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Without policital cynicism, would I still be a blogger? - Who has time for a journal?
January 4th, 2007
10:51 pm


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Without policital cynicism, would I still be a blogger?
The tour of Costa Rica was fun, but the trip back on Friday was bad. Our flight to DFW was diverted by bad weather to Shreveport, Louisiana, where the plane sat on the ground for 5 hours, then back to DFW. By the time we made it through customs (including secondary inspection for carrying food), it was nearly midnight, and all connecting flights had either taken off or been cancelled. The AA rep announced that vouchers for available hotel rooms nearby had already been exhausted.

I called David Richey, thinking it was 10pm for him in California, so he could check Hotwire for someplace with available rooms (although it was 1am for him in Vermont). I called 3 places he found, and finally the 3rd one answered, and they had plenty of rooms, 30 minutes away. A rental car for $50 until Sunday morning sounded better and more flexible than a 30-minute taxi ride. When we arrived in the car-rental line, the agent announced that 1-way rentals to nearby states were not available, and people behind us asked about San Diego, to which the answer was "Maybe" -- I hope things worked our OK for them, because highway closures to Albuquerque were mentioned in the newspaper.

On our way to find the hotel in Dallas, we passed a big clump of other hotels, so we tried the Best Western, which had a fine room for $56, breakfast included. I hadn't brought a cell-phone charger, but my phone had been off most of the time, since I didn't have service in Costa Rica anyway; I didn't trust the battery when it claimed to be fully charged. After 20 minutes on hold (with the hotel room phone), American offered to fly us to Sacramento on Monday, January 1, but we could be wait-listed for San Francisco.

The next morning, we were confirmed on an evening flight to SFO, so we visited a public library, where we used our 1-hour limit on the internet to check email, then the art museum and the sculpture center in Dallas (but we didn't opt for the 45-minute wait to get into the Van Gogh exhibit). After lunch, we headed to the AmericanAirlines C.R. Smith Museum, but it was closed until January 3. Instead, we visited the historic Stockyards district in Fort Worth; I don't ever need to go back (although they did have quaint shops selling western wear, and later, when the rental car shuttle bus showed a promotional video of Ft. Worth, I recognized the signs for several nightclubs and steakhouses).

At the airport, everything was late by an hour or two, and we tried for stand-by on 2 flights to SJC. I think we were 17 and 18 out of 30-some on the stand-by list for the first SJC flight. On the next one, we started at 2 and 3 out of about 20, and the gate agent said it looked like 3 people had either already missed their incoming connecting flight or were on flights that wouldn't arrive before our boarding time. Unfortunately, our SFO flight was about 20 minutes before the SJC flight, so we had to choose a bird-in-the-hand vs. 2 stand-by. Then the agent told us that people with higher priority had joined the list, so we hurried to the SFO flight, which was otherwise unremarkable.

Our bags were checked to San Jose. At SFO baggage claim, we had to wait for bags to finish arriving before they'd take our information. Then, after midnight, we caught a shuttle van home to Milpitas, and were in bed by 2am. At 9:30 the next morning (Sunday), the baggage delivery service called to say the bags would arrive between 12 and 4 (but actual arrival time was 10:30am), so we started doing laundry.

On my way down the 2 steps into the garage, my knee started hurting. It didn't hurt to walk, but I couldn't bend it and bear weight. I tried to favor it, and I took ibuprofen to fight inflammation, but by Monday night it seemed to be getting worse, and I couldn't drive comfortably. I called Kaiser's advice nurse, then we visited the emergency room (since the urgent care was closed for the holiday). After a $50 co-pay, I got 2 x-rays (which don't show soft tissue, like a torn meniscus or an inflamed tendon) and an ace bandage, with instructions to take ibuprofen and come back if it's not better in 5 days. The bandage does seem to help (since I can't bend the knee accidentally). With any luck, these $50-ish things only come in threes, and we'll be safe for a while.

President Ford's death meant an extra day of delay in postal service, so we got 17 days worth of mail on Wednesday. When rfrench complains that the financial markets were closed for 4 days, I can't help wondering who it helps. I'm cynical; I think the banks and credit-card companies would love to have an unplanned day without mail delivery, because some payments will be late, and they can collect late-payment fees.

Similarly, I'm bothered by the huge bond measures that were passed by California voters in November. Bonds are a way to convert taxpayer money into interest payments for investors in the bond market. What better way to boost Big Business and wealthy investors at the expense of the average citizen?

(5 comments | Leave a comment)

[User Picture]
Date:January 5th, 2007 02:39 pm (UTC)
Wow, what a travel nightmare! I came home from England on Monday, and although it was a bloody long day, it was uneventful.

You should post about your trip. Pictures?
[User Picture]
Date:January 5th, 2007 04:56 pm (UTC)
Bonds are a way to convert taxpayer money into interest payments for investors in the bond market

I don't think so. I think that Bonds are an "invisible" way to raise taxes. People vote in Bonds because they don't want to pay for something now -- they'd rather wait & pay for it later when they think they'll have an increase in salary.
[User Picture]
Date:January 5th, 2007 08:31 pm (UTC)
Sounds awful. But what does AA mean by "hotel vouchers have already been exhausted"? Does that mean they don't have the physical pieces of paper, in which case they can still reimburse you afterwards? Or do they just mean "Our policy when a bunch of people are travelling on AA and get dumped in a strange city with no place to stay is to give hotel rooms to some of them, because it would cost us more money to give hotel rooms to all of them"? Not providing hotel accomodations is totally unacceptable, and "vouchers are exhausted" is just a euphemism for "If we screw our customers, we make more money than if we treat them right". I would send a letter of complaint to the president of AA with documentation of your hotel and cab expenses.

While supply and demand means that additional bonds being issued will have an affect in theory on the interest rates that bonds pay, the new California bonds are such a tiny, tiny part of the total bond market that issuing them probably affects the interest rate investors can get by buying bonds by something like .000001%. I doubt very seriously that this was any part of the motive for anyone's support of the bond measure.
[User Picture]
Date:January 5th, 2007 11:54 pm (UTC)
All of the nearby hotels were full (i.e., any place with a free shuttle). I certainly didn't want to sleep on a cot in the terminal, because I'm a very light sleeper, which is why we weren't on the red-eye through LAX or Miami. Jonathan has the address for the president of AA, to write requesting reimbursement.

In retrospect, we could have spent the whole day trying to do stand-by, and we probably would have gotten on an earlier flight, but instead we had another morning of vacation.

With $42 billion in bonds approved just in our last election, it may be a drop in the bucket compared to the federal deficit, but it's still a lot of money. Ultimately, the interest will double the cost to pay off the bonds, as opposed to paying the expenses directly.

I understand that there are situations where bonds are a good idea, like paying for a bridge, where the future tolls can pay off the bonds. But it's just foolish to postpone repairs and maintenance on schools and roads, while spending tax money on other projects, and then finance ordinary maintenance with bonds.
[User Picture]
Date:February 26th, 2007 11:42 pm (UTC)
Update: Before we even got around to sending in a claim, American Airlines sent us some lovely letters of apology, with travel vouchers for $500 each.

Another travel update: JetBlue sent us an email telling us how sorry they were for the service problems on Valentine's Day, even though our flight wasn't even delayed significantly (non-stop Oakland to Dulles). Yes, it took multiple calls to get through to their phone system, in order to confirm that the flights weren't affected.

I'm more annoyed by the bad grammar in their apology:

"As a customer scheduled to be on one of our flights during this period, we know we let you down."
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