Tuesday, June 01, 2010

When The Radical Hits The Road: Dispatches From The Midwest

Big Regional Airport is ever so mildly fogged in. But it is very, very full of post-Memorial Day travelers as I embark on a journey to the Buckeye State for the annual conference of the Policy History Association, where I am to appear on a panel organized in honor of the fabulous Jane DeHart. Yesterday I was cursing myself for having booked a seven a.m. flight since Defending Our Freedoms mandates a 4:30 wake-up time. Never mind the 4 A.M. "courtesy call" from Orbitz telling me that my flight has been delayed twenty-two minutes.

Thank you for that courtesy. I always forget that Orbitz is going to do me the favor of warning me about things that I can't act on in any way, something that this has particularly bad consequences for early flights. As anyone who uses online travel services know, a delay short of having one's flight cancelled completely is followed by a cheerful reminder that the check-in time is still the same. In other words, your plans have not changed, except that you will have an extra half hour to lie awake and obsess about the possibility of missing your Detroit connection. Orbitz also calls three hours ahead of time to tell you that you have nothing to worry about and your flight is on time. These little courtesies shave off just enough sleep that I have to endure the rest of the day feeling slightly stupid and sedated (in fact, I am sedated, since ensuring that I go to sleep promptly the night before requires a Mother's Little Helper.) There isn't enough coffee in the world to replace that lost half hour of sleep when you are in your fifties: in fact, coffee produces stupid + buzzed, an un-pretty combination that causes involuntary teeth-grinding, and Mindless Blogging Syndrome (MBS).

Other people waiting at Gate A11 are clearly affected as I am by this phenomenon of corporate courtesy: we are a passive and slightly out-of-it group this morning, nodding happily any time a TSA or airline official asks something of us. Strip to your underwear? Sure! At Big Regional they have taken to announcing things left behind at the security checkpoint, an interesting set of items that cause the historian's befuddled mind to imagine the various stories that will result from these losses: a laptop computer, a green hat, a Zip-Lock bag of toiletries and -- my favorite -- a key to a BMW! These things are announced over and over, the owners summoned back to the checkpoint to reclaim their lost items. The idea of arriving home at Big Regional, or worse, at a destination elsewhere in the United States where there will be no hope of knowing where the car key was dropped, and being unable to actually get home, fills me with sympathy for the unlucky (but wealthy) traveler.

In any case, I am likely to get out before the thunderstorms hit (which is why, of course, I book the first flight of the day in the summer months despite the courtesies showered on me by Orbitz.) After an overnight stay and a little work with my collaborator in a lovely college town near Cleveland, I will begin blogging the Policy History Association meeting from Columbus, OH on Thursday.

Stay tuned.


Susan said...

Wow! and then will you blog the little berks?

Notorious Ph.D. said...

I was in the Buckeye State just a month ago, driving from top to bottom, and from bottom to center, listening to just that song (and two others by the always-fabulous Ms. Hynde). And I noted that in most mid-sized cities, there are indeed a lot of empty downtowns full of abandoned buildings. Heaven for me and my camera, but heartbreaking at the same time.

My favorite useless Orbitz intervention is when they robo-call your cell phone to tell you your connecting flight status while you're still on the other flight. Sure, the robot calling me doesn't know this, but it always strikes me as funny when I listen to the exhortations that are about an hour too late for me to do anything about them if I needed to.

Shane said...

Looking forward to seeing you there!

Anyone who's on Twitter and at the meeting: I've suggested #polhist10 as the conference hashtag. At the previous meeting (2008), there was wifi in the book-exhibit/lounge; with any luck that'll also be the case this year.

Doctor Cleveland said...

Last weekend I forgot the Orbitz "courtesies" while traveling with my partner, who was also awakened at 3:45 am. Was I a better partner before Orbitz? Or just a schmuck in lower-tech ways?