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Posts Tagged ‘travel’

So, I just got back from California.  While on the plane to California, I was the bread of a medium guy/big guy sandwich.  In other words, I was on the window and another guy (bigger than me) was on the aisle, and a guy in between.  But, on my return flight, the middle seat was held by a woman that could not have weighed more than a buck 0 five sopping wet.  Needless to say, the return flight was much more comfortable for me and the other members of my aisle.  It got me thinking, what if we were required to give our weight when buying our airline ticket?  Think about it.  Let’s say that only middle seats were available.  If you knew the size of the people in the aisle and the window, wouldn’t that inform your decisions of which middle seats were preferable?  If you are one of my smart readers, I am sure you see the flaw in my plan already.  What about liars?  If you are a woman, and you weigh 115 pounds, it would be to your advantage to say that you weigh 300.  It would decrease the chance of anyone sitting next to you.

It’s a basic Game Theory problem or Prisoner’s Dilemma, depending on your academic training.  For example, in Hawks and Doves Game Theory, a hawk will fight and be aggressive to obtain a resource, but a dove will never fight and be submissive.  So, if a dove meets a dove, they share the resource equally, but if a hawk meets a hawk, they fight and incur a cost with diminished access to the resource.  Of course, if you are a hawk and you meet a dove, you get everything.  So, a population of hawks and doves should reach a balance.  Not too many hawks and not too many doves.  In my Airline Game Theory, we would have True Weight (Low Medium High) versus Liar Weight (Low Medium High).  For example, if a True 350 pound person sits next to a True 100 pound person, the seats are shared in favor of the 350 pounder, however, the 100 pounder receives low costs, due to their small size.  Two people that are True 150 pound people, would share their seats equally.  However, if a Liar High 150 pound person (someone who really weighs 350 pounds) sits next to a Liar High 150 pound person, they will incur very high costs, and no one will win.

So, what is the answer?  Let the airline make seating assignments based on everyone’s weight, using an algorithm that maximizes comfort for all concern.  This would mean you would not know your seating assignment until the very end, but wouldn’t it be worth it?  I love this idea.  I am a big guy.  If you are a big guy, trust me, you do not want to sit next to me.  Airline people, if you are reading my blog, make it happen.  This is a great idea.

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What is up with airline travelers?  Is it really necessary to keep your cell phone on when the plane is taking off?  They’re like children, and the teacher has to go around slapping people on the wrist to get them to turn their iPhones off.  And guess what?  If you refuse to listen or at least be quiet during the safety announcements, I have every right to leave your butt behind when the crap hits the fan.  Finally, no matter how much you complain, you can’t will the plane to be on time.  So sit down, shut up, and put your damn seat belt on when the sign is illuminated, because guess what?  That sign is definitely for you.  I’m just sayin’ …

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So, I feel like my ears are being raped by CNN right now.  OK, that is a weird way to start a blog, but it is true.  I am in transit to a conference in Portland, Oregon and blasting through every speaker of O’Hare and also in the Minneapolis airport is the trial of the mother that allegedly killed her daughter.  I think her name is Casey.  Apparently it is a “Developing” story, but so far it has been a “Will someone please stick knives into both of my ears” story.  I am seriously in agony right now.

Which brings me to today’s blog topic:  When did travelling begin to seriously ‘Suck Ass’?  I actually thought seriously about the appropriate description of the state of travelling today, and after serious mental deliberation, and considering the numerous options, I finally settled on ‘Suck Ass’ as the best label for United States travel today.  A major part of the negative experience are the travellers themselves.  I understand that in a ‘Post 9-11’ world, as everyone calls it, air travel is especially an arduous experience with long lines, heightened security and scanners that reveal your private parts.  On a side note:  I am proud to say that the woman who did my scan at O’Hare gave me an especially bigger than usual smile upon seeing I was not concealing anything dangerous and allowed me to move forward to the air terminals.  I thought the pat down in the private room was a little over the top, but everyone is asked to turn their head and cough.  Right?

I digress.  the problem with travel these days are the travellers.  I am telling you, the workers at O’Hare went out of their way to be super nice.  I got ‘good mornings’, ‘how are you today sir’, ‘let me help you with that’, ‘you need a bin?’, ‘have a great day’, from just about everyone.  Now, if you read my blog, you know that people are nice to me where ever I go, it must be my face or something, but this was beyond just my ‘entice people to talk to me in spite of my desire to NOT talk to them’ personality.  These airport employees were genuinely trying to make the experience as pleasant as possible.  So why are people so cantankerous?  Here is a list of behaviors that I simply think are uncalled for:

1.  Employee – “That will be 25 bucks to check your bag.”
Traveller – “What?!?  That’s highway robbery.  This is an outrage!”

Guess what?  You’re right, but you know what, the person at the counter is not going to disobey their company’s rules because you think the baggage charge is unfair.  Unless you have been living under a rock, you knew that you were going to be charged, so don’t act so surprised.  So, shut up, pay your 25 bucks, and get out of line so I can get my boarding pass.  Next time fly Southwest and then you can complain about not having a seat assignment.

2.  Employee – “Sorry ma’am, but your carry-on is too big, we are going to have to check it for free.
Traveller – “What?!?  It fit on the other plane!  You guys suck.  Huff and puff.  Give up bag begrudgingly.

Part of the reason these things bug me is because these travellers never make their complaints private or quietly.  They want everyone in ear shot to know that they have been wronged by the system.  What makes it even worse when they look around for perfect strangers to join their cause.  They look at you, or even say to you, “This sucks right?”  Don’t involve me in your tirade.  You want to start a revolution?  Pick a better topic and just thank your lucky stars that you have the means to take an airplane in the first place.  You can literally go across the country in FOUR FREAKIN’ HOURS!  How awesome is that?  Chill out.

3.  Travellers rushing to the door and waiting in long lines and ‘protecting’ their spot.

If you are a frequent traveller of the skies, I have a secret to tell you:  Whether you are first in line or last in line, your seat is the same and the plane will not leave without you.  You are rushing to sit down and wait for everyone else.  This is also true on the other side.  No matter how quickly you get off the plane, your luggage will arrive the same time as mine.  You are rushing to wait at the baggage carousel.  Chill out.

4.  Flight Attendant – ‘Please turn your cell phone off.”
Traveler either does not turn off their cell phone right away or does so with an attitude.  Your phone call or text is not that important.

5.  My favorite traveler annoying behavior only occurs during the winter.  People pissed off because they have to wait for the wings of the plane to be de-iced.  Seriously?  A similar version of this happened to me in Paris, France.  A bomb threat was called in and they had to unload every plan at Charles De Gaulle.  Most people were patient, but there were a number of travellers that were openly complaining about the delays.  Do you want to take a guess to what nationality these people were?  You guessed it, Americans.

Well, travelling does suck ass, but I bet it would be a lot better if people were a little less angry about it and took a moment to realize how convenient we have it here.  As long as turbulence is low, landings are safe, flight attendants are cute, and I get my ginger ale, I’ll be happy.  I do miss free food and a higher percentage of flights with in-flight movies, but what are you going to do.  Besides, if you really hate flying, there is always the bus.  You think the people on plains are bad, wait to you see the freak show on Greyhound.  In the mean time, chill out.

In order to make my flying experience tolerable, I have a few rituals/beliefs.  You see I am not afraid of flying, but I am a nervous flyer.  Here is a list of my flying rituals/beliefs (Not a single one of these is exaggerated):

  1. I believe if a cell phone is left on it will cause the plane to crash
  2. I’d rather pee on myself than get up while the fasten your seatbelts sign is illuminated
  3. If someone else gets up while the fasten your seatbelts sign is on the plane will crash
  4. I think take off and landing are the most likely times the plane will crash
  5. I am most nervous during takeoffs, planes rarely crash when landing.  Not true, but I believe it which is all that matters.
  6. Once I hear that first ‘ding’ I believe everything will be OK
  7. Once the plane is at cruising altitude, it should never go down for any reason.  It can go up to a higher altitude, but not down until landing.  Going down to land is OK.
  8. If I don’t drink ginger ale, the plane will crash.
  9. If there is a baby on board the plane, the plane is less likely to crash, not impossible, just highly unlikely
  10. I have the same rituals and prayer on the tarmac to takeoff and I never miss a part of the ritual or prayer.  If I forget something, the plane will crash

I especially hate turbulence.  If I am not sitting next to my wife or my kids, I need two things to happen for me to remain calm during turbulence, and they both involve the flight attendants.
1.  Flight attendants need to be unphased by the plane shaking.  If they show any fear on their face whatsoever, I will FREAK out.  The only exception to this are clouds.  I understand why a plane experiences turbulence in clouds, and therefore I am OK with cloud turbulence.  My brain soothes me with knowledge.
2.  Secondly, and linked to the first, is that the attendants must be good looking.  They have to be a minimum of a 6 on the flight attendant beauty scale.  This is also true for men.  When it comes to flight attendants, I am bisexual.  If I am going to obtain solace in your calm face, it must be a face that I do not mind looking at.  Being a good looking flight attendant should be a requirement for the job.

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I am not anti fat people.  I am overweight myself, but is there anything more demoralizing than needing a seat belt extender when you fly.  I guess it could be worse, you could need to buy two seats.  I’m just sayin …

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So, I am at home visiting the family for Thanksgiving.  My wife, and three kids braved the crazy airport scene to arrive in California where most of my family resides.  If you can avoid LAX, I highly recommend it.  We landed at 8:45 pm and did not get out of the airport until 10:15.  Here is the thing, we got all of our bags at 9:20.  It took us almost an hour just to get out of the airport, CRAZY!  The bizarre thing is that I was born and raised in LA, but now this place feels like a foreign country to me.

If you are from the Midwest, which now I must say I am a Midwesterner (You have no idea how sad it is to write that.  I am even looking at it now and thinking if I should erase it, but sadly, I can’t, the Midwest is my home now. Sad clown), you should consider a trip to LA for the experience.  I promise you, the city will not let you down.  It starts with the flight into the airport, where you will see more lights on the ground then possibly anywhere else on the planet (and I have been to a lot of the planet).  When you arrive, you will see every walk of life; black, white, hispanic, asian, muslim, greek, jews, gentiles, you name it, they will be there.  Also, foreign languages will be spoken all around you.  When I go to the grocery store near my mom’s house, the dominant language by far is Spanish.  You might find that odd, I find it very cool.  The bottom line is, despite having way too many people, too many cars, traffic at 3am, and times of smog that could kill a canary, I love LA.  However, I now must say, great place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live here.

Alright, now that was a huge digression.  I want to talk about family, my family, all of my family.  On Thanksgiving we ate at my Dad’s house. 

This picture is nothing like dinner at our house. First of all there are no ribs in the picture. Secondly, there is no can-shaped cranberry sauce (A must have. Don't eat, but must have). And who eats fresh green beans? Where is the green bean crap?

At the house were my father, stepmother, stepsisters and their families, my stepbrother and his family, my sister and her kids, my cousins, my family, some random people I didn’t know and my mom.  There was like 35 of us.  The dinner was planned and hosted by my stepmom and it was a great time.  There were babies everywhere and multiple generations.  We shared stories, laughed, and ate; we ate a lot.  Looking around the gathering I couldn’t help but think to myself, this is who I am, this is me.  All of this is what has made me who I am and if you are like me, I would encourage you to embrace that fact.  Your family and my family has made us who we are today.

My sister who tells a story of my father’s arrogance.  She says, “Am I right? He is arrogant!”  My father notices that no one is disagreeing with her.  Everyone in the room doesn’t say a word as everyone looks at each other and bust out laughing because we all know it’s true.  Even my mom chimes in on how my father has the ability to smooth talk his way through any situation, fully expecting to get his way. – this is me.

We share how my mother used to make all of us stand in line at the grocery store as she headed back into the store to find more items.  If she came back and we did not hold our position, or if the checker made us move, she would get mad at us for not standing our ground.  Always stand your ground. – this is me.

My father talked of not knowing his father and being raised by his mother.  It is very clear that despite not being raised by his father that he did not take that path.  He broke his cycle, and became a father to his kids, all of his kids.  You see, my sister’s dad is not my dad, nor my older brother’s, and obviously not my stepbrother’s and stepsisters’, but you wouldn’t know it in that room.  He may not be the father by blood, but he is father by action. – this too is me.

I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving, I hope you spent the time with your family.  Maybe it was stressful, maybe it was joyous, maybe your drunk uncle got out of control again, but remember this:  Your family has made you who you are, some for the good, and some for the bad, but all you, and if you take a moment, you will see the little origins of you in the faces and actions of your family members.

I could go on and on with family stories from this weekend, but what I will remember most is that we may not be the Brady Bunch, the Cleaver’s or even the Cosby’s, but we are truly the Modern Family.  They made me who I am.  And remember this, if your family is the best at pushing your buttons, you shouldn’t be surprised because they are the ones that installed them.  Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

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I went golfing with my father, brother and stepbrother yesterday.  It was awesome.  So awesome we are going to try to do it every year.  The funny thing is we all complained of the cold.  I live in Wisconsin, so it made me laugh because the temperature was about 60.  I now know why I hate Wisconsin winters so much, I clearly have a California weather gene.  I’m just sayin …

I’m Just sayin … (Part II)

Is it just me or when you go home you walk through a time warp and the family dynamics become that of when you were a kid?  I’m a grown-ass man with kids, but when I am home I can’t help but wonder why it’s Thanksgiving and my mom has not made my apple pie yet.  I may throw a tantrum soon.  Wrong? Yes, but true.  I’m just sayin …

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