Thursday, June 07, 2007

Well, I Talk About It, Talk About it, Talk About Movin'

I am currently in Midwestern Funky Town searching for a place to live and doing an unending amount of paperwork for my new job. If I started work at the Justice Department, there would be fewer forms to fill out. Heck, given the way Alberto Gonzales runs the place, I wouldn’t even need to show that I had a law degree.

So far, I am surprised by the swiftness of Midwestern Funky Town’s tight rental market. Granted, it’s not the out-and-out blood sport that the Boston rental market is, but things don’t seem to last much longer than a few days on Craigslist.

I didn’t help myself much by leaving my checkbook sitting in Boston, either. Alas, I might need to return again. I am not really that picky. I simply want to live indoors.

Regardless, time in Midwestern Funky Town also gives me an opportunity to get a better sense of my soon-to-be locale. I get the feeling that it’s a bit like Cambridge, MA (which is good), only without the rest of Boston surrounding it.

It’s amazing how rapidly I reoriented my sense of distance in this new environment. In Boston, riding the T for fifteen minutes would be construed as a fairly good commute. Even in my short time in Midwestern Funky Town, though, I am now considering a ten minute drive (alas, no rapid transit in Midwestern Funky Town) to my new job as “just too far.”

Something else caught my attention this trip as well. Traveling so closely behind my jaunt to New York reminds me again about the major airlines’ corruption and greed. No, I am not going to go on and on about the stupidity of the liquid limits and one-quart zipper top bag (Which I still think is dumb and doesn't help with safety even a little bit). Instead, I am going to go on and on about airline corruption.

Traveling to New York, I took JetBlue. It was my virgin experience with JetBlue. As we departed Logan, they whispered softly in my ear, “Years from now when you talk about this - and you will - be kind.”

Kind, I am! JetBlue reveals the emptiness of other airlines’ claims that they have to cut basic comfort in order to be profitable. JetBlue also contrasts sharply from other “bargain” airlines like Southwest, which clearly conceive of their passengers as cattle. For the short forty minute flight between Boston and New York, JetBlue managed to serve sodas and a bag of chips (Yes, JetBlue is literally all that and a bag of chips).

Meanwhile, for my trip here, Northwest Airlines showed that the allegedly full-service airlines are anything but full-service. Maybe I was just more sensitive because I didn’t have my usual pre-flight cocktails, knowing that I was going to be driving in Midwestern Funky Town. Still, the seats were so tightly squeezed together that my snack-table almost literally touched my chest when the person in front of me reclined her seat.

Of course, there was little reason to even lower the snack table given that Northwest has the audacity (AUDACITY, I say) to charge five bucks for a bag of M&M’s on board. I haven’t seen that type of price gouging for candy since I was forced pimped-out volunteered to sell sugary snacks as a fund-raising tactic for my High School Student Government.

At this rate, it’s only a matter of time before the emergency oxygen masks become coin-operated. “Damn,” I will say as the plane hurdles towards the ground, “I knew I shouldn’t have spent all those quarters on laundry.”

Things aren’t going much better in Business/First Class, either. Before this year, I flew often enough that I earned “elite” status in a frequent flyer program. As part of that status, I was periodically upgraded to Business/First class. Over time, the only advantage to being in the first class cabin became the extra space and a semi-private lavatory. Yet, JetBlue’s all-economy seats were almost as comfortable as many of the first-class seats.

Instead of charging outrageous prices for snack items, I think that the major airlines should be more creative in collecting revenue. For instance, I would be willing to pay $10-$20 more per ticket if the airline could guarantee that nobody under the age of 18 was on-board. I have always been confused about why children don’t ride in the cargo hold anyway. Hey, don’t get bent out shape. I am not a monster – I am talking about the pressurized section of the cargo hold.

Or they could institute a “dumbass” fee. Are you trying to claim a chandelier as a “carry-on” item (Yes, I have actually seen somebody try this)? Well, that will cost $20 just for asking.

Are you knowingly traveling with a drug-resistant strain of TB? Well, you will be paying for free flights for everybody onboard for the next ten years.

I grant that comparing the relative merits of different airlines is not the most scintillating of blog topics. This is probably especially true given my recent pledge to increase the discussion of gay porn on CoG. Still, I am annoyed by how much the federal government subsidizes airlines like Northwest while we are getting less and less in service (but the CEO’s are getting bigger and bigger paychecks). The number of people traveling by airplane today is higher than it was before September 11. Yet, they claim they can’t figure out how to make it work. JetBlue seems to be doing just fine.

23 comments:

Alan said...

Welcome to M.F.T.! You're right, the rental market does suck almost as much as the lack of public transportation. But otherwise it's a pretty good place to live.

Good luck finding a place!

Clio Bluestocking said...

"Dumbass fee." I vote for that. Can it be extended to include those people who kick their seat back into your lap on those cramped planes, too?

pacalaga said...

I covet the JetBlue experience. I have heard nothing but good things about them. Alas, most of my flying aims me toward Montana and the home of my [sigh] inlaws, and most airlines believe that no one really wants to go to Montana. (It's a sad day indeed when I'm excited that Delta has a flight for me.)
You can fly with my little guy. He LOOOOOVES to fly. While the plane is moving he's glued to the window. He's a little fussy ahead of time, but we can usually soothe him with a toy that makes annoying noises that make those around us wish for death. :-)

Jason said...

Quit subsidizing the airlines and let them tank or let the European carriers fly here... Lufthansa from Boston to MFT.

Adopt my favorite solution: high speed rail a la Japan and Europe. I hate hate the US airline industry.

vuboq said...

Hope you find a funky pad soon in MFT!

As for airlines, it's best not to even get me started on that subject. It makes the blood vessel in my left temple throb too noticably.

Roger Green said...

Though, as you may recall, Jet Blue took a beating this winter over leaving folks on the tarmac for hours: www.msnbc.msn.com/id/17166299. Thing is, I think they may actually learn from their mistakes. Unlike Northwest, which I HATE and won't fly unless it's a life or death situation.

No public transportation in funky town - how sad, how uncivilized.

Bill S. said...

Northwest is vile, and as a result I tend to loathe traveling by airplane. I was never afraid of crashing; with Northwest's seats, death would be a sweet, sweet release. The feeling I get when I think of Northwest flights is of having my kneecaps rammed backwards. I was happy to get out of Detroit, and the stranglehold Northwest has on it. Free enterprise my ass!

I first flew JetBlue when I moved to Florida, and it is a thing of beauty. On my first flight, I remember eating blue potato chips while watching a marathon of Project Runway and thinking how, even as a freakish giant of a man, I had plenty of legroom. I almost wept with joy, until that nitwit Santino pissed me off with his hideous dresses.

Marius said...

it’s only a matter of time before the emergency oxygen masks become coin-operated

LOL. No kidding. If you consider the serious problems with our healthcare system, your statement doesn't seem so far-fetched. Seriously, the average American family isn't properly insured, which suggests that, in this country, their health and well being is of little concern to the U.S. government. Apparently, a healthy and secure life is reserved for people who can afford it.

By the way, I also had a good experience flying JetBlue. Hope you find a nice (and quiet) place.

Ashley said...

Take comfort in the fact that our British airlines whine just as much about not making profits. Oh, and that Britain's busiest airport, Heathrow, regularly comes bottom or near bottom in surveys of quality of service and customer satisfaction.

Huntington said...

This is the first nice thing I've seen written about JetBlue since they left a planeload of passengers sitting on a runway somewhere for some outrageous number of hours.

GayProf said...

Alan: Oh, yes, it is a good place to live (if I can find a place to live in it)! Everywhere has its problems, but I like MFT overall (which is not what I would say about my location in TX).

Clio: Yes, extra fees for kicking and extra fees for playing your stereo/entertainment system loud enough to be heard by the whole plane.

Pacalaga: When in grad school, I flew lots on Delta. They were an airline that started out okay when I first flew with them, but got progressively worse overtime. I was kinda hoping that their near bankruptcy would change things...

Jason: The U.S. Federal government has an anti-train agenda. While we dump tons of tax money into the (private) airline corporations, we starve AmTrack. Then we complain when it doesn't run well (or catches fire).

VUBOQ: My chances of finding a funky place in MFT seem to be decreasing. I think that I will need to return again...

ROG: MFT does have a bus system (which I am sure I will use once settled), but I want my light-rail.

Yeah, I remember JetBlue's meltdown during the V-Day storm. Still, I thought it got a lot more negative media attention compared to United's similar meltdown because of the Denver storm. Likewise, American also trapped passengers right around the time of JetBlue's meltdown. Plus, JetBlue at least put up the pretense of fixing their problems.

Bill S.: Alas, I don't think that JetBlue is planning service to anywhere near MFT. But I will be serious about flying on almost any competitor of Northwest Airlines whenever possible.

Marius:Yes, I am amazed that the U.S. considers basic health care optional rather than a right.

Ashley: Didn't Maggie Thatcher privatize BA? It seemed like it was doing just fine under government control...

Huntington: I flew on a very clear day and for a very short flight. Still, the other airlines are just as likely to trap you on a runway and are not nearly as comfortable.

dykewife said...

when mom was sick and i had to fly from here to calgary before her surgery, i flew for the 2nd time (though it was the first time i landed - long story involving a malfunctioning parachute, amusing pilot and a week of pain), i flew on air canada in "business" class. however, there was no separation in the plane between any class. we were offered a ham sandwich on the way home, but nothing on the way to.

the thing i most remember is that we spent 1/2 the time climbing to cruising altitude and then 1/2 the time descending to land. my ears took a couple of days off the hard work of hearing - each way.

that's the input i can give to air travel. it was 14 years ago, so i imagine things have changed somewhat since then.

Tenured Radical said...

Have you flown United lately, the airline wher ehtey ask you if you would like to pay $29 extra for more leg room?

I would definitely pay $29 for in-flight sex, but not for more leg room. For what? For who? And how much more?

TR

tornwordo said...

I only flew Jetblue once and it was a 45 minute flight too. But it was the first time I ever thought to myself, "Wait, already? Can't we tour around the sky a bit more, I want to finish this episode of Will and Grace. (You didn't mention the little personal tv you get on Jetblue)

marlan said...

I thought I felt greatness descend upon our fair state when you entered the midwest. Good luck with the housing market in that town though, it's a little steep. And make a trip to the west side of the state sometime; you'll understand when you get there.

Wiccachicky said...

I have not tried JetBlue, but I will keep it on my list now that you've recommended it! I totally think there should be a dumbass fee. And I would pay more for a flight without children -- my recent flight across country? I would have paid near $100 not to have the screaming child behind me for 5 hours.

Dorian said...

I haven't flown in years. Pete and I plan on going out east this winter, and I'm far too concerned with being scandalized at the outrageous prices than with the quality of the flight.

Sarah said...

Spirit flies to MFT (or rather your closest major airport), though I haven't flown them lately. I hate Northwest, but I also covet my frequent flier miles (and hope to one day use them on a trip to Australia. I have a few more trips home left to rack up enough miles, though.)

Before you complain too much about a 10-minute commute, know that one of my high school teachers had a 45-minute commute to my school in Midwestern Suburbia, just for the privilege of living in MFT. So count your blessings. ;)

Doug said...

Wait, giant corporations who are bloated and corrupt and abuse the common people in favor of the rich elite? In this day and age? Pfft, I don't believe it. ;)

boricua said...

Hey,

Before you leave the town of the bean and the cod...have you looked into a little of our local Latino history?

We've heard the littlest bit about your experience of gay life in Boston - but not of the Latinos...unless I missed it. Have you come upon the story if Villa Victoria and Inquilinos Boricuas en Accion? The Jorge Hernandez Center? Casa Myrna?

Since the South End is both identified as poor latino/and wealthy/pseudo wealthy white gay male - there have been some very interesting social negotiations there...and Jamaica Plain has long had a diverse poor - to upper middle class latino community while also having been long identified as a lesbian enclave...I'm so curious as to whether you've given any of these or other such spots a look and been left with thoughts to share...

gayborhood gringo said...

too bad jetblue doesn't fly out here yet. but i'm dreading dealing w/ the hassles of traveling next month (chicago) and in december (london).

GayProf said...

DykeWife: It might be hard to believe given how crappy the service was, but 14 years ago now seems like Halcyon compared to today.

TR: I forgot to mention that Northwest also plays similar games with their seating prices. One can pay "a little extra" for an exit row. What is annoying is that they will ultimately sell that same seat for less if the plane doesn't fill.

Torn: I didn't use my little t.v. for that flight, but can imagine that it would be fantastic for a trans-regional flight. I noticed that my fellow passengers enjoyed their t.v.'s quite a bit. Everything is just better on JetBlue.

Marlan: The rental market does seem steep for a town of this size. I think that people from the nearby metro area are preferring to commute from here to there.

Wicca: I am not at all kidding about a child-free airline. They would get my first look whenever I was searching for airfares. I don't know, though, if that would be legal --

Lawyers? Can we exclude a portion of the population from transportation services based on age?

Dorian: Well the outrageous price and the lack of service is the reason to be scandalized. If we were paying $40 for a flight (like Ryan Air), then I wouldn't be nearly as annoyed about the lack of services.

I would start monitoring airfares now. There is no real way of predicting what the price will be at any moment.

Sarah: I know -- But that is also why it is tricky to find a place to rent since everybody in a sixty-mile radius seems to want to live here (which is a good sign for other things...).

Doug: I know, I know -- I am just stating the obvious... Still, it's really annoying.

Boricua: That's true -- I haven't written much about Latinos in Boston. I am not sure I have thought of much to say... I'll have to think about that some more.

Gayborhood Gringo: JetBlue just started flying from Houston. Perhaps that is their first step in opening up more of the market in Texas.

Mike said...

Having worked the other side of the counter for a major airline for twelve years, I know much of what you speak. Not too long ago people were singing the praises of Southwest...how their prices were better, their boarding easier, their seats more comfortable. Now, it's JetBlue that is everyone's darling.

Ten years from now, you can bet that JetBlue will start cramming up the seats, charging by the blue chip, and start having aircraft mechanicals, flight delays, crew shortages and all the other ills of the "legacy carriers."

I'm still trying to guess what FunkyTown you're moving to in the Midwest. I'm guessing you're somewhere in "the Mitten."