Chicago, IL 10-2-00
"I have my reservation number right here," I say, "Z2NEUK.
I made the arrangements on your website a few days ago."
"Let me check," says the Southwest Air attendent. "Gallitan?
"Yep, that's it," I tell him.
"O.K. Mr. Gallitan. I've got it, but I'm going to
have to put you on the weight list."
"Yes, we've been directed to put everyone still in
line, on a weight list. The maintenance officer needs to
check the passenger load and measure that against the
fuel needed for this trip," he says.
"You're going to have to weigh me?" I ask him.
"That's it, if you'll just wait over there, I'll call you
when we're ready."
"This is interesting," I think.
It sort of reminds me of when we were nearly stuck in San
Juan, having flown on Tower, just as they were going bankrupt.
In that instance they didn't have a weight wait, but they did
have problems finding enough money to pay for their
flights. They cut service back to one flight per day and according
to the reports I was watching on the late night news, were asking
passengers to chip in extra cash for fuel.
"O.K. folks, the captain has asked me to pass around this plastic
bucket among all of you who are planning to be on this next flight
to New York. If you'll just deposit whatever extra cash you can
spare, as long as it's at least $25.00, we'll be able to
pay for the gas to get us there. Who'll be the first to chip
in?" says the Tower Air attendant.
Here, in Chicago, I take a quick look around me at the other passengers
for this flight. The gate area is packed, so it looks
like the plane's going to be full. I notice that I'm in a sea
of beefy midwesterners. The guy in front of me must weigh in at
220 and the four guys right behind me together easily top half a
ton. Shoot, I'll pay an extra $25.00 just to be sure I get a seat
on the plane.
"Excuse me," I ask the gate attendant, "would it help my chances of
getting on the plane if I gave you some extra cash?"
"That won't be necessary sir," he replies. "Please continue to wait
with the other passengers who are on the weight list, over
"You must admit that I clock in at about half of
what most of these bruisers weigh, don't you think?" I ask him.
"Please just step aside, Mr. Gallater. Next!"
I move across the aisle and grab a seat next to a skinny looking
guy wearing a Baltimore Colts hat. "What are you waiting for?" he
"I'm on some kind of weight wait," I tell him.
"Uh-huh," he says and turns back to his USA Today.
I pull out the Times and start working on the Monday crossword
#38 Across: "Let this be our little secret"
#36 Down: Like Most Internet Jokes
Meanwhile, I'm thinking about the cost-weight ratio question:
The plane has 20 rows of six seats across, so thats 120 passengers.
If the average weight of passenger and baggage is 250 pounds, then
we'd have a total people-bags weight of 36,000 pounds. The average
ticket price on Southwest Air, Chicago to Albany, is $150.00 which
works out to about $2.00 per pound. This opens up a new method for
pricing air travel. You go on the internet and make your reservation
picking day, time, destination, then at the end, you plug in your
weight and estimated weight of your luggage. At the check-in gate,
you put your bags and yourself on a scale. Up pops the weight. You
take the total times $2.00, and there's your fare. Seems fair to me,
though it does mean the skinny guy next to me would pay
less for the trip than me, unless he's got a really overpacked
set of luggage.
#44 Down: Perkins Who Sang "Blue Suede Shoes"
#44 Across: Explorer Hernando
As I look around the weighting room I notice that most of the
beefy guys are chatting into their cell phones and half a dozen
others have their laptops out, primarily Windows machines: WIN95,
WIN98 and a few with Windows-ME. Me? I'm running WIN95. Has it
really been five years already? The guy on the other side of
the skinny kid next to me's got a Dell laptop running WIN2000,
NT Edition. He's just booted up. As I look around I see that
everyone's playing Solitare and Minesweeper. However, as
I watch the NT guy search through the Start Panel, Programs,
Accessories, (ah-hah just as I thought, Games) but instead of Solitare
he pulls up 3-D-SpacePinball. That's one I've never seen. He starts
a New Game, but can't get the ball launcher to work. He's
poking around, but nothing happens. He pulls down the menu
bar, and finds Launch Ball, right under New Game. The ball
goes skittering around the 3-D table top. It has all the action
of a real pinball. Cool. Oops, he can't move the flippers. I see
him banging at them with the mouse arrow, but no dice. He shakes
the laptop. T-I-L-T-! G-A-M-E-O-V-E-R-!
The skinny kid next to me has opened USA Today to the Entertainment
Section and is looking at Your USA Horoscope for Today.
"Excuse me son, do you pay attention to that stuff?" I ask him.
"Sure," he says, "it can be funny, but it's also pretty heavy."
"Oh, man, I usually look at my forecast every day, but especially
when I'm travelling, like now."
"Really?" I reply, "Do you plan your day based on the forecast?"
"Basically, yeah, I do."
"What's today's forecast?" I ask.
"Easy dude, it's right here: 'Put your best foot forward in
business dealings and your charm will win you the support of
others. The financial picture looks bright. Watch out for
someone who is stretching the truth," he reads.
"Interesting," I say. "What's your sign?"
"Libra," he says, "the sign of a well-balanced individual."
"You know, scales, justice, harmony, equilibrium... Libra."
"Actually, I don't know much about signs," I tell him. "When's
a Libra birthday?"
"September twenty-four to October twenty-third," he says.
"And when's your birthday?" I ask.
"September thirtieth, smack in the middle."
"That's a co-incidence," I say, "that's my son's birthdate.
In fact, I'm coming back from helping him celebrate.
His girlfriend and a bunch of his friends threw a big
party for him. It's his thirtieth birthday."
"Cool, dude!" he says, "That's his golden birthday, as well."
"Uh-huh, golden, like, when your birthday and your age are the
"So this was yours as well?" I say.
"Nah, not yet, I'm only twenty-two."
"Do you remember the fortune for your birthday?" I ask him.
"Sure dude," he says, "I remember lots of my forecasts. September
thirty: 'Entertain at home tonight as your bond with family
members deepens. Good news comes from afar. An overdue bill may
come to your attention. You'll make some spur-of-the-moment
plans for tonights entertainment."
"Whoa!" I exclaim, "that IS heavy."
"Like I told you," he says, "but what do you mean?"
"I mean it reads like an exact description of what happened to
my son on his birthday. 'Entertain at home': He had the big
party at his house. Some of his fiends brought instruments
and they played jazz in the backyard. 'Spur-of-the-moment':
My son picked up his guitar and played a few numbers with them
and as he told me, it was the first time he'd really played
straight-ahead jazz. 'Good news from afar': Well, I came to
the party in Madison, from Albany, thanks to Southwest Air.
and what about the 'bond with family members deepens'? That's
pretty freaky, no?"
"Far out!" he says. "So, what's your sign?"
"Uh, I don't know, but my birthday is March twenty-second."
"Groovy, you're on the cusp."
"On the cusp," he explains, "you're ruled by two signs. Your
birthdate is only one day past the start of Aries, so you're
also influenced by the previous sign, Pisces. When you read
your forecast, you should read both of them and then temper
one with the other. Just remember that Aries predominates."
"O.K., what's it say about me today?"
"'You'll enjoy a trip to a familiar spot. An overdue bill may
be bothering you. Somehow there's a psychic connection between
you and someone today. Fun times come through leisure and
travel'; and Pisces says: 'Try to be more practical.
It's a great day to submit manuscripts to publishers. A past
due bill may appear but your financial picture improves. Some
will plan a trip.'"
"The trip sounds right." I tell him.
An announcement comes over the loudspeaker: "Ladies and
gentlemen waiting for flight 1722, service to Albany,
I've just been delivered a stack of coupons here,
good for $25 off your next flight on Southwest Air. Anyone
who can bring me a bill, one dollar or a twenty, with the
numbers one, nine, six and three on it, in any combination,
I'll give you a coupon."
I pull out the few bills I've got in my pocket and take a look:
D13285663P, D90932610P, AG51348196A, F832167009R, L13805697H,
and D9415336B. Hey, not bad! There's a quick hundred bucks.
I turn to the skinny horoscope kid. "You know, this astrology
stuff's alright. I just might start buying USA Today and making my
plans that way!"
"Right on," he says.
When I come back from collecting my vouchers, I ask the
skinny kid if I can borrow the USA Today.
"Sure, what for?"
"I want to scan the horoscopes into my wireless PDA.," I tell him.
"Cool! What else you got in there?" he asks.
"I use it as an all-purpose note-taker," I tell him. "I can scan
text or graphics and with this adapter, I can use the Blackberry as
a mini-digital camera. It's got always-on-internet-access, a pager,
and a personal organizer with e-mail, all for ten bucks a month."
I show him the folder where I had scanned the birthday cards
my son received during his party:
1. Front: Cartoon of a coffee cup, with legs and a funny face.
2. Front: Cartoon of a slacker... "Dude! You're 30!"
Inside: "Gotta quit saying dude now. I think you switch
pal or possibly fella."
3. Front: Cartoon of two old people... "Geezers can't: Hear,
Drink, Drive, See, Run, Pee, Sleep,
Crap, Taste, Chew, Breathe, Screw."
Inside: "And if you have a Happy Birthday, you can't bitch."
4. Front: Cartoon of a ballpark frank, with a funny face.
"One day you're
a hot dog..."
Inside: "...then you're a tired old weenie!"
5. Front: Cartoon of an ambiguous male/female figure.
mean a lot to me."
Inside: "Especially your little thing."
6. Front: Picture of a hammer and a nail. "In life, you're either
the hammer or
the nail, so on your birthday the
Inside: "...would you rather get hammered or nailed?"
7. Front: "You're 30 and can be anything you want to be!"
Inside: "Although your chances of becoming a child
prodigy have been greatly reduced."
"Droll, dude," says the skinny kid, "but you got any games
on that thing? Quake? 3-D-Space Pinball? 4x4 Evolution?
Dope Wars? Zork?"
"Well, actually, there's just Hearts and Tetris," I tell him.
"That's busted," he says.
"Flight 1722 now boarding at Gate B7!" says a loudspeaker.
"Passengers holding blue boarding passes proceed to
Gate B7 for departure."
"Looks like I'm about to leave," I say. "Hope the rest of
your trip goes smoothly. Have a nice flight, and Happy
"Later, dude." he replies.