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Just Expect To Be Left Utterly Enraged

Flickr photoMy cozy bed between Her­man Miller chairs at Dulles.

News flash: Air trav­el real­ly sucks right now (Wash­ing­ton Post). A cou­ple of weeks ago, I too was touched by this nation­al night­mare. On a Fri­day evening, I planned to fly from Dulles to SFO, but got slapped with an SSSS on my board­ing pass (expired driver's license) and a long secu­ri­ty line and fig­ured I would miss my flight. Good thing it was delayed. For three hours, ini­tial­ly. The gate agents report­ed that there was bad weath­er in New York, and this seemed rea­son­able to me because there were lots of peo­ple at the oth­er gates who appeared to be pissed off and tired. Also, the storm was all over the hun­dreds of TVs that blast CNN at you. I got com­fort­able and watched an excel­lent movie (Kurosawa's The Bad Sleep Well) on my com­put­er, ful­ly believ­ing what the gate agents were say­ing: The flight would not be can­celed. They empha­sized this: It would not be canceled.

After two more delays, at 2:30am, the gate agents deliv­ered the obvi­ous: The flight would be can­celed. With­in mil­lisec­onds, an entire plane-load of peo­ple freaked out, fumed, growled, shout­ed insults and then scram­bled to get re-booked. Lines at the desks: 45 min­utes. Hold time on the phone: 45 min­utes. Like­li­hood of get­ting out of DC in the next 24 hours: Zero. Com­pen­sa­tion for our trou­ble: Zero. Our flight appeared to be the only suck­ers left at Dulles, but of course the air­line blamed the can­cel­la­tion on acts of God and air traf­fic con­trol and, on those grounds, they refused to give us even a vouch­er for a soda. (A recent Wash­ing­ton Post arti­cle exam­ines tra­di­tion­al air­line excus­es). But wait, there's good news: The cur­rent issue of Pop­u­lar Mechan­ics has an arti­cle about the FAA's work on a GPS-based air traf­fic con­trol sys­tem, which will be up and run­ning by … 2025. Ugh.

I won't name the air­line (because I am a gen­tle­man), but I encour­age you to look for clues in the title of this post. (Specif­i­cal­ly in the first let­ter of each word. Thx, Khoi Vinh for the inspiration.)