GDC 2011 Day 4 – United Airlines is the Devil

So the last day of GDC. I met with one of the co-founders of Silicon Sisters, a Vancouver company focused on making games for girls. Normally, when I hear “games for girls”, I shut down because that usually means something involving shopping, makeup or having crushes on cute boys. Fortunately, Silicon Sisters has some interesting ideas about how to make games for women and girls and none of them appear to involve such things.

Aside from my meeting, the two most interesting things I saw today were:
1) Warner Bros giving out some very revealing schwag (deodorant)

and

2) This thing, called a “Chill Station” which I found in an upstairs lobby at the W Hotel.

It looks like a prop from that 60s Jane Fonda movie, Barbarella.

Anyone can recline in this weird dentist’s chair/egg for free, set the timer and go to sleep for up to 20 minutes; when your nap time is up, the thing wakes you with soothing lights and music. It’s an intriguing notion, although I’m figuring most of us would think twice about napping in a hotel lobby.

After going for a spin in the chill station, I met up briefly with an old friend at a nearby cafe and then come three o’clock, took my leave. As we parted at the corner of 3rd and Mission, she called out, “I hope you have the most boring trip home!” Little did either of us know that with those simple words, she would curse me.

I got to SFO at 4:30 only to find that my 6:40 flight had been postponed until 7:40. Realizing that in all likelihood, that would make me miss my connection in L.A., I went to the United customer service desk where my worst fears were confirmed—I was indeed going to miss my flight to Albuquerque and since the Duke City isn’t exactly a tourist hot spot, there were no more flights going out that evening.

I was then told I had two choices – to spend the next 24 hours in the San Francisco/LA airports or spend them in the San Francisco/Denver airports. Apparently, not a single carrier had an open seat on a flight to Albuquerque until 6:30 pm the FOLLOWING DAY. I stood there in disbelief as the apathetic United representative laconically told me that there was nothing they could do and further, that I was not entitled to any form of compensation because my flight had been delayed due to weather.

So tell me, what exactly is considered the “right” reason for a flight to be delayed? Terrorism? Political coup? Flea infestation? I wouldn’t accept the “no compensation” thing so they called a supervisor over who in turn, stared at me with all the concern of a tree sloth on thorazine, and repeated again that nothing could be done. Exhausted, with a head cold steadily diluting my faculties, I chose to fly to Denver with the hope that my husband’s parents would let me stay at their place. A couple of rushed phone calls later, I was racing through the airport trying to make it onto a flight that was mere minutes away from leaving. I boarded the plane and fell into my seat breathless and sweating, only to hear the crew announce that we’d be stuck on the jetway for a while, waiting for the pilot to make an appearance.

Resigning myself to an unmitigatedly crappy evening, I settled into my seat then and tried to close my eyes and then the people behind me struck up the most inane conversation. They were GDC attendees and were of the very young, very enthusiastic and very annoying kind. Firstly, at the risk of sounding like a grumpy old lady, can I ask what the hell is with the way people under 30 interact? Was there a law passed recently that says, “When engaging in idle chit-chat, you must limit your vocabulary to no more than twenty unique words”?

This conversation was painful to listen to. It was as if the two participants were competing to see who could best over-populate his/her discourse with “cool!”, “nice!” and “sweet”. Competition or just plain ignorance, I’m sure somewhere out there an English teacher is quietly sobbing.

Unable to avoid listening to this stuff, I was forced to endure an extended discussion about how each of them had just joined “the industry”, and how the girl (an animator) had been at EA for a month but really wanted to be in film. [Sidebar: That really chaps my hide. I'm sick of people who think of games as a stepping stone to film. There's nothing like knowing your personal passion, the thing you love most, is regarded by a coworker as nothing more than a lesser rung on their aspirational ladder. I say if you don't have a passion for games, then get the hell out.]

The two game business newbies went on congratulating one another on how great game development is and when asked how she liked EA, the girl commented excitedly, as if it was something impossible to believe, “We work really long hours so I don’t have a social life but last week we literally—I mean, literally, had a Nerf gun fight in the animation department!”

Tsk tsk, poor thing. She has no idea what she’s in for. These starry-eyed kids whose souls will soon be crushed under the merciless, hobnailed boot of corporate game development—you almost have to feel bad for them. Almost.

Anyway, at long last our pilot appeared, the Katzenjammer kids shut up and I was able to relax. Being starved and with limited options, I got stuck buying a snack box from the airline which consisted of snack-sized bags of: Oreos, Goldfish crackers, yogurt covered raisins, animal crackers, jelly beans, ritz and some of that gross fake cheese spread. They must’ve had a panel of five year olds put it together.

At long last we landed in Denver at 11:30 pm and I’ve never been quite so happy to see my husband’s parents. Maybe one day I’ll look back at this and laugh but for now all I can say is, I hope everyone at United Airlines is stricken with a virulent rash on their unmentionables.

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