It's not all that difficult to turn a problem into an asset and an opportunity, as Delta CEO Gerald Grinstein would be glad to tell you (should you ever be allowed to enter within twenty feet of any establishment that Gerald might be frequenting).

"You remember what Dear Abby once said about lemons, don't you?," Grinstein abruptly asked me as we munched on Chef Haruo Kimura's succulent sashimi, warmed by the intimacy radiating from the exclusive caviar boutique that is 'Wave Sushi'. (Mention The ARISTOCRATS and receive 10% off of the 'Chef's Grand Tasting Plate'!).

I had just asked Sir Jerry about a report in the Washington Post which claimed that Delta Airlines had achieved a sort of perfection in September, with an astonishing 100% of their NYC to DC shuttle flights arriving late to National Airport. The one hour trip is now averaging two hours and twelve minutes, approximately the length of a Jerry Bruckheimer film.

Quite frankly, I find it extraordinarily irritating when I am asked if I remember what so and so once said, pummeling discourse to the level of the lowest of junior high homilies. Even more boorish was Grinstein's use of the nom de plume 'Dear Abby'.  Why, the old fool couldn't even spit out Abigail Van Buren, itself a nom de plume for Pauline Esther Friedman Phillips, a name that I shorten to Polyester on the rare occasions when I choose to utter it.

Most egregious - but it must be said - was the use of a clue, the inclusion of the word 'lemon', in Grinstein's query, as though my feeble mind would be unable to associate the correct quote to the context of our conversation. Jesus

"Fucking lemonade," I muttered, leaving it at that. Embarrassed, Sir Jerry signaled for another pitcher of martinis.

"I'm going to revolutionize the DC shuttle," Grinstein said excitedly. "I'm rechristening it as the 'Surprise Shuttle. We're raising the price by fifteen dollars, but we're adding the gift of honesty. No more of that New York to Washington in sixty minutes nonsense - now it will be the 'movie and a flight' package, with a free drink and a bottomless pretzel bowl. And just listen to this. The passenger who comes closest to guessing their actual arrival time will win a gift certificate to Ruth's Chris Steakhouse, good in New York or Washington."

"Imagine that," I replied. "You'll end up having travelers who wish you would slow down a bit."

"That is our heartfelt wish," said the obviously pleased Grinstein. "And I do think you'll love our new slogan - 'The only other shuttle is a train'."


2006, Mark Hoback