The Idiots Guide to the Universe It's a big weird world, best to be snarky!

30May/110

The Idiocy I Saw at Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park is, to put it simply, awesome. It is an area so beautiful that it essentially inspired our National Park system. I went went with my family to Yosemite National Park for a bit of site seeing and backpacking for Memorial Day Weekend 2011. My kids saw things that blew their minds. They have seen waterfalls before on other trips, but there are few waterfalls that can be quite as awe inspiring as the falls in Yosemite during the Spring season. There are few places where in their daily lives where they come around a corner and come face to face with a mule dear, grazing from a tree.

My desire to hit up Yosemite started months ago. I have discovered that visiting locations like this are like a recharge, or a hitting of the reset button for me. The day to day stresses of life just simply melt away in a place like Yosemite. I could sit here and wax philosophically about it, but a far better man than I has put it into better words than I could ever hope to do. I will let John Muir do the waxing for me.

"Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity; and that mountain parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains of life." — from Our National Parks (1901)

"We are now in the mountains and they are in us, kindling enthusiasm, making every nerve quiver, filling every pore and cell of us. Our flesh-and-bone tabernacle seems transparent as glass to the beauty about us, as if truly an inseparable part of it, thrilling with the air and trees, streams and rocks, in the waves of the sun,—a part of all nature, neither old nor young, sick nor well, but immortal." — from My First Summer in the Sierra (1911)

The restorative capability of nature is something that I have been the recipient of on several occasions, and find myself needing it far more often as time goes on. So when after a week of delayed and cancelled flights, I found myself on a plane from Sacramento, CA to Ontario, CA looking out the window towards the East. I was able to see, at a distance but still clearly the three icons of Yosemite seen above. El Capitan, Half-Dome, and Bridal Veil Falls. The need was brought to life, and it needed to be quenched. So the family and I made plans to do a quick weekend turn around trip to Yosemite. My wife and kids had never been, and I had not been in several years. It certainly didn't hurt that the falls were flowing more than they have in quite some time.

After seeking a little solitude by getting away from the considerable crowds in Yosemite Valley by hitting a few of the trails we decided to hit a few of the more frequently visited locations in Yosemite Valley on Sunday. Our first stop was Bridal Veil falls. Now this is an easy few minute paved walk up to an excellent vantage point. In this short distance you will experience a weather change caused by the increased moisture from the falls, and ultimately if you continue to the top you be soaked by the spray from the falls. Both of my kids picked this moment as one of their highlights of the trip. After making our ascent, I saw something that just shook me to my core.

A Disgusting Person

What did I see? I saw the muppet you see on the left. You have to understand, here I was immediately after the high of standing at the base of Bridal Veil Falls, discussing the experience with my 10 year old son. During which I watch this man take a lit cigarette butt and toss it off of a walking bridge into the waters of Bridal Veil Creek.

Okay sure, you may be thinking that doesn't sound so bad. First off, I know that people throw the cigarette butts pretty much wherever they want, that doesn't make it okay. But the fact that this worthless waste of space would just toss that butt as if he had no regard for the sheer beauty that surrounded him is not just shocking, it is criminal. Litterally. Littering is illegal. Having smoked before myself, I know of the challenges there can sometimes be in finding an ash tray. So what, that doesn't excuse this muppet.

So did I say anything to him? I really really wanted to. The words were on the tip of my toungue. Every fiber of my being wanted to say loudly enough to create a scene "Sir I think it is disgusting that you are so selfish and stupid that you think it is okay to just toss your cigarette butt down into the water, much less anywhere." But I had both my sons standing right next to me, and my wife's voice which always admonishes me for creating confrontation in situations like this.

So instead I snapped a picture of him, and decided on the spot that I would do what I am doing right now. I would call him on it, and call for his public humiliation. So I am here-by saying it. To whoever it is in the photo, "you sir are a foul individual, I sincerely hope that you never are able to smoke without someone sticking around to ensure that your butt ends up in a proper receptacle for as long as you live. I hope that one decision changes your life forever."

So here is my  little Internet campaign. On top of this blog post I am also publishing the following two photos. Please take these photos, and publish them on twitter, publish them far and wide. Encourage others to retweet the image. Put these images on your facebook page and encourage others to share the image with their friends.

The National Parks were created for the enjoyment of the world, so this guy owes the planet an apology.  So my call for public scorn stays active until I hear that this guy has gone to Yosemite and donated 2 full days of his time picking up trash. Surely there will be photographic or video evidence of this. At that time I will edit this posting to say that the campaign is ended. I will also write a blog post about his redemption. Until then, he remains deserving of public scorn. So publish these photos far and wide.

 


16May/110

The Death Defying Adventures of Business Travel

Flight delays happen. Whether it's an equipment failure, weather, an undersold plane, or a pilot that doesn't wake up on time. It is just simply a fact of business travel. I used to get upset about it, but I found that it did not do a whole lot of good, so now I just accept it and move on. But today was different. Today was dangerous.

I started my day at a far too early 4AM. Went through my normal routine, then finished packing my bag to head to my favorite of the Southern California airports, ONT (Ontario International Airport.) I checked in and headed to the gate for my 7:40AM American Airlines flight to DFW (Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.) Now it is important to point out that I am an American Airlines guy. If I can fly American I will, they have treated me well and I have some status with them which can make flying a lot more pleasant. I do fly other airlines and I have been delayed by just about every major and minor airline in the US. The difference with American is that they are good to me since I have status with them. But I digress.

At the gate, just as boarding time has slipped by about five minutes, I take note of the fact that the bags have not been loaded into the plane. Being a frequent traveler this sent up a red flag for me. The airlines are usually a pretty well oiled machine, the bag is checked, the bag is conveyed, the bag may be checked by TSA, the bag is put on a cart, the bag is put on a plane. The routine had stopped, the center did not hold. I took out my i-Phone and started looking at the flight status to see if a delay was listed, nothing was listed. See there was a method to my madness. The gate staff usually spend a bit of time preparing themselves for the onslaught of customers that are about to berate, abuse, yell at, and in some cases question the parentage of them before alerting the passengers to a delay. Not sure what exactly they are doing, but if it was me, it would be several very stiff drinks, probably of the whiskey variety.

A few minutes later it all went wrong. The gate agent announced that the flight was delayed because there was a computer problem on the plane, and that this particular problem dealt with the auto-pilot and landing systems. Now, I happen to be a big fan of my planes having an auto-pilot that, you know, works! I am an even bigger fan of my planes landing in an intended manner. It is usually the unintended landings that cause the biggest problems. So in my eyes, the delay is justified. The gate agent then informs us that they are waiting on a call from local area airports to see if they have a part or spare aircraft available. At this point I know it's going to be a very long day. It's now that the frequent traveler in me kicks into gear.

I get on the phone and call American Airlines to see about the next flight to DFW at 10:45, sold out. How about 3PM? Sold Out. For some reason a lot of people want to go to Dallas today. Okay I am stuck with the herd at this point. But I immediately begin my maneuvering to get ahead of the herd. I move towards the back of the herd and await the inevitable announcement. When it finally comes that the flight has been cancelled and we should all head back downstairs for rebooking, I am already ahead, or so I thought.

I get downstairs and there is already a line, a really long one. Apparently I wasn't as on top of things as I thought. But then I see my saving grace, the First Class/Status line and no one is in it. Awesome. The crowd in the line right next door begins to grumble that I am cutting the line. One of the desk agents comes over and asks if I am First Class, I show her my frequent flyer card and she says "I will help you right over here." A particularly surly woman in the line says "How do you rate?" I stopped, turned, looked her dead in the eye and said "pretty damn good." I then gave her a wink, turned and headed to be rebooked.

"I can put you on the same flight tomorrow." says the hopeful desk agent.

"That would work if I didn't have to be in Oklahoma City tomorrow morning." I replied.

"Ah yes I see, and you are also flying to Kansas City tomorrow."

"I am"

"And you are.... well you are on a different American flight every day this week until Friday."

"I am."

"Well then we need to get you to Oklahoma City."

"M'am, I couldn't agree more."

"Everything going out of Ontario is sold out, would you mind another airport or airline?"

"So long as you can get me there without me driving my car, my return flight comes back here."

Famous last words.

I was rebooked on a flight from LAX (Los Angeles International) to ORD (Chicago-O'Hare International) with a 3 hour lay over in ORD. I was to take a SuperShuttle ride from ONT to LAX. Little did I know, it would be one of the most terrifying rides of my life.

Don't get me wrong, I have taken SuperShuttle a lot of times and have not had many problems, and the problems I have had have been minor in nature, so this is not representative of SuperShuttle. None-the-less the story must be told.

I boarded SuperShuttle van 997 with 8 other hapless souls, all transfering to LAX, all for the same reason. I took a seat on the passenger side in the last row and strapped on my seat-belt. The van departed ONT and we made our way to I10 West. As we got onto I10 West I noticed that our driver is on his cell phone (yes it is held up to his ear), this is not only an incredibly stupid thing to do, it is illegal in California. I also notice that the driver seems to be having a bit of trouble keeping the van in the lanes he is attempting to drive in. He is bouncing from lane depature warning bumps on the passenger side, to the same bumps on the driver side. So we are treated to a swaying motion punctuated by the PBLPBLPBL sound every time he hits the edge of the lane. At this point I speak up from the back, seeing in addition to working planes that land, I am also a big fan of being in a vehicle that stays in it's lane. It's not the lane departures that scare me, it's the other vehicles in the other lanes that do that.

So I say loudly from the back "Perhaps it would be a good idea to put down the phone and put both hands on the wheel."

"Sir, could you please get off the phone"

"Seriously, that's not a joke, hang up the phone."

"DUDE, GET OFF THE DAMN PHONE AND DRIVE THE F@#$ING VAN!!!!!"

"Yeah" and other mumblings of agreement came from my van mates.

At this point he puts the phone down, and proceeds to give me 'the eye' in the rear view mirror. This of course didn't help his driving skills.

He still managed to bounce back and forth from one side of the lane to the other. It is such a back and forth swaying motion that I note to myself that there is a really good chance someone on this van is going to throw-up from motion sickness. This goes on for miles. Then the swaying doesn't stop but the sound of the lane departure warnings go away. This is because the guy is literally driving in two lanes. He does this for over a half mile. He picks up his cell to answer a call and makes his way into one of the lanes, still swaying from one side of the lane to the other.

"PUT - DOWN - THE -PHONE!"

He does. Then just as we are making our way from the left lanes of the I10 to the I710 South the first near miss happens. I hear the horn blaring right next to me, my heads snaps to look out the window, there is a car a mere 6 inches from the passenger side of the van. It appears our driver never learned that one should insure the lane is empty before merging into it. We then continue our back and forth sway down the I710 South. The gentlemen seated directly in front of me says "Dude, if you keep making the van go back and forth like that I am going to throw-up."

The driver looks at him in the rear view mirror and says nothing. I calmly suggest that if he does have to throw up, he should do so in the driver's lap. This is met with general agreement by everyone in the van except the driver who give me the eye again. The van continues down I710 South towards I105 West

Then I make an observation that brings nervous chuckles from my van mates, "You know whats interesting about the 105, the lanes are not as wide on the 105." I hate being right.

As we made our way down I105 towards LAX, the van was not swaying within our lane, it was entering into the lanes next to it. That's what caused near miss number two when we swerved unexpectedly partially into the lane to our right. The driver occupying that space was most displeased and let the driver know how he felt about it by blaring his horn and showing the driver 'tallman." (Go through your chuildrens song repretoire until you get to Here is Thumbkin, you'll get it.)

The third and scariest close call came just moments later on I105 when a motorcyclist was cutting lanes between the carpool lane and the main line. Our swerve nearly ended his life, thankfully he was able to accelerate past and to safety.

Then we got to LAX. As we were headed to out terminal driving along the C-Shaped terminal drive at LAX, a "Parking Spot" van had the audacity to signal, and get over quickly in front of our SuperShuttle. Our driver honked at him. I lost it, I couldn't hold it in anymore. "SERIOUSLY? You are going to get indignant about THAT! AT LEAST HIS LANE CHANGE WAS INTENDED!"

We got to the airport, noone threw-up but the gentleman who mentioned feeling sick looked worse for wear.

The driver didn't even get out to unload our bags. He knew there were no tips coming.

So is my adventure over?

Not yet. I currently sit in the Admirals Club at ORD awaiting my connection to OKC. I am supposed to get there at midnight, central time. 18 hours after I woke up, and 17 hours after I departed my home.

All to go to Oklahoma City, maybe I am the crazy one... But then I am crazy enough to think that I deserve an upgrade to first class on the remainder of my flights this week.

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