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Archive for October, 2009

Large Man Chronicles

October 30th 2009

Tips for the Modern Traveler

I may have one of the best jobs in the world. My job is to fly or drive all over this great land of ours and tell people the stuff my company makes is really good. Sometimes they buy the stuff. When they buy the stuff I thank them for buying the stuff. Sometimes I thank them with dinner and drink…sometimes a tee-shirt with my company’s logo on the front pocket… sometimes a round of golf. Not a bad gig – I get to go with them for the dinner and drink. I get to go with them for golf. Unless the customer is a woman, I let them enjoy the tee-shirts by themselves.

The job is exciting, sometimes even rewarding; but the logistics of this job are a bitch. I am either on a plane, in an airport, or in a car for hours on end.  In these travels, I often feel like that little kid in the movie The Sixth Sense. Early in the film he makes a very emotional revelation to Bruce Willis, “I see dead people”. My revelation here is close, but I see dumb people. (Spoken with the same Haley Joel Osment sniffle)

Here is what I mean…On what planet does it make sense to give a verbal bitch slap to the person that has the job of repairing your travel problem? Dumb…. I once stood in line behind a woman who (along with about 100 of us) was taken off of a plane because one of the engines died on the runway. I listened to her abuse the agent at the service desk from the moment she reached the counter. The angry passenger’s reply to, “Hi, may I help you?” was, “This is F-ing bullshit!”…then she continued with the foulest tirade I have heard since I asked my father in law if I could marry his daughter.  She spewed her hate filled filth in front of families with kids that were also in line. Why? What outcome was she expecting? Yes, I see dumb people. This is just one incident…I see dumb people all the time.

Maybe I’m missing something, but I was very appreciative of the fact that they discovered the dead engine while we were on the ground. I think taking off with only one engine just so this angry woman could make her appointment that afternoon would have bordered on irresponsible. You may disagree, but I despise crashing in airplanes…especially when these airplanes are really high in the air.

For the record; Ms. Angry Cursing Lady and I were both rescheduled on the same flight later that day. I was enjoying my cocktail in first class as she walked past me to get to her middle seat in coach. Gee, I wonder how that happened.

Tip # 1: Be nice. I am quoting the late, great cinematic icon Patrick Swayze from his masterpiece “Road House”…but it’s so simple it’s comical. BE NICE! I see this every week in every airport, or at every rental car counter; I see it at the front desk of every hotel. The travel industry has provisions in place for mistakes. Be nice and you will reap so much more than you really deserve because there was a thunderstorm in Atlanta. Be nice, and you will fly first class. Be nice, and you will stay in the Presidential Suite because somebody at corporate made a mistake. Be nice, and you’ll drive a Caddy instead of a Chevy because Alamo Rental Car is out of mini-vans.

In a tense situation, when you are really frustrated, when you are speaking to someone WHO CAN HELP, the first words out of your mouth should be something like, “I know that this is not your fault, but I’m in a jam. Can you help me?”…and be nice. This won’t always work; sometimes it is what it is. But the odds of something really good happening go way up when you choose to be decent. 

Often when I observe these fits of hysteria because there is a thunderstorm in Atlanta, or there was a rash of late check-outs at the Hyatt Place, I hear this, “Why don’t you take a look at how many miles I have?” or, “Do you know how many nights I stayed in this chain last year?” Trust me my dear Large Man readers, the person behind the counter has to consider everybody in line…not just one person.

Tip # 2: Deep inside their heart, the individual who is in the position to help you does not care how many miles you have. They do not care how many times you have stayed at their hotel chain. The corporation that gets your travel dollars may care, but the person behind the counter mostly cares about maintaining their dignity in a shitty job. The folks behind the counter would like to feel good about themselves while dealing with people who have the kind of job or life that allows for travel on airplanes, stays in nice hotels, and eating shrimp cocktail on corporate expense accounts. The people in this profession work unreasonable hours for marginal pay, and moderate benefits. Instead of offering your resume of travel perks, offer a compliment…a little flirtatious sweet talk goes a long way.

Just so you know that I can throw myself into the mix of dumb people, I’ll share a few of my faux pas as well. These are not as much dumb, as they are symptoms of CRI (See A Large Man Looks at 50).

 I’m in a different hotel room every night, therefore a different room number every night. If I leave for dinner, or to run an errand, often I will return to find that I have forgotten my room number, or at the very least I remembered it incorrectly – either way you’re hosed. This happened about once a month until I devised a strategy. Now that I have implemented the strategy, this issue only happens about 3 times per year. A 246% performance improvement…I think that calculation is correct, but I’m a salesman & chronicler – not a statistician.

Tip # 3: Write your room number on a piece of paper that will fit in your pocket or wallet…if you have no pockets available; write it on your hand. If you do write the number on your hand be careful with your hand washing technique until you check out of that particular hotel. Always avoid using a Sharpie; if you use a Sharpie you’ll go to the room number you stayed in on Monday all week long.

Oh and another one…Quite often, if I get a rental car after dark, the next morning I can never remember which car is mine, or where I parked. I walk out of my hotel into a parking lot that is a sea of white Toyota Camrys, silver Ford Fusions or black Chevy Impalas…any one of these cars could be mine. Thank goodness they now all have the automatic locks, so you just press the lock button on your key chain until you hear your car beep. That works when you’re the only business traveler on the lot…if you are standing in a hotel parking lot with two or more people, two or more cars beep at the same time. This can be frustrating and embarrassing to all participants. But it is kind of nice to see the other weary travelers trying to find their car too. It doesn’t make you feel less stupid, it just makes you feel less alone.

Tip # 4: Leave your hotel room during off minutes of the hour…leave at 7:05 rather than 7:00…8:37 rather than 8:30. There is a better chance to beep your car in solitude.

Finally…

I believe that we can all suffer a disconnect from reality in the course of our daily lives. Many of us do our jobs more by reflex and muscle memory than by intent of action. Every now and then, something odd comes up that forces us to handle a mishap, or oddity. The best way that I’ve heard this point explained is by an airline pilot. In describing her job, and justifying the substantial pay scale, she told me, “I’m not paid for what I do; I’m paid for what I can do”.  That made a lot of sense to me. Her point is that we don’t use our expertise every minute of our work day.

Any of us who work in a service related industry can sometimes lose sight of the fact that we do what we do every day, but others may not.  I understand the “ins and outs” of the travel industry – I touch the travel industry in some function every day. Most people do not. My guess is that the sweet little family that is running in panic through the airport with 3 kids under 10 years old, 5 roller bags in tow…pillows, woobies, Teddy bears, and portable DVD players, probably don’t do this every day. Probably once a year or less is more likely. A little consideration helps there too.

Tip # 5 is for the other side of the counter.

Be nice.

To be continued…

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A Large Man Looks at 50

The Large Man Chronicles

October 25, 2009

A Large Man Looks at 50

Today as I turn the big 5 OHH, I chronicle from my remote office on the 22nd floor in a Renaissance hotel. I’m in Nashville to do some work. This is not the way I would have chosen to spend my 50th birthday, but let’s be honest, I’m 50…it’s probably time to stop expecting fireworks, adulation, pony rides, balloons animals, and strippers. My family and I celebrated yesterday, my Face Book page is full of birthday cheer, and I launched a blog this week. I think we’re done celebrating this milestone.

As I always do on my birthday, and especially on milestone birthdays, I have taken some time to reflect on this blessed life of mine. Most new acquaintances and friends seem surprised that I’m 50 – that’s a good thing I guess. Many people have asked me how I feel…the simple answer is that I feel like shit. I don’t want to be 50. I realize that there is nothing I can do about it, and I won’t squander the rest of my days wishing I was younger.  All I’m saying is that I don’t want to be 50. I’m not complaining about where I am, or what I am. Believe me I realize that I’m lucky to be here.

 I’m not happy about 50, but I don’t want to be 20 either. 20 was tough. When I was 20 I never expected – in my wildest imagination – that I would ever reach 30, much less 50. Most people who knew me when I was 20 will agree with that statement.

My friends and I didn’t think that I would make it to 30 –  not because of some rare genetic disease or defect…not at all. The problem I had back then is known as CRI: not a disease, but more of a condition.

CRI is the medical industry’s acronym for a condition known as Cranial Rectal Insertia. It affects a large portion of the male population aged from around 16 to about 35. Women (and girls) can get it too, but it’s rare. Some people never shake it and have to deal with it their whole lives. It can be very hard on a victim’s family as well. The saddest cases result from someone who has the condition, but never realizes it. In those cases it seems to affect everyone around the person.

You won’t ever see a telethon for CRI, there won’t be fund-raisers, 5 K runs, or marches on Washington demanding that more funds be allocated to research for a cure for CRI….there is some irony here  because NIH did a study that showed more politicians suffer from CRI than any other professional sector in the U.S. It seems that nobody wants to acknowledge that a person can actually have their head up their ass.

I did, right up my ass… right up until about age 35 I had been a chronic sufferer. Wrecked cars, wrecked relationships, lost jobs, lost money, and lost friends. I was a nobody, going nowhere…v e r y slowly. The things that I did from Wednesday to Sunday while I was in my 20s should have killed me. Why it didn’t, I’ll never know. Perhaps God needed someone to eradicate the world supply of micro-brews and Buffalo style chicken wings. If that’s my purpose here, I have served it well. Just between us Large Man associates, I am hoping I have a greater calling.

The good news is that CRI doesn’t have to be a lifetime condition, and that’s what I like about being 50. That’s the good part about the aging process in general. Oh sure, I still have relapses, but they are fewer and further between, and a lot more mild at 50 than they were at 40… and 40 was better than 30. Until our government gets off their heads, (get it…heads) it looks like the aging process is the only treatment for this scourge on mankind.

30 years ago (age 20) on my milestone birthday, I was sitting on the side of the road with a broken car. 20 years ago (age 30) was nursing a broken nose….neither of those were great memories. CRI had a lot to do with how I celebrated those birthdays.

10 years ago I scored 2 touchdowns in a flag football game; I was strolling around my favorite pub with my favorite friends, A WIFE,  and  my new daughter – just 6 months old – wrapped up in a Baby Bjorn safely against my massive and chiseled Large Man chest. See…better…the aging process doing its work. The only person in the world smiling brighter and laughing louder than my little girl; was me.

Having a wife allows you to have somebody around you (all the time) that can show you where you are putting your head. Having children forces you to understand the ramifications CRI. This point cannot be emphasized enough. Men: read this paragraph twice!

Now I can’t sit here and tell you that just because I’m 50 I’m completely immune to CRI. I did it just a couple of months ago. Throwing that glass bottle into the wood chipper seemed like a cool thing to do. Last summer my trip down that steep hill on my son’s mini Razor scooter seemed reasonable at the time the idea came to me. It still happens, but at age 50 the episodes are shorter, and you get over them much faster.

So there you have it…I’m not “Jazzed!!” to be 50, but I am happy to be here. Right here, right now, with all of you ain’t bad. Now that I’ve shared another little tale, I’m going to Tootsie’s to eradicate some more micro-brew. Cheers to you all, and thank you so much for the birthday wishes, and especially for taking the time to read. I’m putting this toy away for a week or so to focus on revenue generating activities.

One last celebration thing: I did promise Dave Bartee that I would mention in the next Large Man story that he was the first to speak to me and wish me happy birthday on my actual birthday.  The 1:30 AM call was much appreciated….a little difficult to understand, and not really a surprise (he never forgets)…but appreciated.

Until next time…

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A Large Man’s Return to a Moment

The Large Man Chronicles

Long Island , NY

From January 2009

This is an early Large Man story based on an experience that first put the writing bug in my head. This is probably the first LMC that was sent out to more than just a couple of  email friends.

I travelled through Long Island today, Jones Beach, Fire Island, Massapequa …not that Massapequa is all that remarkable, I just like saying  M a s s a p e q u a a a a… It’s almost as fun as Sacagawea. I could say Sacagawea 100 times a day, and never get tired of it….plus, I love ethnic women.

Anyway…I worked. I had a good slice of pizza for lunch. I went to a Target, and bought floss, spray starch (`cause that’s how I roll) a nice pair of navy blue Champion sweat pants for $8.99. (AWESOME!!) Then, I crossed the Long Island Sound into Connecticut on the Port Jefferson Ferry.

The Port Jeff Ferry system is a pretty impressive operation (even though it’s not particularly fun to say).It takes people from Long Island to Bridgeport CT – and back – several times a day…each and every day, and it’s been doing what it’s been doing for a long time. It’s significant to me because the last time (and the first time) I was on the Port Jeff Ferry was September 11th 2001. The Port Jeff Ferry meant a lot to me that day, it was my $48.50 ticket home to my family, when I wasn’t completely sure when or if I would see my family again.

I stood in silent awe and terror, on the East River in Queens NY shortly after the planes hit the World Trade Center.  I was with a customer – completely out of harm’s way, but not sure about that fact at the time. I didn’t see anything happen, but I saw the smoky aftermath, I saw the throngs of pedestrian traffic walk across the Williamsburg Bridge…I saw things (like all of us did) that I would have rather not seen.

I saw other things too. On the Port Jefferson Ferry, on September 11th 2001, I saw people being kind to each other, I saw people helping each other out. I saw stock brokers and retail workers sitting together talking about what they had just escaped – in the nick of time. I saw Hasidic Jewish men complete with the “peyot” hair helping the children of veiled Muslim women get safely to a seat. I’m sure there were a few Republican men buying drinks for women that were pro-choice…I can’t really confirm that – it’s so hard to tell these days, but I’m sure it was happening. I saw humanity, or at least my understanding of what humanity should be.

I waited for over four hours in line to get on the ferry. I met a wonderful human being that was in line behind me…he was a fresh bait salesman… he didn’t smell like he sold fresh bait, but he promised me that was his trade. He sold worms, cut squid, and ballyhoo (almost as fun to say as Sacagawea) he had a 7th grade education, no money, no family, and a heart of gold. I also met a surly, judgmental ass, who was a corporate recruiter. He had the pedigree, money, power and prestige that we all think we want…what we dream of… he also had a heart as cold and careless as a crocodile. This confluence of people was one of my life’s greatest lessons… a wonderful blessing in an awful time. Because of the dichotomy of this day – the good things, and the horror that I saw, I will always ponder God’s plan. Even though I’m convinced that we can’t put it all together here on earth, I’ll never stop wondering, Why?

As I drove my car onto the ferry in 2001, I had no idea how I was going to pay for the trip. I had $15.00 in my wallet, and could get no more cash because all the ATM machines on Long Island were closed  (I guess for fear of hoarding). I had ¼ tank of gas in my car and all the gas stations were closed too… (Who knows why?) I had flown into Long Island’s Islip airport the day before – on business. I was rockin` a sweet 2001 Ford Taurus rental in business white, with under 8,000 miles on it. I followed the herd onto the ferry – THANK GOODNESS they took credit cards.

The bait guy had a really good day. He took a liking to me, and had empathy for my cash position so he bought a few beers in the cocktail lounge for both of us…his business transactions were primarily handled in cash – so it worked out.  Our bartender was so touched by my bait salesman’s generosity, that he bought us both a beer, walked from behind the bar and gave us a hug. Again…I saw a lot of kindness, a lot of humanity that day. The same bartender waited on me today, he remembered.

On the ferry that day, I met two women who would end up riding with me to Kansas City, where their families would meet them – coming from Arizona. It was great to have company, we all shared “best day” and “worst day” stories. I think the thing about that September journey that I will remember the most is that you can’t get in a pissing contest over discomfort or despair…we all have our crosses to bear, and we have all suffered pain, and triumph, and something in the middle.  Bad things pass, good things pass too, all we can do is do our best to make the most out of today.

Today was a reminder of that day…. that awful day that changed all of our lives. I’m happy to say that while I certainly haven’t forgotten the horror of that September day, what I mostly remember about my 1 hour and 15 minute trip across Long Island Sound  in the clear and cold of today, was the “kindness and humanity” that I saw on that day.

Today was a reminder that people are almost always at their very best, when things are at their very worst. That’s a good place to start.

Thanks for reading

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I just went and picked up glasses for my 9 year old daughter…$250.00 f-ing dollars on glasses for a 9 year old child. I remember wanting glasses when I was her age, now that I have to wear them the want is less.  So, yes she was excited, something new…yes, she was very appreciative. I’m thankful that she understands and recognizes, and appreciates,  that she could pick out whatever she wanted. And yes, she asked me if I wanted to go to the electronics store and look at big screens to take away some of the sting of the $250… “Since we’re already out” she offered as a consoling gesture.  I guess it warms my heart a little to see that happiness…But DAMN!!!…$250.00!!! …and I know that braces are just around the corner. What is the point in even looking at big screens?

BUT, this is my world…my station in life. My little girl is spoiled, maybe not rotten, but spoiled…and that’s okay. I thank heaven for this spoiled little girl every day.

My daughter is going to be 10 years old in a few weeks… that is, if she agrees to it. She usually has her own set of plans, her own rules. Those rules and plans are generally different from society’s accepted standards of practice. She wears what she wants to wear; she eats what she wants to eat. She cares very little about anyone’s opinion on her choices. She has very little need for anyone’s approval.  Report cards and teacher conferences confirm that she is a pretty smart chick, and never a behavior problem. She has that quirkiness that an artist has…that skewed view of the world that will forever make her special, and can sometimes make her an outcast. She is the light of my life, and has been since the day I first saw her.

Alexandra Rae was supposed to be a boy…she was supposed to be a Jack. When my wife was carrying her, we didn’t find out who was coming because we wanted a surprise.  The genealogy didn’t really line things up for there to be much of a surprise. I say that she was supposed to be a boy because it seems like I have about 1,000 cousins on my father’s side of the family, and  like 5 are girls. Those facts may be exaggerated,  but for whatever reason; everyone just expected a boy.

But secretly, in those private, reflective, father-to-be moments, for 38 weeks I wished for a little girl. I know you’re not supposed to think like that when you’re an expectant father. You are supposed to want 10 fingers and 10 toes, and a healthy heart. Of course that was all I ever prayed for, but very quietly…very privately…I hoped for a little girl. I was always a little nervous about that. Was I tempting fate by wishing and hoping?

The nurse who greeted us in the maternity ward on the day my little girl was born  was absolutely gorgeous…only about five feet tall, raven black hair, eyes as green as emeralds, and a tight little package that was built for speed These facts have nothing to do with this story, they are just worth noting.

She asked us beforehand if we knew who was coming, and we told her we were pretty sure it was “Jack”. During the very short labor (about 90 minutes) in the middle of all the drama and chaos that went on in that room, (the same as in every maternity ward, every day) our nurse chanted a few times,“Jack be nimble…Jack be quick”. Our first child was very nimble and very, VERY quick, she just didn’t turn out to be a Jack. My wife did not plan on a natural child-birth, but our daughter had a different set of plans.  Alex didn’t have time for anyone to hook up an epidural, and we were on her clock now.

When our hot little nurse uttered those magic words, “Well Mom and Dad, you have a perfectly healthy baby…. girl!” My wife and I were shocked.  I was happiest about the “perfectly healthy” part of her statement for sure, but I have to admit that I always felt like maybe I cheated a little bit.  On April 27th 1999 I got what I prayed for, and what I hoped for.  That’s a pretty good day.

On that Tuesday in April almost 10 years ago, my little girl grabbed my index finger, squeezed harder, and cried louder than any living thing of that size should be able to. She looked right at me, and in her own language  she seemed to be saying, “Look, I know you’re scared, and you probably should be – you are not remotely qualified to do this job, but God and Mommy will get you through. Just understand that  things are gonna change around here dude…and you’re gonna buy me shit…lots and lots of it…clothes, toys, shoes – (I will never understand the shoe thing)…and you’re gonna complain about it out loud, but deep down inside, buying me shit is gonna make you happy. Because deep down inside the thing that makes you the happiest, is making people you love happy…and right now, this very minute, you just realized that you’ll never love anybody the way you love me…pretty cool huh? Now pick me up; I won’t break. Oh by the way, I came two weeks early, In April, because I like diamonds, and the birthstone for May is an emerald. Emeralds just don’t work for me. That’s how I roll.”

At least that’s how I remember it all. She seemed very wise for somebody that was only a few minutes old.

So……..the $250.00 that I spent on glasses today does NOT make me happy. The light in the eyes behind those glasses always makes me happy. Those eyes melt my heart every day. The light in my little girl’s eyes make those glasses worth every penny. I can’t believe I’ve been doing this for 10 years now. For 10 years, I have thanked Heaven every day for this little girl.

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Here We Go!

Dear Friends and New Readers,

The Large Man Chronicles on WordPress is a present to myself for my 50th birthday. That happens on Sunday the 25th…I’m just opening my present a little early.

For the past 2 -1/2 years or so, I have been writing stories that I have published via email to a fairly close circle of friends. Since the first post to 6 friends from my youth, the distribution list has grown to about 100 people.  From feedback that I have received, it appears that some of the stories (chronicles) get forwarded to friends of those friends. And so on, and so on… This is all very gratifying, very exciting, and honestly quite humbling.

I’m a husband, father, brother, and friend…I travel extensively for my job, and I see stuff. Then I write about it. That’s pretty much how it works. It started simply because I travel, and I spend too much time in  hotel rooms – alone. Writing keeps me out of bars, strip clubs, Hooters (most of the time) and the stock market – all places that I should avoid! I offer opinion, and a view of things from my prism or lens, but I will never try to sway your opinion or what you see. Not my gig, not my job, never my intent.

Also, sometimes I just make shit up. If I’m being completely honest, that is my favorite thing to do. I am a recovering bullshitter, descended from a long line of bullshitters…one of my friends from the original 6 Large Man readers once asked me to”try and use your bullshit for good instead of evil, and see how that might work”. It took about 25 years for me to honor her request, but here I am. I guess better late than never. Thank you Rachael.

That being said, most of the people on the Large Man Chronicles distribution list seem to like the real stories about my kids, life in general, and the crazy stuff that I run into while traveling.  So that’s mostly what The Large Man Chronicles is about. Little vignettes on life, love, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and beer.

Things you should know:

  1. If it’s true I’ll tell you… if it ain’t – I’ll tell you that too.
  2. I make fun of myself a lot. Don’t let that fool you. That’s just my humor…my self image is very healthy. (Probably healthier than it should be!)
  3. I use … a lot…but I’m working on it… I find it as distracting as you do…
  4. I believe in God, but I struggle with organized religion.
  5. I am a passionate patriot, but I believe that criticizing the way things work is a right and a responsibility. You do NOT have to agree.
  6. You do NOT have to agree… with anything I write.
  7. I sometimes use language that is inappropriate for children under 16
  8. I am not educated in creative or journalistic writing…puntuation, sentence structure, and general grammatical rules suffer, but I do try.
  9. Women and beer are my weakness. I like beer, I love women. I tend to write to, and for women. (PS on that – I’ve never walked away from a chicken wing either…just sayin)
  10. I absolutely love to write. I do this because I enjoy it, and for no other reason. If I could do this for a living I would, but I’m not selling anything here.

That’s about it. If you read this stuff, I hope you like it. NEVER will I demean, belittle, or betray a family member, friend, or enemy. Dignity is my priority – yours and mine. ALWAYS, my intention is to generate laughter, thought, reflection, or a little tug on your heartstrings.

Please offer your thoughts – what you liked, what you didn’t, and what you think…these things are always appreciated.

So here we go…my blog journey starts here…up next is Thank Heaven for Little Girls

Thanks for reading.

JC – The Large Man

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