Techies (TEC)

Since the first commercial flight in 1914, airlines have been working feverishly to improve all areas of the flight experience including the reduction of turbulence, passenger comfort (which has regressed in the last few decades) and, of course, in-flight entertainment. in flight movieIn the early years, passengers were entertained mostly through reading, lavish meals, liquor and even reeled movies that airlines start showing as early as 1921. It wasn’t until the mid-90s that many airlines installed seat-back screens for longer flights as a way to keep passengers occupied. For the shorter hops, passengers have pretty much been responsible for their own amusement which continues even today.

Luckily for fliers, technology has been supplying us with an almost endless array of options in order to keep us distracted both before and during a flight. The first portable Walkman (believe it or not, was introduced by Sony in 1979) gave passengers their choice of their own music without having to rely on the channels broadcast by the airlines. From there we moved to CD players, handheld game consoles (a Gameboy accompanied me on my first flight), portable DVD players, laptop computers and eventually the phone/tablet based devices we know today. Cuddling with multiple devicesThere are those who carry a device or two but can easily walk away from them for a good book or a friendly conversation. Others, however, are wired in. So reliant on their technological devices that every glance down at their phone or firing up of a new app is like getting a junky’s fix where they are always reaching for that first taste. These individuals are part human, part robot, roaming around the concourse surrounded by an invisible shield of Bluetooth and wireless wavelengths and wrapped in a blanket of copper wire. These are not your normal, everyday passengers; these we simply refer to as…the Techies (TEC).

Unlike some of the groups I have wrote about in the past, Techies are quite easy to spot. They can usually be found surrounded by a self-constructed fort of laptops, smart phones, tablets, iPods (if that’s still a thing) and a sea of chargers, Bluetooth devices, speakers and other accessories. These flyers come to the airport equipped with the latest and greatest devices which enhance productivity, make the time pass quicker and limit the need for any sort of human interaction. You can usually spot them sitting on the floor huddled around outlets, making sure that every device is at optimal level before boarding. christmas vacation outletThe new outlet hubs which many updated terminals now employ brings forth a whole new level of power for the Techies as they now can charge all of their devices simultaneously and do so from the comfort of the gate seating area. This revolution also highlights one their best superpowers which is the ability to ignore the deep rage burning from the other passengers who just want to get a few minutes of juice so that they can listen to a podcast or text onboard even after it’s no longer safe to do so. The Techies can move past the eyes burning holes into the backs of their heads or the passive aggressive comments from those around them. It’s all about the electricity for the Techies…the lifeblood of their obsession.

The electrical sexcapade doesn’t end in the terminal; it continues for the duration of the flight, from the boarding process all the way to baggage claim. headphonesTechies are usually sporting large, Mickey Mouse looking headphones that are designed to keep out any distraction including in-flight instructions or crew requests. If you’re ever seated next to one them, be prepared to assist the flight attendant with a quick elbow during the beverage service. They’ve also been known to mentally miss a flight altogether as they are so engulfed in the matrix that the plane can take off and land and they never knew we ever left the ground. I’ve experienced this phenomenon personally yet not at the hands of my devices. It’s usually a few glasses of wine and a pharmaceutical that does the trick!

One good thing about the Techies is they usually keep to themselves. With the exception of the panic attack that can happen when a crucial piece of wiring goes missing, this group is one of the more pleasant to be around. The-Bing-Bang-TheoryThey can go unusually large amounts of time without needing to hit the lavatory which makes them the perfect seat mates. This of course is probably due to hours of Call of Duty or World of Warcraft in their parents’ basement which is great training ground in this domain. They’re also a helpful bunch. In our new, smartphone based world, there’s an app for everything and the Techies know them by heart. Want to find a highly rated restaurant for your layover…there’s an app for that. Need the fasted route from one gate to the next…there’s an app for that. Interested in writing a poorly written blog about the people you see in airports…yep, there’s an app for that too! Anything you need is just a download away and the Techies are a dictionary of information when it comes to this part of the travel experience.

The Techies actually represent the new normal of airport life. everyone phonesTechnology has allowed for individualism to take hold in just about every public setting that still exists. Look around the terminal and you will see it slowing taking hold of everyone in sight. Kids, parents, business people, flight crews, even the elderly, all have their necks bent downward, engulfed in their own little pixelated biosphere while the world goes on around them. Although the Techies will always be the first to have the newest technological terror to hit the market, the rest of the population will continue playing catch-up and follow suit as new innovations take us to places we never thought possible.

So play, watch, listen, work and create on my Techie friends. We’ll be right behind you…every electronic step of the way!

-DPW

Like my judgmental and pessimistic view of the airport world, then follow me on FacebookTwitterInstagram or Tumbler. You never know, you may be next!

Planes, Trains and Ride Sharing Apps: NYC Never Disappoints

After a couple of years and hundreds of rides, I finally decided to update my status in the 20th century and downloaded the Lyft app. I’m really not sure why this hasn’t happened yet, but for some reason I’ve had an artificial loyalty to Uber. Free marketDon’t get me wrong, I still like Uber and have enjoyed many great rides. But when a normally $17 ride to the airport pushes $40, it’s time to start thinking competition. Add in an extremely crowded parking shuttle to the mix and, BAM, I’m off to let free market capitalism work in my favor.

Being a frequent flier I often forget how new this experience is for many people. However, I never thought the day would come when I would actually see someone who didn’t understand that for a roller board suitcase to work properly, you must first have it facing wheels down. doing it wrongI watched a woman drag her upside down suitcase through the IND terminal seemingly without a clue that she was doing something wrong. On this particular morning, it was too early to stop and explain to her the friction reducing qualities of wheel technology so I just let her be and hope that her destination doesn’t include a carpeted concourse. I do owe her a bit of gratitude. If people didn’t continue to do stupid shit all the time in the airports, what would I have to write about and why would this site exist in the first place.

I had an uneventful flight with the exception of the party going on in my head for the empty row and the fact that I was heading to one of my favorite places on the planet: Good ole’ New York City! Ever since my first trip here when I was 16 years old, I’ve always had a love affair with New York. The noise, the people, random street fights (that I actually witnessed), people parking illegally to grab a slice of pizza and not even having the courtesy to move before chowing down…it’s a pleasure!

Maybe it’s because of my small town upbringing but the anonymity associated with NYC is one of my favorite characteristics of this city. I can only imagine this may be a factor on why so many famous people have come from here because it’s one place where you can be whatever you want and no one cares. self-consciousness_0Are you a singer? Then belt our your highest chords while walking down the sidewalk…no one cares. Are you an artist? Then set up shop on some street corner and give it a go…no one cares. Are you an entrepreneur, performer, social media sensation or just someone who wants to be left the hell alone? You guessed it…no one cares. This may sound illogical seeing that the common held belief is that we are supposed to be pushed in order to fulfill our dreams but that’s just one piece of the puzzle. I think the first step is to lose any self-consciousness towards whatever you are interested in and use that to your advantage. Always being worried about what other people are thinking is a debilitating disease when it comes to inspiration and I’ve never witnessed that in New York. Good work New Yorkers! Your blatant disregard for what others are doing is actually causing a great deal of positive momentum in the world. What a town!

Speaking of abilities, I saw the Broadway show Bandstand while I was in town. This show was choreographically different than any other show I’ve experienced but still amazing. The movement never stopped which was interesting given that the setting was based on the days immediately following WWII. SnapseedThe amount of talent displayed by Broadway actors goes beyond my imagination every time I’m in the audience. Singing, dancing, acting and even the playing of musical instruments were all on display throughout this show. I can’t imagine the amount of work it takes to make it to the level but my hats off to those who do it. Even if you never make it to NYC, I recommend for everyone to try and catch a Broadway show somewhere (even community theater). It’s a great experience and will change the way you look at what it means to be in show business.

If you’ve read my site before, you probably know that I completely nerd out when it comes to public transit. However, I do need to clarify…I like trains. I don’t care how many there are, you won’t catch me dead on bus. I took a Megabus once to Chicago and after a snowstorm, a bat-shit crazy driver and nonexistent Wi-Fi, I decided cut that out forever. subwayWhen I’m in NYC I take the trains everywhere. It’s not just the convenience I enjoy; I like everything. I especially enjoy the moments when you’re barreling down the track and the squeaks and squeals are noticeably in the background but all of a sudden, they stop, and the silence left behind makes me feel like but I we are floating above the track. I’ve noticed this on many different occasions and each time and brought forth a momentary sense of relaxation amongst the chaos of the city. It’s the little things that make travel interesting and keeps the wander lusters of the world coming back again and again.

The whole trip wasn’t exactly peaches and cream. I did make several mistakes which almost bit me in the ass. One, I relied on public transit which made me extremely late for a meeting (BTW…I’m never late). Yes, I know…I just had a literary orgasm over the subway system in the last paragraph but it still has its faults. Things happen which cause delays and I failed to plan accordingly. Luckily I wasn’t too late so it worked out in the end. funny-tourist31Another issue is I booked a hotel way to close to Times Square. On your first trip to NYC, go for it…Times Square all the way. On your 2nd and beyond, stay as far away as possible. Of course, I was being budget conscious so that was my reasoning for choosing this location but it does add an extra layer of annoyance having to wade through the tourist who are either looking up at the buildings or down at their phones while they walk. This immediately turns me into the loud sighing, fast walking, pushy asshole, but you have to do it or get caught up in the swarm. At least there are several subway stations nearby so escape is easy to achieve.

The rest of the trip included lunch at the Yale Club, people watching at Washington Square Park (who saw that coming!), a tour of the new Cornell Tech campus on Roosevelt Island and some time in Brooklyn. One thing I’ve come to realize is that I have not spent enough time in Brooklyn and will remedy that on future trips. It’s a quieter, more eclectic part of New York that still gives you a glimpse into why the city is still the cultural hub of the U.S. What a great place and I’m looking forward to visiting again.

LaGuardia didn’t disappoint. Here are some quotes from an actual conversation I overheard while waiting on my flight: “I like talking to you because you are talking coherently and I am talking coherently. weep for futureI’m usually drunk or you are asleep…or you are wasted and I’m am too. You would tell me if I’m drinking too much right?” These obvious overachievers also made reference to digital dope (which is apparently better than analog dope), the thought that going to a bar and sitting next to “some old guy” will eventually land one of them a high paying job, what actually makes up the definition of “hater” and an unusual amount of times saying the words Dim Sum. As entertaining as it was, I’m pretty sure I’m dumber now than I was before choosing my unfortunate place to sit.

The trip ended with my first, first class upgrade! How many thousands of miles and hundreds of flights did it take for this to finally happen but it did. It wasn’t random and upgradeI’m a true believer of creating your own luck so I basically approached the gate agents and asked. After telling them I was $200 away from Gold Status, and them learning I had never been upgraded, they took pity on me and gave me a seat. Dress nice and act naive; it hasn’t failed me yet! It was only an hour and forty-minute flight but I still enjoyed the free wine, having everyone file by me one-by-one and being one of those guys I wrote about a few month’s back (see First Classers). It closed this chapter on a very high note and makes me look forward to my next adventure. Onward and upward!

-DPW

Snapseed

Like my judgmental and pessimistic view of the airport world, then follow me on FacebookTwitterInstagram or Tumbler. You never know, you may be next!

Hiking in Philly and Questionable Food in Maryland: What Could Go Wrong?

Routine becomes a big part of every frequent traveler’s life. It not only helps us be more efficient in regards to our excursions, it brings forth a sense of comfort that that is sometimes absent when constantly leaving your home again and again. Mine is usually the same. Pack the day before; wake up early; eat a larger breakfast than normal to avoid airport food (at least at the beginning); and always take an Uber to the airport (yes, Lyft is just as good; I just haven’t jumped on that train yet). This trip started no different than normal but had just enough variation where I became annoyed, intrigued and curious all at the same time. That always makes for a good story…at least in my own head.

The last part of my routine is always the wild card and can either be pleasant or unpleasant depending on lots of circumstances. smoke in carI have a personal policy in regards to rating (and now tipping) of Uber drivers that I consistently use across the board. Smokers never get tipped and I usually deduct one star per ride for the inconvenience of the nasty smell I have to endure. No matter how much they try, there is no amount of air freshener that can mask the scent of stale cigarettes in the fabric of a car which of course always transfers onto my clothes. Now that Uber has caved and has tipping as a part of the post-ride experience, I’ve become more stringent on my policy: If my ride sends me to the dry cleaner, you’re not getting anything extra…period. If you haven’t figured it out yet, my ride on this particular morning was a smoker who had a thing against air conditioning. A few requests and several sighs later, we finally made it to the airport, both happy for me to get the hell out of the car.

Once you’ve logged enough flights, you cringe at the idea of having to check a bag. Unfortunately for a five-day trip that included transporting some work materials, I didn’t have a choice in the matter. bag claimEvery part of bag checking is terrible from the check-in procedure all the way to the hell that is baggage claim. Speaking of hell, I think that if everyone ends of having their own personal place of damnation, mine would probably include waiting at the bag check line for one of the lanes to open up. The little demons would constantly be walking away, making other damned souls reduce their baggage weight or spend hours answering ridiculous questions like, “no, you can’t retroactively apply all your past flights to the miles program you just enrolled in” (a conversation that happened as I was waiting…seriously). Luckily, the terminal wasn’t too busy so I made it through without blowing a gasket or getting a sneak peek at the final resting place of my soul. Call me dramatic but many frequent fliers would agree that they would rather be force fed airline hummus until they vomit than have to send even one bag through that process.

Although, my routine had been shattered at this point, I moved on and made it to Philadelphia unscathed. I even scored an empty row during the flight which let me relax on the way in while also saving another passenger from inhaling from the smoke invested blazer I was still supporting. phillyI’ve always liked Philly. For my first job out of college, I traveled often and was assigned to the Northeast. Philadelphia was one of the first major cities I encountered during that time which left a great impression that stays even today. It’s an interesting city that incorporates a combination of history, modern luxury, many different transportation options and, of course, a large population, many of which walk around looking like they want to hurt me. After being there long enough, you get used to the East coast attitude and stop taking it personal. Philadelphians have dealt with a lot of shit over the years, so a little bluntness in their communication style should not be unexpected. The fun part is when you give it back to them. Just as a tip, do it with confidence…otherwise, you’re fucked!

One thing I like about East coast cities is Diner Culture. Maybe it gives me some nostalgia for the post-war era which I never lived or, being a huge fan of Seinfeld, makes me feel like one of the fantastic four hanging out at Monk’s Coffee Shop every day. Either way, I had two clients want to meet at diners throughout the city which were both parts charming and disgusting at the same time. IMG_2755They are all pretty much the same. Worn out vinyl booths surrounded by outdated décor, juke boxes and a greasy smell that will remain, even if the building is someday torn down. The waitresses look exhausted, wearing the same outfits from the 50s and doing their best not to stab the asshole who keeps sending back his home fries because they’re not crispy enough with a fork (not me by the way). Their monotone voices, expressionless faces and lack of interest in anything other than their next smoke break makes me believe that no amount of tipping is going to make up for a lifetime of bad decisions. Regardless of outward appearances, they’re to-the-point, efficient and are obsessed with refilling your coffee mug. My last sentences may have sounded like complaining, but truth be told, I feel at home within the diners and always enjoy trying out a new one when I’m in town.

I had an afternoon off so I decided to go a little historical by visiting Valley Forge located several miles north of Philly near King of Prussia. ValleyForgeWashingtonWithTroopsValley Forge was the winter military camp for the still new American Army under the leadership of General George Washington. From what I learned, the Army spent a miserable six months at Valley Forge during the winter of 1777-1778 while the British lived like Roman senators 18 miles south in Philadelphia. Valley Forge is now a National Park dedicated to preserving the sanctity of this area which was considered to be a psychological turning point for the American rebels. Although if you plan on visiting anytime soon…prepare to be disappointed.

The visitor’s center and theater area are impressive and the grounds are well maintained but that’s about where it ends. At least during this visit, most of the main roads which take you between points of interest were closed off for construction and only accessible for the official tour bus that cost $17 per person (nothing like topping off those tax subsidies). My main goal was hiking some of the park which I also found to be a challenge. According to the park map, several trails can be accessed through the parking lot west of the visitor’s center. I guess you need to be a fucking revolutionary scout yourself to find the trailheads because I sure as hell couldn’t figure it out.

I decided to take the paved, Plumb trail up to Washington’s Chapel only to discover that the chapel itself had nothing to do with the continental army. Washington had probably been six feet under decades before that thing came to be. It was old and pretty but I felt a little cheated. IMG_2764I made my way back on the Chapel Trail because the description mentioned “steep sections with great views of the Schuylkill River.” The only thing I saw were downed trees, gnats and an old railroad line that looked like the place where Wil Wheaton and the gang found little Ray Brower’s body in Stand By Me. It emptied back closer to the visitor’s center but not without first making me walk by three identical, boarded up houses which I’m pretty have been (and will be) the scene of a gruesome murder. Let’s just say that my sense of Patriotism wasn’t elevated after this trip so the next time I’ll just go to the casino instead.

The second half of my trip took me out of Pennsylvania and on to College Park, Maryland; home of the University of Maryland and the mighty Terrapins. It may just be me, but trying to invoke some sort of fear into your opponents by way of a turtle is quite silly, but I guess they’ve made it work. The university is very nice with matching brick buildings and the stadium situated right in the middle campus between the alumni center and the residence halls.

I was attended a conference on campus which is not uncommon in my line of work. This gives me the chance to compare and contrast the facilities staff at many different institutions. Without going into too much detail, let’s just say I hope the University of Maryland doesn’t pride itself on its hospitality. rude waiterDuring the program portion of our pre-dinner reception, the bar tenders decided it would be a good time to take turns working on their aim while throwing empty bottles of wine and liquor into the recycle bin. Nothing turns a celebratory atmosphere to shit quicker than the sound of broken glass echoing throughout a very narrow room. The dinner staff wasn’t much better and thought the invocation was a great opportunity to bring out 300 dinner plates and not so quietly stack them and their metal tops against the walls. I won’t even get into the quality of the food but if you’re currently a tuition paying student at UM, get a refund or a box of Imodium…both you’re going to need sooner than later.

My trip home was routed through Reagan (DCA) instead of Baltimore (BWI) because, one, I hate Southwest which is the only direction option to my home base (IND) and two, I get to ride the DC metro to the airport, a thing me and only a few others in the world actually enjoy. DCA was pretty busy for a Sunday afternoon but tolerable in the C terminal. I did watch a guy pull the “excuse me” pitch while walking right by everyone in the pre-check line for no other reason than (as I can imagine) he was just an asshat. Bravo to him for acting-as-if and getting away with but some guy in security did stop him before hitting the X-ray machine. Some people were just born without a conscience I guess. I flew home in another empty row so I have to say that, all and all, this was another successful trip and definitely not my last. Thank you East Coasters…until we meet again!

Snapseed

Like my judgmental and pessimistic view of the airport world, then follow me on FacebookTwitterInstagram or Tumbler. You never know, you may be next!