Saturday, 30 December 2006

...and how may I avoid serving you today?

I'm not sure I've ever been so rudely treated in a consumer transaction in all my life.

Since my first flight in August 2000, I've become quite the little sky-hopper, having caught rides on Air Canada, Air Canada Jazz, bmi (British Midland), Canada 3000, CanJet, easyJet, jetBlue, and WestJet, from 16 different airports. This past week, I added one new airport (San Francisco), and one new airline (United), and I was thoroughly underwhelmed.

In my previous US flight experiences on jetBlue, order and civility were maintained — even at their incredibly busy national hub at Logan in Boston. I was spoken to with courtesy, and was made to feel that my business was appreciated. I didn't receive any special treatment, just the manners that one expects in an interaction with another human being.

If I had to describe the scene at the United check-in gates at SFO, I might describe it as "bazaar-like". There was one woman, whose role, as far as I could tell, was to serve as some sort of carnival barker, straight out of a biography of P.T. Barnum. Every few minutes she'd walk to the front of this long line of people (next to the sign reading, 'Wait Here for Service'), and yelled (I'm paraphrasing) "*disgustedly* I don't know what you're still doing in line. It's all self check-in - staff are doing no check-ins.

I promptly went to the check-in kiosk and was told to speak to an agent. I asked the carnival barker for instructions, and she instructed me to wait in a quickly forming line for assistance. About fifteen minutes later, I was at the head of the line, and a woman came up to me, identified herself as the service supervisor, and asked me why I was standing there. I told her that a United employee had instructed me to wait there for assistance, and she said, "Well, I'm the supervisor for this area, and that's just simply not the case. You should have stayed at your machine and waited for assistance."

After reminding her that the machine instructed me to seek out assistance and that I was following the instructions of staff, she started telling staff members to stop doing what they were doing, and told me to push my way to service, otherwise I might never be called forward.

On the other hand, the United staff at YVR (Vancouver) and all the in-flight crews have been incredibly friendly and helpful. Nonetheless, if the service I received at San Francisco International Airport is typical of what I should expect, then my currently scheduled itinerary from Seattle to Halifax will be my last on United Airlines.

F––– — Would not recommend!!!!!!!!!!!

Update: My flight home at Christmas, also with United, was bumped three days late due to the Denver blizzards, and my original itinerary through Denver was changed to a, you guessed it, San Francisco routing. Aside from the three days of lateness, though, staff were significantly more helpful :)

Tuesday, 5 December 2006

The San Francisco Treat

Hi, everyone, from sunny San Francisco, where the temperature is in the high teens (high 60s for any Yankee types). The land of the Golden Gate Bridge and Rice-a-Roni is treating me very well indeed. Aside from all the falling down that I'm doing. But, anyway.
This is only a quick note and the announcement of a contest. The only prize is glory, but it might still be fun.

My first night here, I had supper at Mel's Drive-In, and it was... delicious. The shocker was, along with my really excellent hot beef sandwich with mashed potatoes, was an assortment of vegetables. On a lark, I tried one and... I LIKED IT. Cue the end credits music, Maestro. The show is over.

Walter is taking his first tentative steps toward omnivorism!

The contest: what vegetable do I like? Hint: I'm not referring to potatoes!

Glory is at stake. Get guessing, readers!

Tuesday, 24 October 2006

You Look Great in White

[I wrote this October 16, as I was flying back to BC from Ottawa.]

Have I ever told you that white is your colour? I know you're a smartass, and that you're going to say that white is a shade. And you'd be right. So shut up. That's not the game we're playing today. Really, though, you look great in white. I think it's because you're so glum and monotonous most of the time, and white just brightens you right up. It makes me forget that usually the very site of you makes me cry.

At least we're not dating, You. If I had to wait as long for someone was dating as I do for you every time we see each other, I'd have gone insane by now. Fortunately, though, we don't see each other that often. Just a couple times a year. And it's always a matter of convenience.... I'm sorry, but I don't want to lie. You always seem to be on my way to someplace I actually what to be, and I just end up dropping in.

It snowed today in Calgary. Flying in from above, Calgary always looks so grey and non-descript, like their idea of æsthetics was to coat every building and street and piece of land with a inch-thick layer of tar sand from a little further north. Today, it was white, and felt so new and clean.

Since my connection was two hours, I decided I would re-clear security. I went outside and felt the brisk wind in my hair, and let the flurries (it could hardly be called snow) fall on my face, and it was glorious. The first snowfall of the season is always one of my favourite times of the year. In Vancouver, I'll likely not get it for weeks or months, if at all this year.

In Real Time, I'm off to make my connection to Victoria now. This will actually get posted in Victoria thanks to the magic of the Internet. Toodley-doo!

[Ok, that's a lie. Internet service in Victoria was lacking like a rock lacks gentle softness. Or like I lack tact.]

[Ok, that's a lie too. The part about Internet service. Not the part about me being a tactless buffoon. I was just a forgetful buffoon as well, and forgot to post it.]

Saturday, 14 October 2006

On the Access Conference and Life in the Westin

For those of you who may not have known, I've been in Ottawa since this Wednesday morning for the Access conference, an annual, Canadian-organized but cosmpolitan gathering of library technology wonks and their friends and well-wishers. As always, the organizers put on a great program. This was my third Access conference, a trend which I hope to continue. So far, I have attended these three conferences as the employee of three different employers, the South Shore Regional Library (Halifax), Okanagan College (Edmonton), and the BC Public Library Services Branch (this year in Ottawa), thanks to assistance from the British Columbia Library Association. This is a trend which I hope not to continue.

Next year's conference is taking place in Victoria, a scant hour from where I live, and a scant(er?) thirty seconds from where my job is officially supposed to be located. This probably means that I will be involved in organizing it somehow. As Cameron Metcalfe said today, when comparing organizing Access to being married, "not a vow you should expect me to renew".

Anyway, last night I went for supper at McDonald's across the street from the Westin. Being the conference venue, that was where I stayed. Now let me tell you, the Westin is divine. The beds had to be made of clouds. And the pillows, bundles of gentle kisses wrapped in the purest silk.


No? Was that imagery too terrifyingly creepy for you?

Anyway, four of these Bless'd Pillows resting atop a spring-loaded box of Providence. So you get the picture. Woot. :-D

Now where was I? McDonald's. Right. So, McDonald's is across the street on rue Wellington, and I decided I wanted to look at other places first. Possibly because of the filthy zoo inside, and the teenaged couple outside screaming at each other. Overheard: "Don't you get that you hurt me when you keep getting f**ked up like that?"

I walked a little way down the street. Someone asked me for a quarter, and I saw a drug deal go down right in front of me, so I decided to turn around, and that McDonald's wouldn't be the worst choice I could make that day.

The ultimate point was, it got me thinking. Sitting on my Bless'd Pillows, covered in the Duvet Sacré that my money belongs in better places. That having been said, I refuse on principle to give money to panhandlers, because I'm afraid it might be feeding a drug habit. The exception to this rule is when I feel physically threatened, and will do it to get out to "safety".

Is this principle, though, or greed? Does it only become principle when I start tithing to charity and trying to make a difference in other ways? Am I a bad person for crossing the street and making my trip longer when I see a panhandler, just so I can avoid having to say no, and feeling guilty? Is my guilt justified? Do I ask too many pointless questions, without offering concrete (if poorly-conceived solutions)? Et cetera.

Oh, and I'm writing this from atop a concrete fence structure outside the National Gallery, overlooking the Peace Tower. Swag. No open wireless in this part of town though. Still friggin' swag.

I'm back.

(Addendum: Wedding bells are ringing. Not mine, though! Nosiree! But there's a huge church right across from the National Gallery. All of a sudden, the bells started ringing, and this huge wedding party just come out and formed immediately into this picture-shaped group, like they'd been praciticing it for months. Remarkable.)

Friday, 28 April 2006


Hi everybody from an Internet café in sunny (yes! sunny!) Oban, Scotland.

Yesterday, I had the opportunity of a lifetime to visit Mull and the Isle of Iona, permanent home of the Iona Community. It was a moving and spiritually profound place, and I hope I'll be able to return someday. Pictures will be uploaded when I can get free or reasonably-priced Internet access at my hotel.

I love it here, and I'm sure I'll return someday.

Talk to you all soon.

Tuesday, 11 April 2006

Wednesday, 5 April 2006

Information Overload!

I think this great research paper on The Cure for Information Overload is well worth everyone's serious attention.

If you find yourself with a couple free seconds, it's worth taking a look at.

I'll be trying to post something a bit more substantial this weekend.