Thoughts from an Aer Lingus flight (yes, in flight mode)

Has anyone ever gone to Fitzpatricks Hotel in Manhattan on the basis of that advert that has been running before in-flight movies for seven years? I fast forward even though sometimes I go too far and end up far forwarding in to my movie. Which makes me resent Fitzpatricks even more.

I know it is essentially the same as closing your eyes but those eyemasks would make me feel vulnerable – like I’m more susceptible to attack from an assailant.

I know they charge you for alcohol but you could break even on soft drinks if you approached the galley from different directions and maybe adopted a subtle disguise or two.

I’m pretty sure the plane they show on that satellite map isn’t to scale. It’s the size of Luxembourg. This is especially disorientating if you are flying to Luxembourg.

Look at the size of those toilets. Never mind the Mile High Club, I’m not sure you could even sign up for the Six Inch Society in there.

The trip statistics they provide – altitude, tail wind, ground speed – are all well and good, but are of no real use to me. Seriously, you could tell me the outside air temperature is -2 or -200 and I’d believe you equally.

Rory McIlroy makes me feel like shit when he tells me that I can save a kids life by simply giving some crappy change that I find in my pocket or luggage. Imagine the good I could do by not even taking this holiday in the first place. Way to ruin my trip, Rory.

The No Smoking signs indicate that, at some point, someone thought smoking on a plane was a good idea.

Bye. Bye. See ya. Bye. Bye. See ya now. Bye. Bye now. Bye. Bye. So long. Bye. Bye. That shit must get very repetitive.

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The American Drive

Where do I start with this American Dream thing I started living a few months ago?

I suppose the whole driving thing is the best place to mock myself.  I revel in telling people how much I hate driving – and they usually revel in telling me that I’m a dumbass and that driving is awesome. Whatever.

So I bought a pretty reasonably-priced car from a man with three Gs in his name (ironically it cost a lot less than 3Gs) and I hit the road for the first time in eight years.

Of course what made the whole thing hilarious is that not only was I driving for the first time in eight years, I was doing so on the opposite side of the car and the opposite side of the road.

Thankfully the task was made easier by the fact that driving an automatic car is about as difficult as blinking (leaving aside those children who look perennially amazed by their surroundings).  Seriously it’s like one foot and that’s it.  You could chop off your left leg, glue your hands to the steering wheel and it would make no difference at all.

So I had a bit of an adrenalin rush when I started it all off but that pretty much disappeared after one horrendous trip out of my comfort zone one night.  All it took was one misjudged lane change (although I’m pretty sure the arsehole behind me sped up when he saw my blinker go on just so he could blow me out of it) and there went my confidence.  A week later another gobshite was blowing his horn at me because I dared to slow down as I was turning left just to be sure the junction was clear.  He then sped past me roaring some unintelligible American at me.  Total cockface.

At the moment I drive as little as possible due to the absolute fear every time I turn the key (fear of the driving part – not a fear of being blown up Goodfellas-style).  And what happens tonight?  I only avoid being side-swiped by about half a foot by a total arsehead with a personalised number plate (KEELR 10) and some stupid college stickers in his rear window.  No signal, only the length of his own car between the car in his lane and my car and he goes for a frickin’ lane change???

Thinking about the event now I would like to think that I pulled up behind him at the light (which was red and 50 feet in front of us), stepped out of my car, found a cigarette from somewhere, lit it, knocked on his window, fixed him a Bruce Willis-stare, dragged on the cigarette (while suppressing the inevitable near-choke) and uttered some one liner like “you just changed his last lane, kid-o”.

The reality is that I didn’t even blow my horn at him.  I just sat there being pathetic.

Oh and I didn’t even get to the fact that I ripped my bumper off by pulling up too close to a kerb within the first few days.  Seriously, I’m pathetic. Someone hurry up and invent teleporting.

Thoughts from a boarding gate

I’ve been trying to figure out exactly what it is about American tourists that winds people up.  Right now I’m sitting at my gate, waiting to board a flight to Chicago, and a middle-aged, wheelchair-bound American to my right is providing me with a check-list.

When I offered my seat to him and his wife he stared at me and declared drill sergeant-like with excessive volume: “No. I’m going to stay right here.”  His wife was a lot more polite but frankly she hasn’t stopped talking (in an excessive volume) for about ten minutes while he complains about the PA system being too loud, the line at the coffee shop being too long and the wheelchair being uncomfortable.  Ooh, and now he’s just asked his wife to get him some lime water.  Best of luck with that – still or sparkling completes our O2 range over here.

Then there’s the fifty-something, baseball cap-wearing men who walk with a college campus swagger that long stopped being apt.  In fact wearing a baseball cap three decades after your first beer is as appropriate as Betty White swanning around in a mini-skirt.

I’m thankful for the re-emergence of Betty White.  She has become the go-to punchline for any (playful) age-related barb.

From what I’ve seen it does seem to be some tourist-related persona rather than just a blanket American characteristic.  True to say that Americans in general can hardly be considered unassuming in their nature but give a middle aged former frat boy a passport, a plane ticket, and a massive camera that can photograph the moon’s surface and their base personality becomes amplified.

Of course many of these men probably did national service at some point too.  That would undoubtedly explain why they come across so regimental, loud and demanding.  It may also account for their seeming attempts to camouflage with the boarding gate walls by uniformly wearing beige.

Maybe I think they stand out because when I’m visiting other countries I don’t tend to walk around with a sense of entitlement and propensity to complain that they do.  But perhaps when I’m 55 and struggling to come to terms with the Rupee exchange rate or the Tokyo transport system, I’ll too be a complete and utter pain in the arse.

And – now I think about it – that PA system is freaking loud.

Update: As if things couldn’t  get more absurd, the wheelchair guy wore a fuchsia sleeping eye mask during the flight.

Naked shaving

I was excited after joining my new gymnasium (also known as ‘a gym’).  The entrance lobby was bright, the staff chirpy (apart from Mark – he’s just one of those guys who seems to think smiling is a sign of weakness), the equipment plentiful and in working order.

But then I was introduced to a strange phenomenon; one that I was previously oblivious to but has now scarred me internally…as well as externally.

Well, no.  Actually it’s just scarred me internally.

There I was, taking my post-workout shower in one of the very private cubicles; a little small but bigger than the average Dublin apartment bathroom.  As the final drops of water drained from the shower head, I patted my body down with my very cheap and completely ineffective towel.  The sign in the changing areas was deliberate and to the point – “Please dry off before entering the changing area”.  Unsure of how they intended to police it, I decided to get dry to the max.  This of course meant that I had to apply very strong scrubbing to the groin area.

After eleven minutes of that I wrapped my budget towel around my waist, ensuring that private areas were secured.  I exited the cubicle, and strutted with dry confidence towards the changing area.  As I passed a row of sinks on the right, I noticed an exposed male bottom.  “That’s ok”, I thought.  “Not everyone can get 100% dryness in those small cubicles.  He must be just consolidating between the toes.”

I walked the ten feet to my locker (people accessing the lockers either side of me in the otherwise empty locker room – obviously), turned slowly towards the shower area and spied the same white arse.  My eyes climbed to the man’s face to see if he was in some sort of trouble – perhaps a heart attack, a state of shock or he had become frozen in some sort of isolated ice age.

This is how to shave.

But, no.  He was fine.  In fact he was more than fine – he was naked shaving.

In one of the strangest displays of machismo/lack of awareness that I’ve seen, this man was shaving his face with nothing on.  His towel sat crumpled beside the sink, presumably determined by him to be some sort of obstacle to the task at hand.  For an undertaking that required his hands and face – the two parts of the human body usually exposed – this man chose to expose everything else.

I edged my way across the changing room until I stood directly in line with him.  And with that simple navigation I had the answer.

It was massive.

Ciaran Cannon joins the party of leadership and inspiration

As Irish political party the Progressive Democrats collapse in to nothingness, former leader Ciaran Cannon today confirmed he is defecting to the main Irish opposition party, Fine Gael.

Ciaran Cannon

Part of his motivation for joining Fine Gael was that he felt the ruling party, Fianna Fáil, “lacked leadership and failed to inspire people”.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present HIS new boss, the head honcho of the Fine Gael party, the inspirational leader…Enda Kenny!

Facebook: The Private Profile Challenges

I love nosing around other people’s lives on Facebook, sticking my nose in to every nook and granny. I suspect I’m not alone in this pastime – I’m sure many of you also click on friend’s friends to see who they are and what they look like. It is of course a great endeavour for bored single people who have thus far been rejected by the opposite sex (or the same sex if that’s your preference).

But there is a spanner in the works, a fly in the ointment, a whistle blower in the financial institution – privacy. Unfortunately privacy has become a big concern for Internet users who don’t want utter strangers to see how they live and what they do. I think this is just really mean but short of hacking their account we’re stuck with it.

00224_001There are three ways to see someone’s profile:
(1) Be their friend;
(2) Join the same network as them and hope they have allowed access to their profile for other network users or;
(3) Hope they have no privacy settings on their profile at all.

But the vast majority of people have locked down their profile and so we have very few tools at our disposal to see whether or not the person is appealing to you. Here are some of the challenges we face.

Problem #1: Image Size
Unfortunately, unless you have access to a profile, your only visual of someone is the circa 100-square pixel preview image. This is often too small to make a call on the person’s physical attributes. You can copy and paste the image in to a photo editing program and blow it up to about 400 pixels wide. This will result in very poor resolution meaning that the person will appear pixelated and you are therefore unable to accurately appraise their appearance.

Image blown up 4x

Problem #2: Unrelated images
Sometimes people put up a picture of a cartoon character, a sunset or a palm tree. This is not you. How can one make a judgement call on your physical attributes?

Problem #3: Multiple faces
This can be a hard one to call. If there is more than one face and one is markedly more attractive to you than the other then you need to use a bit of intuition to work out which one is the profile subject. Usually it will be the more prominent face but you can’t always rely on this logic. Sometimes the subject may put that particular image up, even if they are secondary, because they like how they look. Best thing to do is await an image change and hope that the subject does not revert to a palm tree.

Multiple Faces

Problem #4: This is the best it will ever be
Most people don’t put up pictures of themselves looking naff such is the vanity inherent in us. So you must remember that when you do view a picture of someone (blown up to 400 and pixelated), this is probably the best they’re going to look. Sometimes you can positively evaluate someone’s main picture and subsequently find (when you do have access to their other photos) that their profile picture must have been taken on some incredible day when planets aligned. That’s why it’s their main photo.

I had a theory about 20 years ago that you were better introducing yourself to someone looking your worst – cheap ugly coat, hair combed sideways like a science teacher, big thick bi-focals, slightly-dazed expression. Then the next time you met them, shed these shackles and look absolutely brilliant. This makes you seem more attractive than you actually are because their expectations were at such a low base.

Whether this works or not is still undetermined.

This blog is brought to you by Shallow Endeavour eXperiences.

The Disability Protocol

In my local Starbucks they have one toilet for able-bodied people like myself and one extra-large one for the disabled.

Now I’ve been there quite a bit (let’s say about 20 times in the two months) and not once have I seen a wheelchair user having a coffee.  If you consider the daily number of able-bodied toilet users vis-a-vis the disabled toilet users it is clear that we have an imbalance.

I completely agree with the equality and accessibility laws that ensure the disabled are catered for in every respect in order to make their lives easier.  But surely this equality stretches to me being able to use their bog if I need a quick slash?  Here is me waiting five minutes outside the other toilet while one sits there empty all day?

I mean we’ve already given up two extra toilets in order to make room for the wider disabled one.  We’ve done our bit here.  Surely it’s ok for me to drop in for a minute?  What’s the worst thing that can happen?  A wheelchair user might be slightly inconvenienced but no more so than I am at the moment.  And, again in the name of equality, that should be fair enough.

After a few minutes of contemplation I was just about to make a decision when the regular toilet door opened and a lady freed up the cubicle.

And, now I think about it, the disabled one was out of order anyway.  Not that anyone would notice.