When Orville Wright first took flight over the beaches of Kitty Hawk, NC in 1903, he couldn’t have imagined that a century later, millions of people the world over would be getting into shouting matches with ticket agents, security screeners and baggage handlers over the nearly universal frustration caused by his invention. Thanks for the 12-inch gash in the side of my Louis Vuitton suitcase, Orville.
Singapore, New Delhi, and Buenos Aires are just a few of the famous world cities I will probably never get to visit because I refuse to put up with the headaches required to fly there. Also because, like most Americans, I’m not sure exactly where those cities are on a map. (I think New Delhi might be in Belgium.)
But sometimes air travel is unavoidable. If you simply must book a flight, here are a few helpful tips to reduce your stress level. These just might help you resist your urge to strangle the Delta Airlines ticket agent in Concourse C.
Booking your flight – Choosing the right airline
The first rule of air travel is simple: Don’t fly if you can possibly avoid it. But if you absolutely must fly, for example, to attend a family reunion, I recommend Qantas, the official airline of Australia. The last time Qantas had a fatality was in 1951. Of course, if your family reunion is in say, Chicago, you may need to make a couple connections through Sydney, Tokyo and New York. But you will arrive there safely, albeit two days later than the rest of your family, who opted for the nonstop on United.
Great news, everybody. ESPN just announced it’s now broadcasting coverage of cricket. No, I’m not talking about televising small insects chewing through leaves – although granted, for many people, that might represent a more appealing TV-viewing option. I’m talking about the sport of cricket. If you’re someone who finds bowling on TV too exciting, or if you’re looking for an inexpensive way to enter into a self-induced coma, cricket could be just your ticket.
I’m not exactly sure why ESPN decided to start covering cricket. Perhaps ESPN’s International-Sports-Nobody-Gives-a-Rat’s-Ass-About Channel wasn’t able to get the programming rights for Equestrian Dressage. Or perhaps it came down to making a difficult choice between televising cricket versus broadcasting five hours of dead air.
Cricket is a sport that has been around for centuries. According to legend, it was first played during the early Pleistocene Era, in a match pitting the Leicester Clubbers against the always feisty Sussex Wooly Mammoths. The point is, it’s a very old game. Cricket is a lot like baseball – just slower-paced and without gloves or bases or David Ortiz Bobble Head Night or any coherent explanation for what is going on out there. Like baseball, it has a pitcher (which they call a bowler) and a batter (called a batsman). And like baseball, the main objective for most fans watching the game is to get as drunk as possible in order to keep their mind off the fact that the game in front of them is mind-numbingly dull.
Recently I started worrying that my wife no longer loves me. No, I didn’t catch her with another man. And no, we didn’t have another nasty argument about the proper way to load a dishwasher. It was much more troubling. My wife actually said the three words I have long dreaded: “Let’s go camping.”
Why would any woman who claims to love her husband force him to endure a weekend in the wilderness with no access to ESPN Sports Center? My wife thought it would be fun if the two of us had a romantic getaway. I was envisioning a cozy B & B overlooking the ocean. Or maybe a posh resort / spa where we could get a couple’s massage, whatever that is.
But unbeknownst to me, my wife’s concept of a romantic getaway included physical and emotional torture – camping. When she first brought up the idea, naturally I thought she was kidding. When I realized she was serious, I apologized profusely for whatever I might have said or done to upset her. I even promised to do the dishes for a month. Turns out she wasn’t upset at all. She just really wanted to go camping.
So she booked us a campsite for a long weekend at some God-forsaken state campground deep in the wilderness beyond any cell phone range. The nearest carryout pizza was 50 miles away. I believe there is a term for being forced to sleep outdoors in the cold and wet, with no bathroom, no hot running water, and no bed to sleep on. It’s called being homeless. And when is the last time you heard a homeless person say to his buddy, “Hey, I have a great idea. Let’s go camping!” You never will, because they know that compared to their lifestyle, camping would be a step down.
I’m not much of a drinker. And I don’t really gamble. So naturally, I decided to go to Las Vegas for the weekend. What a bizarre place Vegas is. I must have had one hell of a weekend, because I barely remember a thing. It’s all still a blur. It was just like something out of the movie The Hangover – except without all the strippers, car chases, Bengal tigers in my hotel room, or getting the crap knocked out of me by Mike Tyson. But otherwise, the parallels with the movie were eerie.
I decided to stay at the Hooters Casino Hotel – mainly for the pool. At first everything was fine – until I ventured out onto the strip and did something no sane tourist in Las Vegas would ever do: I made eye contact with the street hawkers. As a result of my reckless mistake, I was offered 27 invitations to strip clubs, a chance to ride a white tiger at the Mirage, and $100,000 of term insurance with an option to convert to whole life at age 65. I finally broke down and grabbed one deal that was just too enticing to resist: 60% off on linens at Bed, Bath & Beyond.
I don’t remember much of what happened after that. But the next morning, I woke up to find a scantily clad woman in my bed – with a wedding ring on her finger. Oh, shit. Who was she? A cocktail waitress? A stripper? What had I done! I frantically put on my glasses. Oh… right. My wife came with me on this trip.
It seems like I’m paying more in income taxes every year. My tax preparer just completed my return and it appears that I owe more in taxes than I actually earned last year. Very discouraging. In full disclosure, my tax preparer was my college-age daughter. I’m thinking subtraction may not be her forte. But in her defense, she was tutored in math by her father.
Like most Americans – other than my brother Todd – I always pay my taxes. But I am concerned the government will just squander my taxes on unnecessary government boondoggle projects. I assure you, I am perfectly capable of squandering those funds on my own boondoggle projects with no help from Uncle Sam, thank you very much.
I read the other day that many of the largest Fortune 500 companies routinely claim so many business deductions and tax loopholes that they avoid paying any federal income tax at all. Apparently the key is to become a multi-billion dollar global enterprise with incriminating photos of a U.S. Senator having gay sex with an under-age intern or a sheep, and you won’t have to pay a dime. That seems totally unfair. The only incriminating photos I can get my hands on are a couple embarrassing selfies I took at last year’s company holiday party dressed as Gumby in drag.
I believe it’s time that we demand our government take drastic action to simplify the tax code. I’ve come up with a plan that will make it far easier for me to pay my fair share – which based on my rough calculations, comes to nineteen dollars and forty-seven cents (give or take a quarter). Under my plan the following items would become tax deductible expenses:
It started out innocently enough. My wife asked me to go to Costco because we were low on shampoo. No biggie. Quick errand. I’ll be back in time for the start of the baseball game. My mistake was listening to my wife when she asked me to go to COSTCO.
The second I entered the behemoth warehouse, I was overcome by the allure of wall-to-wall gigantic flat screen Hi-Def TVs showing exotic tropical waterfalls. Some in 3-D. Ooh! I noticed a sign that said if you buy the home theatre sound system package, you can get a 65” flat screen HDTV for only $850 more. What a bargain. So I added an LG 65″ Class 3D 1080p 120Hz LED HDTV with 4 Pairs of 3D Glasses (for the kids) to my flatbed cart.
As I was lugging my cart towards the shampoo aisle, I couldn’t help but notice the festive Christmas tree display. An 8-ft Pre-Lit Clear Mixed Country Artificial Pine Christmas Tree complete with 800 Clear Dura-Lit Mini-lights for $20 off! Think how much I will save by buying it now before the holiday season. Plus, I’d be doing my part to save the world’s endangered commercial tree farms. So I wedged the tree in between the TV and the sound system and continued on my merry way.
I just returned from a two-week vacation to Italy, and I have to tell you, it was a nightmare. The first thing I did when our plane touched down in Seattle was to kiss the tarmac. The second thing I did was to find a restroom to wash my mouth. That tarmac was disgusting.
A few months ago, my wife convinced me to go on a European vacation. So we took a two-week tour of Southern Italy. The brochures make it look charming and relaxing: Rome for three nights, followed by visits to quaint mountainside villages along Italy’s rugged coast. Even a boat ride to the fabled Isle of Capri. But the entire experience was anything but tranquil.
We went on an organized tour with 15 other very nice people, who were fairly willing to make limited eye contact with me, despite the fact they found out I was a humor writer. But the moment we arrived in Rome, I knew that I was in for a bumpy ride. Turns out the taxis in Rome have really bad suspensions.
Before the trip I watched several films with notable actors of Italian heritage: Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, even Sylvester Stallone. But it was no use. I still could not understand a word of Italian – except “Yo, Adrian”, which, strangely, not one Italian uttered. So I knew I would have to improvise in Italy. Upon our arrival at our first hotel, I attempted to communicate with the hotel clerk by speaking English but using my best Italian accent – which unfortunately sounds eerily close to my best Norwegian accent. It was no use. He couldn’t understand a word I was saying. I quickly discovered that Italians have a different word from ours for just about everything.
I love my wife. Don’t get me wrong. She’s a great life partner, but she’s a lousy sports partner. The problem is she is utterly clueless about sports. Like any patriotic American, I’m a huge sports fan: baseball, football, Australian rules lawn bowling, you name it. But my wife is, how can I put this delicately – an artist.
My wife could no more tell you the number of points in a touchdown than the location of home plate in baseball. Oh sure, she’ll tell you she likes sports. But to her, sports consists of backpacking through the woods or climbing a rock face. Those aren’t sports. As any red-blooded sports fanatic knows, sports require two essential elements: a high def flat panel 56” TV and a large cheese-stuffed, meat-lover’s pizza.
I first suspected my wife wasn’t into sports early in our marriage. One evening, I had to work late so I missed the Monday Night Football game. I called home to ask her the score. After five minutes trying to convince her that pro football indeed could be played on a day other than Sunday, she checked the TV and reported: I have no idea. But I think they’re in extra innings. Seriously, I’d have better luck finding the score in the credits of Breaking Bad than by asking my wife.
My wife will happily tell any random stranger she meets that her husband is far from perfect. On a scale of 1 – 5, I think she’d probably rate me a 2.4.
Okay, so I’m not perfect. When it comes to my looks, I’d give myself maybe a 6 out of 10. My taste in clothes? Perhaps a 4 – although my wife would score me a 1.5 if we’re talking about ties. (What’s wrong with a paisley tie adorning a Lacoste shirt anyway?) My humor writing ability? Hmmm. Are we grading on a curve?
My point is I have plenty of shortcomings, but if you ask my wife, she’ll tell you – especially if you’re a complete stranger – that my most irritating personality quirk is my compulsive need to rank…everything.
For example, in writing this week’s post, I chose Arial 9 point because it’s always been one of my five favorite fonts (right after Comic Sans and just ahead of Garamond). Okay, I admit it. I do have a tendency to rate and rank stuff. I can’t resist asking other people to rank things too. For me, it’s an ice breaker. I’ll often start a conversation with, say, a waitress at a BBQ ribs restaurant, with, “Hi, Carla. Nice rack you got there. Quick question: Which three states would you least like to live in?”
Every generation brings with it a new dance craze. In the ‘60s young people were doing the Twist. In the ‘70s everyone was wearing green leisure suits (and by everyone, I mean my late Uncle Sid from Scranton) and disco dancing was the rage. In the ‘80s line dancing was the latest craze, featuring the Electric Slide, a favorite among attractive women who were way out of my league.
Recently, Korean pop star Psy created a dance sensation with an annoyingly infectious horsey dance to the tune of Gangnam Style. And just a few months ago, millions of people the world over made their best attempt to demonstrate what uncontrollable group epileptic seizures must look like, in a bizarre dance craze called the Harlem Shake.
As our nation’s population grays, it was just a matter of time before another dance craze would sweep the nation – aimed at us slightly older high-steppers. And I’m just the person to launch it. It’s called the Soccer Dad Shuffle. What does a middle-aged family man know about dance moves, you ask? Plenty. I have tripped the light fantastic countless times (and by countless times, I mean more than five but less than nine), including almost three wedding receptions, last year’s company Christmas party, and my neighbor’s son’s bar mitzvah in 1989. (Again, my apologies to Mrs. Bernstein for the damage to her toes.)