Category Archives: rants

A Study in Suck

Those who follow me on social media have been privy to my consistent griping about the Washington DC metro. Since ankle surgery, I’ve been able to take my car and park at work, but now that the ankle is healing, I will be back to taking the Metro next month.

You know it’s got to be bad when someone actually created a website entitled “Is Metro On Fire?” Accessing this site allows riders to know whether or not their metro line is actually ablaze. And if you want to know how often this happens…

metro…well, all you have to do is read this. Apparently metro was on fire 73 times in the first three months of 2016. SEVENTY-THREE times. This does include instances of smoke in the subway system, which apparently Metro officials protested as not being incidents of fire, such as malfunctioning train brakes that fill a station with smoke, or a third rail that is arcing so severely that the fire department is called, because apparently there are different definitions of “smoke” and “fire.” Regardless of the quibbling, can you imagine the second largest public transit system in the United States catching fire that many times in the first quarter of the calendar year?

Seriously? What in the everloving, rollerblading, couch-humping hell?

The press is freaking out about alleged Metro under funding. Congress won’t give metro more money, and is actually cutting funding for the ageing system! Metro doesn’t have a dedicated funding stream and has to go begging for money from the jurisdictions it services! Oh NOES!

For metro, it’s all about Mo’ Money! Mo’ Money! Mo’ Money! How can they be expected to run a busy transit system in the nation’s capital on a mere $2.8 billion (based on FY16 numbers)?

Oh, I dunno… perhaps not paying 70 percent of its budget to labor costs would be a good start?

Labor costs constitute over 70% of the 2014 WMATA budget, making it the single largest expenditure WMATA has to worry about. And it’s no wonder why it’s the largest bit. In 2011, during the middle of the recession, Amalgamated Local 689, the WMATA union, dragged a 3 percent annual raise out of management. The agency’s board declined to protect taxpayers and riders by not appealing the arbitration result. Naturally, riders were incensed—but WMATA paid no heed.

Now, I did a fair bit of analyzing of defense spending in my previous days. That’s a lot of labor costs! NATO, our biggest alliance, sets a benchmark that encourages its members to spend no more than 50 percent of their defense budgets on military and civilian personnel costs. There are reasons for that. While the biggest percentage of any budget is normally personnel costs, 70 percent is pretty outrageous and usually indicated bloated salaries – especially for high-ranking or connected personnel. It’s how much Greece spends as a percentage of its defense budget on salaries and benefits, and we know what an economic shit show that country is!

The average salary for a WMATA employee is $78,000 per year! And given the bloated personnel budget, that leaves precious little money for actual maintenance of the equipment that carries hundreds of thousands of passengers to their destinations. There are 488 station managers taking naps working inside glass kiosks at rail stations, and their base salaries are in the high $50,000s. However, given overtime, these guys take home closer to $70,000, and when you factor in overtime, at least 20 station managers took home a six-figure salary, according to a 2012 press report.

And you know what it takes to fire one of these tools? Apparently almost killing a whole lot of people! This douchebag was in such a hurry to get to his break at a location with some good places to stuff his face, that he decided “fuck the red signal!” And this wasn’t his first time being a reckless jackass with other people’s lives!

The operator was on his rail job less than a year after transferring from WMATA’s bus division. As a bus driver for about two years, he racked up three moving violations: two red light overruns and an illegal right turn on red. As a train operator, he added two unspecified safety violations before the potentially disastrous red signal overrun.

And while the system doesn’t have a dedicated funding stream, they do have a nearly guaranteed revenue source in this area – the federal government. Federal employees get transit benefits – $240 per month. You think they won’t use them? And there are quite a few of them. Why not use the benefit, if one can? And it allows the Metro to provide shitty service, because… well… they’re getting that money. It’s not like federal workers are spending their own money on the commute, so it doesn’t hit their wallet.

Thirty-five Metrorail stations serve federal facilities and 42 percent of Metrorail’s peak period commuters are federal employees. On Metrobus, 16 percent of peak period commuters are federal employees. The federal government contributes roughly 56 percent of the capital costs. Fares and other revenue currently fund 56 percent of the daily operations, while state and local governments fund the remaining 44 percent.

So a system that’s on fire so often, there’s a site dedicated to informing riders when they’re in danger of… you know… DYING, that brags its stations are oh so clean (Then why did I actually find a turd on the mezzanine of the Ballston metro station last year? Yes, a real piece of poop. On the floor.), that is running unreliably, or not at all, some days, and that is pissing off riders so badly, they’re losing ridership despite the government transit benefit, wants more money to… do what? It wants to raise fares. Again. It wants to cut service. Even more. And it expects people to just suck it up. At some point, the transit benefit isn’t worth it. It doesn’t matter if it’s free to get to work. When it takes you two hours to ride the orange line 10 stops, it’s just not worth it, and the feds are starting to realize it too, while Congress even tried to pass a bill giving federal employees the option to use the benefit for other options, like Uber.

Overall, Metro is just a study in FAIL.

Shitty employee training.

Preferential racial hiring.

Lack of required annual re-certifications.

Intentional sabotage of equipment.

Poor safety practices.

Political infighting.

Idiotic priorities – no, I don’t think riders care whether some Metro moron is wearing his uniform correctly. They care about getting to their destination in a reasonable amount of time!

Lack of accountability and planning for growth.

Crappy maintenance.

Do I need to go on? No.

If Metro was run like a business, rather than a cushy jobs program for barely literate, incompetent ass clowns, maybe then things would get fixed. But since funding is pretty much guaranteed, there’s no incentive to change.


They can’t fit to allow the door to close. If the door can’t fully close, the train can’t move. If the train can’t move, you’re stuck at the station until several of these people step off the train to allow the door to close.

And it’s the taxpayers, who pay for the system whether they use it or not, and those who wind up stuck in a tunnel for 20 minutes in stifling heat with 1000 of their closest buds rubbing up against them in the summer, who suffer most.

I wouldn’t even mind a dedicated funding stream for metro, if we had any faith that the idiots who run the system would actually fix the long list of what’s wrong with it. But considering their track record (no pun intended), and the big, fat fail that has been their “safetrack” repair initiative so far, I can’t trust them to use the money wisely.

Rob says they should shut down the system, fire everyone, and start from scratch. I would be OK with driving to work or taking Uber until they got their shit together.

Maybe metro should stop wondering why riders are abandoning the system and take a long look at the mirror.


This is what I mean (With “Amazing” Update)

When I wrote the other day that those who consider themselves the gatekeepers and elders in Science Fiction and Fantasy did not and still do not want any kind of real “reconciliation” with the Science Fiction fans known as the Sad Puppies, this is what I meant. The wonderful Kate Paulk addressed several issues on the entry on Brad’s blog I mentioned the other day, and she and I are in synch.

I’ve heard through the Internet (all right, Facebook) that someone who fancies himself a big shot in the field has “offered” to stop claiming Sad Puppies 4 is all things evil in return for a few “reasonable concessions” on our part.

Since the person in question hasn’t bothered to make this offer to me, Sarah Hoyt, or Amanda Green, Sad Puppy supporters can reasonably assume that the so-called offer is not actually genuine.

“Reasonable concessions?” Fuck you.

sad puppiesThe Sad Puppies weren’t the ones calling others Nazis, racists, misogynists and other choice epithets.

The Sad Puppies weren’t the ones blowing up entire categories at the Hugo awards ceremony, merely because they did not want deserving candidates supported by the wrong kind of fans to win.

The Sad Puppies weren’t the ones prancing around, offensively giving out ASSterisks.

They certainly weren’t the ones spreading lies and misinformation.

And after all of that, the self-proclaimed protector of all that is right and good (only in the eyes of the “right” kind of fans) excuses the name-calling and vile accusations (Oh, come on! The name-calling was ignorable, and “pretty funny, actually”!) by claiming that the Sad Puppies “pissed [him] off,” and all the Sad Puppies really had to do was “First – give us some real indication that SP and RP are not ‘riding in the same car’. Second – drop the final stage of the SPIV effort. Leave it as a pure recommendation list. (It will save Kate a lot of work to boot.)”

And in return, said self-proclaimed protector of all that is right and good in TruFandom will refrain from attacking the Sad Puppies for a whole two weeks! Well, Jesus Christ on a Fucking Popsicle Stick! How noble and magnanimous of him!

Who the fuck do you think you are, shitstick? Prove to me that you’re not the Nazi misogynist racists we’ve repeatedly accused you of being without a shred of proof, quit nominating works you actually like, and I’ll stop attacking you for two weeks? Go sodomize yourself with a cactus dipped in battery acid!

Now, you see why I find George R. R. Martin’s essay claiming that the other side wants reconciliation to be disingenuous at best?

Kate’s response is exactly what mine would have been – with a lot fewer swear words.

We do not care what the creators’ politics are. We do not care what the posters’ politics are. We care that people who love science fiction and fantasy have a place to build an awesome list of recommended reading/viewing/listening/artwork for 2015. We care that lots of people become involved in the Hugo Award process. Nobody is excluded from Sad Puppies 4. Anybody can participate or not as they choose. The recommendations will not vanish. Every recommendation will be in the final list. There’s no “gatekeeping” going on here, and no litmus test for participation…unlike the ultimatums being “offered” to the Sad Puppies.

When the final list is announced, we’ll post the top 10 for each category, whatever those might be, and link to the full list. Nothing will be hidden or secret. Anyone who wants to will be able to reconstruct the list from the recommendations posted here (I don’t suggest anyone actually does this. It’s tedious and time-consuming and I really should have written an application to do the grunt work for me. Hindsight is ever perfect).

Finally, we will not be publicly dissociating or associating Sad Puppies 4 from/with anyone. Anyone can make recommendations and everyone’s recommendations will have exactly the same weight as everyone else’s. Nobody will be asked to nominate or vote in line with the list. That’s been the policy from the start, and it’s been what I’ve said from the start.

If the person claiming to have made an offer had actually contacted me, this is exactly what I would have told him with or without his so-called “Puppy moratorium”.

You want reconciliation? Recognize that the fiasco of last year was a slap in the face to a lot of fine folks who work in the field. Admit it. Stop painting the Sad Puppies with the broad brush of your hatred. Vote for works, authors, editors, and other producers in the field who deserve to win – regardless of who recommends them.

And most of all, stop being arrogant, supercilious, self important fuck weasels. Your “offer of reconciliation” is condescending, insolent crap, and I’m glad Kate gave you the well-deserved middle finger, asshole.

UPDATE: So apparently the arrogant, supercilious asshole is also a coward. A comment on Kate’s blog, which she hardly ever uses, popped up this morning with the following, which Kate copied in its entirety to the Sad Puppies 4 page.

Ms. Paulk,

you asked for “demands” to be sent directly to you, so I will comply:

But I will only do it in a comment on a site you barely ever use. Sad Puppies 4 gets more traffic, and dog forbid he post it there.

It is my considered belief that Sad Puppies can help repair the divide within fandom by taking two actions:
1. make your SPIV recommendation list a real recommendation list, similar to others that are perceived as recommendation lists (as opposed to slates) by dropping your final stage of compiling a “top ten”.
2. make it clear that Sad Puppies are not aligned with Rabid Puppies.

My side attacked good people, made false claims, overtly and subversively offended and made false accusations against fans, authors, and editors, and submarined talented people in the field, but YOU Sad Puppies are the problem! YOU Sad Puppies are guilty! YOU Sad Puppies need to conform to what I demand and what I judge to be a recommendation list, because I’m the arbiter of all light and good in SF/F. YOU Sad Puppies need to prove to ME that you are not what we have repeatedly accused you of being!

You and other Sad Puppies have repeatedly claimed that your lists are recommendations (‘like what Scalzi does every year’).  However, they are not once you add that final stage of endorsement.  Drop that final stage and no reasonable person would consider it anything other than what you claim you want it to be.

Kate’s response was the following – everything she has said before, but apparently Mr. Amazing has reading comprehension issues.

And, just so there is no doubt about any of this: Sarah, Amanda, and I will be doing exactly what I said we were doing in yesterday’s post. We will not accede to anyone’s demands. We will not prevent anyone from making recommendations. We will not associate ourselves with any other group and we will not dissociate ourselves from any other group. We are compiling a list of the works people think are the best in their class and eligible for the 2016 Hugo Awards. Nothing more and nothing less.

But apparently, that’s not good enough. Sad Puppies MUST clearly address the false accusations against them, because Steve-o says so.

You and other Sad Puppies have also claimed that SP and Rabid Puppies are not one and the same, yet we see plenty of commentary that strongly suggests otherwise.  A statement by the leaders of SP IV  to the contrary would go a long way.

Oh, commentary like the hatchet job Entertainment Weekly had to correct? You mean like Irene Gallo’s nasty, repugnant “nazi” claim?

Fuck you, Steve. Pulling out accusations from your ilk and claiming that as evidence that commentary suggests SP and RP are one and the same is a transparent attempt to malign a whole lot of people who not only find racism to be repugnant and sick, but also spent a lifetime fighting it.

Those are the two things that I believe would place Sad Puppies in a far better position in regards to acceptance within fandom as a whole.  Doing those two things would lend far greater credence to your other arguments vis-a-vis the field.


There you have it, boys and girls. Steve doesn’t consider Sad Puppies real fans, and not only that but he’s apparently the arbiter of who receives what position in fandom as a whole.

Read Kate’s response, dick. That’s all you’re going to get.

Someone buy this racist knob gobbler a one way ticket out of the country she so hates!

So I have no idea who this Azealia Banks is. Frankly, I’m not up on pop culture, so this is the first time I’ve ever seen her name in print. Here’s what I do know. She’s apparently a rapper. She looks like the byproduct of unfortunate and sloppy anal sex session between Beetlegeuse and Iggy Pop. beetlejuice 074184-rounded-glossy-black-icon-alphanumeric-plus-sign-simple   a99_Iggy 13683094801441475873equal_sign2-78-hi Azealia-Banks-AP-640x480   And she recently gave an interview with Playboy, telling the magazine that she hates the United States, and specifically “racist conservative white people” and “fat white Americans.” “Do you want to leave the U.S.?” asked Playboy?

Yes! I hate everything about this country. Like, I hate fat white Americans. All the people who are crunched into the middle of America, the real fat and meat of America, are these racist conservative white people who live on their farms. Those little teenage girls who work at Kmart and have a racist grandma—that’s really America.

Really! The same America that elected a black president. Twice. The same America where black economists like Thomas Sowell and Walter Williams, black celebrities like Oprah Winfrey, successful CEOs like Kenneth Frasier and Ursula Burns, military leaders such as Colin Powell, scholars and foreign policy experts like Condi Rice, and actors such as Denzel Washington and Morgan Freeman continue to make history? That America? She hates farmers who provide the food that nourishes her ass. She hates teenage girls who are working in a store she obviously would not deign to patronize, because KMART! Dog forbid someone actually works for a living instead of puking forth barely literate cockspew and spreading their legs! She hates middle America, because they’re white, and apparently fat, according to her standards. This dumb cocksplurt read the word “misogynoir” somewhere and has decided to claim it as the slight du jour as justification for her hatred. Because she’s black, and she’s female, and therefore SHUT UP, RACIST!

Yeah, OK, fuckwit. The same America you claim to despise buys the cretinous spew you claim is music, which – if these lyrics are any indication – was written while in a meth haze while being sodomized by a rabid orangutan.

I take your brain to another dimension I take your brain in a parallel universe trip I’m the only no parallel bitch Things running and shit, maneuvered in deep Then I murder you and you spit Get your little outdated frozen a hip On the word click click How much is for this clip Blast it off last ‘er, you might be stuck on this dick Look at this bitch, tick tick What you do, wanna get hit hit Four fifth move quick, four fifth’s in the whip What dimension is this

That same America made you famous, and got you that spread in Playboy, so you can swing your udders and undulate your moldy meat curtains. That same America gives you the freedom to capitalize on that felched up vomit you call talent. That same America protects your right to be a bloated, greasy cuntmange and spew your hatred with impunity on the pages of a magazine that shows off your overly made-up, bloated cock hole. You hate racists? Look in the mirror, you shitslurping twunt. But get some eye bleach ready, because once you emerge from that Peruvian powder-laced vat of delusion in which you live, you may not like what you see. And by the way, since this is a free country, you’re free to take your jiggling saddle bags somewhere else, you fetid fuckbadger.

I should really post more

I know it’s been weeks since I’ve written anything. I needed a break. I haven’t really been in the mood to write. First, there was the snow, which prompted me to sit around in bed all day in my pajamas drinking hot tea and watching Law & Order reruns.

And now… I’m off on temporary duty to Miami.

I know… HARDSHIP! But you’d be surprised how crappy it feels to go from a foot of snow in DC to 85-degree heat with 10000 percent humidity down in southern Florida! So if you have a snarky comment about how you feel oh-so-sorry for me being down here, keep it to yourself, punkin, because all you’ll get from me is a one-fingered salute.

As for what I’ve been up to?


For those of you who don’t know, I’ve been a regular part of the GunBlog Variety Cast along with some awesome folks, including Sean Sorrentino and Erin Palette. I’ve been doing this for a while now, but I’ve been an abject FAIL at blogging about it, because I’m lazy. So go over there and listen. Surprisingly enough, I don’t bloviate about guns on this one, but rather foreign policy. Erin talks about prepping, Sean and Adam talk about… stuff, and other incredible, talented, and intelligent folks talk about guns and tech. It’s fun. You should check it out, if you want to find out what I sound like on the air (shout out to my broadcaster background!).

And no, I don’t curse.

So what’s been going on?

Well, for one, we kicked Maduro and his band of Venezuelan thugs in the nuts with some sanctions last week. And if you hear them whining that this means the United States is about to launch into some kind of military action against them, you can laugh a little, because they’re either ignorant, or just want to raise the level of whining. Fact is that they were sanctioned under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), which authorizes the President to regulate commerce after declaring a “national emergency” in response to any unusual or extraordinary foreign threat. It certainly doesn’t authorize any kind of military action.

Specifically, the E.O. targets those determined by the Department of the Treasury, in consultation with the Department of State, to be involved in:

  • actions or policies that undermine democratic processes or institutions;
  • significant acts of violence or conduct that constitutes a serious abuse or violation of human rights, including against persons involved in antigovernment protests in Venezuela in or since February 2014;
  • actions that prohibit, limit, or penalize the exercise of freedom of expression or peaceful assembly; or
  • public corruption by senior officials within the Government of Venezuela.

The E.O. also authorizes the Department of the Treasury, in consultation with the Department of State, to target any person determined:

  • to be a current or former leader of an entity that has, or whose members have, engaged in any activity described in the E.O. or of an entity whose property and interests in property are blocked or frozen pursuant to the E.O.; or
  • to be a current or former official of the Government of Venezuela;

What does this all mean? It means we don’t like corrupt thugs who steal money from their own people while undermining their basic rights using the U.S. financial system. So we cut off their access to it.

What else has been going on?

The Justice Department determined there was no basis for continued legal action against Darren Wilson, who last year shot Michael Brown in an action which was determined to be justified. Of course, Holder and the DOJ can’t leave well enough alone, so even though the shoot was good, they put out a report citing racism in the Ferguson PD writ large in an obvious attempt to mollify the screeching race hustlers. It is interesting to note that the report cites revenue generation being emphasized in the PD’s approach to law enforcement.

Patrol assignments and schedules are geared toward aggressive enforcement of Ferguson’s municipal code, with insufficient thought given to whether enforcement strategies promote public safety or unnecessarily undermine community trust and cooperation. Officer evaluations and promotions depend to an inordinate degree on “productivity,” meaning the number of citations issued. Partly as a consequence of City and FPD priorities, many officers appear to see some residents, especially those who live in Ferguson’s predominantly African-American neighborhoods, less as constituents to be protected than as potential offenders and sources of revenue.

This is a problem that’s not just limited to Ferguson. Nothing new and different there, and I’ve often been appalled at the outrageous fees and penalties imposed on citizens for engaging in a simple mistake or minor traffic violation. So I get it. It sucks.

But in the same breath, the DOJ’s report claims that “The harms of Ferguson’s police and court practices are borne disproportionately by African Americans, and there is evidence that this is due in part to intentional discrimination on the basis of race.”

Lemme ask ya something. If it is obvious that the city’s focus is on revenue generation, rather than public safety, and therefore, it views the PREDOMINANTLY AFRICAN-AMERICAN city as a source of revenue generation, wouldn’t it stand to reason that in a predominantly black city, the brunt of those revenue generation policies would be… um… black, and that the reason Ferguson’s law enforcement practices and policies overwhelmingly impact African-Americans is because THAT’S WHO PREDOMINANTLY LIVES IN THE FRIGGIN’ CITY?

But hey, some of us don’t go looking for racism under every bed and around every corner.

In response to said report, Ferguson’s city manager has resigned and a state judge will be in charge of all Ferguson cases. Every town needs scapegoats, I suppose. That, of course, didn’t mollify the stampeding hordes, and just this past weekend, two police officers were shot after working crowd control in Ferguson. Police charged Jeffrey Williams with the shooting. The suspect admits he fired the weapon, but claims he was aiming at someone else in the crowd.

I’m trying to wrap my head at the amount of fucking stupid it takes to make such an admission. Stupid #1) You fire your weapon into a crowd of fucking people. Stupid #2) You admit to doing so, but hey… you weren’t aiming at police, and I guess you were expecting to hit your mark dead on. In a crowd. You dimwitted, miserable FAIL of a fucktard. Stupid #2) The only two people you conveniently hit are two cops. How propitious, considering the demonstrations were all about supposed police “racism.”

And, of course, Holder has been sniveling about how much acts of violence against law enforcement are not to be tolerated. Never mind he and his DOJ are the ones fomenting said unrest!

OK, enough about that.

There was supposedly a ceasefire agreement reached in Ukraine. Well, it was reached, but if you’re thinking that it’s somehow been effective, you’d be wrong. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg says the ceasefire is “fragile.” I think while violence has been reduced some, he’s the master of the understatement. If you want a boots on the ground (so to speak) glimpse into what’s going on, you should follow U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt on Twitter. The Russians will tell you it’s not their fault – that it’s the separatists failing to abide by the ceasefire – that they have no control over said militants. Um… yeah… right. If you think that Moscow isn’t behind the continuous arming of separatists in the region, I have this bridge…

Yes, I know I should keep up with my blogging, but even I need a break sometimes, so if I’m not around, it’s because I’m busy having a life.

Air Travel Lament

I know you guys must be sick and tired of my making excuses for not blogging by telling you I’ve gone on another trip. But it’s true – I promise!

This time I jaunted off to Kyiv, Ukraine for a few days. Good times. I didn’t have my camera, so I didn’t take any photos, unfortunately, but I can tell you that they did a bang-up job cleaning up from the Maidan riots! The city looks cosmopolitan! Lots of beautiful architecture intermingled with soviet-era building wrecks. There’s no parking enforcement there, so cars are just kind of piled up any which way, blocking traffic and causing problems.

Despite all this, the food is amazing, the people are friendly for the most part, and I felt like I was in the middle of history being made!

We stayed next door to the Saint Sophia cathedral.


And only a couple of blocks from the Maidan where the protests took place only a few months ago.


It was a bit surreal, to say the least.

The trip over was marred by yet another strike of Lufthansa workers in Frankfurt. This happened the last time I was in Europe two weeks ago, but luckily did not affect my trip back, because I was on a United flight out of Frankfurt. This time… we were to fly Lufthansa into Frankfurt and then take a connecting flight to Kyiv, but that was not to be.

We were rebooked on a Turkish Airlines flight through Istanbul, which would put us in Kyiv six hours later than originally planned, keep us in the airport for five extra hours, and keep us on a transatlantic flight a bit longer. But you know what? Well worth it, because the Istanbul airport is awesome, and the service on Turkish Airlines is fantastic!

Speaking of airlines…

I’ve traveled quite a bit. I’ve taken Lufthansa, British Airways, Air France, KLM, Turkish Airways, and a whole host of U.S. airlines, and I have to say – as Americans, we ought to be ashamed!


Let me provide a few examples.

Boarding: Why is it all other airlines in the civilized world have figured out that boarding from the rear makes more sense than boarding from the front, where any douchebag with a suitcase big enough to carry a bovine carcass, sitting in row 10, will hold up the entire boarding process by trying to shove said oversized bag into the overhead compartment, causing at least two flight attendants to clog up the aisle helping him shove that thing up there, while the rest of the passengers wait in an endless queue?

Service: On every European airline I’ve traveled, you are kept as comfortable as you can possibly be on a 9-10 hour transatlantic flight. They keep you well hydrated, offering water or other drinks every hour or two. U.S. flights? Not so much. You’ll be lucky if you get some water without asking.

On every European flight, they offer you a hot, moist towel before a meal. You freshen up, you wipe your hands of grime. After all, who wants to see a long line of hundreds of passengers trying to file through the handful of lavatories just to wash their hands before a meal? Smart idea, right? Apparently not so for our American flights. Screw that. It takes extra work!

Turkish Airlines staff come around and give you a little pouch which contains a soft pair of socks – clean ones for you to use on the flight and keep afterward – a toothbrush and a little tube of toothpaste, some lip balm, because dehydration is a problem, and an eye mask, so you can sleep. The seats recline, with the bottom of the seat moving forward slightly for a more comfortable, complete reclining experience. The plane is clean. The video monitors are all equipped with a USB port, so you can actually charge your electronics in flight. And slippers. They give you slippers. You know why? Because your feet get gross in a pair of whatever shoes you’re wearing, and it’s nice to just be without shoes for a few hours while you fly.

No such luxuries on my United fight back home. You’d be lucky to get a clean seat. My monitor was covered in some sticky gunk that was likely there for weeks and had turned black. No way I was touching that shit! No extras. Nothing. You get your little cup of water, tea/coffee – if you ask for it – twice during the flight (not including meals), and some non-functioning headphones (I got those twice).

Food: Oh good lord! I can’t begin to describe the crimes against nature that were the meals on United, especially compared to what I’m accustomed to on other airlines! For example – on Turkish Airlines, you get handed an actual MENU. I had the salmon with horseradish sauce, sliced cheese with tomatoes and cucumbers, meatballs with rice and grilled vegetables, and a dessert, as well as a cup of water that came included with the meal in addition to whatever you wanted to drink when the drink cart came around. Coffee was fresh. Orange juice was actually fresh squeezed. Breakfast was a cheese omelet, fresh bread, coffee, etc. Lufthansa served pasta with tomato sauce and vegetables, as well as a nice, fresh roll, a bottle of water and a dessert. I’ve had shrimp salad, chicken teriyaki, an assortment of cheeses and other human food on European airlines that included actual… you know… silverware!

On this particular United flight back, I selected lasagna. The lasagna noodles were so tough and stale, that the cheap, plastic knife actually bent as I tried to slice into it! The roll – which I think was supposed to be a ciabatta roll – was so stale, that the cheap, plastic knife couldn’t even cut into it. I tore at it with my fork, which wasn’t much more effective at slicing the damn thing in half. Biting into it and chewing, I was grateful I didn’t break a tooth. The salad was nothing but lettuce with a single cucumber slice. The dessert was a recently-defrosted piece of crumb cake. Know how I know it was recently defrosted? Because when I bit into it, I received a not-so-welcome squirt of liquid that denotes something was recently rescued from a freezer. GAH.

I was feeling a bit under the weather, so I asked for some orange juice. Yuck. From concentrate with a bitter-ish aftertaste. At least the hot tea was good!

Booze: Free on any civilized airline.

Q: “How much is a glass of wine?”

A (haughtily): “This is Air France. It’s free.”

Any U.S. carrier.

Q: “How much is a beer with my dinner?”

A: “We only have Budweiser, and it will be $756 and your newborn.”

Listen, I’m not spoiled. I understand air travel isn’t always convenient or comfortable. But I also travel enough to know that we are doing something fundamentally wrong! We pay thousands of dollars to be treated like cattle with no extra effort to make customers even remotely less uncomfortable, while European carriers really go the extra mile.

And by the way, this is in no way an indictment of the flight attendants, who generally do the best with what they have, which isn’t much, and have to put up with a whole lot of crap from unhappy people. I generally try to be extra kind to them and not ask them for much, because I know they’re probably as miserable as the rest of us.

But a little extra from the airline in general would be nice.

I mean, if you’re going to be stuck on a 9-hour flight with a gargantuan guy next to you overflowing into your seat, shouldn’t you at least warrant a bloody face mask so you can sleep?

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