The Wind Beneath My Wings or How Not to Get Screwed Out of a Decent Seat On Southwest Airlines

illustration-crammed-plane-590-590x428There are a myriad of skills parents have to teach their children. We all know what the big ones are, but it’s the, let’s call them the lesser skills, the ones that don’t even make the Top 10,000 Things Every Kid Should Know Before They’re 18 list that I have spent the summer working on with my daughter.

The two of us have been traveling a lot together and I’ve seen this as an opportunity to share my wealth of knowledge on all things related to Southwest Airlines. Most importantly, I’ve been educating her in the ways of successfully securing the least annoying seat on a Southwest flight.

If you have an expense account where you can pay the $12 “early bird check in” to ensure you’re the first to get on the plane then this is not news you can use. But for folks who like the adrenaline rush, the almost gambling high, the roll of the dice, if you will, of being perched on a computer exactly 24 hours before your scheduled departure time pleading at your screen “Come on baby, give mama at least an A 20 boarding pass” then prepare yourself for a teachable moment or two.

In fact, responsible seat gambling is the first area I instructed my daughter in. You don’t want to be the idiot, the wanna be “whale,” that throws caution and common sense to the wind and favors taking a dangerous spin on the Southwest roulette wheel of boarding by checking in the day of your flight, or worse, at the airport.

It’s like rolling snake eyes because all you’ve “won” is probably the dreaded C 30 and beyond seat designation. If this happens may God have mercy on your soul and most assuredly your spine that’s going to be getting an origami beat down in the middle seat.

Now, just because you have what I would call a “high value” boarding pass doesn’t mean you’re in the clear.  Only the lazy or novice traveler would take their A 18 as a sign to relax.  What an experienced Southwest warrior does is use the pre boarding time to assess the fellow passengers herding around the gate.

There are personality types that I’m always on alert for and try to avoid once I’m on the plane and praying for an aisle seat. Of course, everyone knows to beware of sitting anywhere near a small child. If I can, I like to put at least a five-row boundary between me and the 5 and under set.

Extra caution must be exhibited towards any parent who already has on noise canceling headphones before boarding the plane and does not seem to be carrying so much as a board book or a Cheerio for their little one.

Almost as bad as a bored child who thinks kicking your seat is “awesome” is the Grumpy Business Traveler. This person, usually a guy, seems super ticked off he’s stuck flying with the general public in cargo class adjacent conditions. His audible sighs and reluctance to get off his cell phone combined with acting like he called dibs on sticking his legs in the aisle the whole flight =  jerk alert.

I’ve also been schooling my daughter to always be scanning the passenger horizon for the bubonic plague, TB or Ebola nomad. Also know as the open mouth cougher and/or full frontal sneezer. These fools act as if they’re in training for some sort of disease decathlon where their bodily fluids are being measured for distance traveled, velocity, and force.

Any intrepid traveler knows it’s not just what you see. It’s also what you smell. When everybody else is lounging in the gate area you should be taking a stroll with your olfactory senses at Defcon 5 as you sniff out the discernible odor passenger.

It’s not just B.O. I’m talking about. One time a woman had so much Joy perfume on I thought the flight attendants were going to suggest the pilot do an emergency landing.

The most irritating passenger, by far, is the hoarder. We all know these humans. They’re the ones that think carry on limits are for suckers. Last month, a lady on our flight to L.A. had a suitcase so stuffed it looked like she was partaking in the human trafficking of Santa Claus. She was also lugging a backpack and a cooler.

I pointed her out to my daughter and shared that no good ever comes from a carry on cooler. She gave me some sanctimonious grief that maybe the cooler had an organ donation in it or something.  When we got on the plane this woman had opened her Igloo and was laying out a feast of assorted foods that smelled like death running a marathon in Texas without a liberal application of deodorant.

I gave my daughter a nudge and whispered, “mother knows best.”  She would have responded back, but it’s hard to talk when you’re covering your mouth and holding your nose.

 

*Attencover_1.3-2tion Snarky Friends, I have anew book out and for a limited time only it’s just 99 cents for a heaping helping of Snark! You are now gazing at the second book in the Snarky in the Suburbs series – Snarky in the Suburbs Trouble In Texas. You can buy it for your Kindle or in paperback on Amazon.  It’s also available for the Nook or you can get it for your Kobo reader. Click on a link and give it a test read.  I hope you like it! 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

All I Really Need to Know I Learned From the Airport

2012-11-15-20121115Travel_Infographic_Travel_Then_and_Now_FriendlyPlanetTravel-thumbIf you want to learn important life lessons all you need to do is spend some time at any airport. Consider it a course in Reality 101 where your classroom is the Southwest Terminal and your teachers are the educational stew known as your fellow travelers.

The first thing you’ll discover is that following directions is important and vital to your existence. You’ll also learn that a majority of the population can’t process information very well or as my son’s kindergarten teacher used to say, “everyone isn’t using their listening ears.”

I mean, come on, how many times do you have to be told to have your I.D. and boarding pass out to go through security? These instructions are not only on a continuous audio loop, but are on signage throughout the airport. Yet people are still stumped by this instruction and flustered to find out they have to dig out their I.D. to pass through stage one of the TSA experience.

Once that hurdle is successfully completed you learn the underrated, yet oh so very important, life skill that sometimes you are not an individual. You’re part of a herd. Most of us were raised to think we’re special, unique and one-of-kind. That’s all good until you do the death march known as putting your crap on the TSA conveyor belt. This is when you must do what everyone else is doing.

Don’t think you’re too important or too much of a free spirit to not follow the rules. Yes, you must remove your bulky sweater. No one cares that it was crocheted by Bakhankala tribal women and you consider it a hand loomed work of art that is much too precious to be shoved in an off brand Tupperware bin for a non stop ride through X-ray island.

All this “I’m special” behavior will accomplish is a disruption in the herd. Primarily because you will be slowing down the herd. Do not make the herd angry. Especially any herd member carrying a brief case and clutching a phone like it’s a primary source of oxygen.

Once you’ve finally cleared the security gauntlet and made it to your gate you will take a pass or fail test on patience (especially if you’re flying on American Airlines) because there’s always a chance your flight is delayed. You can either throw a fit or suck it up.

A person’s reaction to a time change in their itinerary is like an audible I.Q. test. If someone goes ballistic you know they’re an idiot with impulse control issues. Because if a flight is delayed screaming at a gate agent is going to be an act of supreme futility. They’re powerless. It’s like yelling at your television set because the your hometown baseball team is down in the bottom of the ninth inning. Your TV can’t control the outcome of the game and the airline employee at the counter can’t make the plane fly faster.

Your only choice is to accept that you’re trapped in the gate area that should more accurately be called a holding pen for humanity.  Don’t worry about being bored. This is when you settle in and observe the peculiar and sometimes disgusting behavioral characteristics of your fellow homo sapiens. Consider it an anthropology course and take notes under the heading – “Never Ever Do This.”

At the top of the syllabus is grooming in public. Here’s a quick pop quiz. Is trimming your fingernails acceptable behavior outside the confines of a bathroom? If you answered no give yourself a high-five because you’re smarter than three people waiting for the Frontier Airlines Flight to Phoenix.

Nail clippers are the ninjas of grooming implements. They should never be seen. Ditto for your nail remains. Why anyone would think it’s sanitary to prune themselves in public and then let their leavings jettison into the atmosphere for all to experience is beyond me.

I get it. Some folks, who pride themselves on multi-tasking, may be thinking, “Well I’ve already got my shoes off to go through security why not just take out my TSA approved nail clippers and trim that hangnail on my big toe.”

To these individuals may I suggest another mode of transportation that doesn’t require you to commingle with other mammals?

Alas, at least these creatures are using tools to trim their hooves. Prepare to avert your eyes as a man in a $1,000 suit uses his mouth to attack a cuticle and then spits it out all while taking part in a conference call on speakerphone. I hope you’re writing this down because it will be on the final exam – no one wants to hear your phone conservation.

I don’t care how fascinating you think you are being subjected to another person’s phone conversation is an auditory assault. For sure, I’ve make cell phone calls at the airport, but I, using the gift of sight, realize that I’m surrounded by other mortals and therefore talk in a moderate tone.

I don’t know why, but have you noticed that the people with their ears hermetically sealed to their phones at airports all seem to project their voices like they’re in a one act play? Forget Broadway if you want to see showmanship go to gate 34 at JFK on a Monday.

Let’s now move on to a life skills multiple-choice test. If a grown woman who is ambulatory, in seemingly good health, and is wearing fleece pajamas pants to the airport that are so long they’re getting stuck in her Crocs sandal she is:

A) Suffering from a crippling addiction to polyester fleece and rubber shoes

B) Just woke up from a slumber party at the airport

C) Given up on life

D) All of the Above.

If you answered D congratulations. Yes, all of the above are correct. Any healthy person over the age of 10 who can not sufficiently groom themselves, and by that I mean getting out of the p.j.’s when leaving their home, is indeed suffering from chronic life self-esteem issues and is in dire need of a fleece intervention which in my book takes precedent over a 12 Step Program for Crocs addicts.

Your airport class is now over. I urge you sign up for the “Boarding Your Plane” lecture. Don’t worry it’s not that hard. Everything you just learned has laid the foundation for success in this course of study.

The class will feature a shock and awe portion where you can behold people who can’t grasp the concept of how to properly line up to board a plane. Plus you can learn exciting aviation math. Here’s an equation for you.  A suitcase that can hold two months of clothes = not fitting in the overhead compartment no matter how hard a person attempts to cram it in there.

Air travel – where the learning never ends.

*Attencover_1.3-2tion Snarky Friends, I have a brand new book out. It’s the second in the Snarky in the Suburbs series – Snarky in the Suburbs Trouble In Texas. You can buy it for your Kindle or in paperback on Amazon.  It’s also available for the Nook or you can get it for your Kobo reader. Click on a link and give it a test read.  I hope you like it! 🙂

 

 

L.A. Story

la-postcardAs you watch the Oscars tonight and are seduced by the gowns, glam, and greatness of the So Cal life I offer you this peek into my recent foray into the heart of L.A. – the mall.

Is there anything more overrated than Los Angeles? Well, there’s yoga pants. Those are so overrated. Not that I don’t enjoy the wonder and forgiving qualities of an elastic waistband, but come on women get to know how to work a zipper again. In fact, now that I’m thinking of it L.A. is a lot like those Lululemon stretch pants – obscenely over priced, all about the label, and geared towards people with deep-seated self-esteem issues.

I can say all this because I’ve recently spent quality time in Los Angeles and years ago I called it home. But nothing brought out the overratedness of L.A. like being there with my 14 year-old-daughter, Isabella, several months ago. When she got off the plane she was like Bambi (you know if Bambi wore flip-flops) all starry-eyed, fresh-faced and agog at exploring the entertainment capital of the world. My excitement level was at zero because I was girding my loins in preparation of driving in the hellacious traffic.

Her first Los Angeles based query was “where are the pretty parts?” This is when I had to break her heart and tell her that L.A. was basically all freeway and the pretty parts were hidden, like the Lost City of Atlantis, to keep people like us away.

But my daughter, God bless her youthful optimism, wasn’t ready to believe me. She suggested we go The Grove, an upscale shopping center where younger celebrities are known to hang out. I tried to explain to her that The Grove has almost exactly the same stores as our mall back home, but like most teenage girls she was very persuasive so off to The Grove we went.

The first Grove gauntlet we had to run through was mastering the mall’s parking garage. You know you’re not in Kansas anymore when you have to pay more to park your car than you do for a sweater at Nordstrom’s. The second was not getting lost in the vast sea of Range Rovers that seemed to dominate the parking garage creating a feeling you were being held hostage in multi-leveled car dealership. The Rover has to be the official car of Los Angeles. Basically, if you want to pretend you’re special you need a Rover that costs six figures and has Ugg fleeced lined seats with Patagonia floor mats (okay, those last two things I just made up, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist somewhere).

This whole driving an expensive car thing in L.A. confuses me and speaks to the larger issue of the intelligence level of people who live here. Why in God’s name would you buy, lease, borrow or, whatever, a car that costs double what my first home did when you know that it’s just going to get banged up, keyed, crushed, and have other assorted acts of abuse perpetrated on it? The most popular pastime in L.A., besides hair removal, has to be taking your car in to be repaired.

What’s that? You’re confused about my hair removal remark. Well, let me explain. Los Angeles is the land of shiny people and they’re not shiny because they’re stars or any other such nonsense. The people of L.A. shine because they’re in a perpetual state of having any hair that isn’t a scalp follicle waxed thus giving their faces, arms, backs, legs, and other much more delicate parts a “I’ve just had hair forcibly ripped off my skin” sheen. How do you know you’ve made it in L.A.? When you have a certified, fair trade, organic waxing specialist that travels with you.

Two things I knew for certain when we hit the epicenter of The Grove. I weighed more than most of the people shopping plus I had the thickest eyebrows and that’s including the men. Nothing says I’m from Los Angeles like a middle-aged man with brows that look like Elsa’s from the movie Frozen.

Another thing that was wrong with me was my handbag. It wasn’t designer. Your bag is your calling card. It sets your pecking order and the bigger the better. L.A. is a land of horizontally challenged women schlepping around, what amounts to suitcases, on their wrists and shoulders. My daughter and I began playing a game I called “Price that Purse.” We took turns guessing how much each woman’s purse cost and then used our phones to Google the exact amount. The high dollar winner was an almost $8,000 Hermes bag that I thought looked exactly like a Dooney & Bourke purse I had recently seen on clearance at a Nordstrom Rack.

“It doesn’t even look that pretty? My daughter wondered out loud. “Why would someone spend that much money on it?”

“I don’t know,” I answered. “Maybe it matches her Range Rover.”

Finally, after we had our fill of people watching, we hit the Cheesecake Factory for lunch. (Yes, life is just one big chain restaurant.) After we placed our order I noticed a group of mothers were sitting with their children and as their kids ate they were drinking some God awful looking moss-green, foamy, potion, in a glass bottle. I asked a mom sitting close to us, who looked like an even skinnier version of Tori Spelling (FYI Los Angeles is comprised of women who look like Tori Spelling. If there is ever a missing persons report filed on Tori half of the female population of L.A. County would meet the physical description) what it was and she enthusiastically shared she was sipping a “handcrafted juice cleanse comprised of kale, spinach, romaine, chard and cucumber.” Apparently, it was “life changing” and she had “pretty much given up solid food.”

I wondered to myself if she had given up on life. Who voluntarily surrenders their right to chew? Is this going to be some sort of new movement – the Non Chewers? Are we soon going to be judged and regulated to “loser” status if we choose to chew? Oh, go ahead and think I’m crazy, but ten years ago would you have predicted that a large percentage of women would stop wearing pants with zippers and buttons?

In fact, those women not chewing made me want to chew harder. I plowed through my Chinese Chicken salad with gusto really chomping on the crispy wontons. My daughter asked me what my problem was I told her I was pro chewing and not afraid to show it. She gave me one of those specials looks 14-year-olds save just for their mothers. The one that says, “Ugh. Why am I stuck here with her?”

Before she had a chance to follow-up that look with an eye roll we had our first celebrity sighting. A  sit-com star was in the Cheesecake Factory. My daughter whispered to me, “He looks so, I don’t know,  not like he does on TV.  It’s kind of disappointing. ”

I knew exactly what she was talking about. Los Angeles is all about artifice. Under a blanket of smog that looks like the area is being smothered with a dirty Snuggie everyone is pretending to be someone they’re not and worse they’re scared of all the not important things in life like hair, handbags and chewing.

“This right here,” I tell her while gesturing with my fork, “is why being average rules.”

“Huh?” she answers not getting my point.

“Average folks can chew with wild abandon.  It means we’re okay with who we are.”

“So. Not. Following.”

“You don’t have to understand me. Just know this. Never lose your sense of self.  You know, being okay with who you are. It’s your common sense compass in a world of directionless goobers that are easily distracted and get lost by taking the bright and shiny exit. Oh, and one more thing, never relinquish your right to solid food.”

 

*Attcover_1.3-2ention Snarky Friends, I have a brand new book out. It’s the second in the Snarky in the Suburbs series – Snarky in the Suburbs Trouble In Texas. You can buy it for your Kindle or in paperback on Amazon.  It’s also available for the Nook or you can get it for your Kobo reader. Click on a link and give it a test read.  I hope you like it! 🙂