Monday, January 09, 2006

Clearwater Beach Florida

I'm in Clearwater Beach, Florida. The heat is on in my room. I've been uncomfortably cool since I arrived. It's warmer in Kansas. That said, there are some perks to being here.

My flight from Houston to Florida was perfectly pleasant. Yes, that's right. I said it. Pleasant. Was this due to a complete turn around of the airline industry while I was en route to Houston? No. Of course not. It was due to their failure to fill the seats, which resulted in me getting to sit in the window seat of an exit row - pretty much my favorite spot. Elbow room and leg room. When I changed my seat last night, the whole row was empty. But, today there was a nice gentleman in the aisle seat and we had a lovely conversation.

He and his partner just moved to Wichita a few months ago from Mississippi where they lost all their belongings in the hurricane. It was interesting to hear his story. I invited him to come to Hutch so we can have some Roy's BBQ together. I'd like to meet his partner. Anyway, chatting with him made the long flight just zip by, and we were both comfortable with an empty seat between us and plenty of leg room.

To top it off, when I arrived, my luggage was here and intact.

The conference tonight got off to a good start with a reception on the beach, which is when I took the sunset photo. We're at the Hilton in Clearwater Beach. When I was here before, it was at a different hotel, but I can't remember which one.

MHA conferences are really great. There's so much good and interesting information. Plus, it's good to see people. I've been doing this for three years now and see people I have gotten to know whenever I get to come to one of these.

The Susan on the left in this photo is from North Dakota and was my first ever roomie at an MHA event. We really hit it off and have looked forward to seeing each other since. The other Susan in this photo is from Florida and is someone I met through her. They're both tons of fun.

We went to dinner after the reception tonight. We went to Capri, an Italian place right across the street. It was really good. We all topped off the night with some spumoni, which was quite tasty. It's good to reconnect.

"I'll take, 'Things You Don't Want to Hear Your Pilot Say,' Alex."

"OK, and the answer is, 'Whoops.'"

That's what I heard this morning in Wichita on the runway. I was in Seat 1A so I had a birdseye view of the copilot, who looked to be about 12. I could hear both to them and as soon as the plane started to move I heard the pilot say, "Whoops." The tunnel thing had not been moved back yet. I realize they didn't hire the guy for his mechanical prowess, but it is a pretty big thing.

Shortly thereafter, they closed the flight deck door and locked them inside. They say that's for security reasons. I contend there are other no less valid reasons.

On the upside - and please note how I'm finding the positive side - it was beautiful flying above the clouds with the sun rising. The only problem being that I was already inflight by the time the sun was rising.

And, yet another positive, the annoying teenagers were somewhere else in the plane and were drowned out by the noise of the airplane. It was one of those baby planes. They're noisier.

Now I'm in Houston. I cringe everytime I hear Bush International Airport, although I do like Houston. There are lots of people at the gate waiting, which isn't good. I was hoping we'd have a less full flight so I could sleep a bit. There's also a four year old screaming to amuse herself. She's probably as tired as I am. I'd scream too if I thought it would do any good.

Maybe I'll send this to Letterman... Top Ten Things You Don't Want to Hear Your Pilot Say.

It's 6:57 a.m. and I'm already in a bad mood. It's unusual for me to be in a bad mood. So, you may ask, how can it possibly have already occured before 7 a.m.?

I'm in the airport. I've had dealings with airline employees. I have interacted with TSA officials. What more needs be said?

To top it off, I got up at 4:30 this morning. I don't like getting up long before the crack of dawn. Well, unless I just happen to be.

I'm in Wichita - little airport - never any big lines. I spent 20 minutes in the screening line, with less than 10 people in front of me. I thought surely someone must be on the terrorist list. No. That wasn't the problem.

The problem was the TSA official who looked at my boarding pass for a good two minutes. There's not that much information on one. She acted like she'd never seen one before, that it was the first one she'd ever held in her hands. I would think in her line of work they'd come along pretty regularly.

By the time she was done, my various belongings had been through the xray machine and were sitting there for anyone to take. Of course, everyone else was busy redressing themselves - like we all want to take our shoes off and walk on your nasty carpet while we hop along trying to get our laptops out and lay our bags flat and hand you pieces of paper that will mystify you.

On the positive side - because I always like to find a positive side - there's free wireless.

Well, I should go use the ladies room before being herded on board. Besides, it will give me a chance to move away from the idiot teenagers sitting behind me. He's talking continually about living in NY and she's doing that stupid giggly thing like he's the most fascinating thing she's ever seen or heard. He thinks he's entertaining all of us. She thinks we're impressed that she knows him.I hope to goodness they're in the back of the plane, away from me. They should give you an "annoyance factor" when you're choosing your seats.

I'm reminded of the nine hour flight from Paris next to the French skateboarder. But, that's another story...