Friday, September 9, 2011

Wine Traveler’s Travels Vol. 7 (From the Archives)

Sunday, October 22, 2000

            After two weeks in the office I was ready for a trip, when they told me I had to travel on Sunday I was no longer so excited.  One good thing that occurred during these last two weeks was my luggage showed up.  It seems it was delivered to the office shortly after my trip.  It was being held in security and no one bothered to tell me it was here.  American Airlines still thinks it’s lost.  The tag on it infers that United Airlines carried it from Chicago and delivered it to the address on my tag.  In my letter to the CEO of American Airlines I informed him that it had been found and that if I were a less than honest person I could have filed a claim and collected on the lost bag.  I also sent him excerpts from my stories outlining the current level of customer service at AA. 
            Well back to today’s trip, I am on TWA, on my way to Camden, NJ.  I fly into Philadelphia via St. Louis.  There was a direct flight on US airways but it would have been $500 more and coach.  Of course I am in First class again, though it is a MD-80.  This flight left at 12:05 PM.  It just wasn’t worth it on a Sunday to get up early enough for the 757 flight.  The service was wonderful, as always; lunch was a nice ham and Swiss cheese sandwich in a hard roll, Bowtie pasta salad and a dark chocolate covered scoop of Ice Cream.  The ham was generous and lean, real sliced ham not the boiled pressed type you might expect.  I had Vodka and Cranberry with a twist of lime instead of my usual Bailey’s and Kahlua.  We passed a few areas of bumpy air but over all, the trip from Seattle to St. Louis was uneventful despite the obnoxious noise you always get in an MD-80.
            The trip from St. Louis to Philly was also on an MD-80.  The dinner consisted of a grilled chicken breast filet on a bed of rigatoni pasta with vegetables, a warm roll, a salad of wild greens and tomatoes with some small pea sized things that tasted like olives, and a very scrumptious slice of cheese cake with caramel topping.   
            Hertz surprised me with a Lincoln Town Car; I did not send this one back for my usual two door sports.  The Directions though were a nightmare there had apparently been some construction since they were last updated because they got me terribly lost just getting out of the airport. Finally I found my way back to the highway I needed. Then near the end of my route they listed some street names, which were actually all local names for the same Highway, which of course none of the signs indicated.  So I spent an hour in a very scary part of New Jersey, afraid to stop for directions till I finally found the Hotel.  Now it’s after Midnight local time and I go to check in at the Hilton.  The only room available, even though I have a reservation is what they call a Parlor Room.  This Is like a meeting room that has a huge dinning room table (probably seats 14 people) and a sofa bed, no coffee maker or dresser.  They promise a better room tomorrow if this is not satisfactory
            This trip is to support a brand new product from Spacelabs Medical, called the “Ultraview Clinical Messenger.”  It is basically a paging system that notifies a caregiver when a monitor has alarmed and sends the patient’s name, room number, classification of the alarm as well as a 12-second cardiac reading for the patient in question.  Giving the caregiver approximately 6 seconds before and 6 seconds after the start of the event.  This is a supplemental system to their central monitoring stations.  It allows the caregiver to evaluate the condition of one patient while caring for another.  I spent this last week learning the system and how to support the caregivers that are using it.  It will be a nice change from the Labor and delivery product I have been doing.
The next morning I get up and arrive at the hospital at 8AM local time (5AM to my body) and about 10AM I am told that I will be doing the Night Shift.  The first thought to go through my head is “Why didn’t they tell me this before I got here?”  Later I’m thinking why did I have to leave on Sunday?  So at noon they let me go back to my hotel room to get a nap before starting my 12-hour night shift.  The desk clerk is very accommodating in finding me a room with a real bed, and putting me down for first cleaning the next morning so I can get to sleep early.  I woke up at 4PM and thought “Maybe I’ll just go down to the pool and sit in the hot tub.”  Well they only have an outdoor pool that closed on Labor day and no hot tub or sauna, just a small room with a couple of exercise machines.  And to think they think $99/night is a cheap rate, the usual rate is $149. 
So after a 12-hour night shift I return to my room and wait for the housekeeper who is supposed to be here right after 8AM.  She finally shows up about 8:30, works quickly then off to bed for me.  Then it is up at 5:30PM and dressed and showered for my next 12-hour shift. 
The next morning after a call to the desk the housekeeper finally shows up at 8:45.  Then I sleep from 9:30AM to 5:30PM. 
Thursday morning I wait till 9AM and finally call down and tell them I can wait no longer I call the desk and tell them to have my room cleaned after 6PM when I leave for work. 
Friday morning I ask for a late checkout as I may get to go home today, and I get to my room only to find it has not been serviced.  I call down and complain, as I am on the phone the housekeeper knocks on the door; when she sees I am still here, she leaves.  I head down the hall after her and ask her to clean my room.  She says they were supposed to do it last night and I am scheduled to check out today.  I explain that it did not get done and I need clean towels and such for when I wake up at 1pm for a late check out.  She did clean the room and restock the Coffee, which is what I needed most.  I ate at the Hospital each night and won’t scare you with the details.
I wrote a long letter to the management regarding the lack of service and amenities at this hotel. 
I called my travel agent and got an earlier flight but I lost my first class seating, I called the Aviators desk and requested an upgrade, which she told me, was not a problem.  When I got to the Philadelphia airport I was informed that she had gotten me first class seats all right but they were on November 27th instead of October 27th.  The flight was full and I would be on standby.  I got on the plane in coach, well as my luck goes we pulled out from the gate and then didn’t go anywhere.  It seems one of the engines wouldn’t start on this MD-80.  So we pulled back up to the gate while they replaced the starter on the engine they let us off the plane and I tried to rent a movie for the flight.  There is a service that will rent a portable DVD player and a movie for $10 if you are traveling between Seattle and certain other cities, Philadelphia happens to be one of them.  Well I must have my planets in the wrong house this month as I approach the booth she is closing it up because she has to leave to get more batteries.  Before she returns they call for us to board.  So it’s another trip on an MD-80 with no movie.  Things did get better the cabin crew were a couple of gals that put on such a comedy act they had us all laughing.  And they passed out free booze because of the delay.  No food on this 2 hour flight, but the flight attendants made the time fly by.  When I got to St. Louis I was pleased to find that I was in time for my connection and had a first class seat on a 757.  Now this is the way to fly the movie is Shanghai Noon.  This was a very needed comic relief to this week.  I highly recommend this as a rental.  The meal was a choice of Chicken and Penne pasta or Taco Salad.  I chose the Taco Salad; it was a nice portion of romaine lettuce, sliced fajita style beef, guacamole, sour cream, salsa and beans, with a bag of Doritos to crush over the top.  And the desert was a dark chocolate covered scoop of chocolate ice cream.  I arrived home on time and highly recommend TWA to anyone.

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