The bewildered gather…
I did not think I would ever write a blog post about something so cliché as a terrible airline experience. Griping about shitty airlines on social media –not me.
Yet, the debacle I am currently enduring regarding United flight 466 to Denver is so epic in it’s awfulness that if I don’t detail it here it will form a cancer inside me. Besides, I’m waiting in an emptying concourse. What the hell else am I going to do? I’ve already eaten a $5 dollar M&M cookie from the newsstand as well as imbibed a Monster energy drink. Currently, I’m sitting in an abandoned wheel chair staring out the window at my sick aircraft being operated on.
Look. I get that planes have mechanical difficulties. I comprehend the myriad issues that come up during air travel. Like you, I’ve slept on dirty carpet waiting for a Z-grade flight out of Mexico. Like you, I’ve endured projectile vomiting from ill children. Like you, I’ve said my prayers during extreme turbulence. And so on.
But the clusterf–k that United put me and my fellow travelers through goes beyond the pale; not so much because of the delay (4 hours and counting) but because of the carrier’s incomprehensible stupidity and, in my view, duplicity. More than anything, the lack of communication and the questionable nature of what little we were told is why I am writing this post.
The gory details: Flight 466 was scheduled to leave SFO at 5:39PM, Sunday night. At 6PM, no plane is at the gate. The first announcement states our plane is coming from a hangar somewhere near, it’ll be here in 15 minutes. Half an hour goes by and still no plane. When the aircraft does arrive, for some reason we are not allowed on it. Unexplained delay ensues.
We board. Once in the tube it becomes clear there is no room for luggage in the overhead compartments. Everyone is paralyzed. The dimwitted staff does not know what to do, like this mess is totally foreign to them. One barks at us standing in the rear to turn around and head back to the front, to check our bags. However, no one in the front gets this message, creating a jam of irritable and confused people, myself included. Before this matter is settled, I will have lost my temper. None-the-less, we finally sit. And sit. And sit…
30 minutes goes by yet still no movement from our plane. Eventually, the captain reports over the intercom that we’re waiting for something but he’s “not sure what it is.” When whatever it is finally arrives, he jokes about the miracle of flight and pushes off. We are now 130 minutes late.
Half way to the runway the plane stops. The captain gets back on saying “you are not going to like this but that we have to go back to the gate.” No reason is given. But he’s right about not liking it. I begin Tweeting my disapproval and soon receive hilarious and useless Tweet-pologies from United. To the drone working UA’s Twitter feed I reply #fuckyou
When the plane arrives back at the gate we sit in silence, engines off, for another 10 minutes. We are like that haunted aircraft from The Strain. Just sitting on the Tarmac. Dying inside. I’m kidding. Sort of. It dawns on me I’m missing The Walking Dead.
Then the captain tells us that one of the engine’s “oil filters did exactly what it was supposed to do: fail on the ground.” He laughs. Tells us they are getting another one from Jiffy Lube. Thirty minutes go by with no further details and, thankfully, jokes.
Suddenly, a flight attendant makes the announcement to “prepare for arrival.” But, the entire plane is thinking, we haven’t freaking left! To make a long story longer they kick us off the plane to replace an oil filter. We are told the job will take 20 minutes.
An hour goes by. Then this: “Due to regulations, the legal time limit for the flight crew to work this flight has elapsed. We are now looking for a fresh crew.” We are told this will take 45 minutes “or so.” Liars. By the time we board we are 260 minutes late for departure. And counting…
But the delay isn’t what’s most infuriating. What kills me is that United should have known better. About so many things. For example: The plane arrives to the gate with a defective oil filter? Guys, it’s coming from the garage! United waits until the last minute to tell us the crew has run out of legal flying minutes, despite knowing as much the moment they turned the plane around? On a lesser note, why would the flight attendants allow every person to board knowing full well the luggage compartments would fill up long before the plane did? Why bother when you can make thirty angry, hot, tired travelers back up? You fly this route every day. You should know better. Or else you’re way too f–king stupid for words.
And speaking of words, United, where were they? A weird joke from the captain is hardly a communication plan for a flight that’s over four hours late. All airlines suck at communications. In my experience, United is the worst.
While I can’t hold everyone at United accountable for this awful experience, I do know the brand suffers among the lowest scores for service and quality in the aviation industry. Sadly, the once “friendly skies of United” have sucked for a very long time. There is a Twitter account: @UALfail
For the record, I landed in Denver at 1:47 AM.
The stupification of news media: a virus of breathless hyperbole, meaningless lists and tawdry content.
November 7, 2014
All the news that’s fit to share…
Have you noticed how online journalism and media purveyors have increasingly tarted up and/or dumbed down their content? Things have gotten way more visual, mimicking the look of Instagram and Pinterest. Echoing Buzzfeed and other pseudo journalism sites, we see more and more lists of dubious nature populating web pages: Top ten this. Worst 20 that. Native advertising and news stories are now slurry. No secret why. Editors want consumers. Publishers want advertisers. Both need more and meaningful clicks to survive.
Oh, and you like this shit. (Not me. I’m impervious to salacious come ons and all those sweet, sweet lists.)
In one respect, this is nothing new. Sensationalism has permeated journalism since it began. Whether it’s creepy crimes or naked ladies or both, newspapers have always flirted with the devil. Boobs sell papers. “If it bleeds it leads.”
Yet, what’s different here -and more insidious, in my opinion- is the meshing of bullshit with the news. An obscenity-laden video featuring ghetto trash fighting in McDonald’s is presented as a news story. The “ten outfits no woman over 30 should ever own” is displayed in the same space as an article about foreign policy. Throwback Thursdays. Monday Mug Shots. Fail videos. It’s stupid content just for the hell of it. Gone are the obvious markers for “advertisement” or “paid for by.” So, why would any reader-obsessed editor put this stuff on a separate entertainment-only page? You don’t hide the chum, fool. Put dat shit where people can see it. Stink up dem waters. We. Need. Clicks.
I get it. I really do. Still, it’s sad when journalists start putting inappropriate hyperbole in their copy. Suddenly, everything is “fascinating” or “terrifying” or “hilarious.” Aren’t we -the reader- supposed to be the judge of that?
The immense and growing popularity of Buzz Feed, Reddit, Devoured, Huff Post and countless other content buffets make it impossible for struggling news sites and online magazines to ignore, let alone exist.
Oh, and we like this shit.
My girls in girl mode, from a recent plane trip
The weekend drive to the barn with my daughters is a mostly beautiful 20-mile trek north of Mill Valley to horse country in Nicasio. Normally, I listen to sports radio, catching up on football scores, half-heartedly paying attention to an assortment of retired jocks conversing about this team and that play. I don’t particularly care but I find the chatter soothing. Sometimes.
But not today. Last week, Taylor Swift dropped her newest album, 1989 and my girls, like millions of other girls, are agog over it. Rather than plug into it from their iPhones, they chose to sing from memory. Given how new the album was, they hadn’t exactly memorized the tunes yet. I got a kick out of listening to them singing aloud and correcting each other and saying which song was the best and their favorite and so on.
The music industry maybe in shambles but some things never change. When a superstar like Taylor Swift releases a new album the world listens –at least the world of young women. From what I understand she’s sold over a million copies in the first few days, way more by now. Pretty freaking amazing. Like her and her music or not, you’ve got to give the gal props. She knows what she’s doing. She has for years. My God, she’s not even 25!
Swiftly went Platinum…
After a while of listening to my kids singing a-cappella, I asked one to play the album from her phone. I don’t have blue tooth so we listened to it straight from the iPhone’s tiny speaker. It sounded like crap but that didn’t matter. My girls were in heaven.
Anyway, the whole thing reminded me of when I was 16 and one of my favorite bands put out a new album. I was all over it. Just like my girls in the back seat. My friends and I would gather in our bedrooms and crank these new discs until our ears bled. Doodling the bands’ logos or cover art icons onto our notebooks, hands, tee shirts and walls. Passionately arguing over which song was best and whether this album was better than the last or better than the other guy’s favorite album. Who was the greater guitarist? Which concert kicked more ass.
Wait a minute. Who am I kidding? I’m still the same dude! A couple weeks prior, U2 released their newest album, Songs of Innocence and I’ve been listening to it non-stop. Granted, that’s only when I am running or biking but I do that a lot. Songs of Innocence has been in constant rotation. Critics be damned, I think it’s a great album. When it’s not playing I catch myself singing lyrics from it all the time, the same way my girls do with Ms. Swift’s latest.
I woke up at the moment
When the miracle occurred
Heard a song that made some sense
Out of the world
Everything I ever lost
Now has been returned
In the most beautiful sound I’d ever heard
U2 – The Miracle Of Joey Ramone (from Songs of Innocence)
Rather than get into a critique of U2 or Taylor Swift, I would like to just pause here and revel in the fact that my children and I have this great thing in common: The love of music, of singing out loud, bastardizing the lyrics, comparing and contrasting, waiting for the concert. Being alive. It’s a good thing in a world that needs more of them.