Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Douchbagery of Airline Passengers

Aside from people who are so Type-B that nothing pierces their iron-clad visage of letting the good times roll, most of us get annoyed by mundane things. I'm an urban planner, so for me it's often large lot zoning. We know that large lot zoning increases vehicle miles traveled (because you can't walk to anything) and home energy use (because the homes are larger and require more energy to heat and cool). Yet this is a slow march of a battle, because people who enjoy these homes can easily hide behind property rights and the free market, and feign ignorance (or legitimately not care or believe) about their little contribution to environmental problems. I prefer to believe that these people also drive SUVs, because that annoys me too. But again, it's a slow march. But on airplanes? No, that douchbaggery lacks the plausible deniability of the standard stock suburban consumerism. I will explain. 

Take this guy sitting in front of me as I type this. He knows full well that in reclining his seat, he is reclining into my seating space. With his seat up, I have approximately 24 inches between the back of his head rest and the front of mine. With his seat reclined, I have 21 inches (I measured) and he has 27 inches between the front of his head rest and the back of the one in front of him, creating a difference of 6 inches, or 34%. Setting up a laptop on my tray would be out of the question. In fact, my slim iPad barely fits. 

There is no free market here. There is only the ability to consume more at someone else's expense with the ability to do so without verbally acknowledging it or making eye contact. And that's douchbaggery. 

I saw a list recently of the top 10 passenger complaints. The top item on the list was unruly children. This has almost never bothered me. Maybe it's because I have small children and I sympathize with the parents, who are likely exhausted and miserable. Other complaints included the chatty Cathy's, the overhead bin hogs, and the frequent-pee passengers. These things can be unpleasant, but I was really surprised to find many of them ranking above the seat recliner. 

The other thing I find truly obnoxious is not the Chatty Cathy sitting next to me, but the one behind me. Once on a flight from Salt Lake to St. Louis I sat in front of a man who spent the entire 4 hour flight talking about his life in Thailand. This included not short segments about his cat and its hilarious antics. It also included intensely detailed information about the provisions of his employment vis-a-vis travel. Since he taught English abroad, his employer would pay twice a year for a ticket to and from the United States. And boy, didn't that open up a lot of opportunities for him! And the cat. Who hated to be away from him, his daughter, and his fiancee. These people would be much less annoying if you had the opportunity to make eye contact, or provide the common social cues that you're not interested in their conversation. In this particular case, I even turned around a few times to glare, but to no avail. The hilarious cat,  and the tales of amazing food discoveries went on, and on, and on. 

These people are on a level with the young men (inevitably) who sit behind my young children on a plane and discuss their frat parties in lurid detail. Or their habits regarding bong maintenance. Or lengthy discussions on political views that involves the work "fuck" as frequently as possible, to let their new seatmate bff's know that they are both informed AND edgy. 

I once sat across the aisle from a woman in her mid-60s. On the round side, with hair that had taken some doing--not bouffant style, but curled and sprayed. She wore a sweater set and ironed pants. I watched her eat her lunch, which contained some sort of sandwich and potato chips, and she chatted with her seatmates. Some time after her lunch, she neatly folded her napkin and stowed her trash until the flight attendant could come by. She stood up in the aisle, as if to stretch, turned to face her seat mates so as to continue chatting with them as she stretched, and dispensed with the most toxic SBD in history. She stood a few moments, doing light calisthenics to complete the charade, and then simply returned to her seat. My brother says I'm a 4-star grudge holder, likely for the fact that I bother to remember incidents like this for long periods of time. I don't think so, though. I think it was just a heinous act against humanity that couldn't possibly fade from memory during this lifetime. 

So that's it on my rant on the douchbaggery of airline passengers. I have to admit, I'm feeling better about this asshole in front of me. When do we land? 

[Note: I wrote this in December 2013, while on a flight probably for work. I rediscovered this on my iPad while on a recent trip, and decided it needed to be set free into the world.]

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Post-Race Shenanigans

Hello friends! After Utah Valley, I took some time away from running (gasp! I know. Read on.) to relax and enjoy other pursuits. I have some tales from the road to share, and a look forward to my fall season. First up, the Post-Race Utah Adventure with my St. Louis BRF (best running friend) Rachel. 

Utah has five national parks. FIVE. Two years here, and I hadn't been to any of them. As we plotted our hijinks in the weeks before the race, I couldn't escape the feeling that it was high time I broke the Utah National Park barrier and went barreling in. After a bunch of reading online and talking to friends, I suggested Capitol Reef National Park for a few reasons. First, it's a little closer to home than the bigger parks. Second, its website suggested that it's a little cooler than in the parks farther south. Third, it has various camping options, and I wanted to check out the developed camp ground for possible future camping-with-kids adventures. Rachel thought all this sounded great. It was set.

After our race in Provo, we headed back to Salt Lake to shop and pack for our camping trip and hang out with my family. On Sunday late morning we set off, car full of gear. We arrived at the Fruita Campground about 2pm, in time to snag one of the last few open camp sites* and get set up. Once set up, we headed out for a short hike on the Cohab Trail. So cool!! The trail winds through a narrow little ravine, where your voice echoes off the rock walls at places. We climbed some rocks to a higher point for a panoramic view, just before turning around and heading back to the campsite for the evening.
The view from our camp site
The camp ground had an evening program on the parks predators and prey. Afterwards, I sat outside for a long time looking at the clear, diamond-studded night sky. It had been so long since I'd seen it that I'd almost forgotten how relieving it is.

On Monday morning we wakened with the sun and planned our hikes for the day. First we hiked Chimney Rock. I'm sure I can't do it justice, so I'll let the pictures speak for themselves.

120 million year old petrified wood. NBD.

Me! In nature!
After lunch, we headed out for what would be my favorite hike of the trip: the Grand Wash Trail. I just, I can't even. Just look. That's me standing in the middle--that tiny fleck. 

We were headed to the Cassidy Arch (named for David Cassidy, who used to hide out there), but we missed a turn, and by the time we figured it out, the sun was hot and the extra distance daunting. Regardless, it was incredible. We saw a family of big horned sheep come scampering down a very rocky, very steep hill. Our voices echoed up to the sky in this next picture. Just incredible. 

We camped a second night, then on Tuesday, ripe and ready for showers, we checked out some petroglyphs from the Fremont Culture (read more here) and a nearby coffee shop that was delightful, and headed back to Salt Lake. The drive between is also remarkably beautiful, with about 4000 feet in elevation gain/loss. Back in Salt Lake, we cleaned up, re-packed Rachel's stuff, headed out for the elk burgers that are not to be missed when you visit Salt Lake, and then to the airport. 

Lessons Learned: 
  1. Take a can opener. 
  2. Don't plan canned chili two nights in a row when you're sharing a two-man tent.
  3. I have decent mastery of all my camping equipment, including the camp stove, chairs, and tent. Go me. 
  4. Trail running shoes would be more appropriate than my regular running shoes for this terrain. 
  5. I really do love avocados. 
  6. I can now identify marmots. I think. 
  7. That * above is for this: the Fruita Campground really does fill by about 3pm this time of year. Rachel asked the Camp Hosts (this adorable old couple in a little Pope-mobile) how often the camp ground sold out, and they said since March, it had only not filled on 3 nights. So if you want to camp there, do plan ahead. 
  8. While I was blown away by Capitol Reef, virtually everyone we talked to said they prefer Bryce Canyon or Arches National Parks. I have to assume they are worth the extra distance, if you have time. They are on my list, for sure. 
To wrap it up, our trip was great. The race was an unexpected success. I love having Rachel visit, and can't wait to do it again!! Who knows what adventures await us.