Posts Tagged ‘travel’


More use of electronics on planes?

December 11, 2012

According to this article, the FCC’s chair is encouraging more use of electronics on planes. While I say, “It’s about time,” I would welcome some changes more than others.

My thinking has really changed on this. I used to be a hard-core “power down everything, every take-off and landing” kind of guy. It was the rule, dammit, and there seemed to be some evidence suggesting that our phones and laptops might be messing with the plane’s electronics. Just last week my friend and colleague Kristin was reminding me of a flight when I watched a woman stash her Kindle next to her armrest, rather than shut it off. My comment to Kristin was something like, “Does she think it’s not portable? Not electronic? Or not a device?” I also remember ticking off a young woman on a flight out of Boston because I spoke to her when she refused to turn off her phone.

But in the last few months I’ve softened, for two reasons. First, I believe that if the airlines really thought a phone or tablet could disrupt the plane enough to endanger its performance, we would all have to prove our devices were turned off before ¬†we could board. Instead, TSA currently considers our shoes more dangerous than our tablets, and I usually use my phone in lieu of a paper boarding pass. Second, reading my Kindle is not any less distracting than my current sub-10,000-feet paper periodical, the Economist. So in general I’m all for loosening the current limitations on our use of electronics.

I do have two concerns, however. I support the idea that, during takeoff and landing, passengers should be aware of their surrounding, and the flight crew should be able to give instructions quickly and directly. As a result, I am opposed to passengers using noise-canceling headphones at the start and end of a flight. I am even more strongly against the use of cell phones for conversations during flights. We sit among strangers in very tight quarters. I really do not want to hear half of anyone’s conversations for an entire flight–it’s painful enough to hear about urgent widget orders and how soccer practice went before takeoff and after landing. I use my noise-canceling earbuds on long flights–please, FAA, don’t make me have to use them all the time.


A Small Measure of Patience Restored

November 16, 2012

Last night I flew out of San Jose–my first trip through security since the ugliness in Atlanta described in my last post. Although there was no reason for stress–I was more than two hours early for my flight, and the single security line didn’t have more than a half-dozen people in it–I gave some extra attention to my anxiety level. I didn’t want to provide any snap reactions.

The gentleman in front of me was getting a bit tangled as he filled his bins, so he turned to me and said, “You can cut in front of me.” As any traveler knows, surrendering one’s place in the security line is an incredibly generous offer. But I was working on keeping calm.


“No thanks, I’m not in a hurry tonight.”

“Me either,” he replied.



The Limits of My Patience–Exposed

November 14, 2012

This morning I flew out of Atlanta. I joined a security line that was long enough that it curved around a corner. Just as I settled in for a wait (like moving items from my pockets to my computer bag), a TSA officer popped out of a side door and said, “Some of you can use this lane.” The doorway was right at the curve of the line, so when we started to move toward it, some folks who were behind others got to move in front of them. I knew this might cause trouble, so I paused near the door so that the guy in front of me could go ahead of me. “No reason we can’t take turns,” I said loudly and cheerfully enough that others might follow my lead. I approached the pile of gray bins feeling pretty good about myself.

Anyone who’s flown since 9/11 knows how seriously people take this line stuff. Just last Monday I got to RDU at 5:00 am, and the fire alarm was resounding throughout the terminal. It continued as I joined the line. Yet nobody moved, and nobody spoke. The TSA crew just stood and waited for the alarm to stop, even when the automated voice began to instruct us to leave the building. Hah! As if a silly little fire is going to keep anyone from letting latecomers cut in front of us! After almost 15 minutes of this personal safety vs. place in line standoff, the alarm stopped and the security promenade proceeded as normal.

I should have remembered that episode this morning, because as I started to pile stuff into my two bins, a space opened in front of me. Yet before I could push ahead, a guy cut in front of me and grabbed three bins of his own, filling the space. He tried to turn his back to me, as if I had not been there. It’s easier to cut off a guy you don’t make eye contact with–this is a Corollary Part A to Air Traveler’s Rule #1: If I don’t look at the person behind me, then they don’t really exist, and I can recline my seat as far as it will go.

But he had to keep putting stuff in his bins, so I caught his eye. (He only used two, by the way–another sign of his hastiness. ATR #2: Don’t take more bins than you need–there’s not enough room on those silver tables anyway. And while I’m at it, here’s ATR #3: Don’t take two bins when you need three. It drives the rest of us nuts when you have to reach back and grab another bin for your laptop.) I could have let it go, but I didn’t. Not ten seconds after congratulating myself on starting the alternating line, I said, “Really?” All those hours of meditation, gone in a flash.

“Hey, you cut in front of me anyway, so just relax, man.” He was as angry as I was. His cut in front of me was restoring Line Justice. It’s taken me until now (we’re starting our approach into San Jose) to realize … he was right. Not only did he dash my moment of self-satisfaction, he reminded me that I should have slowed down a bit more and let the other three or four people in front of me pass through. Impatience exposed. Lesson learned.



Why I Don’t Use Wake-up Calls

September 14, 2012

I can’t remember exactly when I gave up on wake-up calls in hotels, but it was after yet another call failed to come on time. Instead I use my Nightstand on my iPad as my alarm clock (current wake-up tune of choice: Life in Technicolor by Coldplay), with a second alarm set on my iPhone in case the iPad fails somehow.

Yesterday provided two reminders of why I stopped using wake-up calls. At 7:30 yesterday morning, the phone in my hotel room in San Jose rang. I was about to walk out the door to teach, but I answered it anyway. It was an automated wake-up message, which I had not requested. Meanwhile, someone who had asked for a 7:30 wake-up call didn’t get it. I hope they had a backup plan.

Last night I got to my hotel here in Seattle, and as the clerk was checking me in, he answered the phone. “Yes, sir, I’m happy to set that up for you,” he said–just as he was writing down my room number on the sleeve holding my room key. He hung up the phone and paused, pen in hand … and said, “Uh oh, I forgot what room that was. Someone’s going to be upset with me in the morning.” Hope that guy had a backup plan, too.


It was a bit of an odyssey …

March 17, 2012

Greetings from Athens, the birthplace of Western civilization. It is 9:00 pm here, and I am very tired. In the last 24 hours, Bobby and I:

*flew from Atlanta to Montreal (exit row seats, so plenty of room)
*enjoyed a 3.5-hour layover with a visit to the Air France lounge, followed by a simple dinner
*flew in the world’s largest passenger jet, the Airbus A380, from Montreal to Paris (Air France configures theirs to hold almost 540 people, so much less leg room), which left nearly an hour late

The huge plane that took us (sans Bobby's bag) from Montreal to Paris.

*ran through Charles de Gaulle airport for nearly 20 minutes in hopes of catching our flight to Athens
*once rebooked on the next Athens flight, rehydrated at a small eatery near our gate, where we were joined by Roger Daltrey
* had an uneventful flight to Athens, where we learned Bobby’s bag had not made the flight from Montreal (yup, 3.5 hours was not enough time for them to get his bag onto the right plane)
*took our first walk through Athens to buy clothes for Bobby to wear tomorrow, and
*had our first fantastic dinner in Greece (at Meatropoleos 3, near the parliament building), featuring pita bread and tzatziki, seasonal greens drenched in olive oil, and grilled pork (for Bobby) and veal (for me)

Bobby in front of the Greek parliament building. Hopefully there will not be demonstrations here this week. The government's next bond payment is due Tuesday.

In short, this was the kind of day that might have been a bit of a drag had I been traveling alone. But having Bobby with me on his first passport-required trip has already made this a memorable business trip for me. We’ve come to Athens so I can teach a workshop and certify some trainers to teach PQ+A, and so Bobby can fulfill a wish that started in his sixth grade mythology class–a wish to explore the classical world. He handled the 20 hours of travel really well, including getting some sleep on the red-eye despite the Sudoku game available on his video screen. He did not let the missed flight or lost luggage upset his day in the least. These reactions tell me he’s going to be an outstanding traveler, not just this week but anytime.

Oh yes, bumping into Roger Daltrey… . During our layover in Paris we were sipping on juices in a little bistro-type place, typing away on our laptops, when two guys sat down at the table right next to us. The place was cozy enough that the guy sitting next to Bobby was no more than two feet away from him. He was talking on his cell phone just loudly enough for me to notice his British accent and his asking the question, “Did you like the show? I wish you’d come back stage after.” So I glanced over at him and thought, “Damn, I am pretty sure that’s Roger Daltrey, but he’s so short.” I passed Bobby a note explaining my theory, and he wrote back that he too thought the guy looked familiar. Then Daltrey glanced at me and damned if those aren’t two of the most sparkly blue eyes on the planet. It was him for sure. Welcome to international travel, Bobby. Mind your own business in the Paris airport and a living legend may just drop by for a latte.

That brush with fame made the missed flight and ensuing jog worth it. Losing Bobby’s luggage got us out the door and exploring a new city within an hour of our arrival. That’s the mainstay of travel, isn’t it? Take what the universe gives you and make the best of it. That was a damned fine day. Tomorrow morning we’re up early and heading to Delphi.


Blowing My Cool

April 21, 2011

Tuesday I had an 8:30 flight out of RDU. This is later than my usual 6:00 departure, so I wanted to give myself some extra time to get to the airport. Sure enough there was an accident on I-40. Clever local that I am, I took the first exit after traffic slowed so I could take a back route tovthe airport. But the NC 54 was not as easy to follow as I expected, and I got lost. Rather than stopping to regain my bearings, I kept driving, assuming I was heading in the right direction. I wasn’t. Four weeks of meditation practice (I’ve missed only one day in that time, a record for me) went out the window, as any sense of equanimity I may have cultivated evaporated in a cloud of panic and self-loathing. I lamented my lost first-class upgrade, knowing I’d be lucky to get a middle seat in the back row of the next flight. Finally I stopped and looked at the map on my iPhone, which saved my bacon. I charted a course and headed in the right direction.

I pulled into a parking spot at 8:10, ran to the elevator, ran to the security line, and as I was reassembling my belongings I heard them call my name on the PA. That’s never a good sign. Not bothering to check the monitors, I sprinted for my gate, C15. Nobody there. They’d changed the gate to C1, which I’d dashed by just moments before. You think I would have learned about pausing to check my bearings. I ran straight to the gate agent, who smiled and said, “You’ve got plenty of time, Mr. Stocking.” Maybe, but I was the last one on the plane.

Despite having lost my cool on the drive, I recovered sooner than I expected: my heart slowed, I was not as sweaty as I should have been. So maybe the meditation is paying off. But I was still wigged out enough that I didn’t do any work on the flight to Atlanta. I read The Economist and regathered my focus.

I fly early in the day because I want to have some flexibility should Delta have delays. I was not happy that I was nearly the cause of missing a flight, but delighted to finally be on board. This morning I got to the San Antonio airport with plenty of time to spare.


Gate G13, Minneapolis

September 13, 2010

How poorly are we allowed to treat airlines? Due to a mechanical problem, we had to walk 100 yards to gate G16, and a guy next to me mutters, “Unreal,” like Delta has just ruined his day, trip, or possibly career with this request. We’ll get to Seattle about a half hour late. I hope his job and marriage are not damaged by the delay.

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