Property Grunt

Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Scorpion and the Frog

Know the nature of what you are dealing with or you could be stung.

The New York Times had an amusing article regarding the M60 bus that goes straight to La Guardia. Unsurprisingly, the bus becomes the terror dome during the holidays.

Catching a Full-Up Plane? Take This Overstuffed Bus

Passengers on the M60 bus who had already been forced to stand were pressed against the doors. Others, trapped by tall suitcases, could not get up from their seats. Two dozen people with yet more bags tried to board, but a wave of exiting riders, shouting loudly, pushed them right back off. The same scene was replayed at the next stop, Third Avenue.

“They pack us in like cattle,” said Clay Crawford, 40, who lives in Harlem and was commuting to his job as a security guard in Queens. “Who wants this?”

Who wants to deal with this? People who are too cheap or unable to spend $12 on the New York Airport Service. But just because you take frugal measures for airport travel does not mean you have to suffer. If you follow these simple principles it will increase the chance of having a stress free arrival to the airport.

1. Prepare in advance

Because of my tendency to procrastinate, I often begin my travel preparations at least a week in advance. That includes packing and airport travel. It never fails that the night before I need something for the trip and I am running around like a maniac to take care of it. But at least my bags are packed.

2. Choose your airport travel options wisely and adapt to them.

When it comes to airports, I was always taught to arrive at least an hour before the flight leaves which means adding another hour for travel time. Traveling is not an exact science. Flights get canceled or delayed. They also might be overbooked and even if you bought your ticket in advance, you might be bumped off if you do not arrive early enough. When traveling to the airport it is best to have more time than less.

I often spend the 12 bucks for the airport bus service because of the convenience. The schedule is simple to follow and has a wide variety of options to choose that can fit in my schedule and unlike the M60 it does not make additional stops that could add to delays to my schedule. It is a straight shot to JFK and the driver can help me if I have any questions.

I have taken the E train Sutphin Boulevard which connects to the Air Train. It is actually quite affordable and easy to use. However because of the destination and the erratic nature of the subway I would leave very early and would often find myself waiting at the gate for at least an hour before boarding.

If I were to take the M60, I would leave not two hours but 5 hours in advance. When you have a service or product that is dirt cheap, in scarce supply and in demand then it is always going to be mobbed especially during the holidays.

3. Just because you get the airport on time does not mean you will be.

As I have stated before, travel is not an exact science and Murphy's law often stops by to see you off. Even after checking in and getting to the gate, I do not sleep, rest or engage in any type of behavior that would take away my full attention tfrom the environment. I listen to the announcements made on the PA system and I observe my surroundings very carefully. If I do not see a crowd of people at my gate at about 30 minutes before boarding, I am going to wonder why. Maybe the gates have been switched and I have to go somewhere else. If have to move, I want to be able to it quickly and efficiently.

It also does not hurt to know where the emergency exits are. S**t happens.

4. Check online for everything.

I have learned in the past to check online to confirm what gate I will be leaving from and check my flight status and I always use online map services to estimate my travel time to the airport. This gives me a better idea of when to leave and determine my choices if my flight has been delayed or canceled.

I have also expanded my online research on what gate the plane will be using upon arrival and looking at the airport map to determine the logistics of leaving the airport. Last summer I had a nightmare when arriving to San Francisco. I was unable to find the area where I was to be picked up and the woman at the information desk obviously did not understand the description of her job because she was completely unhelpful.

If you disobey any of my principles, this is what is likely to occur.

Vikaas Sharma, a Columbia University student who was trying to wiggle a blue suitcase out of the way, boarded the M60 at 2 p.m. on Tuesday to catch a 3:45 p.m. flight on his way to San Francisco, where he grew up. But the bus did not arrive at La Guardia until 4 p.m., so he missed the flight, which turned out to be the last one available until Christmas Day — leading to the first Christmas Eve of his 20 years that he spent without his family.

As I have stated before regarding the use of the M60 bus, he should have left 5 hours before check in. If he had splurged and taken the New York Airport bus he should have been at the gate at 2pm. This is his fault not the bus. Even tourists know how f**ked up the bus and subway systems are, Vikaas, being a Columbia student and has lived in the city, should known that the public transportation system can become a scorpion very quickly.

There are probably those of who have read this article who are a bit shocked that an Ivy Leaguer would make such a miscalculation. I am not. Which needs leads me to my next principle which applies more to life than travel.

Just because someone has an Ivy League degree does not meant they are smarter than you or more successful than you.

When I was younger I was always overly impressed perhaps intimidated by people with Ivy League pedigrees. They were more talented, intelligent and destined for greater things that us lesser mortals could never comprehend. And a lot of these kids actually believed that and acted like the exalted ones. in other words they were a$$holes. But honestly, I am not impressed with the way their lives have turned out.

I know of one person who despite having a two degrees, one from an Ivy League school and working at a good job is still unable to cobble together a down payment for an apartment. I know one person who has two degrees from the Ivies and founded several start ups which failed. This person at one point was on the partner track at a very prestigious law firm. He could not hack it and works in an industry that is quite lucrative however very unstable. I know two couples who between them probably spent a fortune on their Ivy League educations. Despite having successful careers, one couple still does not have the money to buy a home, the other couple bought awhile ago, but their careers are in question due to the current economy. Speaking of Columbia, I know of one real estate developer who tells stories of fresh graduates from the Columbia real estate program who show up for interviews assuming they have been hired because they graduated from Columbia.

Mind you, I am no Jedi Knight when it comes to success but it is a sobering realization to see what has happened to these people.

By no means am I showing disrespect for the Ivy Leagues. If I had a shot at Harvard, I would run though hell and high water to attend that school. Having an Ivy League degree opens doors however it does not guarantee success and happiness in life.