Two straight couples, one gay couple, two single women, six dogs and I were checking in at the airport. That's right- everyone in line had dogs with them except me. The gay couple had two. Only one dog was wearing a service-dog vest. Umm........why all the dogs? And before I start, I love animals. I support animal rescues, have my own rescue pets and on one occasion even climbed a cliff in a rainstorm to rescue a Rottweiler.
When did everyone decide that their pets should travel with them? It was recent, and it was sudden. I travel a lot, though the holidays only come around once a year and this was a holiday trip. So at some point between last December and this December, traveling with your dog apparently became mandatory during the holidays.
I commented to the couple behind me in line, who had the service dog. I suggested that next time I need to bring my cat. The gentleman said "Oh, man, I'm allergic to cats, so that wouldn't be good!".
Well lah dee dah! What if I'm allergic to DOGS? Some people are, so what about that? It's a valid point but in the interest of holiday decorum I stopped myself from asking that aloud.
The airport was Los Angeles International, which is an older airport and as far as I can see, has no dog areas for the little ones to do their business. So where do they go? Are these dogs all trained to use the human restrooms? And what on earth do they do on the planes? Only one of the people checking in had a carrier, so I assume these dogs all just roam the aisles or tuck in under the seat in front of their owner?
I realize people need their emotional support animals, and I completely understand having an actual service dog- you know- the kind with the vest that actually has a job and is trained as such. But I'm hard pressed to find any reason the majority of people in my line had dogs with them, other than they just didn't want to pay for a dog sitter and felt their dog REALLY wanted to go visit family in....wherever.
But what if I take this step further? None of these people had to pay extra to have their emotional support dog travel with them. So could I take a human, since we're also animals, and claim my human was an emotional support animal? That way I could take a companion without paying extra. It might be a little tight to share a seat in coach, but I could book first class and split the cost of the seat with my companion human. I expect the airline would say no but it might be worth a try.
Back to the dogs......
Do you really think your dog wants to fly? Between the airport chaos, air pressure changes on their ears, loud noise and other delights of air travel, I think it probably doesn't. No matter how much you think your dog wants to be with you 24/7, I would bet that most would be perfectly happy having a dog sitter come by to feed, water and walk them while they get to stay at home in a familiar place, instead of dealing with the trauma of air travel.
It's bad enough to be a human in today's air travel system, so subject your dog to what people suffer? Next time, give it a little thought and let the little guys chill at home. They'll still love you when you get back!
I boarded a flight recently and thanks to an upgrade was in first class. It was midday when we boarded but cabin was dark, and for good reason. Every single window shade was pulled down. That seemed weird to me.
I realize that frequent flyers are usually in that cabin, so I expect they get bored with watching the earth pass by below. They probably have very important things to do on their computer/tablet/phone/whatever. Or even better, they need to watch movies they never had an interest in until they were stuck at 30,000 feet, and then they became the most interesting movies ever.
I decided to look back into the main cabin to see if the shades were pulled down there as well. And yes, a large percentage were. Why? Do these people have any idea what they are missing? Or does no one care anymore because everyone is addicted to their device and are looking at some electronic screen at all times?
Whatever the reason, they are missing a lot. The world passing by outside the window of an airplane deserves a look now and then. I realize when it's night or one is flying through weather it might not be terribly interesting. And yes, even I get bored looking at clouds on a long flight, but I almost always find something interesting at some point. On a recent flight I even watched a drone go right under our wing after takeoff. That was followed by an expletive and made for some interesting discussions among my seatmates, the crew and eventually the FAA. But most of the time, the sights are much nicer. Here's just a sample of what people are missing!
I've often found myself helping animals deal with the modern world. I'm not sure I save all of them but I help them get out of places that pose a danger, like my building lobby.
I live in a building with tenants who like to prop open the front door. It's an innocuous act on the surface, but our lobby is two stories high with floor to ceiling windows. I guess this looks to a bird like a nice place to fly through. Little do the tenants know how many times I've had to capture, wrangle, or chase birds out of the building. And that's where my hummingbird adventure began.
I walked out of my second floor apartment to the lobby, where I saw a hummingbird desperately trying to get out. I was in a hurry to get someplace, so I crossed my fingers and hoped it would find its way out before I returned. It did not. Dammit.
I saw the hummingbird still trying to escape and knew that once again it was up to me, and this was intimidating. Not because I was worried about the dangers of trapping a vicious hummingbird, but because they look so fragile. It kept hitting its thin beak on the window, so I knew eventually it was going get hurt.
My usual tactic with birds is to take a laundry basket and a towel, trap them in the basket, then cover them with the towel and take them outside. So I went to my apartment, gathered what I needed and came back. I chose a bright blue towel in the hopes that maybe it would think the towel was a giant flower and land on it. As I waited the bird eventually worked itself into a spot where I could cover it with the laundry basket. Success! Or so I thought. As I walked down the stairs the brave bird snuck through one of the laundry basket holes. Back to square one.
I realized I needed something with smaller holes, so I grabbed my cat carrier. After a few minutes of further chasing, the bird landed on my towel. As I tried to put it in the carrier, I realized the towel was way too heavy and large, and I was afraid I was going to hurt him. The bird tired of my attempt and flew away. So I got a smaller towel, went back to lobby, and waited.
We were in the upstairs part of my lobby, which allowed it to go over to the two-story windows to avoid me. I decided to sit down to try to let the bird know I wasn't a threat. It seemed to be getting the idea as it would fly over to the balcony rail, chirp at me, then fly back to the large window where I couldn't catch it. This went of for some time, until it landed on my shoulder. That's correct. A hummingbird landed on my shoulder. I stood there, not sure what to do, until it got bored and flew off again. The bird went back to his ritual of flying over to the guardrail, chirping at me, then back to then window. After a few more minutes of this, it landed on my head. This time I thought I'd just walk down the stairs and out the door with a hummingbird standing on my head. But apparently hummingbirds don't like to hang out on heads for very long. As I walked down the stairs the bird flew back to the window. Dammit!
Eventually it flew near me and came to a stop long enough for me to take my towel and gently wrap it up. I was petrified I was going to hurt it, so I rushed down the stairs and outside. As I opened the towel, the little bird briefly looked at me, then flew up into the flowered trees across the street. I've seen a few hummingbirds in that tree since then, and they occasionally fly up to my balcony. I like to think they are just coming by to say hello and let me know it all worked out.
Have you ever wondered what you would do if your plane had serious trouble and you thought you might not survive? Well, wonder no more, because I’m going to tell you.
It was snowing heavily on a mid-winter morning in Vienna as I boarded a British Airways jet to travel back to Los Angeles following the end of a tour with my band. I was flying solo while the rest of the band was remained in Europe for a few days rest. It was snowing heavily but my immediate thoughts were on my aching shoulders, as they slowly dislocated due to the weight of all the glass souvenirs I bought for the family. Lots of glass filled my backpack- candles, trinkets, a long-stem glass rose- lots of fragile gifts!
I settled back into a seat at the back of the plane. It was quite warm, but I left my jacket on. I don’t like flying, so I was apprehensive as usual and the snow didn’t help. It was coming down so heavily that I could barely see the end of the wings.
Once we started taxiing, the pilot came on in a reassuring British accent and stated that if we smelled smoke, it was because he was going to rev the engines before takeoff to blow out the snow and deicing fluid.
We paused for a few minutes and then began a rather slow roll. The roll got longer and longer, until the man next to me looked at me with a puzzled expression and asked if we were taking off. Apparently he thought I knew more about airplanes than he did, and this was probably true. I know a lot about airplanes and all the things that can go wrong. I told him it appeared we were, and we both expressed concern that the pilot never did blow out the engines.
After rolling through the snowy whiteness for what seemed to be an eternity, we began to lift off, but not in that “sinking feeling in your stomach” way that happens whenever a jet first takes off. If you’ve been on a jet, you know the feeling. There was no feeling of rapid lift, and my heart began to beat a little faster. I was pretty sure we barely made it off the runway, but I couldn’t see through the snow to tell. Whatever it was, it wasn’t a normal takeoff.
Much to my relief, we didn’t smack into anything. We seemed to be climbing, and after a couple of minutes they lowered the video screens and it appeared the flight attendants were beginning to move about. And then I heard it. A quacking sound. The goose-like sound of an auxiliary power unit, underneath the floor of the cabin. Now this is where I know too much about planes. I recognized this sound from whenever I’m on an Airbus jet and they are starting the engines. This is NOT a sound you want to hear in mid-flight, though both engines sounded normal. This quacking sound went on for about a minute, when I noticed the flight attendant sitting behind me rush up the aisle to the cockpit. This is also not normal, so NOW I’m beginning to worry. And then, I hear it- the sound of the right engine shutting down. It was basically just a “whoop, whoop whooooop....silence” kind of thing. I could hear that the left engine was still working but I knew we had a major problem. I know the plane can still fly on one engine, but what if there’s a problem that causes the other engine to shut down. This is not turning out to be a good morning.
All of this would be troubling enough without what happened next. The flight attendant that had rushed to the front of the cabin was now rushing back, with absolute fear on her face, shouting at everyone to put everything away. This was NOT the way to calm the passengers. As she passed us, she looked at my seatmate and yelled at him to put away the coat that he had in his lap, as we might have to egress. Egress? Egress!? Where the HELL were we egressing to? Were we about to smack the side of a snow covered mountain? Keep in mind that we can’t see ANYTHING outside because we’re flying through a snowstorm. And then, a moment of calm, as I realized that, yes, I might just go down in this plane.
The pilot then interrupted, though his voice was not so reassuring this time. He sounded perfectly calm as he explained that we’d experienced the failure of an engine but, not to worry, we were turning around and returning to Vienna where they were busy plowing the longest runway for us to land on. He also explained that there would be emergency vehicles lining the runway and chasing the plane but that was standard procedure. I guess it is if they expect us to smack the runway.
And now my thoughts turned weird. I began to think about all the glass souvenirs I’d bought, and how they would probably be smashed to bits even if I survived. After all, a modern jet need reverse thrust as part of it’s braking, so I imagined we’d just careen down the runway, bouncing along or skidding off the side. I know the flight computer is supposed to compensate for the single engine, but I’ve seen computers crash themselves, a lot.
Now obviously we survived the landing or I wouldn’t be sharing this with you. The landing was bumpy, and we did skid a bit, and there were a lot of fire engines chasing the plane, but all my souvenirs survived. After we came to a stop everyone applauded, and the pilot came into the cabin to say a few words and tell us we’d have to be rebooked on an evening flight at the earliest. He then walked down the aisle to answer any questions. The man sitting in front of me was agitated, and asked the captain, and I kid you not, if this meant he’d miss his connecting flight in London. The pilot was way more polite than I would have been and told the man that yes, he would miss his flight. I guess the man couldn't do math as the pilot had already stated the earliest flight would be that evening. As the pilot passed by me, I stated that I could care less about my connection- I was just glad he got us back in one piece. In a classic understatement, he turned to me and said “I was right pleased that that outcome me-self, mate!”
And so was I.
The Internet is all-knowing. Or so it thinks. At least that's my conclusion after my unscientific one-man study. The Internet is an amazing tool and we can learn a lot by doing searches that take mere seconds. Of course, while doing this, everything is tracked and targeted by search engines, news providers and advertisers. When we subscribe to a Twitter feed or other service, we further refine the information that is fed to us. It's seems perfect, because we only get information that we have expressed an interest in. All other news and noise is filtered out.
Even when we don't actively decide what news and information we want to receive, the sites we visit gradually learn and decide what to show us. I noticed this recently when I visited a particular search engine that features news items on it's homepage. When I first started going to that site, it was because my browser had it set as the default home page, and since I didn't usually use that browser, I never bothered to change it.
The news stories were interesting.....at first. It was diverse, and I clicked on things that I hadn't really been interested in or in some cases even aware of. As I returned to the site in the following days and weeks, I noticed that the subjects of the articles were becoming less and less diverse. After a couple of months, the entire home page featured multiple articles on a few subjects I had previously read about. It had, in all its' wisdom, decided it knew exactly what I am interested in. And that is a problem.
Just because I expressed interest in a subject doesn't mean that is all I ever want to read about. But the problem is much deeper than a site limiting what it shows to me.
How often have you accidentally become interested in a subject that you knew nothing about? And how much will we miss out on when we only read about things we already know about. If you are a tech person and only subscribe to other tech peoples' Twitter feeds and only read tech blogs, and the news sites only show you tech articles that are narrowly focused on your previous interests, what will you miss out on?
You might miss out on discovering a great new passion, a fulfilling hobby, or a new way of looking at a problem. And regardless of what an individual misses out on, we all become dumber as a society. Our collective intelligence will decline, as people learn a lot about single subjects, but less and less about the world around them.
You might say that this has always been the case, that an economist will be surrounded by other economists and financial news stories, that doctors will be surrounded by other medical professionals and medical literature, and so forth. And that's true. But those same people would often watch the evening news, or read a newspaper or magazine that was not created just for them. The people around them would do the same and expose their colleagues and friends to things that might be unknown to the group.
I've decided that I don't want them to decide for me, so I now choose absolutely random things to search about, and it's having an effect on news articles on that homepage. I think the algorithm has thrown in the towel, and it has given up on figuring me out.
I'm not suggesting the Internet is bad. What I am suggesting is that we need to be more proactive in reducing how we limit ourselves with technology. The first step is to recognize that the limiting of our scope of knowledge is happening.
I hope it happens before we all lose out on broadening our horizons!