Another Satisfied United Customer – The Holidays Day 12

I used to work at the Smoking Lounge at the Denver International Airport. The money was good, and it served a purpose, but it made me realize how terrible air travel actually is. I used to think of airports as this magical place that would whisk people away to various destinations, so everybody should be happy when they visited them. But when I started to work in the airport, I met a lot of unhappy people. Now I do have to keep things in perspective. I worked in the only place in the airport where people could have a cigarette, and we had a one drink minimum at the place. If you want to piss off a smoker who has not had one during a long international flight really quick, just tell them that they have pay in order to get that fix.

But in all fairness, they were not always complaining about their inability to feed their addiction. Many of these people came in with complaints about their airline, United. There were many times where people were bumped from their flights because the company overbooked, and they did not really care about it either. Why should they? It wasn’t their problem.

I do remember coming in to the airport for work and coming in the east entrance because this was the place that had the better parking spots. It was also the side that United did their checkins. It didn’t matter what time I would come in for my shift, there was always a long line of passengers waiting to get on their flight, and only a couple of people working the counter to help all of these people. I could see how some of the frustration that people experienced with this company came from that as well.

I never gave it much attention because I worked on concourse B which was controlled by United so I just believed that I heard all of the complaints from this company because of location. If I worked on one of the other concourses, I would hear complaints about Frontier or Delta. It wasn’t until I got to experience the happy people who work for this company that I started to realize that the complaints that people made were true. I was yelled at in the long line I had to wait through to check my bags. I barely made it to my gate because of the slow way the moved people through that line. And when I got there, they delayed the flight until they could find somebody to give up their seat because they once again overbooked.

I got to enjoy the wonderful customer service that United Airlines has once again this morning. I am stuck in the Redmond Airport right now because they would not let us get through security to get on our plane. I had to stand in a line for forty five minutes that was only twenty people long as they had to deal with individual customers for ten minutes at a time. Premier Access customers were allowed to cut in line for flights that were not leaving for another hour so they could slow down the two employees even more. We had another ten minutes before they were officially boarding but we were denied as well as ten other passengers behind us going on the same flight. There was a group of dissatisfied customers who are stuck in Redmond for another night because they could not accommodate their customers. And the attitude I got from the employees was, I don’t care because I am getting paid.

Now this might come across as a person who is mad because they missed their flight, but according to J.D. Power and Associates’ survey from May of this year, Unites Airlines ranks the lowest out of any airlines in customer satisfaction. I knew this before I flew because this was where they have ranked when I worked at the airport so many years ago, and through a series of filing for bankruptcy over the years, they have done nothing to improve this rating. It makes me wonder how this company is still in business. It is just another company that I will avoid in the future because of days like this.

The Year Must be Coming to an End – The Holidays Day 11

You know it must be the end of the year when the only thing on tv is bowl games. The NCAA seems to go a little overboard with the amount of games that they want to get in before they finally get to that National Championship, and I am happy that they have finally put together a little playoff system to prove to everybody that the four teams they have picked deserve to be there. But the lead up to it and the payoff afterwards is a little ridiculous. It seems that every team that won at least six games is given the opportunity to attend one of these prestigious bowls. I was even told that if they keep on adding games at the rate they are going, they will need to lower their requirements to make sure that there are teams playing in all of the bowl games. But there are a lot of corporate sponsors out there and they need to make sure that their products get seen on any of these major television events. The next time you watch a game try to see how many times they are able to have product placement as the game goes on. After watching the Orange Bowl last night, I have a sudden urge to drink Gatorade while talking to people on my At+t phone, wearing my Nike shirt, and Ander Armor shoes, going to the Hard Rock Cafe in my car with the protection of Goodyear tires, and paying for it all with my Capital One credit card. This is without even talking about the commercials I saw during the game, or the sponsors that the announcer told me about. I sure am glad that the NCAA is a non-sponsor organization and doesn’t need all of these corporate sponsors to help their student athletes get that degree in communications that they need.

Speaking of commercials, you know it must be the end of the year when you see advertisements for health improvements in the newspapers, and television. Now these might be out there all the time, and it is only this time of the year that I think about them, but there seems to be a lot of commercials for diets, and gym memberships. I do agree that it is important to be healthy and I am glad that people take this moment in life to resolve to be better about their health. Of course, they usually start this new trend that day after drinking excessive amounts of alcohol and eating tons of food devoid of any nutrition. It is only a matter of time before a lot of us give up on these resolutions and go back to the lifestyle we are more comfortable with, but I am sure that there are a few people out there that achieve their goals, and become more healthy. To those people I applaud you. I think the thing that would help the most would be that we resolve to make this change throughout the course of the next year. At least this gives us twelve months to feel better about ourselves, and we stumble a little bit in the beginning, we can pick ourselves back up and try to work on that improvement later on. Lately, I have also been seeing commercials for plastic surgery as well. I do not think that these are timed well. People do not go into the new year thinking that they will work on looking and feeling better and go straight to the surgeon. They start with the gym and the diet. If the plastic surgery commercials came out a month later then they would be more impactful to those that did not do well on their resolution, and they might be more willing to go with this option. I still think it is better to keep on working at that healthier lifestyle because in the long run you will be better off for it. Just remember that it is all about the baby steps, and you can’t make huge changes in the midst of a midnight, ball-dropping kiss.

You know it must be the end of the year when you start to see the skeletons of dead trees piling up in the parking lots of your local libraries. Okay, they might not always happen in the library parking lots, but for some reason, it is the place I always picture this drop off place being. It is some parking lot that is no longer in use because more people go there during the warmer months or because people just don’t go there much anymore. There is usually a big wood chipper sitting nearby, waiting to send them to that big compost heap in the sky. If you go at the right time, you might even see a bunch of boy scouts standing around hoping to learn how to use a wood chipper, but in reality, that is what the scout masters are there for. The bring the boys so they can point the customers to the place where they can put their dead trees, as if it isn’t already obvious. I am proud of the boy scouts though this year. They have made great strides to make sure that their program is more sustainable by allowing girls to join. I know that there are a lot of people that will disagree with me, but girls should be given the opportunity to learn about the wood chipper just as much as the boys should. When I was working with the Experiential Education program at my last school, we did not think about whether it was appropriate for girls. We just thought about what would be the best experiences that we could bring to our students, and where would they get the most out of that experience. Life experiences are not a gender specific topic, and it might actually help the socially awkward kids that gravitate to boy scouts become more comfortable mixing with each other. As long as that mixing takes place outside of the tents of course.

A Wintery Walk – The Holidays Day 10

One of the things that I miss the most while living in South Korea is the ability to go outside and take a stroll after a nice snow storm. I can do it, but I find myself deep in the city crowd, and it is not really fun because the wind bites, and the cold digs down deep into my bones clinging to them for hours after I return home. Being in Central Oregon at Black Butte Ranch, I was able to take the time to go out on one of these walks through the various bike paths and enjoy the scenery and the calm and quite.

Black Butte Ranch turns into a place where I can breathe easier and reflect on life during the winter. When I left on my walk, I thought that I would be the only person out on the bike paths, but I was surprised at the amount of people out there doing the same thing. Most of them were families taking the time away from their televisions and warmth of their houses to enjoy what the Ranch has to offer. Or they were out to give their dogs a little bit of time in the snow. But they were few and far between, so most of the time I felt like I had the whole place for myself.

Every turn took me to a place I was familiar with due to all of the time I have been able to spend out here during the summer. But with a blanket of snow over it all, it gives it a new look like it was the first time I was seeing it. I know I was out on the Ranch by myself, and not sharing these moments with anybody else, but it was the fact that I was out there by myself that made me feel like I was walking away with something that was completely mine. It was the walk that returned me to a simpler time when I had these moments to myself instead of the hustle and bustle and the constant contact of the busy city.  Even though it was a little bit of exercise, the walk was the thing I needed in order to recharge the batteries I needed to take on the last semester at my school.

I love the activity that can be found at this vacation spot during the summer as I hear the voices of children laughing from the various pools or the folks taking their voyages on the horses that they can rent out there, but I think the winter time is my favorite time at the Ranch. The fact that there is not as much to do forces me to take the time to stop and look at the Ranch a little more closely. The ruddiness my cheeks gathered and the calm I collected made it one of my favorite moments on this trip so far.

 

A Citizen without a Government – The Holidays Day 9

It was time for a change of scenery yesterday, so I left Portland behind to head off to central Oregon. I went from skies covered in clouds spitting out rain to clear skies and ground full of snow. It was nice to get into this winter landscape and watch the change along the way. The driving got a little slow over the Santiam Pass because the roads got icy, and there were a bunch of people who had the same idea that we did as they traveled the same path, but nobody was in a hurry, so it just added to the scenery, and made for an enjoyable drive.

Along the way, there was a discussion about how the closing of the government would affect the common man, and if we would ever see any of the effects. Granted we could watch the market as it did its crazy dance everyday, but as long as we did not panic with all of the other traders, it should not affect us very much. I do feel sorry for those people without work right now because the people governing this country couldn’t come together to come up with a solution to the problem. I would hope that they would eventually get their jobs back or find something to hold them over in the meantime. There was also a talk about how the National Parks would be closed, but what exactly that meant. Did that mean that they would put gates over the parks, and not allow anybody to enter, or would they just leave them open so people could come and go as they pleased. It didn’t really hit us until we stopped at the Sweet Home Ranger Station in the Willamette National Forest. This is a nice half way point where we can usually stop for a bathroom break, and get the dog out for a bit. Even with our conversation, we did not think ahead enough to think whether this station would be opened or not.

It was obviously closed. It looked like the trailheads that were there were still available to hike if we wished to do so, and there were some port-a-potties outside that we could use, but nobody was keeping them clean. Luckily, we were early enough into the shutdown where they weren’t too trashed yet, but it was only a matter of time before this would change. There were no rangers there to guide us, and no maps or information made available. The forest service was one of the organizations that was no longer working. It was a little of a discomfort, but it did not affect us too much. On the news later that night I found out that the National Parks in warmer climes, such as Joshua Tree, were still open for people to drive through but the visitors’ centers were closed and they were not collecting money to maintain the beauty of these places. The parks in colder climes, such as Crater Lake, had closed the road up to the more scenic sites because of the danger involved with keeping them clear for visitors. It has caused some problems right now, but if this continues to when it gets warmer and visitors come out to see these sites, it might be a bigger problem with how things are maintained.

As I settled into my new spot for the night, I wondered if the government would get back to governing instead of fighting all of the time. There are people who need them to do their jobs, and the things that make this country beautiful might be eventually be compromised. It is only a matter of time before American feel more of the effects of this shutdown, and it shouldn’t be about which side is right or wrong. It should be about compromise and making this a great place for everybody to live in.

 

My Most Popular Blog Posts of 2018

First of all, I want to thank all of my followers, and all of you that read my blog during the last year. It was, by far, the best year that this blog has ever experienced. I learned a lot about what to do and what not to do, and I appreciate that you stuck with me through all of the experimentation. There were a few missteps along the way, but what follows is the posts that were the eleven most popular ones last year, in order from least popular to most popular. I have excluded the excerpts from my books and my home page because those alway tend to be the most popular posts no matter what year it is. Enjoy looking back over the year.

#11 The Ultimate Boon – Experiential Education Day 3

#10 Grainy Memories – Around the World Day 33

#9 Luang Prabang, Laos – Day 5

#8 – Searching for Snow

#7 – Pyeongchang Olympics – Day 1

#6 – Visiting My Stuff – Around the World Day 26

#5 – Sundays are for Family – Around the World Day 24

#4 – Siesta Selfie – Around the World Day 46

#3 – Bend Sucks! Move Somewhere Else – Around the World Day 39

#2 – It is Now about the Destination

#1 – Taking Pictures of People Taking Pictures – Around the World Day 1

Thanks again for all of the support throughout the year, and I hope to see more of you again next year. There are many exciting changes coming and I hope to bring you along with me as they happen.

Happy Holidays!

Have Yourself a Rainy Little Christmas – The Holidays Day 6

I know that I spend a lot of my time bringing you pictures from around the world as I get to go to some exciting places and experience some truly amazing things. I enjoy sharing these things, and I love the pictures I am able to take with my phone. Most of the pictures I share are of the landscapes and sights from the cities or countries I am visiting, and my thoughts about what goes through me as I get to see them. I am always traveling with someone, but due to their privacy I try not to include them in my blog unless I know for a fact that they will be okay with their picture up for everybody to see. Then I come back to the Unites States, and I quit taking pictures, but still blog. It is not that I do not see amazing things when I am back home; it is more that I do not go out and hunt them down. My experiences in the States is to visit with family, and do the ordinary things that most Americans do on a regular basis. Not that I don’t find this stuff interesting anymore, and that many of my followers around the world might not want to know what life is like in the United States, but I find it so routine that I have a hard time coming up with a fresh way of looking at it.

But yesterday I was able to get out of the house for a little bit and not go to one of the malls packed with last minute shoppers. I got to experience Christmas in a way that I usually do not get to experience it, the Portland rain. I have been in Portland before for Christmas, but it has been a long time since I have been in its rain. I know that a lot of people will think that because I come from Colorado that I grew up with the cliche Christmas experience of trudging through the snow every Christmas morning and drinking hot chocolate while a blizzard raged on outside, but this was not always the case. I did get to have a few white Christmases, but there were other times that I was walking around in a t-shirt and enjoying the sun. In fact, my first post of the year talked about this exact thing.

But there are many people around the world that experience Christmas in a way that is not like the one that is usually depicted on the Hallmark Channel. They put up their Santa Clauses, lights and decorations, pretending that a big snow will come and give it that extra something that makes the holidays the holidays. But it never happens. It rarely snows in Portland. In fact, a typical Christmas here is usually covered with a rain cloud as a drizzle turns everything into a lush green. It is not the cliche, but it is not wrong. It is just the way that they enjoy the holidays in this part of the world.

It reminds me of the last couple of Christmases I have gotten to enjoy in New Zealand and Australia. There will never be a chance for them to experience snow on this day because Christmas comes in the middle of their summer. But this does not stop them from putting up the same decorations that we would see in the United States, and play the same carols over the shopping loud speaking that speak of snow. It felt out of place, but it did not take the holiday away.

I guess the thing that I took out of this recent experience is that the holiday is going to come no matter what. It might not be the same as it is pictured on postcards and television, but it is still a moment to spend the day with the people that make it special. It will take a force greater than the weather to not allow this day to come every year. So for all of you out there that celebrate this day, I wish you a Merry White One, or a Sunny Holiday or like where I get to enjoy the day this year, a Rainy Little Christmas.

The Fall of Giants – The Holidays Day 5

When I was a kid, the Christmas holidays started for me in October when the Sears catalogue came out. My mom would sit me down at the kitchen table and open up this beast of a publication to the last pages of it which always featured all of the toys that were available at that time. Then she would ask me what I wanted for Christmas. I would flip through those pages, looking at the various toys and games featuring the smiling kids always having fun playing with them, and wish I was in that situation at that time. My mom would take that list and I would always think that she would mail it along with the ones that my brothers and sister made to Santa Claus. I would never make the connection that the trip to Southglen Mall’s Sear’s pick up station had something to do with that moment at the kitchen table a couple of weeks earlier.

It all started with this giant of a retail store. In fact, growing up, Sears was a very important part of my life. If we needed new tires, we went to Sears. During the summer, when we needed to get tools to keep the yard clean, we would find them at Sears. Before school started every year, we would get our uniforms delivered to us at Sears. And of course, the holiday season always started with the delivery of that huge catalogue that showed everything that you could get at the store. Every mall in America had one of these stores in the corner of the parking lot that would always be packed with cars because that would be the first place that people would visit when they went to the mall. They dominated the retail market and nobody could be bigger.

I never thought about it until recently as other stores tried to chip away at the hold that this giant had on the market. WalMart would be the perfect example of this. Many people were offended that there was some store out there where you could get everything all in one place. They complained that it would destroy the ma and pop stores because they would never have a chance to compete against that. But they were just taking after the Sears model and adding a grocery store to it. People should not have thought that this was a new idea that revolutionized the market. In fact, it was only until recently that WalMart decided to allow for delivery of their items to happen and Sears had been doing that since it inception. And the only reason that WalMart decided to do that was because they were starting to struggle when they had to compete with the new giant, Amazon.

All of this hit me yesterday when I went to visit Sears for the first time in a decade. It showed me that there was always a time where the giants of the world would start to lose their power and a new entity would emerge to take its place.

I have known for quite some time that Sears was going out of business. The writing had been on the wall for years. The once packed packing lots of America’s mall was the perfect place to fins a spot these days, and there wasn’t always a Sears connected to every new mall made. The commercials selling their power tools no longer dominated the television screens during football games, and I can’t remember the last time I saw the epic volume that was their catalogue arrive in the mailbox. It was only a matter of time when they gave it up and let people come in to take the last pieces made available before they shut down their door forever.

Yesterday, I found that perfect parking spot as I went to do some Christmas shopping in one of America’s various malls and took a stroll through the dying days of the local Sears. It was probably the most packed I have ever seen one of these stores because people were there hoping to find that last deal before the death rattle. But there was not a lot to offer. The clothes were horribly out of date and the sizes were the weird ones that only fit a lucky few. The shelves were bare except for a couple of items that would only be sold during the holidays such as fake plastic trees and their lights. It was a little depressing, but it was also the nature of the beast. It was just Sears’s time to go.

But Sears’s destiny should be a lesson for all other companies out there. It is the fate of all of them. If you do not believe me, go to your local Blockbuster and ask them how they are doing right now. WalMart is also starting to show its age as it has closed down a few of its grocery stores, and no longer can claim hold to the American economy anymore. Even giants like Anheuser-Busch are trying to find ways to hold on to what they once controlled. I have been lucky enough not to see any commercials over the last couple of years because I have lived out of the country, but the Bud Light marketing campaign is a direct example of this. Budweiser, the self-proclaimed king of beers, has seen a huge portion of its market shares cut as smaller local breweries keep on finding more and more success. They have started putting characters into their commercials that are snobby about their beer consumption, and the king eventually goes with the beer of the masses, Bud Light, instead of the mead. In truth, Budweiser is having a problem because people demand a beer with more taste now instead of the bland, over-produced swill that they have been shilling for over a hundred years. They need to make fun of those beers in the hopes of gaining back the market that they once dominated. It is nothing more than a sign that the once mighty giant has fallen.

Not every company can accept that this will eventually happen to them. It is the way of the world. We no longer are under the rule of the Roman empire, and Spain no longer controls the world. There would always be a time where the mighty must fall. Jeff Bezos, the owner of Amazon, recognizes this as he told his employees recently that even this company will see this fate as well. It is just a matter of time, but they should enjoy their success while it is still happening. They just need to not complain when thing start to fall apart. Instead, they should carve out a small slice of the market that they once so comfortably controlled, and enjoy what they have left, instead of always trying to be the giant.

It is a difficult lesson to learn, but one of greatness must always embrace.