How to change a diaper

Video

My friends Dave and Kerry just had an amazing baby boy. Welcome to the world, Gavin!

Because I’m basically a parenting expert at this point, I created a short video to demonstrate proper diaper changing technique. If you need a brief refresher, then you might enjoy this video.

Advertisements

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!

 

 

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.”

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.)