It was the first winter for me, yet it did not offer anything but the spectacular display of snowstorms, which had been more of a nuisance. Of course, that was not the only factor that forced me to choose California for winter break instead of spending the holidays at my new home – Cambridge. I flew to California on snowy Sunday morning in the United airlines from Logan international airport, Boston to Los Angels. Following a simple pattern I had adopted recently, I will tell the story in three parts – concerning three different people.
I, being someone who likes to be organized and be prepared, purchased and collected all I needed for the trip a week in advance, did laundry four days in advance, and packed everything three days in advance; in fact, I had been wearing the same clothes at home for last three days. I checked-in online Saturday afternoon and made the payment for the checked-in luggage. Over a surprise call on Saturday evening, I was informed by a computer voice that my flight from Washington to San Diego (I had the connection at Washington) had been cancelled. I was saddened as I had been preparing and eagerly waiting for Sunday – the day of my flights departure. I made few attempts to buy a new ticket, rebook, and call the customer care. I even considered taking the flight to Washington (which was just delayed), camp there and look for the first flight to leave, yet at no avail. Fortunately, another friend of mine also had his Sunday morning flight to Chicago cancelled. We decided to go to the airport, as nothing changed, and try something there. Here, I am typing this blog from the flight from Boston to Los Angels.
United airlines, an airline picked by Bing Travel, may not be the best. I was really annoyed by their computer operated service which couldn’t recognize my first name nor last name – of course my machine learning background helps me understand the complexity of HMM models and their less perfectness. Yet, voice recognition is theoretically a solved problem, and there are alternative ways of confirming the customer – perhaps by asking the customer to enter the eTicket number and date of birth (still following the protocol of two independent identification methods – one public and one private). The lady at the check-in counter said that she really wanted to do something to help me get out of Boston, yet she didn’t convince me that in her deeds. She got offended when she was politely asked to check for different connections – Texas, Arizona, LA, etc., different number of stops (I didn’t care about how many stops it would take, rather I just wanted to get out of the fully snow carpeted Logan international), and different destinations in California. She was rather interested in finding a route that exactly matched my original itinerary (of course this means less effort and computer does the searching). Finally, she was able to book me on a flight leaving next Wednesday – three days later than my expected departure date. Having noticed two direct flights to LA being not cancelled, but only delayed, I offered to take a chance on standby. Surprisingly she neither suggested that in the first place, nor enthusiastically welcomed when I suggested. Yet, I took the chance, and United Airlines staff did their best to help the plane take off. While other airports in New England and east coast, had ceased their operations owning to this massive snowstorm, Logan was still operating, occasionally canceling few, but trying to help as many plans take off; the airport staff deserves a big kudos for this. The flight attendant at the boarding gate was, in stark contrast to the woman at the check-in counter, extremely friendly. Here, I am realizing how United could still manage to hold few loyal customers and attract new frequent flyers.
Omar Ramos, is a friend I came to know through Google Summer of Code 2009. Out of my applications to this competitive open source coding program, Joomla wasn’t my first choice, nonetheless, now I am glad that I chose it. Omar was my mentor in the project, though we started to get in touch in casual terms only after the end of the project. Perhaps, we shared the same profile, we both expected the same from other, or rather we both wanted a brother – perhaps younger brother, yet we managed to make the acquaintance a friendship in no time; I met him for the fist time at JDC 09 at NYC, he came to stay with me in Boston for couple of days. Also he invited me to his place, offered to pick me up from San Diego airport – which is about 2 hour drive from El Centro. And this latest mishap made me seek an alternate destination – LA which is another 2 hour drive from San Diego. Still he enthusiastically offered to drive upto LA, which puts me in a greater debt than I anticipated, and later I learnt that he was even waiting at the airport for 2 hours. This quality, not very common in America – or for that matter even in my native country – Sri Lanka, where family, relationships and social aspects are valued the most, is something that makes this friendship invaluable.
There is only a narrow line between the liability and the feasibility, and it is we who choose to view the challenge through either glass of paradigm.
This entry was posted on Saturday, December 26th, 2009 at 3:05 am
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