A No Fly List for Unruly Passengers?

We all should be able to fly without fear of idiotic violence.

As I write this, I’m awaiting an upcoming continental flight with a certain amount of dread. People are just too cra-cra these days to risk sealing yourself up in a tube with them for hours on end. And all the airlines seem to give less and less of a sh*t about customer service.

I miss flying in the ‘80’s. You had leg room, decent food, and people were polite and civilized and secretly felt rather privileged to be flying. It was like you were in a debate club that was accidentally invited to the United Nations. What luck!

Even better: You didn’t have to bear the insult of encountering TSA. You could count on having empty seats beside you if you wanted to stretch out and take a nap. And you could bring your 12-inch Bowie Knife aboard and nobody would bat an eyelash.

Those were the days. Now, you consider yourself lucky if no one on your flight gets into a fist fight and causes your plane to be diverted to another airport. It’s like the wild wild West once your plane takes off.

The COVID Federal Mask Mandate brought out the worst in people who don’t believe in science. And conspiracy theorists and hyper-conservatives used that mandate as an excuse to act the fool. Violence on airlines skyrocketed.

So when the mask mandate was overturned in April, 2022, I’m sure a lot of flight staff were relieved. At least at first. Because violence did go down. But it didn’t go away. And now they get to be sealed in a tube with a bunch of triumphant anti-vaxxers who are breathing all over them for hours on end. I have to say that Flight Attendants have a dirty job, and deserve our gratitude in the face of so much public douche-baggery.

As long as alcohol is served in airports and on airplanes, there will be a$$holes making the friendly skies a lot less friendly for all of us. And there’s absolutely no excuse for abusive behavior, especially when you’re in a small space with a bunch of other people and there’s no way out.

Imagine just trying to get home to visit grandma, and suddenly you’re thrust into the airline equivalent of a prison riot. YouTube is lousy with videos of such bad behavior. I even saw one where the captain got on the intercom and asked that all strong healthy males come forward to help restrain an out-of-control passenger. So, not only are you involuntarily thrust into a prison riot, but then they throw a prison guard uniform at you for good measure. What fun.

This is why many of the unions that represent airline employees are encouraging the passage of H.R. 7433: Protection from Abusive Passengers Act. According to Govtrack, this act “would add people convicted of assaulting an airline’s crew or staff on a no-fly list. The penalty would only apply on conviction, so it wouldn’t apply to a passenger who was merely reported or investigated alone. Such convicted passengers would also be banned from using either the TSA’s Precheck or U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Global Entry programs.”

Of course, some people are opposed to this, because they say it would equate passengers with terrorists. Well, according to Oxford Languages, the definition of a terrorist is “a person who uses unlawful violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims.”

If the shoe fits, wear it, I say. We all should be able to fly without fear of idiotic violence. No one should have a right to thrust us into a terrifying situation with no way out. And bad behavior is a choice one makes, and therefore consequences should be as expected as they are deserved.

Sadly, this act seems to have stalled in committee, most likely because politicians were hoping this would all go away along with the mask mandate. But here’s something totally unacceptable that happened just last month: Passenger who allegedly punched a flight attendant charged.

This has got to stop. Even though the politicians, as usual, are useless, it did find one source of comfort by reading that article. “While the number of reported incidents has declined, the number of cases where enforcement action was initiated has gone up. So far in 2022, there have been 468 enforcement cases initiated. In 2021, there were 350.”

And some chickens are starting to come home to roost with regard to violent anti-mask passengers. I was thrilled to read this article, entitled, “New York woman sentenced to prison over altercation aboard plane”.

Yes! Serves her right! But that doesn’t mean I won’t be saying a Unitarian Universalist prayer in the hopes that I make it through my upcoming airline experience unscathed. And that shouldn’t be necessary. Not for anybody. But humans are not nearly as civilized as we are purported to be.

Please call your congressmember and encourage them to support HR 7433.

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Revenge Travel: Finally, I’m on Trend!

As you read this, I am at the tail end of a luxurious trip to Hawaii with Dear Husband. Rest assured, I’ll be blogging about it within an inch of my life upon my return. We are pulling out all the stops; leavin’ it all on the tourist trail, so to speak. (And in case you’re getting any funny ideas about emptying my house in my now publicly-revealed absence, please know that a dog sitter and two dogs are there, and they would most definitely take exception to that plan.)

I have wanted to visit Hawaii ever since the Brady Bunch did so in 1972. That’s kind of interesting, because my main memory from those three episodes is the part where a tarantula is crawling up Peter’s bed while he sleeps. You’d think that would have put me off Hawaii for life, but no. (Incidentally, there are no tarantulas native to Hawaii, so if you see one, it has gotten out of someone’s dry aquarium. Hawaii has its fair share of other types of spiders, though.)

Long after we started planning this trip, which will be full of volcanoes, waterfalls and lush canyons, along with snorkeling, ziplining, mountain tubing and swimming with manta rays at night, I stumbled upon this article entitled, “The Summer of ‘Revenge Travel’”, and I thought, “Yup. That’s what we’re doing.”

For once, I’m on trend. Usually I don’t start doing stuff until everyone else has, and at this point they’re over it and have moved on to something else. I do these once-trendy things years later and then blog about it, and am amazed anyone continues to read. I will be the first to admit that this blog is an acquired taste. Anyway…

According to the article mentioned above, so many of us had to scuttle our travel plans during the pandemic that more people than ever will be traveling this year. I’m still emotionally recovering from the fact that we had everything booked to go to Italy, but the pandemic hit just two months prior to departure, and everything fell apart. Weirdly, Italy was one of the hottest of the hot spots for COVID, so it was a good thing it didn’t hit after we there. First world problems, I know, but I did blog about my profound disappointment here.

We’ve all been cooped up. Now we want to fly. We’ve learned that we should never take travel for granted again. So when we travel now, we tend to be livin’ large.

Our trips, on the average, will be more expensive than usual, longer than usual, and will include more adventurous activities than usual. Even though the cost of plane tickets are steadily rising due to the increased cost of fuel (Thanks, Putin), none of us seem to care. To add a big ol’ cherry to the top of this sundae, travel restrictions seem to be loosening everywhere. It is time to go!

Now that I’ve heard the phrase “revenge travel”, it seems to be popping up everywhere. I wish a better term could be coined for this phenomenon. This one seems so negative. We’re not trying to get back at anyone, even though we’re kind of thumbing our noses at COVID. These trips won’t be negative experiences. They will be triumphant ones. After a pandemic that we’ll never forget (and should still be taken seriously, by the way), we all deserve an adventure that we’ll never forget.

So carpe diem, dear readers, and brace yourself for a lot of Hawaii-themed blog posts in the near future! Here’s hoping that tarantulas don’t appear in any of them. (I’m not home yet, though, so I can’t make any promises.)

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West Coast Wander, Day 6: San Francisco, California

The day I hit a wall.

We had a two-week vacation, and decided that it would be fun to drive down the coasts of Washington, Oregon, and California and then drop off our rental car and take a train back home. I’m calling this journey the West Coast Wander, and plan to blog about it every other day so as not to totally alienate those who have no interest in travel, and yet allow those who do to travel vicariously with us. Here’s the first in the series, if you want to start at the beginning.  I hope you enjoy it, dear reader.

There comes a point in every long-ish vacation when I sort of hit a wall. I get tired and cranky and frustrated and homesick. It’s usually triggered by the fact that nothing is going according to plan. Today was that day. My notes on what we did today are full of expletives that I don’t feel the need to share.

We actually did do a lot of fun things, despite my foul mood, but I’m not going to whitewash the day, because I think it’s fair for people who don’t travel as much as I do to understand exactly what it can be like, the good, the bad, and the ugly. Travel can be exciting and invigorating and fun, but it can also sometimes be stressful and disappointing. So, fasten your seatbelts.

We woke up this morning to discover that due to COVID, our high-end hotel was no longer serving continental breakfast. And the restaurant across the street had a line stretching down the block. Oh, joy. So we set off to explore San Francisco on an empty stomach. (I should never, ever, ever do anything on an empty stomach.)

We planned to catch one of those iconic trolleys and find something to eat, but eventually found out that, due to the pandemic, no trolleys were running. So I wouldn’t even get to see the trolleys, let alone ride on one. That was a disappointment, given this was my first San Francisco visit.

Well, now what? Even though we already knew that the ferry to Alcatraz was booked solid through early August, we decided to go see if we could get standby tickets. Maybe they’d have cancellations. And sure enough, they sell them, without a guarantee of passage, but with a full refund if you don’t get on. Worth a shot.

We purchased our tickets and wandered around the dock, looking at the extremely cool Alcatraz diorama and the other informational displays, along with some amazing California succulents that were as big as my head. It was a great way to kill time while waiting for the ferry to show up. And then waiting for all the passengers to board. It turns out they had room for 6 additional passengers, and we were tickets number 10 and 11.

Rather than get our refund just yet, we decided to try our luck with the next ferry. We’d now be 4th and 5th on standby. But that was an hour out, and by now we were really hungry, so we decided to run down the street and grab something to eat.

But every restaurant in the area was shut up tight. We had to walk all the way down to the IHOP, which was quite a hike, and my feet and back were already killing me. I felt like kicking puppies (not that I actually ever would, no matter how out of sorts I became, but such was my mood).

We ordered a rather unpleasant take out breakfast sandwich and practically ran back to the ferry as we ate it, which made me feel slightly queasy. I already knew we weren’t going to make it, and the running was stressing me out. Dear husband even paid a cycle rickshaw to haul me the last 2 blocks. But yeah, we missed the ferry.

The ticket taker told me that if we had been there, we’d have gotten on. I wanted to cry. You have to understand, I’ve wanted to see Alcatraz ever since seeing Burt Lancaster in Birdman of Alcatraz when I was very young. And getting out to see the city from the water would have been fun, too. Can you imagine the photos I would have taken?

The clerk did say that we’d be first on standby for the next ferry, but we already had parking reservations for Muir Woods, and my husband really wanted to see more trees, so we got a refund. We really did give it a try, and it’s his trip, too, so I tried to swallow my disappointment. It was quite filling. It stuffed me.

But we had a little time to kill before heading out for the parking reservation, so we went to check out the very cool wave organ. Here’s a Youtube video of what it should sound like. But naturally, we came on a day with very little wave action, so we didn’t hear much of anything. A long, long walk out to the jetty for pretty much nothing. But the organ itself was interesting and the view was amazing. We did get to watch the fog roll in on the Golden Gate Bridge, and a sailboat regatta, so there’s that.

To add to this stellar day, it was windy and freezing cold. It reminded me of that quote attributed to Mark Twain: “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.”

I could certainly relate to that. I was fearing hypothermia and getting a migraine. But, as befits a day of disappointments, according to Snopes, Mark Twain never said any such thing. So there’s another myth busted. You’re welcome.

Off we went to the woods, passing first through Robin Williams tunnel, which is decorated with the same rainbow he used to wear in the form of suspenders when he played Mork. I miss him. He should still be with us. What a tragic waste that never fails to upset me when I contemplate it. Onward.

I have to admit that Muir Woods was absolutely gorgeous. I highly recommend it. But given my mood, I don’t think I gave it a full chance. It was extremely crowded, and the raised pathways, while comfortable to walk on, took away from the natural feeling. I felt as though it was a cross between the most gorgeous forest in the world and Disneyland. And since we had seen so many more natural and beautiful forests in recent days, I was kind of unappreciative, although I really did try to keep it to myself.

We had a nice picnic amongst the redwoods, and then one of the staff told us we couldn’t do that even though we were not leaving garbage behind, because we’d attract chipmunks. We apologized, but the deed was already done. I was thinking I would love to see chipmunks. We visited the really nice gift shop, but all I could think was, “I wonder what Muir would think of this place, selling things made out of bits of his beloved trees.”

Oh, come on. It’s a legitimate question, even if it was inspired by my grumpy brain.

We also saw a very cool sculpture of the wingspans of various birds. Fascinating.

After having “done” the woods, and having had a nice, albeit rebellious lunch, we decided to head on back into the city, enjoying the views as we went, and then drive around the Presidio. We enjoyed the gorgeous vistas from Inspiration Point, and drove around to look at Fort Winfield Scott and the National Cemetery.

Lots of fascinating history in the Presidio. We did not get to go to the welcome center, however. Guess why?  $#@%$ this pandemic, anyhow.

I had also wanted to see the house from the movie Pacific Heights, but after a certain point you just want to pack it in, you know? Whew, but I was clearly tired. We decided to go back to the hotel and chill out for a bit, and I got a good nap in while dear husband worked. The nap did wonders for my attitude, and the meds knocked back my migraine.

That night we went out to have Crab Louie and calamari at Betty Lou’s Seafood and Grill, in the quirky neighborhood of North Beach with its many gorgeous murals and buildings. Many of the restaurants in the area had tables outside in spite of the bracing wind. The food was excellent and the vibe was good, despite the fact that for some odd reason this restaurant does not serve coffee. All in all, though, it was a great way to end the day.

I’m not going to lie. I was happy to go to bed that night, and even happier to close my eyes on the disappointments of this day. I hope we get to come back to San Francisco again in healthier and more fortuitous times.

The seventh day was much better. Check it out here.

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Ranting Just Got Harder

A rant about not being able to rant.

I like to keep this blog positive. I like to write about amusing observations, fascinating things I’ve learned, and great places to visit. But about ¼ of the time, I’d say that my posts are full on rants. Politics. Environmental concerns. General stupidity. What can I say? I’m nuanced.

I usually have about 10 blog posts waiting patiently in queue for their time in the spotlight. But here lately, there are some posts that I keep having to push further and further back in line. There are rants that have been waiting to vent their virtual spleens for weeks now. It feels as though I’m throwing a tantrum in a straight jacket.

But honestly, how can I complain about anything right now, with COVID-19 hiding in plain sight? What is more concerning than an invisible death threat? How can I expect you to take other things seriously when you’re worried about your health and livelihood?

I’m spending a lot more time sitting at this keyboard and staring at a blank screen, trying to figure out what you could possibly find of interest in light of the fact that the entire world seems to have been turned upside down. I’ve been writing a lot lately about COVID itself and how it is impacting us, but even I am getting a little sick of hearing about COVID. Except for those of us who are in deep denial, our lives seem to have become all COVID, all the time. It’s exhausting.

The irony is not lost on me. Technically, this is a rant about not being able to rant. I don’t know what else to say.

Wash your hands.


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