Monday, August 07, 2006


Be it ever so humble . . .

After an exhausting, seriously painful cross country voyage – filled with horrors and obstacles the likes of which Odysseus never weathered – Our Man in LA finds himself happy to be home amongst the sun, hills, and 70-something degree weather of Southern California once again. It’s good to be home.

The new day job required me to venture out from the home office and spend nine days away – first in the hellish biodome called Gaylord Opryland, and then in the completely civilized but blast furnace hot cities of Washington, DC, and New York City.

Along the way, I came up with a list of ten things I never, ever, EVER want to see in my travels again. EVER! I’m serious here. Our Woman in LA had to put up with more than one profanity-laced rant from me along the way, and I don’t think she should have to put up with another one. So take note, travel gods. This stuff is seriously off limits:

10) Uninformed Rent-a-Car clods, I mean, clerks. So let’s say you rent a car in an unfamiliar city. Let’s say the clod behind the counter offers directions. One would think that, for the sake of argument, the genius renting you the Mitsubishi whatever might have heard of some of the suburbs of HIS hometown.

It’s like this. You’re in the Washington-Baltimore area. You have a meeting in Owings Mills, which even I know is a suburb. You give the address to the clod. The clod goes to his computer, types something in. Ten minutes later, you’re behind the counter because he has spelled “Owings Mills” as “Owensmills” and can’t understand why the address won’t come up.

Then, when you ask for directions to another location – in the city – he offers a not very helpful “First you take a left out of here, go down two streets to . . . what is that? L Street? Yeah, L Street. Wait. No. Wait. Yeah. N Street. OK, turn right there. Wait.”

Uh-huh. Let’s have a show of hands. Who wants to rent anything from this guy?

9) Anyplace where Chik-fil-a is considered health food. Nothing against the fast food chain, or the Peach Bowl (which it sponsors), but if you ask someone at a hotel – or say, the Opryland Convention Center – if there’s someplace where you can get something healthy, they shouldn’t squint at you. Like you just said something to them in Swahili. Or like you just asked if Opryland really was the best place to study the Dadaist art form and to read the mad ravings of Man Ray.

You also shouldn’t get this answer: “We got a Chik-fil-a down in the Delta.”

Actually, you should never get that answer. To any question. Ever.

8)American Airlines Ground Crew who think it’s funny that your flight has switched gates (and terminals) without making it known on the big screen of departures.

Folks, right now, if you can avoid Nashville and the Dallas-Ft. Worth Airport, I encourage it. As a friend. Because if you don’t, you’ll hear that Chik-fil-a crap from number 9, AND some tool in short sleeve dress shirt with the American logo on it, laughing about how your flight got switched from Terminal C to Terminal D.

Then he’ll beat his chest about how American has five terminals at DFW. Whoopee.

Then you’ll learn that Terminals C and D aren’t next to one another. Actually, Terminal E is between them. Chew on that a while.

While we’re at it . . .

7) Switching gates at all. Is there ever a time when that’s fun? And have you ever noticed that usually there’s nothing wrong with the gate you started from? Yeah. And nobody can ever tell you why the airline needed to switch gates.

6) Not to keep harping on the tools, I mean, employees of our nation’s major airlines, but how fun is it to hear this over the loudspeaker at your gate:

“Sorry, folks, it’s going to be another hour or so before we can begin boarding. You see, we’ve detected some, ahem, issues with the plane. We’re going to need to switch it out for a different one, and the first available plane is currently en route from Albuquerque.”

Pretty fun, huh?

OK, now imagine it happening twice. On the same morning. After the same airline didn’t get you to Dallas in time for you to make your connection to LA, which meant that you had to sleep for about four hours in a flea-bit motel near the airport.

But work with me. You’ve waited for them to bring in a new plane. They have. The folks from Albuquerque have gotten off. They’re cleaning it. And then:

“Wow, hey folks. We, uh, we’ve got a certain issue . . . we’re not going to be able to take off again for another hour. There’s . . . well, see, there’s something wrong with this plane, too. I know you guys understand. So anyway, one’s coming in from Jacksonville right now . . .”


5) Surly front desk clerks at the chain hotel of your choice. You should never have to deal with a guy who says any of the following to you when you check in – at 10 p.m.

•“I’m giving you a smoking room, and you’ll take it!”
•“We have charged you already for three nights, whether you stay that long or not!”
•“I’d run to our restaurant if I were you! We close in ten minutes, with or without you!”
•“How can you say that I made a mistake by giving you a smoking room?! I think it is you who made the mistake, and now you will live with it!”
•“Give the porter your keys if you would like to see your bags!”

Smell that? That’s the joy of hotel living.

4)The Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center. I know I’ve already ranted plenty about this horrible, horrible place. But let me just make the following points:

•One co-worker, after spending a week at Opryland, vowed never to venture south of the Ohio River again.
•They have boat tours of the place. Boat tours! For an indoor biodome with a canal winding through it. At most, the canal stretches about 100 yards.
•If you don’t just want a tour, you can have a romantic boat ride through the biodome canal. Under the fake stars of the plexiglass ceiling. You sly dog . . .
•In the morning, you can wake up in your hotel room, go out on the balcony, and look out on your view of the little Opryland Delta Village. Which is inside. Yes. Like the Bottle City of Kandor.

Is it any wonder at all that the rest of the world hates Americans? This is what we do for fun. For vacation. We got to city-sized aquariums and we let our Country Western overlords ply us with fried foods for a few days. With no outside news except that which you can find in a USA Today.

3)Ill-informed airline pilots. You know who I mean. The kinds of guys who say over the loud speaker, “We’re smoothing out right about now, so I’m turning off the fasten-seatbelt sign” right before it gets bumpy. The one who seems surprised that we got to our destination so fast. The one who has no idea if we’ll make our connection.


2)Drunk Airport Trolley Drivers. So OK. Say you did something really horrible in a past life. And karma has decided to bite you in the ass by putting you on a plane that will be three hours late, so that you’ll miss your connection and be forced to spend the night at one of the hotels near the Dallas airport.

Say that the airline, because they’re in on the karmic retribution, have put you up in a motel for the “special rate” of just $49 of your money. At least you get out of the airport, which somehow is more soulless than the average airport. Don’t ask me how. It just is.

Then say you go outside to wait – with seven other poor souls – in the sweltering heat at 11 p.m. and wait for the trolley from this so-called hotel with its so-called special rate to come and pick you up.

And then you wait. And you wait. And you wait and you wait. And you wait and you wait and you wait.

So you call. Oh, yeah, they’re on their way.

And you wait and you wait. And you wait and you wait. And you wait and you wait and you wait.

You call again. He left 25 minutes ago. He should be there.

And then the trolley driver shows up. So you pile in. At this point, for the right to sleep, you’ll put up with a lot. You’ll put up with the fact that the trolley smells like an elephant with a bladder control problem recently had a bath inside.

You’ll put up with used yogurt containers (spoons sticking out) occupy all the cup holders.

You’ll put up with the fact that the driver swerves a little fast around all the twists and turns of DFW as he goes to Terminals E and D (their order explained above).

But you won’t accept the fact that this driver is also three sheets to the wind. That’s right, he’s drunk.

So drunk that you realize there’s a sort of fortified wine smell to the place. So drunk that when the roads do straighten out, he’s still swerving. So drunk that when he gets a cell phone call, he stops the trolley. In the middle of a freeway. Stops it. Then sort of lets it drift into two lanes before realizing that he’s in what’s supposed to be a MOVING CAR.

Did I mention that he was so drunk that he also wanted a tip when he got us to the motel?

1)The Baymont Inn, right off Highway 183 in Bedford, Texas. Just do yourself a favor. Don’t go. I know, I know. It’s hard to resist.

“Come on, Wieland,” you’ll say. “They sell frozen pizzas in the lobby!”

Nope. Don’t go.

“Come on, Wieland,” you’ll say. “You can hear a motorcycle gang riding hard up and down the highway – right outside your window.”

Nope. I’m telling you.

“Come on, Wieland,” you’ll say. “When you ask the front desk if they can call you a cab, they tell you that the drunk trolley guy comes around once an hour. Or that you can call on their friends Don and Ricky, who sometimes take people around LIKE a taxi cab. And when you ask to see a phone book, they’ll tell you that there might be one at the Albertsons in the strip mall down the road.”

Seriously. I’m taking a stand.

“Good God, Wieland,” you’ll say. “What happened to you? You’re soft since you went to California.”

Fine by me. It’s good to be home.

you need to get in touch with plec...your life has officially become a sitcom.

I'm glad you're home too! But, come on, who doesn't like Chik-fil-a! (is that how you spell it?) They have the BEST waffle cut fries. :) -Steph
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