Tag Archives: Travel

TSA Lines: Is Feature Not Bug

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Republicans in Congress cut an agency’s budget, then point to the resulting chaos they’ve created and cry, “See! Government doesn’t work! We must privatize!”

Lather, rinse, repeat. Amiright?

The T.S.A.’s work force and budgets have in fact been shrinking. The agency’s rolls have declined to about 44,900 screeners today from 47,000 in 2013, even as passenger travel has increased by 15 percent. But it is also true that it has been plagued by mismanagement and other problems of its own making. An unloved stepchild of the Department of Homeland Security, the T.S.A. has suffered through continual turnover in leadership, repeated misconduct by senior managers, low staff morale and high rates of attrition among screeners.

[…]

Not all the T.S.A.’s troubles can be blamed on missteps by the agency. The dysfunction has been compounded by an earlier 2013 bipartisan budget deal negotiated between Senator Patty Murray, Democrat of Washington, and Representative Paul D. Ryan, the current House speaker, to avert a government shutdown.

The deal set the security fee assessed on each segment of a plane trip to $5.60, but called for 60 cents of that fee to be diverted from the T.S.A. to pay down the national debt. This year, $1.25 billion in fees is going into the Treasury instead of paying for screeners and new equipment.

Seriously, we’re diverting funds from TSA to pay down the national debt? That just screams Republican fiscal idiocy, doesn’t it? Republicans keep telling us that “debt is like slavery,” after all. Quit whining America and enjoy your three-hour TSA line. It’s just more freedom!

And gee, I can’t imagine why morale is low, what with folks like TN Rep. Marsha Blackburn constantly attacking TSA employees on everything from their uniforms and badges to alleging “pedophiles and child pornographers” are doing pat-downs.

I try to be nice to the TSA when I travel. They have a thankless job. And honestly, the last few times we’ve traveled, TSA has not been the problem. Our last three trips were to Seattle, New York City and San Francisco — all major international airports — and we changed in O’Hare, D.C., and Dallas. Again: TSA was not the problem. The problem was our airline. The last two times we traveled, there was a “mechanical malfunction” preventing our plane from even getting to the airport. The result was hours and hours and hours of waiting, eventual rebooking of flights, lots of angst and frustration, and a big chunk of our vacation time gone like a fart in the breeze.

TSA was not to blame. American Airlines was to blame. We were kept uninformed about the nature of the delays, instead given new departure updates every hour — only to see that departure time whoosh by just as it approached. Again. And again. Finally we were told our plane is still in Raleigh or wherever because of a mechanical failure (something they’d known from the get-go but hadn’t told us). And even though you’re at a fucking airport filled with planes, they can’t just pull a new one over to the gate. No, that would be too easy. They have to bring one in from somewhere else and that will happen in about three and a half hours and, oh, you’ve already been here for three hours? Sorry and thanks for flying American Airlines.

Seriously, fuck you people. The last time that happened (last month, actually, so yes, the anger is still very fresh) we were at LaGuardia airport, which is like a third world airport. There are literally no services in the American Airlines terminal once you get past TSA. You can’t score a beer or glass of wine, you can’t grab a sandwich. There’s an Au Bon Pain kiosk with cellophane-wrapped sandwiches and soft drinks and people that is it. You know, if you’re going to trap people in a gray linoleum hell for an entire day, at least give us some dang alcohol to soften the blow.

We were actually stuck there for five hours, when we could have been enjoying all that New York City has to offer, if only American Airlines had informed us that our flight was basically cancelled. But noooo. I eventually lost my cool, rebooked us on another flight that went through Washington D.C., whereupon we were ushered onto buses that took us to a different terminal. And helloooo paradise! This terminal was new, had bars, restaurants, air conditioning, there was even blue carpeting, people! I felt like a lost soul who had wandered into an oasis. I had no idea this wonderful place existed at LaGuardia airport. All my life, LaGuardia has been sterile gray linoleum, bags of Doritos, and not enough chairs.

Incidentally, a woman on our flight told us that the exact same “mechanical failure” thing had happened on her last four flights. Either the American Airlines fleet is in serious disrepair, or they’re just trotting out that excuse because they know passengers will accept a delay over a mechanical failure more easily than some other excuse.

Anyway, I’m done with air travel for now. The airlines need to get their shit together. We pay waaaay too much money for airline tickets to be dicked around because you can’t get the actual plane to the airport. I mean, I did my part: I showed up on time. I left enough time for security. I held up my end of the bargain. American Airlines, not so much.

Our next vacation is in August. We’re driving.

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Filed under air travel, American Airlines, travel, TSA

New Yorkers On The Presidential Election

I’m traveling again, obviously. One of my favorite shops asked people to post a note about who they plan to vote for. The answers were … interesting. Wish I’d taken more pictures:

Vote1

AND:

vote2

Yeah, I like the John Lennon suggestion, too. Too bad he’s dead. There were a couple hundred slips of paper on this bulletin board and a huge number of them were anti-Trump. Which is funny, since Trump is a New Yorker. Remember how everyone laughed when Al Gore lost his home state? Trump didn’t lose him home state in the primary, at least during the Republican primary, but he certainly doesn’t garner much respect among New Yorkers.

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Filed under 2008 presidential election, 2016 Election, Donald Trump, travel

It’s Still Happening

This explains everything, you guys:

20160429_065747

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Filed under graffiti, travel

Graffiti Blogging

Seattle is a great graffiti town. People write on everything here. I thought this was a nice change to your typical “One Way” sign:

One Love

And Jim ‘Prup’ Benton, consider this your open thread.

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Filed under graffiti, travel

American Airlines Still Sucks

Dear American Airlines: please stop sucking. I’m really, really tired of you people sucking. Seven years ago I complained about how much you sucked and guess what: you still suck!

This trip we were stuck for four hours in an aisle with no window. I don’t mean we didn’t have a window seat, I mean the plane physically had no window on our aisle, something we did not know was even possible on a 737. I’ve certainly never seen such a thing before, but just to prove it, here’s a photo:

An aisle with no window!

I was very puzzled about why our row didn’t have a window. When I pointed it out to the flight attendant she looked at it and said, “Oh. Huh! Weird.” And walked away.

Not to sound petty, but four hours in a cramped cabin with no window was pretty excrutiating for me. But more to the point, I was unhappy that we paid the same for our windowless seat as we would have if we’d had a window. Seems like if you’re stuck in cargo you should at least get a discount. Even worse, when we picked our seats, the online diagram made no mention of the fact that these were windowless seats. Seems like that might be some information you’d want to share with your customers.

I’m still not sure why we didn’t have a window. Maybe someone in the airline biz can explain it to me. Via Twitter I was told that there is a ventilation/air conditioning duct on this part of the plane so it’s not possible to have a window here. That’s fine, but you’d think they’d have the ability to tell people this ahead of time.

But when I complained through their customer relations department, I got a very bizarre email that blamed “the economic realities of our business” and “competition” and low-cost carriers like JetBlue:

I regret the seat you were assigned did not have a window in that row. Unfortunately, the economic realities of our business just won’t allow us to make drastic cabin changes with regard to seating. Because of competition between all airlines, we must use each airplane as efficiently as possible. As low-cost carriers and other major airlines make use of all available space aboard their planes, we must be competitive and do the same.

OH. So in other words, I might as well fly a low-cost carrier because my experience is going to suck just as bad on American. Is that what you mean? Because that’s what you’re saying.

So, duly noted, folks. I’ll definitely keep that in mind for future air travel. After all, I have my own economic realities to take into consideration.

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Filed under American Airlines, travel

I’m Not Sure A Wall Would Work Here

Funny to hear Scott Walker talking about building a wall on the Canadian border when I’m up here traveling through a place where it seems nearly impossible to build a wall. That’s British Columbia in the background, folks. Good luck walling this mother off:

kayaks

And just to show you how glorious it is up here:

Lighthouse

A couple of years ago we traveled through the Canadian Rockies, which also seems nearly impossible to wall off. Republicans are so fucking stupid.

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Filed under 2016 Presidential Election, immigration, travel

Evening Tide

Weather has been schizo. A big wind kicked up yesterday but it’s been sunny and calm most of the rest of the time. We were supposed to get rain but it was more of a drizzle. Mostly rains at night here. So beautiful.

ferry

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Filed under travel

Where In The World Is Southern Beale

Some very interesting comments on my gun control thread below, thanks to everyone for the dialogue. Mr. Beale and I are on the road for our annual late summer excursion so my ability to participate has been limited. However, I do read all of the comments, even if I can’t always respond.

Three guesses where we are (hint: it’s my most favorite place in the world, or at least, top three):

Peace

When I get back to Nashville my hope is to be able to devote more time to the blog. This summer was brutal, my work schedule was insane, and I decided to scale back and take on a lighter workload this fall so I can devote myself to other things. So I hope that means I can get back to doing some of my regular postings, like Good News Friday and the Tennessee Gun Report.

Anyway, again I am thankful to you readers who humble me with your intelligent discussion and willingness to read my silly rantings. You make this thing fun.

More travel pics to come, even though guess which idiot left her camera at home this time? Me! Cell phones can’t do the beauty of this place justice.

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Filed under travel

I Don’t Know What This Means

We’ve just returned from our travels and I promised you some graffiti blogging. Unfortunately, we chose to travel to the cleanest place in America, so there was a startling lack of graffiti.

See if you can figure out what this means:

Jesus

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Filed under graffiti

The News Is Different When You’re On Vacation

DSCN4621

Somewhere not too far from where the above photo was taken there is an organic olive oil farm for sale. Cheap, too, as these things go — under $1 million. In my dreams I win the lottery and say goodbye to Nashville and start my organic olive oil operation, all sustainable, off-grid, and solar-powered.

I know a lot of you will see this picture and think, “Ick. Too scorched.” This is the landscape I grew up with, though, and to me it’s the prettiest place on earth. And if the nation is going to get embroiled in another military adventure in the Middle East, what better place to hole up than an organic, sustainable, off-grid, solar-powered olive oil ranch? Y’all come. Harvest is in November. Democommie, you can even bring Buddy.

So, I don’t confess to be any genius about Syria, or what Russia and China have to do with it, or any of the larger issues involved. I don’t have a private Joint Chiefs to advise me. I am reflexively anti-war, but I trust President Obama in a way that I didn’t trust President Bush, in part because of the massive Neocon-War-Machine-Halliburton-Blackwater-Big Oil rip-off behind the Bush-Cheney-Rummy cabal. That said, I remain reflexively anti-war, always.

As I sip my chardonnay from a vacation la-la land, I have to say: watching the war dialogue this time — a tad more than 10 years after the Iraq invasion — is an amazing thing to see. Remember when the media lost its collective mind? Remember when we were told, ad nauseum, that Saddam Hussein “gassed his own people”, and so an invasion was justified? Remember when not supporting/trusting the president’s war judgement was tantamount to treason? My, what some distance from 9/11 brings.

I heard today that Britain’s Parliament has voted against military involvement in Syria. Are we going to dump English breakfast tea in the gutters? Will English muffins be renamed “Freedom Muffins” in the Congressional cafeteria? No? Why not?

Just curious: is this reticence to rush to war because we’ve learned some lessons after the Iraq debacle? Or is this just more reflexive If-Obama-Wants-It-We’re-Against-It stuff from the GOP?

These are interesting times, indeed. The United States is now a major oil producer, for the first time in decades. It’s safe to say, oil embargoes are not the threat they once were. Surely that plays into the mix, yes?

I am reflexively anti-war, always. I’m also on vacation and haven’t been watching the news 24/7 as I usually do. From the snippets I’ve received, I’m not hearing “let’s invade/occupy” from the President. I’m hearing, “let’s take action.” I’d like to know more what that means.

I’m also hearing more questioning than I heard in the run-up to Iraq. I’m seeing a news media behave a tad more responsibly. I observe these things and am glad that we’re not so gung-ho for war, but really questioning the motives behind all of it.

I probably shouldn’t look these gift horses in the mouth. I probably should retire to my olive ranch and just breathe deep and go about my business.

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Filed under peace, travel, war economy, War On Terror