Yeah that’s me at the Under the Gun tattoo parlor…

Every person has a secret vice. Some people emit global-send tweets of racy pictures they intended to reach merely one inappropriate recipient. Others have drug or gambling issues. My vice is less extreme, but sometimes more annoying. Through an ineffectual combination of parsimony and disorganization, I make cockamamie travel plans vulnerable to implosion.

(I won’t bore you with the maddening tale of trying to cash in some frequent flyer points so I could help my wife drive my daughter to an Ithaca College drama camp. I also had a $50 fare coupon. The back includes a Babylonian Talmud-length set of disclaimers explaining all the dates, services, and purposes for which it couldn’t be used. I like dealing with frequent flyer programs. They make me feel much better about the ethics and efficiency of every other person and firm I encounter.)

Anyway, my secret vice led me to pick a dumb travel plan. Thus I found myself desperately hunting (an excellent service, by the way) to find a quick overnight stay. I found the pictured hotel, nicely nestled between Sam the Beer Man and the Under the Gun tattoo parlor. Behind my window—a highway and major truck route on some sort of an incline so that I could enjoy the sounds of 18-wheelers shifting gears.

Thus I needed to be scraped off the ceiling at my 3:45 wakeup call to make the rear bathroom-hugging seat on my 5:45 connecting flight. Thus my puddle-jump turboprop idled on the tarmac waiting for a local fog to clear, only for the pilot to discover that he had burned too much fuel. Thus we returned to the gate, deplaned for a moment, piled back on, and did I-don’t know what before flying to Dulles on a 90-minute delay Thus I missed my connection, waited on line for the ticket agent to place, and sprinted over to this gate to beg that I be placed on standby. Thus the flight experienced a pressurization device/computer problem that has us delayed another 90 minutes.

I’m writing this post while stuck at gate C23 at Dulles Airport, sending a myriad of “I’m sorry this is a mess” apology emails for one conference call, one CDC site visit, and I really really am afraid, one dissertation proposal defense. I am about to recite the mourner’s Kaddish given the rapidly fading battery life of my cell phone. I remain mystified by the airports’ and airlines’ joint failure to install lots more electric outlets by each gate.

Flying is so much fun these days. I feel badly for the airline staff, who are now bearing the brunt of our collective frustration. This can’t be much fun for them, either.

Postscript: We’re boarding! Priority passengers are welcome to use the red carpet, too!

Post-postscript: My flight has landed in Chicago. Walking through O’Hare, I spot a young serviceman with a heavy pack heading home. I suspect he’s had to endure a bit worse than my momentary travel inconveniences. That rather puts my yuppie outrage into proper perspective.

Author: Harold Pollack

Harold Pollack is Helen Ross Professor of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago. He has served on three expert committees of the National Academies of Science. His recent research appears in such journals as Addiction, Journal of the American Medical Association, and American Journal of Public Health. He writes regularly on HIV prevention, crime and drug policy, health reform, and disability policy for American Prospect,, and other news outlets. His essay, "Lessons from an Emergency Room Nightmare" was selected for the collection The Best American Medical Writing, 2009. He recently participated, with zero critical acclaim, in the University of Chicago's annual Latke-Hamentaschen debate.

7 thoughts on “Yeah that’s me at the Under the Gun tattoo parlor…”

  1. Mystified by airports’ and airlines’ failure to install more electric outlets? You need to join a skyclub if you want them. (The real question: why doesn’t the peasant zone have metered coin-op outlets?)

  2. I recommend taking one really, truly excruciating trip. (Mine: Maputo-Los Angeles. Via just about everywhere else. Horrible beyond belief, even after I got out of the Mozambican air system, about which the less said the better.) It serves a dual function: first, it’s there whenever you need to console yourself with the thought that things could be worse. Second, it gets you over the wrong kind of parsimony very quickly. All things considered, a couple of days of agony is worth it.

  3. Wait! Is that picture from endicott!?!

    If so, glad to see Sam is still is business. That place was a meca during college days. Buy 6 kegs if milwakees best for $17 each, get 2 free. ID optional.

Comments are closed.