Monday, February 27, 2012

WineTraveler’s Travels Vol. 21 (From The Archives)

Origianlly posted 14 January 2002

Well the New Year is off to a running start, with my dance card filled for the next two months, Gail is already after me to find a new job where I won’t have to travel.  I cannot see myself in a job where I go to the same place everyday again.  That would be boring beyond tears.  With all the added hassles of travel I still prefer it to the monotony of doing the same thing everyday.  This crisp January morning I am winging off to Knoxville, Tennessee.  One of the hospitals we have our software at is expanding it to one of their sister hospitals.  I am flying American but on the old TWA route so I know the service will be attentive and friendly.  I must stop by the office on my way to the airport so that I cab file my online expense report.  Last year Spacelabs decided to change to an online expense report, which for someone in the company is supposed to speed things up.  It now takes close to an hour to do a report if you have a high-speed connection such as the one at the office; if you are using a dial-up connection it is much longer.  I used to have to fill out a form on my laptop that took 20 minutes tops.  The real drawback is that you must be connected to the Internet to do anything with the report.  The old one I could do on the plane or anywhere without being connected.  While most of us are salary, they do not readily see the impact this has on productivity.  Well as it is I am running a little behind getting to the airport but the advantage of all my miles on TWA is that I am platinum level and get to check in via the first class line.  The security line is rather sparse for a Monday morning, so I make it through with about thirty minutes to spare before boarding should start.  I stopped in the Admirals club for a latte and a newspaper.  Boarding was very quick as my platinum level allows me to board right after first class.  This plane is only about half full and is an MD-80.  The meal was another one of those bag meals, a two-ounce cup of apple sauce, a very moist orange and pineapple muffin and a four ounce carton of orange juice.  This time I let the meal sit a while so the muffin could warm up as the last one was near frozen and this one felt quite cool also.  The leg from Seattle to St. Louis was uneventful and quite nice considering the aircraft but I had my earphones on and listened to music that I have on my laptop.  They have expanded the leg room in all of the American planes now and it is very noticeable.  My connecting flight is on a regional jet through the American Eagle connection.  While being much less roomy the service was good, we were served beverages and pretzels on this just shy of an hour flight.  Arriving in Knoxville I was amazed that the airport was so nice given that all the planes I saw there were of the regional jet type.  The central area had a mall atmosphere like most major airports.  My rental this week was a Mitsubishi Montero, a rather nice SUV that handles like a much smaller vehicle, and had a great Infinity sound system, just like my Chrysler.  The directions I received at the Hertz counter got me to the Hampton Inn and my room was nice; two double beds but only one phone line.  Just across the street was a Sonic Drive-in so I went there for dinner, as I really love their Limeade.  The next morning after the complimentary continental breakfast, I drove to the Main hospital to check out the system, things were all in order there; then I went to the smaller hospital were I would be training this week about thirty miles north east of Knoxville.  The staff was very friendly, and learned very quickly.  The clinical leader of this hospital used to work at the main hospital and as I had trained them about two years ago we made plans to go to dinner with the clinical leader of that hospital to discuss how things would interact.  Tuesday I went to dinner at El Chico, which had a very tasty combination dinner with a chicken enchilada, a beef burrito and a beef taco with rice and beans on the side all for $5.99.  Wednesday night I had Sonics again Thursday night was the night we made plans to eat out.  So I met Terry and Michelle at the Copper Cellar.  What a treat this place was.  Very tastefully decorated with a central bar separating the smoking and nonsmoking areas.  Our service was topnotch and the food was without fault.  I started with crab bisque that was so superb I almost cancelled the rest of my dinner in lieu of more bisque. Michelle had the pasta fagiole, and Terry had the crab bisque.   This was served with a basket of fresh baked bread and garlic herb butter.  I was in heaven. Then came the broiled Halibut served on a bed of braised spinach with a very light sun dried tomato, basil, and garlic sauce.  Grilled vegetables accompanied this delight; a nice melody of zucchini and yellow squash.  My side vegetable was spinach soufflé.  I complemented this with an excellent glass of Pinot Grigio.  Michelle had a sirloin steak that was smothered in onions and served with green beans in a lemon butter sauce.  Terry had Prime Rib with the spinach soufflé.  None of us had room for dessert.  I did not really get to examine the city this trip as I was doing day and evening classes and working around some last minute changes to their system they were making which often interrupted my classes.

It’s Friday and I’m on my way home via American (the TWA route) my flight from Knoxville to St. Louis is again on a regional jet, the service was good; I had an hour to kill at St. Louis so I visited the lounge and had a cup of coffee.  I was a little concerned when I noted that my seat on the St. Louis to Seattle flight was in row 13, we boarded and had to wait for the de-icer truck as it had started to snow.  After quite a delay the truck finally showed up then during the de-icing we felt the plane shake, a little later the pilot came on the PA system to tell us the truck had hit the plane and we would not be going anywhere in this plane.  After more delay we were able to get off the plane then directed to another gate where we waited for a plane to arrive and then get cleaned, boarded and de-iced again, we finally left just before midnight St. Louis time (we were scheduled to leave at 8:30).  Well they gave us a free drink of our choice for the delay.  And all the pretzels we wanted.  I was fortunate enough to be seated with a flight attendant who was on a personal trip so I shared with her some of my letters and pictures I have on my laptop it was a very enjoyable trip.  She shared with me some of the issues that they have been having with the change from TWA to American.  But like most of the former TWA staff she is determined not to let them change her customer service attitude. 

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