Fiji - Getting There

I am a big fan of the weather. I enjoy experiencing a wide assortment of elements throughout the year. I like the variety and the changing of the seasons. Granted when I was in Arizona and we had 330 days of sunshine... that wasn't bad either.

This winter in New York though is easily the snowiest I can ever remember. It seems like it has snowed every single week when usually it seems we don't get our first big snow storm until February.

And since I live and work a block away from a subway stop, and don't have a car, the fact that we have been virtually abused by snowfall hasn't made me that upset. Honestly the city is prettier under new fallen snow. Granted the nasty black tire slurpee the streets turn into after it snows is another story but hey, I try to see the good.

Usually New York winters get so brutally cold that your face freezes and the wind makes you angry. You find yourself walking up the street at a forty-five degree angle on a particularly blustery day screaming at the wind:

Stop it! Just stop damn it!

But when it snows it at least gives the cold purpose. Like that was its job, to produce cold. And it succeeded. Good job weather!

And I do love the snow. I think it’s beautiful and amazing. I revel in it. I stare at it. I soak it in. I take pictures of it. I think it is the coolest thing in the world… until I have to go somewhere.

As the vacation I had spent the last two months planning approached, I became more and more aware of just how panicked the weather can make you (and by you I mean me) when the country’s biggest snow storm and your two week trip to Fiji fall on the same day.

Let me back up.

I won a trip to Fiji last year for a video I made for the Fiji Water Air Pacific contest. Two round trip tickets from Los Angeles to Fiji.

And that's F-I-J-I ladies and gentlemen. Not FIGI as every single person I know seemed to be calling it.

So I had to first get the time off, find a travel buddy, and then actually book the trip, which was like trying to teach an otter to play the saxophone.

At least that’s how it felt.

Here's the abbreviated version:

I call the Fiji hotline 4 different times to check available dates (I didn’t trust the operators I spoke to).

I call Fiji to book my trip. They say call the main office.

I call the main office, they say I must call Fiji back and tell them to book it for me.

I call Fiji back, and the same dude says I must call the main office and go through them.

I say NO! You book it!

He books it.

I have to mail in my certificate proving I won. I do so. They don’t receive it.

Now I have to fax it.

And of course this is the one day of the year I am home sick from work with the winter plague.

At home, I don't have a fax machine. I don't have a scanner. I don't even have really good handwriting. So instead... I now have to schlep myself to the copy store like an idiot. I feel like salty death. Its raining and I am now wearing snow boots, ASU tear away pants, a sweatshirt, and an orange down vest. I look like I am on the starting five of the home depot polar basketball team.

Did I mention I feel like death?

I get to the copy store and essentially… buy a fax? Because that's what I am doing. So I buy one fax to send to the Fiji people to prove I am not some random idiot calling to pretend I won a contest to fly 97 thousand miles around the planet just so I can plant my pasty white ass in the sand. There are a lot of places much closer where I could do that!

Eventually the fax is received and the peasants rejoice. And even though this is a trip that I won, I still have to pay taxes on the tickets. So after the back and forth my credit card is charged for roughly the same amount as the Louisiana Purchase.

And then days before my trip, I read reports of cataclysmic rains attacking Australia and the warning of a CYCLONE heading for that region of the earth the same time I am due to arrive.

It is as this point that I realize I have no idea what the hell a cyclone is.

So I Google cyclone.

And then I Google “How to survive a cyclone” where I find my 2 favorite tips.

Protect yourself with rugs and blankets.

Never assume the cyclone is over.

Right, because I’m sure my jungle beach hut made out of grass in the middle of equatorial nowhere in the middle of the Pacific will have an abundance of “rugs and blankets.” I’m not packing those either.

And never assume the cyclone is over? So what am I supposed to do, just walk around the rest of my life hoping the cyclone is over but carrying a bag full of rugs and blankets just in case?

Hey Rich what’s with all the rugs and blankets?
Oh there was a cyclone 5 years ago, but I’m not sure it’s over yet.

Once I managed to finally wrap my head around that awesome bit of fear the snowstorm of the millennium hits, well, America.

With it comes snow and freezing rain so severe that news anchors are going outside and punching ice... to prove how icy it is.

I even saw a newscaster pointing out all the different kinds of ice. Ice in the snow. Ice in the trees. Ice on the sidewalk. It was like Dr. Seuss was doing the news. Hell it probably would have been better if Dr. Seuss did the news, I love it when things rhyme.

So I check my airline to see there are six flights to Los Angeles the day I leave. The first four have been cancelled before I even wake up. Mine is the sixth. And by the sheer will of the universe, I make it to the airport, onto my plane, and off to L.A with no issues.

And so began 10 of the most amazing days of my life.

To Be Continued…

What Happened to the High Five?

Do you remember the high five? That most jubilant of traditions whereby a human, celebrating some sort of success, would take their open hand and slap it against the open hand of another human, creating a sound and also a collision of fulfillment and rapture.

Perhaps you don’t, because in recent memory the high five has been replaced by the touching of closed fists known as the fist bump, or soul dap, or pound, or a half dozen other aliases.

That itself makes me frustrated with the gesture. What is your problem fist bump? Why must you have all of these aliases? Be yourself. You don’t see the high five masquerading around town as the “raised finger star formation” or the “open palmed slap” or the “elevated pancake joint hand gesture.”

No, it is the high five, it has always been the high five, and it will always be the high five. It knows who it is, and that is comforting to me.

Whereas this fist bump creature has probably always been around, it is relatively new in the mass consumption realm. If I had to place blame, I would trace it back to the first time fear of mass pandemics hit the U.S.

I don’t remember if it was Bird Flu or Badger Pneumonia that set off the hand washing craze (which, is just about the saddest thing in the world that hand washing would hit an all time low to return as a “craze”) a couple of years ago, but when that happened people became absolutely mad about germs.

Individuals would wear one glove on the train to hold the rail; they wouldn’t shake hands with business partners, and would Purel their hands if they accidentally touched anything. Hey, I was one of them. I don’t like being sick either!

But it was around that time that I noticed a wealth of fist bumps going around. Guys fist bumping guys, girls fist bumping guys, and children fist bumping dogs. It was spiraling out of control. The reason it bothered me so much is because I derived no satisfaction from it.

A high five is only as good as the force put into it. A weak high five can feel more like a futuristic hand scan than a celebratory act. And I know you can go too far and end up with a hand that feels like it was slapped with a broken piece of Chinese Bamboo. But generally it’s a gratifying experience. I can give a robust high five to guys and girls alike.

Not so much with a fist bump. Giving a forcible fist bump is a great way to end up with a set of broken knuckles. Now I don’t mind hitting fists at a moderate strength ration with one of my male friends, but I can’t go punching the fists of women. I mean I think its best to avoid any type of woman punching, even if it is consensual. That’s just good life advice.

But still on its best day, a zesty fist bump is only as good as say… lukewarm creamed corn.

You want to believe it did the trick, but really deep down, you know it just didn’t.

If this fist bump were so key to our society we should be teaching it to children. But we don’t teach it to them do we? No of course not, because tiny children don’t really know how to make fists.

There is a reason that the only thing adults know what to say to children under 5 is

“Hey give me a high five.”

It’s never:

“Hello toddler, might we engage in a soul dap?”

I like the high five because the instructions are in the title.

Your hand goes high and you hold up five. Oh Ok, I get it. Done, no problem.

That’s probably also why I like “All You Can Eat” Buffets, “Diving Boards” and “Row Boats.” For all of those things, the instruction is right in the title. How can you go wrong?

Fist bump is pretty clear, but soul dap? I don’t even know where my soul is, and I’m not even sure how to dap. It sounds like tap, but maybe, a secretive tap? And give me a pound could really seriously confuse some British folks. I’m trying to increase international cooperation here, not obfuscate it!

But I think the real attraction of the fist bump is that it allows one to “play it cool” as it were. There is a fair amount of commitment on one’s part when you throw your naked paw into the air anticipating reciprocity.

There is always the chance that nobody will touch palms with you and just leave you out to dry. Like being the only one in a bathing suit at a pool party, or walking across a bar to talk to a girl who doesn’t speak English.

I’m not speaking from experience on either of those, I just, well, OK let’s move on.

But like I said there is an element of risk to initiating a high five. You could just end up leaving your bare palm in the air like you’re trying to ask an uninterested Miss Flanagan for the bathroom pass.

Sometimes we fist bump at work. It’s very appropriate because closing a “How To Ticket” doesn’t really elicit high five type of joy within me. A subtle fist bump works for me there.

But in the moments that matter, if I birdie a hole in golf (which I don’t) or I guess the answer correctly (which I never do) I want to feel the excitement resonate in my palm.

Otherwise I will spend the rest of my life equating “How To Tickets” with things that actually are awesome.

Like diving boards.

Potty Time

I thought I had said all there was to say about restrooms and the etiquette therein, but like many things in this life, as soon as I thought I was out of things to go crazy about, I discovered several more. I am reminded on a daily basis about the incredibly strange, gross, and bizarre bathroom behavior that exists everywhere.

The fear of Swine Flu has helped drill this home for me.

We are at a point in our societal history where we have used up all excuses for not washing our hands. If you have an elementary school diploma and you did not grow up in the jungle, you should be aware of the fact that hand washing involves soap, water, and some vigorous scrubbing.

Not, as some people seem to think, water and some weak shaking of the hands.

People pretty much fit into 1 of the following 3 categories.

1. The Scrubber. This should be everybody, but unfortunately it is not. This individual uses soap and water to cleanse their hands of the filth that has been accumulated between the last hand washing and the present one because the bathroom is not the only place you can pick up germs.

2. The Faker. This person is either too lazy to really wash their hands and wants you to believe they did, or they honestly believe that a quick rinse under the faucet is enough to get rid of the germs. This is also probably the same individual who uses the 35 second rule for dropped food and believes you can get 2 uses out of a pair of underwear between washes.

3. The Balls Out Villain. No soap, no faking, no cares. This human has no need to make anyone believe anything. They ignore germs. They also intentionally park in handicapped spots and most likely punch pandas.

I have also noticed that many people see nothing wrong with bringing a food item into the restroom. I am so completely baffled by this that I can barely bring myself to write about it. I find this to be a grave sin.

The bathroom is a place of leaving behind. There is nothing in the bathroom that you should take with you. Even those fancy bathrooms that offer up candy and Tic Tacs are suspect. I am not a proponent of buying a pack of Juicy Fruit that spent a half a day sitting in a room full of toilets.

Nor should you bring anything out that you have put down in the bathroom. If it touches the counter, or really anything in that room, you should either throw it out or immediately light it on fire. No questions asked.

I mean seriously people, you bring your tuna sandwich or whatever it is into the grossroom (its original name but changed to restroom in 1847) and then place it on the sink. THE SINK! Of all the places the sink is where people rinse the germs off their hands without soap and then shake them around like a cootie sprinkler so those germs are everywhere and not washed safely down the drain like they should be.

Next are those individuals who feel the need to flush the urinal before peeing. Flushing a toilet before going number 2 I can understand. If the previous train has not left the station before yours is about to pull in, that makes sense.

But the urinal? Why are you flushing? Do you have issues with peeing in dirty water? Do you find it offensive sir? Do you require a receptacle full of clean water to pee in? If this is the case, then I am going to insist you stay the hell away from the water cooler.

It does make me laugh though, the urgency which people actually go into the restroom. If I am washing my hands and someone practically jogs into the restroom, I kind of chuckle to myself and think, yea, I've been there before friend.

But if I am in a stall, and I hear somebody stride briskly into the bathroom towards my direction, I feel like they are going to kick in the door like I am running a meth lab on an episode of COPS.

Again, somebody hustled into the bathroom while I was in the stall recently and I braced myself for impact. But he veered into the stall next to me. Even though he could have been one stall down, he chose the one directly next to me.

He then proceeded to pull toilet paper frantically from the roll for no less than 15 seconds. To the best of my knowledge (and you can hear everything when you are that close) he had not commenced his primary activity yet. So I could only assume he was either building himself a formidable nest, or perhaps mummifying a dead Egyptian.

This would have been less stressful for me had this person just put a buffer stall between us.

Hey here's a question. How come no public restroom I have ever been in has a window? Are they afraid that because the smell is so bad that it will make people want to jump? If you put that window in it wouldn't smell so bad to begin with.

There are no secrets in bathrooms. I can always tell when someone in my office is having a bad day by the smell of the bathroom. Some days I walk in and it is so unbearable I contemplate just turning right around.

On a recent visit the stench was so unbearable I gagged. As soon as I opened the door the smell hit me in the face like a hurricane of hot stink.

This past weekend I came across a first. This particular establishment had installed a fan in the corner of the ceiling. How brilliant is that? A fan to blow away the bad. How come this was the first time I had witnessed this?

There is so much good that can be done to improve the quality of public restrooms. The power is in your hands. Literally. That is some change I can believe in.

Or we can just keep peeing in a meth lab full of dead Egyptians.

Your choice.

Rest-room for Improvement

There are few things on this planet that cause me as much stress as using a public restroom. They seem like simple enough establishments to operate. Use, flush, wash hands, throw out towel, exit. But this is not what happens. It appears (from my personal experience) that it goes something like this;

Use while dancing around

Don’t flush

Dump entire contents of soap dispenser on counter

Wash hands with no soap and splash water around sink area

Scatter crumpled paper towels on the floor around trash can

For some reason or another, public restrooms turn people into wild savages completely incompetent of behaving in a sanitary manner.

Our seemingly civilized country has restrooms that constantly leave me on the edge of a nervous breakdown. And while some restrooms have made tremendous advancements that really put them on the forefront of potty wizardry, I find myself struggling with the same issues no matter where I go.

Every restroom I have ever used has always had a very distinct smell. They either smell like they were just hosed down with bleach, or they smell like an elephant farm. There is no in between.

My first problem has to do with the toilet itself. They are often in poor condition, or have a wobbly seat, or are not clean. Sometimes they are all three. And those little slices of tissue paper that even MacGyver couldn’t figure out how to use do NOTHING to improve the situation. I usually go through about 5 before I get one to work that isn’t ripped or hasn’t sunk to the bottom of the toilet by the time I sit down.

But even if I can bring myself to sit on the porcelain throne, I am very insecure. Nobody looks cool sitting on a toilet. Nobody sits on the toilet with perfect posture and their legs crossed. Nobody leans back like their sitting on a Lay-Z-Bowl. No, everyone sits on the toilet the same way; hunched over, forearms on knees, in the ready position, with their face about 18 inches from the door.

My greatest fear, as I imagine most people’s is, is of somebody bursting into the stall. For whatever reason, people don’t precariously open stall doors, they swing them open as though they are going to yell “Surprise!”

Whenever people knock on a restroom door while I’m in there I get a shot of adrenaline and for some reason I resort to the third person, and in a panicked quasi-pubescent voice shout “SOMEONE’S IN HERE.”

Someone’s in here? What the hell is wrong with me? I guess I get paranoid that if I say “I’m in here” they may not know who I am. And the last thing I want to do is encourage more conversation at that point.

“You're in there in there? Well who are you?”

Yea, no thank you. I think from now on I will resort to Spanish and just scream “OCCUPADO!

In general I really prefer the handicapped stalls. I know its probably not the most ethically responsible thing to do but to be honest I just feel more comfortable. There is space, I can stretch my legs if I want to. Comparatively the other stalls seem just a little claustrophobic. Regular stalls are so tiny I feel like I’m crouched in a cannon waiting to be shot into space… with no pants. And that’s a bad feeling.

So if I can find a toilet that doesn’t look like its falling apart, bring myself to sit down on it, AND lock the door, I am about ready to relax. But some people insist on talking. Talking while standing next to somebody at a urinal is bad enough. I can barely concentrate on one task at a time. But once I am in the stall that is the fortress of solitude. That is quiet time, concentration time. Ladies, from what I understand talking to each other while in the stall is commonplace and accepted. That is fine, you may continue to do so as I will not (to the best of my knowledge) be using your restroom in the near future.

Most of the time while I am in the restroom all I am thinking about is how long it will be until I can get the hell out of there.

I’m not opposed to noise in the restroom. Actually I prefer it. The restroom is a place of noise, of bodily functions. We should feel free to be ourselves there. But perhaps that might be easier if we had some medium volume bossa nova music playing. Something that could act as kind of a distraction sound if you will.

I don’t like to touch anything in the restroom either. I push the door open with my shoulder and flush the toilet with my foot. If it were up to me the whole restroom experience would be very similar to a surgical operating room. I would back into the room where someone would put latex gloves on my hands and scrubs over me. I would do my business and then I would throw everything in the trash on my way out.

But until I can set that up I will be forced to do what I always do; Hold my breath, not touch anything, and be ready at a moment’s notice to scream OCCUPADO!!!

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