Since When is Flying No Longer a Big Deal?

Why It’s No Longer Special

Complete honesty. I LOVE FLYING! I have treasured it since I was a kid when my mom worked in the Reservations Department at United Airlines. Our family of six flew out to California twice on her Sky Miles, or whatever they used to call them back then. For me, the feeling of takeoff is one of the biggest rushes you can experience, legally. These days, my wife knocks on the fuselage for good luck and my face still breaks into a broad grin when I feel us leaving the earth. I loved it as a kid, and I still do!

However, over the past few years, flying has become less special and more of an unpleasant chore to be endured. Much of the blame for this falls on the airlines. In an effort to occupy every seat on every flight, they overbook. Then you wind up with the unpleasant scene when United dragged a guy off a plane who refused to surrender his seat. What happened to the “Friendly Skies”? Not only do they fill every seat, the amount of space allowed to each passenger is always shrinking. Anything to fit in another row. For people like me, who are above 6 feet tall, it has gone a long way to take any of the remaining joy out of flying. Some airlines have gone so far as to charge their passengers for anything outside of water and a bag of pretzels. Sheesh!

Now, about the passengers. Since when has flying become an airborne slumber party? People show up to fly with pajamas, pillows, and blankies. Dear Lord! I admit I have been guilty of trading comfort for style. I typically travel in cargo shorts, simply for convenience. The days of people “Dressing Up” to fly are long over. Much of the fault lies with the airlines. Back in the early days of air travel, the legroom and comfortable seats were legendary. Today, it’s not surprising we have reacted to this skrunching of personal space with generally sloppy clothing and attitudes. Let’s make a deal airlines. You give us a little more room and we won’t dress like we’re prepared for nap time in Kindergarten. What do you say?

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The Comeback of Board Games

Taking Game Night to a Whole New Level!

A few years ago I noticed a new trend among the chilluns. Kids today are playing more board/card games than ever before. And by kids, I’m talking about Millennials. No, they aren’t playing Candyland, Monopoly, or even Clue. They’re playing complex games like Cards Against Humanity, The Resistance, and assorted other games that leave most of us older folks scratching our heads. I remember one Christmas in particular when the cousins were all playing The Resistance. The resulting shouts and laughter were deafening. It’s a spy game that depends on trusting someone, who usually turns out to be the wrong someone. They were having a blast. For my wife and I, Qwirkle is more our speed.

For a long time, I have been concerned about the youth of this country. I’m not going to get on a soapbox, but I do believe that Millennials are one of the most misunderstood and contradictory generations in our country’s history. They try to live free of possessions, but if they have a cell phone more than 2 years old, it’s cause for social media ghosting. They disdain credit, yet have mountains of school loan debt. They spend so much time with their faces buried in their phones, it’s a miracle boy ever meets girl. A recent article tries to explain the board game phenomenon among Millennials. To me, playing a board game is just about one of the most social activities you can do. It gives me hope that Millennials might not be as screwed up as everyone says they are.

It’s well known that Millennials can’t take a joke. It’s the main reason so many comedians are avoiding college campuses full of trigger-warnings and safe spaces. Now to add to the indignity, Hasbro has come out with series of games that parody our little snowflakes. Games like, The Game of Life: Quarter Life Crisis (Now with Crippling Debt!) Hasbro is betting that board game crazy kids will snap up these insulting diversions. Maybe they can take a joke after all! In the immortal words of Sgt. Hulkaburger, “Lighten up, Francis!” If it gets them to stop looking at their phones for a few hours, I’m all for it! Play on, kids!

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Why Don’t We Haggle?

You’ll Never Know Unless You Ask!

People in other countries do it all the time. It’s how their economy works. However, here in the good old U.S. of A., we don’t have the time or patience to haggle. Just give me the damn watch man, I’ve got somewhere to be! Because this country was built on the hard work of its people, we place a lot of value on the effort it takes to create a quality product. That’s especially true here in Motown. With the exception of buying (or leasing) a new car, if we offer less than the asking (retail) price for an item, it’s considered rude. This is true whether the item was created by hand, or mass-produced. We don’t want to offend the seller by offering a price far below what they are asking.

When I think of haggling, I picture a street market in Marrakesh. A place where Indiana Jones might be shopping for dates (bad idea Indy). However, there is a wild wild west out there for bargain hunters much closer to home. The secondary resale market is the one place where inexperienced hagglers can flex their bargaining muscle. I am referring to online sites like Craigslist, and apps like Letgo. Sites like these are one of the few places where people feel free to ask for less than the list price. I have been a beneficiary of these websites, both as a buyer and a seller. However, there is a certain etiquette when it comes to haggling on these sites. If you see the item was just posted 2 hours ago, please don’t ask for an 80% discount. Play fair and you’ll get some great deals!

There is also a theory I like to call the “Mystical Mystery Discount”. I once saw a guy on TV who always uses eight magic words, whenever purchasing a big (or small) ticket item. The magic words? “Is this the best that you can do?” This phrase apparently challenges the seller, especially if he is working for a large company, to give you the best discount available. Many times, secret company discounts exist and all you have to do is ask for them. I have to admit, until I was sitting down to write this article I had completely forgotten about that phrase. You can bet with Christmas knocking on the door, I will dust it off and give it a whirl. Hey, you never know! Happy Haggling, and Happy Black Friday!

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Beware of the Christmas Police

They’re Not All Hanging Out At The Donut Shop (Way – O, Way – O)

There are people in this world who have a very strong opinion on when it‘s “acceptable” to play Christmas Music. I call them the Christmas Police. They have a strict set of rules for when you can play music, decorate your house, and above all, when you can turn on your Christmas lights. I’m one of those people who likes to listen to Christmas Music in January, March, or whenever the mood strikes me. I don’t prescribe to the rules that Christmas Music can ONLY be played in December, and even then, not until two weeks before Christmas. Sometimes I’ll play Winter Wonderland on a snowy day in February. In other words, I am the CPD’s worst nightmare. However, I do draw the line at folks who put up and turn on their Christmas lights early. December is my hard and fast rule for that!

Here in Detroit, we have WNIC-FM. This radio station made national news by playing non-stop Christmas Music from early November until Christmas. This year, they started on November 8th. I know what you’re thinking! “I haven’t even tossed out my pumpkins, and they’re already playing Christmas Music?” All I can say is that it must be profitable, or they wouldn’t be doing it. There’s no shortage of advertisers during their annual Christmas marathon. My only complaint is their choice of music. If I hear Burl Ives singing, Holly Jolly Christmas one more time, I think I’ll rip my hair out! I really feel sorry for the people who work at WNIC. Playing non-stop Christmas Music so early must really suck the joy out of the holiday season.

In addition to hearing the same songs over and over again, my major complaint with WNIC is that they STOP playing Christmas Music on the day after Christmas. When we were kids, we broke out the Christmas albums a couple weeks before the big day. Then we would continue to play them from Christmas through New Years’ Day. I continue that tradition. Knowing full well it will be many months before I feel the urge to hear Little Drummer Boy again. So, don’t let the Christmas Police get you down. If you’re in the mood, blast the Chipmunks at full volume and send your co-workers scrambling for their headphones! Remember, Christmas comes but once a year! Let your Santa Flag fly!

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The Grammar Police

Here They Come!

Nowadays, anybody can be a writer. The digital age has given us the tools to be able to write whatever we like, whenever we like, on any device we like. I’m dictating this on my smartphone while walking my dog. While the shackles have been thrown off budding authors like me, there is an enemy out there for novice writers. I am talking, of course, about the Grammar Police. This group of writing elites seem dedicated to putting all of us basement bloggers in our place. I recently had a run-in with one of these enforcers, and it wasn’t pretty.

A couple of weeks ago, I showed one of my articles, The Halloween Parade, to a professional writer. I wanted to get her opinion on the content of my story. Did she see where I was going? Did it make her laugh? Did it make her sentimental? I have no idea. Instead, she spent the next fifteen minutes ripping apart my grammar. Keep in mind, I haven’t had a grammar class since I was in elementary school. I’m 59 years old, so it’s been quite a while. When I write, my only rule is, “Does it flow?” Is the reader going to stop and say to himself, “Wait, that doesn’t sound right.” If not, I think I’ve done my job.

The beauty of this digital age is that blogging allows us to spread our writer’s wings. We don’t have to subscribe to the well-worn rules of the Grammar Police. We can publish articles for our target audience, and let them decide if it’s worth reading and sharing. I won’t lie. Having my story ripped apart by a professional writer stung. Nonetheless, I have gotten to a point in my life how I can accept negative feedback and see where I can improve. My writing can reach the next level if I polish up my grammar skills. Therefore, I started looking around for an online grammar class and I found Daily Grammar. It’s a free and appears to be exactly what I was looking for. That’s it. I’m off my soapbox. Have a nice day.

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You Could Always Be A Garbage Man

You Think You’ve Got It Bad?

This morning a garbage truck came by, just like every Monday. However, today was a little different. The guy on the back of the truck was new, or very unlucky. All of a sudden there was a loud crash, followed by “MotherTrucker!” (cleaned up for publication). He had been tossing a particularly large piece of trash into the back of the truck. The item broke halfway into the gaping maw, causing quite a mess. Hence, the swearing. From time to time, we’ve all had jobs we weren’t particularly thrilled with. This made me think about my own job history.

I’ve had many jobs over the years, but I have never had to work in the Sanitation Arts. During my career at Trent car wash, my job was to cram my 6’3” frame into the back seat of 70’s era compact cars and get the windows as squeaky clean as possible. This required using T-Rex arms at times because I could barely move around back there. From the car wash, I moved on to Movie Usher at the Woods Theater. A pretty boring job, but there were a few benefits. The cute girls I worked with and POPCORN! Seeing lots of movies was also an added benefit. However, by my count, I saw Saturday Night Fever about 150 times and Close Encounters of the Third Kind over 300 times! Too much of a good thing. I was hearing The Bee Gees in my sleep.

This was before I began my career in IT. My first IT job was with ABD Federal Credit Union, where I worked as a Teller during the afternoon and a Backup Operator in the evening. I parlayed that experience into over 30 years in the IT field. Now, I work as a Sales Rep for Global Discovery Vacations. Most of these jobs have kept me clean, and relatively odor-free. No matter how bad things got, I never had to worry about a bag of reeking garbage tearing apart in my hands! So, the next time you’re having a bad day at work, just remember, it could be a lot worse. You could always be a Garbage Man (or Woman)! Happy Monday!

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The Fast and Furious Holidays

Ready or Not, Here They Come!

As far as Halloweens go, it was a good one. There was a downpour in the morning, but by four o’clock the sun was out and the temperature had climbed all the way up to 57. By the time the ghouls and goblins hit the streets, it was a comfortable 48 degrees. A perfect night for the annual spooktacular. As usual, my wife went into candy panic within the first fifteen minutes. She’s always worried we’ll have too much candy and too few kids. Then we’ll be stuck with Snickers, M&Ms, and Baby Ruths until New Years’ Day. Not a problem this year though. The trick or treaters came out in force, and it was a great night all around. Even my jack-o-lanterns turned out well and got plenty of compliments.

The day after Halloween signals the unofficial start of the holiday season. It’s only November 1st and you’re already behind on everything! Who’s coming for Thanksgiving? How big of a turkey do you need? Is anyone vegetarian? What about gluten and peanut allergies? Do we have enough chairs? Don’t forget the pumpkin pie! You know the drill. November 1st fires up a feeling of panic that screams, “You are already so far behind, you’ll never catch up!” Your house will soon be filled with the smell of roasting turkey and stuffing. Plus, way too many dinner guests.

Then comes the Grand Poobah of holidays, Christmas! Followed a week later by New Years’ Day and nonstop football. I don’t want to throw you into a full-blown panic, but as of today, November 8th, there are only 46 days until Christmas Eve! Yikes! The experts all tell us to take it one holiday at a time. Keep in mind that Christmas is the elephant in the room, but don’t shortchange your family at Thanksgiving. Take a minute to figure out where everyone is going to sit. Make sure to keep the Democrats and Republicans at opposite ends of the table. Once you’re all ready for the Thanksgiving meal, take a deep, cleansing breath and give thanks. Then set your sights on the Grand Poobah.

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My Favorite Mug

Remembering My Kid’s Masterpieces

No, I’m not talking about my face. I like my face well enough. I just don’t like how it keeps looking older whenever I walk past a mirror. No, what I’m talking about is a coffee receptacle. Like any dedicated coffee drinker, I have a favorite mug. In my case, it’s a Halloween mug with a cartoon of Dracula displayed prominently on the side. I saw it at Kroger a few years back and it was one of those impulse items I just had to have. Even though that mug has gotten cracked and chipped over time, it still has a special place in my heart. Not because of the mug itself, but for what it represents.

Back when my boys where in grade school, numerous masterpieces would make their way home in their backpacks. Every parent has had not-so-flattering portraits of them drawn by their little Picassos. Invariably, any pictures of me, drawn by my son Jeffrey, would all have the same recognizable widow’s peak. The trademark of Dracula. Since the Count and I share the same hairline, I came to be known as Dadula in all of his artistic creations. It became the family joke, as more and more of these drawings would depict Dadula in various activities. Dadula mows the lawn, rakes the leaves, shovels the snow, goes to the beach (SPF 5000 of course), etc.

Although I have become more follically challenged over the years, I find that I miss those sketches. Since my boys are all grown up, the stream of drawings has ceased to flow. My only regret is that we didn’t save any of them. There are plenty of other pictures, but Dadula isn’t in any of them. I feel like part of my son’s childhood has been lost. Oh well, you can’t save every picture your kid draws, otherwise, you’d have to rent a storage locker. Even though Dadula is lost to the dustbin of time, he can still rise from his coffin. If I ever want to see him again, all I have to do is grab my favorite mug out of the cupboard, and Dadula Lives!!!

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Don't Stop Believin’

When Opportunity Knocks, You’d Better Answer!

Back in September, my wife and I had a chance to see Journey and Def Leppard in Las Vegas. Since we were going to be in Vegas anyway, we jumped on it. It was one of those times when the stars aligned perfectly. Journey was the second concert I had ever seen when I was a teenager. Back in the days before Netflix and cell phones. Yes, kids, those didn’t always exist. Journey’s show in Las Vegas was amazing, and even though my wife and I were primarily there for Journey, I was also there to see Arnel Pineda.

The story of Arnel Pineda is a unique one. But first, a little Journey backstory. The band’s iconic lead singer, Steve Perry had quit in 1995. They found another Steve (Augeri), who carried the lead vocal duties until his voice gave out for good in 2006. Both Steves had long hair and big honkers, so unless you were a big fan, you probably didn’t notice. Journey had a tour booked in 2007, and suddenly the band had no lead singer. Neal Schon and Jonathan Cain began surfing YouTube, desperately searching for someone who could get them through the tour. Enter Arnel Pineda.

Pineda was on the verge of giving up his singing career in the Philippines. Then he got an email from Neal Schon. Of course, he dismissed it as a hoax and ignored it. After Arnel was prompted by his friend, (who Schon had contacted for Pineda’s email address), he responded. Schon called back within ten minutes. After Arnel got the gig as Journey’s lead singer, he became an instant millionaire. This was great news for his wife and young son, who he had been supporting with his shaky singing career. This was Journey’s most popular song, in action. Pineda has now been Journey’s lead singer for over ten years, and he was incredible in Las Vegas. He had been on the verge of giving up, then his life was changed by a single phone call. Don’t Stop Believin’, indeed!

His story is chronicled in the documentary Don’t Stop Believin’: Everyman’s Journey

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