Atlanta (2)

Posted in Atlanta on March 27th 2006 by Randy Reichardt

.: A few photos from my Atlanta trip are available for viewing. I am unable to upload these from my hotel room for some reason, so am doing it from inside the ACS Exhibition area.

My presentation yesterday morning went well, with about 40 people in attendance. I was the sixth of eight speakers. I tried sleeping in the afternoon, then attended a couple of low-keyed receptions. This morning, after eating more junk food at the food court at CNN Center, I went through some of the exhibits, spoke to a few vendors, including an FBI Special Agent at the FBI Special Agent booth. I left to go to the Georgia Aquarium, which despite the build-up, wasn’t that impressive to me. I think my reaction was based on the lack of spectacular tropical fish, but also because the place was jammed with people, many pushing strollers. It was too hot, and often difficult to see any exhibits. Still, it was worth the visit. Tonight I’m meeting my cousin for dinner, then home tomorrow.

Atlanta (1)

Posted in Atlanta on March 25th 2006 by Randy Reichardt

.: Yesterday I had to take three flights to get to Atlanta. I had booked on Air Canada, rather than the much-preferred Northwest, because I had missed an NW seat sale, and needed to book the cheapest flight available. My first flight was to Calgary from Edmonton on a Dash 8, a 35 minute flight. I arrived at the Edmonton Intl’ Airport with pre-printed boarding passes, and checked my luggage. I turned to go to through security to find a line of at least five to six hundred people waiting to be processed, the majority of which were parents with their children, seemingly off their collective ritalin prescriptions, waiting to board flights to Nice Warm Places during Canada’s version of spring break.

Patiently, I moved slowly through the line. My flight was scheduled to leave at 0800, and it was 0710. By 0800, I was at the front of the line. I walked through the security scanner, and it did not beep. However, the security officer with the scanner wand asked me to stand and spread ’em – I asked why, she said I was a “random search.” She took her time, asked for my belt, and checked it, seemingly one notch at a time. It was 0805, and I heard my name called on the PA system. I grabbed my stuff and ran to the gate and just made the flight. While in line for 45 minutes, I noticed Westjet personnel pulling some people out to move to the front of the line. These were passengers destined to miss their Westjet flights because they were not going to clear security in time. There were no Air Canada personnel to be seen showing similar concern for their passengers. I asked about this at the Calgary gate, and was given a terse response, something to the effect of, “we are too busy today, we have too many flights.” After the plane took off, we were informed that there was much fog on the ground in Calgary, and that the plane might be diverted to Cranbrook BC. This didn’t happen, but we landed in Calgary in dense fog nonetheless.

In Calgary, I boarded the next flight, which was scheduled to land in Toronto, home of the most non-functional airport in the history of this space-time continuum. I had 75 minutes in Toronto to switch terminals, clear US Customs and board another jet. But the flight didn’t leave on time, because the wings needed to be de-iced. So we left late, and I still held out hope that I would have time to switch planes. But with about 30 minutes left in the flight, changes to connecting flights were announced, including the one to Atlanta. My flight was scheduled to leave Toronto at 1700.

Calgary flight landed at 1625. At the gate, I was given a different boarding pass to a flight that left three hours later. One of the Air Canada attendants said there was no way I could make the 1700 flight – this is due to the aforementioned non-functionality of the Toronto airport. You see, at this useless airport, when you fly in domestic but leave international, you need to switch terminals. This requires boarding a shuttle that drives and drives and drives across tarmacs endless, to another terminal, where you then walk through a huge, empty, abandoned terminal and must retrieve your luggage, and clear US Customs. Long after my 1700 Atlanta flight left, I finally cleared US Customs, and spent yet another three hours of my life I will never have back in the airport I most detest. (This happened to me last October when I was returning from NYC.) As for Air Canada, the expression “customer service” is, now and always, an oxymoron when applied to this airline. Expect no sympathy or understanding from Air Canada employees, with rare exceptions. It’s not in their job descriptions.

After thumb-twiddling at the Toronto airport for three hours, I went to the assigned gate to catch my final flight of the day, and was told I had to take another shuttle to another building. I couldn’t believe it. However, the AC employee, Adele, was sweet, understanding, and sympathetic, which was a nice change from the usual AC aloofness and indifference. Maybe she was doped up or something. By this point, my day-long frustration had manifested itself into a knot in the middle of my back that was so tight, it hurt on my left side to take a deep breath.

Note to self: avoid Air Canada and the Toronto airport as much as possible, like any plague in history.

.: In Atlanta today, I wandered about the streets surrounding the Omni Hotel at CNN Center. It was cool and windy here today, and I saw many people walking with mitts or gloves on. I bought a ticket to the Georgia Aquarium for Monday afternoon. I browsed through the store at CNN Center, and ate fast food. I walked through the Georgia World Conference Center, where the ACS Meeting will be held, and where today, a dental conference was ending. While I was eating at a four-seat table in the food court at CNN, I noticed two beautiful young Georgia women with food trays looking at me, obviously needing seats, and I invited them to sit at the table. They were dental hygiene students attending the conference, Jennifer and Karey, and we chatted for a while. It was a great conversation, until I blew it. Talking about the perception of America as seen by the rest of the world, I said that perhaps this would improve when the government changed in 2008. Jennifer sighed, and said, with deep, heartfelt honesty, “I don’t know…I love our president.” While not dissing Bush directly, I felt deflated, and that I had not offended so much as disappointed her – I hope not. (I thought, you’re in the south, moron, they love Bush down here!) But we kept chatting, and they told me about the sacrifice their husbands were making so that they could attend school, and how they felt like second-class conference attendees because of how they were treated by some exhibitors. When it was time to leave, we shook hands and parted warmly.

When I returned to the same food court around 1700 hrs, I was surprised to find it filled with among others, at least two hundred people drinking beer from 9-inch-high plastic cups. The food court is adjacent to the Phillips Arena, and apparently this is a pre-event ritual for many sports fans. Tonight it was an Atlanta Hawks-Dallas Mavericks basketball game.

I was considering seeing a movie tonight, but was disappointed to learn that there are no movie theatres in downtown Atlanta. In the hotel room, the first four channels on the television are CNN, CNN HN, CNN FN, and CNN en EspaƱol. Well, duh.

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