Friday, August 31, 2012

Comfort Is Key... Apparently...

If I were to guess, I would say it was around 1973 when I took my first trip on an airplane. My Grandmother and Mom were taking my brother Greg and me to Disney World in Orlando, Florida. 

I remember it being a big deal; this whole “going on a plane” thing, and I remember being excited about it. I also remember projectile vomiting into a little bag through the entire trip because of turbulence. It was horrible. Back then, though, they actually fed you on an airplane and, truth be told, the food wasn’t quite that bad. It certainly wasn’t gourmet cuisine, but it was certainly good enough to make you thankful that you had something in your stomach which would “come up” should the need arise. 

At some point, though, the airlines decided that food was an unnecessary commodity, and they did away with their meal service. Now, they’re charging more than ever before for air fares, and they’re giving you as little as possible in return (and, unfortunately, it often seems as though the bare minimum is a challenge for some carriers). You can certainly get a meal on an airplane these days, sure. But you have to pay for it, and the quality is often far below what the airlines used to provide for free.

Now, if you’ve been keeping score, I’ve been a non-smoker for a little over seven months now (August 16 came and went without me even remembering to mention it). It’s made life quite a bit easier when I travel.
Not long ago, my routine when traveling was this:

  • Get to the long-term parking lot
  • Light a cigarette and try to smoke it before the shuttle shows up
  • Get on the shuttle
  • Get off the shuttle at the terminal and light a cigarette, and smoke said cigarette in its entirety
  • Check in
  • Scope out the security line to see how long it is and estimate how much time I have to smoke
  • Go outside and light a cigarette
  • Depending on length of line at security, continue to smoke

Now, as humorous as this may seem, the reality was that I would adjust my traveling around my smoking habits. I could, and would, sometimes smoke a half a pack before getting on the security line. This was especially challenging when traveling in Canada, when I’d always have to deal with Customs officials, as well. There was no way to accurately gauge how long that could take.

But it wasn’t just with getting to, and through, the airport. I would also schedule my itinerary based on which airports had security-side smoking areas. Denver was always a favorite. One smoking lounge was a bar, and another (in the other terminal) was a coffee shop. Now, not only would I make sure I was able to smoke, I would make sure I had ample time to have several cigarettes and coffee. I’d jump online and surf for a bit. It was a nice break in my trip. 

Other airports with smoking areas? Dulles in Washington DC, Hartsfield-Jackson in Atlanta and Salt Lake City, to name a few. The entirety of McCarran International in Las Vegas used to be open to smokers, but they did away with that. Vancouver and Calgary both used to have smoking areas, but they, too, are gone.

This was never a concern in years gone by. Remember the “smoking section”? I used to avail myself of that all the time. I would be flying home on leave, say, and would gladly relegate myself to sitting in the back of the airplane if It meant being able to fore up to my heart’s content. And, gosh, didn’t it make sense to have a separate section for it? Yeah, let’s let the last eight rows of people light up cigarettes, because there’s just no way that smoke would ever find its way to the forward part of the plane. In hindsight, of course, it makes sense that they did away with the smoking section on airplanes. But that didn’t mean it wasn’t a sad day for Marlboro Men everywhere.
The reality is that smoking truly impacted how I managed my travel. It would often even dictate what hotels I would stay in, cost be damned. None of that’s a concern any more. By quitting smoking, I’ve been able to streamline my travel a bit, and that’s a good thing.

One of the things I remember most vividly about that first airplane trip was getting dressed up. Okay, maybe not “Thanksgiving dinner with the family” dressed up, but I recall wearing a collared, button down shirt, and there were no sneakers to be seen. Greg and I were in our Buster Brown’s for this trip. Mom insisted on that. It seemed to make sense. Only rich people took trips on airplanes and, despite not being rich, at least we could look the part.

As I travel on my own, now, I’m able to make the aforementioned fashion decisions for myself. Normally I’ll fly in sneakers, for comfort’s sake, but will, on occasion, wear my boots (they’re ankle high with a zipper on the side. I’m such a cheater).  I’ll wear jeans and, usually, a polo shirt. The bottom line is that I’m presentable when flying. I could go from an airplane seat to a business meeting if need be.

Such is not the case with many, these days.

Like it or not, 9/11 changed how we travel. We need to allow more time to get through security. We have to damn-near get undressed at the security check point (which I have no problem with, I’m just mentioning it), and gone are the days when you could go to the gate to meet an arriving flight. Apparently, these changes seem to have manifested themselves in the way people dress to travel.

I’m only 50 years old, and I enjoy being as comfortable as the next guy.  But the style of dress I see in airports these days is more appropriate for a locker room or a swap meet than for traveling on an airplane.
I think my biggest pet peeve is footwear. Like I said, I wear either boots or tennis shoes. Either seems like a reasonable choice to me. What doesn’t seem like a reasonable choice to me is flip-flops, or sandals:

Seriously? You’re going to subject an entire Boeing 767 to your toe-jam and foot stank? Really? That’s disgusting. That’s all it is. If you wear flip-flops on an airplane, at the very least, wear some socks. Hey, you’ll look goofy as Hell but, then again, “appearance” doesn’t seem to be a major concern for you, anyway.

Now, something that’s not nearly as offensive, but it still a fashion train-wreck, is those shoes that have individual toe sleeves.

Oh. My. God.

I think these are the new “Crocs” of the new decade. They’re hideous looking. Seriously. Here’s a shot I took of some kid wearing them. Aside from how ugly they are, I just can’t imagine them being very comfortable. But, hey, at least they’re not flip-flops:

Someone once asked me if I'd ever tried the hideous toe-sock shoes, to which I replied "Oh, Hell no". Their retort was "Well, how can you knock it if you don't try it?" They were left kind of speechless when I said "Well, I've never shoved a screwdriver through my foot, either, but I'm pretty sure it would suck".

So, I hear you asking yourself: “Steve, is that all there is?”, and the answer would be a profoundly resounding “NO”.

Again, I understand the need for comfort, I really do. There’s nothing worse than sitting in an airplane seat for three to six hours without being comfortable. I’ve done it, and it sucks. But, if nothing else, we should give, at the very least, a passing nod to decorum.

Here’s a picture of a young lady; I’m guessing early 20’s. She’s got boots on, which is always good. She’s wearing jeans; a sound choice. Her blouse is perfectly acceptable except for, wait, what’s that? Ma’am, is that your bra?

Don’t get me wrong, please. I’m a big fan of the female form, and I’m a big fan of the female form in lingerie. But I’m also someone who believes there’s a time and place for everything, including lingerie but, insofar as I can tell, United 1073 from San Diego to Houston probably isn’t the place for it. 

In all honesty, there are countless more examples of people who just don't seem to care how they present themselves in public. Frankly, the examples I've shown here are tame.

In a time when practically everything we seem to want to do is more difficult, I guess it's understandable that we lay aim at something as innocuous as the travel industry and put a shot across the bow. We know we're not going to actually change anything, it's just as if we want to let them know what we can get away with...

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Shop The Friendly Skies...

This is something I've wanted to tackle for a while. I always seem to put it off, though, and wind up forgetting about it altogether. Well, this morning an e-mail I received reminded me that this is as good a time as ever to tackle this.

Now, I travel a bit and, when I do, I normally fly. While I certainly have my preferred airline, sometimes I'll fly on a different carrier if the price or the schedule is easier to deal with. And, as much as all of these airlines differ (and they really do), they all seem to have one thing in common.

That's right, folks: Sky Mall.

If you've ever been to someone's house, and seen something on a wall or a shelf or in a garden, that you've never actually seen in a store, but it's really bizarre, they may have gotten it through Sky Mall.

Sky Mall is a like a printed late-night-mega-infomercial at 35,000 feet. Upon its pages you'll find things which, frankly, you just can't live without. And, to be fair, Sky Mall does offer things which you're just not likely to find anywhere else. Ask yourself, where else are you likely to find a pair of seats from "The House That Ruth Built"?

A pair of seats from the original Yankee Stadium, which fell silent forever on September 21, 2008

Maybe you, or someone you know, could use a new carry-on bag. Who's going to know the attributes of a fine carry-on more than the publishers of a catalog that's found next to the motion sickness bag?

A nice leather carry-on with easy laptop access - $229.95 at Sky Mall

Now, I'm pretty sure that there are over a bajillion products available through Sky Mall. And, with that many available products, it should surprise no one that, along with the practical and the cool, as shown above, they also offer the profoundly ridiculous.

So, just in case you think I'm making it up:

1.  The Townhaus Dog Crate:

The good folks at Sky Mall don't want to make life easier only for their human friends, oh, no sir. Your canine can be assured of posh surroundings, as well. And, really, what else would you want to do with $549.00?

That's not a crate, that's an apartment...

2.  Zombie of Montclaire Moors Garden Sculpture:

I visited a friend in Las Vegas recently and, after he picked me up at the airport, we stopped at a gun show. He ended up buying several thousand rounds of ammunition for, as he put it, "the zombie apocalypse". Now, I have no doubt that the zombie apocalypse will, one day, be upon us, but I don't feel the need to tempt fate. With that in mind, I have to wonder what kind of twisted mind puts this in his garden:

The neatest part about this? It's freakin' LIFE-SIZE!!!

3.  iGrow Hair Rejuvenation Laser:

Sad to say, I'm a bit thin on top these days and, quite frankly, it ain't gettin' any thicker. I actually checked out one of those hair restoration places about 15 years ago. I decided to buy a car, instead. But, honestly, as much as I wish I had a full head of thick, healthy hair, I believe I'll just opt to go through life bald as a bowling ball before I ever resort to something like this:

And it even comes with the stylish headphones...

4.  The Justin Bieber Singing Toothbrush Set:

I'm 50 years old. At no point during those 50 years did I ever find an unwavering need for a singing toothbrush and, if I had, you can be damn sure it would've been someone cool like Lou Rawls:

Even if I could think of a caption, it doesn't deserve one...

5.  The Life-Size Dark Knight Cowl:

Let's face it, Batman's a badass. He's got his tool belt and a butler and that bitchin' car. Man, what any guy wouldn't have given for those. Back in the 60's. When we were seven. Anyone who's got the kind of coin kickin' around to indiscriminately drop four large on something like this is probably in his late 40's or so and, as such, is probably also living in his Mom's basement:

This is also known as "birth control"...

6.  The SkyRest Travel Pillow:

The first time I was this, my reaction was "Wow, that's pretty goofy". But this is actually one of the more practical items available to travelers in Sky Mall. I've always been secretly envious of those people who are out cold and drooling before the plane even leaves the gate, simply because I really have a hard time falling asleep on a plane. Well, if you're like me, your worries are over. Granted, after having taken hundreds of flights over the years, I've never seen a single person using one of these but, hey, Sky Mall says it's a best seller:

No one really uses these. Ever...

7.  Car Lashes (and optional Crystal Eyeliner!):

I've owned about a dozen cars in my life. I've had coupes and sedans, pick-up trucks and mini-vans (hey, that sounds like lyrics from a country song).  Some of those vehicles were purchased new, more were purchased used. Somehow, with all the traveling I've done and after all those cars I've owned, I managed to miss the boat on these:

They look just swell on a BMW 325is...
8.  Dachshund Ice Cube Tray:

I can't think of a single reason not to have this, despite the fact that they're discriminating against every other breed of dog on the planet.  You would think they'd have a more popular breed like, I dunno', a Yellow Lab or a German Shepherd. No, the marketing geniuses as Sky Mall decided that a freaking Dachshund was the way to go:

Nothing livens up a party faster than doggie ice cubes...

9.  Wine Cork Bulletin Board:

I was in Target the other day, and saw a cork bulletin board for $12.99. It was rather nondescript but, to be fair, it was a bulletin board. Still, for thirteen bucks, it was a pretty good buy. And, as good as it might be for you, it's just not good enough for Sky Mall. They want to send you a kit you can use to make your own bulletin board out of the wine corks from your bottles of Merlot and Chablis Blanc. Now, I count upwards of 300 corks in the photo below. That's a lot of wine. You could dribble down to Target and have a perfectly functional bulletin board this afternoon, or you can buy this kit from Sky Mall and, if you drink a bottle a day, have a fully functional bulletin board sometime in June of 2013. And for a little more than thirteen bucks:

Even at only ten bucks a bottle, this is your $3,000.00 bulletin board...

10.  NFL Forest Face:

Unlike the Dachshund ice cube try, I'm entirely and completely unable to find a reason why anyone would require something like this to dress up the yard. Quite honestly, this looks like something my 8 year old nephew would put together in art class. For an eight year old, this is fine work. For an eight year old:

You attach 'em to trees, because it makes sense to do that...

So, there are ten of the more, ummmmmm... "must haves" from the current Sky Mall catalog. The nice thing about the catalog is that with each new issue are more examples of those things that any decent American just can't imagine trying to live without.

I'm back on a plane in the morning, and I just can't wait to see what I find...

***All images are copyrighted by Sky Mall © 2012

Wrapping Up Another Year...

I'm finding it a bit difficult to believe that's it's been six months since I've posted anything. It seems as though, as soo...