Monday, March 28, 2011

Delta Airlines

The long and short of what I do at the airport is I help students between the ages of 10 and 13 who are arriving and departing from BWI without their parents, get to and from their airplanes. They are coming in to BWI to attend a leadership program in DC. Two days a week, we get them from their planes and take them to their program directors. The other two days, we take them from their program directors, check them in at the ticket counter, take them through security, and put them on their airplanes. That's my job. And that's about all you need to know about my job in order to understand why I believe that Delta Airlines is the most substandard, slipshod, sad, stinking, scroungy, second-rate, small-time, two-bit turd of a company the world has ever seen.

Allow me to illustrate.

All of our kids have paid for their tickets. Let's say 55 of them are flying on Southwest. All of the southwest kids will be checked in, boarding passes in hand in 40 minutes. A few weeks ago, after three hours of standing at the check-in counter, not one of our 13 students flying on Delta had been checked in. Not one. However, the people who got in line behind our students were checked in.

This was also on the day Delta cancelled one of their flights on which 8 of the students were supposed to fly. Which means they ALL had to be re-routed. Not one of our students got on the plane their parents booked for them.

My most arduous ordeal with Delta came when checking in a student flying later in the day than the rest of the group. He had to be checked in later as well. I went to the counter with his program director, and the ticket agent (who looks exactly like Jonathan Winters, only it was St. Patrick's Day and he was wearing a fake red wig and a green argyle cap and a green argyle kilt) informed us his flight was cancelled. So he needed to be re-routed. Jonathan Winters, despite our vehement protests, kept trying to fly him into JFK. We would have been fine with that, but there were no flights to the student's destination from JFK that day. Jonathan Winters did not seem too concerned about leaving the student alone in New York, however, and reminded us five times, "There's room on the flight to JFK. It would get him there about five o'clock."

After he got it through his thick, Jonathan Winters skull that the kid needed to be in Minneapolis, and sending him to New York for the night alone (remember, the kid is 12) was in no one's best interest, he proceeded to one-finger type the same three characters repeatedly on his computer terminal, frowning at the screen, his fat, obnoxious hand shaking three times over each key before he struck it.
shake shake shake "S" shake shake shake "]" shake shake shake "enter"
shake shake shake "S" shake shake shake "]" shake shake shake "enter"
shake shake shake "S" shake shake shake "]" shake shake shake "enter"
shake shake shake "S" shake shake shake "]" shake shake shake "enter"
FOR FIFTEEN MINUTES!!! He didn't say what he was doing, or what he was looking for. Just kept shaking his swollen, pudgy hand and tapping away. I tried to interject a few times, to try to remind him of his goal of getting a paid customer to Minneapolis (not JFK), to which he replied, "I'm just seeing... S ] enter."
He seemed serenely unaware of how close he was to being stabbed with my pen.

I started daydreaming about Delta's mission statements and training programs. What the shit are they teaching these people? I figured they may as well be honest with their employees so that we, the customers can see it coming.

Telephone etiquette: "Thank you for calling Delta Airlines, how may I make you rectally uncomfortable today?"

On schedules: "Our schedules are more of a rough outline than a firm time frame. 'When are you due to return, sir? No, Tuesday won't do. How's August?'"

Ticket counters: "Thank you for choosing Delta. I've got all day and you better had, too!"

Helpful phrases: "I know you have a ticket in your hand, but it's not in the computer and there's nothing I can do about it. Okay?"

On dealing with adversity: "If a customer becomes visibly upset, type random characters on your computer terminal for ten to twenty minutes and frown at the screen, so that the customer has time to calm down. If the customer asks what you are doing, give him another ten minutes of frown-typing. If the none of the above seem to work, put the customer on a plane to JFK, and see if he can figure it out then."

Company slogan: "Delta: We Hate Your Fucking Face... and it shows!"

After what felt like a fortnight, the kid got booked to Detroit and had twenty minutes to make it to his next plane to Minneapolis. It was a good thing I had Ninja Pooped prior to this ordeal, or Jonathan Winters and I would have ended up in the newspapers the following morning. I'm not sure if the kid made it home that night, but there is one thing I do know.

Delta BLOWS.

My lips to yours.

Monday, March 21, 2011

The 5th Grader Question

Where Billy and I spent the night in Salzburg.

Billy and I were in Salzburg, Austria. We stopped there on our backpacking trip across Europe in the Fall of 2004. We met some American students studying there whose university put them up in the convent in the middle of the city. It's the convent that has the garden from "The Sound of Music" where Julie Andrews twirls around and sings or something. Their roommates were out for the weekend and they let us stay with them.

On our last morning in Salzburg, I woke up fairly bleary, strolled to the living room from the room I stayed in to find Billy hanging out with our hosts who asked me a question I've pondered very carefully ever since:

"Phil, how many fifth graders do you think you could kill?"

And suddenly, my life had meaning. Everything else had led up to this point. My essence, my very being became solely dedicated to answering this question.

The fifth graders look like this.

Not like this.

It is a fairly open-ended question. The scenario presented does not incorporate real fifth grade children. The fifth graders we're discussing here are soul-less, zombie fifth graders (not zombie in the sense that if they bite you, you turn zombie too, just that they don't behave like humans) whose only aim in life is to kill you. As they have no souls, there is no moral repercussion for destroying them. They have all the physical attributes of average American fifth graders. They are neither afraid of you nor what you can do to them. A certain number are attacking you at once. They have no weapons and neither do you. If they had brought one more fifth grader, they would kill you, but you can take out what they did bring today. What is that number? What is your fifth grader threshold?

You can knock them out and kill them later. You can kill them immediately. You can throw smaller ones at the bigger ones. There are no rules. Kill or be killed.

What springs to your mind in this proposition? Where are you when they attack? An open field allows you more mobility than, say, an elementary school classroom. However, the classroom has hard walls, floors, desks and other objects to throw them into, possibly incapacitating them. Are you in a jungle or forest where you could climb trees or use vines to your advantage? Are you in a desert where you could be smothered by them in the sand?

Remember, they have all the physical attributes and abilities of a fair cross-section of fifth graders. Some are going to be bigger than others. They can each punch, kick, bite, scratch, grab and choke with the strength of one fifth grader.

After running through this scenario for nearly 7 years, I think I could take out 9 indoors, 15 in an open field.

And what of you, my zombie-repellent readers? How many fifth graders could you kill?

Sunday, March 20, 2011

My Top "Matches" from

What the hell am I doing to humanity that these are the people selected as my top prospects for a date?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Bobbing for Fitness

[Originally posted at]

I have previously mentioned that the Health Club had a formidable Korean community. Much of this community belonged to one of the swimming pool's most popular sub-groups, the Non-Swimming-Asian Society for Fitness (NSASF).

"Non-swimming," you say? "Then what are they doing in a swimming pool?"

This is the question that plagued Damon and I for the duration of our tenure at the Health Club. These were people who had never learned to swim, but still wanted the vigorous, healthy workout that the pool had to offer. They would enter the pool, walk down until the water was just below armpit depth and bob up and down in place for about an hour, often aided by a float-belt. Not water aerobics, mind you. Literally just bobbing up and down.

Vigorous. Healthy.

It was so vigorous that they never seemed to be out of breath, tired, nor did they ever show any remote sign of fatigue. It was so healthy that they never visibly lost weight.

The NSASF was also one of the biggest obstacles to our lap-swimming members. Those who actually wanted a workout got more than they bargained for when attempting to swim in a straight line. Our pool wasn't large enough to warrant lane lines, so lap-swimmers were always dodging NSASF's who placed themselves in their paths.

"Excuse me, I was swimming laps right here. Could you move over just a few feet?"

Bob. Bob. Bob. Bob.

"Really? Can't you just move over here?"

Bob. Bob. Bob.

I'm not really sure why it was just the Koreans who bobbed for fitness, but it was. Just like I wasn't sure until many years after I worked at the Health Club, why the Koreans were the charter members of another popular sub-group, Loogie-Hockers Incorporated. I've since read that it is common in the Korean culture to expectorate just about anywhere, and the practice is not considered rude in the least. They find nose blowing extremely offensive, but spitting is a casual thing. But it was certainly alarming to me at the time to see them walk over to the side of the pool and hock a lunger right there on the pool deck.

"Hey! You can't do that here! That's disgusting!" The most response I would get was that they might flick a little pool water on their gooey pile, which really only disguised it for the next unsuspecting, bare-footed soul to walk through.

Another off-shoot of the NSASF was the CTCA, or the Cross-Trafficking Commission of America. There was no ethnic requirement to be a part of this group, though it was certainly founded by the NSASF. The CTCA consisted of non-swimmers wanting learn how to swim by themselves, but fearing for their safety, they would stick to the shallow end of the pool. Thus they were forced to "swim" the width of the pool, providing more obstacles for lap-swimmers.

When I say "swim," I mean they would push off the wall, hands out front, face down for as long as they could hold their breath, and then convulse briefly until finally putting their feet down, gasping for breath and wiping away the water from their eyes. They'd laugh and look around for some sort of approval from anyone, as if they'd just accomplished something in their personal lives. They would then repeat the process after walking the rest of the way to the other side of the pool where they would promptly propel themselves into a now furious lap-swimmer. Several collisions later, their work was done, and they felt as if they'd learned something new, grown emotionally and maybe even burned a few calories, which of course, they hadn't.

The more daring affiliates of the CTCA would venture into the deep end. They would never relinquish their death grip on the side of the wall, but dammit, they made it! See? It's not so scary! The wall will hold you up! If you can do this, you can do anything!

The Cliffhangers, as they were affectionately called, were fun to watch. They really looked like they had done something important, taken a big step in their personal development.

"You finally made it to the deep end, sort of," you'd say in your mind! "And you're only 43? Your parents will be so proud of you! Let's call Guinness to make sure this isn't some sort of a record."

Then then on your way to pick up the phone you step into a squishy pile that your foot now instantly recognizes as Korean spit.


Friday, March 4, 2011

From 2005

In strict adherence to my geekdom, I went to see the latest atrocity slapped with the Star Wars name. Nifty fight scenes, predictable plot, and some of the worst dia"log" in movie history. It was like watching a movie you loved dearly 20 years later. You're really excited to see it, but you're ultimately disappointed.

However, from that movie, my friends and I were able to develop some more characters for the next Star Wars, should George Lucas care to continue the franchise. I mean it is possible that Lucas and his family could run out of money several years after the sun has supernova-ed.

The first character is Brocktoon Skywalker, the inbred, retarded, wheelchair-bound Jedi son of Luke and Leia Skywalker. Though he has difficulty speaking clearly, feeding himself, not drooling, and displaying proper social etiquette in the company of strangers, he is masterful with a light-saber. Much like Yoda's fighting scenes in episodes II and III, he demonstrates a lot of flipping and jumping around in his wheelchair, as he uses the Force to defeat the Sith Lords. His main problem is control however (hear Yoda's "control, control, you must learn control") and he has burned himself many times with his own light-saber. Eventually he cuts off his own hand, receiving a bionic one, much like his father before him. His favorite food is strained peas.

The next character is a testament to how sad a fact it is that John Belushi had to die. He would have been perfect as Frank the Jedi. Frank the Jedi isn't your
typical go-getter, ready to fly across the galaxy at a moments notice to keep everyone safe from the powers of the Dark Side. No Frank is much more laid back,
unconcerned and portly. His primary objective in becoming a Jedi was to be able to bring himself donuts and beer without leaving the couch. He was often
scolded by Jedi masters during his training for stopping to pick up bits of broken chocolate-frosted donuts he dropped during training, and stuffing them in his mouth. He isn't quite a full-fledged Jedi. As soon as he learned how to use the Force to bring himself his favorite snacks, Frank quit his training and returned to his couch. Frank is eventually forced to use his powers for good when the Empire places an embargo on cooking oil and refined sugar in his particular section of the galaxy. He
teams up with Brocktoon, and offers the comic relief with his devil-may-care attitude, and dry, sarcastic wit. Frank accidentally incinerates a small village of
Ewoks attempting to use the Force to cook spare-ribs.