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June 01, 2003
Travel... travail... same thing.

As previously noted, I've been on the road. One of the (many) reasons I am not now, nor do I ever want to be, a salesman is that there tends to be a lot of travel involved in the job. I don't mind talking to customers -- they seem to appreciate it -- I'd just rather they came to see me instead of the other way around.

The week started well enough, Monday having been a holiday... but it was all downhill from there.

My flight from Raleigh to Boston was on one of those sub-microscopic "regional jets" so much in vogue these days. It seems the airlines have finally discovered that it's less expensive to fly a number of small planes packed to the gunwales than to fly one big one half empty. American Airlines has certainly figured it out.

Now, a flight on a small plane isn't usually a problem in and of itself. But this time I knew there were going to be problems.

Getting into the airport was no problem, and security was a breeze -- Raleigh-Durham Int'l Airport seems to be pretty efficient that way. But the first problem didn't take long to manifest itself. As the time for my flight approached, the gate attendant calmly announced that there would be a 15 minute delay while the airplane had a mechanical issue fixed. I was filled with confidence. I love knowing that my plane has "mechanical issues."

Oh, and -- 15 minutes, my butt.

An hour later, we were unapologetically informed that a replacement aircraft should be along momentarily. Another hour later, our flight was ready for boarding. We all queued up and got onto the plane in one big cattle-call. Next problem: as I entered the aircraft I had to not only "duck" a little bit, but actually had to bend at the waist to get in. Walking down the aisle to my seat was no better. American Eagle uses, among others, the Embraer ERJ-135. A really spiffy plane, I'm sure - if you're a midget. This is not a plane built for normal sized people, and certainly not for very large people.

Then, yet another problem. In my hand: a boarding pass for seat 14C. On the plane: no row 14. No 15 or 16, either. In fact, the rows stopped at 13.

Now, I know a thing or three about airplanes, but I'm no aviation industry expert; I can also count, but that doesn't make me a mathematician. But I do know this much:

when you bring in a replacement airplane for a fully-booked flight, it might make sense to have at least as many seats on the spare as there were on the original.

After much dithering and shuffling, everyone was either seated or had volunteered to be bumped. "Seated" is a relative term, however, if (like me) your femurs are longer than the front-to-back distance between the seats. American Airlines claims that they're adding legroom on all their planes, but if so they're taking that extra room from the American Eagle planes. It was absolute torture to wedge myself into that seat. Embraer aircraft are products of Brazil, but as rude as this one was to me, it may as well have been French.

Then came the only bright spot of my trip: a wonderful, sweet, nice woman (hiding her halo, I suspect) sitting in the exit row offered to trade seats with me -- out of the blue, so to speak. If you're really tall, the exit row is where you go to get legroom. This woman's act of kindness is all that kept me from being unable to walk at the end of the flight -- and after the flight, she disappeared before I could thank her. Dang. She was cute, too.

After that, the rest of the trip was tolerable. Uncomfortable hotel beds, lack of sleep, driving all over New England (Massachussetts, New Hampshire and Maine, all in three days). Sore feet, sore butt, sore head. You know, the usual.

It's good to be home.

Posted by Russ at 12:19 PM, June 1, 2003 in Miscellany

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