Living in Hotels - It's Us or The Bedbugs

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Pet-Urine-Black-Light-Inspection

I spend about a ten nights a month in hotels. I’ve been doing this job for fourteen years. I’ve slept (or attempted to sleep) in a hotel bed roughly 1700 times since then. I’ve learned a few things about survival along the way. I’ve not caught any nasty infections, have maintained a relatively healthy immune system and have woken up most mornings rash free. How do you stay so healthy while galavanting around that petri dish, you may ask? Very carefully.

I have a fine tuned hotel regimen that I will now offer you so that you too can wake up looking like the happy and well rested humans on the poster in the elevator. “Good Day? No, Great Day!”

First off… Everything is Hazmat. Every time your skin touches anything that didn’t come from the airlock chamber that you call your suitcase needs to be sanitized immediately. And remember to respect that airlock and treat it as the clean room that it is. It is your only fortress of solitude in the battle between you and the microscopic threats that are everywhere. Don’t put it on the bed or anything else that probably is infested with bedbugs. I bring bungee cords and suspend my luggage from the shower curtain rod. I coat the cords with hand sanitizer after pulling them from their home in the jar of rubbing alcohol. Most mornings there is a pile of dead bacteria directly underneath. I snuff out the barely alive ones with my shower shoes.

Yes, shower shoes… Always wear shower shoes! They aren’t just for the shower. They are your best friend soldier. Anytime you march along that war zone they call ‘vacuum annually carpet’ make sure you lace up your boots. One morning you will wake up and feel a pile of goo where your foot once was and regret that you loaned your shower shoes to that hobo in the last campaign.

Never touch the alarm clock, TV remote or phone with your bare hands. Strike that. Never touch anything with your bare hands. You know where your hands have been but you have no idea where the hands of the thousands of other vagabonds who have used those things have been. And most humans have two of them so you need to be especially cautious. After sanitizing my body upon entering the room I wrap my hands and forearms in garbage bags and rubber band them off at the wrist and elbow. For the entire evening I interact with the world through this glorious layer of plastic. Resist the urge to touch you face and dear lord don’t eat anything. Once the outer layer has been compromised it can only be used on tainted surfaces. Don’t touch your toothbrush or cell phone. Don’t fiddle with your Ipad. All those are off limits now. And for goodness sake, don’t touch your face!

A common question I get is how to eat in such a virus laden wasteland. It’s a tough one. I’m not gonna sugar coat this one. The microwave is off limits because I’ve known too many people who’ve dried their socks and undergarments (you know who you are) in the microwave so your only option is food from your safe place, your suitcase. Bring your own utensils, too. Avoid the urge to eat food dropped on the floor or mattress. Leave the three second rule at the front desk when you check in. Remove your garbage bag protection, disinfect your hands and eat quickly without touching anything. If the TV is on and the shows ends, suck it up and watch Two and Half Men until you are done.

A common misconception is that it is safe to remove your shower shoes in the shower. Wrong. Your body’s immune system is no match to the layer of filth that has evolved along the bottom of that porcelain deathtrap. Even shower shoes aren’t enough. Tiny monsters with foot fetishes can easily scale the inch of plastic that separates you from instant toe fungus. I soak several bath towels in Lysol concentrate and line the shower floor with them. I use the pine scented variation because I like it when my feet smell like a forest afterwards.

And back to bedbugs. There is nothing you can do about them. They are everywhere. You will get them. You will itch. You will wake up with bites and take them home to your family. It's a gift from the road. A free gift that you will be reminded of every time you look at your once supple but now pockmarked skin. It's your badge of honor or your Scarlet Letter depending on which side of your bedbug infested bed you woke up on.

Using these tips I’m sure you can enjoy your stay in hotels like I do and make it the home away from home you deserve. Word of advice though. If you’re watching TV and a news program airs about hotel cleanliness it’s best to turn it off quickly. Be sure to turn it off before they get to the part about TV remotes. When they shine the black lights on that germ magnet it illuminates like a light saber. You’ll be using your Pinesol smelling big toe to unplug the TV from the wall.

Also, get rid of the bedspread. That thing is garnish that gets washed annually.

But They Do Have Free Breakfast

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When I was a young airline pilot and new to ‘the road’ I ranked hotels by their proximity to good food and entertainment. Now, I judge hotels on two things: internet speed and shower pressure.

Oh, and free breakfast.

I’m not even a breakfast guy. But when it’s free – I’m a kid in a carb filled candy store. I pirouette around the kids begging their parents for another ‘home-made’ waffle with my tray of stale bagels, English muffins and knock-off Cheerios (Crunchy O’s, for the record). I feel like a malnourished Fred Astaire with a bowl of generic biscuits and gravy dancing to CNN Headline News.

Some hotel meals are better than others. Some are simply offering something so they can entice the road warriors. This way they can add another checkmark on Hotels.com along with “In room safe” and “Fitness Room”.

At least they can say they have a gym.

I stayed at a hotel once that had a bagged loaf of bread next to a toaster with a tub of butter and a communal jar of jelly by its side. Jelly is so much more filling when a knife full has bread crumbs and chunks of butter from the last freeloader mixed in. But hey, it was free and I passed the solitary knife to the pilot to my left when I was done and recognized the Stockholm Syndrome look in his eyes. I said, “Here you go Patty Hearst.”

People who aren’t in the industry always assume our life is like a vacation won on Price Is Right. “Oh, you’re going to Chicago?! You need to go downtown and have a pizza at Gino’s East and then take a stroll down the famed Magnificent Mile.”

Let me tell you what that involves. First of all… we often don’t have that much time. Often twelve hours in the hotel in which some of that should be for legitimate rest. So let’s say four hours in the hotel. Subtract getting ready in the morning and washing the funk from the airplane off you when you get to the room. Two hours remain. We typically stay near the airport which is rarely near anything unique to that city. So now it’s a cab ride for this pizza… a roundtrip cab ride that’s thirty minutes each way. We’re looking at a fifty dollar pizza that has to be sucked down so you can get back to the hotel in order to wake up early enough to enjoy free breakfast in the morning.

Typically dinner is at another American chain restaurant that is within walking distance to the hotel. And regardless what State we are in, we can look out the window of that restaurant and see a Bed Bath and Beyond, a Wall-Mart or a Home Depot. “Anytown USA”. These restaurantvilles are the evolution of the truck stop. And before that they were the saloons the pony express riders would stop in to share stories from the road.

“Oh, you’re riding west through the Nebraska Territory? Don’t stop in Omaha. They don’t have free breakfast.”

Why it is Imperative you Land a Pilot

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This article was floating around Facebook today explaining why it is imperative you land a pilot. 6 reasons to be exact. Since I am a pilot, I figured I’d explain my reasoning why scoring a Jet Captain should be on your to-do list. While you may find a man irresistible who gets paid to strap himself to a hurtling piece of metal for a living think about this: that same man safely brings that metal back down to Earth while dodging birds, kites and the occasional errant birthday party balloon. How sexy it must be to imagine him in the cockpit driving the airplane to the gate as quickly and safely as possible because he needs to use the restroom after pounding coffee for the last few hours. Even though these notions are enticing enough, let me tell you other down to Earth reasons why dating a pilot is a real treat. And if you’re so lucky to marry one, I’ll tell you the secrets you have in store for you. I should know. I am a pilot.

If you’re into jet setting.

Being with a pilot means you get bootstrapped to your throttle jockey’s pass privileges. This is not automatic though. He may already have his drinking buddy listed as his ‘domestic partner’ so they can take free trips down to the islands or Vegas together. Once you’ve proven your worth though, imagine traveling for nearly free as long as there are seats available on the flight you are hoping to climb aboard during peak traveling season when everyone else is willing to pay to get there. You can look forward to off season trips to cold beaches and icy ski slopes. And while travel is cheap you aren’t afforded any extra privileges in the TSA line so if you get bumped from the flight because there is no room for your cheap ass you can go home with the memory of being harassed and possibly man handled by a security agent – for free!

Built in breaks.

As much as you may love your man it’s nice to spend some time apart. Distance makes the heart grow fonder, as they say. If your pilot is junior in the airline you can look forward to him being away even more often giving you even more time to watch bad tv alone on the couch. And because he is junior you can look forward to Wednesday night date night because he will be working weekends and only be home a few days during the week. If you have a normal nine to five job you will enjoy many weekends out with your girlfriends telling them about how awesome your new man is. Practice this speech because you will be telling it again at all major holiday gatherings until your flyboy is seasoned enough in the airline to hold a decent schedule.

Conquer your fear of flying. Was your grandmother surprised when you told her you were dating an aviator? Did she remind you of your fear of flying and the time you peed on yourself when you were a little girl? Well, any fears you may have had will be as easy as a bed time story when he comes home and tells you about his day. If he brings another winged warrior over and they have a few beers then you’d better leave the room and start packing depends before you fly. Your fears will be realized when he casually tells you about the near misses, low fuel warnings and the time he volunteered to be the ‘pathfinder’ through the storms just because he wanted to get to the hotel before the restaurant closed.

Everyone likes a man in uniform.

And who doesn’t love a veteran pilot in a season uniform? You’ve enjoyed a four day break from your Jet Driver while he’s been out dodging storms, avoiding calamity and spilling coffee on himself. You can’t wait for him to come home. Imagine the love you will feel when you see him walking from the car looking fine in his stripes. He’s been gone for four days and to avoid overloading his suitcase with extra bulk he’s packed just one uniform. The one he is wearing… the same one he left wearing four days ago. Maybe he spent a few extra hours in the sun waiting for a late hotel van or a little extra time in the rain kicking the tires of his jet. He’s not just your pilot. He’s your road warrior. And he has the smells of the road to prove it.

Free stuff Your man will bring you all kinds of gifts from the road. You will never want for little bars of soap, shampoo and if he is really cheap – really bad toilet paper. Your bookshelf and magazine rack will be stock full of gossip magazines and bad fiction. Your couch throws will be thin airline blankets and your pantry will be full of snack mix and V8. You will never have to go to the Dollar Store again! And you thought you had it made with the last nine-to-five guy you dated. His free pens and office supplies don’t stand a chance next to the bad wine mini bottles he will pull out of his flight bag.

As an airline pilot I can assuredly say that my wife made the best decision of her life when she chose me. She’s a lucky lady and repays me with endless bottles of sunscreen to keep my weathered skin healthy and kicking for many years in the sun to come.

Thomas the Tank Engine in "Just Say No to Drones"

It was a bright and sunny day on the island of Sodor and all the trains were running on time expect for one. Thomas the Tank Engine sat with his big engine running idle and burning fuel at Sodor Station waiting on a return call from crew scheduling.

"What is it this time?" Asked the gate agent.

Usually she was nice and friendly with a big smile but today she looked cross and her smile was an angry frown. "We have a schedule to keep and now your passengers will be late for their connections."

"I don't what to tell you." Said Thomas. Attempting a reassuring smile. "I've called crew scheduling to see where my conductor is and now all I can do is wait for them to call back. They are short staffed as usual and probably having a hard time finding someone who is on call."

This news didn't turn her frown around at all. If anything, Thomas noticed maybe the frown got even frownier. "Why do you need a conductor anyway?" She asked. "Can't you drive yourself - autonomously?"

Autonomously wasn't a word he was used to. "If you're suggesting that I can drive without a conductor." Thomas asked. "Than yes I can. I can drive even better than the conductor. I can drive for longer periods of time. I don't need to take breaks. I'm not even governed by the same rest requirements the conductor needs."

"Then why do we have to wait for one?" Asked the gate agent. "If you can do all these things by yourself."

"Because of regulations." Answered Thomas. "Because of regulations."

"Well." Said the gate agent. "I guess we wait."

Thomas sat with his big engine idling and thought about how silly it was that he had to wait for a conductor to drive him seeing as he was perfectly capable of doing the job just fine without him. He thought that maybe just one little trip around the island of Sodor without a conductor at the wheel wouldn't hurt anyone. Maybe he could take one trip on his own and prove to Sir Topham Hatt that a conductor wasn't needed. This would save lots of money and he knew the bosses liked to save money.

"Peep Peep." Thomas said with his horn. "Peep Peep." He said again.

Normally the peeping was something the conductor did signaling to the gate agent it was time to board but there was no conductor on board and he did it all by himself.

thomas-the-tank-engine-steve-liptrot "Off to a good start." Thought Thomas. "Off to a very good start."

And like that... the passengers began boarding the train.

"I just need you to sign the manifest." Said the gate agent to Thomas when the boarding was complete.

"Well I don't know how I can do that?" Answered Thomas. "I'm not sure how I can sign anything really. Maybe you can sign it for me? Just this one time."

"Okay Thomas." Said the gate agent as she signed Thomas the Tank Engine on the manifest and closed the door to the passenger compartment. "Have a nice drive."

"What a lovely day for a train ride." Thought Thomas as he began his first ever solo trip around the island. He had been on this track so many times but it never felt like this before. He felt like he was king of the world and even began humming to himself. He must have been lost in his own thoughts because he didn't hear the weather report come over the radio. Had he been listening he would have heard that there was a big storm ahead and all the trains were diverting to another track.

The sky grew dark and Thomas started getting knocked around by downdrafts. "I'm not sure what to do." Thought Thomas. "I've never had to make a decision like this before. I wonder what the conductor would do?"

But there was no conductor on board and Thomas had no choice but to keep going straight towards the storm.

The train began shaking violently but it wasn't the passengers screaming in the back that scared him. It was that he was the only train on the track. Driving alone in a storm was something he had never done before and he had never felt so alone.

Soon, Thomas heard a voice come over the radio. It was the conductor assigned to his trip. "Thomas! What are you doing out there alone?" The conductor yelled. "The storm is even worse ahead and you quickly need to turn around."

"Okay conductor. I will do that. Tell me how?" Said Thomas.

"I will turn the tracks ahead and you will be on your way to the roundhouse. Unhook you cars behind you and you will be able to turn around and then push your passengers to safety."

"Thank you, Conductor." Said Thomas. "Thank you. I guess I should never have driven the train alone. I will not do that again."

"It's okay Thomas. Just get back to the station and unload your passengers." The conductor said. "We will talk about this later."

For the whole drive home Thomas was behind the train pushing his passengers back to Sodor station. He had no choice but to look into the compartment and see all the scared people looking back at him. He knew he had done something wrong and knew now that he wasn't smarter than the humans. He guessed that is why they need so much rest so they can keep their brains and bodies sharp and alert so they could make the tough descisions that trains can't make on their own. "Even though the conductor costs more money," He thought. "I hope the regulations don't change and make me drive alone again anytime soon."

2013 resolutions. The cockpit will be a happier place.

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As the new year approaches its time to evaluate accomplishments from the past year and set goals for the next. While I succeed each year with many of my Xbox related achievements, I think 2013 will be more about work and what I bring to the cockpit.

Across the aviation industry, morale is low and tempers are quick to flare. In order to ease relationships between us, the flight crews, and our liaisons in the company, dispatchers, I resolve to do what I can to ease the tension.

One of my 2013 new years resolutions is going to be to send all ACARS messages from the cockpit to dispatch as a haiku.

Weather has gone down Fuel burning onto reserves Round and round we hold

Before social media, hidden panels in the cockpit were our twitter. Still, those panels are a private place where people anonymously gossip about coworkers and spread rumors.

In 2013, I Intend to erase all the graffiti on the flight deck and replace the negative passeges was positive messages.

Something like, ''There is a pretty good chance a kid is back in the cabin who thinks you are awesome.''

Another resolution. I know what you're saying, "Three! Don't set the bar too high."

Although the manual is pretty specific on verbiage during checklists it leaves a little flexibility on other cockpit chatter. During those areas of flight, I'm going to replace those calls with movie quotes. In 2013, rather than asking my first officers to ''start engine one'' I'm gonna ask them to ''Roll on one'' Green Mile style.

And when I brief the crew before a trip as to what to expect over the next few days I'm gonna summon my best William Wallace, "Now tell me, what does that mean to be noble? Your title gives you claim to the throne of our country, but men don't follow titles, they follow courage. Now our people know you. Noble, and common, they respect you. And if you would just lead them to freedom, they'd follow you. And so would I"

May not be the most productive 2013 but I hope to at least keep myself entertained.

Folks, It will Be Yet Another Hour Before We Depart.

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Some days I actually do work. But it’s not the work you would assume. It’s not fighting nasty storms or battling windshear down the final approach to an icy runway. It’s interacting with the passengers and assuring them that at some point we will arrive at our destination.

I like that part of the job. To my flight attendant friends I say this. “Yes, I know. When things get tough I get to close the bullet proof cockpit door. Your job is way harder than ours!”

So, I only work a little bit but it is the part of the job I really enjoy and the reason why I’ve never really been drawn to the world of cargo flying. They say “Boxes don’t complain” but it’s these types of fires I enjoy putting out.

Our 12:30 flight boarded on time yesterday and we began our taxi although I had a hunch we’d be delayed. Nothing official yet, I just had a hunch. We were off to Washington’s Reagan airport and both Baltimore and Washington Dulles bound flights had been issued a delay. Our destination was between the two. Either some weird weather or a weather force field was erected over the nation’s capital?

Seconds before reaching the end of the runway for departure they told us what we were expecting, “Update in an hour.”

We rode it out in the holding pad near the runway and as the hour wait ended they said, “Update in another hour.”

And back to the gate we go. At the conclusion of that hour we were told once again, “Update in an hour.”

I mingled with the passengers and did my best to explain the weather pattern to those who were interested and how it affected arrivals and the effect it would have on their connections. I went into the stages of thunderstorm development and described condensation nuclei.

A passenger told me I looked like a good pilot but I assured her it was the crispness of my uniform that fooled her. “Don’t look at my shoes” I suggested.

After five hours it was time to go. The update in an hour became a departure time and we boarded for Washington. Naturally, after beginning our taxi we were given a reroute to avoid the weather that was now in our way. This was the same weather that had closed the airport.

A reroute means more fuel which means another delay.

The new route doubled the distance between here and there. What was to be a 300 mile flight became a 650 mile trip.

Portland to Washington via Pittsburgh.

I told the passengers. “Well, thanks for your patience on the ground through our five hour delay and now the extra minutes we will need to get more gas. By the way, our one hour flight will now take two.” The sound of a crying baby penetrated the walls of the bullet proof cockpit door.

As I made the announcement about the new delay I figured the passenger was rethinking her compliment. Maybe next time there is a weather delay I will get my shoes shined.

He is Chasing Planes Around Already

Judah has the aviation bug... already he has begun chasing planes around. I've been doing it for as long as I can remember. Specifically, it may have started when I was single digits sitting in my fathers office watching people fly RC airplanes in a field across the street. The obsession culminated during many summers at Space Camp not learning about poison ivy like most kids.

It's a common question in the cockpit during a round of self loathing. "Are you going to encourage your kids to work for the airlines?"

There is a lot of complaining in the cockpit and galley. I'm sure all industries have their issues but I can't imagine their workers complain as much as we do. Maybe it's because we have so much downtime in the cockpit to "Monday morning quarterback" company decisions and stir up plans on how we'd make things better if we ran the place. "All hotels would have free breakfast... and good shower pressure."

I knew a guy once who had his non-aviation dad up in the cockpit for a flight. He told him to act like a pilot in front of the passengers so they would think he was just a jumpseater. The story goes that when he boarded the plane he said to the flight attendant, "Yep, scheduling F'ed me over again!"

That's all he knew about airline life.

Would I want my son to work for the airlines? Of course. If he wanted to.

I will do what my father did for me... encourage him to pursue his dreams. I love being a pilot. I couldn't imagine doing anything else. It's all that I've ever wanted to do for a living and honestly, all I know how to do. Although there are many up's and down's (stupid pun) I love it. It's more than a job... it's a lifestyle. A wiser man that me once said, "It's not work if you enjoy what you do." He then added something about things in Vegas staying in Vegas but that's not the point... I think?

As a kid I would always look to planes flying overhead and wonder where the pilots are going. Now I know. The same place they've been a thousand times!

But maybe at least their airline puts them up in hotels that have free breakfast.

If you watch enough daytime TV... you will get cramps

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The boy is almost nine months old and since I've been back to work after paternity leave, I've been flying weekends. Although airport Chick-fil-A is closed on Sunday it is nice to work weekends and steal the Sunday NYTimes from sleepers in the airport. I play a game of whack-a-mole where I rotate newspapers. I'll take a Times and leave a Post or slip in an Us Weekly after finding a People. Working weekends means I'm a stay at home dad most of the week. I'm working trips that start late Friday night to return Monday which gives me four days of full time daddy duty. Essentially, Momma Stork and I split the week in half and tap out like wrestlers when one of us goes to work.

Sometimes you'll hear an air traffic controller briefing the replacement during a shift change. "This guy is slowed to 270 and I've got them on a heading while this one is holding for spacing into Chicago."

We offer up a similar briefing. "He ate at 8 and 12 and had two dirty diapers before lunch... he was last changed an hour ago. You're in!"

The boy and I have developed a pretty nice weekday routine. Well, I have... he plays along. In the morning we sit on the porch in our jammies and eat breakfast while the morning commuters honk at each other. Eight hours later we eat a snack outside and watch them return. Typically, we take a couple walks a day with one of the dogs and make sure the neighborhood is in check. We watch a little TV... "Two hours a day maximum, either educational or football. So as you don't ruin your appreciation of the finer things."

I imagine how the advertisements would differ if it was men who typically stayed home with the kids? It would be foot odor powder and beer commercials in between westerns and Seinfeld reruns.

A couple times a week we walk to the grocery store. I have to make several trips because I can only fit so much in the stroller and backpack I carry. I made the mistake once of putting the bread in the little storage bin under the stroller. A few bumps on the walk home and our bread had a little baby butt print in it. I thought about using it as a plaster mold and saving the resulting sculpture next to the failed baby foot project.

We typically go to the store at the crack of dawn when it's just us, a few other red-eyed moms with their kids and the store shelf stackers.

I try and hustle back for naptime. Nappy time is happy time because that's the time I play Xbox with the volume up really loud. I've got the house, as well as the neighborhood to myself. I spend a few hours online playing Call of Duty with kids skipping school, the unemployed and the occasional dad. I can always tell because we're the only ones who have no choice but to leave the game even if the round isn't over. You'll hear a baby cry over the headset in the background and then a "Well guys... gotta go."

Mornings in a Hotel: "Where am I? What Time is it?"

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A friend once told me that everyday he wakes up in a hotel it feels like waking up with a hangover. "I'm not sure where I am or how I got here but at least I have my pants on." Add in the fact that we stay in a variety of hotels with countless floor plans, alarm clock models and coffee makers, sometimes you'd think you were at a bachelor party the night before. Throw in a 4:30am wake up call and that bachelor served nothing but "Mind Eraser" shots followed by Jagermeister to chase is all down with.

I call it T.M.A. (Temporary Morning Amnesia) and typically it takes about a minute to clear. Sometimes there are clues in the room to help clear the mental fog. The Crowne Plazas we stay in advertise for their hotels inside the shower head. Since I'm often in the shower within the 60 second window before T.M.A. wears off this can be a huge breakthrough. The Eureka Moment! "Damn! I'm in Hartford! No free bagels downstairs but at least the coffee maker is the single pod type rather than the rarely washed pot used by many to make Ramen Noodles."

And old trick I've worked into my hotel routine to avoid the amnesia is to write the three letter airport code of the city I'm in on the room key envelope along with the van time and leave that propped next to the alarm clock. I've become so used to this being the default when on the road that if I don't see the cheat sheet when I wake up I can safely assume I'm at home.

In the era of smart phones though - the cheat sheet is old school. My morning mind has never been so clear since finding the "Good Morning!" app for my android phone!

Everyone has their own killer app. For some it may be Facebook or Evernote or their Twitter client of choice. Mine is an alarm clock that reads whatever text I type in the night before as well as the current time, temperature and forecast. Granted, the forecast is useless for me unless I'm returning to the same hotel later in the day but I like waking up to the lady computer voice and I get to her say as much as possible. I like waking up thinking that Rosie from "The Jetsons" is in bed with me and she's already made coffee.

Since finding this app, the only T.M.A. I suffer from on the road is when I wake up in the middle of the night after leaving the television on. Interestingly enough, the only standard thing in hotels is the remote control. I never seem to have trouble finding the off button. (Through the plastic ice bucket bag that I wrap the remote in. Those remotes are filthy!)

Returning from vacation - time to catch up on the news

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I returned to work yesterday from a three week vacation with the family. While at work and living on the road I have lots of downtime that I fill with 'entertainment' that I would never make time for at home. Bad movies on cable, aimless walks around Wal-Mart and celebrity gossip magazines.

US, Star, People and the like are often the most left behind magazines by passengers in the airplane. Is this because they are disposable and easily consumed or are they the most purchased magazines in the airport? Whatever the answer, I love it when I find three competing issues from the same week! I call it a trash-fecta and have made a game where I see if I can find the same shot of the same celeb in the same location taken by the same paparazzi. Even thought my game is as mind numbing as the crossword puzzles and word searches in back of the 'publication' it amazes me when I see someone has taken the time to play them! "Three letter first name of The Price is Right host ... Barker"

Much like the gossip rags I read in the cockpit during sits between flights, I often feel myself getting dumber in hotels when I get sucked into watching "Jersey Shore" or any of the "Real Housewives" shows. My justification is that I'm alone with nothing else to do and that at least I don't waste my time when I'm home wondering about who Snooki is going to hook up with next. Yeah, I know MIT offers many lectures online for free as part of their Open Courseware initiative but I've had such a long and stressful day flying and navigating and endlessly studying images in gossip mags that I just need a break when I check into the Hampton Inn.