Category Archives: Travel

Southwest Preboarding

Southwest Preboarding

Some of you may have seen my tweet the other day asking Southwest Airlines about their policy regarding placing passengers with visible disabilities on the preboard list for a flight if there hadn’t been a discussion with an agent about it first. Obviously, Twitter’s character limit necessitated a little more brevity, which may have come across as anger; it was not intended as such. I was quickly contacted by Customer Service Representative Nicole (and several others with their positive experiences) who offered to check into what had happened.

The Story: Karen and I were traveling from Omaha to Baltimore with a connection in chicago. We got out of omaha a little late necessitating hauling a little tail from MDW’s B12 to A4B. As an aside, anyone who has been the the “new gate” knows it’s faster to walk to Indiana. As we were walking the last quarter mile, we heard our names being paged to preboard the flight. We kind of wondered what it was all about, since we hadn’t requested to preboard, and since we didn’t need to preboard we just got in line with our boarding group, in numerical order. (as a second aside, the way the boarding line was set up, it would have been more inconvenient to us and others had we jumped the line)

Neither one of us thought much more about it until we were at the gate Wednesday (having finally secured the world’s best hot cocoa, that from Dunkin Doughnuts), and we got paged to preboard again. Again, we declined to do so, but it was at this point when I decided to engage Southwest and figure out why we were being put on the preboard list.

The Explanation: Nicole did follow up with an e-mail explaining what she found out. The gist of it is the agent at OMA was trying to be helpful when he saw the connection was so tight. I’m not sure if he thought attaching the SSR would trigger someone to meet us and get us to the gate more quickly, or if he thought at least the Ops Agent at MDW would keep an extra eye out for us so we wouldn’t miss the flight. IN any event, his intentions obviously weren’t malicious (nor had we ever really thought they were) and BWI was proactively acting on that SSR.

why did it matter to us? A lot of people probably think, “hey, you had the chance to get on before anyone else and get whatever seat you want. Why on Earth would you not take it?” As it is generally explained, the intent of preboarding is to allow people who need extra time or assistance getting down the jetway and to their seats to get that extra time or assistance. As a generally competant blind traveler* I don’t tend to need either of these accomodations. finding the right spot to stand in the boarding line isn’t difficult, one simply orients oneself the the location of the agent/boarding door, asks a passenger in line what their number is, and moves forward or backward accordingly. Following the group through the jetbridge is likewise not generally dificult. As for finding a seat, it’s pretty easy to either ask a flight attendant, should they offer, if there are empty seats nearby, or simply use the cane to determine if you find legs instead of empty floor space. A possibly daunting task to someone who has never conceptualized or experienced how they would do this as a blind person, but to us this is daily reality.

Anyone who has ever traveled with me on Southwest knows I am incredibly anal about trying to check in as close to that 24 hour pre-flight mark as possible. If I’m traveling alone, I like to sit by the window so I can easily stash my white cane along the bulkhead (it often confuses people when I have to ask them to slide it down there, don’t ask me why), and I’ve never had a problem finding a window seat when I’m in the A or lower numbered B groups. Same thing applies if I’m traveling with someone, we can board early and find seats together. I’m also generally confident that whomever I’m with is not going to get confused by the fact that my cane doesn’t collapse :).

There’s also another reason than not needing the asistance/time. it’s also sometimes a matter of ending up fighting public assumptions about the capabilities of the blind. Sometimes, people do things for you on the assumption that they think you can’t do it any other way. accepting a service you might not need may lead to the subconscious reinforcement of that assumption in someone’s mind. Maybe this doesn’t make any sense to anyone who hasn’t had to dispell numerous public misconceptions about what the blind can and cannot do, (I cite the crock of ridiculousary that is The BrailleWise Aircraft Toilet as a prime example**) but we do live in a world where many people still don’t believe the blind are as capable as sighted people and sometimes the assumption that we need to preboard is just one manifestation of that belief. When asserting that we are as capable as sighted folks, it hurts that assertion to take advantage of something we don’t need. Whether you yourself would think, the next time you are interviewing a blind person to work in a fast-paced environment, “hmmm, the last time I was on a plane, I saw that blind guy preboard. Maybe this guy is going to need more time to do things too,” but some people do hold that opinion. I completely understand how readers may not draw a connection from act A to thought B, but the human brain is a weird place, and my goal is to blend into the rest of you as much as possible.

I begrudge no one, blind or otherwise, from taking the opportunity to preboard if they feel they need it. In the case of blind people, there are those who have not yet learned the skills of blindness, or are not confident in their abilities, and do need extra time and assistance. If boarding my aircraft requires walking out on a noisy tarmac, I have occasionally preboarded if I wasn’t with someone, or didn’t feel I could ask a fellow passenger if I could follow them. However, in most cases, I’m perfectly capable of boarding during my asigned time. My reason for asking the question was to understand the Southwest policy, and what the thinking of the agents was. It was never to get on anyone’s case, raise ruckis because someone violated a federal reg, or be “that passenger”. I simply wanted to bring attention to what had happened, and maybe do a little educating along the way.

I would like to thank Southwest Airlines, Nicole, and the CSR Supervisors and agents she talked to, for your prompt responses. I have long preferred to fly SWA whenever possible because of the excellent customer service I receive, and because the people I have met are genuinely friendly. to the OMA agent who almost always recognizes Karen and me (and who knows Karen’s name), I’m sorry I don’t know yours; that is an oversight I will correct the next time our paths cross. And there will be a next time, because I will still fly SWA first and foremost whenever I can.

  • Disclaimer: this description may not apply on days when I am doggedly sick, or have not slept in the past 24 hours.

** A famous NonyRant is forthcoming on this topic this weekend, I assure you.

It’s Been A Year

It’s Been A Year

Wow! I haven’t written all year. Can you believe it?

Fine. It’s a lame line. Put the tomato down.

It has been an unacceptably long time since I communicated with you all. I have no excuse, but I do offer the following explanation.

Every time I think to myself “ooh, that would be a great thing for the blog” and actually sit down to write the Procrastatron 5000XT kicks in and convinces me to not do it.

See, if you’ve never heard of it, the Procrastatron 5000XT is a vial little microchip who’s job it is to make me lazy and convince me that I don’t need to do a particular thing at a particular moment. I am convinced that during one of the 312 cornea transplants I had as a kid, a crazy mad scientist snuck into the OR and implanted the Procrastatron where my right eye should be. Procrastatron is a handy little thing to have on a rainy weekend when I should be cleaning the house, but would much rather be reading a book. Not so much in the eighth grade when you have a History packet due and you put it off for two weeks, until you’re waking up at 03:00 listening to I Love Lucy and Murphy Brown furiously scrambling to get the thing done. Thanks channel 6 for replacing Murphy Brown with the Bloomberg Financial Report sometime in March, that really helped me stay awake there. Mom, if you’re reading this, I made that last part up. Well, most of it. I have no idea what they replaced Murphy Brown with, I moved to Janesville in March. πŸ™‚ Um, Procrastatron doesn’t help when I’m trying to write a blog entry or do a podcast for that matter either.

Anyway, my conversations with this little robot in my head go something like this:

Me: Excellent. Time to blog.
Procrastatron: But your laptop is all the way over there and you’re really comfortable on the couch.
Me: Pfft, it’s 36 inches you lazy robot. I think I can get the computer and stay under this blanket.
Crasty: Don’t bother. Your two readers have already moved on.
Me: Quiet you. I have at least four, maybe six, readers and I must keep them entertained.
Jerk: [I can see I’ll just have to bring out the big guns] Here, have some Melatonin.
Me: You fight dirty. I’ll show you. I’m gonna… Gonna… [Snore]

Yeah. I’ll show him. One of these days I’ll reprogram him into Doitnowatron and be so productive… Why am I suddenly tired?

***

Enough of that for the day.

To catch you all up. It’s been a crazy couple of months. Work has kept Treva and I busy and we traveled quite a few times around the holidays.

By a few times, I mean I think I was on something like 12 different aircraft in 4 weeks.

It started at Thanksgiving when we flew to Wisconsin to spend time with my family. We got in on Wednesday and stayed until Sunday afternoon. It was a lot of fun. While we were there we attended our friend Sarah’s wedding. We spent time at the reception hanging out with our friend Rachael and her family. It was great to have a chance to reconnect with some people I hadn’t seen in several years.

What wasn’t so great was the trip back. It was kind of a stormy day, stupid winter, and the Atlanta airport, stupid Atlanta airport, was backed up like crazy. We got hit with a ground hold in Milwaukee and left two hours late. When we got into Atlanta we had to hang out for a while. We boarded the flight about the time we were originally supposed to leave (22:30 or so). However, for whatever reason, we did not get off the ground until close to midnight. To top it off, the complementary XM wasn’t working in my row.

We landed at BWI around 00:50 and headed to pick up our bags. Something you should understand about BWI, it can take anywhere from one to twenty years to get luggage off the plane there. Accordingly, it was 01:30 by the time we reclaimed our bags. No, actually our one bag. Standing at the baggage carousel, waiting on bag number two, I hear the following, “Mr. Olivrivero” (hehe, close enough buddy). He hands me a bag, covered in goo, and proceeds to explain that, “Something spilled.” Oh, good, cuz my first guess would have been that it went through the plane wash and the rinse cycle broke.

Turns out one of our shampoo bottles popped open and the cap slid off sideways, filling the bag with the entire contents. YUCK!! I found a bathroom and cleaned the thing off because Treva, most likely accurately, pointed out that no cabby would want that mess in his vehicle.

01:45. The cab dispatcher doesn’t seem to have clue one and we stand around until he pulls it together and realizes we in fact want a cab.

02:15. We make it home. I, not wanting to deal with the goopy mess in the morning clean the bag and toss a load of laundry in.

We make it to bed about 03:00 and fall into a deep sleep.

06:20. BEEEP! BEEP! BEEEP! BEEP!

No way. Already? This has to be a nightmare.

Actually, I’m sure my thoughts were no where near that coherent. They probably ended at “MARGG! DIE!”

Out of respect for anyone who would have to tollerate either of us, Treva and I took half the day off.

***

I flew to Bentonville, Arkansas in mid December to meet with a small company none of you have ever heard of. (It rhymes with Ham’s Flub). We had good, productive meetings and I flew home. To repack for the trip to Indiana the next day.

For another wedding.

A brief aside. The majority of our trips for the period beginning Thanksgiving and ending in August are centered around someone’s wedding. There’s R and K’s in April and my Sister’s in August left to go.

This weekend was also Christmas with Treva’s family since we were in the area.

We had to alter our travel plans between Greenwood and Goshen slightly when Cape Air decided they would stop flying any of their Indiana commuter operations cancelling our Indianapolis to South Bend flight. Thanks guys. Though I think we had more fun our wway.

Treva’s brothers drove down and gave us a ride. This was probably the most amusing car trip I have ever taken next to the time I was driving around with Rachael and Sarah, playing my horn out the window and waving an orange safety flag. We hooked up with them in the parking lot of a Wal Mart and then decided to hit BW3s for dinner. After which, we were laughing so hard at something that we missed the turn onto I69 and had to take the long way. Which apparently didn’t bother Chris too much since he got to stop and wake up a cousin at 02:00 to ask for Pepsi, which the guy didn’t have anyway. We finally made it back to Goshen about 03:00 and went to sleep. We spent Sunday and Monday with Treva’s family and friends and headed back Monday evening.

We were back in Wisconsin for Christmas and hung with my family again. Good times!

This past week we had friends from Texas and Nebraska visiting. We had a big party at Ronza’s on New Year’s Eve and just hung out the rest of the time.

Okay. I’m wrapping this up. I need to write more often so I can be more detailed. I’m not writing a novel here.

Thanks for reading. Stop back soon. Procrastatron and I are going to take a nap.

96 Hours In LA, Day 1

96 Hours In LA, Day 1

My watch says 21:30, but my body and the clock on my laptop disagree.

The one thing I’ve discovered about flying west is that you seem to acquire 3 more hours in your day, but you really don’t end up doing anything with them.

The day started when my alarm went off at 05:40 (eastern) this morning. I got up, finished packing, and headed for the airport. After clearing security and buying breakfast we boarded our flight for a 09:10 departure. Five hours later we landed in Los Angeles to attend the annual California State University North Ridge Technology and Persons with Disabilities Conference (CSUN).

This conference is huge, at least for the disability field. It is spread out between 2 primary hotels and a third is being used for some events as well. We are here to relaunch the NFB nonvisual Web Certification Program and to present on low cost verses full featured screen access products.

It’s looking like it will be a fun time, and I’m excited to catch up on the latest in new products.

The only downside to the whole thing is that I’ve spent less than 12 waking hours with Treva in teh past week. She spent last week in Indiana, which was really good for her, but since she got back Monday night and I left this morning, it was a little sad.

I’ll try to cover some highlights of the conference in the coming couple days.

August Update

August Update

On the off chance that anyone is still reading my blog, I thought I should check-in and tell y’all what’s been happening.

So, work is… work. Pretty much the same garbage, different day. Our boss is completely obsessed with the upcoming strategic planning “event” in September and honestly most of us could not find it in us to care less. It isn’t that planning for the future isn’t important, but when current operations are messed up and we’re having to scramble to keep our heads above water it becomes difficult to not want to get out of the current situation before figuring out what we can do 2-3 years down the road.

On the bright side of work related things I have an interview next month for a job in Baltimore. It’s something I’ve been looking at for a long time and really wanting to do. Next to working in public safety it’s on the top of my list. It would be working with blindness technology and new products and stuff along those lines. More details later if things pan out, but prayers now would really be appreciated. Treva is a little, uh okay a lot, freaked out about moving across the country. If it’s God’s will it will all work out. I’m flying out the 11th and I guess the interview will take most of the day on the 12th.

Let’s see. What else has been going on?

We were on local AM radio the other morning. We talked about the Center we work at and it was kind of cool. I recorded it for posterity sake if anyone is incredibly bored and wants to listen to it :-). I was going to throw it up and call it a Podcast bonus episode, but I figured it really was not that exciting.

Speaking of podcasts, we got a new one up last night. It’s over at tntpodblast.com.

I bought a new toy yesterday too. I finally broke down and bought a Uniden BCD-396T digital scanner. I can actually listen to the new state digital system and other trunked systems when I travel. I had to order it from Milwaukee because the store in Hamilton was out, but it should be here by Wednesday. I hate waiting. πŸ™‚ In the meantime I’m playing around with one of the software packages for programming the thing and learning the new concept of how Uniden’s Dynamic Memory works.

Instead of the way a “traditional” scanner works, where you can store X number of frequencies in y number of banks, Uniden has devised a more logical method of Systems and Groups that more closely mirrors the way radios are used. A system contains groups. In a Conventional system groups hold frequencies. In a Trunked system the system itself holds the frequencies, but groups hold the different talkgroups. So, for example, I have a Conventional system programmed for our local area. There are 5 different groups. Law Enforcement, Fire/EMS/EMA, Municipal Services, Amateur Radio, and Business. It gets a little more complex when you try to program a multi-site trunked system like we have in Indiana. I’ll spare you the technical details, because I’m guessing I’ve made at least a few of your eyes glaze over already, but this type of Trunked system works quite similarly to a cellular telephone network. Each radio can affiliate with one or more towers and unless a tower has a radio affiliated with a specific talkgroup it will not push that talkgroup out on itself. A talkgroup is basically like a channel in a “normal” system. The basic problem in programming one of these systems is which tower sites to program and how to do it. Option A is to put all the control channels into one system and whichever the scanner locks onto first that’s the tower you will hear traffic from. Option B is to create different systems for every control channel. This way, you can hear traffic from multiple towers. The downside to Option B is that it takes up more space in the scanner’s memory. The downside to Option A is that if you can actually pick up more than one tower it won’t scan them both because it stops on the first control channel it finds. I’m starting with Option A because I don’t think I can hear many control channels from here. In playing around with a different radio I was only able to hear one of the two towers in my county. Basically, what the whole affiliation thing boils down to is who you can hear and where. If, for example, an ISP unit is affiliated with the Henry county tower and I can’t hear the henry county control channel, I won’t hear that unit unless another ISP unit, in the same talkgroup, is affiliated with a tower I can pick up. This doesn’t affect dispatch since they are connected via wireline at the console to the Zone Controller and don’t really care about the towers. We’ll see how this all works when I actually get my hands on the radio.

Right. Enough of the boring stuff. That’s about all that’s been going on. Now it’s time for work. πŸ™‚

Almost Here

Almost Here

In slightly over 24 hours the big trip will have finally arrived.

We will be leaving for our 7 day Western Caribbean cruise tomorrow. Here’s a quick rundown of the events.


Saturday
Fly to Orlando, meet up with the 15 other family members making the trip.

Sunday
Drive to Port Canaveral; board the ship and set sale at 17:00 local time.

Monday
At sea all day.

Tuesday
Labadee, Hispanola, Hati. RCCL has a brivate beach island here. Water activities, beach, fun.

Wednesday
Ocho Rios, Jamaica. We’ve got an excursion planned that will take us on a tour of the island, plus allow for some shopping and sampling of the local food.

Thursday
Georgetown, Grand Cayman. We’re going on a Rays, Reef and Rumpoint tour. We’ll hit the Sting Ray Sandbar, some reef thing, and Rumpoint beach.

Friday
Cozumel, Mexico. I’m going SCUBA diving. WOOT!

Saturday
At sea all day.

Sunday
Return home

This is going to ROCK! Man, what a way to celebrate the grandparents’ 50th anniversary.

I’m going to write entries and take pictures while we’re gone and upload when we come back. So stay tuned.