Monday, August 9, 2010

Memphis, TN

Last weekend I was in New York and I went through hell flying back to Montgomery. I wrote Delta a 1,200 word complaint letter, but in short, here’s what happened:

I checked-in online the night before my flight on Saturday. When I arrived to Newark airport on Sunday evening I found out that my flight to Atlanta was delayed so late that I would miss my connecting flight to Montgomery. The line to see an agent at the counter was easily 50 to 75 people long, and there was only one person at the counter. Meanwhile, there were three people working the Medallion status counter doing nothing.

Realizing that if I wanted a chance of rescheduling the flight that night, I needed to talk to someone on the phone ASAP because it could be hours until I would get to the counter. After calling a few random number on the Delta website I was able to get someone on the phone who could handle booking. At first they suggested that I fly to Atlanta that night and get a new flight to Montgomery in the morning. I asked if they would pay for a hotel, and they said no. I asked if that meant I would have to pay for one myself or sleep on the airport floor, and they said yes. Instead they booked a new flight for me the next morning (this time flying through Memphis).

Now let’s pause here a moment. Had Delta notified me of the delay, I would have never gone to the airport. Penn Station to the Newark airport costs $15 on NJ Transit. So as I see it, Delta owes me $30 for a unnecessary trip to the airport (and then back to Manhattan). Had I received email notification about the delay, I would have never gone to the airport. And they definitely have the technology to do this. As soon as my flight was changed I received email notification and an automated call.

My flight the next day was at 6:30 AM. So I went to bed early, got up at 3:50 AM, got to the airport at 5:00 AM, and the same thing happened all over again. My flight to Memphis was delayed so late that I’d miss the connecting flight, I needed to see someone at the counter, the line was 50 people long (despite it being 5:00 AM), and there’s one person working the counter while there were three at the Medallion status counter. And had Delta altered me that my flight was delayed, I would have gone back to bed at 3:50 AM.

I got to Memphis at 9:30 AM, but my new flight to Montgomery wasn’t until 2:30 PM. There was no way I was going to sit in the airport all day, so I got a taxi and headed to downtown Memphis. I felt like doing some sightseeing would somehow spite Delta.

The taxi dropped me off at Peabody Hotel in downtown Memphis. It’s best known for its ducks, which I did not see while I was there.

After checking out its ornate interior I walked around the surrounding downtown area.

There were a number of well manicured pedestrian friendly streets that featured restaurants, bars and clubs, but being the middle of the day and extremely hot, there was no one around. There was also a trolley line that went through most of these streets and connected to various points of interest in the downtown area. So the city does have a well thought-out tourism strategy, especially compared to other southern cities.

My time was limited, so I headed to the city’s The National Civil Rights Museum which has been built at, into and around the Lorraine Motel – the site where Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated.

The fa├žade of the main museum building looks like the motel as it looked in 1968. Out of the various civil rights museums I’ve been to so far, this was by far the most comphrensive of the civil rights movement. At this point I’m not learning much new from these museums, but I still spent about an hour and a half there.

One of the advertised highlights of the museum is that they’ve recreated the rooms that King and his entourage stayed in. It’s kinda cheese since it just looks like a period motel room. More significant is that you can lookout (but not stand on) the balcony where he was shot. As one woman there summarized to her young daughter: “You’re standing where a very important event in history happened. You don’t understand do you? Well, you’ll understand in 10 years.”

The museum has taken over the Young and Morrow Building across the street -- it's the former rooming house where the shot was fired that killed King. In it there is a exhibit dedicated to the assisination and you can lookout from the window where James Early Ray fired his gun. When you think about it, it's kinda interesting that they've turned a crime scene into a museum.

After leaving the museum and looking for a taxi, I spotted this sign in front of a mini-mall:

It's pretty clear who they're trying to keep out. Next time I'm in Memphis I'm going to go in there wearing my jeans low, with hat sideways, and a shirt that says:

I Love Dick...
for President

Nixon/Agnew '72

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