Archive for August, 2014

Planes, Pains, and Minty Asphyxiation

Monday, August 25th, 2014

So here’s a fun horror story, presented to you by American Airlines:

Yesterday I was flying out of O’Hare Airport, on my way to Minnesota. I was on an American Airlines flight, but not really. It was one of those smaller airplanes that the major airlines use for flights where no one in their right minds would want to go. You know, like Minnesota.

Short of my model airplane hobby as a kid, this was the smallest plane I had ever seen. I was waiting for a dozen clowns to pop out of it. I literally could not have lay down horizontally on this plane (which eventually I would have been more than happy to do).

It all started at the gate, when the desk attendant told us to board the plane – or at least, that’s what I think she said. To quote, verbatim:

“Guf abdanun labesan gendle. We willnobordinz onen.”

Everyone looked at each other blankly. The attendant got annoyed, and repeated, loudly:

“WE WILLNOBORDINZ ONEN!!”

“Did you catch that?” I asked a friendly looking elderly woman.

“If that woman is speaking English,” she replied in a delightful British accent, “then I’m a Dutchman.”

Uncertainly, we boarded the plane, the desk attendant giving us the evil eye. As it turned out, we probably should have stayed put, because shortly after we got on board the pilot announced that the air conditioning unit was broken, and that the cabin pressurization wouldn’t work without it, causing us to – you know – die. They needed to call maintenance. “The pilot says it should be about fifteen or twenty minutes,” the flight attendant told us, adding that it was her first day.

An hour later, maintenance showed up. Now seems like a good time to mention that during this hour, I had accidentally swallowed a sour cream and onion potato chip whole, and it had caught in my throat. My throat hardened and inflamed painfully, and remained that way while we sat in an unairconditioned plane in 84 degree weather.

But I digress. Maintenance finally arrived, and accessed the problem via the seat in front of me. It turned out that the blame lay with a metal spring, which, over the course of events, had ceased being a spring and apotheosized into a long piece of flacid metal.

“How the hell have they been flying?” one of the maintenance guys asked the other.

Nothing like a touch of confidence.

Maintenance went away to look for a replacement spring, and didn’t come back or return calls for about an hour. Finally, the pilot managed to get a hold of them, and he filled us in on the good news:

“Well,” he started (this is never a good start), “maintenance went back to their warehouse, and unfortunately they don’t have a spare part. But they think they might be able to come up with another temporary fix.”

‘Duct tape?’ I wondered.

The pilot continued. “There aren’t any spare planes, unfortunately. There might be one coming in about an hour, but we’re not sure. I think this temporary fix is our best bet, but then again, I’ve been wrong about everything else.” I swear to God, he said this.

Now some of you might be wondering: “Shouldn’t they have let you off the plane while they dealt with all this?” I would encourage anyone who wondered this to please go apply for a job at American Airlines. They could use minds like yours.

So back came maintenance – this is now two hours after we boarded – equipped with the ultimate power tool: an iPhone. They snapped a picture of the problem and sent it back to their office, to get their opinion on whether or not this fix would actually work. Apparently they got a “yes,” or at least a “maybe,” because whatever it was, they did it.

The pilot came back into the loudspeaker. “The maintenance guys are just filling out some paperwork,” he said. (“We hereby deny all liability for the forthcoming flight, or for that matter that we are even certified maintenance men.”) And then came the big moment:

“Welcome to American Airlines,” they said. Which is what finally pissed me off. What kind of a host welcomes you two and a half hours after you get there? Manners cost nothing.

We got treated to the usual: the weather (hot); the air time (roughly one third of the time we’d already been on the plane); the safety lecture (the first time in my life I gave it my undivided attention).

And then, like a majestic bird, we…stayed put.

“Well,” said the pilot. “Another plane just landed and parked behind us, and now we can’t get out.

…?

I used the additional time to text my mother what was going on. She totally flipped out, but I reassured her that there was probably only a 30% chance we’d asphyxiate.

And then, at last: we were off. And all seemed fine, until we reached our first cloud, and water started seeping through the ceiling, accompanied by an inexplicably minty smell. Fortunately, I love mint, and it struck me that it would probably be my first choice of odors to die to.

The flight attendant came rushing to fix the problem, bumping into all the seats on the way (it was her first day!). She carried a secret weapon: napkins!

‘Napkins?!’ I thought. ‘How about a parachute???’

But the rest of the trip went just fine, and I don’t appear to have suffered any lasting brain damageudnnsgsyxd. We landed in an airport with a grand total of two TSA guards, which is fine, because my feeling is that anyone who wants to blow up Minnesota is probably justified.

Hi Minnesota! It’s great to be back.

In Memory of Robin Williams… My First Hero

Tuesday, August 12th, 2014

When I was 11 years old and first discovered that I wanted to be an actor, there was one man I admired beyond any other. One man I wanted to be when I grew up. That man was Robin Williams.

Robin Williams as the adult Peter Pan in "Hook"

Robin Williams as the adult Peter Pan in “Hook”

Robin was my first hero. Aside from my closest friends and family, there was no one more consistently in my life than he was. Aladdin, Mrs. Doubtfire, Popeye, Jumanji, Hook…These movies weren’t just the happy foundation of my childhood. They were on constant repeat as I drank in the glorious talent, joy, wonder, and commitment of Robin Williams. In happy times, Robin’s movies were something to study, and emulate. And in troubled times, these same movies were places I could turn to for escape and elation. As I witnessed what Robin did for me, I made a very conscious decision that I wanted to do that same thing for other people. That same dream keeps me going to this day.

As I got older, I also got to know Robin through his standup comedy, which I was listening to just hours before I got the horrible news of Robin’s death. Robin is best known for his manic transitions in and out of characters and accents (something I began replicating at a very early age), but much of his comedy was extremely dark. But Robin was able to use this darkness, to put it out for display without shame or censorship, so that his struggles could become the world’s laughter. I am inspired that Robin Williams, like so many comedians, was able to use his pain and create something good out of it for millions upon millions of people around the world. But I am so very sad that this same pain became too much for him.

Depression is a disease. Robin’s may have taken his life by his own hand, but in reality he died of a disease that society just doesn’t take seriously until it is too late. But even so, there is more to this story.

Robin Williams’ wife just revealed that in addition to his substantial psychological struggles, Robin was also beginning to experience the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease – something he had not yet felt ready to share with the public.

Depression and addiction recovery are hard enough on their own…add on top of that a serious physical disease that is 100% guaranteed to get worse? The scenario strikes a deep chord with me, and I am profoundly sad.

I’m sad because I wish we lived in a universe where people’s mental and physical states were solely a reflection of their own acts and choices. I’m sad that a man who probably made more people laugh than anyone else who has ever lived was not allowed to be happy. I’m sad because of the cruel irony that a man who virtually never stopped moving would have been permanently stuck in a state of uncontrollable movement.

What an unimaginably difficult fate to live with…and though I wish with all my heart that Robin’s mind would have allowed him the hope to persevere, to become inspirational on an entirely new level – how could anyone possibly blame him for his choice?

I just wish that these weren’t the choices. More than anything, that’s what I wish.

I never got to meet Robin. My sadness is of course nothing compared to the friends and family who knew and loved him. But I’m sure going to miss him too. I think we all will.

Thank you, Robin – for changing my life, and for making this world a happier place to live in. It truly won’t be the same without you.