Traveling for Dummies: Anxious, Insane Dummies (part 2)

Yesterday, I started the unofficial Pollak Guide to Air Travel. But then I had to go, so I pretty much stopped mid-sentence. Now, I’m continuing it.

When is it okay to put your seat back?

Travelers everywhere spend countless hours deliberating on the appropriate time to put the seat back while on a plane. Thankfully, I’m here to fill you in on the rules.

Rule Number 1:

If the flight is less than one hour, put the seat back immediately upon take off. The flight’s not long enough to risk not being comfortable. If the flight attendant isn’t watching, you can sometimes get away with putting your seat back before take off. Live on the edge.

Rule Number 2:

If you attempt to push your seat back and the person seated behind you holds the top of your seat to prevent you from doing so, then your sole responsibility for the rest of the flight is to make that asshole as uncomfortable as possible. That means that if he starts eating, you should move your seat back and forth as much as possible. If his knee touches the back of your seat, you should lean a bit forward and then slam your midsection into your seat with as much force as you can muster. If he grabs a magazine from the seat pocket, turn around and glare. If he starts watching Fight Club, tell him that Edward Norton is Tyler Durden. If he gets up to pee, trip him.

He declared war on you. Win it.

Rule Number 3:

During food or beverage service, adjust your seat to maximize your comfort. This is a good time to see if the seat should be up a little more or back a little more. Pay no mind to whether the person seated behind you is balancing a number of fragile items on his tray.

Planes were designed so that trays comfortably hold a 3 oz. cup of soda and two Rolos. The small indent on the tray, which in no way correlates to the size of a real cup, should prevent any spills when you move around. So feel free to make yourself comfortable.

If person behind you eats anything that emits a smell that you don’t like, I recommend the old “pretend you’re looking for something in the overhead compartment and then fall back to your seat with a little extra oomph” gag.

Flying with kids

If you have kids, it’s your job to make them behave while on the plane. It doesn’t matter what it takes: Benadryl, whiskey, poison, whatever. Just don’t let them kick the back of the seat. If they do kick the back of the seat, do something about it.

Here’s what I recommend: After your kid spends five minutes kicking the crap out of the seat in front of him, have the following conversation at a volume loud enough for the kickee to hear:

Parent: Sweetie, did you just kick that man’s chair?
Kid: [no response - either because crying or watching bubble guppies]
Parent: Didn’t I tell you not to kick the seat.
Kid: [no response]
Parent: Don’t bother that nice man sitting in front of you. He’s just trying to watch his marathon of Say Yes to the Dress in peace.
Kid: [no response, kicks seat again]
Parent: What did I just say about bothering the nice man?
Kid: [No response]
Parent: If you don’t behave yourself, then you can’t have any candy.
Kid: But I want candy. CANDY.
Parent: Then you know what to do.
Kid: Fine, I’ll stop.
Parent: Good job. You’re the best behaved child in the entire land. Here’s some candy.

Deplaning

At the end of the flight, the flight attendant will sound a chime indicating that the flight is over. When you hear that chime, immediately jump up from your seat and run to the aisle as fast as you can. If possible, try to squeeze in front of the people one or two rows in front of you. You won’t be able to move anywhere for an hour or two, but standing in the aisle allows you to take up as much space as possible while telephoning your friends to let them know you’ve arrived and that the flight was terrible.

Additionally, your breath is atrocious at this point, so stand awkwardly close to the people who look annoyed that you’re standing in the spot where they would be standing if you followed the internationally accepted etiquette practice of waiting your turn. That’ll show them.

Once you’ve navigated your way through the crowd, remember that you put your bag in the overhead compartment quite a ways from where you are standing. Instead of saying “excuse me, can I sneak by to get my bag,” you should push your way through and then remove your bag with no regard for who it hits on its way out of the bin. If another bag is in your way, do not touch it or help take it down, especially if it belongs to an old person or pregnant woman.

Movies

Don’t watch Big Fish while on a plane. I did that once and I started blubbering like a baby.

Safe travels everyone!

 

 

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Traveling for Dummies: Anxious, Insane Dummies.

Anne and I are going on vacation next week. So I thought today would be a great opportunity to share everything I’ve learned about travel. (Alternate title: Why Anne hates traveling with me.)

Getting to the Airport:

Leave for the airport 7-12 hours before take off. My parents trained me this way so that if you’re involved in a horrific accident along the way, you have time for minor surgery AND can still arrive at the terminal with enough time to navigate a security line slightly longer than those from September 12, 2001.

Cartoon by Rob Pollak get to the airport early

Security:

Once you arrive at the airport, stress levels increase. Particularly with the security line. Stare at the other lines to make sure that your line does not result in a security experience thirty seconds longer than someone who checked in after you. As you do that, you should have a running monologue in your head like the one I have:

Did I bring the tickets? Of course, idiot, they just checked them. What if my passport doesn’t get scanned? Will they think I’m a terrorist? What if they put me through that special x-ray machine that broadcasts my penis to the entire airport? Did I remember to put my toothpaste in a clear plastic bag? Shoot, is it 3 oz or 4 oz that’s allowed?

Did I accidentally pack fireworks? Do I still have the tickets in my pocket? I better check again. Maybe I should hold Anne’s ticket too. What if she drops hers? Did my flight board yet? It’s supposed to leave in 5 hours. What if it left by accident? Then what happens?

Am I wearing any metal? Anne, do you have the tickets? Are there going to be enough bins left when I get to the machine? It looks like they’re running a little low. Ugh, the other line is totally faster.

Is that dickwad cutting me? Oh, like just because you have a pilot’s uniform means that you can go in any line you want? Asshole. Where’d the tickets go? Oh, they’re in my hand. Thank god.

Can I bring this coffee with me? Will there be any food on the other side? I can’t see over there. What if there’s not? Will they have the new Golf Digest or the one I already have? Do I need to take my laptop out of its case? I forget. Why is everyone staring at me? Am I sweating? Do I have my wallet? I better pat my pocket to check. The tickets?! Dammit, Anne. What’d you do with the tickets?

Boarding:

Approximately thirty minutes prior to boarding, an airline representative announces that boarding will begin. At most airports, this announcement will be both inaudible and incomprehensible. You will, however, clearly hear the announcements for other flights boarding in nearby airports.

Although boarding proceeds in the same manner for every flight, you should hover right next to the boarding area for the entire boarding period. This allows you to be first through the gate once your designated section boards. Not only will you be closer to the gate, but the people who are actually permitted to board might think that you’re in line and stand behind you. Success! Now you can get through the ticket taker before them and stand in the same exact line on the other side of the gate.

A cartoon by Rob Pollak - Travel guide where to stand when boarding a plane

Overhead Bins:

Once aboard the plane, commandeer an overhead bin wherever you want. It doesn’t matter if it’s close to your seat. Airplanes only have enough overhead bin space for 1/17th of all passengers.

Once you’ve taken up as much bin space as possible, ignore all requests to keep smaller items like backpacks and jackets out of the overhead bin.

Peeing:

As if peeing in a coffin-sized bathroom isn’t bad enough, you have the added stress of navigating the beverage service and other passengers when timing your pee. Once beverage service begins, all bets are off. The flight attendants hog the aisle and never ever leave. So if you kind of have to go, then you should try to go before the drinks come out. The flight attendant may yell at you because you’re never allowed to be when you have to go, as noted by the “fasten your seatbelt” sign. This is just a recommendation – as if seatbelts on flights do anything.

Pay particular attention to the little light that lets you know when the bathroom is empty. Continue to stare at the light until it changes from red to green. In the meantime, identify anyone else playing the same game. You can spot them because they are staring at you while preparing to murder you if you try to get up first. Ignore their threats and hope that there’s an air marshal on board.

Takeoff:

Just before take off, the flight attendant will remind you to turn off your cell phone and place your seat in the upright and locked position. You only have to follow this rule if you’re not currently using your cell phone. If you are using your device, it’s just a recommendation.

If your device is off, then you can glare at and judge the E one asshole sitting on the other side of your aisle. You know, the oblivious guy making a tweet before take off. It probably says, “Ugh. STILL on the runway. Jetblue is the WORST” or “JFK —-> LAX.” If you’re not familiar the airport code to airport code update translates roughly to “I’m a douche.”

The garbage collection:

If you’re not 100% focused on the flight attendant, be prepared to sit with your garbage for the rest of the flight. I obtained a copy of the Flight Attendant Training Manual, which reads as follows:

How to PIck Up Garbage from Passengers in Business Class:
Step 1: Remove one garbage bag from the flight attendant staging area.
Step 2: Cover hands with blue latex gloves.
Step 3: Address each passenger by name, make eye contact, and ask if he or she has any trash. Example: Mr. Jones, do you have any trash that I can take for you?
Step 3a: If the passenger hands you garbage, place it into the trash bag and proceed to Step 3c.
Step 3b: If the passenger does not hand you garbage, proceed to step 3C.
Step 3c: Thank passenger by name. For example, say, “Thank you, Mr. Jones.”

How to PIck Up Garbage from Passengers in Coach Class:
Step 1: Run down the Coach aisle as fast as possible.
Step 2: Avoid eye contact.
Step 3: Hold the bag open just enough for one crumpled napkin.
Step 4: Do not touch any garbage so each passenger in the aisle has to hand it to some stranger sitting next to him.
Step 5: Proceed to the intercom system and announce, “We will now begin trash collection for this flight.”

Yoga Flow(chart): What should you wear to yoga class?

Given the recent lululemon controversy, a lot of yogis are confused about what they should wear to class.  You may be surprised to learn that I’m an expert on yoga fashion, particularly see-through pants.

So I put together a flow chart to help guide you in picking the right attire for your next class:

A flow chart by Rob Pollak answering the question, what should you wear to yoga class.  Are your pants see through?  Are you a woman?  Wear whatever you want, but for the love of god, wear boxer briefs.  Try Lululemon, but double bag it.  Try lululemon or naked yoga.  Don't wear white.  It's see through.

A Friendly Guide to the NYC Half Marathon

Even though I won’t be running the NYC Half Marathon this year, I’m a three-time finisher, so It’s my obligation to share my race secrets with the special few that NYRR has allowed into this year’s race.  They include a) A collection of the worlds best professional runners, b) Thousands of international runners, and c) Ten New Yorkers who were selected through a Hunger Games style lottery.

Good luck to you.  Here are some last minute pointers:

Carb loading rules.

Sure, trained professionals like my run coach friends, Meghan and Jessica at Hot Bird Running, may scold you when you eat 20,000 calories of spaghetti and meatballs mere hours before a race.  But who are you going to listen to?  A couple of certified run coaches who dedicated their lives to making you healthier and happier or the guy who draws funny stick figure pictures?

Exactly.  Go nuts, kids!

A stick figure eating spaghetti to carbo load for a half marathon cartoon by rob pollakThe Starting Line.

It’s chaos.  Seriously.  If you are planning to meet people at your starting corral, you may want to rethink that plan.  Every year, the set up has been different.  With last year being the worst because each stable area had its own set of bathrooms.  In theory this sounds amazing, but in practice, it meant that people waited in line for an hour while people already in the corral could cut the line.

This is also where I do my pre-race nerve-vomiting.

Cartoon by Rob Pollak about the bathroom line at the NYC half marathon

The course.  If you run Central Park often, you know what you’re in for.  If you’re an out of towner running the race for the first time, here’s a quick breakdown of the course.

Course Map:

A course map cartoon for the NYC Half Marathon - Cartoon by Rob Pollak

Miles 1-6 are in Central Park.  They changed the course slightly from when I ran it.  From the looks of the new map, the start will be slightly down hill until about the Mile 1 marker.  Then you will embark on “cat hill,” the first of many grueling tortures you will endure.  This hill is particularly awful because it’s a huge hill, then you get to the top, the road briefly flattens and then starts climbing again.  You will vomit.  It’s also about where your nipples will start to bleed.  Welcome to NYC!

Mile 2 will be awesome.  Look to your left for a sort of view of the Central Park reservoir.  If you ever get the chance to run around the reservoir, take it.  It’s a fantastic opportunity to berate parents pushing strollers and people on bikes, neither of which are allowed on the path.  Actually, I’m not sure if strollers are allowed or not.  If they are, apologies to that nice family that I called the C word for pushing a double wide stroller when I was sweating past them.  Yeah, that’s right.  I called them communists.

Mile 3 will be the worst part of the race, at least since Mile 2 and until you get to mile 4-13.  Mile 3 will be a combination of a big sweeping downhill around the northeast corner of the park.  That will flatten out and you will climb straight up a mountain in the back northwest corner.  You may notice that many people start to walk at this point.  Don’t be one of those people.  Listen to the volunteer standing there telling you to “stay inside the cones” and encouraging you that you’re almost to the top of the hill.

Pro Tip:  All of the lampposts in the park are labeled with the street number.  If you look at the bottom of the post, there will be a number that starts with two digits, like 90-01.  That means you’re at 90th street.  I have no idea what the 01 means.  Let’s just agree it means you’re number 1 to me.  Every twenty blocks is approximately 1 mile.  If you really start to struggle, count left foot strikes between posts.  Usually there are 10-20 strikes between posts.  I struggle a lot.

The light posts have information about streets on them in central park running cartoon by rob pollak

Mile 4 is the rolling hills of the west side of the park.  It’s terrible.  Every time you get a little break with a down hill, you head right back up a little uphill.  Look for my sister around mile 4.  She is nice.

During mile 5 and 6, you’ll be thinking, “get me the hell out of the park.”  Try not to start running faster.  You may get out of the park faster, but then you’re going to hate yourself by mile 9.

Mile 6-7:  The best part of the race!  You finally will hit the mean streets of Manhattan.  The road opens up and you can spread out and get away from that sweaty beast (me) who has been breathing down your neck for the last hour.  Lots of people will line the streets.  You’ll see huge buildings.  Your GPS watch will freak out and lose its signal and suddenly you’ll think that you’re running a 4:11 pace.  Enjoy the ride here because things are about to get pretty bad.

Mile 7-9.  At mile 7, you’ll turn right onto 42nd street.  The Big Apple, baby!  Riding high from seventh avenue, you are literally on top of the world at this moment.  You may think to yourself, “I can do anything!  This is so easy!  I’m a machine.”  Enjoy that feeling because as you turn right onto 42nd, you’re about to get blasted with a gale force wind coming off the Hudson River.

And as you amble over towards the West Side Highway, notice that they haven’t cut off traffic coming in the opposite direction.  So you’ll be inches away from angry New Yorkers smogging their cars in your face.  They will stare at you and berate you for making their drive take twice as long.  I know because before I ever ran the race, I once missed a tee time in NJ because I got redirected by those stupid runners.

Once you’re all the way west, they make you head back uptown for one block, which feels like you have to backtrack.  Also, the people disappear for this stretch of the race and it starts to become hard.  The Highway is exactly as it sounds:  Flat, boring, and trafficy.  Prepare for long stretches that are exactly the same.  Bring your ipod so you can suffer through this stretch with the musical stylings of Justin Bieber.  That’s how I managed.

Literally nothing changes for miles 8-12.  Except if I wake up in time, I’ll be on Murray street around Mile 11.5/12.  That’s where I live.  If you see me, say hi.

After Mile 12, the race goes underground into the Battery Park Underpass.  It’s dark and it echoes.  Someone will yell something stupid when you’re under there.  Don’t be that guy.

When you come out of the tunnel, you’re basically done.  Except you’re at the furthest point from everything else in New York.  So figure out a way to get home.  Last year, I ended up having to walk about 2.5 miles back to my apartment because I was a bad planner.  Don’t be a bad planner.

I guess, congratulations.  You’re a half marathoner.

Celebrate by eating enough calories of ice cream and bagels to negate any positive benefits of months of training.

The Final Word on Mayonnaise.

I fucking loathe you, mayonnaise. Just look at you. You repulse me. The way you can’t decide if you want to be yellow-y white or white-y yellow. That schloop noise you make when you’re suctioned out of your ugly container and the Thwlap of your fatness against a plastic bowl.

The way you congeal white, doughy wonder bread to muted pink bologna. Nothing that does that should exist in the world. Oh, and your egg salad. How dare you? Where do you get the nerve to call yourself a “salad?” Salad is clean, refreshing, crisp, beautiful, and healthy. But you mayonnaise, you’re just slippery, fat, unclean, and appalling. Just look at yourself. Seriously, take one second off from fattening the world and look in the mirror. Now imagine your most beautiful form. What did you come up with? Something like this?

is grossI mean, ew. I couldn’t come up with a less appetizing looking food if the only ingredients I had were ketchup and diarrhea. And that picture is the internet trying to make you and your egg salad look the best. Congratulations, that’s the best you’ll ever look. I may not be beautiful, but at least I can go to the gym and work on it. Yet, I can’t stop staring at your enormous gobs of yoke and white mushed together with clumps of mayonnaise.

I don’t even have to smell the egg-y cold fatness emanating from the plastic “jar” of Hellman’s to feel the vomit gurgle up through the lower regions of my esophagus. There it hangs, waiting for my brain to remind it that I’m just looking at a picture so that the vomit retreats. But it remains wary, waiting to eject should the egg salad attack my digestive system.

But it’s not the egg salad that bothers me the most. I know that egg salad is mayonnaise. I’ve learned that “aioli” is just a trick word you use to make yourself seem more exotic. I’ve discovered that spinach artichoke dip should really be called “choke on a tub of mayonnaise dip.”

It’s the way you infiltrate other seemingly normal foods that infuriates me the most. Take honey mustard for instance. What a nice name for a food. What a beautiful combination of sweet and spicy, of brown and yellowish brown, of condiment and dessert. Honey-mustard is almost un-fuck-up-able. Well, did you know that many delis add mayonnaise to this sweet concoction? I bet you didn’t because you’re a disgusting mayonnaise whore. But I did. Because I am a mayonnaise sleuth who can feel that slimy oil/eggyoke concoction sliding down my throat and settling into a lump on the pit of my stomach, where it sits, constantly reminding me that the world is out to get me.

Sure, I know what you’ll say, mayonnaise. You and your defenders will tell me that I should just chill out and deal with you. That I should wipe you off with a napkin, and my meal will be good as new. But we both know that doesn’t work. Because you’re more powerful than napkins or paper towels. Yes, I’ve used a Bounty quicker picker upper to remove poisonous poisons from the floor of my important. The kind that come with warnings that “one must wear gloves to avoid this poison burning through your skin and eviscerating your intestines.” But I wiped them right up with a little flick of the wrist. But you mayonnaise, you somehow turn paper towel into a translucent film of ick and wind up on my fingers where your remnants remain for days.

So fuck you mayonnaise. I hate your face.

Fuck you mayo - A cartoon by Rob Pollak