We’re back from our Massachusetts odyssey. We got back late lastnight, and after a bit of getting ready for today, went straight tobed. On both legs of the trip, both going and coming, we were delayedby weather and United. On our outgoing leg to Boston, we spent twohours parked on the tarmac at Chicago O’Hare for weather relatedreasons. Before we even got on our return flight, weather changed ourtravel plans. As we were driving back to Boston from the Cape, my cellphone rang and a United rep. was on the other end. She told us how ourChicago flight had been canceled, but that we’d been placed on a flight toDenver, where we could catch a connection to Oakland. The Denverflight left Boston four minutes later than the Chicago flight, but thecombination of DEN/OAK would get us home one hour sooner than the originalORD/OAK flight. Cool, no problem. We got to the airport, turnedin our rental car, and were at the gates early enough to get exit rowseats. Our flight from Boston left on time, and landed in Denver withenough time for us to make our connection. However, we sat on thetarmac for twenty minutes, which meant that we missed our connection bythree minutes. After visiting a Customer (Dis)Service Center, we werebooked on a flight that was supposed to leave DEN at 9:40 PM MDT. Ofcourse, that flight didn’t leave DEN until 10:40 PM MDT, which meant that wegot home much, much later than we would have liked. When we got to the rental car counter in Boston, we had a very surrealencounter. The Hertz agent informed us that I had reserved a “Class D”rental car, which is a 2-door hardtop Mustang. My reservation, and theconfirmation I received, was for a 4-door Standard size car (on the theorythat I might have to haul people around and it’s easier to do that with abig four door car), a.k.a “Class F.” The Hertz agent insisted that thereservation he had in the computer was for a “Class D.” I asked whatthe price difference was between a “Class D” and a “Class F.” Heinformed me that the “Class F” car was about thirty dollars more expensiveover the course of the week than the “Class D” car. Fine, we’ll takethe Mustang. It wasn’t what I wanted, but I’d make do. So, theagent picks up the phone to call the guys in the lot so that they can bringthe Mustang around front. It’s at this point that he finds out thatthey don’t have any more “Class D” cars to rent, so he’ll give me a “ClassF” car for the same price as the “Class D” would have been. And whatwas the point of arguing with me again?

Why are the stories about the Firestone “airlift” of tires from Asia tothe U.

S. dominating news coverage? The “airlift” story was front pagenews in Denver. I’m not quite sure that a company flying tires to SUVowners qualifies as:1. An airlift; or

  1. Front page news. Apparently, competition in the airline industry is a bad thing. United runs a Silver Wings club for senior citizens that nets seniorsreasonably good prices on flights around the U.

S. Well, in Denver,United suddenly changed the program, adding all sorts of restrictions andsurcharges to the program. Their reasoning: the program wastoo good a deal. The airline wasn’t losing money, nor were alltheir flights full. Rather, their prices were better than all theprices set by all the other airlines who run programs to sell discounttickets to senior citizens. So, United upped the prices and therestrictions to more closely match those of their competition. Allthose who still think that there isn’t collusion among airlines in the U.

S.,please exit, stage left.

There’s a bank in MA that’s offering “Free Checks” as a perk to peoplewho maintain certain checking accounts with them. Oh boy, where do Isign up? Talk about a meaningless perk. For instance, I write nomore than eight checks a month. Over the course of a year, that’s 96checks, and even that is an estimate on the high side. The average boxof checks contains anywhere from 200 to 250 checks and costs about fivedollars. That means, having free checks saves you about two dollarsand fifty cents a year. Consider how difficult and time consuming itis to write checks these days, and also that the number of checks theaverage person writes per year is declining, and suddenly offering people”free checks” sounds really meaningless.

United is touting their “Economy Plus” seating. Basically, this isseating for tall people with no shoulders or chest. United, like mostbrainless airlines (read: all airlines), thinks that the reason we’reuncomfortable on flights is that we don’t have enough leg room. Certainly, that’s one reason, but it’s not the only one. For instance,it’s nice that my knees have “up to five inches more leg room,” but theydidn’t make the seats any wider. So, your knees are comfortable, butyou’re still crammed in to the row horizontally with three other people,eating bad food, and waiting in line for the bathroom. If United couldfix those problems, then we’d have something good to discuss.

We spent a fair amount of time in MA visiting all of our oldhaunts. We ate at Nick’s House of Pizza, Wing Works, Redbones, LobsterHut, and The Barnstable Tavern, among others. What most of theseplaces have in common is that they are fast food joints who all make one ortwo things really well. As such, it seemed that we flew threethousand miles for a wedding, and to eat a series of five dollar sandwiches,calzones, and pizzas. California may have better sit down restaurants,but the East Coast has much better fast food.

We stayed at a bed and breakfast on Cape Cod. Our room was reallywell decorated, clean, and fun. Breakfast, however, was a continuoustrain wreck. The first morning, we got bread pudding. Yuck! I literally gagged on the first mouthful, and even Sarah couldn’t eat morethan a few bites. The next morning we got served some sort ofscrambled eggs, cheese, and crab combination. What ever happened tobacon, eggs, toast, and pancakes? The last B&B at which we stayedserved us some sort of poached eggs covered in some nasty sauce. Itseems that if one is running a B&B these days, that one is engaged in somesort of competition to serve the most “creative” breakfast to theguests. Unfortunately, we, the guests, suffer. Others at thebreakfast table were commenting on how we would rather have had a goodsolid, plain breakfast, instead of the frou-frou pseudo-breakfast that wegot.