Tag Archives: airports

On the road…YET AGAIN

J writes last night (12/7/10) at 7:05 p.m.

The irony of airplane travel is that it is an amazing feat of technical genius, but most of those who fly agree it sucks.

Less than 100 years ago, if you wanted to go from Philadelphia to California you might get there before you died of old age. Kind of gives a whole new perspective to going to visit grandma.

“Alright kids, let’s rustle it up and go visit grandma.”

“But, Dad, she’s 15.”

“Yeah, but I’m pretty sure she’ll be a grandmother by the time we get there.”

Now, with the time zones, you can leave Philadelphia at 8:00 a.m. and be in San Diego before lunch, yet all of us will universally agree that the experience sucks.

We all cheered when that guy from Jet Blue jumped out the emergency chute because while we may disagree on tax policy, welfare reform, abortion, school prayer, whatever, we all felt a certain kinship with a man who had just had it with the whole flying experience.

I fly about 15 times a year and I have for years. Yet until today, I had never flown Southwest. I was always a little skeptical. I mean, all other things being equal, when you pay less for something the quality is less. I may save money by shopping at Wal Mart, but I am under no illusions that I’m getting high quality anything by shopping there.

But Southwest was my option, and so, as they say, “DING” I was now free to move about the country.

Southwest was so pleasant it was almost surreal. When I checked it at 4:45 in the morning the ticket clerks were smiling and it didn’t end there.

Much has been made of Southwest’s cattle call no assigned seat system, and I was expecting the worst. But it was surprisingly orderly, and the Southwest employees actually made it fun, if only because their pleasant demeanors seemed that much more against the surly dispositions of the TSA workers who were waiting to feel me up.

Actually the cattle call where you stand by a pole made about as much sense as the systems on other airlines. I never understood why everyone stands in line for the privilege of sitting in an assigned seat for an extra 20 minutes. But we do. And we complain about it.

The airline was equally pleasant. The flight attendants (who were named, I am not making this up, Vicki and Vic) offered to hold my coffee while I sat down, they held the door open when I went to the bathroom (OK, that one was a little creepy) and Vicky engaged me in conversation that didn’t seem forced and even offered to snuggle with me when I complained I was cold (OK, that one creeped me out too, but I almost took her up on it because I was disappointed that none of the TSA agents wanted to grope me).

So Southwest has actually found a way to do things differently.

Congratulations.

Now who wants pie?

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My Favorite Thus Far

J writes via e-mail on 10/3/10 at 3:28 p.m.

I remember years ago when I first read that airports were going to start offering higher end restaurants, beyond the typical McDonald’s/Burger King fast food fare. Comedians and commentators had a field day. Airport prices were already sky high, so who was going to pay even higher exorbitant prices for a nice meal?

Well, me. Yes, that’s right. On my last day of an eight day stretch on the road I was on the hunt for a nice restaurant in the Miami International Airport. When you don’t have to spend your own money, you tend to be hungrier than normal. On my own, I might never spend $25 for lunch, unless it was a special occasion, but that’s what my per-diem is for lunch, $50 for dinner, so I went looking for a place where I could burn through $25.

I found the something Grille, it’s exact name escapes me now. I suppose I could go looking for a receipt, but I’m really tired. What I did know is that anyplace called Grille with an “e” is usually pretty high end, so I figured what the heck.

Well, I’ll tell you it’s just a damn good thing that I can’t remember the place’s name because it stunk. I mean it really stank like that garbage that was left overnight in the office I was working in at the hotel (yes, N, before you got there this morning I went apeshit on the poor custodial staff for leaving the stinking hummus sandwiches out overnight–it was a bad scene and not one I’m proud of).

In any event, the selection on the menu should have clued me in from the beginning. This is Miami, famous for what kind of food I don’t know, probably fish, but I know they do not know how to make a cheesesteak. Yet, there it was, a Philadelphia cheesesteak with peppers, mushrooms, and SWISS CHEESE!!!!!!! Now, I get that some people like peppers on their cheesesteak; I’m not a fan of mushrooms, but I can accept their existance. BUT SWISS CHEESE???? Are they not aware that John Kerry basically lost the 2004 election because he asked for Swiss Cheese at Pat’s King of Steaks in Philadelphia??? I should have known right then and walked out, but like I said, I was really tired and, at this point, almost delirious.

All I had to drink was water, which I think pissed my waiter off because not only did he say, “fine,” when I ordered it in the same tone your wife might use the day after she caught you sleeping with the maid and you asked how she was doing today, he never refilled it either.

I started my lunch with a Caesar Salad. I have always liked Ceasar Salads because they really don’t expect much from me. Ever noticed how sanctimonous people who eat salads can be? Yes, I’ll have “just” a salad is a phrase you hear often usually from someone who is looking down their nose at another someone who ordered deep fried meat with cheese. Good for you, honey. Go ahead and take your salad and shove it up your smaller ass.

Here’s my thing on salads. Some salads come with cheese, others do not come with cheese. I like to eat the ones that come with cheese. If even after you put bar-b-q sauce on it, it still tastes like the ground, I’m not going to eat it.

But often I’m at restaurants where everyone else orders a salad, usually a “house” salad, which is another problem. I’m at a restaurant; why do I want to eat something called “house?” If I wanted to eat something called “house” I’d be eating it at “home.” I’m out; I don’t want “house” anything.

So I usually ask if I can have a Caesar Salad, to which the general response is “a couple of dollars extra?” To which I almost always consent so I don’t have to eat a “house” salad and so I can eat a salad with a lot of cheese.

Cheese is just one of Caesar salad’s virtues. The other is a lack of extraneous vegetables. House salads tend to come with a lot of things like tomatoes, cucumbers, and carrots, which just have the effect of sucking up the dressing, the only good part of a salad. Often I wind up picking them off, and losing some delicious blue cheese in the process, but with the Ceasar salad that’s not expected or required. It’s really the perfect salad for those who do not like salad but who feel guilted into ordering it–maybe that’s why it’s more expensive.

But there is a rule. That is, the dressing needs to be tossed with the salad so that each sprig of lettuce is covered with Caesar dressing. This restaurant put the dressing ON THE SIDE!!!! And it wasn’t enough. I wound up munching on a bunch of dry lettuce. I may as well have had the house salad.

For the second course I had chicken parmesan. Chicken parmesan is American comfort food–I’m sure no actual Italians eat it. Whether you order it in the high school cafeteria or at the highest end of high end restaurant chains, it’s always the same deep fried meat and cheese concoction with a red sauce of unknown origin. And it’s always pretty good.

So the chicken parmesan didn’t disappoint, except for the fact that my shirkey waiter who was already pissed at me for ordering water brought out my chicken parmesan after I had taken no more than two bites out of my Caesar salad. By the time I got to the chicken, it was cold. This, I suppose, was my own fault, but I should point out that I was eating cold chicken parmesan while sitting about 20 yards form one of those fast food Italian stands, La Famiglia, that would have likely served me the same thing at 50 percent of the price without all the attitude. So I felt like I was missing out on the full experience of it all, or maybe that was the point.

I finished up with a Key Lime pie. I’ve eaten a lot of key lime pie this week. It’s one of my favorite deserts and while it’s not exactly rare it’s not served everywhere. The Key Lime pie was passable (I ate a really good slice this week at Grill Fish, a nice restaurant in Miami. So good in fact that when my friend K–I can call her my friend because I just said yes to a friend request on Facebook. While I do like her very much, I only see her once or twice a year and then only because she’s married to one of my colleagues who I likely wouldn’t know except that we work together and who, while I also like very much, don’t talk to very often. In a normal society this would hardly qualify me to call her a “friend,” but Facebook has changed the social rules almost overnight for all of us, and ain’t that grand?).

Where was I?

Oh yes, the pie.

 

Mmmmmm...pie.

 

This key lime pie was so good that when my friend K offerred it to my colleague M (who is also a Facebook friend, come to think of it, and also someone I’m quite fond of, but I don’t want to go through that whole thing again) she immediately stopped eating her creme brulee, pronounced the key lime pie the best thing she had ever tasted and left the creme brulee on the table looking lonely. Please note that K shared her pie with M. I ate my entire slice myself; you all know how I feel about sharing.

I did offer N a piece of my steak, but let’s get back on topic, and stop being distracted by the pie.

The pie at the airport restaurant was not near as good as the one at Grill Fish. It was sort of the jello pudding version, and nothing against Jello pudding, but there’s a reason why we feed it to our children while they are still pooping themselves.

The disappointment was made worse by the fact that my waiter had taken my fork and brought a spoon with my pie. I don’t eat a lot of pie with a spoon, but I guess the waiter was conceding wordlessly that the filling came out of a mix, so why keep lying to each other and pretending that this high end airport restaurant was anything else than overpriced?

At the end I sat there with my empty water and a strong sense of disappointment while I waited for the check.

And here came the coup de grace.

Wait for it.

Wait for it.

The check came with a 15 percent “service charge.” Gratuity, in other words, was automatic. Perhaps this whole exercise was a social experiment in what happens when waiters don’t have to work for their tips. In short, they don’t refill water, they don’t stagger courses and they bring out improper utensils. And they do it all with a shirkey attitude.

But hey, at least it was expensive, which I suppose in the end, is the definition of a nice restaurant.

P.S. Sorry that this post was ridiculously long, but it’s been a while since I submitted anything to N for this growing blog. N is the blog’s manager and in many way’s its inspiration. That is, the whole thing started when I kept sending her random e-mails about my lunch hour and other pointless ramblings that for some reason she found funny.

Ladies, if you laugh good naturedly at a man he will only continue his behavior, and thus the blog was born when she decided my humorous musings needed a wider audience.

For the past week, we’ve been sitting three feet from each other running an offsite office and when I had something I thought was funny I would just say it, she would laugh and that would be the end of it. I didn’t have the energy to write it most of the time.

Sorry you’ve been left out of all that, because some of it was quite brilliant, particularly our conversation about documentaries where we both congratulated each other on being smart enough to enjoy being bored while the rest of the world insisted on being entertained.

Rest assured, N and I are now separated again to go on and live our mostly separate lives, thus correcting the balance of the universe and getting back to the really important business of keeping Cake in the Conference Room up to date.

Stay tuned.

Airport Musings

J was traveling (now we’re both on the road), but at the time, I was still at the office. He writes:
First, “your participation is wonderful news,” is a nice touch. To me, it looks like you were getting bored with saying the same thing over and over again, but to the outside world it appears as if you are almost enthusiastic. 
 
Second, did you know the airport had a Chic Fil A? I was sitting at Gate A7 waiting for my flight when I heard over the radio the commercial for food including, “the Original Chicken Sandwich from Chic Fil A.” So I started on my quest.
 
It wasn’t down my hall. It wasn’t down the International Hall that was the other side of Terminal A and yes, is about a mile long.
 
The nice woman who runs the pretzel stand informed me that yes there truly was a Chic Fil A in the airport but it was in terminal B.
 
A lesser man with less time on his hands might might have said, “screw it just give me one of your pretzels.” Not me. I took the express walk way to terminal B.
 
You know how far $25 goes at Chic Fil A? Yes, I’ll take the Chicken Nugget meal, please. No not the eight piece, the twelve piece, thanks. And yes, I would like it large. Lemonade costs extra? Damn the costs! Fill her up and while you are at it throw in an extra chicken sandwich. I may eat it, I may not, but put it in the bag anyway.
 
Oh, and yeah, I’ll need a chocolate brownie for dessert.
 
I ate it all, including the brownie, which, incidentally she initially didn’t remember to put in the bag–it’s nice to know that incompetence (or did she intentionally leave it out thinking I wouldn’t come back asking for it? We’ll never know) is the same at every fast food restaurant.
 
But here’s the crazy thing. THEY HAVE FREE SAMPLES AT THE AIRPORT FOOD COURT!!!!!! And not just any free samples, free samples of the garlic balls from Sbarro with the garlic dipping sauce that I thought only existed in the pizzas from Papa Johns where you had to order an entire pizza just so you could dip your crust in the sauce that was not quite butter but oh so very good.
 
I took two of these garlic balls before I got a glare from the flunky who was passing them out. Hey pal, if you don’t want people taking your samples, don’t give them out, know what I mean?
 
That’s all for now.
Cheers,
J
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I enthuse:
THIS MADE MY DAY IN A WAY YOU CAN’T EVEN IMAGINE.
 
I LOVE that just when I was sadly thinking to myself, “Self-you’re just going to have to get over the fact that you won’t be getting any hilarious emails from J until Monday at the earliest” you go and send me a gem such as this.
 
Bravo.
 
And yes. I was getting bored with saying the same thing over and over. I also figured I’d give answering actual questions a shot, because hey, gotta start sometime, nah’ mean?
 
I’m surprised you didn’t get a milkshake a Chick Fil A. I’ve never heard one but I heard they’re absolutely delish.
 
Just sayin.
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J responds:
Ha!
 
Here’s the thing…they didn’t have milkshakes. The Chic Fil A at the airport has, how do I say this, a limited selection. No milkshakes and interestingly no spicy chicken sandwich.
 
Want to know what’s not cool? Carried on this time because I only needed one change of clothes and they confiscated my toothpaste and my shaving cream. Not cool. I thought it was just fluid.
 
Oh well.
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Me:
That is so NOT cool.

I do not dig that airports have an extremely limited food selection. Especially the pizza places. How hard is it to recombine the dough, cheese, and sauce into something other than pizza and ziti? I mean, really. It can’t be that hard. That’s why it’s next to impossible to screw up Italian food. You can have different degrees of deliciousness when it comes to Italian, and differing levels of goodness as well, but no one in their right mind takes a bit of something that contains dough, cheese, and tomato sauce and spits it out with, “That is complete crap.”
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J:
I don’t know man. There was a perfectly good Italian place in my terminal that I passed by. They did have a chicken sandwich, but….
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Me:
…you’d rather have Chick-Fil-A.
 
No, it’s cool. I get it.
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J prophesizes:
Because I got the distinct feeling that this place WOULD screw up Italian food.
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True dat. Such is airport food.

Hey…there’s a Chick-Fil-A back there!