On the way to a conference in Phoenix, Arizona, on 18th May 2010 I flew with US Airways. Owing to a volcanic ash cloud from Iceland, the departure of my outgoing first-stage flight, Dublin to Philadelphia, was delayed by three hours. This would have made it impossible to make my original connecting flight from Philadelphia to Phoenix, but I was efficiently provided with a boarding pass for a later flight to Phoenix. However, while the first flight arrived in good time, at Phoenix there was a waiting period of more than an hour for checked baggage to arrive at the baggage hall. Many of my co-passengers had been transferring to connecting flights and a number, like me, missed them because of the excessive wait in the baggage hall. I was sorry that I had not compressed my baggage into one carry-on case. For the return trip I did so.
At Phoenix airport I took the free shuttle to the Metro light rail stop and, as I arrived, I saw a train depart towards downtown. It was now almost 11:30 p.m. and I had established over the internet that the service ran until midnight. The train I had missed was, in fact, the last one towards the west: I was informed of this by two transport police officers who pulled up in their car. They were friendly and indicated where I could get a cab, just across the road from the light rail stop. By then I had already purchased a seven-day light rail pass for $17-50.
The cab trip to my hotel, the Radisson, cost me $25. Having originally told me that the trip to the Radisson in Phoenix city center would cost about $14, because I had asked before taking the cab, the driver seemed somewhat unsure of where he was going. As I sat in the back of the cab I had some difficulty in making out the exact address on my documentation because of the small size of the print and the darkness. When I called out the street name and number the cab driver told me that he had thought the hotel was a different one. I was rather unimpressed by that. When I arrived at the hotel and was told that the fare was $24.75 I paid up and asked for a receipt. I was given a small business card of the cab company. I politely asked for a proper receipt. The cab driver turned over the back of the business card, which I was holding, and showed me that it contained a form on which I could enter the details myself (whatever amount I wanted!). His body language was such that it was clear I would make no further progress. Of course, he made no effort to give me the small change from the twenty five dollars I had handed him and I made no effort to give him any further gratuity. Over the five days while I was in Phoenix I got excellent value from the seven-day light rail pass and I was very impressed by the efficiency of that service.
Apart from the segment of the light rail route that I used and the inside of the Phoenix Convention Center I did not see much of Phoenix. On the last day of the conference I had a few hours to spare, so I visited the Heard museum of ethnic culture and art, which I had noticed in passing while using the light rail service. I was glad to learn about the ethnic culture of the area. It was a somewhat eerie feeling walking through the museum on my own, especially the part that presented information about how native children had been sent to boarding schools so as to be re-educated.
Phoenix is very different to Dublin or any other city in Ireland. It is laid out on a rectangular grid and most of the tall buildings seem to be along 1st Street, which continues, more-or-less I think, as Central Avenue. These buildings are very big and, to me, indicate a dense usage of space. While each building is different and most are quite impressive, in Phoenix, apparently, they are very un-pass-remarkable, so much so in fact that a building is likely to be named just the word tower and its street number, which is its coordinate along the line of the street, perhaps measured from some zero point. Being an engineer I quite like numbers, but it is hard to ascribe real character to them. That is not to say that it cannot be done. The following ode to a beautiful tower can be personalized, simply by inserting the appropriate number.
O Tower XXXX (replace with number of an actual tower) thou art majestic
Thy name is a beautiful number
It represents thy absolute position along a north-south line
Thy height and proportions can be seen and appreciated
But thy greatest character is thy precise and unique position
Which makes thou what thou art, Tower XXXX
Phoenix is a place I would like to visit again. I didn’t even have a chance to scratch the surface.