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.”

35 Life Lessons I Learned before Turning 35

Life Lessons by Rob Pollak

1. There’s no cure for a hangover, but good Lo Mein comes damn close.

A drawing by Rob Pollak - How to cure a hangover:  Lo Mein

2. There are three things that are always worth the money: International travel, excellent food, and Blu Rays.

3. When you make a list of thirty-five things, don’t number the items until you’ve finished the whole list. That way, when you’re editing your list and realize number three is stupid, you don’t have to make up some ridiculous lesson to avoid renumbering the whole thing.

4. No matter how much your parents annoy you, piss you off, yell at you, or tell you that you need to wait before hitting your driver (even though the group in front of you is 400 yards away), they do it because they love you and want the best for you. Sometimes it doesn’t feel that way, but it’s true. Take a step back to see things from their perspective. It may help you appreciate why they do all that annoying shit.

5. When you get good service, tip more than expected. The few extra dollars won’t kill you and will mean a lot to the person who provided the excellent service.

6. Stop being scared. If there’s something you want to do but aren’t doing because you’re scared, suck it up and do it. The only things in life to truly fear are (a) stepping in dog shit, and (b) asking the one question that makes a public speaker take back the claim that “there’s no such thing as a dumb question.”

7. When you find a blog you like (like this one) go out of your way to tell the person (genius) that writes it (me) how great (best thing in the entire world) it is. Share the content with your closest friends (the whole world). You may think you’re being stalkerish (you probably are) by reading something that you think isn’t aimed at you (it probably wasn’t). But if someone took the time to create something and put it on the web, it’s because that person is an attention whore (and he will be happy to hear from you regardless of his initial intent). And attention whores crave lots of attention (from anyone). To be helpful, I drafted a template for you in case you decide to follow my advice:

Dear [ROB],
I know we last spoke at Hebrew camp in 1991, but I have been enjoying your blog since we reconnected when you spammed my facebook page. I especially liked your post about when lawyers can go home. You have an excellent command of logic and the handwriting of an armless nine-year-old blind child. I wish there were more people like you in the world. You also look trimmer than you did when you were 13. Well done! How did you manage to trick a beautiful intelligent woman into marrying you? I never would have expected that from you. I remember a time when you refused to play on the skins team in a shirts vs skins basketball game. Boy were you fat. I wish you well in the future. Here’s a few dollars. Buy yourself something nice. I learned about the importance of tipping from your blog.
Love,
[Mom]

8. Don’t believe anything the Mayans say. They keep predicting the end of the world, but they never get it right. I wish they would just go away already.

9. Anything that Tina Fey and Amy Poehler do together is funny. Women are funny. Deal with it old men. Here’s my favorite:

10. Three things that are never worth it: (a) Holding grudges, (b) extended warranties, and (c) super-sizing your meal.

11. Nothing good ever comes from drinking a beverage with an ä in its name.

A drawing by Rob Pollak

12. Don’t be scared to request the vacation time you’re entitled to at work. Other people will tell you the “right way to go about vacation time.” Those people are assholes. If you’re in a job that doesn’t let you go on vacation, that job is stupid and you’ll burn yourself out. Vacation refreshes you to go back and do a good job. At least for the first 3-4 hours after it ends. Then you need another vacation on the books so you have something to look forward to.

13. Coleslaw is disgusting. Mistrust anyone who likes it. Unless it’s vinegar-based and atop a pulled pork sandwich. Then it’s majestic.

14. Be wary of anyone who likes some combination of the following teams: Lakers, Cowboys, Yankees, and Notre Dame.

15. Stop hating the foods you’ve hated since you were a kid. You might surprise yourself and find out that brussel sprouts are really good now. Most restaurants put bacon in them.

16. After two weeks of pure torture, exercise becomes amazing. If you don’t exercise now, commit for two weeks. Suck it up. Force yourself to do it. Whatever it takes. If at the end of two weeks, you don’t feel the pull to keep it up, then you can stop. But after one day of stopping, at least try to force yourself to do another two weeks. Keep repeating this until you realize how amazing you feel. If you don’t feel amazing after three tries, then stop eating all that fast food, idiot.

17. If you want to be a news anchor, realize that you have to spend years and years reporting from the coastline during natural disasters. Ask yourself: is it worth it?

18. Never set out to make a list of 35 things without thinking it through first. Thirty five is a lot. Even more than you think. By the time you get half way, you’ll probably regret your decision.

19. Have you ever seen a piece of fruit the color of a Maraschino cherry? That’s why you shouldn’t eat them.

20. Have you ever eaten a Maraschino cherry? They’re amazing. Sometimes just trust your instincts even though you know the consequences.

The Maraschino Cherry - Life Lessons by Rob Pollak

21. The Cosby Show holds up better than Seinfeld.

22. Proofread everything on more time than you think you have too.

23. If you do anything because you want other people to think you’re cool, stop doing that thing. That makes you a poser. Do things because you like to do them. That makes you interesting and awesome.

24. Trust your own taste in music, movies, and beer. Even though people will make fun of you for liking 4 non blondes, you still know What’s Up.

25. Resist the urge to Google the answer to every question. Yes, there is an objective answer to the question on Google, but sometimes it’s more fun to just see how it plays out. I know this because I always Google, and everyone hates me.

26. Say “yes” to pretty much any request, especially when it’s something easy like seeing a movie, attending a wedding, or supporting a friend. Your friends will appreciate you, your life experience will increase, and your comfort zone will continue to expand.

27. Make a prank call at least once a year.

A drawing by Rob Pollak

27a.  If you are the recipient of a prank call, laugh it off. No one likes the guy who thinks he’s above a little humor:

28. If a particular food gives you diarrhea, don’t ever eat that food again. No matter how good it tastes (the food, not the diarrhea).

29. Always give directions to those who ask or who look like they might need directions. If you have a few extra minutes, walk them to the destination and pretend you’re a college tour guide.

30. Try meditation. I thought it was stupid for the longest time. It can do amazing things if you give it a chance. If you think it’s stupid, you probably don’t know what it is. It can have nothing to do with religion or spirituality if that’s what you’re scared of.

31. People older than you don’t have it all figured out. They may speak with authority, but they mostly make it up just like you do. Most of them are full of shit. That said, listen to their advice. There’s a lot of wisdom in that shit.

32. The following things are fake: (a) emails from Nigerian princes, (b) the four hour work week, (c) Lance Armstrong, and (d) those funny autocorrects you read about on the internet.

A drawing by Rob Pollak

33. Ignore the instructions on everything except crazy glue, hot sauce, and power tools.

34. If you can run three miles, you can run six miles. You may not think you can, and it may be painful and miserable, but you can 100 percent do it.

35. No matter how wise it seems, don’t trust any advice you get from the Internet.

(Note – This also appears on Elephant Journal.  If you made it all the way down here, you might as well click this link and then follow me on Facebook!)

Meditation: I Think I’m Doing It Wrong

(This also appears on the Elephant Journal.  Click through if you really love me)

My legs are shaking uncontrollably, but I can’t focus on the discomfort because my mind keeps jumping from topic to topic:

“Shit, I need an accountant to figure out my taxes”
“Wait, where did I park the car?”
“It’s cold out. I don’t want to go back out there”
“I need to write more or I’ll lose all my readers”
“Anna Kendrick is so hot”
“I should write more”
“Why do I suck at finishing things.”
“Breathe in.”
“Ahhhhh. I feel amazing.”
“Shit. I really need to contact that accountant.”
“I suck at this.”
“ARGHHHHHHHHH.”
“I should write a blog post about how I suck at meditation   I can start it by saying, ‘My legs are shaking uncontrollably, but I can’t focus on the discomfort…'”
“Nah.  That’s stupid.”
“Think about your breath, asshole.”

Don’t be surprised if you don’t recognize it from my description, but, apparently this is ‘meditation.’

A cartoon chart explaining how to meditate - By Rob Pollak

Just the thought of meditation used to make me vomit, a reaction born out of deep genetic coding.  Imagine for a second that Oprah’s spirit animal married Larry David’s.  Actually, you don’t have to imagine it because those two beings did reproduce, and the result was me.

Don’t believe me?  Here’s a brief profile sketch of my parents:

Mom:  Doesn’t eat gluten or sugar.
Dad:  In recognition of his dedicated patronage, was once gifted a stool from a hot dog joint called “Swanky Franks.”

Mom:  Believes in and is devoted to a higher being.
Dad:  Calls me immediately after natural disasters and mass shootings to remind me that they “explicitly prove the non-existence of god.”  Also frequently quotes Christopher Hitchens.

Mom:  Calls everything good that happens “a sign.”
Dad:  Doesn’t think anything good ever happens.

Mom:  Trusts that when God closes a door, he opens a window.
Dad:  Closes the door himself, then checks the lock fifteen times – just to make sure –  before he can go to bed.

Mom:  Is an artist.
Dad:  Thought the movie the Artist could have used a few more words.

Mom:  Sent me on a yoga retreat for my birthday last year
Dad:  Calls me “yoga boy” in a mocking tone.

What does this have to do with meditation?  Well, to this point, not much.  But maybe it helps to explain where I’m coming from and why I have so resisted meditation.

To me, meditation doesn’t represent a time to contemplate and cleanse the mind.  Rather, it represents a choice between (a) facing the judgment of my father and (b) immediately turning into my mother.  Yes, that’s an irrational and self-created decision.  But it’s one that paralyzes me and has led me to recruit an army of therapists who will now be able to drive Jaguars for years to come.

How I meditate - a cartoon drawing by Rob Pollak

But let me back up.

I was first introduced to meditation during yoga classes when teachers would discuss the benefits and invite the class to join a guided practice.  Upon hearing the word – that terrifying, icky word – a flood of anxiety rushed through me.  “Ew!  Meditation.  Bleck.  No thank you.  Ercnhr.  I’d rather not.”  A moment later, the teacher would instruct us to close our eyes and to start paying attention to the breath.  I would comply while patiently waiting for the meditation to start, so I could internally criticize the stupidity of it.

As I waited – eyes closed and mind focused on the breath – I’d start to calm down while I imagined the judgment I would unleash when the meditation started.

You know, meditation, right?  Contemplating your existence while subconsciously being forced to join a cult.

There would be gongs and Buddhists, incense and butterflies, spiritual awakenings and a mass Ebay sale of my favorite technological gadgets.  It starts with one meditation, then before you know it.  Boom. I’m in Tibet eating meals of broth after a quick prayer only to  resurface a few years later on the  front page New York Times, where there’d be an article about either (a) my peaceful protest to save the birch tree, or (b) a mass cult suicide commemorating the latest last day of the Mayan calendar.

That’s what I would think about while I waited for the teacher to begin the meditation.  All the while preparing to pounce with an air of judgmental superiority once we started.

But a funny thing happened.  It never started.  Not once.  The teachers would just ramble on about how we were supposed to focus on our breath.  So I would do it.  Eventually, for like one-tenth of a second, the craziness would be gone.  I’d be thinking about only my breath, and it would actually feel nice.

And just as I was on the verge of connecting with myself, the teacher would snatch me away from my mind and start class.  For the next hour, I had no choice but to think about my breath because if I did otherwise, I would fall down, hurt myself, and probably die.  At the end of class, when my mind slowly returned to thinking about all the nuisances and annoyances in my life, I’d feel more calm about them because I’d had a brief respite during class.

My mind was blown when I recently stumbled upon an article explaining meditation, which basically boils meditation down to focusing on the breath and trying to clear your mind.  In other words, sort of, kind of, exactly what I had been doing.

After an initial panic, I realized that I still regular binge eat gluten and sugar and I only check the lock on the door 10 times before going to sleep.  Meditation hadn’t led to all the things I feared, it just made me feel a little bit better.

And that’s one of the unspoken secrets about yoga and meditation   No one can tell you when you’re ready to try it, but eventually you figure it out on your own.

At first, you think that everyone else has it figured out, that you’re the only fuck up who can’t get his mind quiet when he closes his eyes.  Perhaps that’s true in Tibet.  But at your yoga studio, in your apartment, in your mind, it’s probably not.

We’re all head cases in our own way.  I know because one time I opened my eyes (my dad side) and looked around the room and I made accidental eye contact with three other people doing the same thing.  We all quickly shut our eyes and pretended it didn’t happen.  But it happened.

I know it, you know it, Tibet knows it, and my mom probably heard about it from god.

(PS – If you enjoyed this, follow me on Facebook.)

About that web series I mentioned…

File this under big things are about to happen

As I mentioned yesterday, I’m in the beginning of stages of creating a web series with a great group of people.

I struggle with finishing things sometimes, mostly because of anxiety. You may remember this chart:

I'm bad at finishing things

Well, one thing that can really reduce that anxiety for me is teaming up with people that actually get things done. I’m incredibly pumped right now to be teamed up with the guys that made this short film. I think it’s really great.

Especially the part where they finished it and put it up on the internet.