Monday, November 24, 2008

The unfriendly skies

Until there is a death in the family, this will be the most traumatic experience of my life. The day before Halloween, I was scheduled to fly to New York. Now Halloween is my favorite holiday and I always go all out. I stayed up till 3am the previous night finishing our costumes (Marathon Man and I were going as original Star Trek characters…totally worth it because they looked fantastic). My flight was on Continental Airlines which O’Hare lists at Terminal 2. I exit the subway exit for terminal 2 and go up the nearby escalator to security screening. I had checked in 24 hours beforehand (now a days they send you an email a day ahead of time asking you if you would like to check in…sure, why not) so my 8-1/2 x 11 printed boarding pass said to check departure boards for gate assignment (duh why would the assign a gate 24 hours ahead of time). Well sure enough, there is a GIANT departures board right past security. I look up and there is only one flight to Newark departing at 6:15pm. My flight was scheduled to depart at 6:10pm, so I figured it was running a few minutes behind. I trotted over to gate B17 in Terminal 1. I didn’t think anything of it since O’Hare is so busy and often overbooked that they shuffle gates around. Well gate B17 is the farthest gate out there in Terminal 1. While I am sitting down in the area I keep hearing them announce that the flight to Newark is overbooked and they are looking for volunteers to get bumped for a voucher. Okay, I was tempted since I’m a tightwad and flights to NYC are not getting any cheaper, but I decided against that since it was the only flight to Newark that night and the next day was planned for Halloween fun.

Anyway, they started boarding groups 1, 2 and 3 about a half hour before takeoff. I look at my boarding pass and it doesn’t list a group number. I ask the other passengers standing nearby to see what their row number and group number is so I could judge when I should board. One of the guys said they didn’t print the group number on his pass before and since it is their fault, I should just board now. Oh, okay. When the guy scanned a boarding pass, it sounded like “booop, booop, booop”. Well when I showed up it was like “booop, booop, eeerrrrot”. He turned to a computer monitor and typed in a few numbers and waved me to go ahead. I figured it didn’t scan because everyone else had the neat little envelope sized boarding pass and mine was a crumpled piece of office paper. I find my seat and spend the next 20 minutes reading a book until an obviously pissy looking girl comes up to me and says “you in my seat”. I reply, “oh, I’ll double check my boarding pass” while thinking “oh no you dumb bitch, this is my seat, and I’m going to prove it to you, you’re wrong…WROOOONNNGG!”. Well sure enough we compare our boarding passes side by side and they both list 24C as the seat. Great, they overbooked the flight and didn’t resolve it. Well we call the stewardess over and she looked at both the boarding passes. She was completely perplexed and said she would have to get back to us. The stewardess trotted off to the back of the plane with both of our boarding passes. Meanwhile, I hovered over the seat because I was there first and was totally not ready to surrender the seat. Well ten minutes later, the stewardess came back to us and said to me “Um…you are on the wrong flight”.
Me: “what, this is going Newark right”
Stewardess: “yes, but you are on Continental”
Me: “yeah, this IS Continental”
Stewardess: “NO, THIS IS UNITED….how did you get on the plane?”
WHAT THE FUCK! She told me that my flight was delayed 20 minutes and if I hurry I could still make it. Meanwhile, the whole flight crew is in a panic and whispering to each other, “how did she get on the plane, who let her on, how, oh my God.”

I grab my luggage and run for the exit. I didn’t check anything because A) I was just going for the weekend, and B) those damn airlines are charging extra for practically everything….would you like a tissue, okay that will be 50 cents. I am running at a full sprint in my high heel boots, jeans, sweater, and wool coat while hauling my rolling suitcase and giant mom purse. They told me the gate and it wasn’t even in Terminal 2 (where Continental is based out of), it was in Terminal 3! I am sweating my ass off, and hysterically crying because this was suck a stressful blunder. I passed by two (count it TWO) guys with motorized passenger carts and beg them for a ride to my gate. The both told me “oh, I’m not authorized to take passengers”. Really, in your cart with upholstered seats…JACKASSES!!!

I haul to the gate in the ‘H’ concourse. My legs are throbbing because I normally do not sprint in high heels. I finally get to the gate (abet a few minutes after the delayed departure time…I’m no Carl Lewis, sheesh) and I look up to see the American gate listed as Houston. Houston…what the fuck! I bend over and start crying and gasping for air. I am so sweaty that my entire neck feels like a wet rag, my hair is literally dripping, and my sweater is moist under the pits. Oh yeah, I was upset. I mean I sweated through the only pair of jeans I was bringing on the trip.

Well while I was breaking down, a hunched back little old lady (like 80 years old) asked me in a tiny voice “did you miss the plane too?” What. She continued “they said the flight was delayed 20 minutes, so I went to the bathroom and when I came back it was gone”. She then turned to me and said “lets go find ourselves an agent” and shuffled off. We walked over to terminal 2 (like I haven’t traveled enough already…within the airport!) and found a Continental airlines counted waaaaay at the end of the terminal. I noticed that although every airport but O’Hare lists all departures on the departures board, O’Hare likes to have separate departure boards for each airline. I evidently mistook the ginormous departures screen of United for the entire airport. For the record, the Continental airlines departure board is located within the vast depths of Terminal 2 and is about the size of my laptop screen. Boo!
The little old lady told the airline agent we missed the flight and if we could get on the next one. The agent was all bitchey and said she couldn’t guarantee getting a seat on the next flight (thank god there was one more flight that night) because it was OUR fault that we missed the flight. The little old lady explained her bathroom situation and the agent snapped back “well we encourage all of our passengers to always stay in the gate area because boarding times are subject to change”. Bee-hatch! The agent then looked me up and down (my heaving sweaty bawling mess) and said under her breath “I don’t even want to know”.

Well there were two seats open. There were 200 seats open. This flight was delayed 1-1/2 hours, so all of its passengers jumped on the earlier flight (aka, mine). It was practically empty and I was able to wallow in my own row. Once we pushed off from the gate, the pilot came over the speaker and said the FAA mandated a temporary freeze of departures due to a security breech. Hmm, I wonder if I had anything to do with that. Anyway, we waited on the plane for another 1-1/2 hours, so instead of arriving in New York at 9pm (my original flight), it was at 1am. Thanks to the frequent train runs (read sarcastic), I got into Manhattan at 2am. Although I was going on three hours of sleep, I couldn’t nod off because I kept replaying the crazy events of the night. I pulled out my crumpled boarding pass and wondered how all of us somehow didn’t notice that it said Continental Airlines in bold 2” tall letters across the top. I mean, what if the stewardess took a look at the two boarding passed and realized “wow, these don’t look anything like each other”. That would have saved me 10 minutes. Or how about the gate ticket checker guy that got the giant error message when he scanned my ticket (that said Continental Airlines clearly across the top). That would have been 30 minutes to stroll to the correct gate. Oh well, at least I did get to New York. Granted my throat was sore for a day and I limped for a week, but it makes for one hell of a story.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Get your wiener on!

During Marathon Man’s Chicago visit in October, we were both in the mood for sausages (SAUSAGES! SAUSAGES! Think the bud light talking dog commercial….hilarious!). A friend recommended a great German restaurant, Bauhaus, nearby. When we showed up, we were greeted by an authentic Oomph band….in lederhosen! Yep, tubas, accordions, round bellies, etc. The wait for a table was 2 hours because evidently today was the grand finale of their Octoberfest celebration. We grabbed seats at the bar and ate our dinner (taste of Octoberfest – more sausages and schnitzel that you could dream of) and drank from the largest steins they had. I think each beer was 1.5 liters! You could upsize for a ‘boot’ which is 2-3 liters. Yep, a frigg’in boot! Like in the movie ‘beerfest’! It was awesome. Evidently you had to put your credit card down just to drink out of one because people tend to break them a lot. Really, drinking a boot-full of German beer doesn’t make you clumsy at all, pssft. Daaasss-boot!

We were surrounded by a whole bunch of senior citizen women in traditional Bavarian dress. They were loving our shit and kept telling us “oh it is so nice to see young people taking part in their heritage”. M-Man said we were hanging with the grandmas.

The band was oomph awesome and drank like it was their second job that night. Halfway through our stay, the band leader decided to create a conga line (called a “polka line”) and everyone joined in. Yep, drunk frat boys, couples on a date, old men and women all hopping along with the beat of the tuba. Later the tuba played and walked around the restaurant to collect tips for the band. To tip them, you threw quarters into the tuba! Granted everyone was smashed, so our aim was not really on. I am sure a few stray quarters ended up in some one’s potatoes.

Eventually, the grandmas convinced M-Man to polka dance with me on the dance floor. It turned out more like a drunken hopping, but romantic none-the-less. Don’t worry, there were several other drunk couples out there (many registered with AARP). In the end, we ended up staying 3-4 hours, and I would say it was the best date ever!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Read into it.

Lately I have been loving the public library. My friend Dana introduced it to me. Previously, I only used it to check out literature reads...okay and guilty Clive Clusser mind junk food. Now I am obsessively checking out the music and DVD sectors. While browsing through the vast acre of music, I wonder why they don’t have a single OAR record yet have three copies of John Tesh’s album. I'm tempted to check it out just to see if the opening track is a version of the Entertainment Tonight theme song.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Shamless cute pictures

Pics of my niece. She is cute but freakishly long and skinny. I guess it is never too early to start purging. Oh and from what I can tell, she hates the holidays (probably because of all that excess binge eating) and has a cone head...still. Ah ha ha ha.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Asia Adventures - Post 4 (Bangkok, Thailand)

Tuesday morning we flew off to Bangkok, Thailand. First off, the flight was awesome! It was maybe just over 90 minutes long and yet we got in flight movies on demand and a full meal! I love Asian airlines! Upon discovering their movie selections…
Gabby: “girls there is sex in the city!”
All: “oooohhhh”

While waiting at baggage claim…
Me: (about the sex in the city movie) “I got to the naked sushi part”
Gabby: “Dammit! I missed that part of the movie. That sucks balls!”
Evan: “well I’m sure we can find that within an hour in Bangkok”
Gabby: “the movie…..or sucking balls?”

I’ve heard all sorts of praise for Bangkok, but personally I felt like everyone was trying to rip us off. My tour guide book was full of scams people pull on tourists. At the airport, my book said the best way to get into the city is to take a pre-paid official taxi where there are standard rates for certain districts. The gypsy cabs were known to take you to random parts of the city and either demand you pay double the going rate or claim your hotel is full and that you should stay at their friend’s hotel (where they get a commission at). Here is the conversation between me and the cab director at the airport:
Me: taxi to Ko San Road, five people
Taxi Director (TD): you all no go in one taxi, you need a minivan one, why don’t you use my friend’s car
Me: well there is a minivan taxi right there, can we have that one
TD: there is no minivan, no you must use my friend, he will give you good price
Me: no I want that minivan RIGHT THERE
TD: will be too much, you should take two taxis
Me: how much?
TD: 500 baht each taxi
Me: no how much for the minivan
TD: oh 700 baht
Me: so one minivan is 700 and two taxis are 1000….we are going to take the minivan
TD: are you sure you don’t use my friend
Me: give me the minivan!

Another “welcome to Bangkok” moment happened when we stepped out of the cab and walked a block or two to the hotel. A homeless man squatting on the street lunged out and tried to grab Evan’s leg. Dana gave the most priceless face of horror and disgust. Hello Thailand!

Once we got to the hotel, it didn’t get much better. Evan had booked a guest house (like a cheap hotel for backpackers) which had the biggest billboard in area. He had reserved a 3-bed/person room and a 2-bed/person room. When we showed up, they gave us a 2-bed/person room instead and wanted to charge us for a 3-bed/person room. They said they didn’t have any 3-bed rooms left to which Evan told them he had RESERVED one months ago. They said that it was important to confirm the reservation to make sure the rooms are available. Evan replied that he HAD CONFIRMED YESTERDAY and here is the email the hotel sent back which agrees with his story. They all got snotty with him and basically would not admit they were wrong. Since we were exhausted from an early morning flight, we agreed to take the two 2-bed rooms only if we would be charged for two 2-bed rooms. Nope, not so easy. They kept saying that if three people sleep in a room, they it is considered a 3-bed room (even though the room only had 2 beds). Imagine the frustration. The worst part of it was that we were staring in the faces of the entire hotel staff and didn’t know how to say “we know you are ripping us off you fucking jackasses” in Thai. One thing led to another and we ended up taking the rooms (either it was the heat or the uncertainty of finding another available room in this shitty city). The third person got to sleep on the tile floor with a yoga mat that they of course charged us extra for.

Once we unpacked and changed out of clothes that were already sweated through, we started walking towards a temple that was known for beautiful sunset views. Immediately we were assaulted by tuk-tuk and taxi drivers. FYI, a tuk-tuk is like a golf cart powered by a lawnmower. Since the vehicle is small and practically a cage on wheels, the drivers are notoriously known for zipping in and out of (and sometimes against) traffic. Once we told them our destination (about a 10 minute walk) they were like “1000 baht” which is equivalent to about $31 USD. Um seriously, it is about ten blocks away, and the ride from the airport was a good 30 minutes away and didn’t even cost that much. Yep, they just shout out prices hoping you don’t know the conversion rate.

So we started walking to avoid dealing with the pushy drivers (seriously, they don’t know the term personal space and will practically mash their body up against you if given the chance) and partly to explore the city. The “old district” where we were staying was chalked full of temples , statues, plazas, etc. While passing some big temple, a Thai guy in business dress approached us and explained he was getting off of work and he was some administrator for the royal guard. He even waved some sort of palace ID in our face but how am I supposed to know what a royal ID looks like (let alone read Thai). I don’t know exactly what he said to convince us, but the group followed him to a nearby temple. He explained that it was the Queen’s birthday, so tourists were allowed access to inner temples that normally are closed off except for the royal family. We ooohhh and aaaawweeed at our first temple visit (them Thai sure know how to build them uh-ha). The helpful business guy then asked us where else we would be visiting that evening. We really didn’t have a plan except for dinner and sunset viewing. He pointed on our map a few areas where we could eat good authentic food and buy discount jewelry. There evidently was a jewelry factory that we could buy wholesale jewels at. He then told us since it was the Queen’s birthday, we could visit this silk market bazaar that was only open that day (think street fair open for today’s unique celebration). The thought of missing a one-day only sale on silks and jewels was too much to pass, so the group jumped on two tuk-tuks conveniently waiting at the entrance of this off-the-beaten-path temple. Getting suspicious yet?

Okay, I read in my travel guide book all about “gem scams”. Basically, the Thai con-artist tells you to buy all these precious jewels at really cheap prices and then sell them in the States for a huge profit. Too bad the so-called jewels are really just cut glass. I warned the group about this and I kept my skeptical eyes wide open. The tuk-tuk ride was thrilling and utterly suicidal at the same time. We all got a good kick out of it. We arrived at the “jewelry warehouse” that sold cheap precious gems. They ushered us in like kings and made us watch a 10 minute video about the wonderful Thai jewels. It was hard to keep quiet during the film because A) why the hell were we watching an informative video on vacation and B) it was filmed in the 80’s along with the tacky fake lava special effects. The mother salesman (the only Thai person there over the age of 40 and obviously the person in charge) ushered us to the jewel room. All the prices were listed in baht (Thai currency) and thankfully I brought my calculator. I swear every time I whipped out my calculator (either it be at a food stall, street vender, taxi driver, etc) the local’s faces fell. Their inner monolog was like “shit, this one knows how to convert”. A simple single strand pearl necklace was priced at 10,000 baht which is about 3 to 4 times the going rate in the States. Almost all of us stopped looking once we realized it was a scam. Evan and I saw a beer pull at the drink counter and ordered some beer to occupy our time while others browsed to be nice. The mother salesman jumped on us like a hawk and said with fire in her eyes “no beer until AFTER PURCHASE!!!”. Frightened at her sudden attack, we sulked off to the corner. Within five minutes, she approached Evan and said in sweet hushed tones “if you want beer, I can get you beer, do you want, I get…” Evidently, she figured that scolding us would not encourage us to buy her jewels.

While waiting, we read up on the tour guide books and they said to beware of:
A) Seemingly helpful people wearing business attire on the street during working hours (because in theory they should be inside at work right)
B) One day only sales due to a local holiday or festival
C) Anything to do with jewels
Um, check check and check. It was a straight from the book scam and we still fucking fell for it (although I maintain I was skeptical from the beginning because of the jewel scam warning in my book).

Yep, that place was a total scam. Luckily, the only thing that we wasted was our time. The waiting tuk-tuk drivers wanted to take us to the next stop, the discount silk shop only open today in honor of the Queen’s birthday….yeah right. Evan was trying to negotiate with them since we obviously didn’t want to visit yet another scam palace, but in the end they ended dropping us off a block from the store. Did I mention this store is in the middle of ghetto Bangkok? The neighborhood was not listed in any of our tourist guides because no tourist in their right fucking minds would go to this area.

After walking a few blocks in the Thai hood, we were fortunate to flag down a passing cab. Owing to our earlier mistake, we requested that he use the meter instead of quoting us some outrageous price. Mistake number two. The guy drove us around in circles, through pedestrian malls, and at one point on the freeway (wait I don’t remember getting on this street before…).

We finally just jumped out at the scene of a night market. Not just any night market, but the ping-pong district market. For those who don’t know, the ping-pong district is a bunch of strip joints filled with naked women, men, he-shes, its, etc. We were quickly assaulted by shady men asking us “ping-pong show?” For a bargain price, we followed one guy to the second floor of dark strip joint. In the center were four nude or semi nude “dancers”. My count was two girls, two girly men (they were the ones with boob jobs and wearing oddly lumpy thongs). I guess the size of the crowd (us four and another pair of guys across the way) didn’t really whip them up into a dance furry because they half-heartily tapped their toes to the stripper music.

A chunky aging fully nude Thai woman then got on stage and did the following tricks:
1) Stuck a lit sparkler up her whoo-ha (not the sparking end, the handle end). Using her special muscles to hold on, she waved the wand around in circles like on the 4th of July.
Impressed yet? Wait till what was next…
2) Stuck a tube up her va-jay-jay. A birthday cake a flame with two dozen burning candles was put on stage. The woman then hovered/squatted over the cake and systematically blew out each and every candle with puffs of air originating out of…well you know where. Tall about harnessing the va-jart for a useful purpose.
The best is yet to come…
3) The woman laid down legs agape and proceeded to load her coochie with ping-pong balls. She then shot said balls out at the audience. Yeah we were a good 10 feet away and the balls were bouncing off of the tables/seats around us. I was laughing so hard because while she was launching rapid fire ping pong balls at us, Gabby kept holding up her purse to shield her and Dana. Oh yeah, there was a lot of screaming and ducking and plain old grossed out giggles. Me, hilarious….but thankfully her aim was not that great and I wasn’t touched by one of the balls (however she was able to hit the guy across the room several times square in the chest….eewwwww).

Okay I apologize for those who were unaware of what exactly a “ping-pong” show was. Sadly, I was intrigued to see more of the show (I mean what can you possibly do to follow shooting ping pong balls out your crotch…..tie a bow, whistle the theme from Andy Griffin, file my taxes…) but a pack of burly madams blockaded our table and demanded we pay ten times the amount we agreed upon beforehand and we therefore made a hasty retreat. Evan says this happens a lot where they lure you in and then try to trick you into paying more (making you think you are in the wrong). Um, actually this happened EVERYWHERE in Thailand!

The quote of the day came from Evan. He quoted the one piece of advice his friend’s brother gave him: “never challenge a Thai prostitute to a game of connect four”.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Consumer report

I ran out of reading material and couldn't sleep on my recent flight from NYC. I was forced to face utter bordem or flip through the atrocious in flight magazines. Half way through the "Sky Mall" (selling you everything and anything at top notch prices) catalog, I was struck with how tacky, useless, or just plain stupid most of the items were. Here are some examples I ripped out (hey they said it was a complimentary magazine and seriously, I am doing people a favor by removing these items).

Behold, the truck antlers. For just $25 you can easily identify your truck in a crowded gun show parking lot....or maybe not.

Not sure how to both provide more light and sleaze to a room, why the party girl lamp is just for you. Honestly I don't know what is the worse thought, wanting this lamp or wanting this lamp so much that you are willing to pay nearly $400 to have it!

I did a double take when I first saw this "exercise device". It reminded me of a sex toy highly touted in the porn industry. Let me see, straddle the saddle, the vibrating and rocking motion makes you work your inner thigh muscles....nope, I don't see the difference except for the pommel horn placement. Honestly, for $419, a male hooker is a cheaper option.

Now this is not from the "sky mall" catalog. It was on the package for the patterned pantyhose I just purchased. Obviously made in China right. I don't quite understand how the stockings hold up my hips (my legs or hell, skeleton system kind of do that already). But hey they must be awesome because they make even LOGS look long and pretty...sold! Frankly I just don't get the last line, gives you tight hips and hides your short that is called genetics not stretch nylon.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Curtains closed.

Normally I wouldn’t write about something so personal (then again I have written about farting and waxing my junk) but it is a funny story none-the-less. I went into the gyno doctor for my annual woman’s check up. Simply the routine look and scrape, no special circumstances or reasons other than I am mandated to do this every year. Since I haven’t seen a doctor since moving, I needed to find one in the Chicago-land area. I just picked one with an office three blocks from work. I am waiting in the white sterile patient room reading all of the informative posters on the walls like “know the facts on STD’s” and “self examination instruction chart” when a man walks into the room. Okay, not any man, a hot young man. If I wasn’t already smitten, I would have totally hit on this guy because he was gorgeous, about my age, and apparently held a good regard for hygiene since he worked in a doctor’s office. I started rolling up my sleeve for the blood pressure cuff since he was obviously the hot physician assistant. To my surprise he says “Hello, I’m doctor X and since you are a new patient, I would like to gather your personal and family health history.” Um no….hell to the no! I’m not letting a hot Doggie Houser look up my whoo-ha. It is uncomfortable enough when it is a woman and you feel the need to make polite conversation to ease the awkwardness of her sticking things inside your nether regions. I mean, what if it was not a routine visit but I had to ask him about white foam and unpleasant discharge or something worse like CRABS! After the shocked silence, I said “I’m sorry…I can’t….I would like to request another doctor”. He didn’t ask for a reason, but he chuckled when I answered “an OLD man” when he asked if I had a preference to any other doctor in the medical group office. Poor guy, I bet his gyno practice is suffering because he is so good looking.