Total Perspective Vortex
What really happened to Trillian? Theories abound, but you can see what she's really been up to on this blog. If you're looking for white mice, depressed robots, or the occasional Pan Galactic Gargleblaster you might be better served here:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/cult/hitchhikers/guide/.

Otherwise, hello, and welcome.
Mail Trillian here<





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Women, The Internet and You: Tips for Men Who Use Online Dating Sites
Part I, Your Profile and Email

Part II, Selecting a Potential Date

Part III, Your First Date!

Part IV, After the First Date. Now What?


"50 First Dates"






Don't just sit there angry and ranting, do something constructive.
In the words of Patti Smith (all hail Sister Patti): People have the power.
Contact your elected officials.

Don't be passive = get involved = make a difference.
Find Federal Officials
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or Search by State

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Contact The Media
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Words are cool.
The English language is complex, stupid, illogical, confounding, brilliant, beautiful, and fascinating.
Every now and then a word presents itself that typifies all the maddeningly gorgeousness of language. They're the words that give you pause for thought. "Who came up with that word? That's an interesting string of letters." Their beauty doesn't lie in their definition (although that can play a role). It's also not in their onomatopoeia, though that, too, can play a role. Their beauty is in the way their letters combine - the visual poetry of words - and/or the way they sound when spoken. We talk a lot about music we like to hear and art we like to see, so let's all hail the unsung heroes of communication, poetry and life: Words.
Here are some I like. (Not because of their definition.)

Quasar
Hyperbole
Amenable
Taciturn
Ennui
Prophetic
Tawdry
Hubris
Ethereal
Syzygy
Umbrageous
Twerp
Sluice
Omnipotent
Sanctuary
Malevolent
Maelstrom
Luddite
Subterfuge
Akimbo
Hoosegow
Dodecahedron
Visceral
Soupçon
Truculent
Vitriol
Mercurial
Kerfuffle
Sangfroid




























 







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Highlights from the Archives. Some favorite Trillian moments.

Void, Of Course: Eliminating Expectations and Emotions for a Better Way of Life

200i: iPodyssey

Macs Are from Venus, Windows is from Mars Can a relationship survive across platform barriers?
Jerking Off

Get A Job

Office Church Ladies: A Fieldguide

'Cause I'm a Blonde

True? Honestly? I think not.

A Good Day AND Funyuns?

The Easter Boy

Relationship in the Dumpster

Wedding Dress 4 Sale, Never Worn

Got Friends? Are You Sure? Take This Test

What About Class? Take This Test

A Long Time Ago, in a Galaxy Far Far Away, There Was a Really Bad Movie

May Your Alchemical Process be Complete. Rob Roy Recipe

Good Thing She's Not in a Good Mood Very Often (We Knew it Wouldn't Last)

What Do I Have to Do to Put You in this Car Today?

Of Mice and Me (Killer Cat Strikes in Local Woman's Apartment)

Trillian: The Musical (The Holiday Special)

LA Woman (I Love (Hate) LA)

It is my Cultureth
...and it would suit-eth me kindly to speak-eth in such mannered tongue

Slanglish

It's a Little Bit Me, It's a Little Bit You
Blogging a Legacy for Future Generations


Parents Visiting? Use Trillian's Mantra!

Ghosts of Christmas Past: Mod Hair Ken

Caught Blogging by Mom, Boss or Other

2003 Holiday Sho-Lo/Mullet Awards

Crullers, The Beer Store and Other Saintly Places

Come on Out of that Doghouse! It's a Sunshine Day!

"...I had no idea our CEO is actually Paula Abdul in disguise."

Lap Dance of the Cripple

Of Muppets and American Idols
"I said happier place, not crappier place!"

Finally Off Crutches, Trillian is Emancipated

Payless? Trillian? Shoe Confessions

Reality Wednesday: Extremely Local Pub

Reality Wednesday: Backstage Staging Zone (The Sweater Blog)

The Night Secret Agent Man Shot My Dad

To Dream the Impossible Dream: The Office Karaoke Party

Trillian Flies Economy Class (Prisoner, Cell Block H)

Trillian Visits the Village of the Damned, Takes Drugs, Becomes Delusional and Blogs Her Brains Out

Trillian's Parents are Powerless

Striptease for Spiders: A PETA Charity Event (People for the Ethical Treatment of Arachnids)

What's Up with Trillian and the Richard Branson Worship?

"Screw the French and their politics, give me their cheese!"


















 
Mail Trillian here





Trillian's Guide to the Galaxy gives 5 stars to these places in the Universe:
So much more than fun with fonts, this is a daily dose of visual poetry set against a backdrop of historical trivia. (C'mon, how can you not love a site that notes Wolfman Jack's birthday?!)

CellStories

Alliance for the Great Lakes


Hot, so cool, so cool we're hot.

Ig Nobel Awards

And you think YOU have the worst bridesmaid dress?

Coolest Jewelry in the Universe here (trust Trillian, she knows)

Red Tango

If your boss is an idiot, click here.

Evil Cat Full of Loathing.

Wildlife Works

Detroit Cobras


The Beachwood Reporter is better than not all, but most sex.



Hey! Why not check out some great art and illustration while you're here? Please? It won't hurt and it's free.

Shag

Kii Arens

Tim Biskup

Jeff Soto

Jotto




Get Fuzzy Now!
If you're not getting fuzzy, you should be. All hail Darby Conley. Yes, he's part of the Syndicate. But he's cool.





Who or what is HWNMNBS: (He Whose Name Must Not Be Spoken) Trillian's ex-fiancé. "Issues? What issues?"







Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.


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Reading blogs at work? Click to escape to a suitable site!

Mamas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Smart Girls
(A Trillian de-composition, to the tune of Mamas, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys)

Mama don’t let your babies grow up to be smart girls
Don’t let them do puzzles and read lots of books
Make ‘em be strippers and dancers and such
Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be smart girls
They’ll never find men and they’re always alone
Even though men claim they want brains

Smart girls ain’t easy to love and they’re above playing games
And they’d rather read a book than subvert themselves
Kafka, Beethoven and foreign movies
And each night alone with her cat
And they won’t understand her and she won’t die young
She’ll probably just wither away

Mama don’t let your babies grow up to be smart girls
Don’t let them do puzzles and read lots of books
Make ‘em be strippers and dancers and such
Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be smart girls
They’ll never find men and they’re always alone
Even though men claim they want brains

A smart girl loves creaky old libraries and lively debates
Exploring the world and art and witty reparteé
Men who don’t know her won’t like her and those who do
Sometimes won’t know how to take her
She’s rarely wrong but in desperation will play dumb
Because men hate that she’s always right

Mama don’t let your babies grow up to be smart girls
Don’t let them do puzzles and read lots of books
Make ‘em be strippers and dancers and such
Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be smart girls
They’ll never find men and they’re always alone
Even though men claim they want brains





























Life(?) of Trillian
Single/Zero

 
Saturday, December 10, 2011  
So, I had (yet) another interview. One might think that after two years and all the interviews I've had that a) I'd have a job offer, b) nothing asked or said at an interview would come as a surprise to me, and/or c) I must really suck at interviewing because I haven't been offered a job.

One might think all of that. And one might be correct about all of that. Those are fair assumptions. And I grapple with that every day and night. One might even say I'm obsessed with all three of those assumptions.


Interviews tend to fall into three types.
1) Functional. The "Here are details about the job description, we are looking for someone who can..." and then "How can you help us, specifically, with these job details?" type of interview.
2) Behavioral. The "You've read the job description, we've read your resume, HR talked to you at the pre-screen interview, you're clearly qualified to perform the tasks the job requires. And so are several hundred other people who applied for the job. We're here today to talk about you. We're a cohesive team, here, and personality fit is as important as the skill set. So tell us about yourself." type of interview.
3) WTF. The "We don't have a clue what we want or who we're looking for, but someone vacated a position and if we don't hire someone soon they'll take away the money allocated for that salary and once they do that it's impossible to get money reassigned for a new position so we just want a warm, breathing body at desk." type of interview.


There are other types (some really weird types), but generally my interview experiences fall into those three types.


Type 1 and Type 3 are "easy." Type 1 interviews require answers and dialog specific to the details and tasks of the job. If you know your profession, if you're experienced at the tasks presented in the job description, you then provide examples from your previous career experience that illustrates your knowledge and experience pertinent to what they're looking for in the job description. Type 3 interviews require a similar approach. They're not sure what or who they want, so you give 'em all you got with a positive personality spin and hope when they throw a dart at a wall of resumés they hit yours.


It's Type 2 that unnerves me the most. I know my "stuff." I have loads of relevant experience. My career has been my life for, well, most of my life. But. I also know that personality and symbiosis with the existing team are just as crucial, perhaps more crucial, when looking for a new team member. Particularly where there is the existing team has a very integrated synergy. You can suss out a few hints as to what sort of personality they want, but it's impossible to really know. I feel strongly that it's important to just be as "you" as possible under the circumstances and hope "you" are the type of personality that will fit in with the existing team. If "you" is "right" then it's not the right job for you. That's a well-worn platitude, but, it is true. These are the interviews where you're presented hypothetical situations (that are clearly drawn from real-life experiences of the interviewer) and you're asked "What would you do?" Sometimes it's just a very straightforward, "Tell me about yourself" inquiry. (No matter who says that, I always hear it in a cartoonish Austrian psychologist accent.) And the seemingly off the wall questions are asked. "If you were an animal, what would you be?" "What's your favorite color/book/vacation spot?" "What superhero power would you want to possess?" I have been asked that last question so many times that I'm starting to suspect The League of Justice actually exists and they're recruiting under the stealth cloak of innocuous job interviews.


I've had a lot of Type 2 interviews. I've been asked a lot of seemingly off-the-wall questions. Sometimes I feel like I've heard it all. But I know that's not true. I know that's not true because inevitably I'll go to the next interview and be asked some entirely new and weirder question. A few weeks ago I was asked to detail my feelings about the Revolutionary War. Not the causes (I've been asked that in other interviews). Not the tactical successes and failures. Not the leadership examples that are inspiring (or not). Nope, my feelings about the Revolutionary War. Erm, well, I presume you mean the American Revolutionary War. Just to clarify. Because I have different feelings about the French Revolution than I do about the American Revolution. And don't get me started on the Russian Revolution. But yeah, American Revolution...taxation without representation is negative thing, you know, not really good for anyone except the benefactor of the taxes. And, well, George III has never been my favorite monarch, and George Washington is my favorite president, so, you know, I feel pretty strongly about that. And, war, in general, makes me feel really sad and frustrated because of all the killing and devastated lives. And I feel you can't really talk about the Revolution without talking about the War of 1812 and Canada and Native Americans...it's a real hornet's nest that's often written off as an epilog or sidebar or even a footnote, but, you know, it's kind of a big deal in terms of territories, especially the Great Lakes (motioning toward Lake Michigan conveniently located in view of the window of the interview conference room). Right. So, yeah, that's a little of what I feel about the Revolutionary War. I did not mention my strong feelings about people to spend their free time re-enacting Revolutionary War battles. I did not mention that none of my ancestors even stepped foot on American soil until after WWI and that certain members of my family feel the War of 1812 hasn't really been resolved. Doesn't matter. I didn't get that job. Apparently I don't have the right feelings about the Revolutionary War. Or didn't articulate them well enough. Had I known I would be asked to give a dissertation on my feelings about a very complex war fraught with many issues, battles, leadership successes and failures and government policies I would have prepped a better summation of my feelings about all of that. But, stepping back for a minute, what do my feelings (or even knowledge) about the Revolutionary War have to do with my ability to serve as a creative marketing manager? I mean sure, parallels can be drawn, but I really do not like to think of my career, my job, my office or my co-worker and clients in terms of war, or how they relate to war. I'm pretty sure I dodged a bullet (perhaps literally) by not getting a job offer from them, but, on the other hand, I'm still unemployed and beyond desperation, so, getting hit by a couple painful job-related bullets wouldn't exactly be a bad thing.



Recently I had a lengthy interview that started out as a functional interview. Lots of questions about my previous experiences and my skills. But then the VP appeared and the real fun started. Lots of open-ended questions that were clearly geared toward finding the right personality for their team.


There's one I've been asked in the past, and it haunts me on deep levels.


"If all barriers were removed: Money, skills, logistics, etc., what would you do now and with your life in general?"



Yeah. That's a loaded question.

There's another version of this question that I've been asked several times, as well. "What was your vision/dream of your future when you were seven years old?"



For me, those questions are the same and one answers the other.

If all barriers were removed I would be living the life I envisioned when I was seven.

I would be a rock guitarist traveling around the world giving money to people who need it, saving/rescuing animals, creating all kinds of art, going to concerts and giving poor oppressed people money and escape routes to out from under evil dictators and I'd make an evil dictator island where all the evil dictators would live and be evil to each other (problem solved). I would also have a submarine that looks like a whale in which I would take long underwater trips traveling with whale pods. And I'd get NASA training and tag along on intergalactic missions and collect intergalactic geological samples. And I'd take lots of photographs.



I'm always careful to include those last parts and the evil dictator island part because without them I'm basically dreaming of being John Lennon. And that's just too weird and difficult for me to process. (So instead I basically dream of being Richard Branson. Hey, I never said I was sane. You're the one still reading this.)


Fortunately (apart from the evil dictator island and intergalactic geology trips) my seven-year-old me dreams and my no barriers ideas aren't, you know, too weird.

So when I'm asked these questions at job interviews my confident answer is, "Effectively I'd do the same thing - creating, managing marketing projects. But I'd reach farther, with a broader scope, and for philanthropic causes rather than capitalistic goals." Not too bad, right? I mean, a little on the Pollyanna side but not too smarmy and shows dedication to the profession. Right?

It's not like I'm saying, "Oh, I'd still want to do this job!" or "I'd be a Formula One race driver!" or "I'd feed and educate orphans in the Third World. And then eradicate AIDS, cancer and restless leg syndrome." All things I'd do if there were absolutely no barriers. Because if there were no barriers whatsoever nothing would stop me from knowing everything and if I knew everything I could unlock every riddle and solve every problem including eradicating deadly diseases and banishing evil dictators to an evil dictator island.

It's a dumb question on a lot of levels which is why I find those questions asked at interviews so tedious. People either lie (ridiculously) or just stumble through an answer they think hits a sane middle ground between what they hope shows sane/responsible/ambitious/kind and a beauty pageant speech. There have been a few instances where I had to fight every fiber of my being to not reply to this question with, "I'd buy this company and force you to sit where I am now and answer that question with the knowledge that your employment and future hinges on the answer to that ridiculously irrelevant question."


You hear about unemployed people who've given up their job search. I hear other people, employed people, say, "How? How can they just give up on finding a job? Why would they stop trying?" I have an answer. Because when they go on interviews instead of useful dialog about the job, their experience and skills, they're asked stupid beauty pageant questions like, "If there were no barriers, money, training, skills, etc., what would you do?"




The thing is, though, every time I'm asked those questions my mind gets kind of stuck in that zone and it's difficult to recover. The rest of the day I'm lost in my head fantasizing about being a rock-and-roll philanthropist with a whale-shaped submarine. And then I take one of two mindpaths. I fantasize about somehow suddenly, magically, having limitless funds and what I'd do - as in map out a "practical" plan starting from the minute the money is bestowed upon me. Or, I think about what I "should" learn from my thoughts to the "if the were no barriers/what were your plans when you were seven" questions.


From there it's just short trip down Oh-Crap-What-Have-I-Done-to-My-Life Lane. Just turn left on How-Did-I-Let-This-Happen Street, go two blocks and turn right on How-Can-I-Salvage-The-Sordid-Remains-of-My-Life Avenue, then veer left onto the Boulevard of Broken Dreams. You can't miss it, just follow the signs to the Seething Pit of Despair.


I dunno. Right now I just want a full-time job with a steady paycheck. Yeah, I'm dreaming big these days. The rock guitar wielding artist/philanthropist career and the whale-shaped submarine and intergalactic rock hunting can wait.

Yes, a wandering guitar-wielding artist philanthropist with a soft heart for animals and human rights who likes to spend prolonged periods of time underwater and in confined spaces sounds like a great life, perfect for me. But now is not the right time. 




I know, I know, if not now, when? Well. I do have barriers and I'm not seven-years-old. 


I know, that whale-shaped submarine sounds like a really great idea and I could live on it which would solve my housing, erm, "situation," but I'm pretty sure submarines, especially whale-shaped submarines, are kind of expensive. And I haven't seen any job postings reading, "Submariner wanted. No experience necessary, training provided. Willingness to travel in whale pods required."


And yes, I think I'd be a pretty darned good philanthropist. But I don't have philanthropist funds. And I haven't seen any job postings reading, "Philanthropist adviser wanted. Compassion and ability to suss out worthy causes required." 


See what I mean? Those stupid "Tell me about yourself" interview questions really get under my skin. Too deeply under my skin. I know this. But two years of unemployment messes with your head in ways you cannot imagine. (Unless you've been unemployed two years, in which case you know what I mean.) Which takes me straight back to, "I must really suck at interviews because two years and several interviews later, I'm still unemployed." Which makes me replay and replay and replay again all the questions I've been asked at interviews and how I responded to them. What am I doing wrong, what do I need to change...all that. Then stir in the "what's holding you back from pursuing what you really want out of life" can of worms and...ugh.

I wonder if employers realize the emotional toll their stupid, irrelevant questions take on job candidates. Because unless they're offering unlimited funds, time, training and access, the "what would you do if you had no barriers" question is utterly irrelevant and only serves to make candidates spiral into existential funks.

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8:33 PM

Wednesday, December 07, 2011  
The past couple years have been really rough on my sense of security and personal stability. When I can't sleep (pretty much every night) I recite this, "No matter what happens, no matter how much farther my life spirals out of control, I know..." and then I complete the sentence with irrefutable facts about myself. The list of irrefutable facts about myself is exponentially smaller with each passing day of unemployment.

And just when I was certain that of at least one thing, the fact that Alec Baldwin and I would never have anything in common, we both flew on American Airlines on the same day and we both had, um, issues. Apparently Tuesday was American Airlines' Be Cranky to Passengers Day.

WARNING: Rant ahead.

My mother is on the mend and home recovering quickly. Yay. That's not the rant. That's a good thing.

The gentlemen callers abated for now. That's also not a rant. That's sort of a good thing. I mean, it's good for me because I don't want to think about things like step-fathers and my mother's romantic life. But if my mother wants to date that's okay, too. I'd just rather not know about it.

I had an opportunity to interview for a job. Yay. That's not the rant, either. That's a good thing.

The interview required a plane trip. This is where the rant begins.

Yes. It's an airline rant. Blah blah blah ad infinitum. I know, we've all heard it all.

But.

I have logged a lot of air miles in my life. I have logged a lot of air miles in the past 15 years of my life. A lot of air miles. The sort of air miles one accrues when one has a job which requires often twice monthly cross-country meetings and when one is in a trans-Atlantic long-distance relationship/engagement for several years and when one has endured prolonged critical illnesses in  parents who live over 200 miles away. I'm not in the million mile club, but, let's just say it's not that far out of the realm of possibility for me to qualify for membership. I flew a lot prior to 9-11 and I have flown a lot post 9-11.

I feel a need to preface my rant with those disclaimers because, with all of those air miles logged, I have a disproportionally low number of airline rants. And on the rare occasions I do rant, it's usually about other passengers, not the airlines.

But.

American Airlines let me down big time. And that's not just a disgruntled flyer ranting because they didn't get their way. American Airlines screwed up so badly that even their flight attendant approached me, of her own accord, unsolicited or invoked by me, and told me I should contact customer service. She then proceeded to give me a "special" email and phone number for complaints. The "special" email and phone number they don't publish on their website.

Gosh, Trill, what the heck happened?

In order to get to this interview I had to make flight arrangements on very short notice. Many of the most convenient flights were sold out. So I opted to depart from a smaller regional airport on American Eagle. This was not a huge deal to me - I have flown on the smaller American Eagle fleet quite a lot between Michigan and Chicago. Not ideal in terms of comfort, but not awful, either. And since 9-11 I've grown rather fond of smaller regional airports and the comparative congeniality they offer.

My rant is not about the smaller regional airport. I stand by my opinion on smaller airports. Smaller airport = fewer travelers = shorter (nonexistent) security lines = friendlier, saner, smarter TSA agents = making the best of post 9-11 airport rules.

I didn't have easy or timely access to a printer, so I couldn't do the advance check-in. I'd have to suck it up and deal with airport check-in. But, not a huge deal because I was using a smaller regional airport. 

Okay. So. I have a carry-on suitcase that I have been using for the past four years. A quick calculation culled from air mile logs and which flights the suitcase in question flew indicates that suitcase has logged at least 25,000 miles in the past four years. Yes. It's held up remarkably well. It's held up well because I only use it when I'm flying short distances for a couple days and I carry it on. But here's the thing about me and this carry-on suitcase: When gate-checking is an option, I gate check it. Always. I'm not a big fan of overhead bins. I'm even less of a fan of passengers who attempt to stow suitcases in overhead bins. I make exceptions for some larger planes, or when flying in first or business class.

I want to take this opportunity to mention that the suitcase in question fits into the size-check template thingy at the airport check-in lines.


Right. So. I rolled into the small regional airport with my trusty carry-on. It still had the red valet gate-check tag from previous flights.

I'm a self-check-in kiosk kind of gal. Especially when I'm not checking luggage. There was one person being served at American Airlines' one ticket counter. There was another person using the sole self-check-in kiosk. I queued up behind the kiosk. Meanwhile, a woman with two children and several suitcases, strollers, car seats and, I kid you not, a Coleman picnic cooler (the kind with wheels) queued up behind the singular ticket counter. The person at the ticket counter finished their business and the agent summoned me to the counter. Okay, yes, it was nice of him to offer to serve me before the woman with all the stuff, and technically I was there first, but like I said, I'm a self-check-in kiosk kind of gal.

I said, "Oh, that's okay, I'm not checking anything (glancing sympathetically to the woman with the kids and all the stuff), I'll just use the kiosk."

The agent took a more forceful tone and said, "Your bag is too large to carry on."

I honestly didn't realize he was talking to me. I thought he was addressing the other woman, the one with the kids and a ton of stuff including a picnic cooler. I continued to wait for the kiosk.

"Ma'am, you cannot use the self check-in kiosk if you are checking a bag and your bag is too large to carry on."


Oh. He's talking to me. He called me ma'am. I hate being ma'amed. My bag is not too large to carry on, I've been carrying it on for four years. I hate being ma'amed.

I made the universal "oh, you mean me?" face and accompanying pointing at oneself gesture.

The agent told me to step up to the counter to check in.

I smiled, brightly, and said, "I carry this on all the time, usually I gate-check it. See? I already have the official red gate-check valet tag on it. I'll just wait for the kiosk," again, motioning toward the woman with the kids and all the stuff to check.

"That bag is not regulation size, you have to check it."

It was at this point that my easy-going attitude turned, shall we say, less congenial. I've flown from this airport in the past, on American Eagle. I knew darned well that the overhead bins won't accommodate anything larger than a small handbag and all carry-ons are gate-checked. So in actuality the size of the carry-on is moot because everything gets gate-checked because nothing fits in the overhead bins.

I took a deep emotionally cleansing breath and said, "It is regulation size, but it doesn't matter, I'm gate-checking it, which I have done in the past, see? The official red gate-check valet tag?"

"Put it in the baggage sizer. Prove to me it's regulation size."

Okay, Mr. Smug Smarmypants, Mr. I Have to Wear a Nametag to Work, Mr. I'm in Charge Here, I'll "prove" to you that it's regulation size.

In order to get to the baggage template size thingy I had to get through the cacophony of stuff the woman with the kids had cluttering up the aisle. She had to move a stroller, car seat and the cooler in order for me to access the baggage sizer template thingy.

My bag fit into the template but there was a metal edge along the bottom that made one side of my suitcase jut up about 1-1/2".

The agent triumphantly yelled, yes, yelled from behind the safety of his ticket counter, "I told you it's not regulation size."

I said, "There's an edge of metal, a bar along the bottom that's making it protrude." I gestured to the bottom of the baggage sizer template thingy, and said, "See?"

He said, "I cannot come to that side of the counter. And I can see from here that your bag does not fit into the regulation baggage sizer."

"It fits, it's just protruding because of the metal bar along the bottom!"

He said, "I will not allow that bag as a carry-on. You have to check it."

I said, with a smile, "I'm gate-checking it."

And here's where I probably did a bad thing. The self-check-in kiosk was now available. So I picked up my carry-on, ignored the agent and proceeded check-in at the self-service check-in kiosk.

I know, I know, I shouldn't mess with "authority" at an airport. I know. Okay? I know. And I especially shouldn't mess with "authority" at an airport when I'm flying to a job interview.

And no, I typically don't have a problem with authority. For the record, I'm even okay with rent-a-cops, doormen, and the aforementioned TSA agents. But I do have issues with "authority." People who are not actually in positions of actual authority but because they're behind the desk wearing a smock/embroidered logo polo shirt and a name badge and handing out required tickets, receipts, change, whatever pittance is required to pass from one area to another, they perceive themselves to be authorities, in charge. Hand gesture of airquote *authority* hand gesture of unairquote.

Perhaps I was a bit too defiant. I'll admit that yes, I was acting a bit, you know, defiant. But. My carry-on was regulation sized. The stupid baggage sizer template thingy had a metal bar along one edge which caused my suitcase to protrude over the size allotment. Their fault, not mine.

But that didn't matter. I was on his turf and I had to play by his rules. I like small regional airports, but, the downside is that small regional airports are staffed by small regional people. Cue the Deliverance theme song.

Unfortunately that thought didn't occur to me until after I said, "I realize your employer is in bankruptcy and you're probably worried about losing your job, but extorting $25 from passengers by way of a baggage sizer scam is not going to get your airline out of debt or save your job." 

Yadda yadda yadd the agent told me he was going to call security.

Yadda yadda yadda I told him to go ahead and call security because I'd like them to see the scam he's running with the baggage sizer template thingy.

Yadda yadda yadda it turns out the security guard and the agent are good friends.

Yadda yadda yadda $25 later I was relieved of my carry-on and escorted to the "special" security area.

However, it turns out the TSA agents don't think too highly of airport rent-a-cop security guards. Turns out TSA agents think airport rent-a-cop security guards are as Barney Fife as us civilians do. Turns out TSA agents enjoy exerting their actual authority over the rent-a-cop security guards who only have "authority." I was given the VIP, smiling, go on through, have a nice flight treatment from the TSA agents. They made a big show of congenially passing me through security without the extra security pat-downs the rent-a-cop security guard was craving.

I went to the gate without further incident.

And that's when I got really angry. The flight was full and there were many people waiting to board at the gate. I looked around for a place to sit. And quickly realized there wasn't a place to sit because bar none, everyone at the gate had carry-on suitcases taking up all the extra seats and space around the chairs. The carry-ons were all the size of mine or larger. Several college-aged kids had large rolling duffels at least 6" - 8" larger than my carry-on. What the...?

And this is when I got really, really angry. The woman with the kids, strollers, car seats, suit cases and Coleman picnic cooler arrived at the gate. She arrived with all her strollers, car seats, suit cases and yes, the Coleman picnic cooler. All of which had the coveted red gate-check valet tags. Double what the...? None of that crap was regulation sized. None of it. To keep myself from completely losing it, going insane and going postal, I'm forcing myself to assume that she's a medical courier with proper ID and official papers and the picnic cooler contained either a vital organ for a transplant or a crucial rare antidote serum for a child dying of a rare disease. Or it carried breast milk for her small child.

Sidebar: I'm unemployed. I'm losing my home. I have almost no money. $25 is a big stinking deal to me. $25 is my entire food budget for two weeks, often for three weeks. So the unexpected outlay of $25 was a source of anxiety and stress for me as well as a bona fide financial hardship. And yes, I know, if you can't afford the baggage fee, you shouldn't be flying. Believe me, I wouldn't have been flying were it not for a job interview in a distant city. An important job interview for which I wanted to get a good night of rest, hence my desire to not wait around the airport a second longer than necessary, hence my desire to carry-on my regulation-sized suitcase. The extra time spent waiting at the baggage claim was equally as inconvenient to me as the $25 fee. And equally unnecessary.


We boarded, I arrived at my destination, a very, very large metropolitan airport. I trudged to the baggage claim area and waited. And waited. And waited. I began to worry because even though the baggage claim monitor listed my flight number, I was the only person waiting at that baggage carousel. Eventually a flight attendant from my flight appeared. She smiled at me. I managed a smile at her.

And then she came over and said, "I recognize you from my flight. You know that you pick up your bag at the gate, right? The bags are gate-checked and when you deplane you wait on the jetway and they unload the gate-checked bags."

"Yeah, I know the drill. But they made me check my bag. The agent said it wasn't regulation sized and called security on me. I had to pay $25 to check my bag."

The flight attendant looked at me with increasingly furrowed eyebrows.

"No one checks bags on that flight. We gate-check everything. I had a long layover and did some shopping, so I have a few things coming on the baggage carousel but no one else checked anything to arrive here. A few passengers checked bags through to other destinations, but not here. I even saw a woman gate-checking a cooler! Are you sure they didn't gate-check your bag?"

I looked around again. It was still just me and the flight attendant. The baggage claim area was taking on a Twilight Zone atmosphere.

"Well, I dunno. The agent at the counter made me check my suitcase."

"Is it really large? You know, over-sized?"

"Nope. It's a normal carry-on sized. I've carried it on a lot of flights and never had a problem. But there was this metal bar along the bottom edge of the baggage-sizer template thingy that made my bag jut above the top of the template frame and the agent made me check it and pay $25 and called security on me."

"Good God. I'm so sorry. Here, let me write down a phone number and email for you. We have a special complaint line for passengers who were inconvenienced more than is acceptable. Tell them what you told me."

We both stood there in awkward silence waiting for the baggage carousel to spring to life. 45 minutes after our flight landed the buzzer squawked and the conveyor sprang to life. 10 minutes later the flight attendant's boxes appeared. She wasn't kidding, she did some serious shopping. 10 minutes after her boxes and suitcase appeared, my measly little carry-on came rolling out of the baggage abyss.

My issue ended better than Alec Baldwin's. I was only out $25 and an extra hour of time. I wasn't escorted off the plane and I arrived at my destination as scheduled. Other than the ticket counter agent and the airport rent-a-cop the airline and TSA personnel were friendly, efficient and helpful.

But now I'm back to square one regarding my sense assurance in at least one aspect of my life. Since Alec Baldwin and I now have something in common I'm back to square one with finding something, one certain fact about myself that I can rely on cling to like a security blanket. I have to find another way to finish the sentence, "No matter what happens, no matter how much farther my life spirals out of control, I know..."

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8:15 PM

 
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