Students are so technology savvy these days. Yet they are not unlike students from the pre-Web 2.0 World. Today I lectured in an introduction level course in hospitality and travel. Just like the students back in Utah, the students straggled in one or two at a time. They greeted Liping casually as they took their seats in the back row. It took several attempts before getting the students to respond to questions that I poised as I started my lecture on an introduction to the Food & Beverage Management. They are so young, they seem to lack any field experience. After I even suggested that if they ate out here then they were knowledgeable regarding the industry. It took a while but I think they reacted to my passion for the lesson and responded. At least no one fell to sleep during my lecture. Either the lecture was interesting or I was too loud to allow them to fall asleep. The second class was in the computer lab so I felt right at home at the computer. I talked to several students before and after class. It would be fun to work with these students . . . they are so young and impressionable. I love this age group.
Well the adventure begins. I arrived to the SLC International Airport two hours prior to my flight. Yesterday I had attempted to check-in online but due to my upgrade on the return flight, I was unable to check-in. I arrived at the airport with a 28 inch Pullman, 24 inch Pullman, and my rolling carry-on topped off with my computer bag. As my car pulled up to Terminal 2, the Sky Cap immediately stepped forward to assist with my luggage. He encountered a problem with my check-in, but resolved it with a quick phone call. It is amazing how quickly they can charge the luggage fees, print the receipt, and luggage tags once my problem was resolved. Of course, it cost another $10 since I had to check-in at curb side. I verified the airport code for my destination and quickly corrected the Sky Cap when he attempted to place my tags on the wrong bags. Suddenly my check-in was completed and I gave him $6 in tip for the speedy assistance.
I quickly ascended the escalator to the 2nd floor and proceeded to the TSA screening. I was able to walk right up to the entrance of the TSA station . . . I was taken by surprise that there were no lines. Where was everyone today? Absolutely no lines for any security line today! I walked right up to a vacant but open screener and was greeted with a smile. The TSA officer explained that I had selected one of the new screening machines. Did I want to proceed to this new machine or did I prefer the old style of screening? Suddenly, I remembered an old movie with Arnold Swarzenegger on Mars . . . I think it was called “Total Recall.” It seemed a bit science fiction, but I was game. Let Linda try it! I removed all my metal items and they even asked me if I had any papers in my pockets. Did that include my money belt? Yes, so there I was stripping off the money belt and holding it above my head. The doors on the booth closed and then opened as quickly as they closed. I stepped out and awaited the clearance before retrieving my items. Observations: The process was easy and quick, but it did mean that my carry-on items were momentarily left unguarded. This process would be advisable for two people traveling together. One person could delay the entry of your computer until you had proceeded through the screening. The second person would be free to retrieve items from the x-ray machine after passing the screening. This type of screening would be best for those people who have pacemakers or metal implanted in their limbs. It was painless and easy but it did seem to take a bit longer than the metal detector screenings.
I discovered that Salt Lake International Airport provided free wireless Internet service. That was very customer service oriented. I commend the management of the airport for their wisdom in providing this amenity. Then just as our flight was boarding several GoGo representatives were distributing free wireless connection for our flight. Fantastic, I would have Internet service on board the flight to LAX. Since this flight was on an older plane with only the drop down screens, I was pleased to have Internet service. During the flight they were showing some television show . . . it did not appear to be of any interest to me. I opted to connect to the Internet to catch-up on tasks. My new Asus Eee PC Netbook was a perfect fit for the cramped quarters of Coach seating. I completed an assignment for my online educator course from the Utah Education Network and sent it off from the air. It is a wonder how the world is changing. Who would have imagined that I would be emailing and drafting an assignment while traveling at 15,000 feet?
Well just when my expectations had been raised by all the free Internet access, I arrived at the Los Angeles International Airport. Terminal 5 looked a bit worn and in need of an Internet station. Yes, there were 2 charging stations . . . both were filled with travelers charging their telephones, computers, and other rechargeable devices of every shape and color. I found one open plug and moved into position. When another power plug became available I added my Kindle to this power pit-stop. No wireless Internet at any of the restaurants. After searching to obtain Internet access I discovered that they had a for purchase option for wireless Internet. With less than an hour remaining before my next flight, I skipped the purchase of Internet. Well, the next flight seemed to start off with a late departure due to late arrival of our plane from Atlanta. Our flight attendant announced that they were attempting to reboot the entertainment system. There would be no wireless Internet because our flight was over the ocean. The entertainment system was broken so there were no games, music, movies, television, or any other distractions.
I pulled out my computer and went to work brushing up on my lectures for this week and writing this blog. I will be lecturing in 3 classes and giving a presentation to the faculty of Maui Community College. The perfectionist in me tweaks all my presentations until I deliver them . . . and often again after I have finished the presentation. It is great that my small netbook fits on the small tray table. Additionally, its long battery life enables me to work without the fear of the battery dying. I can reference the books on elearning on my Kindle as I modify the PowerPoint slides. I complete all the presentations and read a book before I begin to tire.
Two hours left before arriving at Maui and I am weary. It is approaching my bedtime in Utah and my body wants to sleep but I am determined to remain awake in order to adjust to the time differences. Restless leg syndrome appears to hold my legs hostage. I have done several exercises to keep the blood pumping and eliminate swollen ankles. I am wearing compression socks but my left leg aches. Off come the shoes and my toes enjoy freedom to stretch and wiggle with abandon. I have walked the Coach cabin several times . . . but there is only so far you can go in a plane. Several people are walking the aisles . . . two women are really getting in their steps. There is no room in the gallery or by the restrooms as they are filled with people, so I return to my seat. Oh yes, steps for health. I have been able to get 7850 today . . . over 5,000 before this flight. Still lacking 2200 from my daily goal. Fortunately, the cabin lights are on in coach. We cannot seem to even get the overhead lights to work since the entertainment system is broken. So the flight attendants have left the lights on to allow people to read or work games. The only thing that seems to work on the entertainment system is the flight progress and flight path map. We can watch our progress to Maui. It is approaching 10:30 pm at home and my body wants to sleep. Some passengers are providing a bit of entertainment by coloring on napkins. A flight attendant keeps posting them on the partitions between the first class cabin and coach. The passengers applaud the posting of our own art gallery. I have listened to my Ipod, read a book on my Kindle, and revised three lectures. Now I have concluded this blog. Will I slip into a light sleep for an hour or two . . . as our flight approaches the Hawaiian Islands? My screen indicates that we are flying at 35,000 feet elevation, at a ground speed of 500 miles per hour. We are encountering a slight headwind (47 mph) and it is a frigid minus 56 degrees outside. Maybe it is time for a bit of Sudoku or solitaire. My brain is acting sluggish and my eyes are tired. Less than 2 hours to go . . . will the UTourDoctor make it all the way without falling prey to the Sandman? We will have to see.
As I arrive in Maui my body rejoices at the thought of escaping the confines the airplane. It is humid and warm even though it is now approaching 9 pm in Maui. I call Liping as I walk down the terminal. As I arrive in the baggage area the airport comes alive with people. Several flights seem to be arriving from the mainland. I immediately rent a luggage cart and proceed to the appointed baggage area to claim my luggage. My luggage arrives without delay and I meet Liping and Rob at the curb. After storing my large suitcase and small carry-on in the trunk, the second checked bag goes into the backseat with ease since their car is a convertible. All aboard for Kihei and the hospitality of Liping and Rob Reed. Without delay I collapse into bed in preparation for teaching class tomorrow morning at 9 am. Sleep comes with no delay . . . I don't even remember dreaming.
Since returning to Salt Lake City, I have been stopping at several stores in pursuit of the perfect briefcase to take on my trip. I saw a bag at the airport in the Brookstone store but I did not purchase it as my hands were full and time was short. Unfortunately, the Brookstone store at the Gateway did not have the bag and could not get one before my departure. I searched online and in several more stores with no success. Perhaps I was asking for too much? Essential qualities in my perfect brief are as follows:
1 - Checkpoint Friendly . . . it must have a separate padded compartment for my computer. The compartment must be able to lay flat from the balance of the bag so that it can clear through the TSA checkpoint without having to remove it from the actual bag. One zip and I am done.
2 - Multiple compartments that all zip closed to contain small items.
3 - Secure area for my travel documents, medications, and wallet.
4 - Lightweight but durable ballistic fabric.
5 - Padded shoulder strap.
6 - Can be carried on the handle of my rolling carry-on without the need for additional straps.
Well I finally found my brief for China. It is larger than I had desired for the brief, but it fulfills all my requirements. Still the bag only weighs 4.4 pounds. It is called the Pathfinder Compubrief Checkpoint Friendly Briefcase. The best news is that it was on sale . . . 40% off!
Returning to Salt Lake City today really brought home the necessity of zippers! Prior to embarking on the trip to TAMU, I had purchased a very professional appearing but fashionable briefcase to handle my laptop computer and my in-flight electronics. One trip on a flight and I discovered that the lack of zippers on two of the compartments of this brief was a terrible flaw. Tucked in under the seat in front of me, several items would come sliding out during the take-off or landing. The only way to prevent this was to keep it poised between my feet . . . awkward to say the least. Why did I become influenced by the feel of the soft but fake leather and the turquoise lining. Several years ago I had flown using a Land's End tote without a zipper and soon it landed in the bin of has been bags and luggage. Although this brief looks very nice, it will not be making the trip to China. It will be nice for meetings in Utah, so I won't retire it completely. The challenge will now be to find the perfect brief to carry my electronics safely and efficiently.
It has been several years since I had made connections in the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport (DFW). Typically, I fly in and rent a car so this trip to Texas A&M University (TAMU) would be a test of my ability to traverse the sprawling terminals (A-E) in an attempt to make a connection on American Eagle to College Station. DFW covers almost 30 acres, has 3 control towers, 7 runways, and 5 terminals. It is the 3rd largest airport in the world in terms of operations and 7th in terms of passengers. The terminals stretch the equivalent of 7 foot ball fields. So I must admit I was prepared with my running shoes laced up and double knotted in preparation for the race. When I plan a trip by air I typically scope out the airport and I was aware of the Skylink. Unfortunately, several of my past encounters with "ground transportation" had left me with the decision to run for it rather than take the chance with the inconvenient systems. Well I was pleasantly surprised by the DFW Skylink people mover system.
Skylink is an elevated automated people mover system located above the airport, in this regard the Skylink is similar to the monorails of Disney World fame. The rail line is 50 feet above the ground. The sleek cars even feature large windows allowing the passengers to enjoy the unobstructed view of the Dallas-Fort Worth skyline. The Skylink trains arrive at each station (2 per terminal) every few minutes and speed its passengers smoothly to their destinations at 35-38 mph. The best feature of the system is that it operates within the secured area of the airport. There is no need to depart the airport and re-enter through the often frustrating TSA security screenings.
As my arrival flight taxied to its assigned gate, the flight attendant announced our arrival gate and then reviewed a litany of destinations and their corresponding departure gates. My seat assignment was in row 8 so my exit from the plane was relatively quick. My eyes spied the bright Skylink signs and the escalator quickly whisked me up to the station. I arrived at the Skylink station above the Terminal C just as the train was slipping quietly into the station. The automated voice announced the arrival of the train just as the doors opened and passengers poured out into the concourse. I slipped aboard and took a seat at the end of the first car. My ride lasted less than 7 minutes as the train cruised into a 2nd station in Terminal C, two stations in Terminal A, and then into the two stations of Terminal B. As the train paused perhaps a minute or two in the stations, most of the time I either checked out the view of the Dallas-Fort Worth skyline or reviewed the terminal guide considering my options for a quick lunch. I marveled at the calm demeanor of the passengers as they boarded and patiently awaited their appointed station. Amazingly, the Skylink is so efficient that the passengers do not jostle each other or push their way into the train like so many ill-planned or overcrowded ground transportation systems I have had the misfortune of enduring.
Fortunately, the speedy transfer afforded me the time to enjoy a healthy lunch at Subway and relax before my next flight. I commend the DFW Airport Authority for their foresighted attention and investment in a smooth operating people mover. I also aappreciated the number of volunteers providing information booths located in the terminals. They were always smiling and pleasant as they respond quickly with information and maps. My only recommendation is to provide free wireless Internet access. Unfortunately, every one of the wired Internet locations were filled with passengers. I would have appreciated access while I waited for my flight.
I begin the journey with my first blog. This is a new adventure for me and I look forward to chronicling my adventure in a new mode . . . a blog. Usually I take along a leather bound journal in which I write my thoughts and reflections. After each trip I pledge to type them up and share them with family and friends. And yes, there they sit on my bookshelf next to my desk awaiting the day when I have time to type them up. My sister has read some of my entries and she has encouraged me to take the time to share them with everyone. So hopefully some of these "blogs" will be interesting to read and provide some insight into the people and places I meet along the way. Well . . . I have taken the first step into this new adventure of blogging.
Dr. Linda Ralston (alias UTourDoctor) teaches at the University of Utah in the Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism. Check out my other blogs: