Friday, December 17, 2010

Reflections From The Road

I enjoy traveling. It's usually intriguing to see differences in people, artifacts, and customs between different parts of the country, or different countries. My recent trip to St. Louis was no exception, with one exception.

When I'm on the road I like to get out and experience the local scene. However, on this trip the weather was so bad that for the most part it kept me tethered to the hotel.

How cold was it, you ask?
It was so cold I chipped a tooth on my soup.

It was so cold we chopped up the piano in the lobby for firewood, but we only got two chords.

It was so cold the politicians had their hands in their own pockets.

It was so cold Scarlett Johansson was downgraded from "hot" to "tepid."

It was so cold that when I turned on the shower I got hail.

It was so cold that instead of the finger, cab drivers were giving each other the mitten.

It was so cold that I saw an Amish guy buying an electric blanket.
But seriously, folks, it was so cold and the sidewalks were so slushy that I didn't get out and around too much. I did wander over to one local watering hole - Caleco's Bar & Grill. The food wasn't bad, the atmosphere was okay, but the service... well, let's just say that it could charitably be characterized as adequate at best. The reason for that is probably because the tip is automatically added to your tab. Hence there is no incentive for the waitstaff to strive for exceptional service. They get the same tip, no matter what. A bad way to run a bar, IMO.

A few random observations:

I'm used to casual chit-chat at a bar, even between strangers. There, it seemed like everyone was either talking on a cell phone or texting. I had better conversations at the Chili's bar in the DFW airport (more on that later).

It was obviously a local watering hole. What was interesting is that almost all the men there were blue-collar types: wearing Duluth-style work clothes, shirts with their names on them, etc. They were also big, beefy, corn-fed midwest types. A lot of them looked like Dick Butkus, with crewcuts, flattened nose, rugged features, and large gnarly hands.

Most of the women, on the other hand, looked like professional white collar workers: stylishly dressed, well accessorized, well groomed hair, quality jewelry, all that good stuff.

The local appetizer is something called toasted ravioli - their equivalent of our nachos. It's actually deep fried ravioli, served with tomato or marinara sauce. Not bad, but I'll stick with nachos.

Speaking of the DFW Chili's, it's evidently their policy to card everyone - even an obvioulsy old guy like me. I'd love to think it was because I look three decades or so younger than I am, but I don't think that's the reason. The question is whether that's a corporate policy, or just that particular location.

The only really negative note of the trip occurred at the DFW airport. The flight was fully booked. The plane was one of those regional jets that have two sets on one side of the aisle and three on the other. Thanks to the number of passengers and the plane's configuration, overhead space was at a premium. The gate agent made the usual announcement about limiting carryons to one piece of luggage and one personal item (purse or briefcase). Yet every single American Airlines employee at the gate and on the plane turned a blind eye to people loaded down like pack mules who were struggling down the jetway. I spotted one woman with two - TWO!!! - rolling carryons plus a backpack plus a totebag-sized purse. Of course the overhead bins filled up quickly. People started just leaving their carryons in the aisle, which caused all sorts of confusion and consternation. Oh well, if that's the worst thing that happened, it was a pretty good trip.

But like Dorothy says, "There's no place like home..."


Bogsidebunny said...

I do a fair amount of flying myself and since most airlines have begun to charge for a second checked-in suitcase I've seen some pretty frightening scenes at the boarding gate.

People try to bring on full sized suitcases as "carry-on". Or two pretty darn big gym-bag types pluss a backpack and a couple of plastic bags full of "essential medicines???"

And the worse part NO airline staff member will challenge them. Boarding a 767 or 747 sometimes takes 45-minutes at the very least.

I haven't witnessed any punchouts while people try to shove the proverbial 10-pounds of poop into a 5-pound bag, but I fear it won't be long before I see a 10-rounder!

CenTexTim said...

It is crazy, isn't it. I've seen people remove items from the overhead bins to put their stuff in. Like you, I'm waiting for the fisticuffs.

It seems like the least the gate agents and flight crews could do is impose some sort of meaningful restrictions on what is currently a free-for-all.