Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Phoenix and it's assorted splendors

Okay, so up until now this blog has been limited to international travel, well, international travel to China. And I have another blog for domestic stuff but even I haven’t spent much time there, waxing eloquent. All that changes today, since I just can’t contain myself any longer.

This trip is a short one – over to Phoenix for a couple of days. But since my last trip to the airport, things have changed. Notably a reduction in the security measures associated with blowing up aircraft with deodorant. The measures had been reduced to a pretty simple set – containers containing less than 3 ounces stowed in quart sized ziplock bags. Personally I welcomed this as I couldn’t imagine checking a bag for a two day trip even if the price was admitting in public that I was a Mitchum Man with a fixation for Purel Hand Sanitizer.

Off I went to the airport trusting that my fellow passengers had taken the time to fully understand the expectations. Of course I was aware of my own naïveté, having just completed an article in the NY Times in which people proudly touted their approach of heading to the airport and figuring out what to do once they got there.

The security in Albuquerque is now divided into 3 parts. First, an agent to separate the travelers into those with baggies and those without. Second, the traditional check of the boarding pass and identification. And third, the agent to draw a little orange squiggly on said boarding pass. The last one must have to do with union rules surrounding minimum hiring expecations.

I entered the baggie line behind two people. The first guy had a giant 32 ounce tube of toothpaste approximately 90% expended (although uniformly squeezed from the bottom, not doubly delighting persnickety life-partners the world over) shoved in a 2 gallon ziplock with a tiny bottle of hand cream. I guess he was one of the proud few, winging it. The agent immediately recognized the infractions. The man was offered the option of heading back to the gift shop to purchase the appropriate bag, this being solely for the purpose of saving the hand cream because that tube of toothpaste wasn’t traveling today. In the trash went the tube, followed by the hand cream. The man asked if he could travel with the two gallon bag and permission was granted, no doubt allowing him to attempt the same perfidy on his return leg.

The woman in front of me, next up, was tearfully admitting that she had failed to encase her bottle of Visine in the appropriate vessel. The Visine itself was Barbie-sized, holding not even enough liquid to blow up a drink cart, much less a plane. Again the offer was tendered to go buy a bag, again refused. Had I been the agent, I would have suggested these people go buy a clue.

Not much else to report other than the guy in front of me in the body check line that insisted on counting all 93 cents worth of the change that he had placed in a bucket for a quick x-ray. I guess he figured those underpaid TSA agents were coveting that Rhode Island quarter. I told him to move out of my way. Interestingly, the same agent was working the line and still wearing the same world weary look he had back when I saw him on September 5th as he guided the magician and tractor salesman through the same line.

Not much to say about Phoenix, it’s big, hot and bland. I did find the pontoon boats lined up behind the Santa Barbara houses in the golf course waterway to be an amusing sight. Funny to think about the snow pack west of Trail Ridge Road on it’s long journey to the sea instead ending up enabling a bunch of desert dwellers to motor up and down a 200 yard waterway bounding a bunch of suburban backyards. Only in America and only in The New West.

One last little anecdote for this entry.

Last night four of us decided to have dinner and we took the advice of one of our local colleagues on a good Thai place. It was close to the hotel and highly recommended. Map in hand we headed out for the 1 mile drive.

The intersection is a busy one with four large plazas on each corner. Our map had some room for interpretation, it being drawn sort of upside down relative to reality. Didn’t occur to any of us to turn it over because we would’ve had to read the street names upside down and we were pretty sure we had a grasp on where the joint might be. So we headed into the first strip mall. Circling it – no restaurant. Undaunted, we decided to drive across the street and try the next one and here we had immediate hope - the name of the restaurant was “Thai Pots” and the entry to this plaza was lined with giant clay planters sporting half-dead ocotillos. Alas, no restaurant. Given that there were still two to go and that we were armed with a working strategy, we hit them as well. No restaurant. Okay, so three guys in a car with one woman and can’t find the restaurant – what’s the solution? Ask for directions – right. We assigned her the AR to call the Holiday Inn to ask them how to get there which is okay with us boys because none of us have to cross our gender values and ask for directions ourselves.

We only had the 1-800 number but figuring it was good enough to get us the local version, we placed the call.

Listening to Rae-Ann’s conversation was just as amusing as it usually is when you’re listening to someone try to explain the obvious to another someone with a unique ability to not grasp that same obvious.

I’ll ad-lib the Customer Service person’s side of the conversation for the sake of thematic continuity:

Rae-Ann: Hello, I’m staying at the Holiday Inn in Ocotillo Arizona and I wonder if you could give me their phone number.

Customer Service: Where?

Rae-Ann: Octotillo, Arizona.

Customer Service: We don’t have a hotel there.

Rae-Ann (now trying for clarity): Oh Koh Tee Yo, Arizona

Customer Service: Sorry, I don’t show a unit there.

Rae-Ann (snapping to the problem): Oh Koh Tee Yo looks like Oh Koh Till Oh

Customer Service: Ah yes, here you go.

So much for Spanish transcending English here in the United States.

Number in hand we called the front desk and were assured that the restaurant did exist and that it was in fact located in the plaza we assumed. We headed back, increasing our scrutiny in the area between Taco Bell and the sports bar. No restaurant. Someone suggested a complete circle of the satellite strip mall and finally Thai Pots hove into view.

It was closed.

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