One insane week
One day the insanity will end and there will be some form of technology capable of communicating this web of wonders to the wide world.
Annual trade shindig the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is a big deal. For one insane week, nearly 200,000 nerds and industry hotshots flock to the neon-lit tundra of Las Vegas to gawk upon tech that might end up being picked apart for precious metals by a West African child labourer. And most of those passengers likely had an …
I left out a couple of words: "tens of thousands of". Insert between "of" and "marketards". Sorry for the confusion. The camera just can't do the ... what's the word I'm looking for ... "bulk!", that's it! ... The camera just can't do the bulk of it all justice. Kind of like trying to photograph the Grand Canyon, only not quite as pretty.
This explanation brought to you by the number 4 and the letter U. You may now put your seat trays up and return to your usual bickering. Carry on, all.
My heart bleeds for those poor souls having to sully themselves in cattle.
No, wait, it doesn't.
<Morning rambling tangent story>
99% of all my business filghts of which I've had hundreds were all in cattle.
I should point out that I have a fear of flying including vertigo and ended up doing a job that at it's height meant flying each week.
Lovely bit of internal terror every flight.
By the end I couldn't care as I think enforced helplessness meant letting go - even when multiple other passengers were screaming on a bit of a bumpy flight.
Culminated in a flight on Jat airways between Bosnia and Serbia on a plane that I was surprised got off the ground and made it to the destination without the wing/engine/fuselage falling off.
<Morning rambling tangent story/>
99% of all my business filghts of which I've had hundreds were all in cattle
Previous Orkplace I needed to fly round Europe to support regional offices - standard procedure was to wait until I had enough work to make it worth the trip (or if a high priority call came in) and then go for a week or so.
Standard company policy was for all flights to be cattle class unless you were very senior. However I found a loophole - since I never knew when I would need to come back (my work might take me 3 days or two weeks - depending on complexity) and I had a *really* good manager, we managed to swing it so that I could fly what was called "restricted business class" - which seemed to have all the perks of standard business class but enabled a flexible return ticket..
I'll never forget getting onto a Lufthansa flight in my usual travelling attire (scruffy/comfortable jeans or combats, dark hoodie advertising various prog bands, my comfortable boots and, in winter, my big sheepskin flying jacket) only to be frostily told by the female cabin crew that "standard class seats are that way". I happily waved my business-class ticket at her and said "yes, I know". Her face looked like she was sucking several major lemons..
Unlike SAS - they treated everyone with courtesy. They also introduced me to Akavit..
They paid for an economy seat, they got the economy seat and they got to their destination as planned. Yeah, it sucks that nobody could actually be upgraded, but this is a storm in a teacup.
I'm going to have to check if I have any position in this upgrade scheme. I've crossed the Atlantic about two dozen times in my life, but I'm guessing that it wouldn't be enough anyway.
I actually got upgraded a few times - though only once when crossing the atlantic. Never occurred to me to take that for granted (and I did fly a lot back then, unfortunately had to). I'm really happy that this madness is over. Flying is inconvient, uncomfortable, the "security" theatre is a hassle, fellow passengers are mostly ignorant and selfish and schlepp huge f'ing suitcases into the cabin (that are much bigger than what would be allowed) and then complain that there is no room for them. The official line is actually that "bulky and heavy items should go under your seat" - and if your suitcase is too big to go under your seat it is not a carry-on!
Sorry, I needed that.
Feel much better now.
(oh, and don't get me started about the entitled brats in business class, talk to flight attendants: those are some of the worst passengers - they feel they are special because their boss paid for that flight. In contrast those in first class seem to be really relaxed, I was told, it was their own money and they paid it to be left well alone).
I actually got upgraded a few times
Curiously, while I've never asked for an upgraded, I received three, I think, in my years of flying. And I don't fly that often - more than many people, certainly, but barely enough to bother with frequent-flyer accounts. (I think I've only twice accumulated enough miles to get a "reward" ticket.)
fellow passengers are mostly ignorant and selfish and schlepp huge f'ing suitcases into the cabin
Yeah. I nearly always check my luggage - additional fees be damned. I refuse to participate in the degrading battle for overhead-compartment space. The only time I can remember having a carry-on (besides my laptop backpack, which I do put under the seat, and my jacket, which I'll shove overhead if there's a bit of space for it) was a recent unplanned trip I made when I was away from home and didn't have a bag I could check.
... of these idiots actually expected an upgrade. Did they honestly think they were the only cattle-class warriors eligible? Or that suit-and-tie salesdroids didn't have business-class booked three years in advance? Or maybe they thought that they were the only people on the flight actually stopping in Vegas, and business class would be empty?
Regardless, the mind boggles ...
You would think that being at the wrong end of a 183 person queue would give them a clue.
I used to fly weekly for work. Colleagues would try to teach me all the little tricks to use to try and get upgraded. I never bothered, just checked in as normal and randomly I would get the upgrade, I think more often than my colleagues.
In a previous job, I used to fly an awful lot more than I liked, almost always in cattle class and never on the same airline twice, as a rule. But I recall once waiting in the check-in queue in Kiev airport, behind a bishop in full regalia who was adamant that he should have an upgrade. The clerk wasn't having any: if God had intended you to travel in business class, he'd have bought you a business class ticket!
Eventually, he wombled off in high dudgeon, clutching his cattle class boarding pass. The clerk called me forward, tore my tickets in half (it was many years ago, when tickets were paper) and loudly announced Ah, yes, Mr Barnes, we have an upgrade for you.
The bishop went as purple as his robes...
cabin crews know exactly who is using all the "tricks" angling for an upgrade
Isn't it the gate crew who actually grant the upgrades? But in any case, it wouldn't surprise me if the crews recognize people trying to game the system and at least sometimes ding them for it.
Personally, I just fly economy. Flying's no fun, and business class is significantly nicer, and the couple times I flew first class (mystery upgrades I hadn't asked for; still don't know why I received them) it was nicer still, though the obsequiousness bugged me. But for the cost of a higher-class ticket I can always think of something else I'd rather use the money for.
For people who are tall, or otherwise can really use the extra room, it makes more sense.
At the end of one year it was discovered that I had been upgraded more than any of my colleagues, and by a fairly wide margin. When asked what my secret was, I told 'em the truth. Airline staff are in the same business that we are in in the IT world. It's called "customer service". I simply treat them the way I would like to be treated if our positions were reversed.
Works for hotel, restaurant, and bar staff too. Etc. PleaseAndThankYou and a smile go a long way, ESPECIALLY when the party you're speaking with has been dealing with assholes all day.
And get this ... it works even if you are having a bad day! If you pass your bad mood on to another person who is capable of making your life miserable, you deserve what you get. On the other hand, if you are nice to them for fifteen seconds, they'll probably help make a fifteen+ hour flight somewhat bearable.
And on the gripping hand, if you're really, really lucky you'll find a friend for life. A buddy married the stewardess he met on an SFO to Heathrow flight... both had been having a shitty day, but he put on the cheerful mask before boarding. During the flight they comiserated on the idiocy of the general public, which lead to dinner in London. Two years later they tied the knot ... that was over twenty years ago, they are still happily married.
Good manners help a lot in making everybody's life nicer. I almost always wear a hat, and doffing it politely when entering the plane always puts a smile on the faces of the cabin personnel welcoming you on board, and ditto on the way out. Didn't get any formal upgrades that way but have on occasion been given more leg room on the seat next to the emergency exit (I am told this may also be due to the fact that I have a fairly athletic build, so they assume I have the strength to operate the door)
Being nice to whoever is helping you costs nothing, and makes life much more bearable
I heartily concur with Jake and the others' points about politeness and civility. I'm of a generation that finds the lack thereof both uncomfortable and disturbing, both personally and as a marker of society as a whole.
Ah well. At least I met my wife on a flight (not a stewardess, but she was born in Rio :)
Maybe they can think about the recent fires in Austraila, floods in Jakarta etc, etc.
I realise some flights are necessary, but often there are alternative options (and for something like CES - ask do you really need to go?)
I'm currently averaging about 1 flight every 3 or 4 years, could be better but a big improvement on what it was so heading in the right direction (slowly)
I understand your post, and partly agree with it. Most business travel can be done virtually (working for a company that sells an amazing web conferencing product, I can testify to this).
HOWEVER: I'm also of the belief that conferences like this allow you to expand both your knowledge and sphere of influence. Allows you to understand technology in ways your current role would not allow you to do. I've had amazing conversations with people whilst stood in the queue for sessions at WWDC: with teachers, doctors, humble BOFHs, etc, etc.
So, yes, things like CES are a jolly. Other conferences, like Blackhat, for example, not so much.
And yes, we could all do better with regards to flights, but the biggest impact would be not to buy cheap plastic tat from the other side of the world: Global shipping accounts for 18% of emissions, plane travel 2%
"And yes, we could all do better with regards to flights"
The frequent flyer program needs to be inverted so passengers get penalised for making many flights instead of being rewarded.
Perhaps everybody could be allocated an annual flight mileage or trips allowance, exceeding that would incur a financial penalty. Also a way for people not using their annual allowance to sell it would be interesting.
"Global shipping accounts for 18% of emissions, plane travel 2%"
But the volume of goods (including passengers) on shipping is thousands of times greater than for planes so the emissions per tonne are far lower for shipping. The really dirty fuel some ships use is a separate issue and needs to be addressed ASAP.
Tiggity, if you really want to make a difference, get off the internet and go live in a cave somewhere. Don't use anything electrical or electronic that you cannot power directly from a solar cell array or a wind turbine (or, if your cave has running water, a water-driven generator). Don't eat anything that cannot be or is not grown within walking or cycling distance, don't wear clothes other than what you make yourself and don't even think about using any medicines or drugs other than those growing on, in or near your food - not exactly the most environmentally-friendly industry (although far from the worst).
If the neo-luddites got off Instagram, Twitter, Facebook etc then huge amounts of electricity could be saved and horrendous (from a man-made global warming prospective) amounts of heat would not be generated by the hard-running server farms and their attendant cooling systems - which must be good for the planet, right?
But reductio ad absurdum can be so much fun!
For example, if all the Global Warming alarmists were to immediately stop all personal local production of CO2 and other pollutants (in the best of the "think globally, act locally" tradition/mantra), don't you think the world would become a vastly better place, practically overnight?
What do you mean they won't do that‽ Shirley saving an entire planet is worthy of SOME individual sacrifice, right‽‽‽
>For example, if all the Global Warming alarmists were to immediately stop all personal local production of CO2 and other pollutants (in the best of the "think globally, act locally" tradition/mantra), don't you think the world would become a vastly better place, practically overnight?
The easiest way to reduce CO2 emissions from a given person is for that person to not have children. Seems like the alarmists always forget that fact. Man-made pollution can be easily reduced by reducing the number humans--given time, the numbers drop pretty quickly, but only if more aren't made in the meantime.
I used to have a job that involved flying with parties of scientists and engineers. You could always count on 20% of the party at least self-medicating with alcohol to deal with the lack of implicit trust in technology which comes with (a) knowing how it works and (b) knowing how it sometimes doesn't.
Being in charge could be a nightmare, especially if a stopover was involved. My low point came when, returning home, we had a few hours in a capital city on the coast, the name of which I will redact to protect the guilty. A quarter of the party for which I was responsible simply disappeared from the airport. Nobody likes to be an informer, so it took a while for me to extract the information that the missing men had fond memories of a local house of ill-repute, and had decided that soft shoulders and warm thighs might be a good distraction from the anticipated stark terror of the second leg of the flight. By that time our planned departure time was about 90 minutes ahead, so I was pretty sure that they wouldn't make it back in time, and very conscious that the ethos of the organisation would require that I personally did not return home without everybody else accounted for.
I was saved by the unlikely intervention of the US Navy. My missing men returned unexpectedly and rather disappointed: it seems that the girls had quickly informed them that as a large number of Americans were in town and could be expected imminently, a bunch of broke techies from the UK were no longer so welcome. Size does matter, when it's the wallet that is being measured. 'Twas ever thus for poor sailors, even those with excellent technical qualifications. And was I glad of that!
I should note that United frequent fliers are automatically entered into the lists for upgrade. There are upgrade capabilities which guarantee an upgrade if availability is there, but the upgrade generally occurs long before the lists. The lists are also available online at united.com - examination of flights departing many hours from now will shown significant numbers of upgrade list people as soon as they check in.
It isn't that all 183 or whatever passengers were DYKWIA - likely most didn't think it would happen.
This story is based on inaccurate assumptions.
You check out the one stop flights to your destination and not just the nonstop flights. The non stop flights might be full because of an event like CES, but if for example you fly to Houston and from there to Vegas, those routes might be lower demand you get upgraded on both legs. You just have to do the calculation of whether the hassle of the stopover is worth avoiding the possibility of being crammed in a middle seat.
You also get more miles flying that way.
I used to fly every Monday morning and Thursday afternoon for years, and learned all the tricks. Fortunately telecommuting has made business travel mostly a thing of the past for me!
I once scored a promo flight on Concorde from the Middle East to London - cost me a couple of hundred quid extra on the normal BA Economy Ticket in 1992.
When I was checking in I met someone I knew. She had a standby ticket for the normal BA flight which was leaving at the same time and was promptly handed a Concorde Ticket instead since the normal flight was full. #jammybastard
Never had the misfortune of flying for work, so haven't flown any where near as much as many of you fine folks, but the one time i did get an upgrade was returning from a trip to New Zealand.
I was waiting in the queue to check in for my late afternoon flight, huge rucksack on my back, when i was approached by a friendly face informing me that my flight was over booked. I had two choices, hang around and hope to get on it, or, be put up in a hotel while waiting for the next flight, early the next morning, with a nice business class ticket and $500 for my inconvenience.
I'll give you one guess which i chose.
Only small sting in this tale is that it was only the first of the two 12 hour return flights (NZ - Hong Kong), which meant i was back in cattle for the second and that was quite a reality check.
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