Feeds:
Posts
Comments

SWA pre flight procedure

Typically, I take precautions before I begin a commercial airline trek.

 

Better to be prepared—or at least numb—should any untoward event occur.

 

As a universal rule, babies are cute (unless you happen to be visiting the Hamptons with the Seinfeld clan).

And, as everybody knows, twins are at least twice as cute.

 

Or, so goes the rule.

 

Imagine my astonishment as I waited to board a recent Southwest Airlines flight from Portland, OR, to Sacramento, CA, when I caught a glimpse of what, in all  honesty, could only be characterized as a couple of really ugly babies being pushed up to the boarding gate in a side-by-side, tandem stroller.

 

 

  SWA comfort dogs boarding

 

They had big ears, they were really, really hairy (even more so than me…albeit just barely), and they had huge noses (even bigger than mine…albeit just barely).

 

They almost looked like a couple of dogs, sitting upright, all cutesy in their stroller, and waaaaiit a minute…THEY WERE A COUPLE OF DOGS.

 

 

SWA comfort dogs in tandem stroller

 

So began my education as to the regulations regarding allowances to be accompanied by what are known as comfort animals.

 

As you can see in the pictures, these animals do NOT have to be contained in a cage, but can have their own seat, or sit on their master’s lap.

(Although, I might question, who has whom trained?)

 

 

SWA comfort dogs on board

 

Without much effort, I learned that for a mere $129 you can purchase,

The Standard Kit Includes Official Vest With official Patch, Universal ID Card, Certificate,Tag For Collar & Clip On ID Holder.

 

The vest, ID card, and certificate are all official. It must be because it says that in the online advertisement.

 

The website includes the federal law verbiage that—according to them—”makes it clear” that it is official.

 

  comfort animal federal law

 

My favorite part is,

emotional support dogs do not have to be professionally-trained to perform any task. Service dogs can be trained by their owners or in any other manner the owner desires.”

 

Great. I’ve been trying to get my dog to fetch me a gin and tonic. That would certainly provide me tremendous mental comfort on a long flight.

 

If any airline insisted on something a little more significant (with an emphasis on “little’) as to a medical justification, an article in the New York Times mentioned that for $99 a psychotherapist in Marina del Rey, CA,

“provides an hour of her time, over the phone or Skype, and a clinical assessment, along with a prescription letter.”

 

The Times story went on to say that the certification is not limited to just dogs. and could include,

“a cat, a monkey, a horse or even a potbellied pig.”

 

I am not sure how that psychotherapist conducts her clinical review over the phone or Skype.

 

I guess she must get it right from the horse’s mouth.

(Sorry, how could I resist that one?)

 

 

  SWA comfort horse at ticket counter

 

Pet Travel .com expands the list of allowable animals to include,

parrots, elephants, and lizards”

 

What the…??? An elephant?

 

And you thought that guy sitting next to you on that one flight was taking a tad more room than was comfortable for you.

 

Eventually, I made it to the official, “official” determinant of, at least, Southwest Airlines policies, and did find out that these free range critters in the aircraft are not allowed in the exit rows.

 

Must have something to do with their inability to open the exit hatch or understand simple instructions from the flight crew, although I question the capability of some of the travel masses to do so.

(Clearly, they cannot comprehend the carry-on baggage rules, nor understand the need to GET THE HELL OUT OF THE AISLE when we are attempting to board the airplane!!!)

 

The Southwest Airlines animal rules also prohibit having your pet travel without you onboard, should you entertain the thought of sending Fido on a fun trip to some faraway forest, or, if you have “joint custody” with an “ex” who now lives across the country somewhere.

In other words, no unaccompanied iguanas allowed.

 

Back to the horses mouth, I found a story about a horse that actually did fly on a Southwest Airlines fight.

 

 

  SWA comfort horse boarding plane

 

I assume if they allow horses, they must also accept related animals, because, when it comes to my mental contentment and comfort, I really appreciate my ass.

 

Just mind where you step.

walking to the light

It is inevitable that one day we will all take the lonely walk toward that metaphoric white light.

 

Fearing the reaper, but possibly with cowbell in hand.

 

The fact is, we all gotta go sometime.

 

 

But, today, I speak of an inevitability of life, which comes in a completely different form—and smell—although sometimes they do come together.

 

I speak of a somewhat sensitive personal topic, with which I hope to avoid the stench of sophomoric bathroom humor.  Well, mostly.

 

So, I am not talking about the ultimate end of the trail which we all face someday, which signals the ultimate end of our travels.

 

Mr. Hanky

No, I am talking about the completely normal and necessary human function, euphemistically known as Going Number Two.

 

Or Taking a Dump, or Dropping a Deuce, or Letting Loose a Bowel Bomb, or Shooting Out a Sewer Pickle, or Backing the Big Brown Motorhome Out of the Garage, or Releasing a Sewer Snake, or Unleashing Turdzilla, or…

 

As funny as the topic might seem to some, taking care of “our business” as we partake in adventure travel can, in fact, be often daunting.

 

Our activities commonly involve trekking far, far away from those tidy toilets, to places where a hole in the floor constitutes the place to go..

No commode in the abode, so to speak.

 

And sometimes,  no toilet paper, either.

 

This is not to say, that having to go while we are gone doesn’t sometimes get done in the most relaxing and beautiful places on the planet.

 

If you appreciate the stark setting and ceaseless skies of the desert, you can only hope to find facilities as scenically situated as this structure set many miles from the nearest paved road, way out in Saline Valley, south of Death Valley.

 

 

     Saline Valley view

 

 

This remote area of developed hot springs and low flying military fighter jet sorties used to be under the jurisdiction of the BLM, which imposed very few, if any, restrictions, including where you wished to camp and how you relieved yourself.

 

Of course, not all wilderness locations are quite so liberal in such allowed activities, including human waste disposal.

 

Years ago, Number Two Daughter and I set off to climb Mt. Shasta. A few days before the planned Big Climb, we made a warm-up hike to Helen Lake at over 10,000’.

 

After we parked at the base parking lot, we were issued a piece of equipment that I certainly never learned about in all my years in the Boy Scouts.

 

Due to the hordes of hikers making the mountain trek, regulations require you to literally pack out what you packed in, including what you carried up in you.

 

Back then, the chosen removal method was…and I am not making this up…you placed a paper target on the ground, which you could hopefully hit with some accuracy. Yes, there were points granted for your aim.

 

 

     pootarget

 

 

Heaven help anyone on the shy side, as there was virtually no place affording any form of privacy. With your fellow hikers passing nearby, it made going in public a difficult proposition for some, not to mention any fibbing as  to your poop-on-the-paper score.

Nothing to see here…move along…

 

 

 

     Shasta crowd

 

 

Full Disclosure: Luckily for myself, my daughter, and the other outdoor enthusiasts, I was able to pack out ALL of my contents intact and in the form I carried them in.

 

Another wilderness adventure venue requiring unusual methods of ridding oneself of that which must be ridden of, is whitewater rafting rivers with limited camping sites, where, if we all went at will, we would really be stuck up shit creek without a place to put our paddle, or anything else.

 

The first time someone told me the toileting technique mandated by the United States government was to first pee in the river and then poop in a metal ammo box (the infamous “grover”), which would be packed, along with our food stuff for the entire trek…well, I thought they were joking. They were not.

 

 

              river groover

 

 

As you can see, the grover is often placed in a scenic spot of the river camp, which occasionally allows you to wave at other rafting groups as they pass by.

No worries; as I began this story, everybody knows that everybody else has to go sometime. 

 

Not all of our travels involve beautiful, remote outdoor locations. That includes commercial airliners we take to get to those desired places.

 

 

         airplane head space

 

 

I would much prefer to poo in a small metal box or attempt to hit a paper target while hovering in full view of dozens of others, than sitting in a cramped, stinky airborne bathroom during a 12-hour flight of heavy use.

You can only hope that while the plane jerks and jostles in air turbulence, everything stays down while you are stuck in there.

 

The only thing worse than that is doing it in a space of similar size and smells, that not only jolts up and down, but tips over at steep angles, as is the setting in a sailboat out in the open ocean. One minute you have both feet flat on cabin floor, the next you have one foot high on the wall as the boat violently heels over.

 

 

     sailboat heeling

 

 

You think hitting a stationary paper target is problematic? Try hitting a hole that moves in every possible direction. And you think sailors wear those waterproof slickers for what happens outside the boat cabin.

 

Stories of having to poo in public, or while using facilities that move wildly, make me yearn for those quiet, pastoral places, where an old log laying out in the woods provides all the support I need to do what must be done.

 

Unless your karma is as mine once was, where the log happened to be mid-slope and rotten. As I sat back, the weathered old log snapped under the weight of my ample arse, and over I went, rolling down the hill with my pants at my ankles.

 

But, with good commode karma, maybe you will be lucky and find a secluded spot out in the middle of the woods with almost all the comforts of home.

 

 

     woodsy poo spot

 

 

Mind the splinters. 

 

And, the species of native vegetation you might use lacking proper paper products.

 

Hey, its called adventure travel for good reason.

 

 

               woodsy poo

 

    

(Note: No plants were molested, nor air quality fouled, during the filming of this staged reenactment.)

The tales of adventures that went awry abound.

 

Books such as Not So Funny When It Happened (edited by the target of my adventure travel writer man-crush, Tim Cahill);  No Shit! There I Was; and Oh No! We’re Gonna Die, are but a few of the genre.

 

Truth be told, the awryer the better if you’re an adventure humor travel writer (or wannabe facsimile of same)…assuming you survive the ordeal, that is.

 

And, for anyone having followed my decades of travel ordeals knows, I should have tomes of travel tales on the aisles of the digital bookstore shelves over at Amazon. 

 

I should.

 

 

  rocky path

 

 

Most of my adventures seem to take place on, or under, some form of water, so yes, my travel stories are truly all wet.

 

One waterborne pursuit I partake pretty often is lake kayaking. Compared with scuba diving 100-feet down through rusty wrecks, helicopter skiing deep powder on steep slopes, or taking a shower in a tub with no non-skid pads, you would not think much could happen on a calm mountain lake, while safely ensconced in a stable, high-flotation watercraft.

 

You would think.

 

 

  there will be blood

 

 

Viewer caution suggested for visual grossness of this next picture.

 

 

                  knee injury1

 

 

How, you might ask, is that type of injury even possible under such conditions?

 

Well, my first instinct was to proclaim that I jumped off a cliff to save a young child from drowning, but apparently that cock and bull story has already left the farm

 

 

 

       cliff jumping

 

 

Like my dad used to say, “The second liar doesn’t have a chance.”

 

O.K. How about this: I was attacked by a yet unknown, high sierra cousin of the feared freshwater piranha.

 

 

     local fish

 

 

No?

 

Well, I just remembered. A huge, winged marauder swooped in to grab my iPhone 5S off of my lap.

 

Ha, ha, stupid winged marauder; I already paid $1,000 for someone to stand in line for me for the new iPhone 6 Plus.

 

 

  Egret in flight

 

 

No, not that either?

 

 

Well, what certainly should have not happened did not happen, was that, as I was taking three steps in knee deep water, I tripped on a rock and landed on another.

 

Ha, ha stupid rock. It only bled for an hour.

 

 

      plants in rock wall

ARE YOU READY TO RUMBLE?!?

 

The main event on tonight’s ticket will be the perennial powerhouse, Facebook status updates, versus the clear underdog, WordPress blog posts.

 

Given the literary—and spousal—abuse bestowed on us hapless bloggers, and the ubiquitous popularity of Facebook posting, why do I continue on going against the upstream current, whether it be on a VIKING RIVER CRUISE up the Rhine River through Germany and France, or even on a simple day paddle up the American River, on Lake Natoma, on my WILDERNESS SYSTEMS kayak, which I purchased at REI?

 

Excuse me while I take another healthy gulp (possibly a questionable adjective given the reference) of my BOMBAY SAPPHIRE gin.

 

My mélange of not-so-hidden ad references, folded into the present-day publishing paradigm, reveals the recipe of our changing tastes as to how our appetite for recreational reading is satiated by how we consume our daily diet of the written word.

 

(Why did that sentence suddenly make me so hungry?)

 

In dehydrated terms, why is Facebook so overwhelmingly more popular than blog posts?

 

Isn’t one a bunch of pictures surrounded by a few words, and the other, a bunch of words interspersed with a few pictures?

 

Wait, I think I just answered my own question.

 

Add to that, the collective diminishing attention span of the typical “reader,” which is further fulfilled by Twitter Tweets of few words, Instagram photos of no words, SnapChats of transitory existence, or GrindR reach-arounds (sorry, wrong forum on that last one).

 

To make matters worse, for some time now, quality travel writing prose of the Tim Cahill-genre has been supplanted by vaguely disguised advertising “articles,” which at least used to be disclosed by tiny font notices, barely visible through the clutter.

 

Nowadays, even that modicum of fair waning has been thrown under the bus by the business of publishing, where something called “native advertising” totally blows up the wall between intellectual property and biased-by-nature advertising, as John Oliver so expertly explained on his weekly program.

 

No wonder most people would rather look at shiny pictures, and skip the yada-yada-yada of those pseudo stories.

 

O.K. Time to get back to writing…as soon as my buddy and I finish our CORONA and PACIFICO cervazas. 

 

     frank with drinking buddy

 

 

NOTE TO ADVERTISERS: royalty checks for the aforementioned advertisements can be sent to my mailing address of record.

 

I am being paid for this drivel, right?

Travel can be tough.

 

Just ask that 80-year old guy going down the ramp at the Montreux train station in Switzerland last week. But, more on that in a moment.

 

The cliché goes that getting there is half the fun. Yeah, that may be the case, but getting there might also be twice the hardship. I am not sure my math makes sense, but nevertheless, it’s a given.

 

Take our recent three-week trip to Europe (no, my lack of blog posts for that period was NOT due to me being stuck under my desk in a drunken stupor…this time).

 

Our destinations included Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, France, and Switzerland—including the spectacular Lucerne area.

 

 wrong turn to Lucerne

 

The trip started poorly as soon as we left the house, and I made a slightly wrong turn. And, by slightly, I mean I thought I could drive there.

 

My first clue should have been when Google Maps said I could drive to Lucerne in 1 hour and 58 minutes.

 

  map to wrong Lucerne

 

After the wife-person applied the appropriate dope-slap to her clueless husband, we got on the Delta flight that was closer to 10 hours and 58 minutes.

 

Hey, I was only off by a zero; give me a break.

 

And, eventually, we made it to the “correct” Lucerne.

 

 the right Luzern

 

As to a few trip highlights, I stood in a public plaza in Belgium with thousands of World Cup fans and watched the home team  beat Korea.

 

 Belgium football

 

Down the road—or more accurately, down the river, the Rhine River—I got to stand in an outdoor viewing venue in Germany and watched the home team beat France.

 

 German French football

 

As might be expected, there were also dozens of, what one local guide actually called, ABC’s (Another Bloody Church). Yes, many were brilliantly beautiful, but, well, we did see a lot of them.

 

 Luzern ABC

 

Also, there is no lack of really old shit over there, including interestingly painted buildings, and…some other stuff.

 

 Luzern building art

 

As to really memorable moments, there were gallons of great local beers, but that will have to flow into another blog post.

 

So, to conclude today’s sermon, let us remember that our life’s travels often include at least some scintilla of travails, which seems all the more appropriate, as that is the root of the word describing such treks.

 

Or, more plainer said, travel can be tough.

 

Extended transits through Europe often encompasses trips by train. In and of itself, that is typically a positive experience, as the rail system “over there” is well planned, well run, and well laid out.

 

But, it often requires swift transitions between track platforms, which are sometimes on multiple levels. If you are lucky, you might find an escalator or elevator at the bigger stations.

 

 Antwerp train station

 

In others, you get to run up and down multiple stairways, while hoisting your roller luggage. In those stations, you are grateful if you happen to find ramps to run while pulling your bag behind you, as it bounces against your ankle and spins around, twisting your wrist.

 

It was in one of our transfer stations near Lake Geneva where we had but minutes to race down one ramp, then up another to make our connection.

 

It was there that I decided that “you kids” texting and checking what Facebook posts you missed in the previous 15-seconds while you were getting off the train, and 80-year old guys who insist on strolling smack down the middle of the ramp…well… I am an American and I have already put up with your strange languages and weird currency…I’m coming through!

 

Sorry, 80-year old guy.

 

I have got to get to the next really old place, with narrow, bumpy streets and old churches to visit.  And, some other stuff.

 

sleeping lion rock

This is about the inflammatory topic of airline carry-on luggage, which is possibly (because I am making the next part up) a leading cause of inflammatory bowels.

 

In other words, this incendiary subject pisses the shit out of us.

(I know, I have my bodily elimination plumbing crossed.)

 

Let’s recap.

 

The airline industry wanted more money.

 

The airline industry starting charging for check-in bags.

 

Then, the airline industry has tried charging for food, drinks, making a reservation, window seats, aisle seats, exit row seats, pillows, blankets, using the loo, and the list goes on and on.

 

The airline industry profits have soared, just like the cost of flying and our tempers, from being treated like chattel.

 

Along the way, most passengers (my wonderful sister, not included) have switched to more carry-on luggage, and by more, I mean bigger bags and lots of them. Much bigger and many more.

 

  big carry on

 

This has lead to a whole litany of issues, none of which has made flying any more enjoyable, and many of which are due to the airline industry simply—and blatantly—ignoring passengers who are getting away with schlepping a cavalcade of bulging bags in tow, right past them and onto the plane.

 

The scrum at the terminal gate looks like the cluster of World Cup soccer players attempting to kick the ball into the back of the net, with elbows flying, jerseys being tugged, and people being knocked to the ground.

 

Except, in the airport terminal, there is no referee blowing a whistle at obvious fouls.

 

Then, once on the plane, the poor flight attendants have to deal with the apparently clueless passengers clogging the aisle, trying to put their multiple, over-sized bags into the overhead storage area intended for use by two or three people, and not just them.

 

Finally, the flight attendants get to be the “bad guy” by telling the trampled, last boarders, who are just now picking themselves up off the terminal floor, that they must gate check the bags they packed with their valuables and breakable stuff, which they thought would be in the plane with them, and will now—sometimes by getting dropped twenty feet down onto the pavement—be flung into the belly of the plane at the last moment.

 

The inhumanity of it all created a bad (l)atitude by Spud Hilton, the senior travel editor of the respected San Francisco Chronicle, to create a tidal wave of affirmations (but, also subsequent renunciations—more on that in a moment), as well as identifying a Twitter topic, hashtagged, #CarryOnShame.

“The passengers at the gate dragging roller luggage that is more the size of a clown car than a carry-on.

…we’re asking travelers at the airport (past security) to look for examples of “carry-on shame,” to take pictures or videos of the obviously oversized “carry-on” luggage and post them…”

 

 

This movement was quickly picked up by numerous national media, which tended—and trended—to find the topic to be a sore subject for many a traveler.

 

But, it was not just the issue, itself, that picked at a few scabs, but the method of drawing attention to it that also caused a little consternation among others, including a successful travel writer, Matt Villano, who, along with many others, felt that,

“This whole #CarryOnShame campaign to “out” airline carry-on policy offenders publicly is an embarrassment. It’s passive-aggressive. It’s rude. And, at its core, it is bullying. Do I think people brazenly violate these policies? Yes. Do I think surreptitiously photographing the offenders and posting the “evidence” on social media is the right way to handle the situation? HELL NO. If you have a problem with someone’s carry-on abuse, report it to a flight attendant or a gate agent. Nobody is going to change the system by prancing around this issue like a high-school prankster. If you want change, set an example, practice kindness, take a stand, and advocate constructively.”

 

 

I can’t say whether the “movement” will, or will not, lead to positive changes, so I’d rather not wade any deeper into the public pool of social media, especially since I respect the opinion and experience of both Villano and Hilton.

 

In the meantime, to make matters even more interesting, the luggage labyrinth has just become an even more challenging conundrum, now that the airlines have recently reduced the size of carry-on luggage.

 

Of course, the first question is whether they will continue to ignore what is  being rolled right past them and onto the airplane.

 

If…and when…the carry-on luggage cops start actually enforcing what size—and how many—bags they let you take on the plane, I am assuming that enforcement will be part of the TSA screening process.

 

That got me thinking that I might make a little money by facilitating carry-on baggage hoarders.

 

will carry on your bag

 

So, look for me at the ticket counter as you first enter the airport, and for a mere $20, I will offer to carry on that extra bag that you insist you must have on the plane with you.

 

I initially thought my scheme to be foolproof (just as a fool would think)…only until Number One Daughter pointed out a…ah…small hurdle that I would have to negotiate.

 

      TSA bag check

 

 

Hey, what’s the worst that could happen from accepting luggage from strangers at an airport?

 

 

     TSA arrest

 

 

Oh, yeah. And, there’s that other thing…

 

 

    TSA cavity check

For many an author, the road to writing is lined with empty bottles.

 

Personally, I have found that alcohol works well when it comes to my insubstantial adventure travel writing, both in terms of execution and while awaiting acclamation.

 

 

  bar quote

 

Notwithstanding my early years in Scouting, and subsequent decades of literature-inspired adventure travel, an occasional blog post about my latest adventure folly in the field, an accomplished travel writer does not make.

 

The path I have taken en route to becoming a global humor travel writer has been ignominiously ignored by both print media and online domains, which is not to say, that this is not an undeserved plight. 

 

But, my travel  adventures are relatively mundane, thus lacking the fodder for exhilarating tales.

 

 

            jackrabbit in motion

 

While I was once frightened by the looming shadow of a rather large rabbit, to date, my flesh remains unmarred by jaguars, and my lower limbs have suffered nary a gnaw by wolverines.

 

I once got a menacing stare from a duck because I would not share my butterworms,  but thankfully, I avoided being pecked to death.

 

Possibly, I would be a better writer if enlightenment was not so hard to hold.

 

Contrary to certain world renown travel writers who are said to have gotten lost in their own backyard, as I previously pontificated, I have never been in that predicament.

 

I do seem to get myself into an occasional outlandish travel situation that is cause for clamorous celebration of my travel companions, even though I might think that it was not so funny when it happened.

 

And, even with my chronic fever for road trips, my dreams have been buried by editors who have rejected my countless un-written, thus un-submitted travel stories.

 

Yet, my lack of writing acumen has not deterred me from years of self-published posts, thanks to any-idiot-wannabe-writer-can-use blogging software, which I also link from Facebook, as if I needed the added literary indifference.

 

And amazingly, still no one has confused me with the storied statesmen of evocative adventure travel writing prose, Tim Cahill.

(Tim, please note that I did not say “elder” statesman.)

 

   Tim and I on the mountain

 

Whether Facebook posts represent even a scintilla of a legitimate alternative to “real writing” remains to be determined,  Even then, I sometimes struggle with the minutiae of Facebook.

 

The other day I was playing with my self (portrait) for a possible profile picture, which somehow posted itself worldwide. I was not sure how that happened, but ultimately two people even “Liked” it.

 

One was my adopted, third daughter/ ski-snowboard buddy, who I bribe with brews for her positive acknowledgements of my blog posts.

 

The other was the world renown, and my longtime adventure travel writing hero/mentor, Tim Cahill, who I once bribed with a substantial amount of Bombay Sapphire. (You would have thought it would have worn off by now.)

 

So, as I surmised, my road to writing has benefitted, at least in some fashion, from the drink.

 

And, improbably, has made my face Likeable.

 

 

Photo by Shiloh

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 34 other followers