Under all the snow, a mucky reality

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 21, 2014

Everyone has a snow story.
Like everyone, I dug my car out of ice, shoveled driveways and sidewalks, walked to a grocery store for nothing in particular, and watched television weather reports tell me what I could see out my windows.
I watched college students build an igloo (totally cool!!!) and spent an hour or so chasing snow removal tractors until I found one to clean my company’s parking lot.

But my snow story is about the airlines and big companies.
I had a flight scheduled in the middle of last week’s snow storm. With seven or eight inches of snow and ice on the ground, a governor-declared state of emergency and warnings to stay off the roads, my flight remained on schedule. At 10:52 a.m., less than six hours before boarding, it was canceled. Seven minutes later, it was reinstated. Television showed a complete whiteout on the roads into the airport.
An hour later, U.S. Airways again canceled my flight and offered me the next open seat, four days later and arriving at midnight, even though my return was scheduled for the next morning at 7 a.m. The airlines offered to extend my return three days, but that would have meant missing an entire work week. It then offered to “change” my ticket for the same ticket valid a week later — for a $200 change fee plus $275 for a higher priced ticket. Finally, it agreed to refund my ticket, so I searched for another ticket.
U.S. Airways and American airlines just merged. Both offered flights, in fact, the exact same flight under different names. The U.S. Airways booking cost $600 and American cost $662. Makes you wonder which fare will survive the merger.

Comcast and TimeWarner Cable, the two largest cable providers in the nation, are also merging in an umpteen billion dollar deal. Comcast is rated by its customers as the worst cable company and TimeWarner is rated second worst. (Salisbury citizens, get Fibrant. It’s great and we own it!)
Hospitals and health-care organizations, banks, pharmacy chains, grocery stores and retail chains are merging at a dizzying rate. Wealth is aggregating into the hands of a few, the middle class is shrinking, and the ranks of the poor are growing. (In Rowan County, two-thirds of public school students are on free or reduced lunch.)
Does the consolidation of wealth and power make the economy better?
This snow cost me $175 more. Large airline company “rules” prevented them from replacing the service disrupted by “an act of God.” As the snow melts, cable bills will rise, groceries will cost more, insurance companies will tell me what doctors and drug stores to use, somebody in Washington or San Francisco will decide whether I qualify for a loan, and the safety net for those in need will shrink.
Snow can cover up a lot of problems and turn any landscape into a gift of beauty. But when snow melts, it can get ugly. Even though my snow day cost $175, it slowed everything else down for one beautiful day.
David Post lives in Salisbury. DavidPostOpinion@gmail.com.