San Antonio. What the hell happened here?

“How was your flight?”

“Great. Just Great. Two hours next to the motors in a clapped out DC-9 thanks to Mr. Smoking-Section here”

That was a conversation that I had with one of my oldest friends when he arrived from the airport for my wedding 27 years ago, Which went through my head has I took my seat next to the motors in the back of an American Airlines vintage MD-80 on my flight to San Antonio.

View from the coveted back of the bus on an MD-80

Honestly, if you can’t score first class, or get an exit aisle seat, I find the back of the MD-80 a coveted spot.

You see, on an MD-80, the galley is on the right hand side of the aisle, forward of the toilets. So two things happen – Unfettered access to the head (if you need it) and you generally get drink service first, as the stewardesses take care of the seats behind the galley before moving forward. Just make sure your aren’t the last seats on the right before the galley, or the last row on the left side. Those are butted up against a bulkhead. So there’s no reclining. Otherwise, It’s a great spot. Unless, of course, you can’t handle the risk of being riddled with titanium fan blades if the motor gives out. That hardly ever happens though.

A lot of “Done me wrong” happening on this trip. Let’s start with the car. Avis, for some reason, gave me exactly what I rented. A Ford Focus, just like in Seattle. Unlike on that trip, this one started out not so bad. Seemed like an OK car. At least up until I had to turn a fast u-turn and merge into traffic. As I mashed on the pedal, the motor started backfiring every cylinder. It sounded like someone playing drums on the floor with sledgehammers. Or a machine-gun. After that, every time I hit above 60 it started up again. The speed limit on the highways here is 65, by the way. The car has 63 miles on it, and it’s falling to pieces. So I called in to complain.

My craptastic Ford Focus rental.

“Do you think it’s safe to drive to one of our facilities?” Says the agent. I don’t think so. “Well, I can offer you a ride with the tow truck to pick up a replacement”

Seriously? I had a flat back in 1997, they sent a rollback with a new car. Now, a ride on a tow truck is all I get. Screw it. I had to pick up a colleague at the airport, so I flogged it, mercilessly, back to the airport. As it stunk up the preferred booth, the helpful lady replaced it with a Camry which, while it had a few miles on it, ran flawlessly. I’m thinking they got water in the fuel. Who knows with Ford. I want to like them, but the last few I’ve gotten were miserable. Next time, I’m starting higher on the food chain, car-wise.

The replacement Avis used to redeem themselves.

I won’t go into much San Antonio stuff. I’ve done that before. That said, the traffic here has become jaw dropping. Sure, where I live has traffic. Some of it horrific. But you can usually hit secondary roads and do OK. Each trip in the evening was gooched. No alternative but sit it out and suffer. So beware. It’s also been mild and rainy in Texas lately. At least at home in Dallas, and here in San Antonio. Lot of greenery that is normally brown and dried by this time of the summer. San Antonio is more hilly and not quite as arid as Dallas, but not as awful humid as Houston. So, not bad weather to sit and suffer in traffic.

There was confusion about which office we’d have to inhabit this week, so we split the difference and got rooms at a Springhill Marriott at Medical center. I’m hard pressed to find the difference between this brand and Fairview. Other than green hideous carpet with lines, compared to blue with red circles, and the jimmy proof doors. Do they know something? Otherwise, Similar to fairview, same breakfast. Still a good deal.

Some ugly carpet. What were they thinking?


Why does the door need a jimmy barrier? Should I be worried?

However, the counter lady done us wrong. My co-worker asked where’s a good place for dinner. She sent us to a Mexican place in kind of a crappy strip mall. I’m OK with dives, but I was in the wrong lane in traffic and it wasn’t worth the effort to double back. I’m guessing twenty-somethings don’t understand the tastes of two pampered field engineers on an expense account. We opted for Pappadeaux, a “Known-Known”.

With the way traffic has been, plan your trips. I usually print a few google maps, ever since my total smartphone roaming failure in Victoria BC. This time, however, I didn’t bother. I trusted Apple maps, at least up until it done me wrong, screwing me on turnarounds. You see in Texas, highways exit to frontage roads, which have turnarounds when you hit the street the exit is there for. Turnarounds allow you to hit the frontage road, and feeder roads on the other side of the highway. It’s a u-turn by design for an 8 lane highway. To take it, you say “take the next turnaround, and prepare to turn right.

Not “Stay Right. Then “Slight Left”. A turnaround is a BIG LEFT. Not a “slight left”. Got me twice before I wised up. Got my colleague twice when he was navigating. I think I need to size up an actual google map, or print one again.

All this navigation silliness was astounding, considering that we were operating in probably a ten mile radius or so – Airport included. Last time I was here, I didn’t have that much trouble getting from point A to point B. Where I was, kind of northwest of the city, around I-10 and 410, I couldn’t keep my bearings. We had an 8am meeting one day, and took off in plenty of time. A while after heading out, I start noticing signs for I-35, and seeing the downtown skyline. I think I remarked, “Hey, I don’t remember seeing that all week”. Went the wrong way on I-10. We had to haul ass to make it even close.

Worse yet, when traffic was gooched, it was GOOCHED all over. There didn’t seem to be any relief from hitting side streets, no matter how hard we tried. I don’t remember this city being so crowded. I think a big chunk of Austin weirdness has oozed south. So screwups like that were tough to recover from.

In the first time for me in nearly a decade, our customer bailed on us for Friday. As we ate dinner we planned an early flee time. I scored an 830 flight home, rather than the 5pm one I had. So I got up early, sized up my position, and hit the road figuring I had this down now, and Apple would screw me up. Hell, I’m only 15 minutes from the airport.

After 15 minutes of travel, I was thinking “Hey, I don’t remember seeing that all week”.


P.S. The problem was twofold. First, I-10 hooks north/south at the 410 interchange. Yet, the signage says East/West. It didn’t reconcile with the map picture I had in my head. My head was also wrong. all week I thought the Hotel was north of i-410. It wasn’t. It was south. The reason for this is Apple doesn’t display, or didn’t display, the map from a “true-North” perspective. Imma print maps next time.