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Friday, October 30, 2009

Decent Airport BBQ and Business Travel Musings

Spicy Food Guy lives in the grey area of business travel; just enough trips to make air travel frustrating and painful, not enough to enjoy the perks that come with heavy accumulations of reward miles and points. This grey area is puzzling to SFG, given that his colleagues travel at about the same rate he does. Here is a typical conversation with Bright and Smiley Colleague of Spicy Food Guy (BASCOSFG):

BASCOSFG: "This past summer I flew me and my family to Asia and Antarctica using my frequent flyer miles! We went first class!"

SFG: "Antarctica?"

BASCOSFG: "And on the way home, we stopped in London and stayed on the grounds of Buckingham Palace using my Marriott Reward points!"

SFG: "Buckingham Palace?"

BASCOSFG: "And we had tea with the Queen!"

Spicy Food Guy does not have tea with the Queen. Instead, Spicy Food Guy has a Boarding Pass. It is a familiar Boarding Pass -- Row 23, the back -- Seat B, the middle -- Zone 4, boarding last. Spicy Food Guy knows from experience that 23B Zone 4 is a code, code for a familiar phrase that haunts the business traveler, code for "no more overhead space available".

Indeed, the airline representative is waiting for SFG at the end of his trudge down the jetway:

"There is no more overhead space, Sir. We will need to check your bag, Sir. What is your final destination, Sir?"

And so Spicy Food Guy responds:

"All things taken in the balance, I'm afraid the final destination is looking a lot like Hell. But tonight I was hoping to make it to Newark, New Jersey. My guess is that the airport code is the same."

This does not even get a smile form the airline representative, given that Airline Union rule 213 provision a1(c) subsection D does not allow for the use of humor on airport premises. Ever.

So Spicy Food Guy checks the bag. Interestingly, though, on the march back to 23, Spicy Food Guy notices that there is plenty of overhead space available from about row 15 on. Lots of space. Scads of space. Spicy Food Guy could have thrown his daughter's high school graduation party in the amount of space available in the overhead bins. SFG decides not to let the issue pass.

"Excuse me," SFG says gently to the passing flight attendant, "I notice there is lots of overhead space. I was told there was none."

The flight attendant looks at SFG blankly. "Who is this creature?" her eyes seem to say, "Why is he speaking such nonsense to me?" She says nothing.

"Well I was told I would need to check my bag because there was no space."

No response.

"Well, there seems to have been a fundamental breakdown in communications in the 32 linear feet it takes to get from row 15 to the front of the plane."

No response.

"Well, this concerns me, in so much as you and your crew are responsible for my personal safety when this big metal tube gets 30,000 fucking feet in the fucking air!"

OK, Spicy Food Guy didn't really say the last one, but he thought it. He thought it very loudly.

But Spicy Food Guy has digressed from the subject at hand, which is whether or not decent BBQ is available in any airport in the Continental United States. Fortunately, the answer is "yes", as long as you are connecting through Charlotte, NC.

It's in the food court, and it's called Brookwood Farms North Carolina Pit BBQ. Get the pulled pork sandwich with the vinegar based bbq sauce. Make certain you get the cole slaw on the sandwich, not to the side. Your official side should be the baked beans, fried okra, or mac and cheese. Get an extra fried dill pickle because they rock the house. For a drink, you get a Budweiser; not a soda, not an import, an American Budweiser.

Now, take your tray and sit down. Take a deep breath. Bite into the pulled pork sandwich. Tender, it is, with a nice bbq tang from the sauce. Take a pull from the Bud.

A little bit of heaven, Brookwood BBQ, right in the middle of business traveler hell. Because your flight is delayed, and your boarding pass is 23B, Zone 4. Again.
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