Sunday, August 26, 2007
Thursday, August 23, 2007
The Happening Place To Be
I once counted sixty of these things on the way to the laundry room. The two little ones have matured to the point of looking exactly like the rest of them now. But Stalwart is always distinguishable... they all stare at you when you get too close, but she's the one that makes you want to run in fear.
Monday, August 20, 2007
I have a lot to keep alive now.
Friday, August 17, 2007
GIVE MY CREATION... LIFE!
Well, that there... is life.
It took way longer than it was supposed to (maybe because its parent/sibling still harbors vengeful thoughts over me almost killing it), but the vine piece finally sprouted little runners in the blue water jar I had it in. And now it's in a pot with dirt in it, and we'll see what it turns into next.
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
51 And A Half Things I Learned This Year
The tri-cities are Pasco, Richland, and Kennewick.
The four corners are Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, and Colorado.
The quad cities are Rock Island, Moline, Davenport, East Moline, and Bettendorf. Seriously.
No matter how drunk you are, you cannot walk with your feet ten feet offa Beale.
There is a queen of Canada, and she's the same one they use in England.
Molson will give you a hangover.
A pack of coffee grinds will blunt the odor in the lavatory.
Two stripes is really a flight engineer.
A dry heat really is better.
Evacuations, when done properly, are amazing.
Evacuations, when done improperly, are hilarious.
It is much easier to accidentally kill someone than to rescusitate them on purpose.
Landing with someone in the lavatory is bad.
That thing at LAX is a spaceship, but it's drydocked.
The view from the cockpit is cool.
The view from the galley service door is still cool, but smaller.
You can lie down in the grass in Utah and not be disintegrated by chiggers.
Utahns do not know what chiggers are.
Putting out a fire is fun. Wearing a Portable Breathing Apparatus while doing so is not.
You can't park in front of a fire hydrant.
Widescreen HD TVs are way awesome, but you can't pick them up by yourself.
A red arrow means don't go that way.
A 'coat' is like a thicker shirt that keeps you warm in the cold.
Both skiiers and snowboarders think the other is stupid, but only one of them is correct.
The beverage cart wants to kill you.
It's harder to pronounce Boise the way they say it.
Always always ALWAYS insist on walking through a prospective apartment.
The Great Saltair sucks.
The Great Salt Lake smells.
'Cold' is what happens when all the heat goes away.
There are ducks everywhere you damn go in this state.
In some states, ducks are more important than some people.
Snowboarders are correct.
The EMB is like a rollercoaster without a track.
The Salt Lake City Public Library is awesome, and it has books.
Hiking the M in Missoula will destroy you if you're from the South.
Ducks secretly hate each other.
'Snow' is water that has solidified because of cold, and it happens in mountains.
Rampers are insane.
Gate agents can't count.
All bonsai trees come into existence fully grown.
L.M. is the best.
Kentucky Fried Chicken really did start in Utah.
A 'mountain' is a huge pile of dirt you can drive up and down on.
Mormons really do say 'oh my heck.'
The hardest thing to see in South Dakota is four presidents carved into a mountain.
Niagara Falls features a BUTTLOAD of water.
When you run a blog about flying and you skip a week or two, readers think you crashed.
There is an insidious Communist threat afoot concerning cheese.
The St. Louis Arch is neat. And you can go in it as well as under it.
I like being a flight attendant.
The meaning of life is
Thanks for reading, everyone. And now... ONTO NEXT YEAR!
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
GENTLEMEN, THIS IS WHAT YOU'VE BEEN TRAINED FOR!
We wait there at the gate for half an hour before we discover that the captain we were supposed to fly with had called in sick, and that they were flying in a reserve captain from LA. Good for us, but bad for him, because his day started several hours earlier, two of which were on the clock. The reason I make a distinction here is that pilots are only allowed to fly for fourteen hours by the FAA. This, regrettably, comes into play later.
Our new captain arrives, and we make a somewhat uneventful three hour round trip to Denver. We have three hours of airport appreciation time there in Salt Lake, and then switch planes. When we enplane (yes, it's a word) onto the new plane, maintenance is already there. The maintenance guys, or MX as they're called (for no other reason than that abbreviators the world over share a mutual admiration for the letter X) are all cheery fellows, but you never want to see them, because if you do, something is wrong with your aircraft. Also, you can tell how wrong your aircraft is by how many of them there are. Busted headlight = one MX. Hyperactive warning light = two MX. We had six, and apparently six = metal shavings discovered in the engine oil. I don't have to tell you how bad that is.
So three hours later, they've fixed the problem by doing everything short of changing out the engine itself. Our now five-hours-late New Orleans-bound passengers enplane (see, I told you, there it is again), grumbling and spitting. And before we're even off the ground, the pilots get the message that there are thunderstorms over N.O. and we're gonna have to make a fuel stop.
A quick explanation... your holy trinity on an airplane is passengers, bags, and fuel. The bigwigs know that passengers are the only one of this trinity that makes the company money, so they want to skimp on the other two. Passengers don't want to skimp on bags, so that leaves fuel. And when there is bad weather ahead, it's standard procedure to pack on extra fuel so that, if the idea of landing in the bad weather brings up images from Airplane!, you can divert to another city. And that's something you can't do if you have skimped on fuel. Hence, a fuel stop.
We fly an hour to Kansas City to gas back up. It's a secret joy of mine (because basically I'm a jerk) to see passengers' faces when the captain makes an announcement that starts with, "Ladies and gentlemen... well, uh..." and ends with us landing in a completely different destination. And this joy repeats itself, because in addition to the faces made during that initial announcement, those people who are not listening when we tell them what snacks there are make a second round of faces when we land. Usually a fuel stop is quick. Twenty minutes and we're airborne again. But for some reason, even though they knew we were coming, Kansas City just didn't have the fuel crew ready. For two hours they didn't have the fuel crew ready. And normally, sitting there on the ground for two hours is inconvenient, but surmountable. But let's go back over the day and add things up:
2 hours reserve captain travel time
3 hours round trip to Denver
3 hours AAT
3 hours engine fixin'
1 hour to Kansas city
2 hours inexplicable fuel stop delay
Yes, that's fourteen hours. To the minute. The poor reserve captain, who to his credit wanted nothing more than to stay and get these people to N.O., has to step down and be flown home. He probably also wanted to stay because he has to make the announcement informing the passengers (who were, at this point, far beyond grumbling and spitting), that he was stepping down and flying home. Also, he has to tell them that the captain replacing him had just been notified, he was leaving LA right now, and would be here in two hours.
For all the world, you don't want to be a flight attendant in the cabin with 70 incensed New Orleanians during that announcement.
Several fuses begin to burn right then. You could see them. It was like a planeful of those round black Spy VS. Spy bombs. There were shouts of, "This is ridiculous!" Shouts of, "I'm gonna sue!" One gentleman loudly threatened to introduce anyone in charge to 'Joey Knuckles.' And there I am, along with the other FA, the only thing between this mob and the flight deck. What do I do?
I am an actor, whose job it is to speak. I have a communications degree, which says I can speak. I was trained by the military to discuss very bad things with people, and in different languages, and again trained by the airline industry to do the same in FAA terminology.
What do I do? I wade in is what I do.
First guy I get to tells me its ridiculous. I agree with him, and watch the wind go out of his anger sails. Another lady says she's been sitting so long her knee is swollen. I give her an ice bag and watch her anger sails go flat. And I repeat the process, giving the people the first shot on credit, and doing the last thing they would ever suspect... listening to and agreeing with them, and 70 people later I have them all on my side. Angry Louisianians are funny... their momentum is unstoppable but their steering is easily hijacked. An example:
ANGRY: This here's ridiculous! I still got to drive an hour to Lafayette after this!
ME: Lafayette? I used to hang out with people at USL.
NOT ANGRY ANYMORE: You from down there? Lemme get you a beer!
And so it goes for two hours until the reserve reserve pilot gets there. Now and again I would hear the sudden SSSSS of a fuse lighting up again, and go back to bring it a Jack and Coke (which, at that point, we had decided were all on the house), and bring a sense of shared exasperation/good will to everyone else. I'm no longer a scared rat in a 70 vs. 4 match; I'm a professional in the thick of the job, damn good at it if I say so myself, and perversely enough, enjoying it.
The new pilot (who had no idea he was going to be the new pilot... when he got the call, he was headed to his hotel in Kansas City [welcome to the airline industry, kid]) gets us to New Orleans, and 70 people who were formerly angry enough to kill me deplane, most of them smiling and a few calling me (as they say down there) 'good people.' And as I ride to the hotel, finally able to take my smile off, it occurs to me that maybe it's not at graduation that you 'become' a flight attendant. I mean, it happens there, but it also happens after your first trip solo. And after your first 12 hour sit on an icy Chicago runway. After you fly a 14 hour day sick as a dog. After your first throwdown with a true bastard of a passenger. I think this is a job where you keep having opportunities to become what you are, as many opportunities as there are new and different things to happen to you. And there seems to be no scarcity of those.
So that trip, right there amid those crazy people, I again became a flight attendant. And even though I have to wear polyester and people think I'm gay, I'm proud of that. Makes me look forward to the next chance to become one again.
Friday, August 10, 2007
In Austin, there is a Congress Avenue, and across this avenue is a bridge, and under this bridge lives, apparently, the largest urban bat colony in the world. And during the summer at dusk, passers-by can see most of these bats take to the skies in a kind of reverse-fireworks display.
I was eager to see these bats as soon as Arthur told me about them, because hey, bats, right? But alas, last time it was not summer, and I was thwarted. But this time it was technically still summer, so Arthur and I jammed on down under the bridge, stood shoulder to shoulder with other bat-watchers clad in guano slickers, and waited.
Didn't take long. I had imagined it like in the movies, where you creep towards a cave opening and then get sanded down by a ten second bullet-proof blizzard of bats. It was a little less terrifying than that. Imagine that you had a garden hose that was connected to a public bat system instead of a public water system. Now imagine that you ran it up under a bridge and kinda turned it on halfway, and left it that way for a few hours.** Now you have a good picture of what the nightly bat egress looks like. They formed a steady bat-tube that followed the path of the river where they hunt. There was also a contingent that was a little short on self-confidence, and these ones would take off and circle right back into the hangar. So in addition to the bat-tube, there was also a little bat-cyclone at the edge of the bridge.
The only times I had seen bats before, it was always one or two, way out in the country, and they were silent. So when I saw bats go EEE EEE EEE in horror movies, I always used to jeer and throw popcorn. However, a quarter million bats do go EEE EEE EEE, and so I've been humbled.
Since it was late summer, Arthur explained, the bats were leaving later in the evening, which gave them a dark backdrop. I could see them fine, but I did take a lot of useless pictures of black bats against a black background, none of which you will see here.
Arthur mentioned that once he saw a bat land in the water and said that it was actually a pretty good swimmer. "Was it doing the bat-stroke?" I asked.
"Do you want a ride home or not?" he said.
*Get 'em all?
**Wonder what the bill would be for that?
Thursday, August 09, 2007
An Answer I Don't Have
Now that they're back together, maybe we have a shot at finding out.
St. Louis, Or A Big Thing You Can Walk Under
Hubris, with a capital hyoo, is how you spell this arch. Wow. It goes way up there. The first time I went to see it, I had gravely underestimated how long the train took to get there, and so I only got to marvel at it for maybe ten minutes before having to rush back to the hotel. Didn't get to go in. However, with the magic of modern internet technology, you are spared the week of waiting that I suffered waiting to go back a week later, and get to go back inside immediately.
At the base of the arch is a cool museum, chronicling its design and assembly, complete with trivia about the process. I found it amusing that the idea of the design contest was to come up for a monument to symbolize 'the gateway to the West,' and the winning designer only realized that what he'd come up with was an actual gateway a few years after it was finished. This thing pictured here is one of the elevators, which is four and a half feet at its tallest point inside, and a vision of what they thought the future would look like fifty years ago. You and four of your newest friends end up crammed in cheek to cheek like sardines for the four minute ride up. Luckily, this time it was just the FO and me.
When you finally get to the top, there's a little crow's nest.
It's got portholes so you can look out.
Thing is, the arch is basically an extruded triangle with the point facing in, so these portholes face straight down instead of out. Most people would be flipped out by that, but I'm not all that smart, so I thought it was cool. Here's proof (that's the base of the arch on either side there).
Here's our shadow.
And here's a plenty good view of downtown St. Louis, including the venerable Cards' home turf (the arch is the last stop before Illinois, so the Cubs don't have far to travel to lose).
The museum at the bottom is actually very engrossing. It's round, and the walls lead you around with quotes from Lewis and Clark's famous expedition. There are several animatronic people who move and lip synch very badly to interesting vignettes about the era.
And after that much history, there was nothing more to do but hit the local Hooters and get toasted. I love America.
Monday, August 06, 2007
Cranberry Juice, A Computer, And Murphy's Law
Sometimes I'm really surprised I still work here.
Sunday, August 05, 2007
Two Stupid Drinks
Friday, August 03, 2007
Wait, Lemme Alphabetize That
I'd like to visit a world where objects materialize in front of you and it's really no cause for alarm.
Thursday, August 02, 2007
Icepick For Your Ear, Sir?
It is actually like icepicks being put in your ears. Not being mercifully pounded in, like with a mallet. I mean slid in, mean and slow. I went through a thought process similar to the one that helped me determine I was stuck in an elevator that time:
ME: Ow, OK. That hurts. But I can keep going.
ME: Oh, HEY. That's bad. That really... no, I can keep going...
ME: Maybe I oughtta sit down...
EARS: BIG UGLY MERCILESS SHOOTING PAIN.
ME: Maybe I oughtta lie down...
EARS: BIG UGLY MERCILESS 'PRAY FOR DEATH' BLOODCURDLING SKULLSPLITTING PAIN.
ME: Coma sounds good.
I even tried the Valsalva maneuver, to limited success. Antonio Valsalva was a scientist in the 17th century who discovered that if you pinched your nose and blew really hard, you could make your ears explode. It didn't contribute much to science back then, because gondolas are not pressurized, but these days it can help you equal out reticent ears. Sometimes. I say I achieved limited success because when I tried it, I cleared one ear and exploded the other one. So for the rest of the trip I could hear EEEEEEEEEEE only on my left side.
Flying with a cold is not on my list of things to do again soon.
Wednesday, August 01, 2007
DESTROY YOUR BRAIN!
The aisle is two feet wide.
The cart is 22 inches wide.
The lavatory is in the back of the aircraft.
No two fermions may occupy the same quantum state simultaneously, according to the Pauli Exclusion Principle.
Now, if you start a drink service from the front of the aircraft and are three-quarters done, that puts you about three rows away from the lav. And if someone in the front row has to use the lav, they trundle down the aisle and end up right behind you, looking these four facts directly in the eye. The usual solution to this dilemma is to sit them in a nearby empty seat and roll back past them, making the plane one big sliding-tile puzzle. But most of the time, the seats are all full, and so this person is back to the four facts, all of which combine to form an inescapable truth... short of becoming light or radiation, there is no way for this person to get to the lavatory. But this realization has never stopped anyone from tapping me on the shoulder and politely saying, "Um, is there... any way to, uh..." while waving past me at the lav. At first I thought these people were jettisoning their IQs entirely, but then remembering my law of conservation of energy, I realized that this could not be true... the IQ had to be going somewhere. Turns out they were just disassembling it into pieces so small that it could no longer be used.
Think about it. If you got the idea to build a giant wooden banana split in the park at the center of town, and got about halfway through it before you noticed that someone else had just finished a wooden banana split in the park, and it was actually a lot better built, would you finish yours? Nope. You'd tear it back down into reusable components in case you got the idea to build something else, like maybe a big wooden goldfish saddle. So my theory posits that, when faced with a difficult problem-solving situation and a separate problem-solver with an established talent for solving said problem, people tend to raze their own capability for thought. For example, if a person who knows nothing about cars hired a mechanic to look under their hood, they wouldn't try to tell him where the reverse ancillary flow inhibitor valve is... they'd just reboot their brain and let him think. This process doesn't render one completely incapable of thought, but it does limit the process severely, and appears to have a cumulative effect.
It's interesting to note that, even when a brain is crumbled into small chunks, it can still serve as a rudimentary filter. The caveman part of your brain that makes you run from danger will also act to keep you from embarrassing yourself. It sees its high-falutin' upstairs neighbors greet the equation ME + SOLID OBJECT = CLEAR PATH with a vigorous and dizzy nod, and throws a quick check to the speech center to keep it from actually completing a question out loud like, "Is it possible for me to get to the lav even though there's an object between here and there that's the exact width of the aisle?" Hence all the waving and ellipses that always happen.
But even though we now know there's a thought process (or, I guess, just a process) behind this question they always ask, it's still a dumb question. It's not even actually a question. It's a half-question. It's a dumb half-question. And I, for one, never answer it. I just step smoothly aside and let them determine for themselves if they can pass through a solid object. This saves me having to think of something sarcastic to say, and also saves me from embarrassing myself in front of anyone who happens to be able to transduce into lightning.