Choo Choo Man

The last airplane ride I took was on November 6, 2008 from Naples, Florida to Boston on Delta. The next one I take will be on February 1, 2009 to Dublin, Ireland. That’s almost three months between planes, which is fine with me.

Aside from the fact that you’re guilty until proven innocent at the airports, I’m convinced that there isn’t an executive in the entire airline industry whom I would trust walking Buddy Beagle. And I’m fairly certain there isn’t one who couldn’t be replaced by Koufax, the Wonder Dog resulting in improved earnings.

I was on a single Delta airplane, flying via Cincinnati from Naples, full fare first class with my wife, for over six hours. And not one meal was served. The plane was on time, and the cabin crews capable, though not memorable. The plane hadn’t been cleaned all that well. And it was, of course, a small airplane.

Not one meal. Just some snacks. And the gate agent in Naples gave me heat about my carry-on bag, which has only traveled as carry-on all over the world, so should be no problem, except he demonstrated it was three inches over his little measuring box, despite the fact it fits in the overhead. Our exchange ended with my bag on board with me and his appearing before the door closed to apologize. I guess it was a bad day for him, and still another one for Delta.

I wrote to the head of operations for Delta. She has not bothered to respond. I would guess that she’s too busy cutting seat padding or blanket size.

Maria and I have just been to New York for Thanksgiving, first class on Amtrak’s Acela. Traveling south on Wednesday, the heaviest travel day of the year supposedly, the car was half-filled, the service excellent, and I wrote a chapter for the fourth edition of Million Dollar Consulting, returned some calls, and caught up on my email, besides reading part of Updike’s newest book. On the return yesterday, their were perhaps six of us in total in the car, I wrote another chapter….well you get the idea.

On the Acela, which I take as far as Washington, DC, I’ve run into George Will, Ted Kennedy, John McCain and his wife, and quite a few others. This is not shabby company. They have never turned to me to try to make small talk about their product line, or made demands for more free liquor because they were upgrades from the rear.

My wife calls someone who has a larger train set than I do “choo choo man.” I’m happy to have this applied to me in terms of my traveling preferences.

I’ve been preaching that success and wealth are constituted by discretionary time. Thus, money is merely fuel for your life, and the pursuit of too much of it at too great a cost in time can actually erode your wealth. (“I don’t have time to see my kid’s soccer game,” means you choose not to see your kid’s soccer game. Of course you have the time.) My wealth today includes the fact that I can stay off planes for 90 days because I’m running events near my home or helping people remotely using technology.

I know I can probably choose a European carrier to go to Dublin, so I’ll have decent service, let alone a meal. But I am checking just to see if maybe there’s a train….

© Alan Weiss 2008. All rights reserved.


2 thoughts on “Choo Choo Man

  1. When thinking about the first flight I ever took I recall that we dressed up for the flight and where treated as if we were royals. Back in those days (early 70s) a transatlantic flight would stop at every island en route due to fuel supply and (lack of) fuel efficiency. So a journey that is now done in 9-10 hours took 24 hours. Quite some time to kill. And the masses took a ship who did the same journey in 14 days.

    The captain was the absolute authority and only God had more power. Passengers behaved as if they were invited on a party by some celebrity. There was no on-board movie or music. People sat together, read a book or talked (if you were not too close to the engines). The flight attendants would check regularly if everything was all right with the passengers. Off course there was food on real china and with real cutlery. And drinks in glassware. And kids were allowed to see the pilots in action.

    Making flying available to the masses in the late 80s certainly did change the travel experience, not always in a positive way. It made people from all over the world a little closer and created a more global world, but the down side is that certain professionals where expected to travel (read fly) to any imaginable location.

    Modern information and communication technology makes it possible to work remotely for almost any knowledge worker. This is not only better for the worker with respect to his well being but also for the environment. The only thing that needs to happen is that managers in organizations start changing their operating modes. Then all these people that have to fly now will likely fly a lot less. And air travel can return to the experience as in the 70s. Who knows.

  2. Airlines have transformed the best way to travel into the worst way to travel by treating its customers as a nuisance. Starting from security checks, unreliable schedules and delays, to ever-increasing trend to make traveling with luggage (even carry-on luggage) as uncomfortable and unnerving as possible. I also take the train or just drive myself in my ULEV vehicle (which gets better mileage than hybrids on the highway, has more room and it is far more comfortable). Also, I know when I am going to arrive when I don’t fly. As you mentioned, modern technology makes it easy to be there even without physically being there..

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