Thursday, January 31, 2008

no chicago

For the third week in one month, I find myself at the Mall of America, the corpulent, throbbing, economic heart of Bloomington, MN. This is not where I intended to be tonight. I tried for the first time to take advantage of my free flight privileges with Northwest and fly to Chicago to see a friend's play (sorry, Tim, I tried), but due to snow, O'Hare and Midway are sealed in life-sized snow globes of inclement weather.

But even though I didn't get to my final destination, I wouldn't say today was a total failure. I hopped a plane to Minneapolis this morning as easily as others would catch a bus...easier actually; i didn't have to try and shove crumpled dollar bills through the machine while pissing off the line of passengers behind me. I also got cranberry juice on the plane; a whole can just for me. Had weather not been a factor, I'm confident I'd be eating a Chicago dog right now rather than drinking a coffee I don't want to take advantage of Wi-Fi I don't really need (would it kill me not to check my email for one day?).

The hint of how powerful this flying privilege can be dances in my imagination. Shit, i was excited when i used to get free ice cream at the Museum of Science in Boston. A free flight is like a super waffle cone with sprinkles. The limitations are obvious and at times frustrating: portland, it turns out, only flies directly to three cities right now, Honolulu, Tokyo, and Minneapolis; my future schedule may not even allow me time to travel; and if I get stuck at some airport and can't make it back to Portland for work (as the case may be tomorrow) well, tough shit. I have not proven myself to be an indispensable cog in the Northwest machinery and they will have no trouble replacing me.

But if anyone can take advantage of flights under these restrictions, it's me. First of all, I don't really care where I go, provided it's not the Mall of America again. Secondly, I don't care if I only go for the night... I just want to say I went there, and make all of you with your profitable, dependable 9 to 5's froth with jealousy. Third, I can sleep anywhere, and an airport is a lot more luxurious than a lot of the places I've slept before. I'm determined to take a flight somewhere in the next two weeks while I still have a kick ass schedule. I'm currently working friday, sat, and sunday and have the rest of the week off to fly wherever the FAA allows. I only have this schedule because I'm supposed to be following around a mentor, Roberto, a Filipino who decided it was time to cut my umbilical cord and took the next two weeks off to go to Manila. I told him he was like a father figure to me. He chose not to help me any further that day.

I had planned to post a blog with pictures because how can unillustrated words ever compete in this digital age with your YouTubes and Yahoo! Videos? But, I forgot my camera. Here are some old pics of bathroom graffiti that have nothing to do with this blog posting.

1. "Box of Suck" found in the Men's Bathroom of Reed College. Included in the box of suck: The Bee Gees, Normativity, Hipsters (you know who you are), and lumpy peanut butter.

2. "Avocados are Good for You" found in a gas station bathroom in some western state I can't remember. Possibly written in response to item 3.
3. "White Bride" found next to Avocados are Good for you. Clearly the P of Pride, written by a white supremacist, had been changed into a B by a civil rights activist and I imagine these two gentleman engaged in an open dialogue in front of the urinal until they could agree on one universal truth: that regardless of race, avocados are good for you.


Q & A

Q: baby brother with libido?! eeewwww!
A: See, now you made my sister upset. Jerks.

Q: did you tell those folks that you biked cross-country? they must think you're some sort of exercise god!
A: I did mention the summer biking trip to some, but regardless of that, it doesn't take a Jack LaLane to be more in shape than the average customer service agent.

Q: Wait...I thought 'Armin' was another name for God.
A: I'm sure I started that rumor at some point and it's probably my constant blaspheming which causes me to be imprisoned in Minneapolis. moses said to pharoah, "let my armin go!"

Q: a seeing-eye, miniature pony? seriously?
Pretty fucking adorable, right?

Thursday, January 17, 2008

since last we met

Obviously, my new years resolution was not to blog more consistently. I'm sorry to anyone who looks forward to reading this blog, and if you were wailing and gnashing your teeth this last couple weeks of bloglessness, let me just say: that's pathetic. go outside. turn off the computer for a change, people.

Anyway, I had every intention to write a blog last week because I just started working for an airline whose name I will not reveal for fear of reprisal from my supervisors.* I wanted to uncover the seedy, horrifying underbelly of the airline industry, like that guy who wrote about the meat packing industry in chicago.

But, i went to minneapolis for training and on the first day, they scared the shit out of me with all this talk of "big brother" and how the company is always watching and anything you say or do reflects back on the company. I have a good friend who lost her job for blogging about work and she worked in a freaking day care. They don't even have planes. Imagine how much more damage a company that owns airplanes can do to my future.

And truth be told, i didn't learn anything that was amazingly eye opening or disturbing during training (no i was not brainwashed). Everyone already knows that airlines overbook flights purposely. You probably already assumed that elite frequent flyers and first class passengers get free hotel rooms if their flights get canceled. I'm sure you read somewhere that pilots and stewardesses are constantly fornicating in your airplane seat minutes before take off and that is usually why delays occur.

Here are a few tidbits that you may not know:

1. On international flights, there is a pilot, a co-pilot, and an engineer and they all receive a different meal. That is because if one of them suffers food poisoning, the other two have to be healthy enough to fly the plane. If they eat in the airport, they have to go to different restaurants. That's why the food court was invented, so that they could all sit together still (i don't know if that's true... i just made that part up).
2. If your flight is overbooked and you volunteer for a later flight, never take the free ticket over the voucher. The free ticket is a scam because it is the cheapest ticket on any plane and they only sell about 2 of those per flight, if any. So once those seats are filled, you can't use your free ticket on the flight. Unless, you know you are flying somewhere six months from now and it is not a popular destination during peak season, it's not worth it. Go for the voucher because it'll take money off any flight you purchase. Oh, and have you ever been sitting in the airport, heard the announcement they need volunteers, but waited until the offer for compensation got more appealing, as if this was a game of Deal or No Deal? Well it doesn't matter what the customer service agent offered when you first volunteered: whatever the final offer is at the end is what you'll receive, so you don't have to feel like a chump if you bit at a $20 meal voucher when the last volunteer gets offered a $300 voucher and a first class ticket on the next flight. Actually, the first person to volunteer is the first person that gets the final deal, so if you have no where to go, might as well take it and sit in the airport bar with lonely business men who will probably pay you to talk to them.
3. There is such a thing as a seeing eye pony for blind people. I kid you not; i saw a pciture. And you can bring it on board like any assist animal. It's freaking adorable. It's only as big as a St. Bernard. I don't think it's a good idea though to make seeing eye ponies; i picture thousands of six year old girls (and effeminate boys) gouging out their own eyes so they finally have an excuse to get their own pony.

So that's pretty much all I remember from my two weeks of training in Minnesota. I had a good time though and met some co-workers who I may or may not get along with. I'll get more into them in my next posting, which at this rate, should come out mid april.

One generalization I can make about them: they are completely opposed to taking the stairs. Even if their room is on the second floor, they insist on waiting for the elevator. This habit is so pervasive that they can't even fathom someone choosing stairs over a machine that transports you vertically twelve feet. The first few times they saw me head for the stairs, they said in barely masked jealousy, "How did you get a room on the first floor?"

Another thing: our hotel was less than a mile away from the Mall of America and most of my coworkers went there every day. The hotel provided a van that would make shuttle runs every hour. It doesn't surprise me that people would opt for the van instead of walking; after all, you don't need your own Doppler to know it's cold in MN in winter. What does surprise me is how unthinkable it is to them that I would rather walk than take a shuttle. They look at me like I need to be put on suicide watch... what is he thinking? This last Thursday, my coworkers were waiting in the shuttle for me and I told the driver I'd just walk. They were all waiting for me in the lobby of the mall.
"Oh my god! How did you get here so fast?"
"It's less than a mile from our hotel."
"The driver told us it was at least a mile and a half and after the first mile, it would get so cold you'd wish you were dead."
"My lips are chapped, but otherwise, I'm doing okay."

While i'm no sloth, i don't think anyone would consider me the pinnacle of good health (drinking DB Hobbs, Gennessee, old style or some equally shit beer at 10 in the morning usually disqualifies you from the Iron Man competitions). But amongst my coworkers, there's all these rumors of me walking 10 miles in giant snow drifts, face blistered from -20 degree wind chills.

So while most of them stayed in the hotel studying or went to the mall, I tried exploring downtown Minneapolis and unintentionally segregated myself from the group because no one likes to walk in the cold.

Last thing: Yesterday in training, i had the opportunity to knock on immortality's door like the 2007 Patriots: I could have been the only person in class to score a 100% on every single test. I guess earlier in the week, our trainer, Tammy, a Minnesota gal with big hair and rounded vowels told everyone while i was in the bathroom that I was the only person in class who scored perfect on all the tests so far. My coworkers kept talking about it (not without a tinge of disgust from some), and I tried to brush it off, but the pressure was becoming unbearable. So on the final test on the final day, which Tammy even allowed us to do together in groups, i got one answer wrong, thus dashing the hopes of a perfect season. I got a lot of shit for that from my coworkers. Tammy had a little present for me, a lanyard for my ID, expecting that I'd complete the perfect season... she gave it to me anyway, but there was disappointment in her eyes. Does anyone know the Heimlich? Our boy just choked. I just can't live up to expectations. Don't expect anything from me and I may just surprise you. But once you set a bar for me to hurdle, no matter how low, I'm bound to let you down.

*that's pretty dumb, don't you think? i already told everyone in the last ten blogs that I'm working for Northwest so why am I being such a prude about it now?


Q and A

Q: Did you know that antihistamines increase a man's libido? Curious if it's true?
A: I did not know that, and because my sister reads this blog, I will not confirm whether this is true or not. let me just say in general, I have never had a need to increase my libido and as a single guy, could probably stand having my libido levels diminished to some extent. I'd be much more productive at least.

Q: Elenore and Marty stories...who gets the next roommate blog, Malex or Claire???
A: I may not have any more roommate blogs if I keep this up because I'm not on the lease and if they read my blog and get upset, i may be living on my own.