Monthly Archives: February 2011

Straight Lesson #12- The Total Body Work Out

I was non-revving from New York City back home to Austin on a full flight.  I was lucky to get on as a stand-by.  I had a window seat but a girl was sitting next to me, reading a fitness magazine.  She read that thing for over four hours.  I  had no idea there was that much to actually read in a fitness magazine but apparently there is.  I read over her shoulder some of the time and I hoped that she could tell that I was reading over her shoulder and not looking down her blouse.  I hope her dad across the aisle just didn’t see anything at all.  One article was about a basic work out cycle for the week:

Day 1- Upper body

Day 2- Lower body

Day 3- Day of Rest

Day 4- Upper body

Day 5- Lower body

Day 6- Cardio

Day 7- Cardio

I’d love to be in better shape and maybe drop a few pounds but I just can’t get myself to join a gym or go out and play sports, mainly because no one will play with me.  I literally have a trunk full of sports gear that never gets used.  It’s always too hot or too cold or too this or too that or their kid needs to go to the frickin’ Emergency Room because their fever won’t break.  It’s always SOMETHING!

So I decided to come up with a workout routine that any flight attendant can follow.  On the days you’re supposed to work out your upper body, those are the days you work the galley.  You move heavy racks of food from the carts to the ovens.  You open a dozen of bottles of wine.  You carry inserts full of soda to the middle of the cabin and leave them there for use inflight.  You break the massive brick of melted and then re-frozen ice catering gives you into normal sized cubes.

Then you can just move things around for the fun of it.  You don’t really have to move all the other inserts of soda from the Supplement Cart to the cubbies in the galley but you can in the name of health.  During boarding, you can get out there and actually help the passengers with their heavy bags.  We’re not supposed to lift anything that’s not ours, but we’re going for a look here people, so it’s worth the risk of injuring your back and being out for a month, uncovered by insurance because we were doing things we aren’t supposed to.  When everyone is asleep you can do dips using the jumpseat to work your triceps.  In the hotel room we can do some push ups and sit ups to further the cause.  If you’re not ready for proper push ups, start by doing some 45 degree angle ones in the bathroom against the sink.  It’s a start.

On the Lower Body days we’re going to be in the aisle.  We’re going to pull those carts up and down the aisle all by ourselves.  If someone asks to help, we’re going to say “Get Away”, we’re working our calves!  To really feel the burn we’re going to pull the carts up right after take off, while the plane is still climbing at a steep incline.  Make sure you’re capable of this though, if you accidentally let go of the cart, someone will get a knee shattered when the cart hits them.

We’ll also help out with closing all the overhead bins right after boarding.   We’re going to step on the seat and concentrate on working our legs.  Often times that’s the only way for short people to close the middle overhead bins, to elevate on the aisle seat.  Most people recruit a tall man to get up and close the middle overhead bins but we’re working on our Adonis body so we’ll do it ourselves, up and down on every single row until all the bins are closed.

Once we get to the hotel we can take the stairs instead of the elevator.  We can go balls-out and do the stairs with our luggage in tow but that’s not recommended for beginners.  Word of advice:  don’t take the stairs too quickly, you can make yourself dizzy and nauseous going around in circles like that.

For the cardio days we can start by actually answering some of those call lights and doing our fifteen minute walk-arounds that we’re supposed to do.  If you answer every call light that goes off, right when it goes off, you’ll find that you’re up and moving around the entire flight.  So instead of rolling your eyes when the chime goes off and thinking, “I’m sure they meant to turn on their overhead light,” get out there and check it out!  Go the long way if you have to.  If the call light is right by you at 43J, go all the way up the A/B side to the front of the cabin then back down the H/J side until you get to the seat in need, whatever gets the heart pumping.  If you’re on a spacious plane you can do a variety of calisthenics in the coach galley.  There’s room for several people to run in place, do jumping jacks, or throw down some yoga mats.  On the layover you can take long walks or better yet, jog.  if you’re in a nice neighborhood, take a run and check out your beautiful surroundings.  If you’re in the hood, just pretend that someone’s chasing you.

The most obvious solution to getting a killer body without joining a gym is to go to the hotel gym whenever available.  Barring that, these everyday exercises on and off the plane can get you in shape and healthier without doing anything out of your normal work routine.  Of course having a healthy sex life never hurt anyone either.

Straight Lesson #11- Foreign Taxis

The absolute worst part of any vacation abroad is getting out of the airport when you land, provided that they don’t have a decent public transit system. Thank you Amsterdam for taking care of that in epic fashion! Sometimes worse things happen to you during your trip, but those things are unexpected.  On every trip you take you’re going to have to deal with exiting the airport, unless you’re some kind of weirdo that just likes visiting airports.

You will be hustled and get the run-around and there isn’t anything you can do about it.  You think going to an official taxi stand is the way to go, well not always.  You think taking a ride from someone dressed really well is a smart move, well not always.  Last time I was somewhere dodgy was last week when I was in Buenos Aires.  I checked out the ride situation.  There were several people trying to get me into their cars but I didn’t commit at first.  I noticed that well over half of the cars out there were black and yellow Radio Taxis.  I figured they were probably the most honest ones out there, so I took them.  They probably were the most honest but they still ripped me off shamelessly.  The lesson I learned from them: always have small denominations to avoid relying on them to give you change.  They never have change.  Even if you see the exact change in their hand, they’ll lie and tell you that’s not really money, it’s lottery tickets or Kleenex or some shit like that.

Don’t be fooled by any driver with a crucifix or rosary beads hanging from the rear view mirror.  It’s doesn’t mean they won’t financially rape you.  Don’t buy it if there’s a plastic Jesus or Virgin Mary on the dashboard.  Those Saint cards that look like baseball cards on the visor doesn’t mean that the driver is a Christian and won’t break any of the Ten Commandments just to get a few extra Pesos out of you.  There is no God in a Third World taxi.

First and foremost when getting into a cab in a country where you don’t speak the language is to not let the cabbie know that you don’t know the language or where you’re trying to get to.  Know the destination of where you want to go and how to pronounce it correctly.  Even if you don’t know any other words in that language, know how to say, “take me to so-and-so please.”  The first time I went to Australia I told the driver I needed to get to Clovelly beach.  I pronounced it “Claw Velly” instead of “Cloe Velly” and forty minutes later I was where I needed to go.  It wasn’t until days later when I took a cab back to the airport that I realized how close those two places are to each other and how horribly the driver had ripped me off by taking the most scenic route possible.  I think we were somewhere near Ayers Rock for a while.  So say the destination correctly and hopefully your bluff will work.  A good follow-up step is to take out your cell phone and pretend like you’re talking to someone the entire time you’re in the cab.  That keeps the driver from asking you questions and accidentally discovering that you’re completely full of crap.  If you don’t want to keep up that charade then put headphones on and ignore the driver if he tries to talk to you.

If there are tolls to pay en route pay them yourself as you go through them.  Often times the driver will tell you that he’ll take care of it and you can just add it to the fare at the end.  “Wow, that’s was nice of him” you’ll think!  Bullshit!  Keep your eye on the sign on what they charge.  You will be charged at least ten times that when it comes time to pay the guy.  He’ll explain it by making up some crazy excuse like the “Driving an Aries on a Thursday following a New Moon” surcharge.

When you finally get to your destination he’ll try to get you one last time, or take it upon himself to tip himself.  Put up some resistance to keep at least some of your money but don’t create a bad scene that could turn dangerous.  The old trick of showing him your empty wallet works.  Turn those pockets inside out and translate the phrase, “You can’t get blood from a stone.”  It’s frustrating and infuriating, and you’ll feel completely useless/helpless but at least you’re where you need to be and  the nightmare is over.

When getting back to the airport you can play it just right and not be screwed over too badly.  You want to tell the driver that you’re in a hurry but not too much of a hurry.  If he think you have plenty of time then he’ll go down random streets and purposely get stuck in traffic, or worse, fill up with gas while the meter runs.  That’s when all of a sudden all four tires need to be filled with air and the oil needs to be changed.  He’ll drag that drive out as long as possible and take you for as much as he can.  If you tell him that you’re in a big hurry however, he’ll try to charge you for some sort of expediting fee that doesn’t exist at all.  He’ll say he can get you to the airport in time for your flight but he’ll need extra money because he’ll be breaking all sorts of speeding and traffic laws.  It’s a fine line and you need to know how to walk it.  To avoid the gas station detour, check his tank before you get in, that way you know and he knows that you’re not a complete schmuck.  Go ahead and take out your air pressure gauge and check the tire pressure as well.

If you must talk to the driver, tell him that his city is your favorite city you’ve ever been to.  Tell him the food is wonderful, their local sports team is the best, and the girls are beautiful.  This might make him happy but it won’t stop him from doing that thing he can do to the meter to make it charge faster.  I thought that was an urban legend until I saw a guy do it, again in Argentina.  He did something weird with some wires under the hood and I didn’t think anything of it.  By the time we got to the airport it read 340 Pesos on the meter when it was only 150 going the other direction from the same spot.  Only 8 of those 340 Pesos were wasted at the gas station as he let the gas slowly drip into the tank.  Some cabbies rig their meters so that they flip for an eighth of a mile every time they perform a certain operation, like a turn signal or flashing their brights.  I know, pretty brilliant!  Now I know why my guy kept running the windshield wipers!

Forget all about the NYC Taxi Customer Bill of Rights.  Those don’t exist anywhere but New York.  And don’t get your hopes up of stumbling into Cash Cab Bogotá, it doesn’t exist.  Ben Bailey won’t be giving you money as you get taken around town.  There will be no Red Light Challenge.  Street Shout Outs would probably be a bad idea anyways.

So 99% of the cab drivers you come across, especially in poorer countries will try to take you for all that you have.  It’s going to happen so just don’t let it ruin your holiday.  It’s inevitable.  It will suck and even though you know it’ll suck, you’ll still complain while it’s happening exactly how you knew it was going to happen.  Just suck it up, get through it, and get on with your holiday.  It’s smooth sailing after that, until the cab ride back to the airport.

Straight Lesson #10- Crash Pad

Once you get sick of living in the huge city where you’re based (in my case New York City), you’re going to move away and have to commute.  That also means getting a place to stay for when you’re in NYC.  You don’t really live there, you just stay there a couple of nights out of the months before or after a trip.  You don’t want to throw a lot of money to a place you’re never at so you get together with several of your friends, rent an apartment in between LGA and JFK, buy as many bunk beds as you can possibly squeeze into it, and call it your Crash Pad.

It’s takes a little while to get over the fact that you’re an adult and living in a bunk bed.  I made it all the way to college before I had to share a room with someone and even then I had my own bed.  It took until the age of 33 before I had to sleep in my first bunk bed.  Yeah, you’re regressing.  It doesn’t feel right but you get used to it, sort of.

Crash pads come in all shapes and sizes.  Some have dedicated beds for everyone who lives there.  No matter where you are in the world, you know that your bed is there with your sheets on it, waiting for you.  It isn’t being used by anyone else but you.  No one is drooling, farting, or having sex in your bed.  My crash pad in Kew Gardens, Queens is like that (also known as Stew Gardens). It’s good peace of mind knowing my bed is my bed.  We have three bedrooms for fourteen of us. There are three bunk beds in one room, two in another, and one more plus a twin bed in mine.  I have the top bunk but I’m patiently waiting for the guy below me or the girl in the twin to move out so I can upgrade.  It’s serious business.  I’ve almost planted drugs in their luggage then called the cops just to get them fired and free up a better bed.  That’s right Larry and Mara, I’m coming for you!

Some crash pads have what’s called “hot beds”.  That means you don’t have your own bed.  Theoretically there should be a bed somewhere in the apartment for you but you have to poke around the apartment with a flashlight, find a naked mattress, and throw your sheets on it.  It’s like musical chairs.  Usually there are only a couple of people at the crash pad each night, which is good since hot-bed crash pads are overbooked and if every single person is there, someone might be on the sofa or futon, or worse.  Any time there are more than four people in on the same night, it gets incredibly claustrophobic and fights break out over what to watch on television. Nothing is more uncomfortable than a full crash pad, which often happens between Christmas and New Years.  Everyone just sits in one place and tries not to move around because there isn’t any room to move.

In every crash pad there’s one person that’s been there longer than the rest.  For some reason that person feels a sense of entitlement or achievement because of this, like that’s something to be proud of.  They might have a little more cabinet space in the communal kitchen or at least the best shelves, never those annoying, hard-to-reach ones at the top.  They might also have more stuff there than anyone else.  After a few years their area looks less like a meager place to crash a few times a month and more like a homeless person’s space, one of those privileged, well-to-do bums who has like three heaping shopping carts full of treasures.

Both pilots and flight attendants utilize crash pads.  The turnover rate is high. The best part about the crash pad concept is that you may have five different airlines represented under one roof.  You get to hear all about the drama your competitors face as well as all the ins and out of how they do things. After getting all this intel, most crash pads could probably run an airline better than any CEO.  We could take all the best aspects from each company and make a super airline.  No one airline is perfect.

I like staying in a crash pad where I’m the only representative from my airline.  I don’t want to work with those people.  I like being able to listen to them bitch and complain about their company (and each other) and feel completely detached. It’s entertaining.

People often ask about the food situation since there are so many people there and only one fridge with very limited shelf space.  The ideal situation is to have communal food since leftovers are impossible.  If you can’t finish a meal you need to just throw it away because you won’t be back to the crash pad for a couple of weeks and the food will spoil by then.  Plus it just takes up valuable space.  The space is worth more than your half eaten taco.

At the start everyone agrees with this communal system but slowly over time you stray and get possessive.  One person will buy fancy cheese rather than the Kraft, so they’ll put their name on it with a note that says “Do Not Touch!”  Then someone will buy a brand name cereal rather than Tasty Os and so they’ll put their name on it.  Before long everything in the apartment has a name on it, even a tiny sample bottle of Lawry’s seasoned salt.  It’s ridiculous.  Currently we have four different ketchup bottles in the fridge with people’s names on them.  Not four different kinds mind you, they’re all Heinz, not to mention about 100 little ketchup packets from fast food places that are packed into the place where the butter belongs in the fridge.

We have more individual condiments than the places we stole them from have; there are HUNDREDS.  We got your ketchup, Tabasco, mustard, mayo, vinegar from the UK, and soy sauce from Asia.  We have little salt and peppers from McDonalds to go with the regular salt and pepper shakers and then a huge 1 lb. container of Morton’s iodized salt.  Our kitchen is indicative of the US Government, lots of unnecessary waste.

Every person in the crash pad has a little cubby to keep their dry goods in, but that doesn’t mean that your roommates will respect your cubby.  If someone is hungry and it’s cold outside then first they’ll go through the roommates cubbies, then maybe through the take out menus.  There’s always a reason not to leave the living room.  You say you’ll replace the stolen items tomorrow but they never get replaced, EVER!

So that’s a crash pad in a nutshell.  It has its drama but it’s better than sleeping in a chair at the airport or springing for an airport hotel every time you need to stay at base.  The temptation is to join one of the party crash pads but that’s just a horrible idea in the long run.  The only time you’re there is to sleep so you want to be able to sleep.  It should be a sanctuary.