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In Market: Travel can be a beautiful thing – sometimes

🕐 4 min read

Confluence: a coming together, meeting,

or gathering at one point

United Airlines made a corporate ass of itself last week with the handling of a paying customer, treating the man more like a convicted murderer.

They’re paying the price and learning a lesson their mother no doubt tried to teach them years ago.

Also last week, President Trump’s press secretary got a case of the “Dear God, did I really say that?” when, during the daily White House briefing, Spicer told reporters that Adolf Hitler “didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons.” Critics noted the remark ignored Hitler’s use of gas chambers during the Holocaust. Spicer since apologized, doing a far better job of it than United Airlines’ initial attempt.

Those two events caused a bit of a confluence in my head, taking me back to a time when I traveled frequently for work, covering the latest and greatest gee-whiz hardware and software. That was the day when a new Intel chip could cause nerds’ hearts to flutter.

This was also before 9/11 made air travel – even at its best – excruciating and uncomfortable.

The two events reminded me of a flight to Las Vegas for the Comdex, a computer conference and one of the largest of Sin City’s largest conventions, short of the Consumer Electronics Show.

Fellow passengers traveling with me were some key players in this drama: a bespectacled electronics genius (just ask him) and a newly-married young couple, as fresh-faced as a morning flower.

Everyone on the flight congratulated the couple and the airline – not United by the way – gave them some champagne and several of us around them toasted their new life together.

The groom was ebullient, with a beautiful bride that he was ready to show off to the world. He was smiling, positive and soaking in all the good vibes of a honeymoon in the land of Elvis, cash, glitz and faux glamour.

That is until someone asked where they were staying in Vegas.

“Oh man,” the groom said, “we’re just winging it. We’re going to do our honeymoon like we’re going to do life. Que sera sera.”

Sounded great, until someone pointed out that, uh, this was a huge conference. All the rooms in Vegas were booked.

For the first time since the groom had basically kicked up his heels getting on the plane, he was worried. “What do you mean – no rooms?”

Vegas is filled with nerds, engineers and corporate drones, we told him. No vacancy. You’ll be lucky to find a hotel room in Arizona.

“Is anything wrong, honey?” his lovely bride asked, noting his concern, along with the sweat beading up on his lip.

“No, no, it’ll be fine,” he said, the champagne shaking in his hand.

Meanwhile, it was getting close to landing and several people starting whispering about the couple’s plight. What to do?

The pilot came on to announce we were making our approach, get ready to gamble.

Meanwhile one of the aforementioned nerds was drinking a beer. Pretty common on a plane. The flight attendant – I think we called them stewardesses then – came by and picked up our beverages, only nerd didn’t give it up.

A few minutes later the flight attendant returned to pick up the beer.

“I’ve still got some left,” replied the nerd.

This happened several more times until things got heated.

“If we have to abort our landing because of you, the other passengers won’t be very happy,” the attendant warned.

The attendant finally dragged out the handy FAA manual and read it to the passenger who petulantly surrendered his beer.

We landed and as the nerd exited the plane he turned to the rest of the passengers and yelled, “I hope everyone enjoyed this flight run by a bunch of Nazis!”

If he was expecting a rally of support, he got zilch, nada. Disappointed, he slunk up the jet bridge and several people clapped as he left. Really, it’s always a bad idea to compare anything to Nazi Germany or Hitler. Now the guy on the United flight? He might have an argument on that.

I saw the nervous groom and the innocent bride pick up their luggage and observed a fellow passenger tap the groom on the shoulder.

I asked on the bus into town for the scoop.

“Our company rents out a whole floor for the week, but I’m the only one here tonight,” said the passenger. “I’ve got a room for them. It’s no honeymoon suite, but hey, they don’t have to sleep on the street.”

Sometimes – no thanks to United – the skies really are friendly.

Robert Francis
Robert is a Fort Worth native and longtime editor of the Fort Worth Business Press. He is a former president of the local Society of Professional Journalists and was a freelancer for a variety of newspapers, weeklies and magazines, including American Way, BrandWeek and InformatonWeek. A graduate of TCU, Robert has held a variety of writing and editing positions at publications such as the Grand Prairie Daily News and InfoWorld. He is also a musician and playwright.

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