The “Barrister of the Air”

I love traveling for all the obvious reasons and for the fact that it never disappoints in giving me something to write about. For example, as soon as I got on a plane bound for D.C. last month it only took 30 minutes for me to have a “there’s a blog” moment.

The plane we had recently boarded had yet to leave the tarmac due to a “maintenance issue.” Now, we knew about this issue before the boarding sequence began. When we got on the plane I assumed, I’m guessing along with the rest of the passengers, that whatever the problem was it had been taken care of.

As so often happens in my life, I was wrong. Once we had all been herded on the plane and buckled in there was an announcement that the aforementioned maintenance issue was still being worked on. Hence, there was going to be a “departure delay.”

This didn’t even elicit a sigh from me because if there’s one thing getting older teaches you it’s prepare for life’s inevitable holding patterns. This meant that I had two books with me that didn’t depend on any sort of battery and thus I could entertain myself for at least six hours. I also had a “sharing” size package of peanut M&M’s so I was good to go in the sustenance department for quite some time.

I settled in and started reading. After about 15 minutes of being on a plane that was still grounded some passengers began to grumble. The number one grip was, “Why didn’t the airline wait to put us on the plane until the problem was fixed?”

That’s a solid compliant. But, I’m going to assume that they wanted everyone in their seats so the plane could take off as soon as it was good to go without the inevitable time suck of the passenger loading dance and shoving my carry-on into the overhead bin waltz.

Twenty minutes into still being tarmac tethered things started getting more heated. This was led by one man who by this time I was calling the “Barrister of the Air.” He was very vocal and prided himself on knowing his passenger rights, primarily that he was “emphatically due a beverage.”

All I could think about was how would this guy act in a real crisis if he was losing his mind over not having drink service after less than 30 minutes on a plane. This made me ponder that perhaps this cry baby should not be seated in the emergency exit row. It’s obvious he couldn’t handle the pressure of opening the exit door or assisting in a plane evacuation. Besides, I’m sure he would refuse to open the door until he got at the very least a Sprite.

I desperately wanted to say something to this know it all because while he was obviously in love with the sound of his own voice no one else was. In fact, I can’t imagine any scenario where I would be appreciative of another human orating a series of opinions while sequestered in a steel tube. At the very least he should tweet his outrage and spare the rest of us his bluster.

But, I knew that me speaking up wouldn’t end well so I shoved peanut M&M’s in my mouth to keep quiet. Finally, we took off. I silently rejoiced. This was premature.

When we were 15 minutes into the flight the “Barrister of the Air” started up again. This time it was about his “inalienable rights to recline his seat.” The fool didn’t know the emergency exit row seat didn’t recline. I decided this time to not put a M&M in the mouth and with great joy shared this information with him.

It made my flight. 

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! 🙂



I Hate People

God, I hate people.  There’s nothing like a couple of weeks on the road to solidify my raging dislike of a hefty portion of the human race. People are beyond annoying and I eagerly lump my family into this category. (The annoying part, of course, not the hate.) Brace yourself, because I’m going to share my vacation travelogue with you. This is a true and brutally accurate account of my recent journey.  If you want the pretty and polite version you’ll need to go to my husband’s Facebook page where he has posted  pictures of happy, smiling children cuddled up to gorgeous vistas that scream, “This is in the running for my 2011 Christmas card.”  What I’m about to tell you wouldn’t make the FB cut.  It’s too honest and we all know that Facebook has no room for factual data about your family.

Step 1: Getting to Our Destination.

Give me your tired, your poor, 

Your huddled masses yearning to wear flannel pajama pants. 

The wretched rejects of Jersey Shore. 

Send these, the tasteless, house-shoe wearing losers to me, 

I lift my Southwest boarding pass to thee!”  (apologies to Emma Lazarus)

Is this inscribed at the entrance to every airport in America? Because there seems to be a call, nay, a battle cry for people to treat air travel like they’re going to a slumber party at a Chuck E Cheese in foreclosure. Yes, yes, I know I’ve expressed my concern before about adults wearing their p.j.’s out in public and many of you scolded me for not giving in to the exquisite comfort of traveling in Homer Simpson themed pajamas.  I know I embrace the fashion statement of Target track pants (aka day pajama’s) but I would not venture beyond the city limits in my 100% polyester with dry weave technology athletic wear.  Furthermore I would not wear house-shoes, slippers or whatever you want to call them beyond the perimeter of my yard.  Lastly, I would not accessorize this tragic ensemble by clutching a king size pillow like it was a life-preserver on the Titanic post iceberg.

What’s up with these pillow folk?  They drag their pillows everywhere with them and worst of all they lay them down on airport terminal chairs, on their luggage, in the public restroom stalls and on the TSA conveyor belt where their pillow can get a rolling massage by the bacteria of travelers past.  Do these deranged and obviously non-antibacterial hand gel people not realize that these pillows they tote with them are in scientific terms mobile feces collectors? Their beloved pillow is the airport Swiffer. The fiberfilled lumps they lug and hug are filled with every filth known to man because there is not much out there that is more hygienically foul than airport terminals and planes. Every time they fondle their pillow they’re releasing a disease cloud into the atmosphere. Really, they might as well french kiss the bottom of their house-shoe and then lick the underside of their airline seat tray table.

Okay, I need to stop here because this is where it’s important to note that I started my journey to Fibville, Liarsburg, Dishonesty Lane, whatever you want to call it, I just started being untruthful and this campaign of earnest storytelling and exaggeration lasted my entire vacation.  In the “It’s never my fault” defense my plane was delayed and I had to resort to entertaining myself by observing the travel rituals of my fellow passengers who were milling around Gate 26.  I was notably distressed by a family of pillow lovers who were decked out at 2:30 in the afternoon in p.j’s, t-shirts and slippers for a two-hour flight.  They were a family of three kids – all over the age of 9 and a mother who could put on a liberal amount of makeup (think smokey eye with extra eyeliner) and jewelry, but apparently couldn’t extend the extra effort to get out of her pajama’s before heading to the airport. Yes, once again I know the nurturing qualities of an elastic waistband, how it snuggles into your stomach’s fat roll and gently embraces it.  If it could talk it would be saying, “Go ahead and eat some more honey there’s still room.” I  also understand that jeans can be uncomfortable, but wasn’t there a Chico’s, the women’s elastic waistband superstore, in her neighborhood or how about some yoga pants?

I had no choice but to engage the mother of this pillow brethren in a conversation.  I started off by asking her if they were about to embark on a lengthy day of travel.  I would cut her some slack if her family were on the first leg of a what would be a 24 hour flight to, I don’t know, Cambodia, or something. Maybe, just maybe I could excuse their sleep-wear attire and bedding accessories. But no, they were simply traveling 2 hours to Grandma’s house.  I then inquired about their p.j.’s and pillows.  “So cute,” I exclaimed, “How your family is all ready for bed.”  P.J. mom laughed and said, “Oh my gosh, we just live in our pajamas!  I have more pajama bottoms than regular pants, I think.”  We both chuckle and then I begin my crusade of lying when I ask about the pillows. “So,” I say, “Pardon my curiosity but why does your family travel with their bed pillows?”  She pauses for a moment like I’ve really asked her a Double Jeopardy brain teaser and then replies, “I don’t know exactly.  We just like our pillows, I guess.”

Wait for it, wait for it, here it comes the big fat lie. “Well,” I say, “I don’t mean to scare you or involve myself in your lifestyle, but I am a microbiologist specializing in 21st century bacteria at the Center for Disease Control and I’d like to ask you a few questions, if you don’t mind, about those pillows.”  “Um, sure I guess it’s okay,” she says.  “That’s great, thank you for your time,” I say in the most intellectual voice I could muster. I was going for a sexy doctor voice, but I don’t know if I really pulled it off.  “Now, do you find that you or your children become sick during or after you travel?”  This question gets her all excited, “Why yes, yes we do. Usually, at least one of us comes down with something”, she eagerly replies.  “Now, during your travels how many times will you wash each pillow case?”  Once again, I’ve stumped her.  “Um, wow, I guess not until we get home.”  After hearing this response I slide as far away from her and the pillow she is holding in her lap as I can and still remain in my chair and say in now a stern, sexy doctor voice, “That’s a problem madame.” (I thought the madame was a nice touch.) “Why?” she asks while stroking her pillow.  “Well, that pillow you are petting is currently carrying at least 156 diseases.  You are caressing the equivalent of a port-a-potty toilet bowl at day 3 of a 4 day outdoor rock concert and I’m not talking about the lid.  I mean the seat and all it has to offer.” I was on a roll and for the life of me I couldn’t shut up. I swear I tried, but on I went.  “Also, the flannel in the pajama’s pants you and your children are wearing are proven germ collectors. It’s very complicated to explain to someone not in my field of research, but it’s something about the flannel and it’s fiber connectivity.  Your family is the equivalent of a germ strip.  Everywhere you go the flannel seeks out and absorbs bacteria.  Flannel is the toilet paper that wipes the backside of humanity.”  I don’t mean to brag, but Lord I thought that sounded not just “sciencey”, but also somehow very poetic. P.J. mom shrieks, and asks, “My God, what should I do?”  “Now, calm down. There is no need for panic. Let’s get rid of those nasty pillows first.  Just stack them up and leave them by a waste receptacle. (Once again I was trying to sound all smarty pants.)  It’s too bad, there’s nothing you can do about the pajamas.  But, I strongly suggest the next time you walk into an airport you wear something besides attire meant for the privacy of your home.”  She thanks me and jumps up to collect up her kids pillows.  I get up to stretch my legs and bask in the knowledge that I have saved a family from not just the dreaded pillow disease, but from the egregious fate of wearing pajamas in public.  Yeah, I lied and schemed and misrepresented myself, but I did all for you – the traveling public.  No worries, your gratitude and continuing good health are all the thanks I need as I continue to sacrifice the truth in the name of science.

Snark Week continues – Check back tomorrow for Part 2 of I Hate People – A Travelogue of  a Snarky Vacation.  Also stay up-to-date on new posts and take part in my not so deep thoughts click on this Facebook link – (That’s the abbreviated link to my FB page) or I twitter @snarkynsuburbs.