Sunday, July 30, 2006

The hardest part

Traveling nearly 3,000 miles twice in one week was my least favorite part of attending the family reunion. Trying to be frugal, I'd chosen to fly Southwest leaving out of San Jose (over an hour from home). Cam packed a lunch for me, carried my bags to the car and drove me to the airport. He reminded me to pack music (headphones give me a invisible personal space barrier which I appreciate greatly when in an airport or on a crowded plane) and drove me to the airport. As one who worked previously in advertising, I noticed and appreciated a cooridor of the airport sponsored by Microsoft where they assured me the saw me doing great things.

I also liked the tagline of this CARE ad.

My flight was scheduled to arrive in Raleigh, North Carolina (over four hours from the reunion site) after 11pm. With the money I saved, not flying directly from San Francisco to Myrtle Beach, I was able to justify having a rental car for the week. Usually, having a rental car at these things is imparative. This time, since we were within walking distance of the beach, it might not have been. I know after flying all day to get to North Carolina, the idea of driving four more hours at night on unfamiliar roads through road construction in an unfamiliar car whose warning lights were telling me to check the tire monitor system, the money I saved didn't seem worth it. When I booked my flight there, I knew I didn't have to change planes, in my mind, I had a non-stop flight. Turns out, I had three stops. After taking off and landing in San Jose, LA, Chicago (who knew?) and finally Raleigh, my ears HURT. They didn't feel right for days.

Anyway, on the way back, Sam was with me. The drive to Raleigh from Myrtle Beach was much less painless in the daytime in a car I'd become familiar driving. I'd also studied the map and decided that while it might be a few more miles, taking a simpler route to the airport was worthwhile (two highways rather than turn onto Roosevelt St. in rural SC).

My wonderful brother had carried our luggage to the car for me. When we arrived at curbside check-in, I learned that while bags under 50 pounds are free, any bag weighing more than 50 lbs would cost $25 to check. My bag made it through without problems but after lifting it, they put Sam's bag on the scale. After being on the road for five weeks, he'd accumulated lots of treasures. Luckily, it weighed in at 47 lbs.

I started to return the rental car without remembing to refuel. I appreciate the attendant at Alamo noticing and giving me the opportunity to go fill the car up myself rather than paying whatever they are charging these days. We even had time to grab some non-airport food for lunch before passing through security and getting to our gate. It was a relief to be ready to board. Then, I went to the bathroom and when I came back, everyone was lined up to board. At this point, I noticed our boarding passes put us in category C (the last category to board). Their announcement says people traveling with kids under five can board early but Sam turned 9 on this trip. We were nearly the last ones to get into the C line. Because SW doesn't assign seats, It was looking like we were going to have to beg someone to move just to be able to sit together.

Thankfully, a SW agent noticed us at the back of this line and allowed us to board at the end of the A group. We had two lovely seats together and Sam had a window. This time, our flight didn't stop until Las Vegas. We finished a book we were reading, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, we like all of Kate DiCamillo's books and enjoyed this one too. (John started reading The Mouse & The Motorcycle to Sam in SC.)

After we finished reading, Sam played Hobbit, the new gameboy game his Grandma Bucklin bought for him in Iowa. I was going to start my new book, Couldn't Keep it to Myself by Wally Lamb, but instead, ended up talking with the woman sitting next to me.

While we talked, I flipped through Spirit, SW's in-flight magazine. I was pleasantly surprised to read interesting articles. One featured one of our favorite discoveries of the past year, Pandora. If you haven't checked out the Music Genome Projects site yet, give yourself a treat and visit Type in the name of a song or artist you are in the mood for listening to and Pandora will creat a station full of songs that are musically similar. You let Pandora know if you like or don't like the songs they play for you and they will adjust their offerings accordingly.

But back to the flight. On each of the SW flights, our agents added comedy to their announcements. On this flight to Vegas, the crew initiated several in-flight games. We had a contest to see who had the oldest penny. They had us guess the flight crew's cumulative age. The winner won a free cocktail/other treat. Finally, they encouraged us to write our seat number on a one dollar bill (isn't that illegal? anyway...) then throw the dollar into a bag. After everyone who wanted to play was in, they drew out one bill and the person in that seat was given all of the bills. I didn't have a one so I didn't play but I guess on the way to Vegas it was a fun way to break up the monotony and a nice perk for the winners. In their magazine, I read about the SW Spirit which makes me think this type of "spontaneous" fun is likely encouraged if not directed by corporate.

I think their ad agency is GSD&M in Austin. When I was trying to decide where to go from Des Moines, I wanted to go somewhere cool where I had family or friends. Because my cousin Alan, his wife Lynn and their daughter Alyson live in Austin and because of my interest in music, Austin was one of the cities I considered. I did land an interview with GSD&M while I was attending South-by-Southwest, a music conference but they didn't offer me a job so rather than Austin, Chicago was our next step and the rest is history. But GSD&M is cool. I like the idea of what they are trying to do with Southwest but I don't like having to stand in line vying for a seat of driving hours out of my way and having numerous stops during my flight. Regardless, they got us home which is the important part.

1 comment:

Carma said...

I have heard good things about Southwest. (You know I don't fly much) I think their corporate wants them to be different and still be professional. And they prove you can be professional and have fun.

I will try out the music site. Since I can listen to music now without disturbing anyone with my choices, it may be a good change.
(Must make note to take a picture of our hallway now with the new cubes for the three hallmates.