Saturday, December 27, 2008

Let It Snow?

One of the biggest selling songs of all time is Bing Crosby's version of "White Christmas." I was dreaming of a white Christmas for Ethan because this is truly his first real year of excitement about the entire Santa experience. He's had a ball in the snow, and we went sledding with one of his little buddies at the Boise Train Depot on Christmas Eve. And, we did have a white Christmas day. In fact, we had about a week of it beforehand. I ended up dashing my folks from Boise to Twin Falls on Christmas afternoon due to concerns their shuttle the next day wouldn't run because of the weather. The roads were...well...OK in most respects. But, now Christmas is over, and my enthusiasm for a White Christmas has diminished with the continuing snowfall. It's probably snowed about 6 inches today, and we're having trouble keeping up with shoveling the drive-way. Not to mention, most of our neighbors are gone for the holidays meaning the cul-de-sac is deserted, and we're trying to be good neighbors by shoveling their walks as well if only to make the neighborhood seem occupied. So...I'm now dreaming of about a 45 degree New Years!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas 2008

Last night, we went to my brother Dirk's house for Christmas eve for a fun evening. Ethan had fun with his uncles and playing with the new train Aunt Cheryl has circling one of her Christmas trees. Grandma Faye was in her element with her granddaughter Ashley who was sharing her first Christmas with her 8 month old son Paul.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The rest of the Northwest Story

As noted in my most recent post, my trip on Northwest Airlines to and from Washington DC was worthy of a Steve Martin/John Candy "Planes, Trains, and Automobiles" rehash.

At one point, I was reminded of an old Carol Burnett Show skit in which First Class Passengers (in Northwest Airline's case, First Class coupled with all of their special club members who seem to account for about 50% of the pre-boarders) were treated like gold while hapless regular folks (in the skit's case, it was Tim Conway) were berated and subjected to humiliation. Here's how I felt on Northwest at least going to DC from Boise:

On one leg of a flight going to DC, the flight attendant actually smiled at us from First Class as she loudly unhooked the Velcro straps and connected them across the aisle essentially blocking us from partaking in First Class amenities. In my head, I pictured her on Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom eating her young. Anyway....

One other item of note from my sojourn in the Northwest terminal in DC that I forgot to mention was the poor woman rushing to make her gate when she slipped on a wet floor that was just mopped by a custodian. The poor woman fell hard, had her luggage fall all over, and dropped her coffee. The custodian simply watched her and didn't offer to help. Other passengers assisted her to her feet and collected her belongings. Customer service.

Back to Minneapolis...we did eventually board about an hour late and were de-iced on the runway (evidently Northwest is prepared for weather in Minneapolis unlike in Boise). We happened to have the same flight attendants from our DC leg, and they were just great. In fact, those flight attendants went out of their way to help -- and apologize.

We landed in Boise very late, and I finally got to bed about 3:00 am.

So...lessons about flying Northwest?

1. Last resort;
2. Saving 50 bucks on airfare should be weighed against the cost of food and beverages you consume on unexpected three hour layovers.
3. Northwest personnel with the exception of the return flight crew were indifferent.
4. Northwest has never considered an effective boarding process.
5. The only good thing I can say is they serve Pepsi products!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Northwest Airlines or North "Worst" Airlines

I've traveled back and forth to Washington DC countless times over the past 25 years, but my recent trip -- which isn't completed yet as I sit delayed in the Minneapolis airport -- was my first (and last) trip using Northwest Airlines. The trip started out wrong on Sunday, December 14th when we were delayed leaving Boise by over an hour and a half.


Well, the flight was the first of the morning meaning the plane needed to be de-iced due to an overnight storm that lightly blanketed Boise with our first real snow of the year. Northwest -- despite the implications of the company name which suggests an understanding of winter weather in the winter -- ran out of de-icer and had to borrow some from another airline. The resulting delay caused me to miss my connecting flight in Minneapolis causing me to miss a business dinner that evening which was a major reason for the trip.

In addition, having flown primarily on Southwest (where customer service is paramount) and United (which at least seems cognizant of reasonable boarding procedures) both of which have orderly and logical boarding down to a science, I was stunned to participate in my first Northwest Airline boarding process which essentially meant special fliers (participants in a myriad of feel-good and great sounding clubs) got to board first and then, I kid you not, the announcement immediately after special boarding that "we are boarding all rows" caused a stampede. The boarding was chaotic with no thought about the logic of boarding from the rear of the plane first. If we were late before, we were later then.

Fast forward two days for my return. The Northwest Terminal at Reagan National Airport should be a clue because it hasn't been upgraded since Ronald Reagan starred in the "GE Theater." I languished in the 1950's era terminal for a while, and was a bit optimistic that the poor boarding process I experienced on the original flights wasn't common. The gate agent after announcing the incomprehensible list of special privileged boarders, did indicate the rest of us riff-raff would board by row. Of course, because so many people had already boarded in a hap hazard manner, the wait to get seated was about 15 minutes due to people spread throughout the plane and aisles with little organization. With frustrated passengers still coming aboard, the airline actually announced the plane was ready to depart. Better boarding procedures would have helped.

Late leaving DC as a result of Northwest's incomprehensible boarding process, we arrived in Minneapolis a bit late as well but at least in time to make my connection. I shouldn't have worried about missing my connection, because, you guessed it, Northwest was late again.

The board showed an on-time departure for quite a while. Ultimately, as the boarding time approached, a nonchalant Northwest Gate agent strolled to the podium carrying a Subway sandwich. The time was changed on the board, but he gave no reason. In fact, he sat down, munched on his sandwich, read USA Today, and sighed as he reluctantly approached the podium to answer a customer question. Immediately after that he sat down again, and spent nearly 15 minutes on his cell phone while customers approached the podium, started at him expectently, and finally walked away.

He finally made an announcement that the flight would be delayed because a pilot was delayed and would be arriving in time for a departure 25 minutes later than originally scheduled.Then the agent, left the podium, walked across the concourse, sat in a secluded area, and finished his sandwich as people stood in line at his podium.

Several minutes later -- about 10 minutes ago as I type this -- he announced the delay would be longer because the pilot wasn't just delayed. The pilot wasn't going to make it, and evidently alternative pilots were coming.

And so I sit in Minneapolis at a Northwest gate with nothing but a WiFi connection, a laptop, my frustration, and my blog to keep me company.

We will see, and I will update this blog post with the final chapter.

As it is, I guarantee my first Northwest Airlines experience was one of my worst flying experiences, and it will be my last Northwest experience.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Growing up fast

I've been a bit under the weather lately and went to bed early last night. Ethan showed real concern and assured me he was going to take care of me. For a couple of hours, he would come in and out of the bedroom asking loudly "Are you OK Daddy? Need anything? I'm taking care of you!" He brought me two cups of ice water, and his mom told me he did it all by himself by dragging a stool to the cupboard, getting glasses, and filling them with ice and water. Later, he decided he needed to make me a "recipe" which means he gets out a Pyrex mixing bowl and virtually everything you can think of from the cupboard including spices, oil, etc. His concoction is a sickening menu of goop, but he was proud of it because he thought it would make me feel better. When I thanked him and asked if he wanted to be a chef when he grows up, he answered excitedly, "Yeah, when I'm bigger I'm gonna be a rock star and a cooker!" He danced off singing "Separate Ways" by Journey. I felt a little better.