Saturday, May 24, 2008

Farewell to the Mini-van

When I divorced my husband in 2000, I had a four-year old son and ten-year old daughter who had four best friends. The girls traveled in a pack and often went to a youth group meeting on Friday nights. My car was not in good shape and after putting several thousand dollars of repair into it, I decided it was time to go car shopping. Somehow, I ended up with this very sad car salesman. This man had a black cloud over his head - felt like crying whenever I left an appointment with him. His wife had died, his furnace stopped working ... one bad thing after another. He called me to tell me that he had a minivan he wanted me to look at - preowned, in good mechanical shape, just came into the lot. It was a good price and I ended up buying it. When I went back for its first service check, he no longer worked there. With his run of bad luck, he had probably been fired.

The minivan hauled lots of kids around. The five best friends managed to stay together until middle school and then gradually the numbers dropped until there was only one best friend who also was lost in high school. But there were church youth group trips to chauffeur and my son's friends.

And, then there is the carpool. We've grown to two cars now, but in my group, there are five of us who share driving to the Philadelphia office. Sometimes, when people are out on business travel, we combine the two cars into one and being able to have seven in the van is a good thing. Although, I have to admit, my van is not built to hold four men over 6'4" as well as three regular-sized people. On those days if I'm the driver, I generally squeeze into the third row and let one of the men drive my van.

I prefer to drive my car instead of the van and on the days in our carpool when there are only four of us, I drive the car instead. It is also a smaller car and squeezing five in it would be uncomfortable.

The van, however, needs repairs to pass inspection. So I am bidding it farewell. Am trying to donate it to charity - filled out the form a few minutes ago - honestly stating what repairs it needs. Hopefully they will accept it. If not, I guess I explore the junkyards.

Question is now, do I buy another car? The carpool and I will talk about it the next time we are all on board. We've been trying to get our work to buy us a van. They could cover it with advertising to promote our company's consumer products - thousands of people would see it every day on the turnpike. So far, the company has been considering it on and off, but has not been very forthcoming about doing it. They question whether they would be setting a precedent. Our argument is that this is the type of precedent you want to set - we say we are a green company who cares about the environment - why wouldn't you encourage car-pooling?

Friday, May 09, 2008

You Must Take Your Seats, We're Landing!!!!

I was in Orlando, FL, last week for a conference. Taking a flight to and from Orlando is hardly ever a fun trip. Planes to that airport are generally filled with children. Children who are excited about going to see Mickey. Children who have never flown before or babies that cry throughout the flight. Flights coming home are filled with tired children and families who have brought back way too many souviners and parents who are exhausted.

I changed my seat when I printed out my boarding pass for the trip down. I changed to the exit row as it appeared to be an empty row. And, it was until a man came up while we were boarding and decided to sit there until someone else came along. This plane had an extra row of legroom at the exit row so I know why he chose to sit there. I didn't really mind, but I am hoping the flight attendants didn't think I was with him. During the flight, he ate a bag of those individually wrapped miniature candy bars. As he unwrapped each piece, he dropped the wrapper on the floor and eventually the bag followed suit. The flight attendant asked him 2 or 3 times if he had any trash he wanted to throw away, like his newspaper, and he refused. He never read it again but he left it on the seat beside him as well as a trail of candy wrappers when he left the plane.

The center lavatory was near my seat and it saw pretty constant use. I fly at least 5-6 times a year, some years more, and I have never seen the bathroom events I saw on this trip. Apparently very few of the people on this plane knew that when you went into the bathroom and locked the door, the light above the door turned red. Many people tried to push open the locked door and were confused as to why they couldn't get the door open.

And, at least five people didn't know you were supposed to lock the door. One mother took her child to the bathroom and didn't have her lock the door. The mother stood guard outside the door, until I guess, she got bored and she went about four seats up and started looking thru the overhead compartment. When a man brushed past her to go down the aisle, she suddenly realized he might be going to use the bathroom. She goes tearing down the aisle after him trying to reach the door first, reaching over his shoulder to try and keep the door from being opened.

At one point in the flight, there were probably ten people lined up by the bathroom area (in my exit row). One guy, I thought, must have been drunk as he seemed rather unsteady on his feet. We hit turbulence around then and I thought he might land in my lap. As he turned around again, I realized he had a prosthetic leg which may have accounted for his unsteadiness. Although I later learned he was having an active, loud conversation with a woman two rows ahead of him and he was drunk. (I had a friend who was sitting near him on the plane.) At a later point in time, he returned for a second visit to the bathroom and also did not lock the door. A young boy came down the aisle and opened the bathroom door on him, looked inside for a while, and then shut the door. I only hope he had his back to the door.

We then approached Orlando and began our landing descent. While we were coming down, a woman and her child got up and went to the bathroom. Again, the mother did not lock the door and kept it partially open. Her child is in the bathroom. The flight attendent starts yelling over the intercom, "You must take your seats. We are landing!" The mother tells the child to hurry up and go. The flight attendant again, says, "You need to take your seats!" Finally, before we touched down on the runway, the mother and child returned to their seats. We were not that far off the ground - I was wondering if the pilot would abort the landing because they were not in their seats.

While taxing to the gate, again, a child got up and went to the bathroom. Again, the flight attendant told him to return to his seat. Again, he ignored her.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Can't Get No Recognition

I saw Eric Clapton last Tuesday at a private corporate concert. It was an awesome show that got better as the night went on. He played for two hours without hardly any break between songs - the band transitioned from one song to another seamlessly.

Chris Stainton on the keyboards was exceptional and the band provided him many solo opportunities, as they did Doyle Bramhall II on guitar. He didn't play many of his classics until the end. The crowd was so involved when he played the song "Cocaine" - Clapton actually laughed at the first refrain of Cocaine as the audience just screamed along with him.

I was only disappointed in that they gave no attention to Pino Palladino - I don't think he even introduced him, although he introduced the other band members as they did solos. I had heard Pino was playing with Clapton but I wasn't even sure he was on stage until about 3/4s of the way thru the concert. From where I was sitting I couldn't see him, and they didn't show him on the video screens until a brief shot appeared after the midpoint of the concert. Clapton and Doyle did some acoustic songs about mid-way thru the show sitting down on stage together. They really seemed to enjoy themselves during the show. The entire band did - they seemed to have a great time playing together. Although, they only did a 1-song encore even though the audience was screaming for more.

My only other disappointment with the show was that I had a reserved seat up close to the stage but due to some communication issues, I didn't find out about it until the next day. So a great seat went empty and I didn't like where I ended up sitting. But I could hear just fine, so I guess all was well!