This Really Blows


I like to think I am an easygoing guy. I try not to get too excited about things in advance. I maintain a level head and a moderate level of excitement unless something is truly extraordinary.

And every once in a while I come across something that turns me into a fanatical evangelist who can’t shut up. I feel the need to tell every single person about it. People I know, people I don’t know, and anybody who happens to be having a conversation. It’s like a cake that I can’t eat enough of.

But several years ago I found something in a public restroom that changed my life. It made me so crazy excited that I didn’t know what to do with myself. And every time I see it, even if I’m in the crappiest of moods. It lifts my spirits.

Now normally a trip to a public restroom is an awful experience. I’ve heard from women that their bathrooms are disgusting but I still have to believe that men’s rooms are even worse.

And of those bathrooms, it seems like the ones at New York area airports are the worst. They smell like a depressed vacuum of souls, wrapped up in a hollow resonance of gross.

And they are barely hanging together. The products in these restrooms are never of the finest quality. The paper products and soap are industrial and for the barest minimum of functionality.

Specifically, I have never pulled off some toilet paper and thought to myself:

Wow this is going to be a wonderful experience!

No. It’s usually something more like:

Ya know what? I could use this to sand down those shelves in my apartment!

And that usually happens right when I walk into the bathroom because I have to take off a batch of toilet paper to wipe the pee off the seat.

There are no happy surprises in a public restroom. A happy surprise usually ends up meaning soap in the dispenser. I went to a movie theater in South Carolina that had 7 sinks and 6 of them…. SIX were out of order. I mean if you can’t even keep your sinks working I think its time you get your money back from the contractor, plumber, or monkey who built your bathroom.

But there is 1 surprise that exists in public restrooms. It is a device, no, a machine that does things that no other machine can do. It turns air into magic, and turns wet hands into dry ones.

I am speaking of course about the Xlerator hand dryer.

Now maybe you are one of the unfortunate few who have never laid eye on, or hands under, an Xlerator hand dryer. You might be sitting there thinking

It’s a hand dryer, what’s the big whoop?

Well I’ll tell you what the big whoop is! It kicks to life like a jet engine and blows the water, ALL the water, off your hands in less than 12 seconds! It's like a wall mounted leaf blower... for your hands.

This hand dryer is from the future. It is science fiction. It is a contraption of Orwellian significance. It is like getting the Internet in 1907 or finding skittles in a sarcophagus. It is so far ahead of the rest of the pack of hand dryers out there that is almost not fair. It makes those other hand dryers look like assholes.

And speaking of the other hand dryers, let’s break down the categories.

First you have the push button hand dryers, which are the worst in the world because that means that I have to use my hand, the hand I just washed with soap (if there was any) to push that button that was pushed by somebody before me who didn’t wash their hands. So now I have an extra germ on my hand.

Which is why I use my elbow to push that button, or my shoulder… or my foot. Yes I know that defeats my point but I wouldn’t have to use my foot if there wasn’t a button now would I?

And that’s fine if it’s at normal height, but if its lower, then I look like an extremely special individual with no idea how to work the machine. It’s a lot like my elevator experience.

And then there are the automatic sensor hand dryers, which I don’t have to touch, thank god. But they are so weak and pathetic I feel the need to put my hand on its shoulder and tell it:

Hey buddy, it’s going to be OK.

Its not even like it’s drying anything, it just feels more like I’m putting my hands in front of the face of a feverish mouth breather. So then I end up shaking my hands for 3 minutes after like I’m doing the neutron dance.

And I hate doing the neutron dance in the bathroom.

If I am just going to end up shaking my hands that much anyway I shouldn’t even bother washing them. I should just wipe them on my pants straight off like I did when I was 11. And even though I am in my late 20s I still find myself doing that more than I should.

And finally there are those hand dryers that don’t even make sense. It looks like a hand dryer but there is no discernable button, and running your hands under it does not make anything happen. It might not even be a hand dryer. It could just be a fuse box, or a time machine, or something.

That is why I am so grateful for the Xlerator hand dryer. It doesn’t just blow the water off my hands, it blows my worries away. And that is something I could not be more grateful for. One day I hope to be wealthy enough to install one in my home. I could think of no better status symbol.

I mean really the only thing that could make the Xlerator hand dryer even better would be is if they put one in the stall so I could blow the pee off the seat.

But let’s take this one step at a time. I can wait for that development.

The S Word

There is a masochistic part of me that enjoys going through airport security. Not because it is fun to do. Hell no. It is awful. Taking off half of your clothes and taking half of your items out of your luggage is not fun.

I actually have an idea to speed it up though. I propose we have a security check in for nudists. I know, I know. Multiple posts on this very blog have seen me detailing my issues with those who feel it necessary to take off their clothes at every possible moment.

But when it comes to airport security, they already rifle through your toiletries, make you take off your clothes, and practically cop a feel on you as you try and get past them. So it really can't get much worse than it already is.

So let's set up a lane for people who don't mind walking through a metal detector naked. Nothing will beep. And you are free to go. Hurray. I feel like we could scan a lot more people at a much quicker pace.


If you feel comfortable enough to do it, more power to you. You would have to continue to go through the metal detector just to make sure you weren't hiding things in your... mouth.


Overall, I kind of doubt the effectiveness of the security check in. Mainly because to get into a bar in New York City the bouncer has to run my ID through an electronic validation scanner. But to get on an airplane they just... look at it.

The reason I enjoy the security line is because it takes people way out of their comfort zone. Everybody is in a rush and everybody is stressing. And that is hilarious to watch.


Shoes come off, laptops come out, coats, keys, and of course liquids all get removed. Everything gets its own bin. And passengers run back and forth along the the table trying to make sure everything gets into the scanner. It looks like that episode of I Love Lucy at the assembly line of the chocolate factory, hurrying to beat the pace of the rapidly running conveyor belt.


By the time you actually get to the other side of security it looks like a scene out of a 1st grade classroom at cleanup time. Everybody's stuff is all over the floor, nobody is wearing shoes, and nobody has a belt to hold their pants up.

After a recent trip where I only had 1 piece of carry on luggage, I was able to compile a list of things that won't arise suspicion with airport security in New York, but WILL in Denver.

1. Big plastic sword
2. Kenneth Cole Signature cologne
3. Hair Taffy

When the TSA woman in Denver asked to do a manual check of my bag I readily complied. I figured the pirate sword might raise some eyebrows, but I did not expect her to spend a full minute checking the "blade" and handle of the sword like it was a container for smuggling drugs.


Like I was Pablo Escobar trying to smuggle my cocaine out of Denver which everyone knows is the cocaine capital of Colorado.

Even if I was trying to smuggle drugs, do you really think a plastic pirate sword is the best option? I mean shouldn't it be something that doesn't look suspicious?

I would like to point out at this point that I do not regularly travel with a plastic sword. While I consider it to be a fantastic accessory to any outfit, I was traveling with it on this particular occasion because it was part of my Halloween costume that weekend.

When she gave up hope of finding contraband in my swashbuckling accessory, she put it down, gave me a sly smile and said, "Let's just put that here, we don't want to the police over here do we?"

Well, I mean, no. But why would the police come over? You realize the sword is not real right?

Right?


First of all, you already have x-rayed my sword (I never imagined writing that sentence) so why are you examining it by hand? Unless of course you don't trust the x-ray machine, and you yourself have a type of incredible vision that can see through plastic.

When I fly out of New York I don't do the plastic bag thing for my liquids because most of the time they don't care. It's when I am in the smaller cities that I find myself having to explain the things in my dopp kit.


Then as she checked out the bottom of my cologne and discovered it was the appropriate ounce amount, she put it down, with a "Let's put that away, it looks expensive."

Damn skippy.


And then she came to my hair taffy. I feel the need to explain that I do not purposely search out and purchase hair taffy. I used to work for a magazine that sold off all their reviewed cosmetics at the end of the year for a dollar each. The male products were few and far between so I snagged what I could.

It just so happened there was some expensive hair taffy ($44 bucks, what a deal!) which I came across, and it smells good!

So she picks it up, looks at it, reads the label aloud and follows with, "Taffy? I've never even heard of that."

Alright lady, no need to make feel like an outcast in your city.

While I have loved every visit I have had to the Denver airport and will probably return many times, I question the excitement level where the most exciting thing seen by 3 pm in the airport is a plastic pirate sword.


I know this was the most exciting thing the TSA woman has seen all day because she told me so.

She then proceeded to explain the process for putting liquids into a plastic bag. And then she demonstrated by putting liquids into a plastic bag. I nodded along emphatically because in all fairness I broke the rules, and she was so dang nice. It was kind of sweet.

In fact she made my experience so pleasant that I almost feel bad writing about it now. Maybe I should send her a gift as a thank you.


I wonder if she'd like some hair taffy?

Airports Part 2 - Depression

My favorite thing about visiting my parents at “the resort” is the fact that I have an entire wardrobe and nearly all my necessary toiletries down there, so I don’t need to pack much to go. I just grab a backpack and I’m off.

I though this would simplify the entire process thereby eliminating things that could go wrong during travel.

Incorrect.

My 6 am flight from Savannah was due to arrive in New York at 8 am. But due to inclement weather we were forced into a holding pattern.

After 30 minutes of essentially flying in circles the pilot came on the speaker and basically said, “We’re about to run out of fuel so we’re going to go ahead and land in Baltimore.”

This began my 12 hour delay.

On this particular flight there was an especially annoying individual wearing a Bluetooth headset the whole time. I will refer to this gentleman as a WMD or Weapon of Mega Dooshdum.

I’m almost sure he would have been sitting in first class had our plane been larger than a hot pocket.

After we landed in Baltimore, everyone was worried about whether or not would be taking off in this plane again or getting on a new plane. This is when the WMD spoke up and said, “I just got off the phone with the platinum desk, this plane isn’t going anywhere.”

Ooo you got off the phone with the platinum desk? Everyone come and listen, Ezekiel is back with tales from the Platinum desk!

What else did the platinum desk tell you? How to solve the sub prime lending crisis? The name of the next American Idol? When Jesus would return?

I would have continued to focus my hate on him but of course, the woman sitting behind me was screaming in Spanish into her phone. The plane was completely still, no engine noise, there was no crisis and no need for yelling. But she apparently felt her speaking voice Spanish was not appropriate and instead was using her tornado warning Spanish.

I then realized what I don’t like about flying.

It’s the people. They are everywhere. Being weird. Being abnormal. Being creepy. I would not be bothered by flying as much if I got to do it, say, in my own plane, by myself.

I hung out in the airport for a couple of hours while angry passengers yelled at unsuspecting gate agents who were doing their damndest to help them. One woman was yelling at this particular gate agent about how this was the 3rd time this happened to her and blah blah blah.

She kept yapping until I said;

“SHUT THE HELL UP AND GO LAY ON THE TARMAC!”

Well not quite but I did tell her to leave the poor gate agent alone. I am so very brave.

If you take a look around an airport you realize this is no longer the golden age of travel. People don’t travel in suits and elegant leisurewear. They travel in whatever they found on the floor when they woke up that morning. I saw a man in a purple t-shirt whose belly was so big I thought he was wearing a prosthetic.

Perhaps he had some sort of silicone belly implant? There was no way one belly could stick out so far. It was only for the fact that his shirt stuck out so far I could see his bare flesh exposed underneath it that I realized this was no prosthetic. It was like a belly penthouse.

Beautiful.

I found out I had 7 hours until my new flight to New York, so I decided to take a shuttle bus to a train into D.C. to go see the Cherry Blossoms. I figured this would get me away from the crazies and the hideousity.

Incorrect.

In the fully packed Amtrak waiting room I came across another prized individual.

This gentleman sat across from me (also with a belly penthouse), directly in front of a brightly lit vending machine. He sat there cross eyed and absolutely transfixed by the colorful offerings available inside that magical glass box. I thought he was going to try and make a withdrawal from one of the many shelves when he made another decision.

You know how sometimes you cough up a little bit of phlegm, but you just deal with it because you are not in a place where you can get rid of it?

The gentleman sitting not 4 feet across from me in the Amtrak station waiting room did not think this was one of those places. So I watched him, cough, gag, and then let loose a horrific dribble of phlegm that fell like an autumn leaf and landed between his feet on the floor.

Beautiful.

He didn’t even try to hide it. His basic philosophy appeared to be, “I’m gross, everybody watch.”
So I took the train into Union Station in D.C. and in an effort to save money (I’m becoming cheaper by the day) I walked 45 minutes to the Tidal Basin to see the cherry blossoms, and the sun came out and it was beautiful. I sat strolled and took pictures such as this one.




And then it started to pour on me. I didn’t have an umbrella. So I walked the 45 minutes back to Union Station where I bought an Amtrak ticket back to Baltimore, which I then immediately dropped on the floor and didn’t realize until I heard over the loud speaker;

“Would Mr…. Bo-em-key please pick up his ticket at the information desk.”

Damn it.

Back on the train to the shuttle bus to the airport where I checked in for my 6 o’clock flight, and went through security. I sat down in the waiting area for a while, and was walking to my gate when a woman ran up to me and said, “Sir! You dropped this!”

It was my plane ticket.

Double damn it.

I was starting to think maybe someone or something was trying to stop me from going home. But 14 hours later I made it. Which means it took me an hour LONGER to fly home than it would have to drive.

Forget airplanes. Forget travel. Next time I’m just going to stay home and grow a belly penthouse.

Airports Part 1 - Regression

Flying is getting progressively more horrendous. It never ceases to amaze me how normal, seemingly rational adults, turn into lying, rule breaking, little 7 year olds, when making the decision to travel by airplane.

Case and point: I traveled down to South Carolina this past weekend to visit my parents at, what I like to refer to as, “The Resort.” (They actually live in a normal house, but they pick me up from the airport, feed me, take me to do fun activities, and I don’t have to pay for any of it, so yea it’s pretty much a resort.)

First of all, this flight was chock a block with old people. You know those planes that go to places like Cancun or Miami during spring break that are packed with hot co-eds?

This was not one of those planes. My flight looked like a field trip to the Del Boca Vista Phase II retirement community. This was an elderly plane. The process does not move quickly with a gaggle of fogies.

In addition to this gaggle, there was a man on my flight with a foot cast. But instead of getting around on crutches like most people would, this guy had his knee propped up on a 3 wheeled push scooter complete with handlebars called the TLC; Turning Leg Caddy.

He was a lot like the kid in school who bumped his elbow on a desk but came into school the next day with his arm in a sling. Everyone knows it’s a sympathy ploy, but all the teachers go out of their way to accommodate him anyway.

Hey needy guy, instead of pissing off every one on the airplane, why not get yourself a pair of crutches and give your scooter to a 10 year old girl who actually needs it.

Boarding the airplane is a lot like getting ready to go outside for recess. When the attendant announces that “We are now boarding,” people start circling the gate like vultures.

And even though everyone has a ticket, and will get on the plane, people still push and shove towards the gate entrance like they are trying to buy the last mango in Pakistan.

Then the teacher has to get angry and say that only the good students who wait in the line can get through.

My particular flight I was flying direct from New York to Savannah (yes I know that’s in Georgia hot shot). The great/awful thing about this direct flight is that the plane is always pretty small so there is no first class.

Now I don’t really give a crap about first class because I can’t afford it. I can barely afford coach. In fact, the next time I visit my parents I’m pretty sure I’m just going to ship myself down there in a UPS box addressed to “Mommy.”

But the fact that there is no first class means that all of the upper crust of our society, the social elite, the captains of industry… have to sit with my sorry butt in a tiny ass plane that looks like an Airstream trailer with wings.

We are all equals now. Everyone is equally pathetic. Nobody is getting any special treatment. We are all in detention. Welcome to Air Detention.

Once the airline finally lets everybody on the plane it becomes a series of minor rule infractions, people trying desperately to hide their insubordination from the flight attendants.

But people really get indignant when they are told to turn off their cell phones.

“What? Me? Turn off my cellphone? You must be mad! I am awaiting a very important call from Prince Ali of Akrabah!”

I understand important calls need to be made, business transactions must occur, information must be exchanged. But just because you are in the middle of writing a text, that does not make you special.

On the trip down, the flight attendant made the announcement to turn off all electronic devices and then proceeded to walk down the aisle to make sure all of the students were abiding by the rules.

I then watched the man sitting next to me, the man with a wife and 2 kids at home with the flu (I was reading his texts) hide his cellphone under his leg mid-text as the attendant passed by, and then pull it back out to finish his message.

Really middle aged guy? You are an adult! You are not hiding Pixy Stix and Pez from the Nuns. You are a grown up. Act like it. You are texting about how your wife is pissed at you.

The only acceptable text would have been;

“IT’S THE GREEN WIRE! CUT THE GREEN WIRE!”

Texting during takeoff does not make you a rebel. You are not Cool Hand Luke. Put your cell phone away and mindlessly page through the Sky Mall magazine like the rest of us.

Eventually the plane landed and the dismissal bell rang causing everyone to flood the aisle and push and shove to get off the very plane they pushed and shoved to get onto.

And as I’d find out on my return trip, I should have shipped myself home UPS.

To be continued…

The Airport and the Painting

I fell in love with this painting at the San Telmo market in Buenos Aires. It was fantastic, very much for me, and I was delighted I was able to talk the guy down from 500 to 400 pesos. My only concern was that I would have some challenges getting it home.
Challenges turned out to be an understatement.
The tough thing about backpacking in a foreign country, or anywhere for that manner, is carrying 40 pounds of your own stuff on your back wherever you go. I am lucky enough to have a pretty nice backpack so getting around isn’t too cumbersome. But it has a lot of straps and attachments that hang off.
So I have an oversized duffle bag with a shoulder strap that I stuff it in before I check it in when I am getting on planes. It helps keeps the bag protected and in good shape.
When I was leaving Buenos Aires for the last time I had scheduled a cab to the airport so I figured I would put it in the duffle ahead of time as I would just be going from the curb to check in.
I lost count of how many miscalculations I made on this trip.
I get to the airport and at curbside check in there is a machine that wraps your suitcase in cellophane a bunch of times to ensure it stays sealed under the plane and no one has gone into it. They charge about 10 dollars for this.
I figured this would be a great way to protect my painting. I ask the man to wrap my painting, and while this was probably the first time this man had ever done such a task, or possibly used his arms (he looked like a Double Dare contestant in the middle of some sort of awful physical challenge) we manage to bundle up my painting nicely.
I go inside and get on a very short line to check in. I am excited about this. All I have is my bag to check in, my small backpack to carry on, and my painting which is about 20 by 30 inches. I was somewhat concerned about it fitting in the overhead compartment.
So I checked with one of the airline reps who once again (all together now) did not speak English. So I am trying to ask him if it will fit on the plane, but this has brought a whole new line of questioning about.
He wants to know if I have a receipt for the painting. Of course I don’t because I bought it at a market. He says I can’t get on the plane without a special something or other from an office at the very end of check in. I calmly accept it and with my 40 pound duffle bag slung over my shoulder and my painting delicately in hand, walk down to where I thought he pointed.

After 10 minutes on the wrong line the gentleman at this particular window is very accommodating ands starts giving me people’s names to contact and office doors to knock on. I decide to just go back to my guy at check in, plead ignorance and frustration and try my chances.
Poor decision.
I schlep my 40 pound bag back to the check in desk where the guy insists I get the documentation I need. My previously unflappable cool has given way to a very obvious frustration which I am sure doesn’t bother him because he doesn’t really speak English which shouldn’t even bother me because I am in ArgenFrigginTina.
Finally he learns that he needs to tell me to go to the police depot, which is located 1000 yards past the wrong place I went to last time, in baggage claim inside of a suitcase, under a bridge, guarded by a fleet of magical unicorn-riding trolls.
Well, it might as well have been anyway.
So back I go carrying pack over my shoulder like I’m a lost mortician hauling a dead body to the incinerator.
I finally find a man who asks me if I have a painting, I tell him yes. He gives me an acknowledging nod and shows me into a room. When I get into that room 4 men in uniforms (with no guns or any other type of official thing on them) tell me I am in the wrong room.
So I walk out and the same man who told me to go in sees me, walks me back in, tells the 4 guys in uniform what I am doing. They nod their heads that I am, in fact, in the correct room.
So another non-English speaking man comes out and asks me where I bought my painting. I tell him. He asks for my receipt, I tell him I don’t have one. He then says I can’t take the painting on the plane.
As though this guy was the last line of defense against art thieves in Argentina. Surely no thief would try to get on a plane without a receipt for his stolen painting! In hindsight I am pretty sure I could have written “Rich bought this…no seriously, he did” on a piece of paper and it would have sufficed.
The guy insists I can not leave the country with my painting.
He was acting like I was standing there with a dead Alpaca full of exotic birds and needle drugs. It was a damn painting. I bought it at the market. How does this not suffice?!
Finally he brings in an English speaking woman who knows I am about to start kicking people, and calmly explains that if I undo the 10 dollar wrapping job I have on my painting and show it to the man, AS A FAVOR (they really emphasized that) they will let me take it with me.
But they really wanted me to know that this was only a favor.
A favor really? Ok well I’ll make sure the next time this turd waffle is trying to leave America with something he rightfully owns, I’ll do him the favor and let him. What the hell?
He hands me a box cutter so I can undo the protective wrapping on my painting. Immediately I realize these employees are not cut of the finest cloth because they know I am visibly pissed, yet they still decided to hand me a weapon.
So it takes me 5 minutes to undo the green cellophane around my painting and when I finally show it to them, I swear to you, and I can’t prove that they said this;
“Oh yea that is nice.”
”Yea it’s beautiful.”
But I can’t prove that.
They say it’s ok that I can rewrap it and the man will walk me over to check in to vouch for me, because apparently we are now BFFs.
So I rewrap it, which is kind of like trying to rewrap your Christmas presents after you’ve already torn off the paper. In fact when I finish trying to put it back together, it looks like it was wrapped by a 5 year old.
I walk all the way back to check in desk and walk to the front of the line, because I am NOT about to wait on that crap again. And if somebody had challenged me about it, it would have been sad, but I would jammed my painting in their eye.
My new friend says my painting is NOT in fact stolen, and belongs to me.
As though if I had shown him Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” and pinky promised I had bought it at the market, he would have cleared this as well.
Idiots.
I eventually made it through security but I was so frazzled I wanted to just sit down on the floor of duty free and crack open a bottle of Blue Label. But I didn’t. I came home, and so did my painting, undamaged, and in tact.
It now hangs happily above my bar. Which is appropriate, because I need a drink every time I think of what it took to get that painting home.