Notes from a Snow Day

Remember when you were a kid and schools would be closed because of snow? Wasn’t that one of the best feelings ever? Snow days in the work-a-day world aren’t quite so much fun, but it’s still nice not to have to get up at dark-o’clock and clear the driveway and then drive to the office on snow covered roads. In the late ‘80s, I had a full-size 4-wheel-drive pickup just so I could get to work under the worst of conditions. Our network and our computers needed much more care then than they do today. Also, they were all in the office. Today, we can take the computers with us and we can monitor and, if necessary repair the network from our homes.

The storm that kept us home on Tuesday was supposed to be “crippling” and “historic” according to the weather service. Seriously, I think those guys should stick to the facts. We were prepared. We aren’t the kind of folks who run out for milk and bread at the first sign of trouble. However, Monday is the day my wife normally shops and she normally buys a few gallon bottles of water. She wants a sign for her cart that says “Not Shopping for the Storm.” As for me, I had gas for the snow-blower but I was missing an accessory that the forecast suggested I might need – a drift slicer. I have been meaning to buy one but I was affected by that family trait, the “we could make that gene” that Faith wrote abouttwice.

I was pretty sure that I could make a drift slicer, and for far less than the $55 price tag on the website. For a few dollars’ worth of steel, a few feet of heat-shrink tubing and some stainless steel screws I had a sturdy and functional drift slicer. We didn’t have the three-foot drifts they predicted, but we had enough snow to test the effectiveness of my handiwork.

It's not meant to be a road map, but you get the general idea.

It’s not meant to be a road map, but you get the general idea.

I follow a pattern for clearing the driveway and the sidewalk in front of our house. It’s designed to require the least amount of time overall and the least amount of time slogging in reverse. I won’t bore you with that. Actually, I might some day because it has taken a long time to perfect it, but for now, there’s a more important pattern – building Mt. Maddie. The diagram at the right isn’t drawn to scale and isn’t meant to be a roadmap. The gray lines represent paths that I clear so my wife can get to her firewood racks, and some are for Maddie, um, for business purposes. When the discharge shoot can be angled properly, all of the snow goes into a single heap. Mt. Maddie. She loves playing on that pile.

Maddie loves to play in the snow as much as any of the Irish Setters we have had. Her favorite activity is to steal something of ours and play keep-away. Tuesday, she stole my glove. She snagged it with one of her front teeth and as I tried to wiggle it free, it came off. In the words of June Carter-Cash in one of my favorite country songs “Jackson” – “Goodbye, that’s all she wrote.”

The day ended with a good deal of work having been accomplished, a driveway and backyard cleared for normal activity and one very tired pup. Also, the day ended with a very nice gesture from a snowplow driver. I had cleared the driveway after the storm ended but before what I thought was the last pass by the plow truck. After he drove by, I went out with a shovel to clear the snow that was pushed into the driveway and onto the sidewalk. When I was just about finished, the plow truck returned.

Maybe this will help you to visualize the random act of kindness offered to me.

Maybe this will help you to visualize the random act of kindness offered to me.

As he was coming toward our driveway, he saw me, raised the blade and swerved into the center of our street. Then he turned around and returned to finish the street in front of our house heading away from our driveway. With that kind action, he avoided pushing a new pile of snow onto the space I had just cleared. Sorry, but I couldn’t resist another diagram. It’s a slow night.

Posted in Family, Photography, Work Habits | Tagged , , , , , | 38 Comments

Most Least

socs-badgeYour Friday prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday is: “most/least.” Use one or both of the words in your post or just write with one or both in mind. But whatever you do, have fun!

I read the SoCS prompt before leaving work yesterday and my mind got stuck on the thought that:

When the most you are willing to do is the least you can do, something is wrong.

I could not figure out what I meant by that.

On the ride home, I did what I normally do when I can’t figure something out. I tried to manipulate it like a problem to be solved. I’m not sure if that’s a guy thing, but it’s a “me” thing. If my wife expresses frustration with something, my mind starts noodling on a solution. I have almost learned to suppress statements that begin with: “maybe if you…” but the thought process is in high gear. I cooked up this chart, and I labeled the quadrants in my mind. In keeping with the spirit of SoCS, I tried very very hard not to edit or perfect my thinking on this.

Most Least Chart

Use the chart to rate the things you do/have to do/ might do/want to avoid and see how they rank relative to each other.

I’m not sure if this chart makes sense. It doesn’t really matter, I’m not actually trying to solve a problem today. I just think that ‘least-to-most’ is an interesting spectrum. It’s like the ‘Turtle-to-Bunny’ setting on my lawnmower. The endpoints represent the limits of operation, of participation of the ever-popular “engagement,” a word Brad Lewis and my daughter will probably ban from use in future blogs (Faith maintains a growing list of banned words).

The scale might be hard to understand, like I said, not a lot of thought went into this, but I think it works. “Effort” can be anything. Physical effort, mental effort, spiritual effort, etc. “Time,” well, time is constant. Time is time.

Think about the things in your life, the things that you do. Toss them on the chart where they fit relative to the time and effort you’re willing to put into them. Does where they fit make sense? I didn’t have a lot of time, my commute is only about 30 minutes but I thought about where I would place a bunch of things that I do. For example

Watching television – On an ordinary night, this would be a small amount of time and very little effort. On a night during the Twilight Zone Marathon, the mental effort increases as I try to understand the deeper meaning.

Family – Stick that in the upper right corner for me, at least with respect to what I am willing to do. I would do anything for these guys and I don’t really care how long it takes.

Reading – This is similar to watching television but I don’t think it can go as far into the lower left as TV. I simply won’t read something that requires no effort, and I will put extra effort into some reading. When I read Dr. Seuss books to my daughter, I worked hard to make up voices to accompany the characters or at least get the intonation correct. I also won’t move too far into the upper right with reading. Maybe when I was in college and the book was a Quantum Mechanics textbook, but nothing by choice these days.

Exercise – I enjoy exercise, but I don’t want to put in too much time and I don’t want to work too hard. I’ll ride a real bike for several hours, but after 45 minutes on an exercise bike, I’m done. I have an exercise bike at home. That’s a good thing, because I am not the kind of person who will stop at the gym on the way home, run at lunch or leave the house after dinner to exercise.

Writing – Now this is interesting. Clearly, I am willing to write an 800 word blog post although not much effort went into this one. I am willing to spew out my ideas and feelings and I’m even willing to do some research. I’m willing to go out and take some photographs. I’m willing to edit and re-work a post, seemingly forever (I first wrote The Jupiter Effect five months before posting it). Would I be willing to write a book? I don’t know.

I’m not sure if there is any value to this plotting exercise. I don’t know what it reveals. I don’t know if there’s any value to visualizing that reading a boring book is somehow lower or less interesting than watching a bad TV program. The only potential value I can think of is if my wife and I were to rank the same thing, perhaps several things. Then we could measure the relative distance between our rankings and figure out which thing would be the most enjoyable / least painful to endure together. Of course, my wife would say that I was over-thinking this.

Posted in Prompt, SoCS, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 67 Comments

My PC vs. Mac Battle

DOS Drives Disks and Programs

I was cleaning out the old cabinet. There’s a couple of old DOS hard drives in that pile. 128MB, 268MB and 576MB.

Back in the day – no, this isn’t going to be a story about walking through knee-high snow on my way to school in the ‘60s. It could be, but it’s about a different day. The day when I had one PC and it ran DOS. Email and the Internet weren’t things – that day! Getting a new PC was easier back then. In that day, you could back up your stuff (your files and your programs) and you could restore it to a new machine and use it. Yep, use all your stuff. Just like that. Along the way to making everything easier, we threw the concept of easy migration out the Windows – pun intended. Of course, there was less that we could do, but we didn’t know that yet.

Three weeks ago, I sent the manager of my department a link to a larger capacity hard drive for my Windows laptop under the subject line:

Can I have one of these?

Several years ago, I would have just ordered the drive, but succession planning has convinced me to give him control over my budget. Now, I have to ask. In any case, I had been running out of room. I was constantly moving files back and forth between our servers at work, Box, DropBox, ShareFile and One Drive. Actually, One Drive is so confusing, I haven’t really used it much, even though I have access to 1 TB of space.

I remember when a terabyte was an unimaginable amount of storage. Then my daughter bought me a 1 TB USB backup drive. Instantly, I had a terabyte of storage just laying on my desk. Then Flickr gave me 1 TB of storage for photos. Then I bought a 3 TB MyCloud device from Western Digital. Three Ter-a-bytes! Three! All of a sudden, a terabyte was “one terabyte? Just one?” 1 TB lost its mojo. DropBox wants to sell me 1 TB of cloud-based storage for $99 a year. $99? Are you crazy DropBox? That’s like paying $99 for air. I digress.

This isn’t about cloud-based storage.

While my laptop was undergoing its hard drive transplant, I decided that I would use my MacBook at work and my old laptop at home. I have a MacBook because I write Apps for our employees to use on their iPhones and iPads. I could use the MacBook for everything, I suppose, but I’m too much a PC kind of guy for that. Still, I figured that I could do it for a few days. You can do anything for a few days.

Except.

I have a new MacBook, too. I’ve had it for a while, but I hadn’t set it up.

It was time to bite the bullet as it were, and upgrade everything. I’ll spare you the gory techie details and the logic behind my situation but I had to upgrade to Apple’s latest operating system and development environment, apply nine million Windows updates and install Office-365 on both my laptop and my Mac. Then, I had to install a new password manager and log back into everything, everywhere.

I spent a lot of time over several days last week and weekend upgrading, downloading, installing and configuring. Again, I’ll try to be brief (stop laughing). I’ll give you the high points of my frustration in its two main categories:

ThinkPad vs. ThinkPad – Check out the two photos of the ThinkPad keyboards. Those are the keyboards on my old (home) and new (work) laptop. There are two changes that are driving me bats. First, they moved the Delete key (along with the PgUp/PgDn/Insert/Home/End keys. In moving between these two machines, I am constantly hitting the wrong key and when one of the wrong keys that you hit is ‘Delete’ your day isn’t great.

Second but less obvious is the way the keyboard light is activated. ThinkPads have this very cool little LED at the top of the screen that shines on the keyboard. I use that a lot. On my old laptop, I turn that on by pressing Fn and PgUp. On the new one, I press Fn and the space bar. Pressing Fn-Delete (the key where PgUp used to be) on the new laptop, does nothing, but pressing Fn-Space on the old one changes the screen resolution. No, I don’t know why it does that but it’s annoying.

Mac vs. PC – Some of my ‘Apple’ friends will be laughing soon, but there are just some things about the whole Mac experience that I – don’t – get.

Why do the Min-Max-Close “buttons” have to be on the opposite side of an application’s window? Couldn’t Apple and Microsoft agree on a consistent approach? Upper right or upper left guys, it really isn’t that hard, and why can I close a window on the Mac but still have to ‘Quit’ the program? Also, I am sure that there is a protocol for when to use the Shift-Control-Option-Command keys, but I – just – don’t – get – it.

I realize that I do this stuff for a living. You’re probably saying “suck it up Dan, they pay you to do this, we have to do it for free.” I look forward to a day when I won’t be working with multiple machines, but in some ways, having them this past week was a blessing. I’m not sure that I could set up a new computer today without an old computer nearby.

Posted in Nostalgia, Rant, Technology | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 46 Comments

If We Were Having a Beer

For the love of beer

The perfect place and beverage to share some casual conversation.

I know, that’s supposed to be “if we were having coffee” but I’m still in the work-a-day world where coffee falls into three main categories:

  • Get me up and outta-here
  • Keep me focused on this pile of stuff
  • Lord help me survive this meeting

One of my blogging buddies twisted the if-we-were-having-coffee theme the day I started writing this post. Take a look, see how Maggie changed it up to a glass of wine? As soon as I read that, I thought “Maggie took my idea.” Later, I realized that Maggie is connected to none other than Sammy D and Sammy’s and my drafts folder have gotten tangled before. They are both great ladies and I love their blogs.

I might mention how it can be awkward when a happily married guy is following female bloggers. The key to having it never be awkward is a two-part key. I might share this with you over a beer if you were a lot younger than me and I was passing on wisdom. Part-1: be careful what you say if you comment on their blog. Part-2: don’t try to conceal the blog connections, or anything else for that matter, from your wife.

You might think that Part-1 is hard for me. It’s not. Oh, I might say something stupid to Maggie or Sammy if I was having coffee with them, or wine, or a beer, but not usually when I write a comment. I can look at what I’ve written and realize how that might be misinterpreted or how it misrepresents the voices in my head. Unfortunately, I usually don’t realize that something might be wrong with what I’ve just said until I see the look on the woman’s face:

You look good in that dress today” – i.e. not those other ones, the ones you’ve worn every other day that I’ve worked with you, but that one dress, today and the dress is doing all the work.

As for Part-2, I don’t conceal anything. Every now and then I think about trying, like when I got stopped by a local cop but only got a warning. Why should I bring that up? Well, there’s a hundred possible bad outcomes, and they all end with “why didn’t you just tell me?” Sometimes, I can’t tell her stuff – work stuff – and that stinks.

Reillys Daughter

Not my regular bar but a favorite when I’m flying though Midway with a long layover.

Anyway, if we were having that beer, we would probably be sitting at a bar, and we would be sharing things back and forth. One of us would comment on what a good/bad/weird/cold/long week it’s been and then the snippets of life would come spewing out.

I would share my frustration with shopping for pants slacks. My English friend David tells me that ‘pants’ implies underwear. Not underwear, I was shopping for casual slacks, Dockers et al. 38-34, flat-front, in black, dark blue and / or gray. You would understand cuz that’s what we wear. Neither Sears nor Macy’s had these pants in my size. They had 38-29, 38-30, 38-32 but that’s where it ended.

It was suggested to me that “maybe you should come back later in the week, we restock for the weekends” so I went back on Friday night.

At this point, you would look at me funny and say “wait, dude, you went shopping for clothes twice in one week?” and then you would question my manhood and start calling me “Danielle.” I would say what guys always say. That phrase, I don’t need to say it. Guys know, women can guess.

I did go back, and it ended well, but not without some head scratching.

Sears still didn’t have any pants in my size. None, zip, zero save for one pair of blue pants that look like work pants. I have nothing against work, workers or work clothes, but I don’t like that shade of blue. I asked the salesgirl if they might have more in the back – I mean stores always used to have more “in the back” didn’t they. She rambled on non-stop with:

No I don’t think we do. 38-34 is a popular size, we’re usually out of them. We order stock on Monday and we get a truck on Thursday morning and the guys unload the truck and the stockers take the new stock and put it on the shelves, but it takes like all day and they might not get done until the morning so you might have to check back on Friday night.”

Me: “It is Friday night.”

Salesgirl: “It is? Oh, then I don’t know. Maybe they didn’t finish? I’d check but I don’t know anything about the back room.”

I could believe that.

I decided to try searching the piles at Macy’s. Piles vs. sections-by-size is one reason I prefer Sears to Macy’s. Sears has pants organized by size and style so I only have to go to the “38 Waist” section to realize that I’m out of luck. Sure, I do a quick scan for random 38’s but usually one quick glance is enough. Macy’s just has pants all jumbled on a table or a shelf. Macy’s also likes to sell Dockers at list price but they were having a 1-day sale on Friday so I was good. Macy’s even had a saleswoman willing to help me look. I found two pairs of pants and the saleswoman found another pair. She showed them to me and said:

These are a slightly different style, but it’s a nice color and they have a little elastic section in the waistband, which will be good for you.”

Really?

Really? Did she have to add that? If I had said that to her, I’d get that look I often get from women when I speak.

At this point we would be laughing, sharing stories of when we’ve said stuff like that to women and agreeing that we should just be allowed to wear jeans to work. You’d call the bartender over and say “I’ll have another” and you’d point at me and say “and put another one of whatever she’s drinking on my tab.”

Posted in Humor, If having a beer, Perspective | Tagged , , , , , , , | 45 Comments

Charles Dickens’ Other Mystery

Earlier this week, I was part of a small group of businessmen meeting with a professor from one of our State Universities. We will be serving as mentors in one of his classes this semester. After the meeting was over, a few of us remained to discuss ways we could help the professor in a different class. The professor started describing a book that he had written but was no longer using and the various problems he has had with the publisher. During this conversation, someone made a comment likening the professor’s book to “The Mystery of Edwin Drood.”

Edwin Drood? I had never heard of this book.

The person who had made the comment explained that it was the last novel written by Charles Dickens, the only mystery written by Dickens and that the famed author died before the book was finished and that we don’t know the ending.

I wanted to remember that. I wanted to share it with my wife because she is a Dickens fan. She has a collection of his books, as well as a book about his life. I was pretty sure that she would know about this book. But I forgot. Despite the fact that this had been the most interesting thing I heard during this meeting, it was lost in the complexity of my afternoon. Lunch with my daughter, a visit to the dentist and catching up on the small pile of email that had collected in my inbox all seemed more important that Mr. Dickens’ unfinished work.

Red for Danger

I love this book. Learning a lot about the early days of railroads.

Hours later, I crawled into bed, eager to continue reading a book on railroad disasters in the early days of train service in England. This book, “Red for Danger” was a Christmas gift from my friend David who lives in England and is a fan of trains, model trains and train history. The book is more historic than action-thriller. The author works through accidents methodically, explaining not only what went wrong and the often horrific results, but also how these early accidents set the stage for the safety regimen that characterizes modern railroads. Modern being the mid 1900’s when this book was written.

I had left off just before a chapter on accidents that resulted from the negligence of workmen and trains traveling through work zones. It seems that signaling trains of the unexpected dangers posed by maintenance activity was not yet a well-established practice in the day. The day being June 9th, 1865. One of the stories in this chapter was about the repairs to the Staplehurst Bridge. The work crew failed to account for a train running on a flexible schedule. The train crossed the bridge while it was under repair and only the engine, the tender and one car made it across the shallow river. Ten passengers died and 49 were injured. One interesting bit of information about this train wreck is the fact that the lead passenger car, the only one to make it across the bridge, was carrying none other than Charles Dickens. Mr. Dickens worked to help the injured passengers and was severely affected by the accident. The author added:

Charles Dickens

The book describes the accident and Charles Dickens’ role in helping to rescue the survivors. It mentions how much the accident affected him.

This seemed a little too weird for me. That I’ve lived over 60 years without knowing about this book, only to hear about it twice in the same day? I looked into this and discovered that it is, perhaps, an example of the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon.

Baader-Meinhof is the phenomenon where one happens upon some obscure piece of information–often an unfamiliar word or name–and soon afterwards encounters the same subject again, often repeatedly.”

I say perhaps because not everyone accepts that this is a phenomenon. Some say that the reason these interesting connections seem important is because we fail to notice things that are not interesting. One source added:

This tendency to ignore the “uninteresting” data is an example of selective attention.”

Normally, I might agree with that. I’m selectively attentive for sure. That’s a fact. You can ask my family. Actually, they might go as far as to say that I am oblivious to the world around me. It’s nice how people who love you can be honest about such things.

Regardless of my condition, I did find this story about Dickens to be interesting. Despite the fact that I didn’t remember to tell my wife about it, I think I would have remembered hearing about it before.

On the other hand, I am being careful not to read too much into these events. I’ve found websites that say: “all coincidences have meaning.” I’m not sure what meaning this could have and, if it has meaning, what is it? Should I not ride trains? Should I read The Mystery of Edwin Drood? Should I not read it? Should I look for other coincidences involving Mr. Dickens? Well, I already wrote about one of those.

Not only was Charles Dickens on the ill-fated train in England in 1865, he was on a boat in the Windsor Locks Canal in 1842. I ride my bike on the Windsor Locks Canal path regularly. Windsor Locks is the 4th smallest town in the 3rd smallest state in the United States, but Charles Dickens was here, traveling the same path I travel.

While I don’t agree with those who would suggest that there is nothing to Baader-Meinhof or coincidences for that matter, I did enjoy reading this sarcastic quote from another book I haven’t read:

A certain man once lost a diamond cuff-link in the wide blue sea, and twenty years later, on the exact day, a Friday apparently, he was eating a large fish – but there was no diamond inside. That’s what I like about coincidence.”
― Vladimir Nabokov, Laughter in the Dark

Perhaps a quote from a different book by Mr. Dicken’s is more deserving of my attention:

What connexion can there be, between the place in Lincolnshire, the house in town, the Mercury in powder, and the whereabout of Jo the outlaw with the broom, who had that distant ray of light upon him when he swept the churchyard-step? What connexion can there have been between many people in the innumerable histories of this world, who, from opposite sides of great gulfs, have, nevertheless, been very curiously brought together!
― Charles Dickens, Bleak House

That is more on-point to my study of this kluge of coincidence. Charles Dickens and I have been curiously brought together.

Have you experienced the Baader-Mienhof Phenomonon? Is it real? Is it a bunch of hooey? Let me know what you think but be prepared to hear a related tale in an upcoming post.

Posted in History, Strange Stuff | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 32 Comments

a shooter

Dan Antion:

I have said before that I don’t reblog things often. One reason is that a lot of people that follow me also follow the people I follow. I don’t see a lot of overlap with the blog I am reblogging today. Dan and I are often operating on a similar wavelength. We are about as far apart as you can get geographically (CT – Southern Cal), but something seems to resonate between our two blogs. As I was writing my last entry about airline pricing, Dan published this gem. The only thing worse than flying is flying next to the wrong person. I hope you enjoy reading it.

Originally posted on itkindofgotawayfromyou:

Elevate those guns a little lower .       ——Andrew Jackson 

Woman shooter in 1914 :woman shooter 1914I was flying to Europe a few years ago ; first lap was to New York . I didn’t get my requested aisle seat and had to sit one seat in . The guy who got an aisle seat , the one who I would have to be crawling over to get out into the aisle all through the flight , was a talkative fellow . Young guy from Nevada . His wife had the aisle seat across from him , on the other side of the aisle . That was a smart move ; good planning .  They had  paid twenty bucks extra each  for the aisle seats .

I might should have paid the 20 bucks , too , but for the nagging thought in my mind that this kind of…

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Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Empty Tables – Because We Can

Eat.n Park

Eat’n Park is part of the yellow group and Faith usually manages to buy it.

One of the emerging family traditions in our house is for my daughter and I to play a board game when she is visiting for a holiday. A couple of years ago, I got lucky and found the “Pittsburgh Edition” of Monopoly on Craigslist. Faith loves to play that edition because she gets to own Eat’n Park. We usually have to put a time limit on the game, as we tend to buy our favorite places and trade the same few hundred dollars back and forth.

But not this year.

On Christmas I talked Faith into taking a few risks, buying a few more properties, investing her last few dollars in houses and hotels. She was apprehensive. She felt insecure without a comfortable bankroll of play money.

What’s the worst that can happen?” I asked. “You have to tear some houses down and mortgage some property. Real estate tycoons have been doing that for years.”

All the money

Potential airline executive? No, she’s too kind.

She listened. She invested. She bought, built and bullied me to the point that she possessed every $500 bill in the bank. At the end of the game, she had over $23,000. I had $63. One or two more rolls and she would have ground me into the dirt behind the Parker Brothers’ poorhouse. She didn’t take that step. She let me walk away with my dignity, my $63 and The Civic Arena and Three Rivers Stadium (the Pittsburgh equivalent of Baltic and Mediterranean Avenues).

She should be ashamed. If Monopoly was a game about airlines, she might be called for leaving money on the table.

That’s what happened at Jet Blue.

airline seats

I think we could squeeze a few more seats in there.

Jet Blue was known for providing a quality customer experience. They were letting people check bags for free, giving them room to almost stretch their legs, giving them a comfortable seat to sit in. They were putting 10 peanuts in each bag as opposed to the industry standard 8 (I made that up, but I’m probably close). They were also “leaving money on the table” according to their owners. During the course of the next year they will start charging for checked bags, strip the seats of some padding and scrunch them together a little closer.

According to the Jet Blue, they should be praised for not going as far as they could. They could charge even more for those bags. They could reduce legroom even further. They could strip even more padding out of those seatbacks. For that matter, they could outfit the plane with molded plywood seats like the desks we had in school. I can hear the President of Jet Blue now: “They sat in them for 12 years; surely a 3 hour flight isn’t going to kill anyone.”

No, but it’s going to make air travel an even worse experience, and don’t call me Shirley.” (Sorry, one of the other things we do on holidays is watch movies like Animal House, Caddyshack and Airplane).

The goal of not leaving any money on the table is at odds with providing a quality customer experience but airlines don’t care. Airlines don’t have to care. Airlines don’t have to provide a quality customer experience because customers really don’t have an alternative.

Oh sure, we can drive, but how far can you stretch that option? One of the places I am known to fly is Iowa. That’s 24-hours by Jeep. An airline doesn’t have to be good to convince me to fly; they just have to not be awful. If I have to pay a little more to avoid awful, I probably will. They know that.

Airlines only have to jump a little higher than other airlines to convince me to fly with them. Sadly, collectively, they keep lowering the bar. One airline that starts charging for bags is taking a risk. Once several others start charging for bags, individual airlines can tweak the pricing, bundle free bags with other promotions and appear to compete. Once “every airline but yours” is charging for bags, you look stupid. Your passengers love you, but you don’t need their love as much as you want their money.

Recently, a lot of my travel has been along the eastern seaboard. I can drive to Boston, and I have the luxury of being able to take AMTRAK as far south as Washington, D.C. I take the train every chance I get. All AMTRAK has to do is nothing, and they can continue to improve their customer service relative to the airlines. Unfortunately, AMTRAK’s ultimate management is the U.S. Congress and, while they normally excel at doing nothing, in this case, I worry.

When I do have to fly, I pay the price. Legroom has been reduced to the point that my 6’ 2” frame doesn’t fit in the cheap seats. I can either pay to check a bag, or pay to board the plane early enough to be able to find space in the overhead bin. I buy overpriced snacks in the terminal, but then I feel guilty eating them next to the poor woman who only has eight peanuts. Especially since “next too” is a distance that used to imply that vows and rings had been exchanged. Airlines have narrowed some seats to 17 inches. Toilet seats are, on average 13-14.5” wide so, technically the airlines are still leaving money on the table.

I shouldn’t single out the airlines. They’re an easy target but I could write a similar post about my cable company, the State of CT, the oil industry, banks and most major league sports teams. Customer service has become a quaint idea or a commodity for sale; it’s no longer part of the transaction. We’ve moved on from “the customer is always right” to “the customer might have more money” and everybody wants that money.

Posted in Customer Service, Jupiter Effect, Opinion, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 45 Comments