Warning: Bitchy Columnist Ahead

First published September 30, 2010 in Mediapost’s Search Insider

It’s been a weird week on the road. I’ve been bouncing around like a pinball along the East Coast and Midwest. I miss my kids. I miss my wife. I miss my bed. I have to blow off a little steam and you’re in the line of fire. So be it.

First of all, why the hell do they call it the Midwest anyway? If you draw a line down the middle of the continental United States dividing east and west, it bisects North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas. Everything west of that should be west, and everything east of that should be east. The Midwest, according to my reckoning, would be somewhere around Idaho and possibly Arizona. It sure as hell ain’t Chicago. That would actually be the Mideast, or Middle East if you prefer. Confused? Me, too.

Secondly, where do hotels get off charging exorbitant rates for WiFi access and then give you a thin dribble of bandwidth that shuts on and off like a bad neon light? Multiply 13 bucks a night by 200 or 300 rooms for an average-sized hotel. That’s about $3,000 every day, or a million dollars a year. This isn’t rocket science, people. For that money, I should have a data pipe the size of a Volvo plugged into my laptop. And don’t even get me started on the connectivity you find at most digital conferences.

Perhaps you could take some of that windfall WiFi revenue and put it toward something extravagant, like an extra power receptacle in a hotel room that doesn’t already have fourteen lamps, a TV set, a coffee maker and a radio plugged into it. Did the designers of the average hotel room not think that electricity might fall into the category of a “nice to have?”

While I’m on the travel theme, why can’t seats be reclined when you take off or land? Does it throw the delicate aerodynamic balance of the plane off, sending it doing cartwheels down the runway? Is there some drastic physiological effect on your body if you’re not at a 90-degree angle, like your eyelids inverting or your nasal passages spontaneously combusting? Just wondering.

And what, exactly, will happen if I don’t power my electronic device “all the way down”? Does some residual power leakage cause the plane’s navigation system to think east is west or up is down? If so, that’s something we should crack down even harder on — perhaps if we just connected a simple cell activity detector to an ejection seat system. It would save the flight attendants a lot of time and grief.

By the way Mr/Ms Airline CFO, if I spend $600 on a ticket to fly from Toronto to Chicago, will giving me a full can of pop, rather that a 2-ounce thimble already jammed with ice, really send you into bankruptcy? If the edge of profitability is really that narrow, perhaps a better place to save money would be the hundreds of pounds of fuel you burn circling O’Hare for 45 minutes before you get the OK to land. It’s worth checking out, anyway.

One last thing. On behalf of all the office workers who work in high-rises across North America, please remember that as you prance around your hotel room in various states of undress, you can see in those windows as well as see out of them. That’s not one-way glass separating your room from the office across the street. There may be occasions where the view is agreeable, but I suspect they’re few and far between, based on the people I usually share a hotel elevator with.

OK, I feel better. Thanks for the therapy. Feel free to go back to your work now.

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