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Category Archives: Rants

Misadventures in Chia: Crunchy Little Balls

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Misadventures in Chia: Crunchy Little Balls

I’ll admit, introducing a new dessert by saying “Here’s a yummy pudding with crunchy little balls in it” to four boys  was a strategic error. A HUGE strategic error from which there is no recovery or return. I don’t mean to offend any readers with delicate sensibilities, but if you don’t immediately know what I’m talking about, then you definitely do not have an 8-year-old, 10-year-old, 13-year-old or 44-year-old little boy at home. That’s all I’m saying. ‘Cause “crunchy little balls” will last them ALL NIGHT LONG. It’s the verbal gift from mom that just keeps on giving.

But it was my first attempt to cook with or serve trendy new ingredient (buh-bye kale, so 2013!) chia seeds to my clan. I made this chocolate chia pudding recipe, and knowing that some family members (HELLO HUSBAND) are particularly tentative about new textures/flavors/dishes/shirts-I-gift-for-Christmas I was trying to make it sound FUN. And chia combined with liquid makes these tiny gelatinous balls that are like mini-tapioca or the boba in bubble tea, but with a little crunch to them.

For what it’s worth, I liked the pudding. The texture is weird but cool, and it was very chocolatey.

photo credit to Robynowitz at allrecipes.com

The fam, not so much. Three out of four did NOT like it, and I’m pretty sure the 8-year-old was just being nice to me. My middle “blessing” actually said “Mom,with this dish you have ruined the concept of pudding. Ruined it.” So dramatic…can’t imagine where he gets it.

So, clearly, I’ll be forcing them to eat the HUGE bag of chia seeds I got at Costco yesterday as often as I can, in as many ways as I can imagine. I’m quite looking forward to it. {cue evil laugh}

(What’s that you say, perhaps I should have purchased a slightly smaller bag for my first foray into chia cuisine, to be more reasonable, rational, moderate? Really? Have you met me?)

If I can’t convert them, I can always just grow a new clay family. Maybe this guy.

chia guy

I wonder if the seeds are cheaper this way from Amazon?

PS – Kale, I’m just kidding. We actually all love you, you’re not going anywhere.

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Truck Meat Revisited: Am I Too Trusting?

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Have you ever bought truck meat? How about had your dent undented by a parking lot dude? Have you ever been accused of being too trusting, or are you the kind of person who frisks your own family when they come to the dinner table?

I admit it, I may be too trusting. (Note: I first wrote about this on Facebook 4 years ago, but something happened yesterday that made me realize I’m still trying to figure it out. Plus, it’s just fun to say truck meat. Go ahead, it’s fun, say it. Truck meat. Ha!)

While treating a fellow Stand Up for Mental Health comedian to lunch yesterday for sharing her morning with my co-author and I for our upcoming book, I was hollered at in the restaurant parking lot. “Did I hit someone? Did I park stupid? Do I know that guy?” Questions ran through my head (not that I have a habit of hitting people. Parking stupidly, eh, maybe) as a friendly gentleman in a pickup truck waved me over.

“I am sorry to yell at you like that,” he said, “but I couldn’t help notice you have some damage to your bumper, and I have a machine that will pop that right out, I can come to you, maybe I could jump out and take a look and do a free estimate for you right now?”

Here’s the thing. I’m pretty sure my husband, a handsome but introverted and danger/inconvenience/getting-ripped-off-averse guy, would have already said “no thanks, not interested….” and walked away at this point.

Which is WHY, dear readers, I haven’t told him about it yet, because I want your feedback first! So stick with me, and tell me what you’d do, ok? Help a blogger out?

I, being me, said sure, he could give me an estimate if he wanted to come find me in the restaurant, because I didn’t want to make my lunch partner wait. AND HE DID. About 5 minutes later he walked right into Shari’s – Denney’s of the Pacific Northwest – and came over to give me his estimate. $160 to pop out the big ol’dent in the front corner of my front bumper, which would allow him to reattach it to the surrounding bumper-adjacent parts. He gave me a note (OK, I had to give him a piece of paper and a pen to write the note) with his name and number and the estimate and said to give him a call.

OK, that’s not exactly how it happened. He actually said he could go get the machine RIGHT THEN and have my bumper fixed by the time I was done with my tasty BLT, and I wouldn’t have to pay unless I was satisfied.  When I played the “oh, I’d definitely need to talk that over with the husband first”, THEN he said I could call him, and if I said nice things to my friends he’d even touch up the other paint-scratched areas for free. (There may be a few, I don’t think that’s relevant here. Though I do think it makes me extra pious and noble to not care that my Honda Odyssey is showing signs of its journey with me…..)

And you know what? That’s the world I wish I lived in.

I wish I lived in a world where I could say “Sure, that would be great! Please do go fetch your undenting machine, I’ll see you in the parking lot after my lunch!” without knowing that grumpy untrusting folk like my handsome husband would metaphorically strangle me for doing such a crazy thing. Grumpy McGrumpypants. Why can’t I give this earnest man a chance to fix my bumper?

Said husband would point to my history, I’m guessing. For instance, I wrote a personal check a couple of years ago to a rough-looking young woman with a really good spiel at my door. She was selling magazines and kids books, and she said she was a teen runaway hooked up with a charitable organization helping her learn skills to stay off the streets. My husband, quite sure the depths of the identity theft would become clear right before the home burglaries and murders began, was somewhat annoyed. We were both relieved when we actually got the books and the magazines.

And you can imagine his resigned bemusement when I bought truck meat. Yup. Meat off a truck. Meat off a truck from a guy who “happened” to be going on vacation that day who needed to unload it instead of taking it back to the “office.” I thought at the time I was pretty clever, even going so far as to whip out local store ads and make him prove that his prices were comparable. In the end, I bought truck meat. A lot of it. For a lot of money.

Not long after, while frying up some truck meat, I had to admit to myself I’d been taken. The hamburgers were just not great. The steaks were fine, and the chicken merely average. Don’t even ask about the seafood, I’m not sure we were ever brave enough to eat it. (I TOLD YOU, it was a LOT of truck meat.) Sweet husband asked for months afterward, as a matter of course when he saw me cooking, “Is that truck meat?” And now, in this public forum, I admit it to my dear husband. I got taken. The truck meat was fine, but I shouldn’t have done it.

It didn’t help that I once neglected and burned some truck meat because I left the kitchen to show a sweet-faced landscaper seeking work a stump in our yard that needed removed so he could do an estimate. But…..

I like working with the little guy, supporting the underdog, keeping it local. How do I do it without being a trusting idiot? Or should I worry so much about it?

How else to be a part of a community without allowing yourself to occasionally be vulnerable to your fellow man?

Or is that just a glorified excuse for truck meat and parking lot undenters?

What do you think? Have you ever used a parking lot undenter dude? What would you do?

I Wonder What Molybdenum Tastes Like?

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Salt is weird.

Really, have you thought about it? I mean, it’s a mineral we grind up and put on our food. We don’t grind up other rocks to put on our food.

Don’t get me wrong, I love me some salt. Without salt, many foods are pointless: popcorn, hash-browns (this evening’s muse), french fries, eggs. No salt, no point.

But what inspired early man – or let’s face it, woman, since she was likely responsible for the culinary innovations of the time like cooking with fire, not eating potatoes raw, and always garnishing your kill with a sprig of mint – what inspired her to grind up salt crystals and shake them on dinner?

Did Early Chef go around licking other rocks and grinding them up to try and enhance the flavor profiles of mammoth, sabre tooth tiger, or (in the case of our cannibalistic ancestors) Earl, her annoying neighbor? (Earl had it coming, always playing his rock music so loud in the cave next door. ‘Course, rocks were the only available instrument at the time…..Get it? Rock music???? I’m sorry, I’ll stop.)

So, I’m wondering, what does molybdenum taste like?

Molybdenum - pretty, but does it taste good? photo by  Alchemist-hp

Molybdenum – pretty, but does it taste good?
photo by Alchemist-hp

I think this area of science may be ripe for development. For instance, according to the US Geologic Survey, “The versatility of molybdenum in enhancing a variety of alloy properties has ensured it a significant role in contemporary industrial technology, which increasingly requires materials that are serviceable under high stress, expanded temperature ranges, and highly corrosive environments.”

See? Boring, and not a word about molybdenum’s potential ability to improve hash-browns. Or mushrooms! Now THAT would be a significant role! A rock that could make fungus not taste like dirt would be worth a lot of money! Wikipedia makes clear, however, that molybdenum has the sixth-highest melting point of any mineral, so its nacho-topping utility is probably limited at best.

Actually, the magical oracle which is Wikipedia can’t even seem to agree how many minerals there ARE (at least after an exhaustive 3.25 minutes of searching), and seems conflicted as to whether it is molybdenum or molybdenite. With such uncertainty existing in the field, I think there is clearly work to do.

We must determine if any minerals taste like salted dark chocolate or a really good margarita.

Science, people. It’s important.

I May Be Coming for Your Guns

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Just keep your pants on, and your weapons holstered. Hear me out.

I favor gun ownership, I do. I grew up in a family of proud recreational and subsistence hunters, in a state where gun ownership was accepted and expected, and all kids took gun safety classes at public schools in the 4th grade. Somewhere I’ve got the iron-on patch to prove it.

So I favor gun ownership. Personally, I do think wanting to own a semiautomatic or automatic weapon for fun is ridiculous, especially when factoring in the scary “what if’s” of it falling into the wrong hands, but that is my highly subjective opinion. I also think effective gun legislation is a good thing for all of us.

But I would give up every possible gun law, every background check and every restriction on large capacity magazines if all related effort and resources on both sides could be dedicated to treatment and prevention of mental illness. Because the gun lobby is right (yep, I went there, probably the ONLY time in my life). There will always be criminals who kill each other and the occasional innocent bystander in the act of living their criminal lives. And those criminals will always find a way around a background check or reasonable waiting period. And if they can’t find a gun, they’ll find something else.

The nature of the human condition pretty much guarantees that there will always be domestic violence, angry flares between spouses or friends, and coldly calculated murders of one person by another for money or power. If there are no guns handy, other weapons will be and have been found since the beginning of time. Club, blade, poison, shovel – if determined, people will kill people.

But here is what we DON’T have to accept. We don’t have to accept young men with empty eyes and mental illness untreated and/or unrecognized by family and friends, allowed to ferment in an ugly, lonely brew of paranoia and anger.

Far too many times in recent months and years, we have looked at the newspaper photos, and heard a disturbingly similar set of quotes from family and friends. There were warning signs, they were worried, they never thought he would go that far.

Why aren’t we more heartbroken by these shattered souls? Why do we continue in blind partisan arguments about gun control while tacitly accepting that the shooters are beyond saving? Why is it still so ridiculously difficult for families to access prompt, effective and complete treatment for loved ones with serious mental illness?

If we won’t help these boys, if we can’t commit to recognizing them and helping them, then I am coming for your guns.

If we cannot change our societal approach to these lost young men, I am going to fight to take away their weapons of mass murder. If in the process I trample on your “right” to have your toys, or to buy more toys on a weekend trip to a gun show, so be it.

Because if we don’t, these lost boys will kill as many people as they can. If we will not fight to make them better, I WILL fight to limit the damages. Because people may kill people, but really big guns let them kill more people, and that’s not ok.

Do you hear me? That. Is. Not. OK.

If we cannot look the next victim’s mother or son or girlfriend or little brother in the eye and tell them we did everything in our power to treat the shooter, then we BETTER be able to say we made it as difficult as possible for them to wield high capacity weapons.

If a person is determined to run you over with a car, you do not make it easy for him to get an SUV or a tank.

If Adam Lanza had only had a handgun, he would have been able to kill far fewer six- and seven-year-olds at Sandy Hook.

Don’t get me wrong, I know it isn’t just about the guns. If Jared Loughner’s parents had been more educated on mental illness, on its treatment and the fact that there was help and hope for their son, maybe he would have been diagnosed and treated BEFORE shooting Gabrielle Giffords and nearly 20 others.

It’s also about how we MUST break the stigma of living with and treating mental illness:
  • We must prioritize it as a public health issue, not a private shame.
  • We must change the way we parent in our communities, so when families are struggling with kids with mental illness, we reach out to them in love, not judgment.
  • We must be willing to see mental illness in our own children, and treat them.
  • We must fund treatment for those who need it.
  • We must fund supportive housing to make it possible for them to stay stable once they are treated.

They are His children and they deserve our best, before they can do their worst.

When we’ve done all that, then you can have your guns, as many and as big as you want.
Note: I drafted this post six months ago, frustrated by reports that both Adam Lanza’s mother and Jared Loughner’s parents seemed aware of their son’s issues, but for whatever reasons were unable or unwilling to get them help. I was driven imagining the loss and heartbreak of both victims’ and shooters’ family, but I was never sure when to post these thoughts so as not to exploit any particular event or victims. In that six-month period, through last Monday’s shooting in the Washington DC Navy Yards, there have been 13 separate mass shootings, resulting in the senseless loss of 65 lives. While I don’t know how many of those shooters were mentally ill, I believe that all of them were to some degree. It seems that in America, there is no “good” time to post this.

A Word from Old Granny Crankypants

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As my sweet Southern friend Susan would say, Oh. My. Lanta. (Possible spelling-for-drama Oh. Mylanta. I grew up in Alaska, I’m wingin’ it.)

Seriously. It is not often (yet) that I feel myself tempted to say “Back in my day, things were different. You kids these days……”

But can we be real? (This here is already pretty real, seein’ as how I’m using  conjunctions to start sentences and such. My blog. My grammar.)

Before we get real, perhaps I should warn you. It’s hot here in the Northwest, and by hot I mean I’m feeling the need to fan myself on the front porch in front of an ice block, because we don’t have AC and it’s either the ice block and a fan or injure all of my peoples who seem to be picking their worst behaviors for display in these days of Unpleasant Hotness. Bad choices, people, they are making Bad Choices……

So I MIGHT be a little bit cranky. Maybe.

Back to the getting real. Cause kids these days (cue tremulous and crotchety old voice in your head now) are flat out spoiled. My eldest just told me I needed to buy the small people new fluoride rinse, to which I lovingly and patiently replied in my most nurturing voice, “Oh, precious,  no, there are three other bottles of three other flavors available to you under the sink.”

Oh, no. Apparently the pink one is the only “tolerable” flavor for their delicate little mouths. Seriously?? These kids need a dose of good ol’ Mr. Yuk Mouth! Remember him? Back from the day when our medicine all tasted BAD so we wouldn’t poison ourselves with it? Remember? Back when there weren’t eleventy-three flavor boosters available at the pharmacy, and a premium option to have it formulated as a icy slush??? (That could be a hallucination, I’m hot, but I swear it’s available.)

Here’s some old school terror for you, you grape/cherry/banana/magicberry-loving little ones……

yeah…..that’ll scare you into never wanting to go to the Dr. EVER. Or clean anything, EVER, cause of the scary Yuk Mouth.

Remember, back when the only oral health rinse we had was Listerine, (registered, trademarked, don’t-sue-me-its-a-lovely-product-though-I-do-prefer-Fresh-Mint) which came in only one flavor, and that proud flavor was “Light Brown Blister and Pain?”

Back in the day when toothbrushes came in either scratchy, poky or straw, and not in derivations of cartoon characters, scented handles and rotating/singing/timing/teaching you Ukrainian poetry?

Seriously, go brush your teeth. Mamaw has to go out on the porch and fan herself.

Squirrel Murder Was Just the Beginning

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Hey, long time no see. Read. Share. Whatever. Hey Blog Readers! Thanks for joining me, I know it’s been a long time, but I’m back. Again. Honestly, you may want to grab a cup of tea, this is kind of a long one, but so glad you’re here!

So, how was your day?

Mine? Not great, honestly. Empty gas tank, squirrel murder, gas station faux pas, nervous travelers, and Angry Dude, the gas station manager. That was my morning. Well, that, and the Whisper that changed it all around.

The plan was to drive some old and dear family friends back to the airport this morning after they’d had a visit with my folks.  I arrived on time. (Well, really, thirty minutes earlier than necessary because my mother, who claims she didn’t, accidentally told me to be there thirty minutes earlier than necessary because she does not trust my timeliness. Apparently my teen years were very hard on her. I like to be exactly on time, she likes to be ridiculously early. A lifetime of tension ensues. Timeliness – key plot point to remember…..) Anyhow, I arrived to pick them up in plenty of time, and after some brief chitchat it was time for hugs and hitting the road, and we loaded up.

We set off, but just as I pulled onto the highway, I happened to glance down at the gas gauge, and was HORRIFIED to see it below empty, light just blinking away. I didn’t drive at all yesterday, what happened? Crud. Oh, well, we’ve got time, no problem. And so it began……..

I efficiently pulled off the highway and up the ramp, calculating in my head where the gas station might be and how long this little detour might take (timeliness on my mind, not wanting to have THAT conversation with Mom……).

You know how it’s so funny to say “Squirrel!” and feign distraction as if you are the dog from the movie Up?

Yeah, that’s not how I said it when I saw the pair of furry frolicking love-squirrels skittering directly ahead of me, a vehicle to my right, a steep hill to my left. And after the undeniable jolt we felt, I made the mistake of looking back, only to see the twitching, seizing body of the squirrel lover I had just summarily squashed. I didn’t see but can only imagine his little squirrel amour, safely across, watching his little body draw its last breath, struggling to understand how her spring romp had gone badly so quickly.

"Frankie! Frankie, what's wrong? I wanted to have your squirrel babies......"

“Frankie! Frankie, what’s wrong? I wanted to have your squirrel babies……”

Still shaking, I pulled into the overpriced highway ramp gas station. Angry Dude, the manager, approached my van, and took my credit card. I was only getting $20 of gas, so when he returned in a few moments, I was not surprised.

(Back in MY DAY, $20 worth of gas would get you a full tank and a free car wash, yessiree. Today, not even a quarter of my minivan’s tank. Grumble, grumble, I walked to school barefoot in the snow uphill both ways……..Sorry.)

He handed my credit card back to me with a hearty “There you go!”. I assumed we were done, as did my passengers, and I began to pull away. Unfortunately, Angry Dude had just been enthusiastically returning my credit card, and had barely begun to pump the gas. When I drove away with the nozzle still in my tank, it ripped loose and loudly clattered to the ground. I realized immediately what had happened, and stopped, the apology ready on my lips as I opened the door.

No matter, he had no interest in my apology. “What the f***?” he yelled at me, as I tried to tell him I wasn’t trying to steal the gas, but just had misunderstood him. He demanded I return to the pump, continuing to berate me the entire time for how stupid I was, how I needed to pay attention, how the pump was probably broken(it wasn’t) and I would be paying the $1000 to fix it.

I am quite sure that the very proper retired 4th grade teacher in my van has NEVER been yelled at in such a manner, nor has she had the f-bomb even hurled in her general direction before her delightful time with me this morning. Poor thing. I’m sure the 6 hours of flying she had ahead of her were relaxing in comparison.

As we finally pulled away, headed once again toward the airport, I began to angrily compose my letter to the gas station’s corporate CEO in my mind, filling it with my unbridled anger at being mistreated over a simple mistake. I gleefully pictured returning to the station, demanding Angry Dude’s name to include in my brilliantly written epistle of anger.

Believe me, I come by my capacity for ferocious righteous indignation honestly, from a long line of ladies who are and were more than capable of standing up for ourselves and others, for writing blistering letters to the editor or the complaint department that left ash and singe marks in their wake.

By the time we go to the airport, though, I had calmed down a wee bit, and from out of Nowhere into my soul came a different plan.

“Go back,” said the Whisper to my heart, “Go back, forgive him, apologize for not paying attention, and acknowledge the likely source of HIS anger.” It was clear to me as I went over the details of our encounter that others must have pulled away on purpose, stiffing him for the gas and the broken pump, and his response to me was clearly that of owner or manager, worried and responsible for the whole station.

But no, I thought, he DESERVES my wrath, he yelled at me! Plus that would be weird, he’s probably forgotten about it, I’ll just make him feel more awkward, and that would be overreacting. “It’s good to be weird,” persisted the Whisper, “especially when it makes people think about why you’re doing it. In fact, bring him a gift.”

A gift. Great. That won’t be weird at all. Sigh.

I am not historically one of those apparently blessed types who constantly hear The Voice of The Lord, who can tell you what The Lord told them to have for breakfast or what to wear for dinner at Red Robin, or even which job to take or house to buy. Usually, God and I have a more informal communication pattern, one in which I probably miss about 75% or more of what He tells me, and in which I’m sure He gently laughs and rolls His eyes at what I tell Him.

But there are times in life when an idea or thought is so clearly not of me, so clearly inspired by His Whisper, that I know to ignore it is just Not. An. Option.

So after safely depositing my travelers at the airport (only ten minutes late, thank you Lord!), I drove to a nearby Target. My mindset changed from how to verbally eviscerate Angry Dude in my letter to his boss, to what kind of snacks or treats Angry Dude might like, and if a sample size of “Goo Be Gone” would be thoughtful or would imply I thought he was dirty. (I decided to stick with manly, edible snacks, just in case.) I tucked some mini Oreos, a tiny sample of fancy coffee, some beef jerky and some little bags of almonds into a little metal bucket, and I even bought a little ribbon for the handle.

If you’re going to be weird and go overboard, it might as well color-coordinate.

I drove directly back to the gas station to deliver it, nervous all the way.

Now, as I share with you the underwhelming end to my story, let me make a couple of points:

I knew this was about me, about my heart, and that I had to forgive him and present my gift with NO expectations of his response. That wasn’t the Whisper’s goal. My heart was the one that needed change, the one I could change or allow to be changed.

Good thing, because his response when I arrived and walked up to him with my cute little tin of treats ran the gamut –  suspicion, dismissal, refusal of my gift, and a rehash of how I should pay more attention and how dangerous it had been.

It wasn’t about telling Angry Dude why I was doing it, that I was realizing I had been forgiven long ago for so much more than a rude outburst, that the least I could do was live my life in this world in a way that stood out a little, that made people wonder.  It was about the tenor of my response, a Word He had planted in me just a few days ago through the musings of a dear friend at Bible study.

Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect… 1 Peter 3:15

Good thing, because I choked out something lame like “no, really, we’ve both had a crappy morning, and I just wanted to say I knew I should have paid more attention. Please, take it, I just want you to have a better day.” I was gentle and respectful, but also nervous, awkward, and probably weird.

Angry Dude finally did take my gift, and said something like, “Well, I’m sorry I yelled at you BUT you should be more careful.” Ahhhh…..the qualified apology. Good thing this wasn’t about manipulating a satisfying response………..

And I confess I did spend some time afterwards, thinking of all the things I could have said differently or better, and kicking myself for not including a note with some key Scriptures in it that would point him to the Source of my weird actions. But not for long. Because I heard another Whisper, winding in-between my self-recriminations.

“It was enough. Shhhhhh…….Accept that it was enough.”

So I am.

Still feel awful about the squirrel though, may he rest in peace.

An Open Letter to American Airline Pilots

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I suppose this should have been written and shared last Friday, immediately after my flights with American Airlines. After all, timeliness is important – it conveys value, keeps you current, and is respectful. However, I don’t feel too bad for not posting until today. After all, I spent the weekend out of town at an amazing conference and came home to the usual  mini-crises that typify post-travel re-entry, broken washing machine and all.

And clearly, timeliness is not a huge concern for American Airline pilots.

But first, a little background for the rest of you. Here’s the thing. American Airlines pilots are currently engaging in a work slowdown of sorts, as reported here, and here. From my experience through the Dallas and San Diego airports last Thursday, and unfortunately Friday, the percentages of canceled and delayed flights quoted were very low.

After flying Alaska Airlines from Portland to San Diego last Thursday, my ticket called for an airline switch and I boarded my American Airlines San Diego/Dallas flight optimistically. I settled into my first-class seat (thanks dad for the miles!), organized my 17 magazines and buckled up. After about thirty minutes of going nowhere, the pilots told us there was a mechanical problem. Fifteen or so minutes later we were told we would be delayed at least 2 hours and would have to deplane.

At that, my Wealthy Businessman seatmate grumbled and cursed far more than the situation seemed to call for. “There’s nothing wrong with this plane, the pilots are screwing us,” he growled. Weird, I thought, as I am always the first to applaud a cautious approach to airline safety, what with my dislike of plummeting toward the ground in a metal tube and all. But by the time I reached the gate area, other grumbling passengers were confirming WB’s story, that the pilots were staging a work slowdown over contract issues. The next several hours are a blur of gate changes, delay announcements, uncomfortable gate seating and angry customer tirades.

When we finally reached Dallas late that night, it was clear that my connection had been missed. Efficient gate agents had our hotel and meal vouchers ready, but instead of spending a relaxing night in Nashville at my cool hotel, I got to stay at a very sub par Ramada. I think the view from my room makes my point:

Um…..should I be frightened?

At least I didn’t have much to carry (she said sarcastically), since my bag somehow made it to Nashville without me. Yay! Same clothes two days in a row and no toiletries! Flights the next day were similarly delayed, leaving me squeaking into my conference just in time, anxious and mentally unprepared.

So, that’s the story.  I hope someone out there knows an American pilot, and shares this with them, because I have just a couple of questions for the pilots I truly want answered.

Dear Pilots of American Airlines:

First, let me say, I can sympathize with contract issues, with compensation complaints, with fears that your jobs will be outsourced. I wish you well in contract negotiations, and I hope that at the end of the day not only are your issues satisfied but you still have an airline for which to work.

Cause I won’t be there. I’m guessing I won’t be alone in not being there. Which means YOU might be alone. And your gate agent colleagues know it. By the way, I hope you have something good planned for those poor folks, as they cover for you, lie for you, and take all of the heat for your actions.

Sure, last week I encountered Burned Out Gate Agent, and Perkily Hanging In There Gate Agent, and Avoiding Passengers By Lingering At the Far End of the Gangway Gate Agent. All of them on the front lines with angry, disappointed passengers.

But I also met Mrs. C., a gate agent in San Diego. When I asked her for an update, she honestly and VERY professionally replied that she had to wait with the rest of us to find out if the pilot “decided” to find any “mechanical problems” with the plane. At the surprised look she got from her colleague, she replied that she was tired of lying to customers and it was time to be honest about what was going on. At my query, she confirmed to me (VERY professionally) that the dispute was limited to the pilots, to which I said “oh, geez, you must be having a really rough day.”

Oh, no, Mrs. C. told me, dealing with plane changes, gate changes and delays were part of the job, and she didn’t mind. But, she said, as tears welled in her eyes and rolled down her cheeks, she had been with American Airlines for over 20 years, and had invested her life and career in a company whose very existence was now threatened because customers such as myself wouldn’t be coming back to American.

She’s right. I certainly won’t, not if I can avoid it.  For starters, business meetings were lost, vacations disrupted, and homecomings delayed. But it was more than that. As I sat in that airport surrounded by anxious, tired and overwhelmed customers who didn’t know when or if their journeys would continue, I saw clearly the stories behind the frustration.

I’ve lived those stories. I’ve been on a plane, flying home to my wedding. I’ve been on a plane, winging my way toward my honeymoon with my new spouse. I’ve flown alone with three little boys, toddlers and infants who could only be kept happy and quiet for so long before meltdown.

And the truth is, I’ve been on a plane, summoned home to the bedside of my dying younger brother, anxious to make it to him before he drew his last breath.

Those were the stories around me. They weren’t just people who bought a product, or purchased a simple service, but they were people who trusted you with critical moments in their lives they could never get back.

You deemed your contract negotiations more important than those stories, and you blew it. Let’s call it like it is. You started calling ridiculous mechanical problems (passenger reading lights, broken tray tables, etc.) and stopped valuing the customers who trusted you. Odds are by now each of those worst-case scenarios have happened more than once.

So I’ve got to know: How do you live with that? And will it be worth it? I don’t think so.

So Mrs. C., I’m so sorry, but you are absolutely right. You treated me with respect, with kindness, and with honesty, while never once badmouthing your pilot colleagues. You, I’d come back to.

But them? Not so much.

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