Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Wine Traveler’s Travels Vol. 18 (From the Archives)

Originally posted 12/11/01

It has been a while since I have had the time to write about my travels, I apologize to those who have missed them and to those who wish I had not started again.  I had a bout with the flu last week after returning from a trip late Wednesday night.  I woke at 4 am with the runs; by 6:30 that morning I had the chills to go with the frequent trips to the pot.  My temp was up to 102.5 so I called in to work, Gail and the boys went off to work and school, leaving me home alone with a pitcher of water and a bowl if things should start moving in the other direction.  I was aching all over and by 11 am was afraid to close my eyes incase it would be the last time.  I called Gail at work and had her come home to help get me dressed and to the doctor.  After fluids and lots of Aspirin my temp was still 102.5 when we got to the walk-in clinic.  I was seen rather quickly and given the usual directions lots of fluids and rest.  Well I did recover by Monday morning, and went into work only to get sent out on Tuesday on this trip.

After booking the trip I called the Aviators (TWA’s frequent flyer program) number to see about getting my usual upgrade to first class.  It seems that Mr. Carty (President of American Airlines) has chosen to give us all a Christmas present and diverted my call to the American Airlines program where I was asked if I had any stickers for an upgrade.  My response was, “what kind of stickers do you want?”  It seems that they do not treat their frequent flyers with the same respect and dignity that TWA did.  It was explained that for every 10,000 qualifying miles I fly, I would receive four complimentary stickers.  Each sticker can be used to upgrade 500 miles of my trip, and if my flight is 501 miles it will take two stickers.  And even though I had over 70,000 miles in my account I had no stickers yet.  He told me I could purchase stickers and I responded, “No thanks this is far to complicated and not worth the trouble.”  I guess I’ll have to shop around for a new airline to frequent. 

Tuesday morning I got up at 2 AM so I could get to the airport by 4 AM for my 6 AM flight.  I’ve been flying since the September 11th event and since just before Thanksgiving the lines at SeaTac have been atrocious.  I forgot that I usually fly on Mondays like every other business traveler and that this being Tuesday there might not be such a line, well there wasn’t.  I was through all the high security and even a random search and got to my gate before 4:30 AM.  The Admirals Club didn’t open till 5 AM and even then, because the Latte machine is behind the bar, which obviously wouldn’t be open this early, I couldn’t get a Latte.  It’s obvious that Mr. Carty still hasn’t learned anything yet about customer service from the good people of TWA.  I also noticed that none of the TWA staff was present anymore.  I had heard that they were not given any credit for their years of service, so people who had given a lifetime of service to their job now had to start over as a new employee, I find this not only unethical but also inhumane and goes a long way to explain the arrogant and condescending attitude that American employees exhibited even before this merger.  There should be a law to protect employees in mergers from such abuses.  I think this calls for a letter to my congressperson and representatives, I won’t bother any republicans since they only support things that effect the immediate bottom line and not the long-term health or reputation of a company.  But here I go getting on my soapbox again; I can just see my dad shaking his head, wondering where he went wrong. 

Back to the trip, the boarding process went well American now boards in groups, which I am sure is based on seat assignment and frequent flyer status but sure reminds me of Southwest airlines the only difference it seems now between AA and Southwest is assigned seats.  The breakfast “meal” in coach was a cold (we’re talking near frozen) banana muffin, half the size of a standard muffin, a four-ounce cup of applesauce and a four-ounce carton of orange juice, which wasn’t as cold as the muffin.  There was a half of a napkin and a plastic spoon in the bag that the “meal” was served in.  The dilemma, do I use the half napkin to eat on or to place in my lap?  I chose to place the napkin in my lap and use the bag to eat on. The movie was “The Grinch.” now that I’m riding in the back of the bus it would cost me $5.00 to access the entertainment system.  I just can’t bring myself to spend that on a movie that I can rent for $3.00 and not have to watch a cut up version of it.  When this was TWA the movies were unreleased, which made them a bit more worth it.  The one redeeming factor of this flight was that it was on a 757, the flight itself was very comfortable and while I did not recognize any of the flight crew I was sure most of them must have been former TWA employees because they were smiling and courteous something that is rare in a long term American employee, there was one with the perma-frown that made me wonder if she was Dallas based.  This is the first leg of my trip to Indiana; I will be visiting a hospital in Franklin, which is not far from Indianapolis where my brother Jody and his family live.  I hope to get time to visit as I really miss having them out in Washington.  

After a brief stop in the Ambassador’s, now switching over to Admiral’s, club I returned to the same gate I got off at and the same plane just a different seat.  I did notice that they had changed all the signage at St. Louis International Airport to American and the airport looks really drab because everything is silver and gray now.  The old TWA red and gold signage was much more appealing.  They have also started scraping the paint off the planes so they too are very unappealing to look at.  The flight to Indianapolis was uneventful and a short 36 minutes.  We were served beverages and pretzels; I asked for club soda with lime and got lemon, not at all the same thing.  My guess is this is another one of Mr. Carty’s, money saving at the expense of good customer service items.

Upon landing I called Misti and made arrangements to meet for dinner.  I drove down to Franklin and checked into the hotel, they did not have a non smoking room at the regular rate, the only nonsmoking room was a suite with an in room Jacuzzi, they gave me a special rate of $85 for my inconvenience so I took it.  The room was great I had a king size bed in the bedroom then the living area had two areas one with the Jacuzzi and a fridge, microwave, coffee maker and sink.  The other area had a couch, TV and Desk.  Then I drove about 40 minutes north to Misti’s house for homemade spaghetti.  I really enjoyed seeing the kids Jessica is turning into a little lady and Jacob has really grown.  The twins were just as cute as buttons and so smart.  I left as Misti was putting them to bed, hoping to meet up again later in the week.  As it was our schedules did not coincide, I stayed busy with work and she had other commitments. 

My return through Indianapolis was quick and the security was so much more efficient than at Seattle.  The flight I was on would stop at St. Louis then continue on to Seattle so I didn’t have to get off.  Both legs were completely full, so those reports about people not flying are all hype by the airlines trying to sell tickets or something.  I spoke with some of the flight attendants about the merger and it seems that even though they were originally promised they would get to keep their seniority; Mr. Carty is trying to use recent events to take advantage of them.  I will be writing to my congressperson to see what can be done as I work for a company that is ripe for takeover or merger and I would not want to lose the seniority I have earned so far. 

Speaking of my company, I just received an email that the president of our company has announced his retirement.  There has been much discussion over the last year that this would be a positive move for our company as he has been cited as stifling the creativity and productivity of the employees.  I have yet to check our stock price but I would guess it would have risen on this announcement.  We recently sold our corporate buildings and property to Microsoft who surrounds our property, realizing a considerable profit; with this and the increase in sales we’ve been having this should be a good year.  

Christmas is coming fast and last weekend Gail and I went shopping and found three new bicycles for the boys, the sales were great on some really awesome bikes.  And we got new helmets to go with them.  Tyler’s birthday was this week and I called him on Thursday to wish him a happy Birthday but we had already arranged to celebrate it on Sunday.  We are waiting for a cockatiel to arrive that we are getting him, he has wanted a bird for quite some time and has even gone so far as to read books and search the internet for information about them and got a great looking cage, he only lacks the bird.  Tommy turned 16 on Thanksgiving and we celebrated his birthday on Sunday also so he did not have to share the limelight with the holiday.  He got a neat PDA (like a palm pilot), and phone cards for his cell phone that he got last Christmas, it’s one of those pre-paid ones that way he is responsible for the bill, the first time he did so well the card expired before he had used all the minutes (it’s the AT&T free to go plan).  Trevor has gotten a weekend job at a friend of mine where he cleans out stalls and does yard work; so far he has saved over $300.  He wants to buy an XBOX, the new game machine from Microsoft. 

Gail has started an online college course to get her Master’s degree in Nursing.  She has a Master’s in Healthcare Administration, but this other degree will let her go into teaching if she wishes.  She got interested in it when her company started a tuition reimbursement program, which would have paid for part of the tuition.  While signing up for the course she filled out paper work for financial aid and she got a grant that should cover all of the tuition plus some for a new computer.  She has had to learn more about the computer and hates it when Tyler can show her what to do.  But she is losing her fear of them.  You can email her at she would love to get something beside Spam. 

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