To Akron, Atlanta and Back

I had a fun but tiring trip from LaGuardia Airport to Akron, Ohio to Atlanta, GA and back home. I got to fly on AirTran to Ohio and was dreading flying on this airline. For some reason I associate the airline with budget crappy service. Big mistake. The service was great and you can upgrade to first class for a very low rate. If memory serves between $35-$70.

The planes have XM satellite radio on them and I am not sure how I made it in life before satellite radio was invented. I love it. I think I prefer satellite radio to TV as I am not tempted to "watch" radio but can listen and work or catch up on reading. The one downside is the airline doesn’t seem to support e-mail alerts of flight delays.

The people of Akron are very friendly –typical midwesterners — and I had a grand time in the city. I had never been there before and apparently it is the world capital of oatmeal. The Crowne Plaza Hotel is a renovated oatmeal mill or factory or whatever you call it. Thick slabs of circular concrete which make up the silos separate the guest rooms and you might never hear your neighbor in this hotel.

Murals, posters and pictures of the famous Quaker Oatmeal man were everywhere. There is a mural at least 30 feet tall of this guy. I wonder, did he ever exist and if so did he wear that outfit when he was relaxing and having a few beers with the friends. I am sure he was a fan of oatmeal stout.

I have been a huge and loyal customer of Quaker Oatmeal for years and my family lives on it (not the stout). I am actually concerned that my youngest daughter Nicole who is about to turn one is not as big fan of oatmeal as the rest of us but thankfully she eats everything else.

Getting to Atlanta was uneventful. I flew Delta and missed the satellite radio. Before the flight I did get excellent and accurate flight alerts though. When I landed I noticed that there are vending machines in the Atlanta Airport that sell iPods. What will they think of next? Hey here is an idea. Recycled iPods. You deposit yours and get another one with all new random music. Perhaps they can be coded for rock, classical, etc. The point is you can try out new music while flying. You can tag the songs you like and these will somehow be recorded in the iTunes database as you favorite songs.

I rented from Avis and when I go to the counter they asked if I still need the minivan. I am a sports car fanatic and I was part hurt and shocked by this comment. After all I wasn’t down in Atlanta on daycare duty, I had some people to meet with and a speech to give. Perhaps this was a cruel joke being played on my by a coworker?

Apparently the sedan option was a Hyundai of some kind. Although these cars have great reviews from car magazines and I hear they are better than ever, I might prefer walking than getting in one of these. My last Hyundai experience was "not exactly." I almost settled for a Jeep — trendy — trendy, but the agent pushed me to a Buick Lucerne.

Buick I thought? Did I put on too much Ben Gay this morning? How many grey hairs do I really have? Let’s put it this way, you know those people that play bingo every week? Well their parents drive Buicks. But you know what, the agent was persuasive and told me about the XM radio in the car. MMM I thought. Just like AirTran. I figured I would give it a try.

When I got in I got that feeling I always get in these boat-sized American cars. I felt like I was just teleported to the couch of a 70’s porn movie. It just seems these American carmakers will never understand how to make a sporty and supportive seat. Dear Buick execs… Please check out when you are on your next lunch break.

Furthermore, the dashboard looked more like a Sanyo stereo console from 1985 than a dashboard a proper car should have. There are bright blue lights everywhere.

Other than that the XM and sound quality was amazing and I listened to comedy the whole time I was down there. In addition I am getting used to the GPS that Avis provides. It is a Nextel phone with a java app. You press a button and tell an agent where you want to go. The agent programs in all your destinations and then you just point and shoot. The screen is smaller that Hertz NeverLost but it is acceptable if you have good eyes (or contacts or glasses).

The Lucerne was a good car overall. It needs more power but handled better than I thought it could based on the fact that it absorbed some very harsh bumps with aplomb. I tried to squeal the tires around some curves but it stuck to the road with surprising grip. It is no Lotus but it did the job. With better seats and a more classy and well-designed dash, this car could compete seriously with the Europeans.

I am now hooked on XM and will be getting satellite radio in my next car. TMC headquarters is loaded with steel and we get few radio stations. I wonder if I can get satellite for the office as well. Perhaps I will explore one of those units that pops out of your car and into the office. You know like that ad that shows the car going into an elevator and to the guy’s desk.

While in the airport I noticed a trend towards cell phone fashion. I saw so many women with the pink Motorola RAZRs. My wife just purchased one of these as well with the accompanying pink headset. It seems that phones will continue to become fashion accessories, a trend brought to the US by the RAZR.

The Atlanta airport is a busy place and thankfully the security line was not that long when I arrived. I got my ticket from the curbside check in person even though I didn’t have any bags to check. I then went to security and they pointed out I had the wrong boarding pass.

I then went to the self check-in machine and it asked if I wanted another boarding pass. I can only surmise that the curbside person printed my pass but gave me the wrong one. This has never happened to me but if you fly long enough you are bound to see everything.

I ran into an ex-marine in the busy airport food area and we got to talking about what we do. He told me he is helping to secure nuclear waste in Russia. I thanked him. The world needs people like this to keep us all safe. I am sure he gets paid well but still it can’t help to keep him motivated.

He was telling me about how in Moscow there is a cell phone shop on every corner and there is even a store devoted to Nokia 100%. In the states he told me we don’t have this flexibility. We need more Americans traveling overseas to understand how behind the US telecom system is. Perhaps we can get our politicians to check Moscow out as well.

I really love Atlanta and wish I could stay longer. But alas, duty calls me back home for many meetings and interviews. Of course I can’t wait to see the kids either. TMC is enjoying unprecedented growth and with that comes the challenge of finding the right people to join our family. Those hard-working and dedicated people committed to excellence and love to work as team. Suffice it to say I have lots of people to interview.

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