Friday, November 25, 2005

I am Officially part of US History

Well, at least that's what the United gate agent told us before we began to board our flight from Washington Dulles to LAX this past Tuesday. You see, we had some "very special guests" on board. United Flight #197 was officially re-named to TURKEY-1. I'm not kidding - every Air Traffic Controller from Dulles to LAX referred to our flight as this, most with bewilderment.

I've been flying on United for over 10 years now, and I've seen some pretty dumb things, both on the part of them and their passengers alike. I've had 5+ hour delays for no apparent reason, seen drunk passengers denied boarding, even saw an older man punch a woman. I thought I'd seen it all. Wrong.

As I was checking in, I asked if my upgrade had gone through, with little hope as it was the Tuesday before Thanksgiving in the US, one of the busiest travel days.

"No, sir, I'm sorry, first class is checked in full. With 2 turkeys."

"I'm sorry, but I think I just heard you say that there are 2 turkeys flying in the first class cabin today."

"Yes, sir, these are special turkeys. They were pardoned by the President himself."

"This is a joke."

"No, I'm afraid not."

So I essentially got bumped back to coach for a pair of Turkeys.

After most people on the plane expressed concern that our tax dollars bought out the entire first class cabin, the pilot reassured us that the entire trip was paid in full by Disney. And out of respect for the turkeys, there were no turkey sandwiches on this flight. Just those made from their tasty cousin: chicken.

You see, with national disasters like Katrina & Wilma and the earthquakes in Pakistan, it makes perfect sense to pay at least $25,000 (figuring about $1,500 a seat for 12 first class seats, plus at least 2 or 3 additional seats in coach for the photographer & marketing people and I'm guessing $5,000 for a police escorted motorcade from the White House to Dulles, but I've never priced one out, so that figure could be way off) to fly 2 "pardoned" turkeys clear across the country, so that if history repeats itself again, they will die in a couple of weeks anyways.

My suggestion to the United "customer service" manager was to get a photo loading a turkey on the plane at Dulles, not actually fly them, and once the plane get to LA, get another photo of 2 stunt-double turkeys being off-loaded. If any city can find 2 stunt-double turkeys, it's Los Angeles. Then, take the $25,000 or so that was just saved and perhaps buy a whole bunch of chickens & hams (out of respect for the turkeys, of course) and feed those to people who actually need them. However, as the media reported, no one took my suggestion seriously.

So we took off 45 minutes late, as evidently the "be at the airport 1 hour early" doesn't apply to turkeys. To me delight, the turkeys were quiet and did not smell, unless you were right next to their cage. We had a "gobbling" contest, people told turkey jokes, and the First Officer even conducted a Turkey Trivia Contest. The only redeeming qualities of this whole fiasco was that the 1st prize in the Trivia Contest was a bottle of Wild Turkey and that we somehow made it to LAX 10 minutes early.

Since nobody will believe this without proof, here is a photo of the United Baggage handlers strapping the turkey's cage into 3A & B:
















Here is "Marshmallow", the Official Turkey of 2005 of something, shot from the 2nd row in coach through the "peep-hole" in the blukhead that used to be closed before 9/11.















And here is a close-up of "Marshmallow":















As soon as we landed and taxied to our gate, I got up and got off the plane as fast as I could, as the news media was anxiously waiting by our gate, cameras locked & loaded.

So when your children learn about Thanksgiving in the US, perhaps they will read about the story of TURKEY-1, as I am now officially part of US History.

I hope everyone had a safe & enjoyable holiday!

19 comments:

Chris Spierings said...

Wow Scott. How could you possibly sit for all that time looking at those tasty little guys and not get the urge to eat them.

Was there a reason for sending them to California? And why not throw them in the baggage hold with the dogs and cats?

Scott said...

Chris,

I made sure to have an extra helping of turkey on Thanksgiving. :)

In the past, the pardoned turkeys were sent to a farm in Herndon, Virginia, about 20 miles or so from Washington DC. PETA had deemed this cruel, as most of the turkeys died in just a few weeks, since they were bred to be eaten, they had a lot of fat.

In order to appease PETA, the turkeys are now sent to Disneyland - at Disney's expense - to a special farm. I'm not sure if there's turkey aerobics or weight loss classes planned for them, but they also got to be the grand marshall of Disney's Thanksgiving Day parade.

As for sticking them below, I asked that too, and was told a turkey is too fragile to do that, and would likely die in transit.

Thanks,

- Scott -

Anonymous said...

Seems such extravaganza is consistent with the Fortune 500 culture of extremely high pay and benefits for CEOs and other board members.

Something to ponder the next time you pay lots of money for a foreign made piece of merchandising whose production cost is a fraction of its selling price.

Anonymous said...

Just when you think you've heard it all. Truly there is not much you can say about this...on the one hand its so laughable and on the other hand its really pathetic and sad...

Suffice it to say that I will reserve my comments for PETA...they are as about as much use as the ACLU!

Scott said...

Just when you think you've heard it all. Truly there is not much you can say about this...on the one hand its so laughable and on the other hand its really pathetic and sad...

This is exactly how I felt - so mad and stunned at the lunacy and stupidity of the whole idea that I was laughing about it.

- Scott -

Anonymous said...

So, have you been tested for the H5N1 yet?

Anonymous said...

Only in America! ;)

Scott said...

So, have you been tested for the H5N1 yet?

Funny you'd mention that, as there was a brochure from Disney that assured all of us that the birds were disease-free. We also got a small foam turkey as a souvenir, but I think I left mine in LA.

Scott said...

Only in America! ;)

And funny you'd say that, too, as there was a woman from New Zealand across the aisle from me who said the very same thing!

- Scott -

Thomas Kyte said...

I only half believed you when you IM'd me from the airport, but the proof is in the pictures.

Actually, that night - after you told me, I saw it on the news, laughed out loud...

I've never been bumped out of an upgrade for livestock, that is a new one.

Scott said...

I've never been bumped out of an upgrade for livestock, that is a new one.

At least not yet...

The guy next to me said that the last time he traveled with livestock was on some bus in rural China in the 60s.

And since you're a Pittsburgh guy, I was interviewed on ESPN Radio 1250 the next morning by my college roommate, who has a sports show. It went so well that people accused him of staging the call!

- Scott -

David Aldridge said...

I deep-fried a turkey in peanut oil this year -- it was cholersterolicious!

My wife: "Hey I got a 12lb turkey for $5 at the BX"
Me: "Great! The oil cost $30 by the way!"

Scott said...

I deep-fried a turkey in peanut oil this year -- it was cholersterolicious!

But SOOOOOOO good!

We've done that before. I think there's still some used oil behind my old house in Arlington...

Mmmmmm, 3 year old used peanut oil!

Next time, drop in some small sliced potatos in the fryer for a nice, equally as unhealthy side dish!

- Scott -

Anonymous said...

Stuff a deboned chicken inside a deboned duck, stuff inside turkey.

Deep Fried Turducken! Different colored meat on slicing will make our rainbow friends happy too!

Scott said...

Stuff a deboned chicken inside a deboned duck, stuff inside turkey. Deep Fried Turducken!

Now THAT sounds good! Next time we break out the fryer, that may be on the menu. The fryer also makes a nice, big lobster pot - with water in place of peanut oil, of course!

- Scott -

Anonymous said...

I work for united and this one takes the cake!

Anonymous said...

just to set the record straight, marshmallow and yam are living happily at the big thunder ranch which is disneylands cute little petting farm, with goats and sheep and the awsome little cow named maggie. the turks are located just outfront in a very nice enclosure.
oh and the place where all the other pardoned turkeys have gone is called "frying pan park".
Marshmallow is a whopping 42 pounds i think and yam isnt far behind at 39 pounds.
i also think the idea was cute. and it seems to be working. so there.

Scott said...

i also think the idea was cute. and it seems to be working. so there.

Spending thousands of dollars to send two birds across the country in a first class cabin where they will - trust me on this one - eventually die when there are countless other ways to spend that money on better causes is hardly "cute".

- Scott -

Arun said...

"You see, with national disasters like Katrina & Wilma and the earthquakes in Pakistan, it makes perfect sense to pay at least $25,000"

But with all these, you still thought of flying first class didn't you? You could have flown lower class and 'spent' the extra money 'on better causes', couldn't you.

Bottom line: Where to draw the line is hazy. Look at it this way: Finally, United will make the same amount of money, whether you pay for it, or Disney does.