Department Of This Never Would Have Happened On Alaska Airlines
Ah, United Airlines, where customer service goes to die.
Unless y’all have recently emerged from a persistent vegetative state, it is likely you are familiar with recent headlines along the lines of
Once again, the internet comes to the rescue: satire wafts from the ashes of tragedy and shame, as per these new slogans people have suggested for United Airlines:
* United Airlines: You Carry On, We Carry Off.
* United Airlines: The Captain Has Turned On The No Passenger Sign.
* United Airlines: Other Flights Have Cabin Crews. We Have Bouncers.
* United Airlines: Board As a Doctor, Leave As a Patient.
* United Airlines: You Can Run But You Cannot Fly.
* United Airlines: Would You Like a Neck Pillow or a Neck Brace?
* United Airlines: If We Overbook You’ll Catch a Right Hook.
* United Airlines: Now Serving Punch.
* United Airlines: Tell Us Your Safe Word At Check-in.
* United Airlines: We Have First Class, Business Class, and No Class.
* United Airlines: We’ll Drag You All Over The World.
Years ago (decades, actually) I stopped voluntarily  flying United Airlines, due to what I perceived as their cattle-car treatment of passengers. As for the (latest) incident, it is turd-twirlingly mind-scrambling to think of how many ways United fucked up.
I recall standing in an airline’s boarding area, listening to the announcement that the flight is full, and wishing I’d hear a, We’ve-overbooked-would-anyone-volunteer-their-seat-for-the-following-compensation? announcement, because although it would inconvenience me it was the one time when I could have taken the free trip anywhere plus hotel voucher and rebooked for a later flight to my destination.
I can recall many more times when I have heard the, We’ve overbooked announcement but could not take the offer because I really had to be at a certain some place at a certain time. Being at a certain place by a certain time is why I had booked that particular flight – why 99.9% of passengers book any flights – in the first place.
Flying hasn’t been fun, or even a mildly pleasurable form of transportation, for years. Unless you can manage/afford to fly first class you’re basically boarding a bus with wings after having the write-home-to-grandma experience of the bus station employees giving you a body cavity search. People generally don’t book airline flights on a whim; they book a particular flight because they need to get to a particular place by a particular time. Thus, it is understandable that the United flight in question had no takers when the pilot or whomever announced that they’d overbooked the flight and needed four seats for their standby crew.
According to the news stories, the give-up-your-seat offer was $400 and a night at a hotel – no takers. United upped the cash to $800 – still no takers. Then a manager came on board the plane and announced that a computer would randomly select four people to be kicked off de-boarded.
Now then: why did United wait until the plane was already boarded to make the announcement/do the selection? We’re supposed to believe they didn’t know until the very last minute about the standby flight crew wanting a ride, or just didn’t announce it until later? Everyone knows you do the, We’re overbooked thing while passengers are still in the airport, impatiently milling about the gate – you do this BEFORE boarding the damn plane, to save time/avoid hassle and embarrassment of having to de-board already boarded passengers. Major Fuckup #1.
Major Fuckup #2 – No takers on getting people to surrender a seat they’ve already paid for? You keep upping the amount until someone agrees to reschedule their flight. Sweeten the pot enough, eventually, someone will accept the offer. By overbooking in the first place, you, the airline, have screwed this up, so you’re going to have to suck it up financially in order to get someone to give up their seat.
Major Fuckup #3: random selection by computer may sound like the fairest option in a bad situation, but such measures will always need human triage, in the form of oversight and tweaking. What if the computer selects a single parent traveling with minor children, which would leave the children flying alone? Nope; move on to the next roll of the dice. A person with a disability which makes boarding problematic, or a frail, easily confused elderly man flying with his attendant? Move on to someone else. A shell-shocked woman who is rushing to be with her mother after the sudden and unexpected death of her father,  or a physician who has patients to treat…. The human components of reviewing circumstances and applying compassion must overrule random selection.
I’ll stop at that. In this era of instantaneous Twitter posts passing for reporting, the incident is already old news by now. Other minds more articulate and reflective than mine will continue to investigate and dissect the incident…but knowing this does not “un-rattle” me about what happened. It so Did Not Have To Be That Way. ®
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Department Of That WooWoo That You Do So Well 
Do you want to try something “woo” this Friday?
This is how I text-invited MH, last Wednesday, to an event about which I knew next to nothing. When I Googled What is a Crystal Sound Bath one of the first descriptions I ran across contained the advice to “…think of it as a woo-woo horizontal concert.”
The event, held at the yoga studio where I take classes, had the following description on the studio’s website:
“Come join us for an evening of sound healing and relaxation. A crystal bowl sound bath offers the participant the ability to completely release any stress or tension in the mind and body allowing one to relax, balance, and enjoy the peace and tranquility of a healthy mind, body, and spirit.
During this sound bath the participant will relax comfortably on their back, while the sounds and resonance of the pure crystal bowls engulf the room and move through and around you; feeling like an energetic massage from the inside out.”
It’s not like the crystal bowls resonate themselves…which you might wonder after reading that lacking-in-some-essential-details-description. There was a person,  a self-described “musical artist”  playing the crystal bowls, and also drums and chimes and a few other percussion-type objects, while attendees were supine, eyes closed, on yoga mats.
I did find it a most pleasant and relaxing way to spend an hour. Bonus woo: the entertainment value of the “sharing” afterwards of participants’ experiences, wherein MH and I had an unspoken pact not to make eye contact when a very few other participants hopped the Woo Train and shared their experiences, including one person who claimed to have opened her eyes at one point and seeing – not imagining nor hallucinating, but seeing – “ethereal beings hovering” over the people in the studio…
…while the sound of chimes engulfed the room.
Crystal Sound Bath. I figured out the bath reference – one’s body is “bathed” in the sensation of sounds. Although when I first heard the term Crystal Sound Bath, for some reason I pictured moiself sitting in a really large bathtub with other participants and a guy holding one of those crystal bowls. Which, of course, took me right back to a tune from long ago.
Rub-a-dub-dub, three men in a tub.
My how interesting – move over, boys.
BTW, if anyone can help me identify the novelty song from whence those ever-so-lightly-naughty lyrics stem (a song played on the Dr. Demento radio show), you will have my eternal gratitude.  Thanking you in advance, I offer this Dr. D all time-favorite, for your listening pleasure:
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Department Of Sometimes It Hits Me With No Warning
Dateline: Saturday morning. While exercising, I looked out at the window to our backyard, surveying the remnants of the wind apocalypse that hit northwest Oregon from the coast to the Columbia Gorge last Friday. Just for a moment, I thought, in the present tense, I can’t wait to tell Mom about this.
The weather – that most bland, mundane and seemingly impersonal of subjects – was actually one of the best thing to talk about with my mother in her later (Read: “declining”) years. Mom loved hearing about the rain, or the glorious autumn foliage, or first sunny day in Spring and the unexpected snowstorm to blanket the Portland area. She in turn seemed to enjoy sharing details of the latest (read: ongoing) drought in SoCal, the same weather she’d told me about the previous week.
In her last two years, all conversational roads with my mother circled around and back to the weather. It was her way of keeping grounded, of telling me how she was doing, when the simple, basic “How are you doing/what’s up with you?” conversational queries were no longer so simple. .
When she couldn’t remember the names of my children; when she couldn’t remember her own age or how many children she had or the fact that she was living in Southern California and not Minnesota or that she was talking with me and not another of my sisters, or that her husband was not with her because he had died and not deserted her – or if she could remember just enough to know that she was forgetful ,and was physically and cognitively deteriorating, which made her fearful – she could still understand and appreciate the weather.
Oh, tell me about it! Do you think you’ll get more ____ (rain, snow, wind, sunshine)? We really need the rain down here, even though, as you know, I love the sun….
And so on Saturday morning, for the briefest of moments, I was happy thinking about my next phone call to her – happy to have a “safe” topic to share…followed by my brain’s gut-clenching reminder to my heart that I now have no obligation – nor opportunity – to share the weather report with my mother, who died last Christmas Eve.
* * *
May all your airplane de-boardings be voluntary;
May your sound baths be as woo-filled or wee-free as you like;
May you never lack for safe topics to share with your loved ones;
…and may the hijinks ensue.
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
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 I have flown United once since making that vow; on a flight booked by someone else.
 I have been that passenger, and can’t imagine the additional heartache of being “randomly selected” to be thrown off the plane.
 A yoga teacher and “healer” type person specializing in “energy work.” Yeah, MH and I cringed a bit, but he was quite nice.
 As in, neither true musician or artist?
 Such questions are not recommended – in fact, they can be (unintentionally) cruel – for people suffering from memory impairment.