SFO to JFK Not

 

As I prepared for my trip to New York, I received a text message notifying me my flight was cancelled the next morning. No explanations. No apologies. To call this 888 number. Which I did. immediately.

After listening to computer prompts and squeaks and whistles I finally hear a human voice.

“My name is George. How can I help you?” George doesn’t sound like a robot or a foreigner.
“You canceled my flight, George,” I say.
“Only for your safety, ma’am,” he says.
“You mean New York tomorrow would have been hazardous to my health?”
“It’s for your protection,” he says. “May I have your last name?”
George pulls up my reservation. “I see you’re going to JFK.”
“Were going. Remember you canceled,” I said.
“We have another flight to JFK a bit later in the morning…oh wait, it’s full, no seats,” he says. “I can route you through LA and on a red eye.”
“I didn’t pay for all that suffering.”
“Let’s see San Francisco then. Oh, wait it has stops. You probably don’t want that. Too long for you.”
“This call is too long for me. Don’t you have other options?”
“Not if you want to land at JFK.”
“Try the Hamptons. I’d like that.”
“No Hamptons.”
“Martha’s Vineyard?”
“Martha’s on sabbatical.”
“Hey, how about New Jersey?” I say.
I hear the squeaks and whistles. George hangs up.

“Alaska’s running a third world airline,” I say to Alf. “I could have arrived at JFK by now.”
“What did you expect from an iceberg state? Their brains are frozen,” he says.
My phone rings. It’s George.
“George! How are you? I never expected to hear from you again. I thought I lost you for good. “
“No ma’am. You can’t lose me until we finish this reservation,” he says.
“Aw George. I didn’t know you cared,” I say.
“Yes ma’am. Alaska values your business. We want you to be happy with your experience.”
“Can you book me to Paris then?”
“We don’t fly there but some of our partners do, let me check…”
“No George! Just book me to New York.”
George recommends a flight into New Jersey. I take it. We say tearful farewells.

The next morning I emerge from security ready for my flight. The other passengers show up. We take up the entire gate area. My seat mate on my left was also on the canceled flight. I suspect there are many bumped passengers on this plane going to New Jersey even when we really wanted JFK. I’m suspicious, this is a clever way of filling the New Jersey flights because nobody wants to go there.

We anxiously wait for the boarding announcement. Suddenly a woman behind me says, “Oh no!”
I whip around. “What’s the matter?”
“Look at the board. Our flight isn’t leaving for another two hours.”
A collective groan goes up.
They tell us at first it’s thunderstorms. We check the weather map on our phones. You can’t fool the public anymore. Clear skies and bright sun. Then they tell us it’s finding a crew problem. A few minutes later two pilots show up and board. We sit there for another hour. Then the flight attendants show up and board. We continue to sit there. By now my seat mate to the right and I are becoming best friends. I hear her whole life story. Then another announcement. It’s the limited airspace over three airports that’s causing the delay. Flight control is delaying all flights to the East Coast. I’m suspicious again. I bet they have Millennials working things who don’t know how to stack planes in the right order yet.

Another announcement. “We’re having a paper plane contest. Anyone who wants to participate come to the counter for a sheet of paper,” the agent says. “At the time you should have taken off we’ll launch them. That way at least something gets off the ground this morning. The plane that flies the farthest gets a $25 voucher from us.” IMG_2999

I don’t know how to make a paper airplane but I want to play. “Will you build it and I’ll fly it?” I ask my seat mate to my left. He agrees and within minutes he hands me a beautiful paper plane that looks like the Concorde. Another passenger, clearly an engineer, builds an elaborate one that looks like the stealth bomber. He decides to test it. He launches it out by the corridor. It flies straight into a woman’s forehead with a vengeance. He apologizes and crawls back to his seat. The teenagers in the waiting area are furiously making theirs. One of them checks Google for directions. I embellish mine with the logo and Alaskan face on one wing. “New Jersey or bust!” on the other wing. The agent calls the race. We line up in a row. She puts the young kids in front. At her command she says, “Go!” Waiting passengers stand to watch. We launch our creations. A 10-year old wins. Everyone applauds. I hand my plane to the agent.

We go back to waiting. Even our captain can’t convince flight control to leave earlier. Finally, they call the flight. As I walk past the counter, my plane is displayed for all to see.

Calvin says, “That’s what you get for not taking me. They would have taken one look at me, fallen in love, given me treats, and escorted us straight to first class. Or maybe just me. You they would have kept in the squeeze section.

beagle

 

 

 

 

Security Details

I was overweight. Me and my luggage. The agent behind the airline counter said I should remove something otherwise it would cost me $200 in fees. “Do you do liposuction?” He had no sense of humor. I lugged the bag over to a scale and hoisted it on with all my might. I was only 7 pounds over the permissible 50. “Cut me some slack,” I thought with my heart pounding. I was facing a 14-hour flight. What was a measly 7 pounds? I looked over at him. He pointed to a sign that said, “50 lb. limit.” I pulled out my make-up bag. That did the trick. But now my purse was so heavy it threatened to pull my shoulder out of its socket.

Even with TSA pre-check and an escort from CLEAR, my purse was pulled off the conveyor belt for inspection. No kidding. It overflowed. The agents were looking for a sharp object. They decided it was the camera lens I was carrying for a friend. I knew it was my nail file and dagger attitude. IMG_3973

When I got to the gate, or tried to, there was another security check with pat downs, checking of bags and screening for chemicals on my clothes. I went through that twice. I ran upstairs to buy another purse to divide my overload in two places. Both times I had to go through security. That’s the price you pay to fly to Israel.

It made me ask why we don’t do this in all our airports. Why only on flights to Israel? It’s because Israel demands it. So why don’t we? We’re too lenient and too trusting. TSA isn’t going to catch every bad guy in the first run through. We need two screenings, especially one just before boarding. That way we can x-ray your therapy dog and your neck pillow.

Calvin says, “That would mean I’d get x-rayed again, and that slab of bacon I stole from the fridge would be discovered.” beagle

 

 

 

 

No Dreaming

I recently flew Boeing’s Dreamliner to Israel. The name sounds romantic, doesn’t it? It conjures up visions of comfort and luxury. Fourteen non-stop hours zooming through rainbows and clouds tinged with sunset.

Let me tell you, the Dreamliner is no dream. It must have been a name the design team dreamed up in a space capsule at Disney World.

It might fly like a dream for the pilots, but if you’re in economy class, look out, you’re in for a delusion.

The seats are made of plastic, they’re narrow and uncomfortable. When you pile in 242 passengers, it feels like a flying sardine can.  Image result for dreamliner 787

The wingspan is impressive. It’s almost 198 feet. It sports two enormous Rolls Royce engines. They’re noisy.

There are no shades on the windows. At the press of a button the window dims from light to dark. Magic glass. I wonder what it’s doing to my health.

The flight map is in twelve languages with Arabic getting more prime time than all the others.

My seat mates, both women, put on headsets and fell asleep almost immediately, holding me hostage by the window. The middle seat woman maneuvered herself into a fetal position with legs protruding into my limited space. I had to pour her back into her area.

The toilet lid hit my back as I sat down, flushing every two minutes with that scary sucking sound. I thought my insides would fall out.

The in-flight entertainment was lousy. No good TV shows. The movies were old. I couldn’t find the music stations. Probably weren’t any because people come plugged in these days.

There were four pilots taking shifts flying this metal cylinder at 558 miles an hour through space. The sun at this altitude was neon green and reflecting off the wing and streaming into the window making me look like Shrek. Or maybe it was the plastic tinted window that did that. It was so hot you could have cooked potato pancakes on it.

There were eight flight attendants. Three men and five women. Big people, older. No nonsense. They were probably undercover Mossad.

I gave one of them a bag of treats and thanked him for serving us and got a lukewarm response. He was probably suspicious of the contents.

I finally woke up the two sleeping beauties and walked to the back of the plane for a stretch and a bathroom break. In front of the galley a rabbi shrouded in prayer shawl regalia was praying like men do at the Western Wall. Then a group of young Israelis came looking for food and drinks. Two Jewish mamas came in next inspecting the trays of sandwiches in the same manner as in their own kitchens.

There was also a slew of pre-orders of kosher, vegetarian, you name it food trays. Flight attendants walked up and down the aisles with flashlights in search of the right passenger in the correct seat in a darkened plane.

I walked to another section where I met two women from Cincinnati who had been up for more than 24-hours. Their flight from Cincinnati to New Jersey to Tel Aviv was cancelled, so they were re-routed to Denver, then San Francisco to catch this flight. They were delirious.

An hour out, we were instructed to stay in our seats until we landed. This was Israeli law. All the men lined up to the bathroom.

Thirty minutes before landing, as I looked out the window, there were no outside lights on the plane. I wondered if that was Israeli law, too. That we must land in a shroud of darkness like a bat.

Calvin says, “Any dogs in the cabin? We could have been given a crew bed to chew our kosher chicken bones there.”  beagle

Walking is Better

Once upon a time in a world long ago flying was a pleasure. From the moment you got to the airport to when you put your tush in your seat you were treated with respect and hospitality.

I was on my way to becoming a flight attendant for PanAm when all of a sudden it went belly-up. I wanted to see the world while hosting travelers on their planes. To this day there’s nothing I’d rather do than travel, that is until I get to security. Then it’s all out war. I refuse to go into the scanners. I’m convinced they’re a health hazard. New York TSA agents are the worse. They’re bullies. Well, I bully back, which throws them off their game. That’s when they threaten me with harsh pat downs. “Bring them on,” I say standing my ground and glowering back.

It seems to me airline travel is a burden to the airlines. I think they’d rather be transporting chickens than humans. At least chickens wouldn’t be a threat on board or try to commandeer a plane into mass destruction.  You’d just have to clean up a lot of feathers after every trip, but then you could diversify and go into making pillows.photo (90)

Flight attendants are tired and irritated with the long hours of the work day. Pilots no longer just fly the planes, they also do cabin clean-up in between stops. There’s no time for lunch. I’ve seen crews grab granola bars and wilted salads at the airports. They’re probably dehydrated, which explains their impatience with the public.  And the hours of cabin pressure I’m sure is stressing out their hearts and lungs. No wonder they’re angry. Nobody is taking care of anybody and it trickles down to the traveler who only wants a beer, a movie and a smooth trip home.

None of this, however excuses United from the abominable treatment of its passenger on the flight out of Chicago. I noticed that neither pilots or crew were involved in the incident, which was good otherwise if I had been on board I would have bolted off the flight, realizing I was in a horror movie. And then the airline would have had its empty seat.

Calvin says, “The friendly skies look troubled these days. Stick to walking.”  beagle

Third Time

After driving to Tulsa and leaving off my friend there, I flew back to California. It was on the flight from Dallas that I got the adventure I didn’t get on the road trip.

We were late in pushing back from the gate because there was a technical glitch in the cockpit that needed investigating and fixing.

We finally got clearance for take-off. We were strapped in and ready. The engines were revved up and we flew down the runway, but then the pilot slammed on the brakes. He revved up again, we gathered speed, and he slammed on the brakes again.

At that point I was going to raise my hand and say I wanted off the flight. taking off

The captain aborted the flight and we taxied back to the gate where we sat for another half hour as a tech worked on the indicator light that insisted on blinking its beady little head.

I was grateful our captain wasn’t taking any chances with the flight, so that calmed me down.

The third attempt at take-off was successful since I’m writing this. The flight itself was uneventful and the landing was smooth without any hard bounces.

I thanked the captain as I got off for another day of life. He was madly writing notes on a clipboard.

Calvin says, “Woa. If I had been under the seat I’d had bayed my head off.”

Super Hoopla

I went yesterday to see the Super Bowl hoopla at Moscone Center. The NFL had set up a huge staged exhibit that cost $35 a ticket.

Thousands poured inside.

I wasn’t among them. I’m not that kind of fan.

Prices have skyrocketed around this event to the point of shocking me.

For example, if you flew into San Francisco from Colorado or North Carolina on Saturday, stayed in an Airbnb for two nights, watched the game and left on Monday, it would cost you more than $7,000.

I suppose that’s nothing if you’re a millionaire, and I saw a lot of them yesterday.

It’s amazing what we’ll do for our favorite sport.

 

But the sight that was most extraordinary were the SWAT teams, the police presence, and the security agents roaming all over the area.

Frankly, I thought I was in another country.  Super Bowl

This couldn’t be the United States.

Yep, it was.

The security surrounding the Super Bowl rivals the stuff that happens when our president rolls into town for a fundraiser.

At one level you feel protected, but on another, it’s pretty darn scary.

I grew up in countries where heavily armed police, army tanks, and soldiers marched in and took possession of an entire city.

That was when there was a dictator running the country.

So what I witnessed yesterday sent shivers down my spine.

Calvin says, “Were any beagles sniffing NFL footballs?  beagle

 

World Classifieds

My computer is old so today I’ve had the services of an expert who has interrupted my work flow all day as he cleans, updates, and fixes all the glitches I’ve been accustomed to work around for years. Now nothing looks or works the same. I have to type in my username and password on everything again and nothing gets remembered anymore. I suppose that’s the price you pay for security. So much for technology. I’m not sure what it buys us except an industry that has given the entire world much of its employment to a people who probably wouldn’t have made it as car salesmen. I guess that’s saying something.

The last time I IMG_4160checked for an industry that spanned the world was aviation. Remember Pan Am? I think in those days it was the only world carrier at the time.

Then came the pharmaceutical companies, most of which have labs in places like China and India.

And let’s not forget Hollywood, except L.A. still dominates as the hub for celebrities recognized and worshiped the world over. I can’t see Taylor Swift hanging out in Istanbul.

The world has become more fluid, with borders being ignored every day. Even the Monarch butterflies defy all boundaries and fly into Pacific Grove all the way from Mexico.

Calvin says, “You forgot the worldwide dog trade. Puppies come from all over the place, some kosher, others not so much. Those you slip into your pocket.” beagle