Archive for the fart Category

Vuelo Loco: Tennyson, Dead Fish and Mexico City.

Posted in air travel, airliner, airlines, airport, faith, fart, flight, flight attendant, flight crew, food, jet, lavatory, layover, life, pilot with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 9, 2011 by Chris Manno

Listen, I’m a fan of Mexico. Really, I am.

What’s not to like about Mexico City? Always looked forward to those downtown layovers–it was part of my job–but they’re scary dangerous. Probably not for the reason you think though.

I mean, sure, there’s plenty of drug violence. And yes, I did have to dodge through four lanes of traffic to evade a scroungy-looking cop trying to shake me down once, but he was either too lazy or too smart to chase me through the insane downtown traffic.

And yes, plenty of people with questionable intent in a city of 20 million, where you could simply disappear, kind of like the city itself  is doing, slowly sinking into its own aquifer. And okay, maybe I did roll the dice in a sense, as an instructor-evaluator taking pilots down to Mexico City every month, showing them the safe way to fly in and out of the mountain bowl.

Well, it’s not even really this “thread-the-needle-through-mountains” approach and usually, through thunderstorm alley that was like playing craps weekly. And it’s not really that I minded the always slick (memo to Mexico City Airport: the rest of the world cleans the reverted rubber off of their runways every year or two, so get a clue) runway with the puddle in the middle that you hit doing about 150 and exit two thousand feet later at about 149.

More, actually, was requiring the qualifying pilot have a beverage and a Cuban at an outdoor cafe on the traffic circle outside the Presidente Hotel. The bar–Karishma–is where a whole crew got mugged one night. They noticed that suddenly the place was empty save the two airline crews enjoying tapas and the generously poured (“Tell me when to stop pouring, Senor”) refreshments there. Then suddenly, watches, rings, wallets–buh-BYE, as we like to say.

So to be on the “safe” side, we sat outside on the traffic circle–maybe more witnesses?–and since it was my idea, I made sure my back was to the building, so the new guy got to sit with his back to the insane traffic, puffing a Cuban (relaxing–but mandatory) and enjoying a refreshment, maybe getting a shoeshine from the roving vendors who’d magically appear, ignoring the demolition derby mere feet away.

Hey, might as well get the full flavor: massive city (did I mention 20 MILLION people?), exotic neighborhoods of jumbled steel and glass elbowing in between with castellated stone architecture, snarled in the clogged highways like the arteries of a fat man. You watch the traffic and muse over your beverage, how the hell do they do this five way intersection without a traffic light?

And then on the side streets of The Polanco, maybe a quieter sidewalk cafe where I actually did much of my doctoral exam study: outside, books piled, good coffee, usually a thunderstorm in the afternoon that made me glad I wasn’t trying to fly a jet in or out at that moment. Out of nowhere, it seemed, in the afternoon towering big-shouldered thunderheads would roll through the mountain pass with raggedy sheets of torrential rain and thunder that echoed through canyons of concrete and steel, the reverberations so fitting to Tennyson’s “Ulysses” marching across the page before me toward the inexorable doom awaiting us all.

Harder to relax at dinner, though, when you were concentrating on the guard dog staring at your plate and whatever you were having for dinner. The armed guard restraining the dog had his eye on you and the plate alternately, and you had to wonder if either or both of them might figure that the dinner and your wallet might tip the scale in favor of mutiny. It was a stand-off in Mexico: the guard and dog making sure banditos didn’t mug you while you ate–but then the silently menacing pair themselves having to resist the hunger and temptation to rebid the transaction in more favorable terms.

And it’s not even the “one-eye-open” sleep in the airport high rise hotel with the un-level floors from the tipped buildings patiently waiting to tremble and topple in the next big quake they know is coming soon.

You wake up the next morning with the feeling of relief: ahh, The Big One they’ve been expecting didn’t happen while you slept, crushing you in tons of rubble that will take about ten years–if ever–to remove.

No, I’m talking about this:

That’ll eat you alive. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I was heading down to Mexico City for the umpteenth time and my favorite cousin was there with her husband who worked for the U.S. Department of State. “Hey, want to meet for dinner?”

Okay, I already know why not–I’ve been in the airline crew biz a looooong time: relatives don’t get it, you’re not on vacation; time does matter, sleep too.

“Sure, why not?” Because I’m an idiot–and here’s why. We’re going out for Mexican, traditional, right? I mean, we’re in Mexico-friggin-City, right? Enchiladas? Queso? Fajitas?


We’re doing Mexican-Asian fusion, which means I’m eating raw fish in Mexico: salmon carpaccio, pictured above. Delicious. Amazing! Immodium, amen. That didn’t take long.

The fever lasted about a week. The shower nozzle effect (any chance of scheduling a colonoscopy? I’m prepped, just for the hell of it) lasted a couple weeks. Thanks cuz.

Forget banditos. Who cares about high altitude aircraft performance, up-sloping mountainous terrain and treacherous rolling thunderstorms. The real danger’s on the plate.

Yes, I love Mexico City. Just don’t go there unarmed, okay?

The TRUTH About Flight Attendants.

Posted in air travel, airline cartoon, airliner, airlines, airport, cartoon, fart, flight, flight attendant, flight crew, flight training, jet, lavatory, passenger, pilot, travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 23, 2010 by Chris Manno

You sure you’re ready for the truth?

Still watching “Happy Days” reruns? Or maybe even “Leave it to Beaver” (okay I do, but I already have seen behind the curtain when it comes to Flight Attendants) where June Cleaver vacuums in pearls and heels? If this is you, please click here. Okay, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

First, let’s start with the basics: who IS this person we call Flight Attendant? Where do they come from? Actually, they’re parents and spouses and significant others and sons and daughters. And they come from, well, everywhere.

My friend Melissa and her crew.

The common denominator seems to be the ability to get along with nearly anyone. That, plus the ability to handle children. No, it’s not that they handle children on board in their role as Flight Attendant. Rather, they must deal with a lot of childishness in flight on both sides of the cockpit door. So anyway, many, it seems, have a background in Education: either  as a college degree or as a teacher–or both.

My friend Nanci dealing with one of the children on board.

But that’s just what constitutes a significant number, but by no means, the majority. I once dated a Flight Attendant who had previously been a USDA meat inspector (I got rejected as “Not Prime,” although I’d like to consider myself at least “Average Chuck”), I know several with PhDs, I know one guy who flies for my airline who is an M.D.; the bass player in my band (shoutout to Angela!) is a flight attendant; My Darling Bride (MDB) before she became a “stewardess” was an engineer.

Okay, WARNING: don’t EVER call them “stew;” they hate it–even though my own mother, even after 25 years of non-rev travel on my passes still calls me to say, “The stews were so nice.”

Thanks, Mom.

But I can use the term myself because MDB doesn’t listen to me any more and in fact, with Flight Attendants you could say anything you want on the aircraft P.A. and they’ll NEVER KNOW. Seriously–the P.A. is a frequency that they can’t hear–kind of like a reverse dog hearing–so I could announce “I slept with your sister!” on the P.A. and she would simply ask, “what time are we landing?” Because she didn’t hear that P.A. either. But I digress.

Let’s just cut to the chase: here’s what you really want to know. In fact, let’s just go over important facts you NEED to know if you’re going to deal with flight attendants (of course you are, in flight), or date a flight attendant (you THINK you are, but that’s in YOUR dream, not theirs and they don’t get much sleep these days anyway), or maybe even you want to BE one (What, you’re finally off suicide watch, now this? Break the Prozac in half). Anyway, learn THIS:

1. Flight attendants will kick your ass. Seriously, they can and they will if they have to–and trust me, I’ll explain later–you want them to.

Okay, Carolyn's actually one of my Facebook friends and she's very nice. Mostly.

I’m not kidding. If you piss them off, you will pay. It might be be something simple like overfilling your coffee cup purposely so you’ll have to spill it (that was one of MDB’s specialties) or even the patented Flight Attendant “eff you” that is given so subtly and sweetly that you don’t even realize till the cart and flight attendant are three rows back before you think it through and realize, “Hmmmm . . . I think I just got told to go eff myself.”

Not that you don’t deserve it: they’ve asked one hundred people before you the same simple question–“What would you like to drink?” And they’ve answered the what do you have question at least as many times, plus they made a P.A. giving you the answers ahead of time. So, when you in row 32 ask again anyway, they have a soothing, pleasant proximate answer that after a few minutes your brain finally deciphers correctly as, you stupid idiot, YOU SHALL HAVE NOTHING. To which I would add, “you douchebag” but Flight Attendants are more skilled and less vulgar than I am. Bottom line: don’t be an idiot.

2. Flight attendants will share their ass–and they are crafty. We’re all crammed into a long, sealed tube, right?

Let’s face it–you’re in a sardine can for hours on end. In the cockpit, I actually have separate zone-controlled (by me) air conditioning and recirculation. Yes, it is good to be captain. And sure, you have some weird ideas about what goes on beyond that cockpit door, don’t you?

Suffice it to say that we pilots get “the royal treatment.” Now let’s move on.

Back to the long metal tube you’re paying a few bucks to be trapped in rather than face the freeway for days on end getting to whatever destination you’ve coughed up your vacation savings for.

The air in the jet is fine, it’s just the people like you who muck it up with your coughing, sneezing and personal exhaust if you know what I mean and I think you do.

Well, the cabin is their workplace, too.  As long as they’re trapped and required to endure assorted emissions from both of your ends (sometimes you’d have to think that the ones from your south end are more tolerable than the “what do you have?” stuff coming out topside), they deserve a chance to defend themselves. And when you travel, especially as much as we do on a flightcrew, diet is at best a catch as catch can thing. That end result is bad, eventually.

Wet cleanup on aisle six.

And the best defense in this case as in most others is a good offense.

Hence, “crop dusting.” That’s the diabolical plan by which they spray front to back on board so that by the time you get smacked in the face

"My god--air, please . . . !

. . . they’re already halfway to the aft galley and out of sight. You all will blame each other, but there was, you should know, a secret plan:

From the Flight Attendant Manual: "Always cropdust front to back."

There’s nothing you can do about this, by the way, except take small breaths. Deal with it.

Finally, here’s the last and probably most important thing you should know:

3. Flight attendants will save your ass. And that’s what they’re on board for–not just to tell you what beverages are available, not to entertain you, but actually to save your ass in the worst possible moment of your life.

Notice who isn’t walking away from this crashed aircraft alive and well? It’s the Flight Attendants who helped them off and are still on board helping others. That’s what they do. And that’s why you want them to be able to do item #1 above: they need to be able to throw your ass down an escape slide if you can get out of a burning passenger cabin yourself.

They can handle the 90 pound emergency exit door or the even heavier cabin doors. They know the route by feel and by heart to the nearest emergency exit in a smoke-filled cabin–and they’ll take you there. They are ready with first aid and CPR and a defibrillator and a fire extinguisher and oxygen and anything else you or I might need in flight. Not what we “want” in flight, although they take care of all they can–but most importantly, what you need to make it off the plane alive in any circumstance.

That’s the challenge they’ve undertaken on your behalf. That’s what they’ve trained to do, what they’re tested on and certified annually and rigorously through drills, classes and study.

They’re not leaving without you, even if they have to haul your ass out of a burning plane themselves. To me, that’s amazing.

This they do for minimal pay over long hours with little time for food or sleep and with complete disregard for time zones or body clock, because that’s just the nature of the job. I’ve never known a more selfless group, and there isn’t a more versatile group of professionals on the planet. They can hang with anyone, talk to anyone, and they’ll save the life of anyone, in the air or on the ground.

Do I have to spell this out for you? You should respect and appreciate the unique and giving individuals who are the flight attendants on your flight. Or in my case, I appreciate the one who is my partner for life. Or there’ll be an ass-whuppin’ in short order for you and me alike.

Got it? Good–remember it. Think about the big three flight attendant truths I just shared with you the next time you fly.

And be sure, if nothing else, that you know what you’d like to drink BEFORE the cart gets to you. When it does, “please” and “thank you” are mandatory–especially to the professionals who can both kick your ass and save it, and who will do both as necessary.

And THAT is the truth about Flight Attendants.


Actually never met the guy, but you gotta like the way he thinks.

Coming next:

You hear the name, you see the pilot, but who is this person, “the airline captain” in whom you place your trust?

The exclusive, only here. Subscribe.

H20: Above and Below

Posted in air travel, airline delays, airline ticket prices, airliner, airlines, airport, airport security, blind faith, elderly traveller, faith, fart, flight, flight crew, flight delays, jet, life, passenger, travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on July 4, 2010 by Chris Manno

H20: Above and Below.

Ride the sky home.

Posted in air travel, airliner, airlines, airport, faith, fart, figure skating, flight, flight attendant, flight crew, jet, life, mile high club, night, pilot, savchenko, travel, weather with tags , , , , , , , , , , on July 1, 2010 by Chris Manno

There’s a song in my head and it won’t go away. It comes at the top of the slide,

a sloping seven mile glide, ever downward and south toward home. Bound for DFW from the west coast, the captain’s voice my own, says “we’re eighty nautical miles from touchdown in Fort Worth; be on the deck at half past.” and on it drones with the same spiel as ever, but the music gets louder each mile, drowning it out.

It’s a tedious trip west to east to south, like the ride from The Stockyards to Tanglewood, or God forbid, the Far Southwest side on Bryant Irvin where any time of day, never mind rush hour, it seems like forever: there’s just no hypotenuse. East to west, or north to south but not north to southwest in Cowtown, not without a lot of pain and aggravation. But come down easy, that’s how you get home. There are no shortcuts.

The mayor once said with a hang dog tired face it’s so bad you could change a tire in a Cowtown traffic jam and not lose your spot, and he wasn’t even talking about trying the mythical hypotenuse between the North Side and the southwest Mecca of Hulen and Tanglewood. Really, it’s not so far away but just hard to get to yet home is definitely worth the trip.

When I cross the Red River I feel like I’m in the neighborhood and the red dirt pancake of the Panhandle starts the song of home in my head. It’s those comfy notes your hands just know, a cozy riff you can get lost in like a half-awake morning in the Paris Coffee Shop, more aware of what it’s not—and it’s not a modern chain shoveling breakfast—than the bald light, melodious clink of silverware and bracing aroma of strong coffee that it is. Newspapers and linoleum and waitresses who call you “hon” and the comfort of an old tune not redone, not over done; rather, the original from way back when. That’s the music that when you play it, you transcend fingers and frets and keys and notes, simply cruising along with the melody.

A hundred plus people follow me down in the back, some coming home and humming the same tune. Picture my wife’s Paschal mafia: they graduate and scatter to the four winds—but they return sooner or later. So there are the inexorable five year milestone reunions at Joe T’s or the Stockyards Station or anywhere Fort Worth that’ll hold the returning classes; hugs, backslaps, “so good to see you!” but because so many seem to move back eventually, and we see them weekly anyway at Thom Thumb on Bellaire, what’s the big deal?

But that’s everyone humming along—no one needs sheet music; like the song in my head, they probably don’t even know they’re doing it. That’s the song of home you get to sing aloud now and again with others who know it.

We slip between big-shouldered thunderheads marching out of the west toward Fort Worth, casting a bruised blue shadow across a red sky sprawling east like a dome you can see best atop Reata, the bustling crisscross of Sundance Square below. Storm’s coming with one inch raindrops plopping an inch apart, but nothing’s perfect and who knows? Maybe it’ll hold off till we get there, and we need the rain nonetheless.

Things look bigger the lower you go and now the swaths of green and brown and lakes of blue define themselves like individual musical notes on a scale but now you don’t need them: there’s DFW and you’re cleared to land. More hands and feet on the controls, working less with science than art, riding the familiar tune whose beat is like that of your heart. Close your eyes and see the flow of red tail lights snaking down the main artery to Fort Worth.

Slower, down to earth but still, the music will carry you home. The steel and glass on Main and Commerce rise straight backed and tall, waiting. Patience, slowly, mile by mile, the music will carry you home.

Inflight Etiquette: How Not To Get Busted.

Posted in air travel, airline delays, airliner, airport, fart, flight, flight attendant, flight crew, jet, pilot, travel tips with tags , , , , , , , , , , on June 20, 2010 by Chris Manno

Certainly, manners are an essential part of airline flying, right?

Well actually, the usual standard in flight is a free-for-all of bad manners and ill tempers, mainly due to the circumstances of air travel today that includes delays, crowding, extremes of temperature and declining on-board amenities.

In fact, that may be the standard of twenty-first century life.

So let’s hearken back to better days and find the important standards of travel conduct that originally made the jet age a wonder of good manners, and refined behavior.

Certainly, though the traditions of dressing up and reserved behavior have nearly vanished, the realities of air travel that affected even the well-dressed, finely-mannered early jet age travelers remain today:

Aircraft pressurization controls.

That’s right–the aircraft changes the pressurization in the cabin in order to maintain a safe differential between inside and outside of the structure. That is, as an aircraft climbs, so will the cabin. Same on descent: slowly, the pressurization system will bring the cabin altitude back down to match the landing field elevation.

What does that mean for you?

On ascent, whatever gas is in your body will expand as the cabin pressure is mechanically lowered.

Which translates to that “balloon animal” feeling often encountered in flight. Of course, that’s predictable and a normal side effect of a pressurization cycle–plus the nasty junk you’ve been eating while traveling, especially at the airport.

The close quarters on an aircraft, particularly in the Coach cabin, add to the problem in that there’s really no room to move around or reposition oneself. Nonetheless, the gas pressure must eventually be relieved, right?

In a crowded airliner cabin, this can be a problem of both safety and etiquette. But don’t worry–there is a time tested technique that will allow you to handle the problem discretely. First, think etiquette: there are those around you trying to breathe what is a limited amount of air on board. It’s not like they won’t notice or be directly affected.

Miss Manners demonstrates: here’s the dilemma.

Although you can’t do anything about the effect on others, they key is in distribution. Flight crews at the beginning of the jet age developed an effective solution beyond the usual sea-level techniques.

While this might work in a social situation on the ground, there’s a better technique for in flight:

Crop Dusting: This involves a short walk in the cabin, but it must be done properly. Specifically, front to back (see Fig 1)

Fig. 1: Always crop dust front to back.

ALWAYS move from the front of the aircraft to the rear. That way, when the olfactory impact is sensed by your fellow passengers, there will be no one in sight on whom to fix the blame: since everyone’s facing forward and you’re already out of sight by the time the stench hits them.

Oh my God, who had nachos for lunch?!

Your mission is to appear uninvolved. This technique has been used successfully by flight attendants for years.

"I sure feel less bloated."

Fortunately, the ambient noise level in flight will drown out all but perhaps the most vigorous excisions of gas, so simply try to meter the outward pressure and the jet noise should take care of the rest.

The piano was added to the exceptionally quiet 747 upper deck simply to mask the noise of First Class passengers depressurizing.

Of course, you could handle the matter even more discretely in the lav, but I don’t recommend that for a couple of reasons. First, as soon as the lav door opens, the olfactory remnants will have you completely busted by the next passenger in line.

Truly, the lav smelled bad before you entered, but add a few cubic feet of your body gas (had to have the large fries, didn’t you?) and the next person will not only blame you for that, but probably also whatever crop dusting is experienced in the cabin–and call you on it: “Hey, this is the one that just skanked out the lav.” Not good.

Second, consider the adventure of flight: why not go all out and crop dust as a part of the experience? Where’s your sense of adventure?

Finally, if the seatbelt sign’s on and you can’t move about the cabin (front to back, remember?) to accomplish this vital bodily function? Your only hope, and it’s slim, is this:

Yeah, not likely. Your best bet is to feign innocence or if you can act at least halfway credibly, immediately express your disgust by glaring at those around you. Be the first–the one who seems uninvolved is going to get the blame.

Me? I’ll stay uninvolved. Best of luck to you in the back.

Finally, if anyone next to you complains, just point out to them that things could be much worse, then get this out of the seatback pocket in front of you:

Kind of makes them put things into perspective. Have a good flight!

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