Category: Loud Version

Travel Taste Good

It amazes and upsets me how much I see people eat the same thing they eat every day when traveling. Traveling and food have been a part of my life ever since I could remember. Not only did it enlighten me about different cultures, but it also showed me how powerful, meaningful and memorable a simple meal can be. Food is culture – it could make the trip as memorable as the sight-seeing you plan on doing.

See what the favorite local cuisine is, if it is seafood, and you  don’t like seafood, then find your favorite chicken dish, but don’t you go running to your favorite fast-food, $.99 chicken sandwich. Granted, Daniel Pink may have a point, but run to your favorite fast-food restaurant after a long night of hitting the disco’s in Spain, it’s taste better and be slightly less memorable. Then, after you’re sober, look for the Twice-Marinated Chicken Skewers on a Bed of Rice with a Sautéed Vegetable Medley. Don’t order the #6 (remember drunk food) order the Gigot d’Agneau Romain (Roast leg of lamb with rosemary and honey). I know what you’re thinking… ‘But, Mike, I don’t wanna spend that type of money for a damn meal,’ and I’m with you! Actually I’m not really with you but I’m surprised you know my name and that makes me happy.

Lord knows I like to hold on to my cash tighter than a sexist joke that you can only tell around the boys and that one cool girl who is actually offended but wants to fit in. But guys, sexism is exclusive and we’re not about that. And, damn it, you know what? I also sometimes like my food the same way I like my ride to work, fast and cheap. (Ha, I almost did it again but I refrained, everyone can refrain) But it’s a trip, a vacation, a getaway, an experience, an escape! Just search carefully and you will find a plethora of affordable, authentic, unforgettable meals. Ladies and gents, travel tastes good, sometimes gritty and sweaty like you haven’t showered for weeks and have been living in hostels. And, you know what they say, sex is great, but a braised lamb shank and a bottle of wine are better. I’ve never heard anyone say that but I’m going to start saying it because it makes me giggle.

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The Baggage Imperatives

As ramp agents, you know the three of us while we’re sitting around/on the jet bridge, we shoot the breeze. Typically we’re talking about co-workers or managers and supervisors etc. Like a typical job. But every once and a while we fall on tirades. One evening, while Brandon, Mike and I (Grant) were sitting around the luggage tirade broke like a tidal wave across southern California. There’s really no way I can describe the situation, who was doing what, contributing what where, or even how this conversation was drawn up from the well. You just have to take it on faith that we were neglecting our jobs, we were tired and I was humming something by Howlin’ Wolf for no apparent reason.

After the tirade though we found that there were a couple of rules of luggage. And these rules desperately needed to be addressed from, you know, a different point of view.

Now these imperatives should be considered between all phases of travel including: the purchasing of your luggage, the packing of your luggage and the relief of your luggage as you stuff it into corners of your basement and attic. And this is an ongoing deal. I’ll write it for now but I’m sure Brandon will whine about it and come up with something else that he believes is ‘more important for people who are redheaded.’ Someday you’ll see, he has red hair.

Imperative # 1 You could pay me to care, but you don’t.

It is critical to realize that after you check a bag at the counter, after it has gone through the dungeons of TSA agents and their gauntlet of terrors, every single person thereafter who will be handling your baggage is not paid enough to care about your luggage nor its contents. Coming to terms with this reality is the first step to travel freedom. OK. Maybe this is slightly unfair but if considered as a universal rule it is liberating.  The amount of hands that are going to be touching your luggage without your suspect is huge: counter agent, TSA agent, ramp agents of various airlines, jet-belly agents, transfer rampies and final destination throwers (that’s really when your bag is thrown). Now let’s play hypothetical, your bag mis-connects or is lost which means that other airline agents (whom you did not buy a ticket with, so they are not being paid to care) will rush (technical term, they’re not rushing) your bag to a flight that goes into your destination. That rush bag will then transfer hands to USPS, FedEx or UPS and then to baggage handling individuals. Besides FedEx and UPS and maybe, maybe American Airlines and Southwest people (who are the best paid in the industry) the hands on your luggage could care less about your luggage than their next poop. Grotesque? yes. True? Absolutely.

What it means for you: understand the risks of checking a bag. Combined, the airline industry moves approximately a million bags a day in the US alone (about 280,000 average passengers a day, per airline according to Wolfram Alpha). Statistically bags will be lost, smashed and stolen. There are just too many to have everything go right. To give the airlines the benefit they pull off an amazing feat. If 85% of all checked bags arrive at their destination then that’s 850,000 happy people. In reality they actually get nearly 97% of all checked bags to their destinations. There is always a slight chance you’re the unlucky handful and you should be aware.

Also, before we start casting stones at the airlines it should be considered that they can’t– not won’t– pay their baggage handlers better. With ever increasing operation costs it is nearly impossible to keep good workers on the ramp. Therefore when you pack your checked bag allocate your precious goods appropriately. Never, ever, ever pack expensive jewelry, prescription medication or pricey electronics in your checked luggage.

Imperative #2: Objectify your luggage like someone at a bar.

There are three things, only three, to consider when you purchase luggage for a trip  or plan to pack — Frequency, Duration, and Distance. The Flying Pinto has a great section on what’s the most appropriate bag for you which can be found here. But consider, while reading, the Frequency of your travels. Are you traveling once every six months or once every month? Even if you’re not flying consider how many times you’ll pack up to see Ma and Pa in Kansas City, or stay with your sister and her irritating husband in Portland.

Then consider for how long you’re going to stay. The Duration is key to how much you pack and remember, rollaboards (the nifty suitcases that trail along with you like some pariah dog) make you believe you can carry more than in actuality. You need to be able to lift your luggage. It’s requisite. Regardless of how long you’re staying it is your baggage, not the airlines, not your kids or brother-in-laws. Lifting your luggage is the right of passage of travel and unless you’re a child, disabled or elderly, you need to be self-sufficient. Learn a little something from Thoreau and rely on your abilities. Which correlates finally to —

Distance: how far are you traveling? Going to Europe? then consider how much more walking you will have to do. Typically people believe that the further away from home the more is necessary to pack heavy. This is a giant fallacy. The further you travel, the lighter the load needs to be simply because you will be more tired and, more than likely, you will walk/carry your luggage further.

Imperative # 3: Those bags which are lightest, get treated the nicest.

The lighter your bag the less likely it will be to break. As # 1 states, most people touching your bag won’t care about your bag. Your bag will experience at least three to four significant jolts and drops on a typical cross country trip. The average drop is six feet. Your bag will be dropped six feet multiple times. A bag that weighs 25 pounds has a much better chance at longevity than one that weighs 50 pounds.

Imperative # 4: Your bag will touch Purgatory before it’s over.

Bag rooms, in most major airports, have not been cleaned since their construction. Which means that there is typically a 70 year buildup of filth which is a mixture of dead skin cells and carbon-monoxide fumes. What it makes is an ash akin to what covered the people of Pompeii. Your bag with be dragged through this ash. Just warnin’ ya.

Imperative # 5: Regardless of what you fear don’t skinch on your bag.

Granted, everything we’ve written here makes it appear that you should buy luggage on the cheap and frequently. This isn’t the case. The bags that have the most problems are the cheap, ultralight pieces which are packed with too much stuff. This is how you loose a shoe somewhere in the depth of Denver. You don’t want to be that person who’s bag is sent up the carousel in the dreaded plastic casket. At the same time, don’t drop a paycheck on luggage. I love Freitag and their colorful hippie trips. But I refuse to drop $100 on a Dopp kit. Mid-line is the key. Never purchase a bag on aesthetic alone. Never ignore the style of simple practicality. The Flying Pinto and Heather Poole, both who travel for a living, more than likely own Travel Pro gear. Which is a little more high end but will take a beating. Again, fall onto our # 2, how often will you be traveling? for how long? and how far away?

Imperative # 6: Your bags love you, give love back.

Your luggage sits all this time without a purpose. Typically I find people shoving various things in their luggage to fill up space while it’s being underutilized. Which, really, is fine. Yet don’t shove them in your attic and pack pounds and pounds of stuff (like your burlap sacks full of duck decoys and the kid’s metal saucer sled) on top of it.

So this was huge. And I didn’t mean for it to be huge. But all these things are necessary when considering your luggage and traveling. Keep us in mind, share it, and let us know what you think!

The Ubiquitous Rules of Flying

We don’t like to be told what to do. Sometimes it’s as simple as driving five miles over the speed limit, but there’s a sense of pride that welters up when the nameless lady says: “The cabin door has been shut, please turn off all electronics at this time.”

I came across this article, aptly called ‘5 Thing Safety Presentations Should Mention‘ published on Cracked.com. Granted, it’s an article for entertainment purposes only, but given that over a thousand people gave it a Facebook thumbs up, maybe a couple things should be addressed.

#1 The Ubiquitous Electronic Rule

Please don’t misunderstand me, I love villainizing the airline industry, I do. What with checked bag fees etc. (all of which, if you consider for just a moment, kind of make sense but that’s a different story) I like to argue with the monster as much as any Giant Killer out there. Here’s the deal though, back in the day when cell phones gave out gamma radiation to Wall Street brokers in high doses, cell phones DID affect the plane’s navigational tools. Now, this issue has long been resolved but the lingering phobia still exist.

The question remains, then, why do we need to turn off our Nooks, Kindles, iPods and other miscellanea? Often the simplest explanation is the correct one: there’s no conspiracy in making you read the SkyMall magazine in the seat-back pocket. The reason is because people don’t pay attention when playing with their electronics. Take any Private Pilot course and you’ll learn that the most dangerous parts of flying are take-offs and landings. Meaning that,  if something were to go ‘horribly wrong,’ because we love Armageddon-ish catastrophes to, you know, fantasize about our true colors, it will happen while the plane is going up or coming down. If you find yourself  Tweeting about how you’re putting on your flotation device which you pulled from under your seat guess what: you’re doing it wrong.

Now the airlines don’t want to come out and say “hey, turn off your shit because we’re treating you like a class of third-graders” but that’s what they want to say. So they moved more respectively into the “Something may possibly, potentially go wrong so save your battery just for, like, fifteen minutes.” Deal Delta girl, I will look at the zombie garden ornament in this sticky catalog which feels like it’s been used in a NYC Subway toilet.

#2 I didn’t really have a two.

The rest of the article is funny in a nonchalant, like waiting for the DFW to ORD connection, way. Don’t crush the people behind you. Pay attention to your children if you’re flying with them. There’s a little jab in there, Tyler Durden-esq. about how calm the people are in the panic videos. Turns out if you suddenly loose pressure in the main cabin the crying yelling screaming child next to you would, surprisingly, shut down rather quickly. In fact, they’d probably be asleep. Lack of oxygen is a great pacifier. But it kind of goes to show, the rhyme and reason of the airlines isn’t always to make them money or to be bigots: it’s because they’re trying so hard to retain a somewhat respectable public face. Think of any other conglomeration of people who take your money and tell you what to do, I bet you don’t like them either. But I still like speeding a little.