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 The Brancatelli File

joe NOBODY ASKED ME, BUT...

BY JOE BRANCATELLI

March 29, 2007 -- Nobody asked me, but…

I think it's great that Doubletree is bringing the music of Dinah Washington to a whole new generation, but that "Relax Max" television commercial looks more like an ad for a low-end furniture chain than a hotel chain.

One more time: Who are those people in the Mandarin Oriental print ads? And why do I care if they are fans?

Nobody asked me, but…

Not one of my electronic devices has caught up with Daylight Saving Time yet. And the instructions for downloading and using the patch for my BlackBerry were so complicated that I would have lost the hour of daylight we saved had I tried to do it.

Speaking of travel technology, I found four old cell phones in my desk the other day. But I also found WirelessRecycling.com. It tells you how to wipe sensitive information off your phones and then hooks you up with a local charity to donate them.

Nobody asked me, but…

Anybody see those new Goodyear blimp commercials running during the NCAA basketball tournament? Isn't the "pilot" the same actor who played Irv Lock, the sleazy local rental-car company owner from those Hertz Local spots? I kinda liked Irv.

I felt really old sitting in a hotel room watching Joakim Noah and Patrick Ewing Jr. play for a spot in the Final Four. Why? Because I was older than both of their fathers when they were in their sporting primes.

Nobody asked me, but…

Add US Airways Lost My Costume to the growing list of Web sites devoted to flaming airlines for their horrendous service.

Don't miss the story in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette about Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin's through-the-looking-glass experience getting his luggage back from US Airways.

Nobody asked me, but…

The Axis of Excess is back. Depending on which source you believe, United chief executive Glenn Tilton last year earned $9.3 million (United's estimate), $24 million (Dow Jones) or $39 million (Reuters). Over at American, CEO Gerard Arpey is getting a $7.5 million bonus for his heroics in 2006.

This is totally unrelated to the above, of course, but I notice that United had to drop an Asia route from its Chicago/O'Hare hub to make room for this week's launch of Dulles-Beijing flights. That's because the airline is mortgaged to the hilt, can't buy or lease new planes to expand and must shuffle its existing fleet whenever opportunities arise. Also unrelated to the above, I see that Arpey says American's operating costs are still too high and he needs to find more cuts to stay competitive.

Nobody asked me, but…

Stephen Sondheim turned 77 this week. As Amanda McBroom once wrote in her hilarious homage, "Everyone wants to be Sondheim…"

Two songs to load onto your music player for your next road trip: "With So Little to Be Sure Of," the 11 o'clock number from Sondheim's Anyone Can Whistle, and "Some Other Time," the 11 o'clock number from Comden & Green's On the Town. Can any business traveler argue with Comden and Green when they ask: "Where has the time all gone to? Haven't done half the things we want to." Or dispute this Sondheim observation: "Crazy business this, this life we live in. Don't complain about the time we're given."

Nobody asked me, but…

Flight attendants at Northwest Airlines have been barred from striking by a federal appeals court. In the decision released today, the judges said a strike would violate the Railway Labor Act, which governs airline-labor issues. But Northwest flight attendants are working under contract terms imposed upon them last year when Northwest circumvented the Railway Labor Act by getting bankruptcy-court approval to rip up a previously negotiated contract.

In other words, welcome back to 1890s America. Management can use one court to rip up a valid contract and then get a second court to force employees to work under unilaterally imposed wage and work rules.

Nobody asked me, but…

After 30-something years of business travel, I think I've finally figured out this Fahrenheit and Celsius thing. 5C is about 40F degrees. Then every 5 degrees Celsius in temperature is roughly 10 degrees Fahrenheit. So 10C is 50F; 15C is about 60F; 20C is 70F, 25C is 80F degrees, etc. As Sondheim would say, "I can read Greek. Easy." Now I'm convinced that I won't be wearing my trench coat in the Campo dei'Fiori when it's 22C degrees…

It's official: The most demeaning thing we do on the road is stuff all our toiletries, lotions and potions into a flimsy one-quart plastic bag. When one of us finally goes postal at a security checkpoint in Des Moines or Detroit or Dar Es Saleem, it'll be because our container of Right Guard or Secret fell out of a burst zip-top bag…

Nobody asked me, but…

I've never understood the Gallic view of life, so France24, the French-government-funded 24/7 news station, is a nice addition to the world media. The English-language feed really is a great companion piece to CNN and BBC. The truth is out there somewhere.

Speaking of which, media junkies like us business travelers may find value in JumpTV. For fees starting at $9.95 a month, you can subscribe to 225 channels of television from more than 70 countries. Like I say, the truth is out there somewhere.

Nobody asked me, but…

The folks who track this stuff report that more than $35 billion worth of hotel properties changed hands last year, a startling 68 percent jump over 2005. Even as we speak, your favorite hotel is changing flags and your elite frequent-guest status is now useless there.

The Transportation Department says employment at the Big Six and Alaska Airlines fell by 26 percent between December, 2002, and December, 2006. And you were wondering why flying the big carriers has become such a dreadful experience…

Nobody asked me, but…

I am so looking forward to July. Not only does the revived Fiat 500 debut, so does The Simpsons Movie. Maybe I'll just order a new Cinquecento with a gigantic pink frosted doughnut painted on it. Of course, I don't know how to drive a stick. D'oh.

I don't care much about fashion, but I come from a shoe family, so I believe Zappos.com is a miracle. Virtually any shoe made is available there, often at a discount, and you can send stuff back, no questions asked, if it doesn't fit. Memo to business travelers: Buy a couple of pair of slip-ons so you don't have to hop around the security checkpoint while you deal with shoelaces.

Nobody asked me, but…

I see that David Stempler sent out a press release on Monday claiming that he was riding the Airbus A380 to "represent airline passengers." Did I miss the election that chose him as our representative? Or did the members of his Air Travelers Association elect him? No, wait, it can't be the latter. The Web site says it "is not currently offering memberships."

Building on the success of its 105-mile commuter route between Hartford, Connecticut, and its New York/Kennedy hub, Delta is launching service on the 157-mile route between JFK and Binghamton, New York. But aware that its commuter carriers are running about 50 percent on-time at Kennedy, Delta says it has no plans to launch flights between Terminals 2 and 3, even though passengers have been complaining about the long walkway between its two JFK facilities.

Nobody asked me, but…

The New York Times reported this week that Warner Books is changing its name because it was recently purchased by "Hachette Livre of France, part of the media and armaments conglomerate." Oh, that's a good idea. Give us media types real artillery.

I'm glad you like these "Nobody Asked Me, But…" columns and I promise to do more of them during the year. But I still find it obscene that there are no books in print by the guy who invented the format, the sportswriter Jimmy Cannon.

Copyright © 1993-2007 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.