Monday, September 14, 2009

Sunday in Colorado Springs

posted Sun, 01 Aug 2004

We got to Colorado Springs last night. Yes, I know I didn’t post as I should have and I do hate to disappoint my many many readers, but I was too tired. Flying non-rev saves you cash money but you pay in other ways. Actually, it’s been so long since I have paid for a flight that I may be confusing paid flying with non-rev flying. Either one is going to be exhausting.

We intended to take the 9:00 a.m. United direct flight to Denver from M’town, but didn’t get on the plane. The person who prepared our flight passes didn’t bother to list us on the flight, so when we got to the airport, our names were not on the queue of standby and non-rev passengers. The way it appears to work is that an airline gives first priority to its passengers who have been bumped from other flights. With the airline Harpo works for, they will let people who couldn’t manage to make it to the airport in time for their own flight get on the next one if there is room available. I want to know why these people are being rewarded for being unpunctual.

It’s like at the doctor’s office. I discovered that even if I am on time, if the people ahead of me don’t show up on time, they still get to see the doctor first because the receptionist calls people in order of appointment, not in order of arrival. I pointed out to my doctor that this was grossly unfair to those of us who are punctual. “Why are you punishing ME because someone else is late?” I asked. “Make the late person wait!” No progress on that front yet but I’ll let you know.

So the first priority is passengers. The next is an airline’s own employees flying non-rev. Within that group is a hierarchy based on seniority. Last is employees of another airline, which was our situation. Within each of these groups, when you get your name on the list is very important. Harpo and I could have been outranked by a UA employee or passenger, but if there were other non-UA employees on the list, we could have had higher priority if we had gotten our names on the list first.

Which we did not. There were 50 seats on the plane. Forty-five seats sold. Forty-five checked in but only forty-one on the plane. Seven standbys on the list. Ten minutes before the plane was supposed to take off – the point at which Harpo hissed, “This is where I board the standbys and close the doors so we can take off on time” – four passengers wander up to the gate. They are all middle-aged – meaning they have flown before and know how it is supposed to work. But they are casual and nonchalant – not a care in the world! The UA gate agent glares at them. “Are you Smiths and Petersons?” he barks. Yes, they are. “Then get on the plane!” They stroll, they amble, they loiter.

I seethe. It’s not until the gate agent has a count of seated passengers that he can start boarding the standbys. He calls two names. Not Factotum and Harpo. Two more. An obnoxious teenage boy says, “Woo hoo!” I hate that stupid expression. It’s done. It’s trite. It’s cliché. Think of an original way to express yourself, OK?

He boards every standby – except us. Sorry, he says, avoiding our eyes. It’s full. Curses.

We end up taking Harpo’s airline to Atlanta and connecting from there to Denver. In Denver, the Enterprise agent insists that I take the 10% discount accorded to me because my company has a corporate deal with Enterprise, then upgrades us to a larger car when she can’t find the keys to the only remaining economy. She is just as cute as can be – the sort of woman I would consider if I considered women. I have never understood why anyone would be attracted to a mullet-headed, khaki-wearing, braless, make-up and jewelry-free, on-purpose unattractive woman, but then I don’t consider women so what do I know?

It’s only 3:30 when we leave the Denver airport, so we decide to take the scenic route to Colorado Springs. You can either go straight down I25, which is on the plains just east of the mountains, or go a little bit west into the mountains and take state highways. On the map, it doesn’t look that much longer to take the scenic route. If you straightened out the line of roads in the scenic route, it would be maybe 25% longer than the direct route. I told Harpo taking the scenic route would add maybe half an hour to our trip.

Boy, was I wrong. It makes a difference to be on windy mountain roads where you can’t go 65. It also makes a difference if you take the wrong road at an intersection. I guess that technically I as navigator deserve the blame for that one, but the state of Colorado (and the Enterprise map people) were really not doing their job. It’s not like the map had the road numbers marked and it’s not like the state had signs at the forks in the road announcing where the east fork and the west fork would take you, respectively.

Not that it mattered. It was an absolutely gorgeous drive. Harpo and I brought a lot of rain last time we were here, so the meadows were green and the roadside was covered with wildflowers. We had over four hours – more than twice the time it takes going on I25 – to enjoy the scenery, but aside from a sore butt from so much sitting, it was not a problem.

Two things: in one town, we saw the sign for library: a silhouette of a person reading a book. Shouldn’t someone looking for the library maybe know how to read? I asked. That makes me think of the Braille translation on the drive-through book drop in M’town. Have I mentioned that before? That’s one of my favorite ‘waste of taxpayer money’ issues. I’ll let you think about it if it’s not already obvious.

The other thing: on the airport TV yesterday was a big story about Lance Armstrong, who is indeed a remarkable athlete. They mentioned how he had recovered from cancer. And in doing so, they did it in a way that I have heard before and makes me furious. He survived, they said, because he fought so hard. Because he was so determined.

No! He got lucky! Medicine is more art than science. Yes, attitude is important but we just don’t know why chemo works sometimes and doesn’t work other times. The implication in the ‘fighter’ approach that people who die from cancer just didn’t try hard enough. If they had just been more determined, they wouldn’t have died. Well, that’s just not true.

I must away. Mom is making blueberry muffins and I need to get to them before Harpo awakes.

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