My ass is killing me. Before you jump to any conclusions, let me elaborate. I’m at a conference this week in Orlando. I know, that additional information doesn’t really eliminate anything that may be going through your mind, but bear with me for a few seconds and let me tell you what’s going on.
I like to think I’m in decent shape, and I have a body fat percentage somewhere in the neighborhood of 14-16% on any given day. After only a single day of sitting on my ass at this conference, I can tell you that my ass has maybe 1% of this, tops. I’m pretty sure that there are ass bones poking through the skin back there. I have 4 more days of this to go. Seriously, I may have to stand for the rest of this thing.
How did I get here, you ask? Let me start at the beginning, because so far it’s been a long strange trip.
Have you ever flown Southwest Airlines from Albany to Orlando? If you haven’t, and you don’t enjoy the olfactory nuances of the people who make up Middle Class America on Vacation, I suggest that you avoid it at all costs. The flight is invariably loaded with children and their parents, who are usually pretty stressed even before their kid starts gacking into the diaper bag.
The night before I had to leave, we had some bad weather, so I figured I would get there a little early just to be safe. In fact, I got there so early that I was able to catch the earlier flight, which was just boarding when I arrived. The only good thing about Southwest is that they are generally pretty flexible. The woman behind the counter was really supposed to charge me an extra 150 bucks to switch my flight, but she just winked and pushed me on. I got some daggers from the people who had been standing there since the sun came up, but it got me to Orlando 3 hours earlier, so I wasn't too upset.
The seating is always a free-for-all on Southwest. Basically, it’s first come first serve, and if you’re last in line you generally end up in the seat right next to the bathroom door, sniffing fumes for the entire flight. I got lucky, because I’ve learned that the pitch they give you before you board is pure bullshit. In Albany, they have this fancy ramp that means you can load passengers from both the front and the rear of the plane. They make a big deal about this, and tell you that it’s faster if you go to the rear, so of course everyone does it. The thing they don’t tell you is that Orlando airport doesn’t have one of those fancy dual-loading rigs, so if you’re in the back of the plane you will die of old age waiting for everyone else to leave the plane first. So don’t fall for it.
I have bad luck on planes. I either get stuck next to somebody with bad breath who wants to talk, or a farter, or someone else with some random personal hygiene issue or annoying habit that they are somehow unaware of. I am a magnet for these types of people.
I board the plane, and start looking for prospective seats. There’s an attractive, well-groomed blonde girl reading a book on the aisle seat, so I figure I’ll grab the window seat in that row, and if all went well, we’d have an extra seat between us for elbow-room. I squeeze by her, she nods and smiles, and goes back to her book. I sit down and start to get comfortable. They had almost finished boarding the plane, so I figure we are good to go. Just then, an older couple in their 60’s gets on and starts looking for seats. The guy is a bear, the woman short and fat, with a round face, a gigantic ass and no neck. They can’t find two seats together. She spies a middle seat about 5 rows up from where I’m sitting, and the person on the end gets up and lets her sit down. The big guy looks around, and sees our elbow room seat, and heads for it. He asks the girl on the end if anyone is sitting there, and she leans over, looks real close at it, looks up and says, “Nope.” I snicker a little, and she gets up to let him in. He plops down between us, totally eclipsing the arm rest on both sides, and takes off his coat. No idea why the hell he didn’t take off his coat before he sat, but that’s what he did.
The BO hits me in the face like a Stinky Iron Fist. This was not just ordinary BO. This was, I am pretty sure, an actual sentient creature, separate from him, but in some sort of symbiotic relationship with his armpits. I base my sentience theory on the speed and accuracy with which it moved. The second he took off his coat, it immediately jumped off him, quickly surrounded my olfactory senses, and beat them into submission with an efficiency and purpose I’ve never seen in lower animals.
I cannot believe the reek that’s coming off this guy. Thinking quickly, I turn to him and ask him if he and his wife would like to sit together. The guy says “Naw, we been married 47 years, we don’t have nuthin’ to talk about anyway.” I ask him if he’s sure, because I don’t mind moving, and he says, “Well, mebbe I better ask.” So he yells up the aisle to Claudette, “YOU WANNA SIT HERE? THIS GUY SAYS HE’LL MOVE.” Claudette must need to replace the batteries in her hearing aid, because she can't hear him. After the third time of yelling back “WHUT?” Claudette lets loose with a hearty “SHORE! I’LL SIT WIT CHA!”
The gods of Southwest have smiled upon me this day. The blonde girl puts it all together and gives me a dirty look.
Much to the annoyance of the flight attendant with the foundation tan that ends at her chin-line, we play musical chairs again. The blonde girl gets up, Mr. Smellyman gets up, I get up, the lady next to Mrs. Smellyman gets up, Mrs. Smellyman herself gets up, and we’re all trying to maneuver past each other in an aisle that is about half the width of Mrs. Smellyman’s ample ass. After much squeezing and compressing, I finally sit down in my new seat. I’m now between a 90-year-old lady who is obviously scared shitless, and a bubbly mom who is sitting on the aisle because her one kid is across the aisle, and her other kid and her husband are behind us. The young mom is pleasant, and hey, bonus, she doesn’t stink. She says that the old lady is nervous and doesn’t fly much. I look over at her. The old lady’s eyes are closed, and she looks like she praying under her breath. She smells slightly musty, like a basement, but it’s a step up, so I work with it. I put on some tunes*, close my eyes and pretend I’m back in high school listening to my stereo in my old basement bedroom.
We take off without incident, and when the plane levels out, the perky mom unbelts her smallest child, and sits him on her lap. I try to sleep.
The exact second I start to drift off – and I mean the exact second -- I am being smashed in the side of the face with something pointy, and simultaneously kicked in the back. I sincerely believe the child behind me and the child next to me shared some sort of previously arranged secret go-code, because they had synchronized their attack like a diaper-wearing special forces team. Turns out what I got hit in the head with was aptly named “Spikey.” Apparently, Spikey is the endearingly accurate name of this particular plastic dinosaur with – you guessed it – spikes coming out of its back and head.
Just an observation: I don’t know if it’s just a stunning lack of originality, or just a type of practicality that they eventually outgrow, but kids always want to name their toys and pets descriptively. (I remember my friend wanting to name his new pet rabbit “Sucky” because it seemed like all he did was drink on that water bottle thing, but his mother nixed that one pretty quick. When he got the second rabbit, he probably should have named him “Humpy,” because all he did was hump the shit out of the first rabbit every twenty minutes, and then fall on his side and go to sleep until it was time for another humping session. Interestingly, they were both male rabbits. Thinking about it now, they were in a kind of rabbit prison, and the black rabbit made the white one his bitch from day one. If the white one was trying to eat, the black one would jump on his back and start humping until the white one gave up and/or ran away. Then the black one would eat his food. I never did see any cigarettes change hands, but Humpy "ran away” shortly thereafter…)
So back to the plane. While the perky mom was apologizing, and after I got Spikey off the floor, I also managed to glance back at good old Dad, and he was pretty quick on the uptake. He nodded, mouthed “sorry” and I didn’t get kicked again the whole trip, although Spikey and I had a few subsequent rematches. Turns out the kid wasn’t trying to bash my skull in – well, not initially, anyway. He wanted to give me Spikey, but I wasn’t paying attention to him, so that’s when the whacking started. It wasn’t so much “I’m going to kill you with this dinosaur” as it was “Take this thing, dammit, I’m tired of holding it.”
So that’s how I arrived in Orlando at 4pm Sunday.
Now back to my ass and the conference it is attending, which is the topic that started this rambling mess.
Besides learning so much your brain completely shuts down two days in, the things you do most at this conference are, in order:
The food at the opening night party is usually bad. They make a token effort to put something healthy down, but they don’t go overboard because they know that 9 out ten of the geeks here for this conference eat Krispy Kremes for breakfast, burgers and fries for lunch, and wings and beer for dinner. So you may get a few healthy options, but they are barely options. Sunday night they had philly cheesesteak sandwiches, corn dogs, (who the fuck eats corndogs??) pizza, roast pork and salad. They knew the salad was going to sit there, so they didn’t even spring for the romaine. Oh yeah. And all the cheap beer and wine you can drink in 3 hours.
Picture this: It’s 34 degrees outside. There are approximately 7000 attendees. The food is mostly all outside, on tables stacked with hot trays with little sterno cans underneath that are supposed to keep everything warm. They don't work so well when it's that cold out. There are a few heated tents with tables inside. About 20 seconds after the food lines open, the tents are solid blocks of teeming geek humanity.
You really have to see this party to believe it. Running around at this party are, in no particular order: Really Ugly Gypsies, (I said they were palm readers, but John said they were nutsack readers. He didn’t expound on his theory, but I’m guessing that nutsack readers have to be ugly, so as to not skew the results.) an indian and a cowboy, both on 3 ft tall stilts, A Bootsy Collins look alike, complete with a glittery 5 piece funk band, 3 dancing girls covered in blinking LEDs (clearly not nutsack readers) a breakdancer who, as far as I could tell, had no bones in his body at all, and a whole lot of really, really loud, really, really bad disco music. In a situation like that there is only one thing to do: Drink heavily until it all seems normal. So generally, that’s what everyone does.
Out of the list I mentioned earlier, there are a few things on it that I don’t do well. Most things on the list, actually. I don’t drink well – I get pretty wasted on about 4 or 5 glasses of wine. After that I start to do stupid things like try to dance and I am, when it comes to my dancing skills, really really white. I don’t sit well because, as I’ve explained, I have no ass fat. I can’t eat well because the shit they serve here kills my stomach.
Speaking of the bad food, today for the afternoon snack, they had hot pretzels. Not bad, right? Relatively healthy, you’re thinking. Me too. Then I got closer, and realized the horror. Someone up the ladder must have found out that they were planning on serving something that wouldn’t kill you, because these hot pretzels were unique. I can almost picture the phone call:
“Pretzels? Hot pretzels? Who’s responsible for this? Get them on the phone RIGHT NOW.”
[A slight pause, while someone goes to round up Johnson….]
“Johnson? I heard you’re serving pretzels. Aren’t those healthy? Yeah, you know, healthy. Good for you. Well, maybe not exactly good, but not too bad, right? That’s not acceptable. Why? Well, because they’re not going to eat them, that’s why. You don’t know these people. There could be riots. Well, what can you do for me? Yeah….yeah, that sounds good. OK, go ahead. Yeah, that’ll do it. And Johnson? Don’t let it happen again.”
I’m guessing here, but apparently Johnson said, “How about this? I’ll fill every inch of their warm insides with gooey cream cheese until they're bursting at the seams, and then put butter, sugar and cinnamon on top.”
I’m telling you, I got through about half of one of these giant leaking monstrosities, and I thought I was going to puke right there in the hallway. It wanted to stop my heart, I could tell. I threw it out and it literally stuck to the side of the can. It finally fell in, but I swear I saw it moving for a second, like it was trying to crawl back out and follow me to my next session. That was 6 hours ago, and I think the half I ate is still alive.
Speaking of my next session, it starts in exactly 7 hours.
Time for bed. More to follow. Seacrest Out.
*(Marillion: Marbles – highly recommended)