS (unless my nemesis the storm finds a way to change course, cross the country in twelve hours, and destroy the shirt contractor's offices with winds and lightning... I'm knocking on wood right now.)

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