Archive for November 2012

Friday Frolic

November 30, 2012

***I didn’t really have anything planned for today, but I thought it might be fun to slap words together to see if they fit. Join me, won’t you?***

There was going to be a game review here on a game I’ve come to call Dragon Age 2: The Talkening, but I realized it would just be loads of complaining about being what amounts to a digital White House page: running to and fro passing notes and trying to avoid being grappled. Suffice it to say that after playing this game for a total of 40 hours, and consulting with other like-minded friends, we’re forming a collective to punch Bioware straight in the face.

—————-

Based on what Hollywood has shown me of drug abusers, I think there are some similarities between those lost souls and people who wait too long to pee, based on my own direct observations.

  • Profuse sweating
  • Twitchy, jittery movements, and sudden stops to squat and stare intently at something invisible on or near the ground
  • Sudden transitions between muttered cursing under the breath and loud, unintelligible outbursts of distress
  • Intense anger toward anyone impeding your progress
  • Mad final dash to a bathroom or alley to conduct business

Don’t assume that guy/gal hugging their own torso like it just proposed to them is jacked up on the junk du jour; they might simply be trying to stem the amber tide with their Jedi skills. If they fail, then yeah, they’re probably on the drugs.

Taking the tangent-train elsewhere, being told you aren’t excelling at a job that you find to be as much fun as chowing on a fresh-picked bowl of Kellog’s Scab Flakes shouldn’t be that much of a surprise come performance review time. Growing up wasn’t listed in my job requirements when I was hired, thank you very much.

I keep a notebook full of things that pop into my head as possible topics for entries. Here are a few that have yet to take a breath beyond their initial conception:

  • Hair that’s crunchy on the outside, chewy on the inside (based on a friend of mine from long ago who paid more attention to his hair than any straight, married guy should)
  • Methane’s Symphony #2 (hey, I don’t ask for this stuff to pop into my head)
  • Never play “sodomy” in online words with friends, even for the win (unless that’s the message you’re TRYING to send)
  • Ow, my everything! (sometimes it just hurts)
  • The Japanese are all business on set, but at a wrap party, they can hurl invisible balls of painstakingly collected soul energy with the best of us (for reals)

There’s more, but I suddenly realized I can’t ever bring these up again without ruining the magic.

I’m working on a piece about the trip Achebeyo and I took to Thailand early this year, but I’m trying to temper my need to be snarkily verbose. Karma, you know. I want to be able to go back without being this guy:

Thai happy ending.

Thai happy ending.

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Flash-(kinda)back

November 29, 2012

***I believe I’ve mentioned how horrible people can be when calling support lines.***

Everyone has those moment in their career, no matter how glamorous and fireworks-fantastic it is, where they are aware of why they aren’t allowed to have laser-eyes or the ability to transform people into garden slugs remotely: you’d abuse those powers…repeatedly. For me, that was never more true than when I worked for a little regional ISP (I won’t insult you by explaining that ISP stands for Internet Service Provider).

Wait, back up a bit. The actual impetus for me taking a job like that in the first place is rooted in a much longer tale, one that would bore you to tears if I didn’t liven it up a bit. The basic gist is, got divorced, wanted to leave the continent but settled for the opposite coast; moved on the promise of lucrative work that evaporated once the IT bubble burst; became the worst kind of cliche (unemployed, lived with my dad, wrote horrible woe-is-me poetry); met Achebeyo. That’s when things started to turn around for me.

As all of the recruiters for my career were calling me asking for any leads on work for them, I got the impression that it would be a while before I could venture back into network engineering full-time. I was on the verge of taking a job giving sponge baths to shut-ins (anything to keep the creditor-predators at bay) when the chance to go back to work full-time as an entry level employee at a cellular service provider crossed my path. Being that I wasn’t in my right mind, I decided that perhaps I could start there and showcase my other talents in the IT realm and they’d rescue me from the pit of misery that is level-1 support. Apparently, they typically don’t hire those positions from the floor, so it became clear that I would need to become the best customer service representative of the decade…or just quit. Thankfully, Achebeyo’s many contacts made the latter more feasible.

She’s a secretive sort, our Achebeyo, so I’m not allowed to say that she’s a pilot, and that it was one of her pilot buddies who gave her the information on a local network engineering job. Some former truck-driving good ol’ boy got lucky in a small town during the BBS era and was able to morph into an ISP in due course. He wasn’t hiring, but he’d be glad to have me come in and fill out an application. Of course, that meant I could quit my miserable 200-calls-a-day support job and get back to building networks…which I did. The quitting part. It felt better than being fired for increasing grumpiness in a few more days.

I walked into the ISP’s office, a mere five minute drive from our (then) home, and was asked to fill out a pre-employment test and application. I was reminded that they weren’t hiring, but that they would keep my information on file. Blah blah blah. It was all just noise while I was still riding the I quit my job and can’t be bothered to worry about the future high. A small voice in the back of my head kept saying, “Welcome to Wal-Mart. Have a nice day.” I punched that voice in the face.

Minutes after turning my paperwork in, I was asked to see the owner for an impromptu meeting. See? the un-punched voice said. I was paraded past a small cubicle farm into the owner’s office. He was wearing shorts and a t-shirt. I figured this is what the upper levels of hell would be like: you’d be working for eternity, but at least the boss was cool. We briefly discussed my credentials and background, then he asked me when I could start. I quit my old job yesterday, so yesterday? He figured it would be easier if I started the next day, promising that I’d be assisting with routers and DSL installs. What he didn’t explain is that would be after an extended stint on the support lines.

My first week was spent with whom I can only describe as the epitome of “redneck”. The stories this guy told me about his life made me wish I was something more of a writer back then than someone who was just looking for sympathy. There were fights over who looked at whom in a manner denoting disdain; there were shotgun drive-bys in trailer parks because of the last beer; and there were hookup near misses with relatives. Being a self-absorbed ass can really hamper your career or creative outlet options. He managed to train me in the fine art of dealing with their particular brand of customer, then set me free on my own phone in my own cubicle to fend for myself.

“These kids are making me TIDE! TEE EYE DEE EE, TIDE!” “Ma’am, what exactly can I do to help you?” “Get these damn kids out mah hair!

I’m sure she thought she was being funny, but that was the actual reason for her call. Her kids had rampaged through the house and chewed through her phone lines or something and she couldn’t connect to the Internet to find out where to sell them. And she was the least ridiculous call I ever received.

When’s the Internet coming back on?” “Sir?” “The Internet is off and I need it back on.” “Let’s start with the basics. Is there power in the house?” “NO! They keep buggin’ me ’bout the bill, but I ain’t got paid yet! I need the Internet to pay my bills!”

And probably my favorite…

“You know Shelia?” “Ma’am?” “She live over by the supermarket and she have your service. I need to talk to her.”

Those were the people who were simply not on the same plane of existence as the rest of us, but at least they weren’t straight-up evil. I can’t even begin to detail the folks who blamed me for the lightning bolt that fried their computer, or the people who blamed me for the fact that they got billed for our service every month. One “gentleman” thought it would be prudent to come down to the office and threaten our receptionist. That day was fun.

Between the owner and I, we were a veritable wall o’ flesh. Add to that the fact that I had recently started to shave my head (the least shameful way to deal with the beginnings of baldness) and was still scowlingly uncertain as to whether or not I liked it. This angry chunk of southern hospitality got very polite and very apologetic once we stepped out to confront him. The owner calmly and politely told this redneck Dr. Jekyll that his account would be cancelled and that the police would be called if he ever showed up again. This was punctuated by me walking within his personal bubble and backing him out the door. His apologies were too little, too late. In the owner’s own words, “He showed his ass,” which I’ve come to learn doesn’t mean I witnessed someone dropping trou, but rather they revealed something that once seen, cannot be unseen…and is usually bad.

There were many more calls and visitors to the office who had to be carefully shown the door (electronic or actual), but most of them are greasy smears in my memories. Eventually (two years down the road), I was allowed to start learning the job I was actually hired for, but never to the extent I expected. My time there was about up, and when a better offer came along that significantly increased my salary, I put in my notice. “We were going to give you a raise.” “This new job will triple my current salary.” “Oh, so $2 more an hour here…?” “Thank you for your consideration.”

I moved on to deal with an all-new (to me) brand of entitled folks, but I’ll never forget my time answering phones for an ISP in a small town. Any time this current job seems a bit stressful, I think about miss Tide and wonder if she ever got those kids sold.

The Pura Vida Files – part 4 (Monkey Business)

November 26, 2012

***After a long weekend and some quality cougar-watching time in the wilds of Retirementville, FL, the memories of this trip are becoming more and more gooey in my head. Trudge along with me for the finale.***

As with any exciting adventure, the fun is often interspersed with periods of boring (to read) down time. Everyone knows what swimming in a pool that winds through a resort like a grass snake is like, right? And over-priced, watered down drinks that typically require some sort of collateral if you plan on having more than one? Moving on.

Having had our fill of playing high-tech Tarzan, and seeing nothing of the surrounding jungle but green and brown smears, we opted for a crack-of-dawn trip to Manuel Antonio, apparently Costa Rica’s second largest tourist attraction. This time, we boarded a bus loaded down with folks from our resort who, like us, were lured by the promises of abundant wildlife and gorgeous vistas. On the long bus ride there, in which sleep was actively denied by way of the gracious and friendly tour guide who made sure we didn’t miss one single iota of information on the way to the park, we learned that the number one industry in Costa Rica is (ding ding ding!) tourism. However, the number two industry was something we couldn’t guess with our sleepy brains: technology. No, I thought coffee too, believe me. Or at least something jungle-related…whatever that might be. Because, you know, being a brief tourist in a location you’ve never visited before and didn’t study up on before you arrived makes you something of a self-professed genius on the topic.

Intel apparently has multiple factories and call centers in Costa Rica. In fact, we were informed by our rightfully smug guide, if you call for Intel support in the United States, you’ll get a Costa Rican call center. I suppose if I could stand to talk to people on the phone for more than 30 seconds in any given week, I could apply for a job there and be miserable in paradise. Seriously, don’t get me started on how horrible humanity is on support lines. Anyone who’s worked their way up the technology food chain has stories that would make you slap yourself for being of the same species as these…people (“It don’t work.” “What doesn’t work?” “IT don’t.” “Do you own a gun? Can you just shoot me in the face, please?”).

Once we arrived at the park, we were given specific instructions for what not to do, which pretty much amounted to don’t touch, breathe on, eat or cuddle anything you didn’t bring with you…and stick together. Our guide corroborated the tour desk’s assertions about this trip and told us that we would encounter many sloths, lizards, monkeys and macaws on this hike, and that we would take a break halfway in on a little secluded beach. What he didn’t tell us is that this is as close as most of the wildlife would be to us:

See him there? Framed poorly by me in the middle of the shot? Yeah. That’s a sloth. And our guide showed us several of these guys and gals through a telescope. He would also do anyone with a point-n-shoot camera the added favor of taking 5-10 minutes per person to capture images from the telescope to your camera. Fortunately for me, I have a decent camera with a cheap lens that didn’t work with that set up. After about six or seven of these remote viewing sessions, I think the entire group was beginning to not only feel that there had been some slight exaggeration of what/how we would see on this hike, but also a distinct need to distance ourselves from the numerous other people there with their own tours. I can’t imagine that there’s much wildlife, even in a park that big and protected, that feels comfortable with the stomping, chattering hordes of bi-peds all up in their junk. Except this guy:

We trudged along the winding path until we reached the midway point at the little beach. It was gorgeous, but the guide told us he would need to stand watch over our belongings because Nature’s little thieves would be looking to pilfer any edibles from our bags. I thought he was kidding until I watched several brazen raccoons steal an entire lunch from a family. I say brazen because they would not be deterred by any amount of yelling and fist shaking, and dashed ever deeper into the jungle with their loot when pursued.

(Bandit beach, as I like to call it.)

Once everyone had their fill of battling critters and soaking up sun, we moved on to the next leg of the journey, grumbling aloud that we were promised monkeys. No amount of Jesus Lizards or other reptiles would assuage our petulant frustrations.

We.
Were.
PROMISED.
Monkeys.

I think our guide caught me mid-grumble with the announcement that we should have our cameras ready for some monkey action. Just as I was about to launch into a sarcastic and totally faked exclamation of all the monkeys I was seeing, they began to dash out of the deeper jungle and up onto the path and surrounding trees. As the strict rules leave no room for interpretation, English or Spanish, regarding feeding these guys, I couldn’t understand what was so urgent about their need to pace us and even jump ahead, from tree to tree, to wait for us to pass by. I figured it was so I could take my requisite 700+ photos of the same monkeys doing the same things for the next 200-300 yards…which I did.

(One of at least 20 pictures of this guy right here on this tree.)

(Thank goodness for technology that allows for the storage of thousands of pictures on one card.)

This went on for some time, with Achebeyo becoming more and more confused as to why I needed dozens of the same shot. It soon became clear to her, however, that what I was doing had merit when “Stumpy” showed up.

He may have been missing one paw (possibly for someone to make horribly misguided wishes with.), but he did not appear to be hampered in the least. He jumped, cavorted and ran with the rest of them, even going so far as to make an insane leap of faith between trees that I couldn’t catch on film. And then the reason they were pacing us became clear: they were hoping we’d discard something of value here:

(Stumpy at his finest.)

Deciding that he was better safe than sorry, Stumpy absconded with the mostly empty bag and hauled it up into the trees where he rapidly realized we hadn’t had the chance to put anything in it before he executed his heist. We left him and his fellows and exited the park by way of a boat ride across 15 feet of shallow water. Apparently the combination of potential ankle-moistening and invisible crocodiles made making the 20-second walk by 10-minute boat ride more feasible. We walked past an international beach volleyball tournament to our bus and were hauled off to a nice restaurant for lunch and the last stop on our trip. It wasn’t this place, but it was right across the street so we could see what we were missing:

(I have this same idea but with a submarine theme. Now to find the money and the sub.)

After a delicious meal and the long (this time quiet) ride back, we were ready to to simply veg out around the resort. We spent the rest of that day, and most of the next just relaxing by the pool or taking naps to the sound of the original Achebeyo playing movies in Spanish. Aside from an impromptu hike up an impossibly steep road to see what others at the resort promised us would be more monkeys, macaws and horses, the trip wound down and took us with it. By the way, I think if you hike anywhere on the promises others have made of what you will see, it’s only fair that you should get to wring out your sweaty clothes on their faces when you see absolutely nothing but a couple of randy horses. At least we burned a few dozen calories.

The trip back to the US was uneventful, save for the fact that we got upgraded to “keep moving past these first few rows, peasants” seats and got to live like moderately well-off travelers for one leg of the journey back. I was disappointed to find out I still don’t know how to effectively use my Hero2 camera above water, but at least the numerous videos of my hairy arm on the zipline tour were good for a laugh or two. And we also have a new place on our “must return to” list of countries…after New Zealand…and Thailand…and Barbados…we’ll get back there eventually.

The Pura Vida Files – part 3 (Zip-Line Doo-Dah)

November 21, 2012

***I’m finding that I could slap dozens of extra words in each sentence and make this an epic tale of what was actually a short-but-fun trip…so here we go!***

Following my aforementioned pouting campaign, we made it to the shuttle for the zip line tour with just enough time to…sit and wait for everyone else to arrive. Personally, I’d rather be early than late (or on time). I mean, how else do you get to be first in the van if you get there after everyone else? Figuring the shuttle would be crammed with eager folks ready to zip off into the lush jungles of Costa Rica, we wedged ourselves firmly into the front seat and proceeded to take the standard goofy-face shots that nobody but us wants to see. Once the rest of our group showed up (one other couple), we took the five minute ride to the zip-lineatorium. Again, this was down roads where you could easily lose a limb if a taxi driver burped while using his other eyes to drive.

Along the way, there were advertisements for another tour, the Tranopy Tour. I didn’t know if you had to be pre- or post-op, so we just skipped that one entirely. When we arrived at the facilities, we were issued the standard “we can kill you and all you’ll get is a sad face” forms to fill out, then were ushered into a little outdoor fitting area. I felt like a runway model…if runway models were bald, excessively hairy and full of cheese. They fitted us with carabiners, straps, helmets and gloves and herded a much larger group of us into two separate demonstration areas, where they went out of their way to prove you’d really have to have some horrendously bad karma to fall off the line. After seeing what combination of metal and ropes would be responsible for our safety, we were all loaded into two tractor-pulled safari carts and hauled laboriously up the mountain.

There are subtle signs that Achebeyo is nervous: tight lipped, terse responses; wild-eyed smiles that are not so much forced as stamped on; lack of desire to be touched by anyone named McDuck. Mine are less subtle: babbling incessantly (whether or not anyone is listening); the pee-pee dance; lack of desire to be touched by anyone named McDuck. As she was getting hooked up to take the first line out of 12, I was happily blathering on about how nervous she looked to nobody. As an aside, they frequently make you jump (yes, jump) up while on a little wooden step so that they can properly secure you to the line. So, you know, no pressure. Before she could utter much more than a meep, she was off and sliding to the next tower. They hooked me up next, and I was off along the same line not more than 30 seconds after her. Only she made it all the way to the tower.

See, they give you what feels like a billion different instructions for what to do and how to do it while on the line, never really explaining that none of that matters because they’ll change it up on you at each station. I was told that I needed to slow down (by pulling down on the line behind me) before I got to the tower. So I did…and then had to hand-walk myself the rest of the way to an ass-chewing at the next tower. Apparently they don’t want you focusing on handling multiple cameras when you’re supposed to be focused on not killing yourself or the tower guards. Whatever. I have people to impress once I get back home, señor. I’d share the images with you, but I’m not sure how impressed you be with repeated shots of my hairy, sweaty arm. I’m that good.

Once I’d figured out that slowing down meant the exact opposite on most towers, the rest were a breeze, literally. You whip along at roller coaster speeds through the jungle and see…pretty much nothing. As I said, you’ve been given a billion conflicting instructions and you’re focused on not screwing any of those up at any given moment. It’s easy to forget there’s actually stuff to look at besides the line, your gloves and the pulley keeping you from being a jungle-tree ornament. Then came the change-up.

As I watched Achebeyo slide backwards to her next tower, my initial thought was, “And she’s worried about ME not following directions?” However, when the tower guardian for that station stepped up to me, he told me I could go down this next cable the way she did, or “like the lady in the picture behind you“. That lady rocks, let me tell you. She was upside-down. Intent on making sure I wasn’t outdone by a staged photograph, I opted to go upside-down as well. I remember yelling. A lot. And I remember them making more of an effort than usual to stop me before I bowled over the next batch of tower guardians. The rest is a jumble of green and brown smears accented with my whoo-hoo-HOO‘s the whole way. I’m telling you, if you’re not the least bit incontinent, go that way if you zip line in Costa Rica.

There was one more segment of note, and that was the longest/fastest of them all. If I remember correctly, the vague instructions were, “go as fast as you can until you get over the red house, then start braking“. So, look for the red smear in the rest of the green-brown surrealist painting? Roger that. Being a skydiver, I know my body has gone faster than that. But if skydiving had references like massive trees you fell through, I’d likely bring adult potty pants to the dropzone each time I jumped. It felt fast. I guess I decided to remember that I had a gloved hand to begin the slowdown process right after the red house. It didn’t matter, as I reefed hard enough on the cable that the last tower guardian I can remember was waving at me to let go so I’d actually make it to the end…which I did.

We stepped onto the last platform and rather dazedly let the troops dismantle our gear from around our torsos. They gave us fresh fruit and sent us on our way, which for us entailed the five-minute ride back to the hotel and naps that, for me, were full of whipping through the jungle at top speed while trying to high-five monkeys who were flipping me the bird.

Concluded in The Pura Vida Files – part 4 (Monkey Business)

 

The Pura Vida Files – part 2 (Jungle Tantrums)

November 20, 2012

***When we left off from this tale yesterday, we had managed to get to our hotel on the Pacific side of Costa Rica with a minimum of fuss, and without me pissing Achebeyo off too much. Fortunately, I know exactly how to turn that smile upside-down.***

Waking up in paradise is never something I can get used to. I’m always expecting someone to jump out of the bushes and kick me in the junk, or I’ll wake up to find I’m surrounded by an army of mutant insects just waiting for my feet to hit the floor before they turn me into a sarcastic skeleton. On the other hand, waking up in paradise to the screaming of happy macaws seemed about right. I mean, how much sleep do you really need on vacation anyway? I mean, it’s not like the resort was called The Dreams or anything.

Hopping out of bed and tossing on a mishmash of random travel clothing (the previous day’s travel-gunked pants and a “NO” t-shirt), I had hoped to catch Nature’s screeching alarm clock on film. Alas, they were merely making the rounds on their way to whatever shenanigans macaws get up to in the wild. Probably target-bombing shiny bald heads, with my luck. I was, however, fortunate enough to catch this character chittering at me from a nearby tree. Based on his coloring, I’m sure he was ridiculing my fashion sense while doing his push-outs.

After I finished hassling the local fauna, I returned to the room to prepare for the potentially exciting adventures we were about to embark on. It didn’t take me long to throw on new clothes, scrape a finger across my teeth and stuff my pants with travel necessities. I then proceeded to loudly lament the fact that I can be ready to rock and/or roll in minutes, compared to her more, shall we say, sedate pace. The fuse was lit, but it was a slow burning one with many chances to put it out. Pfft. Caution is for cowards.

(The calm waters of the hotel before the storm of my stupidity)

As no trip with me is complete without at least one pouting fit, I decided to get it out of the way as soon as possible. We headed for the tour desk to book our side-trips while in this gorgeous country, and I set my expectations high for my chosen activity: SCUBA diving. In case I haven’t ever made this clear, I am for SCUBA. Always. If there’s water deep enough for me to get my noggin under, I’m there. Imagine my surprise when the booking agent dropped the guillotine down on that idea: it was the wrong season for diving!

Hearing those words, and the ones following where we were informed that because of the sediment in the water from rainy season, none of the SCUBA centers were in operation now, put me into a kind of Charlie Brown hearing funk. The waa waaa wa waaaa‘s of the rest of that conversation were just greasy wax in my ears at that point. I descended to pout-level five (out of four levels) and wasn’t much interested in participating in the exchange for a while. Did I mention I really like SCUBA? It was only after seeing the look on her face that it dawned on me I might be deliberately lighting her fuse again, this time, much closer to the bomb. Plus, there were other things we could do (wa waa waaaaa wa waaa). We signed up for a zip-line tour later that same day, and I got over my initial bitch-kid attitude fast. Not fast enough, apparently.

Since we had plenty of time before our tour shuttle would come pick us up for some high-speed high,-wire careening through the jungle, we opted to walk around the grounds and talk. Thinking it was safe to joke about not getting to SCUBA dive, since Iwas effectively over my fit, I made the following statement with regard to her comment that not every trip had to be about SCUBA: “Happy birthday! You don’t get to do what you want to do!” I thought it was hilarious.

And it was.

To me.

That’s where the humor of it all got a little indistinct from her perspective.

(Beautiful vistas like this are the best places to get chewed out)

Let’s be honest, when someone is treating you to a birthday weekend in a beautiful country with plenty to do, it’s more than a little selfish and insensitive to get bent about one activity you won’t get to do. Which is why I observed the earlier warning signs and opted to get over my frustration right away, before emotional castration made it on the activity list. What I failed to take into account was that not everybody is as bumble-bee flighty with their emotional responses as I am. My joking comment made it on the “Top Ten Things I Could Have Done Differently to Prevent an Argument” list, and I was off and running at the mouth to explain the fact that I was only joking. It only took a few hours for that to finally work.

After the dust from that scuffle settled, we agreed that we would head into the nearest town, Jaco, to do some sightseeing, grocery shopping and generally touristy gawking. Jaco was only a five minute taxi ride, but it was along roads that I wouldn’t ask a Marine platoon to navigate without force fields…or tanks, or something like that. Losing an arm because I wanted to save five bucks wasn’t really reasonable, so the taxi it was. Jaco was like any other beach tourist location: beautiful beaches, fronted by hotels and restaurants, with many interesting people to watch and secretly photograph.

(You can’t tell from this photo, but the gravity-well of his hair was like a black hole…seriously)

We spent a few hours wandering around with heavy bags filled with snacks and bottles of non-anal-avalanche-inducing water, and killed time until our taxi would return for us. Even though we didn’t have to, we bought a few shirts from the vendor who was gracious enough to let us loiter on the bench outside her store.  I mean, how else can I secretly gloat at work and around town (back home) without a shirt that effectively says, “I went someplace really cool while you were stuck here”? Not long after that we found ourselves headed back to the hotel with enough time to drop off our supplies and dash back upstairs to make the shuttle for the zip-line tour. Our adventures were about to begin in earnest.

Continued in The Pura Vida Files – 3 (Zip-Line Doo-Dah)

The Pura Vida Files – part 1

November 19, 2012

Anyone who’s ever flown in the last 30 years will agree, scientists really need to get cracking on that whole teleportation gig. Between the TSA (who apparently are hired for their scowling abilities as much as anything else), the “can’t bring your own drinks in, but you can buy our 300% marked-up ones” airport rules (because everyone knows that airport vendor employees are beyond reproach) and the oblivious unwashed masses of travelers, it can try even the most patient of humble folks. I am far from patient on my best day.

The notes I took, both in the airports and on the planes, reveal someone itching to douse himself in radioactive waste just to see if flying might be a random side effect. Seriously. Let me break this down for you a bit. If you’re an adult who hasn’t been raised in a secluded basement somewhere, with your only human contact coming from the hand that shoves food through the slot in the door, I shouldn’t have to tell you that kicking the seat of the person in front of you (whether or not the rhythm is gonna get you) is a no-no. When staring at her with my “I’m not psycho, sweetie, I’m just grumpy” half-smile didn’t work, I opted to take matters in hand…literally. You’ve never seen someone so shocked to have their foot prevented from hammering out their own personal rendition of “Stomp” on someone’s place of rest. She reminded me of my impertinence throughout the rest of the flight to Costa Rica, however, by yanking back on my headrest like a Greco-Roman grappler every time she needed to move or blink her eyes.

I also learned that it’s important to choose what you will wear on your excursions across the sky. Evidently, I was wearing my “put your ass here” jacket, coupled with my “let me eat your bags” (interpret as you like) face-paint. Since I live in fear that a stray molecule of mine will wind up in someone’s food, face or fanny that I go out of my way to ensure I don’t invade anyone’s space, it bugs the living snot out of me that nobody else seems to give a damn about that sort of thing. It’s almost as if they’re saying, “Don’t you DARE touch me, but let me plaster my anatomy and belongings all over your face and neck.” The next time we travel, I’m painting my forehead to say “I have herpes”.

Achebeyo lives in fear of what I might say or do in public, which is why we typically don’t go to movies in the theater until they’re about ready to chuck those reels into the return bin. She’s mortified every time I force polite behavior out of the world around me. Which I completely understand, honestly. If you’re a kind, caring and decent person who leaves others alone, having someone with you who seems to attract unbridled asininity can be tough. But she manages to get through it…usually by yanking my chain and calling me to heel.

We eventually made it off the plane without assistance from local authorities, and proceeded to do the taxi driver avoidance shuffle. Since we had booked our shuttle to the hotel in advance, we had to bounce, verbally and physically, through the hordes of waiting drivers looking for the sign that said “ACHEBEYO & LACKEY”. Unfortunately, our driver was wearing his Predator cloaking device and we “missed” him…according to him. Of course he wasn’t late. We just couldn’t find him for thirty minutes while walking back and forth past the place he said he was waiting the whole time. Since it was late, and we were facing a potential 2-hr ride to the hotel, we hopped in without much more fuss.

On your left you’ll see…nothing. The beauty of this country was lost to us on our ride in, as it was dark and much of the landscape after San Jose was jungle. Our driver seemed bent on proving to us he could court death (something not exclusive to any one place we’ve visited) as he careened inches past anything and everything in his way. From what I could tell, he mostly navigated by the vestigial eyes in the back of his head, since he liked to turn around to talk to us when he reached any speed above 5mph. Sure, tell me all about the largest concentration of crocodiles in the world, just not when you’re about to commit vehicular homicide! To say it was a relief to make it safely to the hotel would be like saying heart attacks are bad news. We staggered out of the shuttle and got settled into our room in short order, all thoughts of adventure hiding behind utter exhaustion and relief at making it safely to our destination. A good night’s rest, and dreams of roller coasters from hell, and the next phase would begin.

Continued in The Pura Vida Files – part 2 (Jungle Tantrums)

The Wrath of Achebeyo

November 15, 2012

***You know how most people claim to be their own worst enemy to get that sympathetic vibe going?***

Her: Stop calling me that.

Me: But it’s funny and cute.

Her: Maybe the first 700 times you said it, but now it’s just annoying.

There’s something to be said for knowing when you’ve worn a phrase or nickname out. I don’t know what that something would be, because I can’t seem to catch the hint until the daggers in her eyes are in mine and I’m spending some quality pout time in another room of the house…for the rest of the night. Maybe I should have called this, “We went to Costa Rica and all she got was this stupid nickname.”

This whole trip will, of necessity (and my penchant for lengthy, exaggerated explanations), be broken down into several categories…which I will make up as I go. This one will be known as ‘strike three…hundred’ for now.

We had some limited down time while we were on our whirlwind three-and-a-half days traveling to, and in, Costa Rica. Listen, you might be able to go 24/7 without sleep or non-subtitled foreign television, but not me. I need to be able to wind down into troubled dreams of secret bunkers filled with living mashed potatoes by making uneducated guesses as to what might be transpiring on foreign shows. Enter subscription television, and the star of this episode.

The way this paid channel sounds in Spanish immediately caught my attention, mainly for the way it flowed off the tongue as a potential trouble-making nickname, or a way to ensure I keep up my record of ticking her off on every trip. From that moment on (about 1.5 days into the trip), she became Achebeyo. To say that she was less than thrilled would be like saying the ocean has some salt in it. Apparently the more you poke the sleeping lion, the more she wants to gut you…emotionally. But it’s just so catchy!

It works in tandem with annoying songs, like the dreaded Macarena: “Heeeeey, Achebeyo!” And to a lesser extent, Paul Simon: “And Betty when you call me you can call me Achebeyo.” Hey, I said “to a lesser extent”. Regardless of what medium you use to apply it (whispering it into her ear when she’s in REM sleep, tossing it in casually when addressing her in front of people or leaving voice mail after voice mail), it sends a message: please hurt me with solid objects.

I’ve since learned my lesson, and only burst into “Heeeeey, Achebeyo!” when she’s not around. But it’s still one of the things I’ll remember fondly from my trip.

Once I get off my lazy torso-pillows and download the images I captured on my magical soul-stealing device, I’ll be sure to further embellish the tale of our trip. Until then, I dare you not to think about “Heeeey, Achebeyo!”


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