Monday, January 29, 2007

Austin, Or The Coolest Movie Theater Ever

So this week I actually got to go to Austin, being on the same trip I was on last week, but this week, and no bizarre ice storms happening there. I met up with my old hero, arch-nemesis, and fellow improv actor Arthur, and we toured Austin. First up was one of the original Gutenberg Bibles, made famous because they were the first books printed with movable type. I suppose they might also be famous because God's in them, which is important to Catholics. The Congress Avenue Bridge was next, and it's important because within its rusty folds sleep somewhere around two million bats. That's the largest bat colony in America, and Arthur says that there was all manner of effort to eradicate them until Echelons Above Common Sense realized that the bats were actually eating several tons of insects a night. I'm going back there in the summer to see their nightly egress... it's supposed to be the opposite of fireworks.
Somewhere during the day, Blue Sky Cola took the number one spot on my Worst Off-Brand Colas Ever list.
Lastly, we hit the Wierd Wednesday midnight show at The Alamo Drafthouse. This theater has a bar in place of every other row, which makes it part drive-in. We saw quite possibly the worst spaghetti western ever created, a goofy Italian-made horror called Get Mean. That's for another entry, because this entry will become a novel if I even get started on how bad (and thus, how funny) this movie was.
Austin is now done.

Friday, January 26, 2007

How To Read The Passenger Safety Card

The Passenger Safety Card is that laminated thing in the seat pocket in front of you on an airplane, and it has been designed to efficiently inform you of what to do in an emergency situation. It has also, unfortunately, been designed to perform this task regardless of what language you speak, which has resulted in some pretty damn cryptic images. I will now explain to you exactly what these pictures mean, so that you will be more informed in the event of an emergency:

"During landings on terrain or in water, you should try to become very depressed."

"If this plane does land on terrain or in water, do not exit. Instead, direct your eye-beams through the window at any nearby fire, cloud, or four sharks in a row that you see. Failing that, blast out the window with your eye-beams and concentrate on the resulting shards until they are discolored from heat."

"Note: these instructions are only for non-smokers in blackface.
If your mouth vanishes at any time during the flight, pull the oxygen mask down from the panel. Wrap the mask around your head several times. Be sure to make a real mess out of the tubing. Adjust the antennae on either side to ensure good reception. If a child is with you, place the mask over their head and snap the elastic strap as hard as you can."

"When a flight attendant tells you it is time to deplane, open the door. They will not do it for you. Once the door is open, sit in the open doorway. Do not exit, even if there is a red arrow on the ground which seems to indicate that you should do so."

Having been trained in emergency evacuations, I cannot stress enough the importance of strict adherence to these rules. This information may one day save your life.

Superfluous Entry

Today I got a haircut.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

No It Was NOT Me

I should mention that the covered parking needing to be jacked up was not due to some moron in a silver Accord trying to drive without having snowscraped his car. Just thought I'd put that out there.

Another Brush With Ugly Death

There are two things you have to know before you can understand how I almost ended up in front of St. Peter last week, looking at the ground and dragging a toe in the dirt. First is that the drink cart is locked into the galley by way of two red latches, and before it can be driven around, it has to be pulled out towards the galley bulkhead (towards the back of the plane) where the carnivorous table lives. The other is that, on ascent, the plane points steeply upward for about ten minutes.
See where this is going?
I should explain that it wasn't that I didn't understand that the cart would barrel at me at speed if I unlocked it during ascent (though my lack of foresight is capable of such). I just thought I was man enough to fight the cart. I was not. No man is. If I may paint a verbal picture:

PASSENGER IN 1A: Hey son, you all right up there?

I was able to push the cart off of myself after about two oxygen-deprived minutes, and thus was spared the indignity of needing help from the other flight attendant and thus, having someone else see what I had done. But those red latches that hold the unholy thing in place? Yeah, they're all over the place, to include the galley bulkhead, which made the experience a little like being jammed into an open Iron Maiden. I still have marks.

A Word About Anonymous

So I arranged the blog so that you can make a comment without logging in and all that. However, it signs them all ANONYMOUS if you didn't log in, so if you want me to know who you are (and not think you're that guy that made all those antiquated but pithy quotes), sign it in the comment itself. Or if you want to drop the f-bomb a few times and giggle while curled up in the corner of the shower, protected by the system, don't sign. Easy.

A Word About Club Soda

There is also another kind of passenger you should not ever be, and that's the kind of passenger that orders club soda. Usually some guy in a turtleneck or someone from across the pond who refers to it as "spahkling woo-tah." There are variations, of course, but the one thing that always the same is the pretension. This water does not sparkle. If this water sparkles, so does Natural Light. It does not taste good. In fact, it tastes bad. It tastes like the taste that's only in a soft drink because it needs to be carbonated, and that you would remove from said soft drink if you could. There's only one reason to order club soda, and that's to look like you're from L.A. when you're actually not, and you're not fooling anyone because real L.A. folk order heroin.

A note to any of you who happen to like soda water (and I'm from the South, so I can say this): bless your heart.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Chicago! Or A Strange Convergence Of Several Of The Words 'Cold'

So we were supposed to go to Austin and while I was there, I was going to see my friend Arthur, who is one of the heroes of Coldtowne, an improv troupe of epic proportions. Nature responded, and made Texas a literal cold town with a streak of ice storms. Ice storms in Texas? What kind of world, again, is this? So the airline bedded us down in Chicago instead, where Arthur used to be, and the adventure began.
The first step in the adventure was, ostensibly, to leave my camera right next to the hotel sink where I would be sure to forget it. Thus, you will be seeing no digital representations of any city, windy or otherwise, in this entry. Next was a forty minute subway ride, interspersed with brief and snowy spats of above-groundedness. After that was a two hour tour of the part of downtown that includes the Sears Tower and the Field Museum, and a crapload of cold. Did I mention that it was seventeen degrees outside and thus literally freezing? I almost died. As it is, I still suffer a strange malady wherein only the backs of my wrists are dried out. Weird, huh? I don't get it either. There was some Italian food in there somewhere. From there, the adventure proceeds in reverse order... forty minutes backwards, and then discovering my camera exactly in the last place I had left it.
Chicago is now done.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

New Meaning To The Phrase 'Jacked Up'

I was on the way out of the apartment complex the other day when I noticed that some not-know-how-to-drive miscreant had apparently run into the support pole for the covered parking. But equally as not-know-how is the way they seemed to have fixed the situation.

I wonder if this is the Utah version of leaving a bunch of rusted cars out in the front yard.

Saturday, January 13, 2007


You may remember that I recently took a new CRJ900 out on its first voyage. I was the forward flight attendant on that one, and have been every time I've gone out on a 900. This last trip, I was the aft FA, which, for those of you not in the Navy, means I am in the back of the plane. And for those of you not a flight attendant, it means I am in the back of the cabin, jammed into a jumpseat in the aisle between the last row of passengers, having to hear questions like, "Are you a flight attendant?" I'm also an inch from the lavatory door, and if it hasn't been serviced lately, I am the first one to detect it. Also, if there is an unhappy dog in the cargo hold, I am the one who goes deaf the fastest. But I digress. Being in the back and nearest the engines this time, I got to experience in a new way what pilots call the 'throttle back.'
When you take off, your engines are pretty much on full blast... you're having to accelerate a multi-ton aircraft to 500 nautical miles an hour. And this stays true through most of the initial ascent. But when you level off, you throttle the engine back down so that the plane doesn't keep going up. That results in the tonal pitch of the engines winding down, and you go forward in your seat a bit... you can tell the plane is slowing. Now I have been in the back of the 700 before, and have heard this happen several times, but apparently it's a lot more crisp in the 900. And I talked to the pilot afterwards, and he said that he did throttle back about as hard as you're allowed to that particular time. So that, and the crystal clarity of the 900 cabin, resulted in a very Millenium Falcon-esque hyperdrive failure sound throughout the back half of the cabin. For the second time in my four-month career, it occurred to me that I might die.
If I ever quit this job, on the last day, I'm going to have the forward FA kill the lights at that exact moment and see what everybody does, heh heh heh.

Bonsai Report #1

What you're looking at here...

... is dirt.
One of the things I got for X-Mas was a bonsai tree kit. I had never gotten one of those (because I knew I would kill it), and so it's pure chutzpah that made me actually start this one in spite of my new not-in-one-place-long-enough-to-care-for-a-plant-or-get-any-sleep lifestyle. There are lots of things to do with bonsai seeds... you can't just dump 'em in some dirt. It's gotta be bonsai peat, and you have to soak the seeds for a day in purified water and then refrigerate them for a week in what's called the 'cold stratification' process.

VADER: Well, Calrissian? Are they alive?
LANDO: Yes... and in perfect cold stratification.

It's supposed to fool them into thinking it's Spring. What I think fool really applies to in this case is me, for trying to outwit a thing the size of a pinhead that does not actually have a brain. You can see two seeds in this picture, because that's all I put in there. When they grow, the destructions say to pull out the weaker one to save resources for the stronger one. That's very samurai, but when the time comes, I don't know if I'll have the heart. I think I'd rather have two Charlie Brown trees than one well-proportioned tree with blood on its hands.
Stay tuned...

Do You Get A Ticket For That?

One more from the "You Gotta Be Kidding" Files: here's photographic proof that people who would have bumper stickers like this are not necessarily from the South.


This is the hundredth post here on Where The Hell Is Phil? Who knew I would stick with something so long? I guess my next milestone is a thousand, but I'm really not looking forward to that many things happening to me that are so bad that they would seem funny when typed out.

Friday, January 12, 2007


FOD is an acronym that pilots use to describe things on the runway what shouldn't be there. Stands for Foreign Object Debris. Covers things like bits of runway equipment, rocks, frozen-solid shorts-wearing rampers, and the like. In the spirit of military acronyms, this three letter designation was clearly crafted so that it would sounds funny when you say it. And it does... just let that roll off your tongue a minute. FOD. FOD. Feel the amusment begin at F, and crescendo into full-blown hilarity as you round the bend into the D. You really didn't need three letters (or the three words they were culled from) to describe a turtle on a runway. It doesn't have to be called a foreign object debris. It's an object. But then, you couldn't have just O as an acronym. Maybe I've watched too much Muppet Show in my time, but "There's an O on the runway," has me looking for a ten-foot bright orange letter O out the cockpit window. And foreign object doesn't cut it either, because FO stands for First Officer, and since part of his job is to walk around the plane inspecting it, it's a given that he's gonna be out there. Not to mention that it'll have me looking for the Hecho en Mexico stamp on the side of whatever it is on the runway, to ensure that it is not actually a DO, or Domestic Object. And there will be no end of trouble if someone reports one of those, because a lot of pilots come from the South, and will break out deer rifles at that report, regardless of what season it is. No, clearly, there needed to be a concise, specific, and managerially overblown acronym to describe junk (which is four letters and therefore way too long to be saying while taxiing an aircraft), and so Foreign Object Debris. Though, now that I think about it, that would cover things like, say, if the ten-foot letter O had just finished its Dr. Pepper and threw the can on the runway, but not the actual O itself. Time for another acronym, obviously! I submit FONDL, or Foreign Object Nascent Debris Leaver. I guarantee that calling a FONDL on the runway will draw the appropriate attention from all personnel.

So You Think Your Commute Sucks

One of the best commentaries on the human condition that I've ever seen was a Gary Larson cartoon. Thousands of cars are gridlocked on the interstate, fleeing a goofily drawn but ostensibly final nuclear blast, and a dog in the car closest to us has just seen a dog in the car next to it, and is waving his tail, happy to see another dog. No matter what kind of calamity is going on around you, if you see another one of your own, you'll shout, "HEY, another-one-of-my-own!" Or something more fluent, probably. Or not... it is a calamity.
Point is, when flight attendants meet each other on a plane, it's kinda like that cartoon.
I met a very nice Chinese flight attendant on one of my trips a week ago or so, and we started talking. She was mainline Delta, and I work for a smaller company, so we tossed stories back and forth. Most noteworthy of her stories was her commute. Now all I've told you so far in this blog is that I moved to Salt Lake to work out of Salt Lake, so you may think that all flight attendants live where they work. Nope. Once you get seniority and can be reasonably assured of making flights regularly, you can live somewhere else and commute to work. Pilots do this a lot, since they can sit in the third seat in the cockpit (which unfolds to the size of a Thermos). Flight attendants do this too, although not as much. The furthest away I've heard of someone commuting to SLC from has been Houston. Imagine your drive to work taking four hours. Now imagine fifty strangers in your car, staring at your uniform and asking questions like, "Are you a flight attendant?"
Now imagine that you commute to San Diego from Hong Kong. No BS, that's what this lady did. I think it was last year sometime that I realized that there are people out there that are better than me, and this lady is one of them.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

How To Break A Flight Attendant

Turbulence is something you can usually predict. There is a radar screen in the cockpit, and areas of bad weather look like speckled brown patches, like trees used to look like in Atari games. Plane in Atari trees = turbulence. But there is another kind of turbulence, unseen, insidious, and malevolent: clear air turbulence. You can probably figure out from the name that this kind does not require the plane to be in a tree. It strikes without warning. A few trips ago, I became yet another of its countless victims. I was on the lunchbox, about halfway to the back of the plane and in the middle of a service, when suddenly I find myself (and the cart) slapped flat against the ceiling and deposited back onto the floor in say, a half a second. The general consensus of flight attendants is that passengers are all self-absorbed morons, but I have to tell you that I instantly had a hand on my shoulder from every seat within three rows to steady me. These guys had my back. It was like crowd surfing, but with a great deal more vertebral trauma.
"Gol-DANG, son, you all raght?" asks the Texan in front of me. I begin to answer, but for some reason, all my brain can make are big stars and little stars, and it's at that point that the captain chimes in helpfully.
"Ladies and gentlemen, we may be experiencing a period of slight turbulence, so I'm gonna go ahead and turn the seat belt sign back on. Thanks!"
"No sh-t, is that what that was?" says some lady, instantly my new heroine.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Hypothermia For Fun And Profit

It's cold here. Hence the snow and all. Still, we see rampers slinging bags in shorts. If I may go back and invoke high school physics, it must be below 32 degrees for there to be snow (and yes, those of you from northern climes, I'm sure there's a way to have snow when it's warmer than that through some goofy Michael Crichton eventuality, but I am both a product of Louisiana and the Louisiana Public School System and don't know about it so lay off). I asked a gate agent about these intrepid blue people wearing shorts in the Utah winter. "What, are they running a betting pool to see who can go the longest without dying?"
"Oh yeah," she said. "They've been doing that since I've been working here."
Insanity, thy name is ramper.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Do I Really Feel The Way I Feel?

Tennessee. I've known I was going to Memphis since the first of January, and so have had that damn song stuck in my head for weeks. You know, that one about your feet ten feet offa Beale. They put us in a corporate nest about ten thousand miles from anywhere, and so technically, while I was walking in Memphis, my feet were ten feet offa Beale. There was a restaurant that would have picked me up from the hotel in a pink limousine, but we got there too late for that too. W.C. Handy was not looking down over me, nor was Marc Cohn (nor Cher, apparently). So, as blue as a boy can be, I add the 26th state to the WTHIB Map, and resolve to get there earlier next time so I can be waiting for the King down in the Jungle Room.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Car 54, Where Are You?

When I go out on a trip, I park in the employee parking lot, which is what you'd expect. All is good so far. But sometimes it snows while I'm gone, and then this crap happens.

Have you ever seen anything like this (hey, you in Canada, put your hand down)? I mean snow. And a thing they don't show you in the romantic comedies is how the ground is covered with a deadly and insidious layer of molecularly frictionless ice, which will murder you the picosecond you point your center of gravity anywhere but straight down. That is, of course, all you do when you're scraping ice off a car.
And I also discovered that you really should clear off your car hood. My fingers were developing cleavage planes, and so I quit before I got to the hood, but then when I started driving, I developed a personal blizzard. I laughed at that, while I wasn't steering for dear life. And you can't stick your head out the window to see,either, because your face really will freeze that way. I should not have written that. My mother reads this.

Monday, January 01, 2007


2006 is dead! Long live 2007!
Or, uh... 365 days live 2007! I don't want to get ahead of myself.
Didn't do much to commemorate the changing of intangible temporal units of measurement. Can't, really, when three of the five people in town you know are elsewhere, and you need a membership to get into a bar where they don't serve right alcohol anyway. The roommate and I watched Tron (since we don't have cable on that fantastic new TV of mine), and then she dropped an onion over the balcony since we couldn't watch the ball drop in NY. Or wherever they drop that ball.
I'll bet theirs won't be an onion tree in six weeks.