So this week I was going to write about what I know about IT PMOs, or project management organizations/offices/whatever you want to call ’em, and I why I think two-thirds of them are abject failures, but you know what? I think I’ll wait ’til next time.

Because it’s cold outside, because I’m in a foul mood this morning, because I’ve got a long string of travel coming up starting tomorrow, this is gonna be rant week, and my rant is probably less about technology than it really should be. Man, my editor is gonna hate me.

Here we go: I am now squarely and officially among the legions of business people who hate traveling by air anywhere in North America. And I think that technological inadequacies are partly to blame.

I used to be a big fan of air travel, and I’ve been relatively tolerant as the airlines slowly peeled back services, reduced upgrades, and eliminated food services, even as flights from here to the East coast (’cause I’m not staying over Saturday) cost me thousands of dollars each.

I’ve got a picture saved on my PC of a PanAmerican clipper flying into San Francisco over a not-yet-completed Golden Gate bridge in 1936. Yeah, OK, I imagine it was loud and cramped, and there wasn’t a computer to be found, but, man, it had style. Style is something that’s been missing from flying for a long time, technology advances or not.

And since Sept. 11, things have gone way beyond unstylish and inconvenient, and in some cases, they’ve become horrific. I’ve tried to be understanding, really I have, patiently queuing up as my time disappeared, recognizing that being treated like cattle is the price we have to pay to make some people feel a little more secure, checked and rechecked and rechecked by security, patiently taking off my shoes for detailed inspections.

Last week was the last straw – a 6 a.m. flight out of Hartford through Chicago to Calgary, meaning I had to be at the airport at 5 a.m., although the airline “suggested” getting there two hours ahead of flight time. Two hours! Who are they kidding? A whole lot of flights aren’t two hours long!

Nothing looks good under fluorescent airport lighting that early in the morning, and the *&%$^ Starbucks wasn’t even open yet. I remembered that Louis Armstrong, like most jazz musicians, was a night owl, and not much in favour of early mornings. When he was told he had to be somewhere at 5 a.m. to start a trip, he said “Man, I didn’t know there were two 5 o’clocks in one day!” I know what he means.

And I walk in to McCarron International (believe me, to call this an International Airport is a stretch); I face a long line to get to the ticket counter, and then a much longer line winding blocks and blocks (I’m not kidding here – blocks and blocks) to get through security.

They were trying – the airline people were scrambling to organize passengers according to their departure time, but they were barely, just barely, staying ahead of a crowd that could have turned on them any minute. You want to see the breakdown of civilization? Tell hundreds of people like this that their flight has been cancelled after they’ve queued up in a security line for two hours…

Yes, I packed all my own belongings, no, they have not been out of my control. And then I show my photo ID. Twice. And at security I take out my laptop and put it through the machine. And I take off my coat and put it through the machine. And I empty my pockets. And I pull out my Palm Pilot and turn it on, along with my cell phone, and make sure they go through the machine too.

And after all this, for some reason, I still set off the detector (must be the steel plate in my head – that or my watch), and because I did, I qualify for the full treatment: “Full male scan over here,” the security lady bellows to some other security person – I’m not sure if I should be frightened or excited – and a tiny little guy with one of those wand thingies starts to work me over. “Do you have a belt on? Can you turn the buckle over please? Frankly, I’ve had less intimate relationships with former girlfriends.

And then my shoes have to be put through, believe it or not, a bomb detection unit.

This has gone beyond inconvenient, past annoying, into the realm of the comic.

Please, please tell me that improved technologies will make this better. How about an Air Canada issued ID (I’ll even pose for a quick photo if I have to) so I don’t have to dig up my passport six times a day – can’t my Aeroplan card be made to do double duty? What about clearing business travellers through at a downtown Air Canada office then putting us on a secure bus directly to the gate? They use secure buses at Pearson to remote gates, why not extend the thinking? Why not high-speed scanners that check you out as you walk along a hall (remember that Schwartzenneger movie where they did that for people traveling to Mars?). What else can be done?

Yes, all the Web-based technologies are cool – yes, I can check on my points; yes, I can book reward travel; yes I can check flights – but they don’t do a damn thing better about the actual experience of getting on to, flying in and getting out of airplanes.

Want to see the wheels come off the economy completely? Me and the thousands of guys and gals like me are going to stop traveling entirely – no flights, no cabs, no hotel rooms, no restaurant meals, nothin’.

OK technology people, what can we do to fix this mess?

Hanley is an IS professional in Calgary. He can be reached at [email protected].

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