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Paging Anna Goldberg
posted: 03/27/07

This will probably be the lone September post...

Been a bit nuts. Various. Same-same. Only different.

I had this one cute little thing I was going to type up after this business trip I did recently (not to California - my West Coast All-Star deal was for pleazhuh, and it did not disappoint), but I got distracted soon thereafter and then got completely buried in murk and circumstance. And then it didn't happen. For some time. So now, even though I'm beyond drained and it's getting later and later with every character pecked in, I figure for some strange reason I'll lay some random on. This is mostly about the cute little thing that happened but also about a few other aimless things. And then maybe I'll play a little guitar, catch up with The Apprentice #2 on DVR (I think the DVR is set...) and then pass out.

A couple of weeks ago, exactly two weeks ago, in fact, I did a trip back to the mother ship, aka, the company I continue to work for from afar, backstory not included at this time. Mostly because I'm tired. Is why not backstory. Right now. Not because I did the trip. The trip I'll tell you about. At least part of it. The end part. No backstory, though.

I saw some friends. That's a before the end part. Friends=good. Good friends. Good to see you, friends. Please move up here. Particularly you, Brian. Now. I don't know anyone here. Friends I missed on my visit and neglected to call because my head gets screwy down there and I get preoccupied and I tend to mumble more than I do otherwise and sometimes I forget my way around major thoroughfares I've travelled lebenty zillion times=sorry about that. Next time. You=move up here too.

So I was trying to keep costs on this trip really low, because I aim to be a responsbile little corporate do-gooder type. And I'm thankful for various, so I don't want to screw anything up. So I flew a low-fare airline. Indpendence Air, if you must know. It was fine. No frills, but nice enough, good service, at least on the taking off. And the air part (they offer you hot towels - and they're hot). Landing=okay too. No worries.


I stayed in this hotel - which was weird, staying in this hotel in this place I'd lived for seven years - and again, trying to keep dollars in pockets, said hotel didn't cost an arm and a leg either. And once I checked in to the Microtel, I could see why they might name it that (and I could also see what a hotel funded and operated by a nearby toll road company might be like to stay in - hint: it also smells of diesel). Just barely enough space to get my head in the room. From the chest down, the torso, the leg area, these occupied the hall. Thanks. Area outside of hotel: one big construction zone. Every morning at 6:15am, the beep-beep-beep of backing loading trucks. Walls of rice paper. Sleep much? Do not stay here. Also, the receipt was printed on a dot-matrix printer. I didn't fake it, Accounts Payable, I promise. But I certainly could have.

My good friend Jim graciously drove up from Maryland on my last night in my old town, which was way nice of him to do. We talked a lot, played a little, and listened to unmastered versions of his two new records, over both of which I am harboring a not-very-secret jealousy (they're really stupendous and stuff). And so Jim was there and that was good, but what was not good was that there were tornadoes everywhere. This is not good. I grew up in Tornado Alley, down in Oklahoma. You'd think I'd be used to them. But I'm not. I don't like them. Once I drove through a small one. It moved my car (my dad's car, a J-car, actually, if you remember those, which you probably don't, because I am older than everyone these days, it seems), gently off into a ditch. It was pretty wild.

There were these tornadoes, and they were all over the area, touching down and ripping stuff up. And this was not good. Jim's wife was calling and giving him grief about driving 2.5hrs northwest, into a bunch of tornadoes, to see a guy who plays guitar. Occasionally. So Jim went home. And rightly so. And these tornadoes blew through. And I went to bed.

Next morning I get up, and it's grey outside and a little drizzle is falling, but basically things are still planted in the ground. A few areas nearby had sustained some damage, and the devastation from the hurricane(s) down south was terrible. But the point is, and it's unrelated to the very last bit there, that things were pretty much okay. So I go to the airport. Dulles, should you care.

I check in with my one bag and my guitar in its flight case, which in a few minutes I walk over to the TSA x-ray machine and do the song and dance about "it won't stay latched without it being locked, so it's locked, but I'm happy to open it for you so you can inspect it," which I've done dozens of times by now at airports everywhere, with decent results, knock on wood (but not guitar wood). Things seem good and jolly, but I do note, back at the ticket counter, that the woman checking me in is taking a pretty long while just to print out my boarding passes. I figure: it's a new airline, it's low-cost, these folks probably don't get a lot of time in training... she's new... whatever. I get my boarding pass and I head on over to the security line. This is after my bag goes down the chute and my guitar case goes over to the TSA x-ray, along with me.

I go through security, I get my ID and boarding pass checked, I am waved through the [human] x-ray. I walk through with no alarm, but I'm told that "the airline has flagged me for screening" by a rugged, mustachioed gentleman with a wand. I have no problem with this. I figure, noodling it through quickly, that maybe they flagged me due to the guitar case and the small fuss I made. Or whatever. Maybe it's random. Maybe I'm on a watch list. No matter. I get wanded, I take my shoes off, I do what I'm told. My carry-on bag is briefly fiddled with. I am pronounced cool, and thanks to me. I am on my way.

I get on the shuttle from the main terminal to my gate. I sit down. I casually pull out my boarding pass, no hurry, plenty of time. I just want to double-check that I'm going to the right gate before the shuttle takes off, and I want to check the boarding time. So I look at the boarding pass, and before I realize what I'm doing, I say, aloud, quite audibly to anyone within earshot, I might add, entirely involuntarily:

Because that's who it says I am on my boarding pass.

So I've gone through... let's see. One (check-in), two (TSA bag x-ray), three (security line), four (human x-ray), five (hand search, cavities not included) levels of security, and not one level caught that my boarding pass says that my name is Anna Goldberg, and my driver's license clearly does not. And not that it matters, but no one has ever said the following to me, as long as I have lived:
Are you Jewish, by chance?

It just hasn't happened.

So now the following comes to my mind:
1. What the hell did Anna Goldberg do to get flagged for a hand search?
2. Anna Goldberg is not going to be happy when she tries to check in. Anna Goldberg is, apparently, on the same flight as me. Which is good. But she's already checked in. I am her, it would seem. Seriously, I'm thinking she's going to have a rough time with this one when she shows up. I'm thinking first, I really want to get this straightened out so this woman (I have a mental image - she wears her hair in a bun) can get on her flight.
3. And just after that, I'm thinking: my bags are checked as Anna Goldberg's bags. If Anna Goldberg doesn't get on this flight, my (wait, no, her... no, wait...) bags might not. My guitar might not make it back home with me (her). Or something. Something where the bags don't make it. I don't want that something to happen.

The shuttle arrives in the terminal and I immediately go to a FlyI counter. I explain the situation - that the check-in counter simply checked me in as the wrong person - I assume Anna was probably one passenger lower than me alphabetically in the system and her entry was selected by mistake - and I just want to get this fixed ASAP, preferably without having to go back to check-in. And the woman behind the counter directs me to a bank of phones. I am puzzled. She gestures again. "They will be able to help you."

Yes. Of course. The phones will help. That's what phones do.

So I walk over to this bank of phones and there are an awful lot of passengers on the horn. A phone opens up and I wait - for what I don't know - and then it dawns on me: I'm being directed to customer service. Oooookay. So a woman comes on the line and I explain to her what's up and she says, very kindly, I will add, "Sir. I am very, very sorry this happened. And I am very sorry to tell you, and I know that you will not like to hear this, but sir, they should not have sent you to me for this. I have to send you back to the counter. I can do nothing about this." And I sort of immediately understand. I'm not angry. I just think, yeah, there's clearly a lot going on here - something's not right - and of course customer service in Jakarta or Fiji or Bangalore or wherever is not going to be able to help me with this. The woman on the line asks what flight I'm on, just to try to be of some help, so I tell her that I (Anna Goldberg) am on the 9:30am... And she tells me, no, I'm on the 11-something. And I say, "How can I be on the 11-something when I'm checked - as Anna Goldberg, mind you - on the 9:30am - I have... our boarding pass right here..." And the woman starts to tell me of cancelled flights, and suddenly her voice starts to go watery in my ear, and the sounds of angry passengers on phones next to me wash over her explanation, and things become somewhat clearer. Everyone is delayed. And angry. Okay. This is effed. "I'll find someone who can help me," I say. "Thanks." And I hang up.

I go to a counter, but I go to a different one now, not only because I wanted someone different than the woman who couldn't help me the first time (she'd gone on break - tough job sending folks to the phone), but because there seemed to be very few airline folk around to help with anything. I found a girl wearing a rain slicker behind another counter and approached her. I gave her my boarding pass. I explained that something had gone wrong at checkin-in, that I had this boarding pass saying I was Anna Goldberg, that I wasn't Anna Goldberg, that I wanted to make sure I was booked on some flight and that my bags made it home with me, and I wanted Anna Goldberg, if possible, to also be able to fly today. But to be honest, at this point, Anna Goldberg's travel plans were slightly lower on my priority list than my own.

You might be able to imagine my disgust at this point, when the girl at the counter looks at the boarding pass and laughs in my face. And why, at that point, I countered, simply, "I'm glad you think it's funny." (I'm a nice guy. Really.)

The girl snaps to, apologizes, and admits "this is bad." For me and Anna both. She cancels me-as-Anna-Goldberg, checks my ID (good move) and reissues a boarding pass in my name. For a 1-something-pm flight. It seems that with the storms continuing to track north and all, no flights were leaving the northeast to fly south, so nothing was getting in to or out of Dulles. But the good news is that now I'm me again, Anna Goldberg should be able to deal, and at least I'm on a flight that may (or may not) get cancelled. I ask about my bags, specifically about the guitar. The girl says they will "probably make it as long as Anna Goldberg checks in." At this point I'm just happy to be myself again, and I have something like four hours to kill, so I decide I'll just get some coffee and mull it over. I start to walk off and get about 10 feet away before I realize the girl hadn't given me my wallet back, and it was sitting there next to the keyboard. I walked back and picked it up. This I do not need.

I walk around with a too-heavy carry-on. I drink coffee. I pull out my Godzilla laptop (that I'm typing on now) and start to write this little thing, but I loose focus too easily, I can't get wireless (which makes me feel dumb and tugs my self esteem downward), and I'd rather listen to tunes on my computer and read the paper. So I do those latest things and watch CNN on the overhead. About two hours later I decide to walk back to the gate to see if there's any chance things have opened up and I might be able to get an earlier flight. When I get back to the gate it's utter mayhem. Huge lines, mass cancellations. Folks waiting to use the phones three deep. Lines at kiosks. People pleading with humans. Nothing much going on in the way of the positive.

And then it occurs to me, as I casually glance over the airline regulations, which were posted somewhere - I can't recall where. Two checked bags per passenger. I look at my bag claim tickets, now stapled to my (ME) boarding pass. They say ANNA GOLDBERG. Both of them. The two of them. Without completely thinking through all of the possibilities, I just basically figure: I need to find those bags. Those bags are checked under someone else's name. If Anna Goldberg doesn't make the flight, which looked very possible due to the delays, my bags checked as hers might not make it. If Anna wants to check a bag, my already bags as hers might show up as already checked, she might pitch a fit, the airline might bump the my-as-Anna-Goldberg's bags off the flight to make room for really-Anna-Goldberg's bags.

Gotta get them bags.

So I go back to the counter. And it's kinda sad. I don't mean to beat the airline up. They were actually really good in the air. And with no delays or anything on my flight down, they were fine. But it seemed like with the slightest issue - and with the storms it was a pretty big deal - the staff just looked completely unable to deal. Start-ups...

Behind the counter is one woman, and she's handling things one passenger at a time. She's decent with people, tries to help. This is good. But the line is long. She soon gets help. In the form... of a ground-crew guy. Had the earplugs and everything. He gets behind the computer screen and starts trying to sort things out. The woman in front of me says to him, after he takes a while to get going, "I don't mean to be rude, but do you know what you're doing?" The guy laughed it off and says yes, he does. And... he does. I'm up next. I explain the deal. I'm not Anna. My bags are not Anna's. I just want my bags. He says yeah, problem. He asks the woman next to him what to do. Answer: all of the bags from the cancelled flights (most of the planes carry 50 passengers per - all flights were cancelled, perhaps as many as 20-40 flights that morning - that's potentially a lot of bags) are outside. Go find my bags and re-tag them. And then... the look on the poor guy's face...

But he's going to do it. He says he will. He's going to find my bags. What do they look like? Black pull thing. 'Bout yea-big. No one has those. Okay, it's a Swiss Army - that helps. And a guitar case. Black ABS flight case with a dog sticker on it. Wait... it looks like this:

oscar the thanksgiving wonder pug.

Which also happens to be my business card. I was picking up my case once in another airport, Boston I think, and I overheard a guy looking at it who said to his friend, "What is that thing? Yoda?" The resemblance is striking.

So anyway, yeah, I'm going to wrap this up. So the guy goes out on the tarmac. With my bag information. And my boarding pass. And he looks pretty busy going out there, he looks like there's a lot on his mind. I called out after him - twice - saying I'd be happy to help him look, but knowing that I wouldn't be allowed out there. And now the guy with a lot happening today is gone. For a while. And I start to wonder if he'll come back. And I start to think what a complete disaster this would be if after all of this crap, I lose my boarding pass, which is now actually in my name, on top of it. And how fun that will be to explain.

But the guy came back. Smiling. He'd found them, retagged them. And my boarding pass had actually been in the custody of the nice woman behind the counter all along. And I got that back too.

So now all that had to happen was I had to make my 1-something-pm flight. And I really needed to do that, because there wasn't another flight out until 8pm. And everyone who had gotten bumped, and that was a lot of people, apparently, were on that flight. A lot of people were cancelling and staying over. I really, really didn't want to do that. My time had passed.

And as it happens, I got on the flight (as opposed to the poor couple from South Carolina who had been in a tornado at the Charleston airport the day before ["I had been in the bathroom and I was verah quick, but I had huuhd some noises while I was in thayah, and I came out to meet my husband Jiiiiimmmah and there was no roof on the tuhminal...], had somehow gotten out of there and had made it up to Dulles on their [eventual, I presume] first trip to Maine ever, only to not be able to get out again from Virginia, and they had been bumped from every flight so far, and who made it, standby, onto my flight, and they got all the way on the plane, only to find out there was only one seat left, and that seat was next to me, and they were discussing whether or not to fly separately, and I was feeling very bad for them and was starting to get up to talk over maybe giving up my seat for one million dollars, say, when the person who had actually paid for the seat next to me showed up, and bumped them off... again... hope you made it, folks). And it left around 2pm, and I got home. And my bags were there at bag claim, and all was right with the world. I looked at the bag tags and Anna Goldberg's name had been scratched out in ballpoint, and my name was written (spelled correctly, bravo) over the scratchout. It was official. Sorta. Good enough.

I believe I'll stay home for a while.

Anna, I hardly knew ye. I hope you got home all right too. If you happen upon this, let me know how it worked out for you. I bet you have great hair.

I've been completely overwhelmed by stuff lately, so there may be a bit of a lapse before I typa-typa-typa again. I'm trying my best to get some sessions underway for my second record after numerous little starts and stops. I've had a few setbacks in the last month or so, but I'm balancing through, as my friend Amrit would say. Second records are really hard, I think. I am far, far more critical of this batch of stuff than I was of the first. On the first, I just wanted to see if I could do it. I want the followup to be brilliant. And it's just taking a while. But it will happen. It's a very, very important thing for me to do. And when it's done, you'll see why. Promise.

It's late. And I broke the italics button.

Now, in closing, per usual, let us all consider the:

And also, this:, which is rather well done, I think.

Parting shot (soon, maybe): There will soon be freshly baked photos from the Leftmost. Unfortunately the camera has become mangled, perhaps irretreivably so. And the software for the antique, it was created for a now extinct version of Windows. And the new, backwards-compatible software does some nasty stuff to otherwise high-resolution shots. Which makes me angry. So I need to, on Kevin's recommendation, check out Picasa, which I'm going to do (which, actually I did do, but my shots still come out dinked, and I think the cam's done for). And after that, hey, maybe: pix. (And then again, maybe not.)


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