Monday, March 19, 2007

The Crash Face

There's this game I play on the plane sometimes. The rules of this game are: mash yourself into the galley where no one can see you, make the dumbest face you can, and take a picture of it with your cellphone. So far I've set some really high scores, but nothing like this one I did the other day. I'm especially proud of it.

I sent this to my mother, and she thought we were crashing.

Concrete Pasta

I learned an amusing thing about the interstate system here in Salt Lake. I-15 heads south from the city, and where it meets I-80 (an east-west kind of thing) is the I-80/I-15 Split. This place is such a TARFU that it's actually called 'The Spaghetti Bowl.'
And while we're on funny names, there's a county out here called Tooele, which is pronounced 'Tawilla.'
More funny names as they occur.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Mall Of The Solar System

Spent another night in Edmonton, and this time had enough time to get out and explore further than the shower. In addition to discovering that Edmonton is miserably cold, I discovered that there is a mall there, known properly as the West Edmonton Mall, and that it covers 48 city blocks, making it the largest mall in the world.
DAYOM this this place is huge. To begin with, the hotel shuttle dropped us of at door 45. We didn't get that far into the mall, but on our way to the food court, we saw a wave pool the size of the Indian Ocean. We also saw a lake, in which there was a full-size pirate ship, and a submarine. I'm not talking about a rusty old model submarine that sits halfway in the water... I mean a baby ex-Russian sub that actually takes seven people on an underwater tour. There's also a trained seal show there.
When we finally got to the food court, it was called Bourbon Street, and was about as big as its namesake. There were several full-fledged restaurants in there, to include a Hooters, which is where we went.
We heard legends of things like ice skating rinks and rollercoaster parks in this mall. It might take several months to see all of that place. I'll have to go back when I have several months.


Added the 30th state today. It was Tulsa this time, instead of Oak City. I'd actually requested Tulsa, because I'd always heard the name, and so long as I'm going places for free, why not?
Glad it was free. I asked the girl at the front desk what fun there was to do in Tulsa, and she laughed uproariously. So, knowing that I would assuredly be back to Oklahoma soon, I slept the whole time. Technically it still counts.
A word about the hotel at which we stay in Tulsa. Cookie is the word. I'd heard talk from other flight attendants about the Doubletree before I was even out of school, and all the hype is true. Not because of the rooms, or the beds, or the service... it's because of the cookies. When you check in, they give you this cookie that's as thick as an Egg McMuffin, and it's all warmed up and ready to go. This cookie is the best cookie in the universe.
Now there's only two gaping holes in the western side of the WTHIB Map. But not for long.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Here's A Tip!

Occasionally, passengers will put their bags in the right place under the seat, but leave the strap in the aisle. That's cool by me, because there's not a lot of room to put stuff. But it will make things difficult when I come by with the drink cart, because stuff in the aisle will get sucked up in the wheels and thwart my drink-serving efforts.
Most of the time I see stuff sticking out in front of the cart and am able to head off any thwarting. But this last time I ran over a purse strap and jammed the back wheel up good. The purse-owner and I worked on it for a while, and then her neighbor across the aisle got into things. This man's expert analysis was, "Hey, the wheel's jammed," and he reached under the front end of the cart and began to lift it from the bottom. That was a fundamentally bad idea in every respect, because the top end of the cart is covered with open drink cans and a carafe full of hot coffee. I said, "No wait, sir," and he kept lifting. I pushed down on the top end of the cart, spouting an ever-louder litany of "NO NO NO NO" while this guy kept lifting harder and harder, completely oblivious to either my voice or why the cart wouldn't lift. Eventually he quit trying, announcing that it was, "Just not gonna work."
I said, "Well, thanks for trying, sir."

Put A Lid On It

Here in Great Falls, Montana, all the handicapped people wear hats.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Ladies And Gentlemen, My Mother

Those of you who've looked at the comments on this blog thing have undoubtedly noticed a commenter cryptically named L.M. I will, in order to shed light on this mystery, tell a tale:

Way back in the old days when Phil Donahue was still on TV and I was very young, my mother would call her father in Seattle on the weekends, and when she was through with the news, she'd let me gabble at him. My parents were both great parents in terms of raising a kid, but in a house with a TV in it, you're always partially raised by TV, and so once when I was handing the phone back to her, I told my grandfather, "And now, back to your local mommie." And as is the case with all dumb things you say when you're little, that followed me unto eternity.

So, everyone, meet my mom, maker of the best apple pie ever, and the reason any of the difficult words on this blog are spelled right.

Bulkhead Passengers

Now we've already covered this, but in case you've a) forgotten some crap I wrote four months ago, or b) were not in the Navy, 'bulkhead' is just a fancy word for wall. We use it on the plane to describe the first row of seats, where there is a wall instead of another row of seats in front of you, and also the passengers in those seats. Bulkhead passengers, see.
Now before I go off on these people, I should admit that I know they're already at a disadvantage. Nowhere to put luggage, really. No seats in front of you means no seats to put stuff under. And of the two overhead bins over the first row, one of them is stuffed with emergency equipment. So they're in a tight spot. But I am going to go off on them. See, there are two constants at work with bulkhead passengers: they always have the most luggage, and the lowest IQs.
They'll get on the plane, sweaty and red-faced from lugging their six fourteen-year-old-sized bags. I already know what seat they're in, because they're lugging six fourteen-year-old-sized bags. They sit in the front row, and I ask if I can help stow their bags in an overhead bin (because they have to go somewhere... it's a federal aviation regulation [or FAR {you didn't think you were getting out of that without an acronym, did you?}] that the area in front of you has to be clear, so that you don't trip and fall during an evacuation and make everyone else in plane trip and fall over you). And they always say it... "They're fine." I patiently explain to them that they're not fine, cite that bit about the FAR, and say that the bags can either go in a bin or under the seat they're in. Most of them just hand over the bags and we're all done. But some try to scrape their bags under their seat with their feet. I explain that there's a bar about two inches above the floor that they have get the bags up over and past, and they just keep staring at me, a compliant smile on their face, while they keep pawing their bags against this bar. They look like a cat in a litterbox. I again point out that there's a bar in the way, it's right there, just bend over and look at it and you'll see it, and they just keep mashing their bags against this bar. At that point I give up and stow the bag in a bin.
Sometimes you'll get a guy with a refrigerator-sized bag who shouts that this is important expensive medical equipment, it can't get broken, and you're not checking this bag. Sometimes the seat next to him is open and we can avoid confrontation by belting the bag into the seat. But if this is not the case, I explain that no matter what's in that bag, the 22 million dollar plane is more expensive, and we'll either have to check the bag or leave you in the terminal, sir. I'm a pretty non-confrontational kinda guy, but there is a tiny part of me that's come into being since I started this job that enjoys bringing down the hand of truth and light (or HOTAL) on people that exist just to make other people's lives hell. There is no hell-making on my plane. If there is any, I make it.
Again, pay no attention to the bitter flight attendant.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The Fat Guy In The Off Season

A larger gentleman with glasses and a white beard got on the plane today. As I was passing by, he stopped me, looked me up and down, then said, "You're in trouble." Then he gave me a card with a wink. On it was a picture of him in a red outfit with white fur trimming and black boots.
I guess sometimes you just don't wanna travel by reindeer.

Other Uses For Snacks

Today, a little girl deliberated for nearly two minutes about what snack she wanted. Adults who do that bother me, but I go easy on kids, because when you're a kid, going on an airplane is cool enough, but getting a free snack? And getting to make your own choice? But when this kid finally decided on cheese crackers and I handed them to her, she immediately began to whack her sister with them.
Good thing we weren't serving hammers.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

A Joke They Never Get

Sometimes a passenger will hit the attendant call button because they want something. But other times they will hit it because they think it's the reading light. And I'm not sure where in our society this comes from, but you think you're going to be killed if you hit that button and don't need anything. Parents teach their kids this. I was always scared to death of doing that. And so when I get there to see what this person wants, they always kowtow and apologize profusely. To allay their fear of execution, I usually tell them a joke. This is it:

"Don't worry, I hit that thing accidentally all the time. Problem is, I'm already there."

Is that funny? Or just obscure?

A Joke I Always Say

When two people order exactly the same thing, I say, "One of you is not very original, but I'm not sure which one."
Yeah, I'm a dork.

Never Tell Me The Odds

While I was demonstrating the seat belt in my imitable style the other day, a lady in the second row good-naturedly said, "Come on... if we go down, what are our chances of getting out of here?"
I said, "Ma'am, with me on board, they're 100%."
I actually got applause for that.

Use More Words

Some passengers, when you ask them what they want to drink, say, "Diet." Nothing else, just diet. There are six diet drinks I can think of without even thinking, two of which I have right there in the cart. Do you mean I get to pick? Or do you mean you want an actual diet? And does that mean a few servings of falafel and a rice cake, or the actual paper that the week's worth of diet food is written on?
Pay no attention to the bitter man behind the curtain.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Feet Ten Feet Offa Beale

So this time I actually got to Beale Street. Neat. Like Bourbon Street, but clean. And without all the naked people. Now that I think about it, why is it neat, then?
Oh yeah, the food. There may not have been any crawfish, but there certainly were ribs. After grabbing a big ass beer (you could tell because it read BIG ASS BEER on the side of the cup) and walking down the street past a bunch of cops with it (not that I'm not used to being able to do that... it's just nice to have somewhere else in the USA to do it), we stumbled into B.B. King's Rib House. Or Rib Store. Or Bunch O' Ribs. Not sure what it was called actually, as I was fairly hosed at that point. But we slammed down some ribs and some gumbo, and heard some blues. Not just any blues, though... there really is no such thing. The Carl Drew Blues Band was up, and they brought the South with 'em.

That blur there in the front is Carl Drew, and he really is that fast. And he's 85. Past him there is Ms. Joyce Henderson, the Diva Of Beale Street, and she's the good parts of Tina and Aretha. A funny thing happened to me there, drunk in a bar and listening to the blues. I had spent most of my early years really not caring too much about New Orleans or the blues. I was all sci-fi movies and video games. But being there in the blues, after being out of it here in the West for a while, I realized that I am that. I can claim it. Maybe not so much as an 85-year-old guitarist who played with Elvis, but that's where I'm from, and maybe I don't have an iPod full of W.C. Handy, but I can always stop into a blues joint, crank up some catfish, and laugh at all the Mormons when they say, "Gosh, this music is neat!" I have a Blues License, right in there behind my drivers license.
Memphis is not done. I'm goin' back.

Dropping The Rubber Jungle

Just thought you'd like to know that when pilots hit the switch that makes the oxygen masks fall out, they call it 'dropping the rubber jungle.'

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Zero Defect

I got inspected by the FAA.
It was a flight to Oklahoma City, what the locals call Oak City, and since the FAA lives there, it's pretty much a given that if you go there, someone's gonna get an inspection, either you or the pilots. This time it was my turn. A nondescript lady in a sweater trudged on the plane and said, "Hi, doing a cabin inspection, do everything like you'd usually do it." She then sat in the back and, if she was watching like a hawk, I couldn't tell. She wrote most of the time. And when she got off, she nodded and said, "Good job." So as far as I know, I get to keep my job.
A pilot inspector got on in Oak City. He sat up there in the flight deck with the pilots. The pilots hate that.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Fergo, Nerth Dakoota

So I finally made it all the way up. North Dakota is the 29th state, and I noticed two things about it. One is that it's cold, and the other one is that it's empty. There did happen to be a small outpost around the hotel we stayed in, and I made my way to a restaurant and had (and I'm not kidding) cheese and ale soup. It was actually quite good, though I have to wonder if maybe the guy who decided to mix those two things and the first guy to decide to taste tree sap were classmates.
I didn't catch anyone saying you betcha. But there were myriad oh yahs.
North Dakota is now done.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

The Beverage Virus

Between judicious applications of aloe and icepack, I was able to get on the plane today and do my job. And while I was there, I was reminded of a scientific theory I've been working on: The Beverage Virus.
Now and again, during the service, a scenario will occur wherein 90 percent of the passengers will order the same drink. The first time this happened, I naturally assumed that this was due to a virulent microbe that links people's minds together at an unconscious level, and told the pilots we should evacuate. They kinda told me I was stupid, and so I began to quietly run experiments in order to test the theory and eventually vindicate myself:

1: Once the virus has taken hold, I'll try to force passengers to choose something else by putting several cans of another drink on the cart and removing the ones people are picking. This does not work, which proves it's something more sinister than the power of advertising.
2: During an epidemic, I'll ask what a passenger wants to drink in a whisper, so that they will respond in kind and other passengers won't hear. In these cases, people still keep ordering that same damn drink, indicating a phenomenon other than subconscious suggestion.
3: Once a passenger who is obviously immune breaks the streak, I tell them that the next passenger has been insulting their mother, hoping to get them so cross that they'll spit on that passenger, therefore innoculating them against the virus. So far I haven't gotten this to work.

I think the results are conclusive. The Beverage Virus is real. I'd start a campaign to educate people about this threat, but all it really does is make my job easier, so never mind. In fact, forget I told you any of this.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Like A Little Third Degree With That Burn?

Always wear sunscreen while skiing. Always.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

More Icy Death At Speed

Michele wanted to get in some ski time as well, so we hit Alta, which is right next to Snowbird. It's a ski-only resort, because there's a sort-of friendly rivalry between skiiers and snowboarders. See, skiiers think they're higher-class than riders, and riders think they're cooler than skiiers. I think they're both right, but I digress.
We got further up the mountain at Alta. The snow is packed a little harder (they roll over it with huge snowcats... it's called grooming the snow), which makes for smoother skiing, so we braved higher runs. I had forgotten how much leg strength skiiing requires; you're mostly upright on a board, but on skis you're totally hunched, and usually on only one leg. So I was dead by noon, but one beer later and I didn't care.
A word about ski lodges... they serve beer. Right there in front of everyone. Can you get any better than that?
Proud to say I didn't fall down all day, which is a feat because I last skiied thirteen years ago. I thought about falling down several times, though. Michele only bought it once, and that's because I kicked her. No one's breaking my record...

Monday, March 05, 2007

The Original KFC... No Really

You always see restaurants with signs that say stuff like, "Eat at Flappy's... We're the Original!" So when I drove past the local KFC, and the sign said The Original KFC, I thought it was more of the same. But my roommate Katy, who is infinitely smarter than I am because she can read, told me that it was, in fact, the very first Kentucky Fried Chicken on Earth. I called shenanigans, because why the hell would a place called Kentucky Fried Chicken have a point of origin in Utah? I spearheaded a mission to investigate, followed closely by Michele, who likes chicken, and Katy, who just likes to be there when I'm wrong.
In 1941, one Pete Harman opened the Do Drop Inn Restaurant, complete with outhouse, on that very spot in Salt Lake City. A decade later, one Colonel Sanders appeared on his doorstep with samples of what he called Kentucky Fried Chicken, and would Pete be interested in joining forces? Mr Harman said hell no, get the hell out of my restaurant and what is that that smells so good? Several pieces of chicken later, he recanted, and in 1952, KFC was born. Sometime after that, they got rid of the outhouse.
The place got remodeled in 2004, but inside it's just as much museum as restaurant. One of the Colonel's suits is in there, as are several bricks from the Do Drop Inn. We ate various pieces of chicken, and Katy watched me have a helping of crow. And then we took this picture.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Snowboard: The Sequel

My old college friend Michele came out to visit, and since she has been on a board before, we hit the slopes. I have heard that it takes three days to learn the basics of snowboarding, and after day two, I think that's true. I can now make the board go where I want it to go, and I only fall down when I'm trying something new. Going backwards is still a little scary, but once I conquer that, I'll be ready to get off the beginner runs and start shredding (as the kids say these days).

Friday, March 02, 2007

The Home Town From Up There

As I was bidding for next month's schedule, I discovered that the company had added a New Orleans overnight. I jumped on it, of course, but didn't think I was senior enough to get one. I got three. So now I've been back to the southland twice. It's kind of a crappy overnight... we get in at eleven at night and leave the next day at six AM. Not much time to get into the kind of trouble that will let you do your job the next morning. Point is, it was a limited engagement, so don't think ill of me if you didn't hear I was in town. But I digress...
As we were flying in the first night, I got the pilots to call me up to the flight deck when we were over Baton Rouge. Twenty one thousand feet affords quite the view. I had the lights of BR right below, New Orleans in front of that, Lafayette and Opelousas off to the right, and Alexandria on the left. And I could pick out individual features of Baton Rouge, even from four miles up... saw the capitol building, the bridge, Tiger Stadium, Cortana Mall, and believe it or not, the neighborhood I grew up in.
None of the pictures turned out. You'll just have to trust me.