Friday, February 22, 2008

I Hate Flying

Remember when flying on a airplane was fun? …yeah, okay, neither do I. I just got back from a business trip to Salt Lake City, a trip that re-affirmed my distaste for flying.

Anytime I fly somewhere I have to psych myself up and keep saying to myself "It's only 3 hours (depending on the length of the flight), I can handle it". I have absolutely no fear of flying, in fact I've always thought that plummeting out of the sky at 600 miles per hour and cratering into the ground like meteor wouldn't be all that bad of a way to go. But I do hate flying. For one thing, being over 6 foot tall there is no way for me to be comfortable. My legs feel cramped, my back hurts, and my head is too high above the back of the seat to rest it comfortably there. Then there is the question of the armrest - who gets it? On my flight from Seattle to Salt Lake City we were flying on a 757 - basically a very long tube with 3 seats on each side of the aisle. I was in seat 37A (next to the window), in 37B and 37 C were two guys roughly the size of me (6 foot 1, around 215 pounds - i.e. "XL"). We could not have been more uncomfortable. I felt obligated to give the guy in the middle the armrest so this required me to sit somewhat sideways with my left shoulder resting on the side of the airplane wall. The result of flying in this position was an extremely sore back by the time we got to Salt Lake City.

Why is it that everyone feels the need to stand up as soon as the plane reaches the gate? If you are in the 37th row you won't be going anywhere for at least 10-15 minutes as everyone in front of you gathers their stuff and slowly makes there way out of the plane. I was certainly relieved to have the guy next to me stand up, but because I was in the window seat I had to remain seated - with a close up view of the guys butt in my face. Nice.

As bad as the flight to Salt Lake City was, it was nothing compared to the flight back home. Our flight was scheduled to depart at 8:25 am - which meant we had to wake up at 5:00 am (4:00 am Seattle time) in order to check out of our hotel and get to the airport in time to go through all the security lines. At exactly 8:10 am we got the call to start boarding our plane. Unlike the giant tube we flew on to SLC, we were now flying home on a tiny "commuter" type jet that probably held 50 people max.

The seating on the plane was "2 and 2", meaning there are 2 seats on each side of the aisle. When I checked in for the trip home I decided to quickly see if there were any seats open that appeared to be better than the one I currently had. I was supposed to be in 10B - an aisle seat. But I saw that seat 5A was open (being close to the front of the plane is always good - you get off the plane quicker) so I decided to change my seat….HUGE mistake.

When I got on the plane I quickly found seat 5A and I sat down and watched the other passengers file into the plane. The seat next to me remained empty…until, to my horror, I saw "it" coming towards me. As I silently chanted to myself "PLEASE GOD NO!!!" a very large woman in way too tight jeans, a ratty looking "hoody" sweatshirt with a pair of cheapo looking red framed sunglasses propped on top of her head (she was also wearing regular glasses) stopped next to seat 5B and said "Looks like this is my seat!". As she did so, she gave me a wide smile revealing dental work the likes of which I had not seen since my 9 year old son Jake carved his Halloween pumpkin. Just as I was about to say "Oh goody" she dropped her heavy carryon bag onto the magazines and my iPod that I had put in the seat next to me (in anticipation of not having anyone sit there). With annoyance in my voice I said "Can I get my stuff first!" and I dug the items out from under her bag. Once she got her bag put away she turned around and with a large amount her "muffin top" flab exposed above her jeans she squeezed into the seat. Recoiling in horror I tried to meld myself into the side of the plane in my best effort to avoid the blubber that was oozing towards me. Just as it appeared that she was going to try and strike up a conversation with me I grabbed one of my magazines and pretended to be engrossed in a story about India's Bollywood movies. Seeing that I was not interested in talking she quickly turned to the people seated around us and within a 5 minute span we were all informed that: 1) She had missed her flight last night and had to spend the night in the airport (hence the funky smell she was emanating), 2) She's flying from Maine to Alaska to move in with her boyfriend who has already been living there for 3 years and 3) She just wrapped up her divorce to her husband the day before…evidently her ex never even bothered to show up in court, can't say I blame him (Like me, you are probably confused by the math on all of this…but there was no way I was going to ask her any questions.).

So as I sat there in my private hell I kept telling myself "it's a short flight, it's a short flight, it's a short…" when the pilot came on the PA and said "Folks…(it's never good when they start off saying "Folks") we just got word from the flight controllers in Seattle that they are not allowing flights in due to fog there, so we are in a hold until we get clearance from them. We are going to go ahead and taxi out to the de-icing station and then hopefully they'll tell us we can go-ahead and take-off once we are done there". Now since I have lived in Seattle almost my entire life I know the fog there does not burn off quickly this time of year so I was not very optimistic about a quick departure. Turns out I was right. Soon after the de-icing process was complete the pilot came back on the PA and said "Folks (not good)…we are in a half hour hold so we are going to taxi out to a spot near the runway and hold there until we get clearance to go…"

Two and a half hours later…the pilot comes back on the PA (for like the 6th time) and says "Folks (sh*t!)…we've decided that we've waited out here long enough and we are going to take you back to the terminal so you can get out and stretch your legs. Hopefully we'll be on our way again soon…" Groans are heard throughout the cabin and the Wal-Mart Calendar Girl sitting next to me almost starts to cry as she says "I'll never get to Alaska!". Finally we reach the gate and everyone begins to de-plane and just when the first people off the plane reach the end of the sky bridge a airline representative stops us and says "We've got clearance to take off!". So we turned around and back into the plane we trudged.

And more than three hours after our scheduled departure had come and gone - we were finally in the air. I spent the next hour and a half with my iPod earphones cranking out loud music into my ears and trying to astro-project myself to a "happy-place". Finally we touched down in Seattle and when we did the Alaska bound beluga next to me said aloud to no-one in particular "I'm so tired of airports and airplanes…."

Amen to that sister, Amen to that....

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Ready, Set - Caucus!

I do not consider myself a Democrat, nor am I a Republican...I suppose that makes me an Independent. But since Independents don't have their own horse in this Presidential race I had to choose if I actually wanted to have a say who will be our next President. Since George Junior has pretty much soured the majority of Americans, and for that matter the world, on Republicans, I chose Democrat this time around. But this post is not meant to serve as a soap box for who I think should be president. The way I see it, we are all gonna be better off no matter who takes over after GWB.

So anyways, about the caucus... I have never been to one before and like a lot of people I just really, really wanted to do it this time around. First off - it was chaos. When I walked into the room I was met by a very nice older gentleman who told me to go to the table on my right and look for the precinct number I am in (according to the geographical area I live in). Problem was, the maps made no sense at all! Instead of just taking a large map of our local area and outlining the various precincts they decided instead to chop up the map into several unrecognizable sections and then have each person try to figure out where their house might be on these sections. It took me a solid 15 minutes of looking at all these little map-chunks until I finally figured out I was in "Precinct 641".

So with this new found knowledge I set about finding the table where my fellow "641's" sat. I walked past precinct "623's" table and it's 90+ members and table "617" and it's boisterous group of 50 or so...and then I saw table "641" and sitting there at my precinct's table were exactly two people: A 65 year-old grandmother and a 18 year-old, cute as a button, high school girl.

I walked up to the table and with my arms stretched out wide I shouted "My people!" which startled both of them and they almost in perceptively scooted their chairs away from me about an 1/8 of an inch. Not wanting to waste any time I immediately pointed at the teenager and said "Obama!". To which she nodded and meekly agreed that that's who she's voting for. I said "Me too!" I then turned to grandma and said "Okay, that's two Obamas, what say you?" Grandma shuffled in here chair a bit and then said "Well, I want to vote for Edwards..." I then said "You realize he is not actually running anymore right? and she shot me a look that just screamed "Don't use that tone with me young man" but she said "I know, but I just really like him and I'm not sure I can vote for Clinton or Obama". So I said enthusiastically "Alright, so this is why we are caucusing! This is where we (pointing at the prom queen) get to persuade you to vote for our guy!

I went first: "Okay, to me it's all about character, Obama just seems like the one candidate that is not full of...(looking at grandma)...of, you know, he answers questions directly (whew!). I mean, (struggling now, I'd never make it as a professional debater) he doesn't answer difficult questions with lines like "Well let me answer that question this way" I hate that!"

Okay, so there are important issues I could have brought up (Iraq, to name just one) that I agree with Obama on, but that was the best I could do at the time - so I turned to the cheerleader and said "Okay, you want to make a argument for Obama?" and she says "Sure" - and she launches into this well thought out and reasoned lecture that made me feel like a 4th place finisher in a retard race. When she finished, grandma smiled at her and said "Okay - Obama's got my vote".

We then had to elect a chairman, a secretary and a Tally counter. With my superior mental capacity I elected my self "Tally Counter" (there were exactly 3 votes, all for work was done) I then took it upon myself to nominate the teenage valedictorian as Chairman and grandma as secretary. We filled out the appropriate paper work, announced to the crowd that our single delegate (the number of delegates is based on precinct size - we were by far and away the smallest) was awarded to Obama.

After shaking my fellow precinct members hands and bidding them farewell I walked out of the caucus hall and to my car...feeling distinctly American. It was pretty cool.

Elementry School Musical

Okay, I am about to sound like the most jaded person in the world but here goes...alright I'm just gonna come right out and say it: "Elementry school music programs are just awful!".

The other night my wife and I attended my 9 year old son Jake's music program at his school. It was titled "Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader (the musical)". Just before showtime, we took our seats (in uncomfortable folding metal chairs) amoungst the other parents in the school's gymnasium, which like all school gyms has the funky smell of sweaty little kids. As the name would imply, the "show" was modeled after the popular TV show. The school's principal played the role of the contestant. Each time she correctly answered a question she was "awarded" with a song - sung by the 3rd thru 5th grade students sitting at the front of the stage. Cute idea, but (here I go) I'm sorry, no matter what they do, it's still gonna be a bunch of bored looking kids singing ridiculous songs in a monotone voice. All of the songs had a Washington State theme - hence songs like "Apple Maggot Quarantine" (I'm not making that up), "Forty-four tribes" (all 44 Washington native american tribe names were "sung" in a list that seemed to go on forever) and just plain wierd songs like "Whenever I think of the Pioneers" (I am willing to bet a years salary that my son Jake has never actually sat around daydreaming about the "Pioneers" ...unless there is some kinda new video game where the Pioneers must fend off explosive energy plasma Megatrons from the planet Zurg). I kept finding myself looking at the program they gave us, trying to gauge how much longer we had to indure this ("Okay, they just sung "Washington, My home" - when they finish "The Salmon Song" we should be just about home free..")

Suddenly, and gratefully, the show ended and there was a smattering of applause from the audience (kinda like when Pro golfer sinks a bogey putt). Parents quickly packed up their camcorders and grabbed their children by the arm and headed for the exit. We wandered through the crowd and found Jake and I told him "Hey great job buddy". He said a bored "Thanks" and then said "I don't get the Apple Maggot Quarantine song...". I just shook my head and said "Neither do I buddy, neither do I..."

Friday, February 1, 2008


A few weeks ago I noticed a very light freckle that's about the size of a dime had appeared on my cheek just below my eye. I figured it was probably just a result of sun damage and getting older (getting older sucks), but because I am paranoid and I have great insurance I never hesitate to go get these things checked out by my doctor. Good news - I was right - sun damage/getting older. But my doctor said although it does not appear to be cancerous, it could someday, maybe, possibly turn cancerous. So with that he said "We could freeze it off if you want...". To that I said "Sure, why not...and hey, I've got a little one on my nose too and a few more on my chest - let's just do those too while we are at it!" So he goes and get's his little can of liquid nitorgen and sets about freezing (burning is more like it) all these little defective areas off my skin. The one on my cheek hurt like hell because A) it was a pretty good size and took a while for him to do and 2) It was on my frigg'n cheek!

So after he finishes the last one he says " by the way, those are probably gonna blister pretty good (especially the one on my cheek) and they might turn your skin white...". Now he tells me!! So now I've got this nasty look'n blister thing on my face (which looks 50 times worse than the light freckle thing I had) and then even after the blister goes away it might just be a nice bright white spot on my face! So much for my dream of becoming a male supermodel!!

Oh well, better to be safe than sorry I suppose... Oh and note to self: Make sure to turn the flash off on the camera when you take a close-up picture of your frigg'n eye!