Today, I witnessed something I’ve never seen before, and something that horrified me.
I walked into our news control room at work as the satellite feeds were all set up on a vacant podium in the lobby of Trump Tower.
We were a few pages* into the newscast when Trump walked out and prepared to speak.
The reaction in the room was one of collective disgust, fear, and anger.
The fact that we have a “leader” that can universally invoke that is just staggering.
I’m flabbergasted that he’s now claiming the “alt-left” is a thing, and a very harmful one at that. Strange that this alt-left didn’t exist until a tweet today, as far as I know, while the alt-right was well established and documented from well prior to Trump’s being elected.
I made some very dire and horrible predictions when Trump was being elected. They aren’t exactly mirror image accurate, but there are some horrifying parallels being drawn. Communities are being turned against each other down political, socioeconomic, and racial lines, while Trump taunts a very irresponsible up and coming nuclear war machine in North Korea. The upward distribution of wealth out of middle and lower class communities continues to suck harder every day, causing stock market indicators to soar into the green… A false indication of prosperity while everything stagnates.
Where I work, most of the staff are long time veterans. They’ve seen a lot happen around them… Miami burning in the 80s, the Gulf wars in the 90s, Hurricane Andrew, face-eating zombies in Miami, you name it…
Nobody could recall ever seeing this same universal reaction of disgust at anyone or anything.
That’s a new, horrible accomplishment.
*Though the scripts are electronic nowadays and only usually exist within the teleprompter or an iPad, they are still arranged as “pages”. It works, that’s all I know….
These boxes are everywhere around here because certain equipment that needs to be stationed outdoors isn’t happy with the 96 degree F summer outdoor temperatures. They’re an outdoor weather resistant enclosure, with an air conditioning unit attached through one side.
Air conditioning units have two functions. They reduce temperature and humidity. The amount of humidity they remove is proportional to the amount of time the unit is in cooling mode.
This cabinet is very well insulated and has a very low heat load… Watch this Nautel loooooaf along…
Standing next to it, I saw that little a/c pack start maybe once every 10 minutes, for about a minute at a time.
Brace yourself, the results ain’t pretty.
This curious white fungus is attacking rubber parts…
Various points of moisture or fungus damage…
And as an added bonus, open this cabinet on a hot humid day and you’ll be treated to the horrific sight of the equipment becoming soaking wet while still actively running…
Insects have been attracted to the cabinet by moisture… This is after a big vacuuming, the junk stuck to the cabinet ain’t gonna yield to that alone…
So what’s the solution? I can think of a couple things.
A) do not oversize the air conditioner. This is tricky as heat load is unpredictable and failure to remove enough heat would quickly cause a shutdown or equipment damage.
B) place constantly on LED lights inside to inhibit this mold/fungus growth.
C) use humidity controls on the a/c or a dehumidifier if possible. Not sure if you could easily fit a humidistat to this unit as it’s got its own integrated microprocessor control (hidden behind that piece of filter)… But who knows.
Things You Just Don’t Do:
Leave an EFP camera out in the rain.
Leave said EFP camera lying on the ground in the rain.
Drag a lav mic across the wet ground.
Grab the iris ring on the lens and force it open against the servo while it’s in remote control by the color video operator trying to shade the shot.
Shoot in the rain with water streaming down the poor lens so your engineer has to go borrow a hair dryer from a reporter to steam it out.
Unplug the triax hot (he didn’t do it today he ALWAYS does every day but I’m just waiting for him to do it with the plugs soaking wet and the 170VDC turned on)
Complain that your engineer doesn’t know what he’s talking about.
The general role of an airline is to provide safe, comfortable, and efficient transportation of passengers and their baggage from one city’s airport to another.
United Airlines fails at all of this.
Here’s my experience with flying United.
I arrived at Miami International Airport at about 3 AM for a 5:40 AM boarding to an early morning flight. At 3:30 AM, the TSA checkpoints were supposed to open. They didn’t open until 4 AM. Thankfully there was no line. This opened out into MIA’s concourse G… which had no air conditioning at all. The temperatures inside the concourse were over 90 degrees. Thankfully, my flight began boarding on time…. but some passengers were already showing signs of heat exhaustion.
This overheating condition would turn out to be a curse on every leg of this trip.
I had a flight from Miami to Sacramento, California. I won’t really bother with digging out my small mountain of old boarding passes (I call them Broken Promise Slips) to find exact flight numbers, but yeah… The first flight was going to be Miami to Chicago’s O’Hare airport, O’Hare to Denver, then Denver to Sacramento. Sound ridiculous? Well, it was too ridiculous to…. * drum roll * fly.
The first flight boarded, and then the captain came on the intercom— “Good morning everyone, we are now completed boarding and ready to push back, but we’re first going to try to resolve a problem with the electronics on this aircraft that have been acting up all morning.”
One hour later, they tried turning the plane off and back on again.
This did not resolve anything.
They tried it again and again.
Three hours later, they gave up and let us get off the plane if we wanted. However, the official status of the flight remained “DELAYED”, not “cancelled.”. NEVER cancelled, because this would force them to make good on our travel plans.
I called customer service at 1-800-UNITED-1 and got an agent in what had to have been the WORST Indian call center I’ve ever experienced. I could hear three different agents shouting in the background behind the one I was talking to, and the agent I was talking to sounded hopelessly uninterested. Upon learning there was nothing she could quickly do to just put me on a later flight, she hung up on me. I actually heard the receiver clatter into the cradle as it disconnected.
I went to a ticket agent who said they couldn’t do a thing because all flights out of MIA were full. He identified himself to me as being “the boss”, whatever that meant. However, he put me on a flight out with an itinerary that would have taken me to Houston then to Sacramento as standby.
I went to the gate and waited for that flight. This terminal had air conditioning. I was #2 on the standby list… with 30 passengers after me. They had room for only one standby passenger, so I didn’t make it. Right before boarding started, I saw a sight I’m sadly very used to with air travel — an exhausted horde of passengers who look like they’ve been stuck in a terminal without a shower for two or three days dashing to the gate to board after being screwed over and bounced from overbooked flight to flight with seemingly no hope of escape.
None of them made it on either.
I spoke to the gate agent after boarding completed and he called some other magic phone number, where he was instructed to concede and book me a ticket on American Airlines.
By this point I’d been in MIA about six hours. The airport just looked… third worldly. This would change very quickly, as American has their own terminal there, the “Super A” terminal. It’s beautiful. I could hardly believe my eyes. The flight had no standby list, boarded on time, got there on time, everything was perfect. It arrived at… I don’t even remember, O’Hare? Some airport that looked like a giant Habitrail hamster cage made of glass. It had a cool neon sculpture in an underground corridor. I dunno. I got up to waiting for the next flight out to Sacramento via United, and there was a standby list of 36…. for an Airbus A320. I had an assigned seat, luckily. It boarded and left after some weird delay and arrived in Sacramento just after midnight local time.
As the plane taxiied to the runway, the A320’s air conditioning stopped momentarily, which is perfectly normal. While you’re on the ground, the A/C is usually fed by “bleed air” from the compressor stage of the Auxillary Power Unit in the back of the fuselage. The APU is kind of a utility generator that provides a few vital functions before the main engines start. Its bleed air is diverted to air start turbines in the main engines to kick them into action, which is why the A/C will pause just before you hear the main engines spool up.
It never returned after main engine startup. An extremely weak pissing of warm-ish air pressurized the cabin just before the takeoff roll and that was it– the rest of the flight was at a cabin temperature of 86 degrees. (Temperatures measured using a small digital thermometer I forgot to remove from my bag when I packed everything. Oops)
As the drink service cart went by I saw Chinese bottled water on it. Yes, seriously – the water bottles were labelled in Chinese text and looked like they’d all been severely scraped up in handling. I declined anything from those water bottles….
Passengers were complaining, of course. The crew did nothing about this and didn’t even offer an explanation. Later, upon reading some technical info on the A320 I learned that 86 degrees is a magic number: it’s what you get if you grab the cabin temp knobs in the cockpit and just spin ’em to the right.
Adding in the time zone differences, this trip took just over 24 hours. Average speed: 124 MPH. This is not the kind of speed commercial air travel using modern high speed jet aircraft likes to boast about, for sure.
The time I spent over on the west coast was wonderful but all too short, and before long, I was starting out at the municipal airport in Redding, California, for a little puddle jump to San Francisco to continue back east.
As I was going through the security screening, a TSA agent called some Code Something and the metal gates started quickly rolling out of the ceiling, sealing off the checkpoint area and leaving about a dozen of us trapped inside as a scramble of activity began around a little old lady and her suitcase in the X-ray machine.
Agents swarmed around her and the machine’s monitors.
Sure enough, I heard both “Looks like an ear piercing gun…”
And “You’re better off just getting it done with a needle”. This came from a TSA agent. So they ARE there for our safety!
The metal gates began to roll back into the ceiling, freeing us to continue.
The little United by SkyWest CRJ-200 pulled in on time. Due to the tiny size of this jet, what would be a normal carry on bag wouldn’t fit its overhead bins, so they had us check our bags right next to it on the tarmac. It departed on time as well, and as soon as it was in the air, the cabin temperature was wound up to “FORGET IT!”. It went as high as 96 degrees during the flight. We all stumbled off the plane drenched in sweat. About the first ten rows worth of passengers were allowed to claim their bags right there next to the plane but then a gate in this little chute they used to keep us from wandering out onto the ramp was slammed shut and we were quickly herded into the terminal with the instruction to pick up our bags at baggage claim.
Our bags never arrived at baggage claim until several phone calls were placed. At this point I was running out of time for my connecting flight, or so it seemed.
The flight started boarding on time, on a beautiful new Boeing 787! This one was bound for Houston.
Maintenance crews were bustling around one of the aft lavatories for a bit, but about 20 minutes after scheduled departure they seemed to be done, and deplaned.
“This is your captain speaking. We’re ready to push back and take off as soon as we receive our maintenance paperwork.”
“This is your captain…. Sorry, we have received no updates, we’re calling a supervisor…”
My phone still gets a signal so I try 1-800-UNITED1. I’m hung up on again.
THREE HOURS LATER….
“We’re sorry about the delay, if you wish to deplane now you may, but do so quickly…”
Just before takeoff roll, the A/C becomes a warm trickle. Temperature would reach about 82 on this flight with very little airflow. The “gaspers” (see a picture of Airbus gaspers at the top of this post) above the seats don’t really help because they’re so far overhead.
The plane was HORRIBLY loud. When I took off my headphones I was treated to about the same sound and intensity as if someone had started a wet/dry vacuum next to my head. More Chinese bottled water on the beverage carts.
Landing at Houston took place long after my connecting flight would have ARRIVED IN MIAMI, so I went to United’s customer service desk. They gave me hotel and meal vouchers (an amazingly generous $30 in meal vouchers, wow!). I’d have to miss a day at work that I’d never arranged for previously and judging from my boss’s lack of reaction to this, he wasn’t pleased.
I spent the next four hours or so after arriving in the hotel and taking a shower trying to sleep but waking up in a feeling of total panic every few minutes. It was kind of a lost cause. The last thing clean in my suitcase was a black dress and a pair of leggings. I kind of cringed considering one of the recent well deserved pieces of press coverage of United. I checked out and the same guy was at the front desk as when I checked in.
Houston to Miami… Boarded late, there was a further delay, but at least this was nonstop – no way they could screw up but I was totally expecting them to. On this flight, none of the economy class seats recline – the feature had been REMOVED. The plane was filthy. There was a delay on takeoff because a seat belt broke off in a passenger’s hands and had to be replaced. Cabin temperature, of course, went right to 85 at the takeoff roll.
The plane arrived in Miami. This trip duration: 38 hours. Average speed: 81.6 MPH. Could have beat that shit in a single engine prop Cessna.
I was feeling totally beaten up at this point, suffering heat exhaustion, maybe a little dehydration, and felt totally unable to make the drive home from the airport. I sat down on a bench in the lobby of the Sheraton hotel where I’d parked my car and got up like three hours later like the time just disappeared. Finally I made the drive home and collapsed for the next 18 hours or so.
United Airlines was so pleased to serve me! And to serve their mystery Chinese bottled water that I wouldn’t trust, EVER. Holy hell.
I’m never flying with them again. NEVER. So that puts them, Spirit Airlines, and Delta on my FUCK NO list.
I’m putting this in the trafFUCKED category because, well, it’s apparently to get traFUCKED in the skies….
I later got a royal chewing out for being gone those days, and for an unrelated subject, also mentioned in this article, also occurring on my own time—- but that one’s going to be material for a rage post that’s currently on ice pending discussions with the union!