Friday, August 29, 2008

The Airline Chronicles, Indexed

Greetings Curtain fans! As part of my blog housekeeping this week I decided to create an entry that I will use to index my Airline Chronicles series. As subsequent chapters are added this entry will be edited to include them, and linked from my "Greatest Hits" area over on the sidebar. Anyhow, if you haven't read them before, here they are:

The Airline Chronicles: Prologue
The Airline Chronicles Chapter I: Destination New Hampshire
The Airline Chronicles Chapter 2, Part 1: Go West, Young Dispatcher

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Template Updates

OK, this post will only be of interest to those of you with Blogger blogs (and specifically, Blogger blogs with the classic template.) If you're still reading, you may notice a tweak on my sidebar for my archived entries (or as I so lovingly call them, "The Morgue.") Instead of having every month listed since this blog has been in existence in my sidebar, I now have a dropdown menu that lets you cruise to the month of your choice without scrolling for two days. (Well, probably not that long, but you get the idea.)

For those of you wanting an easy "fix" to this, just update to the new Blogger, and you have lots more options, including drop-down menus for each year that you've been blogging. For stubborn bastards such as myself that don't want to lose all the customizations they've added to their "classic" template, let me know if this is something you're interested in, and I'll shoot you the code.

I should emphasize that I did NOT write the code myself, as I am (mostly) an HTML and Javascript know-nothing. I yanked it from this post at ID Web Template, but I just grabbed the drop-down archive menu portion of that template and not the whole thing.

I may well update to the "New" Blogger someday, since it does appear to have several nice features for people who are not code wizards (such as myself) but for now I'm kickin' it old school.

Oh, also, I'm going to try and start posting three times a week. Summer is over, after all! This way, even if I'm lazy and skip a post, the blog will at least get updated bi-weekly. And, coincidentally, this is my third blog post this week, but if I get inspired I may try and write something else by the weekend.

Monday, August 25, 2008

A Flashback to 2006 OR The Movers From Hell

As you may recall, I did not have a very good experience moving to Texas from Wisconsin. I blame myself for this in part. I went with the lowest estimate I got, when I should have just hired a reputable national company for the job. While I did ultimately get my stuff, it was the least professional move I've ever had.

I knew the move was not going to be a good one when the movers I hired showed up in n Enterprise Rent-a-Truck. I had packed the majority of my items, but evidently my packing wasn't up to their standards, as they proceeded to re-pack and wrap everything. I also hadn't put my free weights in a box, never having needed to before...they said they had no suitable boxes for them so I ended up just letting them keep them (I should have kept them myself and left them by the dumpster, but oh well.)

Anyhow, the movers, one of whom was not very fluent in English, proceeded to wrap and pack everything (including my sofa) I think to run up their charges, or maybe because my stuff was being stored in a warehouse prior to the actual move. I don't know. What I do know is that when they gave me the bill it was several hundred dollars higher than the quoted price based on the weight estimate I'd gotten from many other movers. This wasn't the end of the world since I did have some money coming to me from my old company...but I was still kind of upset. I went to the post office and got a postal money order for the first 50% of the amount (balance due on delivery.)

The wrapping/packing went on all afternoon. I threw out my old computer desk (which was pretty banged up anyhow) when they said that it wouldn't be practical to pack it. Carrying the desk out to the dumpster, I tweaked a muscle in my back which bugged me for several weeks after the move. Still, after all this fun, the packing was finished. I turned in the apartment keys and went to the hotel.

I was glad to get the first part of the move (and hardest part, I thought) over with. I felt kind of bad I ran out of time and didn't get a chance to thoroughly clean my old apartment but the manager said not to worry about it, as they budgeted a certain amount of cleaning with any apartment move-out and if they needed more time than was budgeted they would take some out of my deposit. I appreciated his good customer service, since I certainly hadn't got any from the movers.

Fast forward to two weeks later. I had made it to the Rather Large Airline, and after living in a hotel for about 10 days, I was looking forward to the arrival of my worldly possessions. The movers showed up about three or four hours late. I was beginning to think they weren't going to show at all. They said their first job had taken much longer than expected.

I was expecting a similar sized truck to the one that the movers had used in Wisconsin. Instead, this time I got an 18-wheeler. When they tried driving it around my building to go to the side door closest to my apartment, the truck was too big to make the turn without hitting something, so they had to back the truck all the way out.

I opened up the exit gate for my complex (at my place, you need a key card both to drive in AND to drive out, which I think is a good idea) and they were able to back the truck in and park near the desired entrance. The driver was rather upset both that I was on the third floor and that there was no elevator available. He also tried to charge me an extra $250 for what he said was a "long carry with extra stairs." Keep in mind that I had told the company in advance I would be on the third floor and already included this in the charges for my move. After calling the moving company and trying to figure out what was going on, he talked with them also, and we finally compromised. I agreed to pay him an extra $100 in addition to the remaining 50% of the move price that I owed, which I already had gotten postal money orders for. The unpacking commenced at around 8 PM.

Since the apartment I moved into was smaller than my old one (went from two bedrooms to one) the place rapidly filled with boxes. I got just about all of my stuff, but the coffee table was damaged and I ended up throwing it away...also, there was one box containing some glass and a couple of pictures that I never received, but I didn't notice until several days later. They did remove the packing material from my furniture, but made no offer to help unpack anything else. I didn't mind this very much. What I did mind was that they didn't attempt or offer to help set up my bed. It was getting late and I was rather tired also at this point. They also left without letting me know they were done (which I've had happen in the past with shoddy movers) but there was a little surprise in store for them when they got to the exit gate.

While I was attempting to put my bed frame together, I got a call on my cellphone from the truck driver. He asked if there was some trick to getting the gate to open. I told him there was no trick; you just needed a gate card to do it. I would have done it for him had he told me he was leaving, but I proceeded to vent about the movers not setting up my bed, and he said they were all tired and the men he had hired had families to go home to. I was kind of expecting violin music to start playing at this point, but I agreed to come down and open the gate...AFTER I finished setting up my bed. I also had a beer, I think. I went down about ten minutes later. I was VERY tempted to ask for my extra $100 back in exchange for opening the gate, but I didn't. I went to bed around midnight since I had to be back at work by 7 AM.

I never did get all my boxes completely unpacked in the year or so I lived in that apartment. Every time I would start unpacking, I began thinking about the move and getting upset, and then I stopped. Of course did get my bedroom unpacked and most of my furniture arranged, but I still had boxes remaining when I moved into my current place in the same complex. (For this latest move, I didn't hire anyone, doing most of the work myself with friends helping on the larger items. It went MUCH more smoothly.) I also have some more storage space here than I did there, so the extra box or two of junk that I own (that I probably could safely get rid of since I haven't used it for over a year, but don't want to part with) is safely hidden from view in my bedroom closet.

After getting online I published this quick post about my move. I also started Googling around and found out many people had bad experiences with small moving companies. This whole experience is the reason I still have a moving scam information link in my sidebar.

After I published my posts about the wonderful people at Galaxy Van Lines I got two separate emails from other individuals who had bad experiences with them. One person had such a bad time that I think my experience sounded totally smooth and hassle-free by comparison. His experience follows:

Movers arrived at 4:30pm after originally scheduling an early morning move.

Movers arrived in a truck too large to fit in our yard after claiming that it was not going to be a semi-like truck (it was)

Movers arrived in a budget rent-a-truck

Movers immediately asked us to sign a 10% additional cost fuel surcharge, despite our estimated quote which included fuel.

Movers showed us, after two hours of loading, that we were using up 300% of the allotted cubic footage of their estimate.
(This is the real hassle - our boxes are average size. Our furniture is small - everything can be lifted by one person. They loaded nothing which was not on the inventory for the initial estimate. The initial estimated square footage given must have been intentionally low to produce a lower estimate than other moving companies.)

Movers required payment of half of total cost of move, which now almost reached the original entire estimated cost of move.
(Our initial estimate was $1300 - we now owe them a total of $2200.)

Movers claimed they would be the same people delivering our belongings, in same truck, in three days. Two days later we called the company and spoke with Ann, who apparently is the only person in charge and the owner of the company. Ann told us our belongings would in fact probably not arrive on Friday (June 30), because they had a truck going out but our stuff might not make it onto that truck. The hold-up, Ann claimed, would be the verification of funds. We explained to Ann that we paid in cash. Ann told us it shouldn't be a problem to get it onto that truck.

We called Ann the next day (Friday) to see if the belongings made it onto the truck. We left a message.

Ann did not return the call. We called Ann back, and Ann explained that our things did not make it onto the truck. Also, even if we had made it onto that truck, apparently it was being diverted so as not to arrive on Friday anyway.

We asked Ann to guarantee that they will drop our cost of shipment by $.50/lb, as stated previously, knowing that our belongings can't possibly weigh the 3700 lbs estimated. Ann confirmed that this was true. (We are waiting to see whether or not it really is.)

Ann told us to call her back today to see whether our things would arrive Tuesday or Wednesday. We will be doing that in the next few hours.

Well, that's enough therapeutic ranting for one night, I think. I was going to include a link to Galaxy's web site along with a warning not to use them, but it looks like the site is no longer there, so I will assume they have gone out of business. I hope so, anyhow.

UPDATE: Their phone number is also out of service, and an email I sent to the person I had dealt with bounced, so I think it is quite likely they no longer exist! Yay!

UPDATE 2: After doing a some internet research, I have found a post stating that Galaxy is now doing business as Peak Van Lines ( is the addy.) There is no contact information or physical address listed on the site, but the domain is registered to an address less than three miles away from where Galaxy's "office" was (someone posted that they operate as a one or two-man operation out of an apartment) so I would definitely avoid doing business with them also.

Of course, as with all bad experiences, I did learn a lesson from it...namely, not to use small moving companies for long-distance moves, and that if a web site looks unprofessional, the company behind it likely is also.

BONUS LINK: For an excellent story with a moving scam as its premise, click here. You may have to click through an ad to get to the article, but it will be worth it, I promise.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Meme Time OR Where the Hell have I been?

Greetings all. Sorry to take such a long break between posts...but for whatever reason, I haven't felt much like writing lately. There are no major crises, my trip went fine, etc. I have been rather busy with work, but not to the point where I have no days off. My ear and arm have healed nicely, albeit with a scar on my arm (pics to come) and my vacation to New England went fine (although, as often happens on vacations, I spent more money than I thought I would.)

The reason for this particular post is that yours truly has been tagged by the lovely and talented Twinkie with the following meme. Here are the rules:

1. Link to your tagger and post these rules on your blog.

2. Share 7 facts about yourself on your blog; some random, some weird.

3. Tag 7 people at the end of your post by leaving their names as well as links to their blogs.

4. Let them know they are tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

Since someone I know who reads the blog has been requesting more airline stories, I thought I'd give all the facts a travel-related or career-related theme.

FACT 1: I have worked for five different airlines in my career so far (six if you count my time in the Air Force...which is of course not an airline in the traditional sense, but does move a large number of passengers around the world daily.) I started at a regional carrier in New England, moved to a regional carrier in the Southwest, then moved to a startup in Las Vegas, then onto another regional carrier in Wisconsin after that airline went belly-up, and then FINALLY got hired by a major airline, where I've been for the past 2+ years. I really hope that this is the last airline I work for. I've also learned that in this business, you can't count on anything 100%, but I feel I have reasonably good odds of making this my last employer until I retire.

FACT 2: I was beginning to despair of ever getting hired at a major carrier during my time in Wisconsin, and I was investigating alternative career paths. I actually went all the way through the application process to become a corrections officer in California, but I ultimately decided that it wasn't for me. It was a close call, though. If you think that this would not be a good job for me, you're not alone...most everyone I talked to about it either tried to talk me out of it, or said after I'd decided not to do it that they were glad I didn't. Reason I was interested? Very good pay, benefits, and retirement plan, plus I like California. Reason I didn't take the job? I decided the job itself stinks, after some serious research which included a tour of the prison I'd have been working at. (The corrections officer who gave me the tour agreed with my decision when I later emailed and told him.)

FACT 3: Over the course of my life, I have so far lived in eight different states (New Mexico, Texas, Colorado, Arizona, Florida, Nevada, Wisconsin, and New Hampshire) and three different countries (US, England, and Japan.) I lived in England during my junior year of high school and I spent two years in Okinawa while I was in the military.

FACT 4: My favorite state I've spent much time in is probably California, although I've never lived there (the closest I've gotten was Las Vegas, but I did do a lot of weekend trips out there during that time, especially in the summer to escape the heat.) This was a large part of the reason I was considering the corrections officer job from Fact 2 above.

FACT 5: In spite of driving a flashy-looking car through several big cities and places known for crime such as Chicago, St. Louis, Dallas, Albuquerque, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles, the only place my last car was ever broken into was in Appleton, Wisconsin. The stereo was stolen. My insurance paid to get a new one and fix the window the thief or thieves broke.

FACT 6: The longest I've ever driven by myself (in that same car, actually) was from St. Louis to Dallas in one day. It took me over sixteen hours. I don't recommend anyone try this. I was becoming somewhat incoherent towards the end of the day.

FACT 7: The longest travel experience I ever had was when I was trying to fly to the US from Okinawa on leave when our plane broke after takeoff (the flaps wouldn't come down) and we stopped in Yokota Air Base, near Tokyo, for repairs. I couldn't get a room for the night so I ended up spending 24 hours in the terminal, followed by another ten or so hours for the flight to California. I then took a bus from the base I flew into to my sister's house in San Jose. I was very glad to finally sleep in a bed that night.

OK, now it's time to pick my tagees. I am going to try and avoid people I know that have already been tagged with this one, so I will pick out Dariush, Merujo, Marvo, AJ, Shane, Heather, and Mir.

I think that a couple of these people are not usually meme participants, and I am not going to try and make anyone feel guilty if they choose not to participate. But it is kind of a fun thing to do, as I discovered. And if you've been a lazy blogger like I have, it's a good motivation to write about something!