Thursday, November 29, 2007

Pardon Our Emergency

Did another trip on the EMB, and remembered that I forgot to tell you something funny about it. When they start up the engines on that plane, it makes a loud siren-type noise over the interphone. I know what that noise is... my old VW Beetle used to do the same thing over my $50 Sparkomatic stereo (which should tell you a lot about the EMB). But the passengers don't know what that noise is. And of course, the pilots always start up the engines right as I'm making the first announcement:

ME: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome aboard Hummana-Hummana Airlines flight--

The only thing you can do to stop this noise is to release the talk button on the interphone, which also means you have to stop talking. Hearing a siren sound interrupt an announcement on an airplane does not inspire confidence, and about the only thing that can worsen that lack of confidence (besides me wearing a clown suit to work) is three seconds of dead silence after what sounds like a siren. The next few words after that have to be spoken with crystal clarity and utter calm, or else it's like flying with 30 mousetraps for the rest of the flight.
I have been assembling a list of things I'm going to do on the last day I work here, and one of them is definitely to wear a clown suit to work and follow that siren with, "OH DEAR GOD WHAT'S HAPPENING!?"

Monday, November 26, 2007

Cracker-Choker, Bumbling Con Man

On my way through the service last flight, this guy orders an alcoholic drink. I ask him for the five dollars one of those things costs, and he asks to put it on his tab. I said sure, because a few folk had asked me to do that before, and what they usually do is order another one later and settle up all at one time when the second one arrives.
This was my first mistake... thinking the concept of 'tab' is universally understood. Next time, I'm gonna ask for a credit card just like they do at a bar.
On the way back past this guy, he chokes on some crackers and makes a big deal out of getting some water from us. Both of us FAs now know who he is. His first mistake.
About an hour later, the other FA says she's taking a liquor back to a guy. I ask, "The Cracker-Choker?" She nods. I explain that he's running a tab, and that if he tries to give her five more than for that one drink, then that's what that's for.
During taxi at the end of the flight, I remember that I didn't get any money from Cracker-Choker. So I call back to the other FA to make sure she didn't settle up with him already, so as to save myself from an embarrassing situation. She tells me that not only did he not give her anything, he told her he paid me.
His second mistake.
On his way out the door, I politely ask him to settle up. He tells me that he gave the other FA a coupon. I explain that that's funny, but she said you did no such thing, and let's settle up. He gives me that put-upon exhale, digs in his wallet, and gives me a five. I tell him no no no, that would be ten you owe me. I gave you a drink, she gave you a drink. Five each. Five plus five is ten. He looks in his wallet, then begins to tell me that he really did give the other FA a coupon, and no sir you didn't, I say, that'll be five more dollars.
He gives me the exhale again, and then a fistful of bills that, as I count, turns out to be four.
"Five dollars," I say. "This is four."
"That's all I got on me," he says.
"What you're telling me is that you can't pay for what you drank?" I say loudly, in front of all the other passengers waiting for their carry-ons.
"It's all I got on me," he repeats.
"You do know, sir, that I have to pay for whatever you can't come up with, right?" People stare. He begins to speak, and I know what he's going to say, so I cut him off. "Well, I hope you enjoyed your drink. Have a good night."
He shrugs lamely. "It's only a dollar."
"Like I said, sir, I hope you enjoyed your drink. Have a good night."
At first glance, it might seem as if this guy got over on me. But it was well worth one dollar to me to publicly harangue this guy for being a cheap thief. And he only got one dollar out of me... I cleaned him out.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Sleepy Thanksgiving!

I was in L.A. for it this time. And I skipped the turkey-eating and just slept all day, which proves that it's not turkey... thanksgiving makes you sleepy.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Now That's Just...

When I spent that funny Canadian bill I talked about in the last entry, I got a bunch of coins back. There was a one dollar coin, and also a two dollar coin, which momentarily fascinated me because it's made of two metals, like they plopped a small bronze coin into the middle of a regular-sized silver one. Also because it was shiny. But it's really that one dollar one I'm gonna make fun of. It's got a loon on the back of it, and had you asked me what to call it when I was staring at it outside Legendary Noodle, I would have said 'a dollar.'
Nope. It's a loonie.
A loonie. Canadians call it that. Never mind that it's because there's a loon on the back of it, they call it a loonie. And that two dollar one? It's a toonie. If you wanted three bucks off a Canadian, you could say, "Hey, gimme a loonie toonie!"
It's my shortcoming that I think this is funny. I'm just being country-centric. What does 'dollar' mean, right? But as long as the rest of the world hates Americans anyway, I'm gonna giggle a little.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Back To Yaohan

Vancouver. We got in late the night before and wandered into Chinatown for grub. Ended up at a place called Number Nine Restaurant. Not only was the place open at one AM on a weekday, it was packed. We ate and amused ourselves by dubbing the Chinese soap opera that was on TV. Surprised we didn't get shot.
Next morning I headed out to find some foreign trouble. Got ahold of my first Canadian money. There are things in life that are weird, and one of them is money from other countries.


I wouldn't have said they were legendary. They took a while. I would say Good But Amazingly Tardy Noodle. I did get to see the cook make them, though, and that was neat. They swing a ball of dough around in both hands, folding and stretching it, until it is somehow noodles. I didn't see that part. Dumped some of what I thought was soy sauce in towards the end of the bowl. Looked awfully light to be soy, and tasted oddly familiar. Tried it gamely though. When the girl brought the check, I asked what it was in the bottle.
"Ah, vinegah!" she said. And thus ended my foray into Legendary Noodle.
Crossed the street and found a video store. If you've never done so, find an Asian video store and look around. Checking out the boxes is more fun than actually watching the movies. There was a concert on the wall TV, in which one guy, one girl, and one undetermined were singing Hall & Oates' 'Family Man,' but only the title was in English. Surreal.
Next door was a grocery store, and I stumbled in there. Asian food stores have a scent. It's right in the middle of ginger, raw meat, and mango. Enticing, but a constant reminder that I was the minority. Again, if you have the chance, hit one of these places. "Stik-O! MOCCA Flavor!" And actually buying something is like the culinary equivalent of a scratch-off lottery card.

This is what I got. Pocky is a sort of breadstick covered in dark chocolate. Awesome. That can in the middle is Hey Song Sarsparilla. It was root beer-esque. Kinda like drinking a foreigner's accented English. But now let's talk about White Rabbit. I'd had these before; a Chinese kid had given me some in fifth grade. I could describe it for you, but let's hear it straight from the manufacturer's website:

“WHITE RABBIT is one of the most famous brands of Guan Sheng Yuan (Group) Co.,ltd.and belongs to candy product. This product is very larruping that the candy’s surface swathe a very very thin velamen made from sticky rice and it can eat.People always are interesting in the sticky rice velamen.This product’s sales volume is very hot in USA(Kmart,Walgmart)."

... well, maybe I better describe it. It's about the consistency of a tootsie roll, but it's milk/cream flavored. And when you unwrap it, it's wrapped in a second layer of rice paper. Jimmy, the Chinese kid, had laughed at me when I tried to unwrap one again, and insisted that you ate them paper and all. I called shenanigans until I actually saw him eat one that way. It's flavorless, and vanishes like cotton candy in about ten seconds. You eat one, you don't like it, you eat another one and it's OK, and then you're a drooling fiend.
There are other flavors. Next time I go up there, I'm gonna try red bean. I hope it'll be very larruping.
On the way home, I saw a noteworthy warning sticker on an electrical transformer.

Apparently, Canadian electricity makes you do the Thriller dance instead of just killing you. I almost tried it.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Some Big Damn Trees

Los Angeles. My friend Lucy (who was there that time to witness the transdimensional stench of the Salt Lake) threw me in the car along with two of her other friends on the way to Sequoia National Park. It should be noted that this park is three hours away from L.A., and Lucy drove the whole thing, so she is a friend indeed.
Along the way, we stopped at a store, where I bought two Kit Kats, a Dasani, and a large chicken totem.

After three hours of road, a lot of orange orchards, and 88,888 on Lucy's odometer, we arrived. None of us thought to bring any cash because all the trees we'd ever seen before were free, and so there was a momentary panic at the gate. But by happy coincidence, it happened to be Veteran's Day, and I happen to be a veteran, and so we got in for free.

We passed a large and picturesque canyon right off the side of the main road in. It's bigger than it looks here. Those green things are trees, not bushes.

We also hurtled by a giant rock that someone had stacked on two slightly smaller rocks.
We drove another hour drive straight up a mountain before we actually got to any of the actual sequoias. I guess it should be mentioned that these trees are large.

I mean big. The biggest trees you ever saw. A lot of them had laughed off forest fires.

One of them had fallen over, and it was big enough for people to have cut a doorway through it.

The road became a trail, and we parked and walked. Saw a deer. Signs touted THE LARGEST TREE ON EARTH, and we followed. Through slightly-above-freezing rain we trudged, until we finally found ourselves at the base of the big one.

This is not it. I ran out of film (amazing, since it's a digital camera). Lucy has a picture of it though. Looks like this one, only bigger.

Yup, It's November 13th

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Witness The Power...

... of the goatee.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Take A Hike

I had spent an entire summer in Utah without going on a single hike. My FA friend May Rose decided to fix that. So we collected two more would-be hikers, Aaron and Katy, and drove up a big mountain to see what there was to look at.
Aaron's a local, so he directed us to a winding mountain road just short of Snowbird. At first, we just parked and climbed up some rocks.

Past those rocks were more rocks.

Some of them had been cut by machine; they had long straight gouges in them, like they'd grown too fast in a small jail cell. Aaron thought this might be the place where the Mormon pioneers got the stone to make the temple out of. Soon everyone got a little too anxious watching me bound around on what they insisted were ankle-breaking rocks and made me quit.
We drove a little further and May Rose did a dance when we found an actual trail to follow.

There was a map at the bottom that showed a lake a few miles up, and so we set out.

A few switchbacks up, the trail iced up. Just so you know, ice is slippery. None of us fell, but I'm pretty sure one of us should have. And probably the one from Louisiana.

All of that ice had to come from somewhere, we reasoned. And a few minutes later, we found the source... a frozen waterfall. You might be able to pick out a twig there that's been frozen in a solid inch of ice.
Snapped a really close-up picture of the frozen-over stream without really looking. It turned out to be a better picture than I imagined. Nature can do some really amazing things when you leave it alone for a couple hours.
The sun beat us to the horizon, and with the approaching cold, Aaron thought it would be a good idea to turn back. It's exciting and a little scary to finally be out in the kind of environment that will kill you if you don't respect it. He told a story about a few friends of his that had been caught out in a lightning storm, and had almost gotten blasted to pieces while hiding under a rock.

We had gotten high up enough, though, to see some amazing views. If the inversion layer hadn't been acting up in this picture, you'd be able to see the whole valley.
Aaron talked about the quaker aspens, which got their name from Indians seeing the wind flutter through their leaves. He mentioned that they can sometimes look like several trees but actually be part of the same root system, and can smash shut like a half-a-mile thick fist when angered. I think he made that last part up. He reads a lot of Stephen King.

When we got to the bottom, May Rose finally fell down while admiring this stream. I wasn't even there to witness it. But at least I got to see some neat rocks. And I didn't get killed once.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

The Bed Is Dead! Long Live The Bed!

The air mattress days had at last come to an end.
Since I had finally moved out of the stink pit apartment, it was time to buy a bed. Took a stroll through our new Ikea here in SLC. All their furniture is named in Scandinavian, and so I bought a MALM bedframe, complete with real birch veneer. That's just fun to say. MALM MALM. And being the procrastinator I am, I hadn't done any of the research on mattresses, so I just threw the air mattress I'd been sleeping on into the frame and waited for the research to do itself.
What you have to know about that air mattress is this: a while back, a loud pop woke me up in the middle of the night. Went back to bed, and in the morning I discovered that one of the places where the top was quilted to the bottom had come loose, leaving a small section of the mattress puffed up like a balloon. Didn't pay it much attention. But over the next six months while I was paying attention to other things, one by one, all the quilts began to follow suit, until it finally looked like this:

It looks like there's already someone in that bed. Every time I came home from a trip and walked into the bedroom with no lights on, I panicked and threw a ninja kick at it. Sleeping was an ordeal. I'd wake up either convex or concave in the morning. Or rolled into the gap between the mattress and the frame. And getting out of bed had turned into a strange windmilling affair, usually ending in carpet burn. Something had to be done.
Enter the Sealy Sea Ridge Ultra Plush.
Did a lot of shopping, and of course it turned out to be from the place I went first. Driving home with it was fun. Just like in college... I twined it to the top of the car through the windows, and drove 20 MPH holding onto it out the window. I was that driver you all hate. Getting it into the apartment was even funnier. There's really only one way to drag a mattress up two flights of stairs. But once it was up there... wow. 60x80 inches of ultra plush glory. And for a mattress named after a ridge, it sure is great to sleep on.

Pretty snazzy, huh? Now if I could just remember that I don't have to windmill anymore...

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Temporal Obligations

On the flights where there are two FAs, when one does the safety briefing, the other one demonstrates what the first one is talking about. I say, "In case of a bad thing, oxygen masks drop on your head," and the other FA holds up the bad thing mask. There are two ways this can go wrong. If you're demonstrating, you have to keep up with the FA that's speaking. For me, that's a small thrill that goes back to my theater days... dashing back to the galley to drop the mask and grab the seatbelt, knowing I've got seven words till I have to be in place and smiling. If you're speaking, you just have to go easy on the FA in the front who's dashing and grabbing. Occasionally, you'll get together with the other one with demands:

FORWARD: Can you do the seat cushion part between the mask and seatbelt part so I can have time to get there?
AFT: Yeah, but you have to do first class.

I usually try to time things so that the forward has enough time to get in place. And sometimes you'll get these FAs that just don't realize that the word should be suited to the action. They'll insist that you don't have to wait for them to get in place. "You just keep going! I'll get there!" This last guy I flew with totally did his own thing. He's showing you the seatbelt as I'm explaining how to tighten the mask. He's showing you four fingers to indicate that there are four exits while I'm explaining how the seatbelt works. And somewhere in the middle, he points to something on the briefing card and then to the overhead panel. Never did figure out what that was.
And on a completely unrelated note: once I flew with a guy who was born and raised in Utah. And when he made announcements, he pronounced the word 'oxygen' all wrong. 'Hoax-ygen,' he said. And when I called him on it, he insisted it was because of his transatlantic accent. Said oxygen fine in person. Didn't say anything else funny over the interphone. Just 'hoax-ygen.' It was like getting poked in the eye with an eye-poking stick every time he said it.