Nobody Asked Me, But
I'm Telling You Anyway
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 8, 2020 -- Nobody asked me, but ...

I am driving into Manhattan this weekend to dine at the same Chinese restaurant I mentioned in my brilliantly stupid February column explaining why I wouldn't let Coronavirus stop me from traveling.

I'll also be staying two nights in New York. I could have booked the months-old Hyatt Place Times Square for $76 a night, but I settled on the sweet Gild Hall in the financial district for $116 a night. Again, this is Manhattan. In October. When occupancy is often above 90 percent and nightly rates routinely top $300.

Nobody asked me, but ...

Speaking of prices and statistics you haven't seen since Queen Victoria, the British Office of Rail and Road says railroad passenger journeys fell by 400 million in the second quarter. The so-called ORR says travel on the railroads are now at levels not seen since the mid-19th century.

Come to think about it, if Trump and Biden aren't debating next week, maybe someone can dress actors to look like Gladstone and Disraeli and act out some of those Parliamentary clashes to fill the TV time. Or, I guess, reruns of The Big Bang Theory.

Nobody asked me, but ...

Australia has very strict rules about international flights. The few it allows, mostly for repatriation and essential traffic, are rigorously policed for passenger loads. Qatar Airways, for example, explains that its Airbus A350s can only carry between 25 to 60 customers per flight. The planes are each configured to carry 283 to 327 passengers.

Which kinda explains this item: The airline industry has been burning through $300,000 a minute in the second half of the year, according to IATA, the global industry trade group.

Nobody asked me, but ...

I swing between ridiculous and unsupportable optimism on the future of travel and devastating despair about ever going somewhere again.

It's not that I miss airplanes or airports. If I never set foot on an aircraft or inside an airport again, I'd be a happy man. But I miss being someplace. I miss talking to new people, eating new food or, you know, just walking along a street I've never been before.

Nobody asked me, but ...

I ordered four bottles of liquid soap yesterday and this morning I found myself counting the number of rolls of toilet paper we have. But I'm not expecting another lockdown or anything.

The Brancatelli File for this week last year includes information about Brexit, my duct-tape travel hack and a scientific approach to packing for two weeks in a carry-on-sized bag. Ah, the innocence of 2019.

Nobody asked me, but ...

The fabulous singer and songwriter Bill Withers died in March, while our attention was elsewhere. So we owe Allstate and its advertising agency huge props for reminding us how good Withers was and how spectacular his song "Lovely Day" still is. The goofy creative is a wonderful match for a tune we desperately need to hear a lot just now.

Even if you're a hard-core Donald Trump supporter, lighten up and listen to James Corden sing "Maybe I'm Immune," a parody of Paul McCartney's "Maybe I'm Amazed." That song is very difficult to sing--I've seen and heard McCartney punt it--yet Corden nails it. Maybe he picked up some tips when he did his endearing Liverpool Carpool Karaoke with McCartney several years back.

Nobody asked me, but ...

American Airlines has insisted for months that it has no intention of filing Chapter 11. And nothing says "we're not declaring bankruptcy" like appointing to your board of directors the guy who led Northwest Airlines into bankruptcy in 2005.

And then there's this from Gary Kelly, chief executive of Southwest Airlines, which has been profitable for 47 consecutive years. "Absent substantial improvements in our business, our quarterly losses could be in the billions until vaccines are available ... and effectively kill the pandemic. At best, that's looking like late next year."

Nobody asked me, but ...

I've had five credit cards hacked in 30 days. Since they didn't hit the cards I use frequently--only ones I keep in a drawer because I went for the acquisition bonus--I assume this is the result of a big corporate data heist. What's really creepy, though, is that no one seems to care. These hackers run up thousands in charges per card and, when you call the credit card companies, they've like, "Yeah, no worries, you won't be charged."

Pro tip: Activate alerts for all your plastic. And set them to send you a text or email for any charge of $1 or more. The hackers start with something small--mine were with $12 donations to charities--and better to catch it early.

Nobody asked me, but ...

Weirdest thing about the hack? I'm now in possession of something called a FAD (Fun Aquatic Device), a $450 item ordered from an Indiana dive shop. Hackers bought it with my card number and a phony name (Victor Giulianelli), but inexplicably shipped it to me. Someone then redirected the box when it was 20 miles away and had FedEx send it to an Iowa address. It reached Iowa, then FedEx--or someone, for some reason--redirected it back to my address. (I learned all this info by using the tracking number and examining the trail.) So far, neither the dive shop nor the hackers have contacted me trying to get the item. The credit card company, which already credited the charge and opened a new account for me, doesn't care, either.

The saddest part: This isn't anything like the wackiest thing that's happened in 2020, is it?