STFD (Shut the Front Door!)

If you’re like me, you’ve probably had to be reminded countless times to shut the door.  The consequences of failing to properly shut the door are serious.  Since the door was invented (by Ugg Cavewoman who needed to be alone and wanted something to slam in order to get that point across) many a foolish human has been utterly devastated by a door left ajar.

See the difference?

You may be letting the heat out or, perhaps, air conditioning the Earth.  You may be letting in mosquitoes which will suck your blood while you sleep and then breed millions of additional microscopic vampires in order to desiccate your comatose body in a single night. Or even more heinous, if you do not heed door-shutting warnings, you just may end up naked at work.  This last example is what ultimately cured me of my lax door closing habits.

The first aircraft I flew as a freight pilot was a Beech Baron.  In order to enter this aircraft, you must climb up on the wing on the right hand side.  Once inside, the door must then be latched from the inside in two places before you scoot over to the left seat to get down to business.  If the top, deceptively unimportant-looking latch is not closed correctly, the door will pop open during a critical phase of flight and not even Hercules will be able to close it again while in the air.

"Come into my parlor," said the spider to the fly...

The first time I discovered this Baron door anomaly, I was departing Midway airport on my way to St. Louis.  It was a beautiful, bright, sunny afternoon and the door became decidedly un-shut immediately after takeoff.  The air pressure was such that my hat, which was innocently perched on the co-pilot’s seat,  instantaneously vacated the aircraft.

Cursing my door closing lapse, I turned on the autopilot only to find that closing this door again while in flight was not going to happen.  Ever.  Not wanting to listen to the wind howl my failure while the cold nibbled my extremities all the way to St. Louis, I requested and received a clearance through a small uncontrolled field, landed, shut the door and took off again to continue my flight.

The next leg of my route from St. Louis to Peoria was uneventful except for the mild sting of the loss of my hat.  But, alas, I did not learn my lesson.   This time when the door popped open on takeoff out of Peoria, my jacket was martyred.  I barely managed to sweep my approach plates, which were all cozy underneath my ill-fated jacket, onto the floor to safety.

After coming back around to land and shut the damn door, I took off again for Milwaukee.  Somehow, the next air traffic controller not only knew of my  clothes-depleting shame, but he was also highly amused by the whole situation.  He wanted to chat about it.  Over the radio.  For the world to hear.  Lucky me.  Now everyone was placing bets on whether I’d have any clothes left at all by the end of my shift.

Yet despite my abject humiliation, these misadventures may have saved my life.

A few months after learning my lesson the hard way, I was flying from Milwaukee to Midway with a co-pilot who was about to have a harsher lesson than my own.  We were in an aircraft that was equipped with a single “throw over” control yoke and he was using it to fly from the right seat.  When the top latch of the door opened while in cruise flight, I knew that as soon as he put the gear down, the rest of the door was going to follow suit.  However, while I was prepared for this outcome, my co-pilot was not.  And when the door opened, the wind dried out his contacts, effectively blinding him.

Panicked, he tried to throw the control yoke back over to my side so that I could take over the flight.  This, we found, is not possible in the air.  In that instant, I decided our only recourse was for us to work together.  I operated the rudder pedals and managed the power while talking him through the control yoke inputs he needed to make in order to get us safely on the ground.  Had I not already had my own humbling shut-the-door lesson seared into my being, this flight may not have had such a happy ending.

In posting this blog, my deepest wish is for you to learn from my mistakes instead of having to experience the folly of improper door closing for yourself.  Doors left ajar can only lead to suffering.  Please, stfd!

My controversial topic of the day: Public Breastfeeding

There seems to have been a lot of flack in the news lately about women’s right to nurse in public as well as the controversial release of a toy baby doll that “nurses” with the help of a special “apron” worn by the doll’s “mommy.”

I have conflicted feelings about this.  On the one hand, I completely support a woman’s right to nurse whenever and wherever she feels comfortable doing so.    On the other hand, I personally did not ever feel comfortable nursing in public.  Not even in front of my mother-in-law.  I nursed in a nice, quiet, soothing place where I could thoroughly enjoy my “baby time.”  I saw it as a wonderful way to relax and bond with my children as opposed to simply a functional way to feed a baby.

I understand that women are so much busier these days and don’t want to be a slave to nursing privately whenever their children are hungry (which, let’s face it is all the time), but it seems a little ballsy to me to disrespect other people’s feelings while demanding that they respect yours.  And personally, I feel that if the child is old enough to ask for boob and unhook your nursing bra, that’s simply too old.

Just because something is a natural biological function doesn’t necessarily make it suitable for public viewing.  Sex is natural, but we still feel uncomfortable when our children see the monkeys doing the wild thing at the zoo.  Defecating is a natural bodily function and I definitely don’t want to see anyone doing that.  Breasts are natural, but all of America had a ginormous hissy fit when we saw Janet Jackson‘s tata on television.  There were even people freaking out because their kids saw it.  Wasn’t a breast one of the first things these children ever saw?

Whether we like it or not, boobs are not only for feeding babies.  They are highly sexualized, especially in America.  If they weren’t, Victoria’s Secret would be out of business and no one would ever pay for breast implants.  Would it be such a horrible thing for women’s rights to cover up and use a little discretion?

It’s very similar to the religious debate in my mind – I don’t care what your beliefs are, just please keep them to yourself.  I don’t want to hear it.  And, sorry, but I don’t want to see your boobs in the grocery store, either.  Until we perfect interstellar flight, we all have to live on this rock together.  So, how about I promise to support your right to nurse if you respect my feelings and kindly refrain from flashing your golden bozos at me when I go out for chocolate?  I think that’s fair.

WTF TCF?

I am so annoyed with TCF that I’m sorely tempted to withdraw all my money, convert it to gold doubloons, bury it in mason jars in my moonlit backyard while drunkenly belting out beloved sea chanties and herding a pack of rabid, starving wolves with a novelty light saber into said backyard to act as guardians.  It would surely be safer.  FDIC?  Please.  PRSW is the way to go.

PRSW: What are you lookin' at?

This is the email (NOTE: EMAIL!!!) that I received yesterday:

You can no longer use the following account to make online payments because it was deleted:Business CheckingAny automated or scheduled payments associated with this funding account have been canceled.To schedule payments, you must set up a new funding account.To set up a new funding account, simply log in, click the link to add a funding account, and follow the onscreen instructions.
To display your TCF Online Bill Payment information, follow the steps below.

  1. Visit tcfbank.com.
  2. Sign-in to Online Banking.
  3. Select the Bill Payment tab.

If you have any questions, phone us at 1-800-823-2265.

TCF Express Bills

Alert: (234625010)

Thinking it was a scam, I deleted the innocuous little email and went about my day.  As it turns out, this is the only notification I was given that TCF had closed my business checking account.  I only discovered the problem later in the day when I logged on and noticed “closed” listed next to my account number.  Thus began my hopeless, spiraling descent into Financial Institution Hell.

Twenty four hours, five calls to customer service (HUGE oxymoron), two visits to the local branch, one new account opened and then closed, and numberless tears of frustration and probably more than a few grey hairs later, this situation is still not resolved.  It was triggered by an unauthorized signature on a check (we’d never gotten around to putting my husband on the account since we’re hardly ever at the bank at the same time and he had simply forgotten) which TCF has since paid and culminated in a mound of paperwork, hours of phone calls, and an as of yet undetermined amount damage to my business’ reputation for any checks returned during this charade a la Ringling Bros.

All of this pain and consternation could have been avoided with a simple phone call.  What’s wrong, TCF?  Does everyone in your Fraud Prevention department have broken fingers?  Did they forget how to operate a telephone, since they clearly are immune from receiving calls from customers?  Maybe they are all “away from their desks at the moment” shooting paper cones of Hinckley Springs while discussing office politics in between breathless bouts of giggling about the accounts they’ve closed in the last hour just for fun.

Perhaps TCF should provide this free with every account opened.

I decided to do business with TCF for many reasons including their hours of operation, myriad of locations and decent fee structure.  Now, I either have to find a credit union and learn to deal with the shorter hours, no weekends, and only two locations or I have to bend over and invest in some KY and stay with TCF.  Or maybe someone else out there has a suggestion, because I’m fresh out of patience with these banksters.

Either way I’ll be buying mason jars and brushing up on my pirate, matey.  Maybe I’ll make TCF walk the plank after all.  Arrr…

UPDATED:

NEXT DAY…I am currently on the phone with Josh, who was kind enough to let me know that loss prevention would have called me if they had my contact information and is astounded to learn that the branch that I went to twice didn’t simply reopen the account.  It seems the branch manager didn’t know she could do that.  In the meantime, payments to my insurance company and at least one of my utility bills have been returned.  My account is still closed.  But there’s light at the end of the tunnel – Josh is on the job….

Not So Happy Meal

Earlier today (or rather, yesterday –  I’m having trouble sleeping), I failed my family.  I did not fail them by doing something that I should not have done.  Quite the opposite.  I did not act when I should have and I put not only my own safety at risk, but also that of my children.

A long and complicated series of events resulted in the necessity for me to travel by public transportation with my 3 year old daughter and 8 year old son to downtown Chicago to meet up with my husband.  If you have never had the opportunity to do this with your own children, count your lucky stars.  It took a considerable amount of time to pack a backpack with a change of clothes for each of the kids (in case we had the chance to play in the fountain at Millennium Park), light jackets for each of us (it’s cooler by the lake), proper first aid supplies (I like to be prepared), things to entertain them on the train so they wouldn’t behave like animals (didn’t work),  sunblock, a hat for me (hey, lots of women have thinning hair and run the risk of a sunburned scalp), water and the essentials from my purse (wallet, aspirin, etc.) so I would only have one (very heavy) item to lug around.  I also had to make sure each child was dressed, fed, and had empty bladders prior to hitching a ride from my neighbor to the train station.

Upon reaching our destination downtown, I wanted to find a place to let the kids unwind and have something to eat (my daughter had been whining about being hungry for the last hour) while I got my bearings on my Smartphone Overlord and verified the correct route to the art festival where I would meet my husband.  Finding the Golden Arches in close proximity, we headed inside for a couple of Happy Meals.

Not 10 minutes into our meal, a stranger approached our table and began talking to us.  We were seated next to a half wall separating the eating area from the path leading to the restrooms and this man stood on the other side of the waist high wall talking to us as if he were sitting at our table.  Even my son could tell that there was something not quite right about him.  In between whatever he was trying (mostly incoherently) to communicate to me, he would lecture my son to “always respect his mother” and “there’s nothing like a mother’s love.”  Then he told my daughter (in case you missed it, she’s 3) that when she was old enough, he was going to marry her.

And what did I do?  Nothing.  Not a damn thing.

I thought about going to get some help, but I certainly couldn’t leave the children there.  I thought about ways I could tell him to go away because he was scaring us, but I was afraid that whatever I said would set him off.  I thought about just packing up the kids and leaving, but I was concerned that he would follow us.  I simply did not know what to do.

Had I been alone, this would not have been an issue.  I could have gotten up and moved or asked for help from an employee or even risked his anger by telling  him to leave.  But the presence of my children somehow stifled my ability to act until ultimately, an employee noticed my plight and sent a security guard to our rescue.  When we left the restaurant, we had to walk past the man who was now shouting at me about how I shouldn’t have called the cops on him.  I conducted my children down the street as quickly as possible and made sure to check several times that he wasn’t following us.

What kind of example did I set for my son, who has been on the receiving end of plenty of “stranger danger” lectures?  What should I tell my daughter to do should she ever find herself in a similar situation?  What if that security guard hadn’t been there to help us?

As a woman who has done a lot of traveling, I know how important it is to be aware of your surroundings and mentally ready to defend yourself should the need arise.  But it never even remotely occurred to me that I might not be alone if trouble should come my way and I honestly still don’t know what I should have done to ensure our safety.

I clearly recognize this experience as a teachable moment.  So will you please tell me what you would have done so that I will know what to do in the future?  Besides getting Happy Meals only through the drive through, I mean.  That’s a given.

Be the Captain

I have had so many things on my mind recently that it’s been difficult to put just one thought to paper, or rather, keyboard.  But, some very excellent margaritas (oh, fine, here’s the recipe, you sots: 1 part Jose Cuervo Especial,

I know I've got some Triple Sec around here somewhere...

1/2 part cheap-crappy-probably-as-old-as-Methuselah Triple Sec, 1/2 part lime juice and 2 parts generic margarita mixer) and a lovely post from my dear friend (can I legally say that about someone I’ve only met by blog?), Bee, has inspired me.  So, suck it up, my friends, and endure my drunken ramblings.  Or not.  Whatever strips your gears, I always say. Am I an alcoholic if I can only compose a coherent, entertaining blog post when I’m inebriated?  Eh, we’ll examine that another time.  I’m low on Cuervo.

“Be the Captain.”  I’ve been stewing on this for a while and I guess it just takes a little bit of mental KY  (i.e. yummy margaritas) to give me the (most likely false) sense of security to write about it.

While I was in training for my freight pilot job, one of my favorite instructors would constantly harp on us to “be the captain.”  Unfortunately, most of us didn’t get it, at least not right away.  Some of us didn’t get it until much later in our careers.  A few of us didn’t get it at all and that’s just one of the reasons not everyone made it through training.  I believe I finally understood what he was talking about about a week after my catastrophic (at least to me) check ride with him.

It started out like any other check ride.  I had all the flight plans in order.  I had confirmed that the aircraft was airworthy and ready for flight.  I was nervous, but I knew I could handle whatever he could dish out.  I would pass my test, and be on the next flight to Midway Airport to collect my car and sleep in my own bed.  But I was wrong.  He wasn’t looking for someone with all the right answers, he was looking for someone who could “be the captain.”

He continuously questioned my decisions.  He played on my fears of incompetency.  He insinuated that potential dangers might exist.  He, quite frankly, made me feel like I had no idea what the hell I was doing thinking that I could possibly operate an aircraft  at all.  He morphed into a complete stranger, mockingly twirling the keys to my future on his index finger while saying, “I don’t know….I suppose I’ll have to discuss your performance with my superior before I can determine what to do with you.”

What if the controller is asleep?

Describing my reaction as “devastated” would be an epic understatement.  I could not comprehend in my wildest imagination what could possibly have gone wrong.  I did whatever he asked, flawlessly.  But that was exactly the opposite of what he wanted.  He wanted me to “be the captain.”

“Being the captain” means assuming the ultimate authority and responsibility for the flight.  The captain makes all the hard decisions.  The captain does whatever it takes to ensure that the flight is successful, safe and efficient.  The captain, is, as far as that particular flight is concerned, God.  He was simply waiting for me to exert my authority as captain and tell him to “kindly shut the hell up.”  The fact that I chose instead to cry like a two-year-old with a boo-boo caused him a considerable amount of consternation.

My point is this: you, too, are the captain.  You have the ultimate authority and responsibility for your life.  Everything is a choice (perhaps some seem more so than others, but they are all choices)  and the final decision rests in your hands.  It’s all up to you.  So, what are you going to do, Captain?

Personally, I’m going to bed.  I have children to send to school in the morning.

Stress, Anyone?

During my initial training as a freight pilot, one of the techniques used by the instructors to evaluate potential employees was to present an ever increasing set of challenges (weather conditions, aircraft malfunctions, elaborate instructions from “air traffic control,” interruptions from “dispatch,” etc. ) during a simulator session to determine how long you could manage the stress before you started making mistakes.  I have recently come to believe that the Universe has adopted this method of evaluating my mettle simply to amuse Itself.  I haven’t received the results in the mail, but I’m fairly certain I failed miserably.

After a long campaign against cancer and a very short skirmish with the additional hostilities of pneumonia, my father in law passed away last week.  Thus began the dwindling of my faculties and my eventual descent to rock bottom, at which I could be found weeping in a Phoenix Sky Harbor airport restroom stall.

As anyone who has met me can attest, I am a control freak.  I need a plan.  My husband’s family?  Not so much.  Combine this lackadaisical event planning style with poor communication skills and an overload of emotional baggage and you begin to see my growing dilemma.  Without my knowledge or consent, I had suddenly become a circus clown juggling seven chainsaws with a distracted assistant haphazardly lobbing flaming batons in my general direction at odd intervals.  And like the proverbial cherry on top, I was also suffering my normal PMS symptoms of exhaustion, difficulty concentrating, and emotional instability.  It was the Perfect Storm of Stress.  I suppose I should be grateful I didn’t maim anyone.

I began this little journey by completely screwing up our travel plans.  I discovered as I attempted to check my husband, two children and myself onto our flight at the ticket counter that the reason I couldn’t print out our boarding passes ahead of time is that the flight I booked wasn’t scheduled to depart for another three weeks.  Luckily, there was another flight within an hour of the one I thought I had booked that was non-stop with seats available and the fantastic women at the ticket counter were able to swap our tickets.

We arrived in Phoenix not knowing where we would be staying or where (or even when) the services would be taking place.  All I knew is that we needed to be back in Illinois on Wednesday for my son’s birthday party, with it’s nonrefundable deposit and invitations already distributed accordingly, on Thursday evening.  I did my best to keep calm and go with the flow while attempting to arrange our return trip with my husband waffling between staying longer to help out his mother and returning on Wednesday with me and the kids.

I was finally able to nail down our return flight standing outside the church immediately prior to the funeral mass on Tuesday.  I know, classy.  To my great surprise, when we arrived to check our bag on our Wednesday morning flight, it turns out that what I had thought was a 9:25 flight was actually a 9:05 flight and we could not check our luggage only 35 minutes before departure.  The next flight was at 6:40 p.m., which I naturally verified 78 times, and trying to figure out what I was going to do to occupy my 3 and 8 year old children for 10 hours at an airport sent me scurrying to the ladies room to blubber away my mascara.

We did finally arrive home at 1:00 a.m. Thursday morning.  I still haven’t recovered my sanity and I really need a vacation.  And a chocolate martini.  Please.

My Husband Fought the Law and the Law Won

My husband is in court today. Why? Because he’s an idiot, that’s why. This is how it went down.

Due to a myriad of contributing factors, we have recently downgraded our family transportation to a single car. One result of this choice is that the children and I drive my husband to the train station for his commute to work and then pick him up again each evening. About two weeks ago, I received a call from my wonderful husband approximately an hour before his train’s arrival time in which he confessed to me, a hint of incredulity in his sheepish voice, that he had been arrested.

Evildoers Beware!

Since we hadn’t planned any bank heists, instances of masked vigilantism, or naked jaywalking escapades, I understandably had considerable difficulty processing this information, so I shook my head to dissipate the fog of skepticism and responded with an eloquent, “You what?”

Thus began a series of events that I am still having a hard time believing possible. Still not quite understanding what was going on, I was told that the Metra Police (seriously – train cops – I had no idea) were taking my husband “downtown” (I thought that only happened in the movies) for processing. Knowing that in Chicago traffic, it could take me hours to reach the facility where my husband was being held, I loaded the children in the car, set up the GPS, and headed to McDonald’s (or The Golden Arches of Kiddie Mecca) to purchase a dinner that my children might actually eat after playing with (and most likely fighting over before breaking) their cheap plastic toys, before embarking on my journey to bail my spouse out of the Big House.

Enroute to the clink, I had to pull over on the highway to try to clean my 3-year-old daughter’s regurgitated McNuggets from, well, everywhere, with the solitary diaper wipe left in my “Adventure Pack” as my 7-year-old son completely lost his marbles in his utter abhorrence to being in close proximity to his sister’s puke.  In my haste, I did not put extra clothes in my Adventure Pack, and was forced to move the most heavily soiled articles, (jacket, booster seat cover, floor mats) to the trunk and allow my daughter to stew in her shirt and leggings holding her crusty lovey, Bob, before continuing my trek.

Bob, post bath

The Metra Police building where my husband was being held was surrounded by an immense fence which I was only able to access after being flagged down by officers that had just exited the compound and given instructions to “drive to the gate, press the button, drive to the westernmost building and wait in the car for an officer to meet you.”  The officer that met us told me that my husband was being transferred to the Chicago Police and we had to wait in the car.  We waited.  And waited.  And waited.  We were not allowed inside the building until my son and I had to urinate so badly we had seriously considered the side of a police car a viable alternative if we could only be sure we wouldn’t be caught on surveillance video.  As our eyeballs floated, we were finally escorted into the building to pee and make an attempt to more thoroughly clean up my daughter.

Before they transferred my delinquent husband to the Chicago Police, a Metra Sergeant arrived and asked if my husband had ever been arrested before.  When I answered, “No,” he responded that processing always takes a long time for first timers and that it would most likely be a while before they wrapped things up at the Chicago station.  So, I appealed to my parents to come rescue the children for the night (I still can’t decide who was more excited by that prospect, my parents or the children) and followed the Metra officer’s vehicle, with my husband handcuffed in the back, to the Chicago slammer.

This could take a while

My husband was finally sent on his way on an individual bond at about 1:00 in the morning after about 10 hours in the poky.

His crime? He was on the wrong side of the train that had just pulled into the station, so he went under the train to get on.  This action is, apparently, a felony.  The engineer saw him, had a conductor remove him from the train and turn him over to the local police, who then transferred him to the Metra Police, and then, of course, to the Chicago Police.  Because my miscreant of a husband was so polite and cooperative, the Metra Police decided to “take it easy” on him and only charged him with a misdemeanor.

His punishment?  Twenty hours of community service and attorney’s fees.  Seriously.  I wish I had the imagination required to make this stuff up.

The moral of this story?  Don’t be an idiot.  It could be a felony.