Flying to ASBDC conferences

Laissez Le Bon Temps Rouler

I appreciate that most of my airline flights happened because I worked as a business librarian for the New York Small Business Development Center and attended ASBDC conferences.

The NY SBDC had gotten a contract from the Small Business Administration to provide reference services for all of the SBDCs around the country from October 1, 1992, to September 30, 1998. The contract had previously resided with the Georgia SBDC, and they had to ship all of these reference resources to us.

Part of my job at the time was surveying the state programs, so I always called the new state directors and tried to meet them at the ASBDC conference. At the time, ASBDC was the Association of Small Business Development Center. It was later rebranded as America’s Small Business Development Centers.

1993: I went to Library Director 1 to the ASBDC conference near Lexington, but it was in the ‘burbs, so I had no sense of the city.

1994: I went with Library Director 2 (LD2), who had just started working, to Salt Lake City for the ASBDC conference at a resort in Snowbird, about 14 miles from SLC. I wrote about one aspect of this trip here.


1995: The ASBDC conference was in New Orleans. LD2 was going to present there with her one office favorite. (I thought of getting into that dynamic; maybe another time.) I insisted that it was my job description for me to go; she decided there was too much reference work for me to be away from the office.

Meanwhile, my then-girlfriend, now my wife, had gotten a trip to Hawaii due to achieving an insurance education matrix. The trip was taking place at about the same time. Did I want to go? Of course, but if LD2 wouldn’t let me go to the Big Easy, she certainly wouldn’t release me to go on vacation.

At the last minute, LD2 did allow me to go to N.O. because she had too much equipment to schlep. This conference was actually in the city, which was great.

1996: Orlando was the destination of the ASBDC conference. LD2 brought me and her new office favorite. No, I did not get to Disneyworld. Just before the return trip, New Favorite got sick and threw up. LD2 decided to sit with me instead.

I was amidst this intensive 34-week study of the Bible called Disciple. By that point, I was probably reading Joshua or Judges. LD2, as it turned out, was a bit of a scholar of Hebrew scripture, which she talked about at length. When we got home, she gave me study materials for the rest of what I’d call the Old Testament. Suddenly, after two years, I became one of their favorites; this was very weird.

Deep in the heart

1996 (not ASBDC conference): One of the Library Director’s jobs was to attend the various state SBDC conferences and tout Research Network services. Texas was having theirs, but it was around Yom Kippur, so LD2 wouldn’t go. They sent me instead. I flew to Houston, got a ride to Galveston, and had a lovely time.

Then, I was to go to the Oklahoma SBDC meeting, which was in Durant. I took a plane from Houston to Dallas and another from Dallas to Durant, which had to be the smallest airport I’ve gone to. We met in a nondescript room in a nondescript building. I gave a spiel for two or three hours, flew back to Dallas, and then to Albany.

1997: LD2 had left the program. I went to Denver with two others, then drove an hour to Keystone, a resort town.

1998: LD 3, who is great, BTW, and I attended the conference in Savannah, GA. Before it officially started, my father drove down from Charlotte, NC, for a few days, as noted here. The New York SBDC had just lost the contract to the San Antonio SBDC for reasons (another time)

1999: The conference was in San Diego. I got to see my sister. The light rail in the area was quite impressive. Another librarian and I attended the San Diego Chargers NFL game on October 3. The Chargers came back from a 0-14 deficit to beat the Kansas City Chiefs 21-14. It’s only the second NFL game I’ve ever seen, the first being October 20, 1969, when the New York Jets defeated the Houston Oilers 26-17 at Shea Stadium.


2000: The conference was in Miami Beach, FL. I recall that the carpeting at the Fountaine Bleau was wet when we arrived from recent flooding. It was really muggy the first week in October.

2001: Our state director had already gone down to Dallas. I was supposed to give a presentation at the conference. My flight was scheduled for September 12. The conference was canceled.

2002: The conference was at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel in Nashville, TN, which I recall being a massive venue. At some point, we got a free copy of a Toby Keith album, which brings to one the number of Toby Keith albums I’ve ever owned.

2003: The ASBDC conference was in San Diego again at the Sheraton. I saw my sister again.

Subsequently, our state director decided, for budgetary reasons, that most of us couldn’t go to the ASBDC conference unless we were giving a presentation.

2008: I presented at the ASBDC conference in Chicago, and we were in the city. For all the times I’d gone through O’Hare, it was the first time I actually was in the state for purposes of counting it on my list.

2018: I suggested that a librarian attend the ASBDC conference to our new State Director, and they agreed. I went to Washington, DC. However, although I was allowed to fly, I chose to take Amtrak. I’ll take the train for relatively short distances.

Absent these conferences, my flying would have been quite limited.

Roger’s Flight List

no reservation?

Roger’s flight list is Roger directly stealing from Chuck Miller because, you know, I can. I am interested that he has flow to places I’ve been to, but I got there by other means: Cleveland and Detroit by train on the same 1998 trip; Toronto by car in 2011; and Baltimore by car in the late 1990s.

PREVIOUS FLIGHT DESTINATIONS: Albany, NY (from Binghamton); Atlanta, GA; Buffalo, NY; Charlotte, NC; Chicago, IL; Denver, CO; Houston, TX (with a side trip to Durant, OK); Las Vegas, NV; Louisville, KY; Madison, WI; Miami, FL; Nashville, TN; New Orleans, LA; Orlando, FL; Salt Lake City, UT; San Francisco, CA (from San Diego); Savannah, GA; Barbados; and Paris, France. Oh, and, most often, San Diego, CA.

Every flight on the list, save for Buffalo, was routed through another airport: JFK, Newark, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Atlanta, Detroit, or Chicago’s O’Hare. The first moving walkway I saw was in the airport in Pittsburgh. I recall that I hated the Detroit airport in the 1990s, but when I went through there traveling from Las Vegas to Albany in 2023, it was fine.

FIRST FLIGHT. Also, WORST FLIGHT: I was one of six high school students from the Binghamton, NY, area to attend The Governor’s Conference on Children and Youth in Albany in late August or early September 1970. We were on a 12-seater plane. There was rain and lightning and turbulence. I thought I was going to die.

FIRST FLIGHT ON A LARGE PLANE: It was 1987. It might have been to Madison, WI, with Mario Bruni to the Capital City Comics Distributor event – FantaCo was plugging its Mars Attacks! cards. Or it was to the San Diego Comic-Con; I also went there in 1988.


MOST NERVOUS FLIGHT: The New York Small Business Development Center held its 1994 annual conference near Jamestown. The folks from the Central office, where I worked, the Albany field office, and others flew from Albany to Buffalo, then took a charted bus from Buffalo to Jamestown, getting lost en route.

While we were at the conference: “On Thursday, September 8, 1994, USAir Flight 427 crashed in Hopewell Township, Pennsylvania, killing all 132 passengers and crew. To this day, it remains the deadliest crash in the history of Pennsylvania aviation. USAir Flight 427 was a regularly scheduled flight between Chicago-O’Hare International Airport (ORD) and Palm Beach International Airport (PBI), with a stop at Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT).”

People at the conference were FREAKING OUT. Most of them had taken US Air to get there and would return the same way. Some unhelpful folks said that after a plane crash, it would be doubtful there would be another.

After the conference ended, we took a charter bus back to Buffalo, discovering that our flight reservations back to Albany were canceled inexplicably. We had to rebook before going home.

MOST UGH EVENT: In 2009, the flight attendant from JFK to Charlotte panicked when I told her my daughter had a peanut allergy. The return flight was worse.

First Class!

NICEST UPGRADE: On our return honeymoon flight from Barbados in 1999 – thank you, JEOPARDY! – my bride and I were upgraded to first class. I don’t know if it was JEOPARDY’s doing or whose, but it was a tremendous five-hour flight. Then I landed in JFK to experience the Worst Queue Ever at Customs. (Coming back from Paris in 2023 was MUCH better.)

THE FAMOUS PEOPLE I MET: Mark Lane is not particularly famous, but I knew who he was, and we talked at length.

FLIGHTS I FORGOT I TOOK: When I was pondering the list of destinations, I told my wife that we had only flown together to other countries, Barbados and France. No, she insisted, we flew to Atlanta in 1995.

I remember being in Atlanta with her a year before the Olympics (just like Paris in 2023), staying at a Doubletree Hotel and visiting her childhood friend. We MUST have flown, but I don’t specifically remember it.

Also, I was in San Francisco with my sister Leslie in 1987 or 1988. I didn’t fly from Albany, so we must have flown from San Diego.

To be revisited soon.

Roissy en France

Notre histoire en couleurs

May 20: I may have said we were returning to Paris, but we were actually going to Roissy en France.

We eat breakfast at the B&B. There was a giant jukebox in the dining area with dozens of 45s. We talked to a couple from the wedding. The dancing didn’t start until 1 a.m.!

We saw Father Thomas, who was also staying at the locale. My wife drove from Tredion back to Auray, which took about an hour. We returned the rental car and stopped at the cafe we visited three days ago.

Our travel documents suggested we might take a TERTRAIN from Auray to Redon, leave at 13:05, and arrive at 14:30. Because they were doing track work, we took a bus. It was rather uncomfortable, as I couldn’t put my feet under the seat in front of me.

The TGVTRAIN from Redon to PARIS MONTPARNASSE was nice, but it took a while, from 14:50 to 18:07.

I should have used the loo on the train. The bathroom at the train station cost 50 Euro cents, but it didn’t work! Finally, we went to another level and spent another Euro in a locale with an attendant.

We still needed to get to our hotel in Roissy en France, near the airport. My wife decided we’d take a taxi. With the stop-and-go traffic, it took at least an hour, which made it a pricey choice.

After we dropped off our stuff, we went to eat. We opted against the dining choices at the hotel. Wandering into town, we found a Chinese/Thai restaurant with one of the broadest menus I’ve ever seen.

Our last day in France

After breakfast, we wandered into the charming town. We came across a series of about 40 placards describing France’s history. They were from the book  Notre histoire en couleurs, OUR STORY IN COLORS, by Xavier Mauduit.

“This book is a walk through time, a stroll through yesterday’s world where everything is suddenly in color. A unique experience for all generations!

“Let’s find our poets and our novelists, Baudelaire, Hugo, Proust or even Colette, without forgetting all the anonymous people, students, workers, peasants. Let’s walk the streets of our cities and the roads of our countryside.” This was an unexpected joy.

My wife got a hotel employee to get us to the airport. We were delivered to the right terminal, 2, but the wrong section. Fortunately, Charles De Gaulle Airport has a train system like the AirTrain to JFK.

Unlike the chaos at Delta at JFK, getting the boarding pass at Air France was simple and uncrowded. After checking through various checkpoints, we got to our gate quickly. We got some excellent airport food, which is not an oxymoron.

Our eight-hour flight – leaving at 19:30 Paris time and arriving at 21:45 NYC time, was mainly uneventful. However, I was surprised how far back the guy in front of me could push back his seat, further than anyone around him.

We deboarded the plane. I was trying my new Mobile Passport Control app, which I couldn’t send until I determined what terminal we were at. I don’t know if it helped or not. We got through two Customs checkpoints far faster than the debacle we experienced in 1999 after returning from Barbados.

One of the folks from my church choir had agreed to pick us up. Now the terminal at JFK WAS a zoo, but we found each other. Carol and I rode home in about 3.5 hours. Our daughter had waited up until 2 a.m. for us, which was very sweet.

Why I hate flying

Massive confusion

I hate flying. It’s not the part up in the air that bothers me. In fact, that’s generally a pleasant experience.

Here’s the beginning of the trip to France. We get a ride from a friend of ours to the Albany-Rensselaer train station, arriving at 10:30 for an 11:10 train to New York’s Penn Station.

The train leaves on time. I helped a young woman put her – god, that was heavy! – luggage in the overhead area. We used the Wi-Fi to check our email, and I wrote a bit.

We take the Long Island Railroad train to Jamaica, Queens. My daughter and I became experts in traveling the LIRR during her college visits. Buying the ticket at a kiosk is easy.

We’re to take the AirTrain to Terminal 4 at JFK Airport. This is a new experience for me. The one time I flew from Kennedy was as a connection between Albany and Barbados, so I’ve never had to get to that airport by land. It was pretty straightforward.

Alpha, beta, gamma…

When we get to Delta, though, it all falls apart.  Where should we go? We asked five representatives and got as many contradictory answers.

We were in one massive line for a time. Then an airline representative directed some of us down escalator stairs and a five-minute walk to ANOTHER place we could check in.  Good thing we had four hours before our flight.

It turned out we had more time than that. Our flight was delayed, first for one hour, then two, because of a window not sealed properly. Initially, they were going to fix it and repressurize the aircraft. Ultimately, they had to get another plane from a hangar. This is not a complaint, though being told we needed to go to three different ages was exhausting.

Finally, at 9:30 pm Eastern Daylight Time, we took off in one of those widebody vehicles that seat two, then three, then two across. We were in row 47 with lots of folks behind us.

The flight attendants spoke English, French, or both. Delta is affiliated with Air France. I watched two movies and one TV episode and got decent food. Considering it was seven hours, it was all good, although I never went to sleep as my wife did, using a light-blocking mask.

Landing at Charles DeGaulle Airport in  Roissy-en-France was a massive confusion. The line I  thought was to retrieve my luggage was to get my passport stamped. Regardless, it was long and chaotic. Occasionally, some staffers would say that if you have an American or a Canadian passport, you could go to a different line, but this was inconsistent.

Finally, we were sent to a shorter but hardly short line. The electronic scanners were down, and they were checking passports by hand. I got my passport stamped – my first on this document, which I procured in March 2022 – and I retrieved my suitcase at least an hour after getting off the plane.

We took a local train to the Luxembourg station in the Latin Quarter, walked to our first hotel, and dropped off our stuff about 24 hours after we left our house.  FINALLY, the adventure could begin.

Flying in America: it ain’t easy

There were more canceled flights originating from the Atlanta airport than any other airport in the WORLD

There were a couple stories about flying this month, one of which was very well-known, and the other which indirectly affected me personally.

Of course, the former air travel tale involved a video showing a man removed forcibly from United Airlines flight from Chicago to Louisville, and left battered and limp, after he boarded because United determined it needed a flight crew to be in Kentucky. He was, BTW, a doctor, 69, and Asian-American.

Oscar Munoz, the CEO of United, had recently been named PRWeek U.S.’s Communicator of the Year for 2017. But until he issued a stronger apology, calling the confrontation “truly horrific” and that “no one should ever be mistreated this way,” the responses from the airline were astonishingly tone deaf, using the word “re-accommodate” to describe the passenger’s removal.

Most interestingly, people used humor to define the situation more clearly.

“United! Putting the ‘hospital’ in hospitality!”

New photo of United Airlines asking for volunteers to deplane.

“United Airlines – No Inconvenience Too Large or Too Small!”

“United States contracts with United Airlines to oust Assad.” – from Michael Rivest. Assad, of course, is the Syrian dictator.

Jimmy Kimmel Creates A Brutally Honest New Commercial For United Airlines

“And he wasn’t even wearing leggings!” – a reference to some United passengers, who were related to employees and thus flying for free, recently not allowed to board because of their apparel.

There are more on Twitter.

United Breaks Guitars- Dave Carroll, a goodie from a few years back that was revived

It was also an informative time:

How airlines like United choose who to kick off a flight

The Deeper Scandal of That Brutal United Video: The footage is shocking. So is the law.

The United Story Isn’t About Customer Service. It’s About Class Warfare. “When corporations can openly beat their customers and deny them service, why would they even bother trying to be nice?”

United should have used the Asoh defense.

I found a couple apologists for the airline, suggesting that the overbooking happens all the time to keep prices down, which may be true. And yet it’s no excuse for the treatment the man received. Nor is the victim’s criminal record an issue.

The other flying problem involved Delta Airlines. There was severe weather in the Atlanta area on Wednesday, April 5. A good friend of my wife, Dee, was trying to fly to upstate New York the following Saturday with her husband and son, but their flight from Atlanta to Albany was first postponed then canceled. They tried a couple more flights – they actually had tickets for one leaving in FIVE MINUTES -but they were thwarted.

I checked the weather for ATL and it was clear, yet I hit on a website that indicated that there were more canceled flights originating from Hartsfield-Jackson than any other airport in the WORLD. The reason, I discovered, was the same as the United situation times dozens; flight crews were not where the planes were taking off, even three days after the bad weather.

Eventually, our friends did fly into Newburgh, just north of New York City. They drove up to Catskill, we drove down to Catskill, and we all had a lovely meal together.

United decided to deplane a customer, by force. Delta, with a larger issue, canceled flights. Airlines are having real difficulty flying in the US this month.

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