Friday, March 28, 2008

Lost Flavors Of My Youth

So you all know what to do when you have a sickness-induced sore throat. You limp into a Wal-mart and grab you some popsicles. It had been years, though, since I'd done that, because I hadn't been sick in a long time. So I thought it would be an easy mission. Wrong. Since the last time I went to buy popsicles, the damn meek have inherited the Earth.
All I wanted was the box of red, orange, and purple popsicles. That's all I wanted. And no, they're not cherry, Florida orange, and grape flavor... they're red flavor, orange flavor, and purple flavor. The kind I'm talking about taste like red, orange, and purple. You know the kind I mean. Shaped like a bullet, comes in a box of 960, and has more sugar in it than you could actually fit into the popsicle mold. Well, I'm standing there in the frozen dessert aisle (a name I would shortly discover to be a grievous misnomer) and I see a red, orange, and purple box, and I grab it. But when I get it home and open one up, it's not bullet-shaped and bright red. It's a dull and organic-looking crimson, and is shaped like a non-interesting block. It doesn't taste like sugar. It tastes like diet. I resort to the lowest form of investigation and read the box; "NOW ALL NATURAL! MADE WITH REAL FRUIT FLAVORS!" Oh no, I think. Oh NO. It's the same box, made by the same people. But the popsicles inside have been gelded.
What the HELL is this? I think.
I head back to the store and return to the aisle. And there before me are rows and rows of eggshell, ecru, and water-chestnut flavored processed popsicle-type snack foods. I think the whole damn aisle had about six grains of sugar on it, total. Gone were the real popsicles made from thick, artery-clogging syrup. Gone were the tubes of nuclear-colored liquid that you froze yourself and commited suicide with later. Gone, in a real if microcosmic and slightly melodramatic sense, were the days when iron playground equipment bothered nobody and the only rule was be home before the streetlights came on.
I was sick, so I don't really remember, but I think I may have fallen to my knees and wept, right there in Wal-mart. Then again, it may have been just a really good coughing fit.
But there at the end of the aisle shone my salvation. I crawled, coughing and sneezing, toward the red, white, and blue glow, and there they hovered, like an explosive and good ol' American middle finger to the tofu-chewing healthier-than-thou masses. Bomb Pops. Cherry, lime, and raspberry flavored red-white-'n-blue missiles of GLUCOSE ROCKETING STRAIGHT FOR YOUR BRAIN. I'm pretty sure that in a perfect world, these things would be red, green, and off-red, but come on, if they looked like that, the terrorists win. These things are awesome. They're not made out of dry crumbly orange-peel flavored ice. These things are chewy, made so in a way that only ice scientists know how to do. There are no stupid jokes on the stick to distract you from the fact that you're eating a rust-flavored icicle... the makers of Bomb Pops rightly know that after you've eaten one, you're so jacked up on sugar that you can't read.
And so, for the next week I lay in bed, a red ring around my slack mouth, thinking about how after all the adversity, the Rolling Stones were right all along.
Come to think of it, I might have gotten better earlier if not for those things. But COME ON! BOMB POPS!

Phil Laid Low

I start off a lot of posts by saying that I am not dead. But this time, I think I may have actually temporarily died.
On the last day of the second to last trip I went on, I drank some tomato juice on the plane, thinking I could do that without a reprisal from nature. Nature responded; about two in the AM, I woke up in a state I shall not describe... I had been botulized. Spent the next two days in a tomato-hued delirium. On the third day, I felt good enough to attempt to go back to work. Again, nature responded. What you have to know here is that, just a few months ago, I had my first flu shot ever. You'll remember me saying earlier in the blog that I haven't been sick once since I've been attending flight, even though the planes are teeming hives of disease. I am not sure what made me think I needed a flu shot, because I wasn't broken, and you all know what not to do when it's not broken. So, whether it was that I had legitimately become invulnerable to sickness and then went and screwed it up with a flu shot, or that I had given the raspberry to Fate by being healthy for almost two years and she responded, I got sick.
Oh I got sick. For three damn weeks I got sick. When they talk about the superflu, they're not talking about a virus in tights and a cape, they're talking about this mother. I went through every possible phase of sickness except for the throwing up phase, and I think that's because I'd already been tomatoed earlier in the month. First few days were the dizzy-fever-sweat nap days. After that it was the muscle ache-sore throat section of the film (it was during this section that I made a psyche-shattering discovery that needs its own entry [which follows this one]). Then it was the coughing-losing the voice part. I did it all. And for how long? I don't remember the flu lasting this long when I got it when I was a kid. It was kinda fun back then. Stay home from school, parents are suddenly nice, and all the Sprite you can drink, in trade for a few days of feeling like funk.
This thing that just hit me was totally different. I'm just now rid of it. What was cool was seeing all my friends rally to help me back onto my feet. I usually have this subconscious feeling that I'm alone in Utah because I don't ever have time here to go out and make friends. But Katy was there with groceries, May Rose was there with daily 'are you still alive' phone calls... I actually had people from several different states calling for progress reports. And no, you guys out there in internet land didn't know I was dying, but you did notice I was gone, and it was nice to see messages like "We're going to kill you if you don't update soon, you spank!" That's the real-world equivalent of snapping your fingers. Thanks for keeping me alive.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Out Of My Eye, You

This job seems to be all about keeping bad things out of your eyes. Even a thing as innocuous as closing the aircraft door is an ocular invasion waiting to happen. When the door's open, it's stairs, and so while you're busy saying hello several hundred times, it's collecting the dirt and bits of junk that fall off of people's shoes to use on you later. When, you ask? Why, when you close the door, of course. By now I've learned to always keep my eyes shut when I haul the door closed, because if you're looking up when the door clangs shut over your head, it gleefully flings its detritus right in your eyes. And at that point, I'm sorry to say, your only option is to stagger around the aisle with your hands over your eyes, screaming, "I'M BLIND I'M BLIND!" That scares passengers. The pilots think it's a riot, though.
Speaking of that... this one girl I flew with had flown with another airline that used old and banged-up planes, and once when she opened the lav door, the door carved several spiral bits of metal out of the door track, and they fell into both her eyes. What do you do, I asked her, when you have lav shrapnel sticking out of your eyes? She went to the hospital is what she did, where they put yellow dye in her eyes so they could see the metal bits and pluck them out with tweezers ohhhh. And that crappy airline made her work the next day, yellow eyes and all. What a crappy airline.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

A Thing Red Beans Are Not Good In

This last time in Vancouver, I started out with a plan. We stay in two hotels there. One is next to Yaohan, the big Chinese market, and the other is in the middle of larger and sprawling Chinatown. This time, I was gonna connect the two in my head on a walking tour. Armed with a vague sense of direction and some shoes, I headed out. I missed Yaohan by about six miles on the way forward, but I did catch sight of one of those big glass apartment buildings I remembered from Chinatown in the distance, and so set a course for them. By the time I was close to the building, I started recognizing stuff. And one of the places was the Asian grocery store I'd gotten that White Rabbit candy from last time. I seem to remember making a threat right here on this very blog to try the red bean flavor next time I was in Vancouver, and so I grabbed some along with my Pocky. For those of you who thought I was kidding about red bean flavored candy, I wasn't:

They're not good. I'd rather eat these than say, an eyeball, but damn are they not good. The red bean in question here is not some mystical and foreign bean that grows in China and tastes good sweet. It's our good old Cajun red bean, the same one you put in red beans and rice. This stuff is the equivalent of broccoli-flavored ice cream.

But speaking of ice cream... I did find something called mochi. I'd eaten some of this stuff before, but the Asian store in SLC doesn't carry it, so I jumped on it. Mochi is an ice-cream filled rice cake, and as weird as that sounds, it's ever weirder than that. Imagine biting into a ball of raw dough and striking ice cream. Mochi. There's vanilla, strawberry, green tea, and mango flavors, and despite my description, they're great. You can probably get them as dessert at a sushi place; those of you who are raw fish-compatible should definitely look 'em up.
There's non-ice cream mochi, the ice cream having been replaced with flavored bean curd. Not sure about those.
Also hit that Asian video store again, and this time bought an Japanese DVD. Figured they'd have subtitles, and I was right... they're just in Chinese. Doesn't matter though... it's an hour of giant robots killing other giant robots. That's the international language.
Found Yaohan on the way back. Was right where I left it.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The World Is My Kid's Playpen

There are often babies on board, just like those suction cup signs in the 80s warned. Most of the time, the attached parents are good people and make sure their kid doesn't cause a ruckus. But a few of these gene donors just sit there in a disheveled heap, making sure we know they think they deserve a martini just because they have a child, and let the rest of the world worry about entertaining/restraining/cleaning up after their progeny. If the kid's old enough to walk, it's in the aisle, running up and down, screaming and slapping strangers (I'm not sure what makes parents buy a three-hundred dollar BMW-compatible carseat for their car which goes around 80mph, and then let their rugrat dance around unrestrained on a vehicle that travels upwards of 500mph). If it's old enough to eat, it's crumbling up crackers and sowing them into the carpet, apparently trying to grow a cheese cracker orchard. And if it's not old enough to do anything, it's sitting on someone's oh-so-weary lap, tearing up the safety card. This, above all, grieves me. Babies break stuff. You know this. Why, then, would you ensure that your monster is breaking something that does not belong to you? The thing's already broken your will to live... why not give it your hand to chew on for an hour or so?
I know, I know, I don't have a kid. I don't understand the hell on Earth it is to be a parent. But I was a kid once, and I do know that my mother would have sooner stuck a thumb in my eye than let me throw crackers all over an airplane seat, and certainly wouldn't have walked away smiling without cleaning it up if I had.
Wow... I think this job really is making me bitter. Wait a second... nope, nope. Not bitter. Sour, but not bitter.

Monday, March 10, 2008

A New Class Of Stupid

Lately I've been running into these clowns that evidently have been taught that the more times you make someone ask you something, the more important you are. I'll ask what they want to drink and get nothing. I assume they didn't hear me (though they're just reading and are not iPodded) and repeat, and then they'll calmly look up at me in a way that tells me 'yes I heard you the first time, I just didn't answer.' I've thought of several explanations. One is that they're a king in a foreign land, and it breaks all manner of tribal tradition to answer the door on the first knock. Another is that my dashing good looks have created a tiny black hole right there between me and the foreign clown king, and it just takes several seconds for my first question to travel backwards and then forwards in time and reach their ears. But the one I'm going with is that these poor people have been born with a shortage of brain cells, and the computing power necessary to decode a question like 'whaddya want to drink?' monopolizes them, ensuring that nothing else can happen during the decoding process. So while it may look outwardly like they're smarmy elitist self-proclaimed royalty, they're actually humbly and furiously diagramming what I said inside their skull.
It's good I came up with that. I'd hate to think they were being rude.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

An Earth What?

I lived through another earthquake.
A few weeks ago, there was a 6.0 on the Nevada-Utah border, and apparently it knocked a couple of buildings down there. Shook things as far east as Salt Lake. I slept through it. Only found out about it because, on the way to work that morning, the radio was aflame with folk screaming about how things were "just a-shakin'." They never interview doctoral candidates after natural disasters, do they?

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Sometimes Rampers Do It Wrong

Today I saw them pull a passenger ramp up to the plane for 30 passengers that could walk, and then take it away for one lady in a wheelchair so she had to walk up the steep stairs. I have no explanation.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

The Royal We

Just recently I've been working the one-FA plane. And a funny thing that happens when you start working by yourself after you've gotten used to working with someone else all the time is that, during your announcements, you begin to refer to yourself as 'we.' I hadn't even noticed I was doing it until someone asked me where the other FA was. I explained that I was king of the aircraft, and would continue to refer to myself as 'we' until I was dethroned at the next revolution. Unsurprisingly, they didn't get it.
Education doesn't make you smart. It just makes you not funny.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Bad Tug Drivers

Planes move really fast and dexterously when they're in the air. They're not so hot on the ground. In fact, the wheels don't really do anything; when a plane moves on the ramp, it's the engines that blow it along. And since the engines don't go backwards, planes are kind of up a creek when they park right in front of something. For this quandary, there is such a thing as a tug. For those of you who have never seen a tug, it's a lot like a seventeen-foot tacklebox with wheels and a yoke on the front of it. They jam the yoke against the front landing gear, and when it's time to go, they just push the plane back far enough so that it can go somewhere under its own steam. In this way, a tug is the most inaptly named contraption I can think of.
They look fun to drive. I imagine you'd have to be a pretty good driver to smoothly push a several-million ton plane backwards without wrecking it. But, of course, airports often feature the other kind of driver, which is what we're going to talk about here. A mediocre tug driver can make make you glad you fastened your seat belt; a bad one can slap your face against the seat in front of you. You have to make it through the initial smash as the driver slams the yoke tight against the wheel, and then several more minor seismic events as he experiments to find out which is the brake and which is the gas. You've heard that joke about Ginger Rogers? About how she had to do everything Fred Astaire did backwards and in heels? Well, I have to do everything a passenger does backwards and standing up. Normally that's no problem, but when you get one of these jackheels driving, it baps the back of your head against the galley wall every time they zoom forward. And it always always ALWAYS happens when you're making an announcement:

ME: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome on board--
ME: ... uh, with service to, uh...

ME: ... member, eveybuddy, put on--

ME: ... seet balt...

And there's nothing you can do. You just have to stand there steadily losing IQ points until the tug is finished or you pass out because your brain is showing. So far, I've survived. But if I ever develop a bald spot, I'm blaming it on those drivers.