David Rodeback's Blog

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Life Among the Mormons, and Other Stuff

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Friday, December 1, 2006
Musings While Trying to Fly Home from Albany

Superb customer service, a unusual late-November lightning storm, and comments on upstate New York cuisine . . . Not very political at all, really.

I'm trying to make my way home from a week-long business trip to upstate New York, where I have spent my days training people to use their software and a couple of evenings in meetings. Apart from that, I seem to have done little more than eat and sleep, with an occasional workout in between. I always imagine myself both relaxing and getting a lot of work done in my hotel room in the evenings. Never has that proven more fanciful than this week.

Mostly the Weather

The weather has been alternately wet and excellent. In fact, it was quite pleasant even as I stepped off the rental car shuttle in front of the Albany airport terminal. I was slightly delayed going through security, due to an unexpected invitation to walk into a modernistic booth which I think is for detecting explosive residue. About the size of a telephone booth, it features puffs of air from all directions, followed by a significant pause while it decides if you have been dabbling in unauthorized chemistry. Then -- at least in my case -- it lets you exit without incident.

By the time I arrived at my gate, the forecast 60-mile-per-hour winds had also arrived, bringing an impressive lightning storm unusual for late November. Large, floor-to-ceiling airport concourse windows are excellent for watching nocturnal lightning storms. There was heavy rain, too -- some of it nearly horizontal.

Robert Fagan Is My Hero For the Day

The aircraft I was scheduled to ride to Cincinnati -- and later did -- was inbound from Cincinnati just then. Understandably, the pilots were reluctant to land in those conditions. They circled for a while before retreating west to Syracuse. Two or three hours later, after the storm, they came back.

Meanwhile, a few dozen folks were worrying about getting to Cincinnati in time to make their connections. My own connection was the last flight of the evening to Salt Lake City, and my passion for being on it was due to a major family event scheduled for tomorrow morning.

Delta Airlines agent Robert Fagan was at the gate, keeping us posted on the status of our flight and our connections, and calmly, clearly, cheerfully, and patiently explaining each passenger's options. The flight from New Hampshire to Cincinnati was also two or three hours late, so one passenger's connection on that aircraft's next flight was unthreatened. The flight to Salt Lake City was on time, so my chances were virtually nil. And so forth. Some passengers left the airport, having decided to try the following day or the next weekend. About 20 of us stuck it out.

The passenger bound for Oklahoma City asked for an update every few minutes for two hours, I think. Mr. Fagan was unruffled. In fact, the twinkle in his eye slowly grew. By the time our aircraft was on approach from Syracuse, even that passenger was joking about it -- but still asking for the updates. Just before we began to board the aircraft, and about 30 seconds after the last Oklahoma City update, Fagan was at full twinkle. He got on the PA system and announced that the Cincinnati-Oklahoma flight had been cancelled. Said passenger looked at him and burst out laughing, appreciating the joke. (It really was a joke.) He wasn't the only one laughing.

As I presented my boarding pass and headed down the jetway, I thought to myself that Fagan's handling of those delayed passengers was a work of art. We just don't see that level of skill or dedication to customer service very often.

Then he made it personal. He called me back to tell me that all of the exit row seats on the aircraft were unoccupied and to suggest that I take one of them. I am larger than most of the rest of the passengers -- both taller and, alas, wider, though he didn't mention the latter -- and he thought I might be more comfortable with more leg space. I was.

A lot of flights were cancelled today, and many more were delayed, due to widespread weather problems in the eastern half of the United States. I wonder how many delayed passengers enjoyed the a high level of interpersonal artistry and the utter competence my fellow passengers and I experienced in Robert Fagan's care.

You're probably thinking that I should write to Delta about him. I will, once I return home to my paper and printer -- which will not be tonight.

The Food Was Excellent in Upstate New York

I twice enjoyed the excellent Thai cuisine at the Siam Thai Restaurant in downtown Glens Falls, NY, where I have eaten before. Here's my point: American Fork's Thai Village (at 200 West and Main) is just as good.

While on business in Florida a few years ago, I quickly developed a taste for grilled grouper, but until this week I had never seen it on a menu further north. I was delighted to see it among the catches of the day at the Red Lobster in Glens Falls. It was as good as I remembered.

Besides grouper, what we don't have in American Fork or even in Utah County, as far as I know, is an Italian restaurant to equal Queensbury's Sweet Basil. A relatively small, mid-priced establishment, it is entirely professional, but somewhat relaxed and quite unpretentious. This time, I had an excellent steak, but the Chicken Scarpelle I enjoyed on an earlier trip this year was easily among the best Italian food I've ever eaten. (In the interest of full disclosure, I note that I have never been to Italy.) The Sweet Basil also has my favorite salad bar -- not the biggest, perhaps actually one of the smallest, but everything it offers is excellent, and the marinated cucumbers are to die for.

In Case You're Wondering

What does this have to do with politics? Precious little, except to suggest one point: There is more to life than politics.

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