Ake's Pains debuted in the University of Akron Buchtelite in September of 1977. The school's reputation as an institute of higher learning has still not recovered. Ake's Pains returns after a brief 32 year hiatus. It's back, baby!

Monday, June 26, 2017

Sleeping Nude On A Business Trip – But Getting No Action

This trip is going real smooth so far, I thought, as a I relaxed on my short flight into Sevesta. (All city names were changed to protect the incompetent.) I know I should never think thoughts like these because it often foretells impending doom.

I was traveling to a conference of trucking fleet executives to give a presentation.  A wonderful part of my job is when organizations fly me to a luxury resort and pay me to speak.  I am considered an industry “expert”, which means my head is a huge coconut and people are eager to tap the milk of my knowledge. 

My connector flight into Connersville was flawless and I was looking forward to my presentation tomorrow.  The first sign of trouble was some unexpected turbulence (we had maybe a two-minute warning from the pilot).  This was rocking-and-rolling the large aircraft. So much so,the woman beside me started cussing up a storm.  This would have been disturbing except she was a smokin’-hot, chicky-babe, so I will admit this was kind of ah, stimulating.

After the second outburst, I looked at her with eyes that said “Me lapa es su lapa”.  I was willing to comfort her for the entire flight, to touchdown and beyond, if necessary. Because that’s the type of guy I am. But, she rejected my offer, her look saying – “no lapa, you sapa” and then let out one final stream of obscenities.

The turbulence ended. The pilot announced we would be landing in 15 minutes and the flight attendants should prepare for landing, blah, blah, blah.  But, I knew something was amiss 20 minutes later when the plane had not descended.

Then came the fateful announcement: “There is a bad thunderstorm right over Sevesta.  We have determined that it is not safe to land, therefore we are returning to Connersville.”

Many passengers started yelling and complaining, a few even swearing.  I’m sitting there thinking, “You people are fools. Do you really want the pilot to give it a try?”  If he is uncomfortable landing the plane in these conditions, then I am mega-uncomfortable with this.

One goofhead started vigorously explaining to the flight attendant he had a better solution and that we should just land in Johnsville and wait out the storm.  The flight attendant listens patiently and replies “Sir, you do understand you are speaking with a flight attendant?”  With that, Mr. Goofhead returned to his seat.

I assumed we would return to Connersville, wait out the storm, and then make a second run at Sevesta.   However, upon landing the flight was cancelled and I was rebooked on other flight. Unfortunately, my new flight didn’t leave until tomorrow morning and I would not get to the conference before it ended.

I texted my contact that I would miss his meeting.  The Connersville airport was chaotic.  The storm had knocked out power limiting the airlines ability to serve the thousands of displaced passengers.  

I was trying to book a flight back home so I wouldn’t spend the night in Connersville.  But, when I explained that I was a coconut-head with vast knowledge and people in Savesta were paying to tap it, everything changed.  Suddenly, I became a V.I.P..  A better designation would be D.I.P. (Desperate Important Person) because people already regard me as a big D.I.P..  The agent then booked me on the next flight to Sevesta.  I would need to hurry to the gate since the flight was  delayed, but could take off soon. I also needed to get a boarding pass.

I make a mad dash, hoping to blow right through TSA Precheck and make it to the gate fast.  Alas, like so many things this day, there was a problem.  My briefcase was flagged.  I was stunned because this same briefcase had gone through scanners dozens of times over the years with no issues.
Security Officer: Do you have any sharp objects in your briefcase Mr. Ake?
Me: No, there is nothing unusual in there.

Then they checked the bag and found an 8-ounce bottle of water.

Security Officer: “Did you know this was in there, Mr. Ake?”

Me: “Yes, I mean no. I mean, I forgot it was even there. I planned to drink it later.”

Truthfully, I was innocent on this one.  The flight attendant had given me the bottle on my first flight because she wanted to get rid of them due to storage issues.  I had stuck it in my briefcase and forgotten about it. However, I had never, ever, expected to go through security again and wouldn’t have if the second flight had landed as expected.

But now I was the “water-bomber”, trying to sneak 8-ounces on Dasani onto the plane and I had to be interrogated.  The officer then searched my entire case.

Security Officer: “What are these Mr. Ake?”, he asked, holding up a plastic food bag.

Me: Those are my snack bars, in case I get hungry.  

I was now answering each question soberly because I was not sure just how much trouble I was in.

Security Officer: “They look very tasty, very crunchy”. (I swear I am not making this up)

Me: Yes, they are very good.

And I am engaged in all the %#*ing chit-chat, while my flight might be taking off.

However, the attitude of the TSA guy totally changed when he asked what my job was and where I was going.  As soon as he realized I was a coconut-head on my way to getting tapped, he smiled and treated me with respect. Yeah, he knows a real D.I.P. when he sees one!

I was wheezing by the time I got to the gate.  Relieved that the flight had not boarded and there were only two people in front of me to get seat assignments.

I became disheartened when the agent told the first woman that although she had a ticket, the flight was overbooked by 22 people. The agent explained that the woman had mistakenly been issued a ticket because of the mass confusion going on at the airport. Even though the woman protested profusely, she didn’t get a boarding pass.

As the agent repeated the same story to the guy in front of me, I felt like crying.  Both persons had received their tickets well before I had. I wasn’t getting on this plane.  I would be returning to the ticket counter and trying to get a flight home. I would be going through security yet again, fortunately they had confiscated my water bottle. Maybe the security guy would recognize me and detain me since this would appear suspicious.

I sheepishly handed the agent my ticket and hung my head. I couldn’t even look at her, literally unable to face rejection.

Agent: Here you go, Mr. Ake. You’re all set.

Me: Really? (slightly gasping)

I glanced down at the paper she had handed me, realized it was a boarding pass, and scampered away before she could change her mind.  I felt like the guy in the “Membership Has Its Privileges” credit card commercial.  Being a member of the “coconut heads” also has its privileges.  I texted my contact in Sevesta and informed him I would in fact be speaking in the morning. The coconut-head had landed!

I realized during the flight that my luggage was probably not on the plane due to the hectic situation at Connersville airport.  My assumption was correct, but I was joyous when told my bag was on the next flight and would be delivered to the resort that night.  

I arrived at the resort around eight, tired and hungry, but darn glad to finally arrive.  I told the clerk my luggage would arrive in a few hours, she made note and said I could get some amenities if the luggage hadn’t arrived by bedtime.  I straggled into the hotel restaurant famished, those tasty snack bars digested long ago.  There, I feasted on a new dish, Seafood Pot Pie, which combines two of my favorite foods in one scrumptious dish.  This was the high point of a very arduous journey. 

I call the desk around 11 p.m. and request their “complete amenity package” less the comb.  “Will you be needing the feminine hygiene items, Mr. Ake?”  “Not tonight, thank you.”  I nap partially clothed, cell phone by my ear, waiting for the luggage call, until 1:30 a.m.  I then strip naked and retire for the night.

I don’t think I ever slept in the nude ever before in my life.  I always feared there could be a dire emergency where I would have to run outside or confront a burglar.  If I’m fighting a burglar, I want my loins fully girded.  I am also so disappointed that a story involving me sleeping nude on a business trip at a fancy resort, is not much more spicy and scandalous than this one.

Early the next morning, I go down to the front desk to get my luggage.  They search the area, then inform me it did not arrive.  I call my contact and he gets me a new polo shirt left over from the conference hand-outs.  However, I will be giving this presentation dressed in jeans, polo shirt, and tennis shoes.

You may recall that in an earlier blog post I said only “dicks” dressed up for flights when it wasn’t necessary.  I said there were only a few situations when that made sense.  This was my first business trip since that post, and losing your luggage before a big presentation happened to be one of those situations.  Somewhere, these dicks are laughing hysterically at me right now, but that’s what makes them dicks.  Karma had its teeth firmly attached to my posterior.

But, there was no problem giving this presentation in this attire.  The people who work in the trucking industry are the best people in the business world.  They were totally fine with my appearance under the circumstances.  The presentation went splendidly.  My friend Chris was supposed to take a photo of me during the presentation, but he forgot, no doubt mesmerized by the enormous amount of expert knowledge flowing from my coconut-head.

Now you be wondering how my underwear held up during the trip.  Fortunately, I was wearing my Mac Weldon’s because I knew it would be a long day.  If you remember from my blog posts evaluating men’s underwear brands, the Mac Weldon’s contain actual silver for the ultimate in odor control.  Yes sir, I was packing the Mac’s and they performed spectacularly.  After 35 hours of wear, less five off for sleep, the Mac’s may not have been minty fresh, but they did not stink!

I checked on my luggage one last time before departing the resort, instructing them to decline delivery since I was checking out.  But, when I got to the airport, the airline baggage agent told me my bag had  been delivered to the resort.  Could my luggage have passed me on my way back to the airport and got there after I checked out.?

I called the resort and here is the play-by-play:

Me: (Explained the situation and then ….) The airline said they delivered my bag to your resort, but I’m at the airport now.

Resort person: Hold on and let me check. (Hold for a couple minutes) Mr. Ake, we don’t have your luggage.

Me: (Giving her one last chance) You do realize the airline is telling me you have my bag and you are telling me you don’t. My bag has to be somewhere now doesn’t it. (Maybe not, it could have gotten sucked into a black hole, right?)

At this revelation, the airline woman rushes to the office next door and retrieves the signed delivery slip.

Resort person: I’m sorry, but we don’t have your luggage.

Me: The airline has just handed me a receiving slip signed by a Kathy Rogers.

Resort person (audible gasp) Oh my, that was at night. Hold on, let me check.

I had been unusually calm throughout this entire ordeal. But, this news pushed me over the cliff.  It was interesting to watch the faces of the three airline employees as I melted down in front of them.  Had the resort had my bag the entire time? Did I give my presentation in casual attire while my nice business clothes sat only a few yards away? Noooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!! This could not be possible!!!!!. What the @$#*!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!?????

Resort Person: Good news Mr. Ake, we do have your bag. (speaking quickly and somberly) We will ship it today, FedEx second-day air.  I just need to confirm your address. (address confirmed). I am very sorry about what happened.

Me: Thank you (click)

Of course, I wanted to say more, but screaming obscenities at a woman who probably wasn’t responsible for this major clusterf**k, didn’t seem prudent.  

And yet I had questions:

Where was my bag all this time? Why didn’t anyone ever check that location when I asked several times about my luggage?  If I hadn’t called to ask about my luggage (with proof), just how long would it had sat there before someone noticed? What, maybe ten years later when the resort is being remodeled? “Hey, what’s this bag doing here?  Who is the Don Ake guy?”

To make this story extra special, my luggage did not make it home in two
Reunited and it feels so good!
days.  It was the Memorial Day weekend, so a Thursday shipment, plus the weekend, plus the holiday, adds up to a Tuesday, 5-day, delivery.  In all, I was separated from my luggage for 6 days and wore none of the clothes  on the trip.  I hugged my bag when it arrived – “Reunited and it feels so good”.

Post presentation pic

Sunday, June 11, 2017

They Are Never Going To Print This – The Making Of A Humor Writer (Part 2)

By far the most difficult task in my becoming a humor writer was learning how to write well. The humor part just comes naturally.  I may not have popped out of the womb holding a quill, but I may have had a smile on my face.  Laughter is firmly rooted in my DNA.  

My father loved to laugh at the odd circumstances and peculiarities in life.  While most veterans tell war stories involving blood-and-guts, dad’s tales were about spiking the sergeant’s canteen with castor oil and then locking the latrine.  For the longest time, I thought “Hogan’s Heroes” was a documentary.  His sense of humor was bizarre and sometimes he even made jokes about inappropriate things. I’m sure glad I didn’t inherit that trait.

My mother’s family had a devilish ornery streak.  My grandfather loved to play tricks on his grandchildren and would always end up having more fun than the kids.  One of my enduring childhood memories is when my grandfather convinced me that a relative actually lived in the basement of the old family farmhouse we were visiting.  One late night he convinced me to open the trap door to the basement so me and my cousins could meet our kinfolk.  It took all my strength to lift that heavy door. I raised about six inches, when grandfather yelled “Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!” The door slammed shut as we all ran terrified out of the room. My Uncle Bill also had a warped sense of humor.  He was an expert storyteller who could turn a simple trip to the store, into a mesmerizing, hilarious yarn.  I’m just glad I never write about such trivial things.

If you mix all this frivolity together, you get one weird, wacky, humorous guy. I’ve always had a quick wit and can come up with funny quips at a rapid-fire pace. Of course, sometimes these witty sayings come flying out of my mouth too quickly and are deemed inappropriate, offensive or just plain stupid.  However, my humorous comments have never gotten me punched in the face (okay, probably because I’m a big guy), nor have I ever been reprimanded at work by HR. (well, I’ve just been plain lucky here).

I would like to tell you about the moment I discovered how to blend my humor and writing talents together, but I can’t. Someone else did that, and this is how it happened.

I took Journalism as an elective my senior year of high school.  It was unusual to take an English class for an elective, but I enjoyed writing and had an interest in newspapers due to the influence of my parents. Our family subscribed to two daily papers and my parents read them intently every day.  Consequently, I became an avid newspaper reader at an early age. 

Journalism was taught by Mrs. Maher, an experienced, skilled instructor in her
mid-50s.  She was very patient with her students, with a kind and caring heart.  This served her well in teaching this class because it was considered one of the easier English classes, attracting a wide variety of students, including some “stoners”.

Mrs. Maher announced on the first day of class that she needed writers for the school newspaper and this would be a good way to put into practice what you learned in class.  I immediately volunteered.  The time commitment was not excessive. Instead of going to study hall after lunch, I went to Mrs. Maher’s classroom to write and work on the newspaper with other staff members.   I wrote a couple of articles about the sports teams and earned my very first bylines.

But then everything changed ……

It was the day before winter break. There was nothing to work on, so the five of us (I’m sure my friend Shipe was there, whose sense of humor is more warped than mine) put our desks in a circle and engaged in friendly banter as Mrs. Maher stood reading at a lectern by her desk.  I was really on a roll that day, causing raucous laughter with my witty comments.  I thought Mrs. Maher had joined in on the frivolity when she said, “Don, write down some of those jokes and we will print them in the paper.”  Mrs. Maher didn’t joke around much, but when she did it was usually hilarious. Everyone began laughing at this ludicrous comment, but then I noticed I was the only one still laughing. I looked up and my friends all had the same astonished expression.

That’s because they could all see Mrs. Maher but I couldn’t, because she was directly behind me. I whipped around in my seat, still smiling because of her silly remark.  But she was not smiling. This was no joke. She was stone-cold serious.  The smile left my face, replaced by a look of disbelief.

“Really?” I gasped.

“Yes, that’s your writing assignment over the holidays,” she affirmed.

However, I was not excited over this proposal.  “They are never going to print this,” I thought. No way, no how, never going to happen.  The student editor Diana, was not present to hear about this brand-new feature for “her” paper.  She was as straight-laced as a librarian in a convent. She rarely laughed at my jokes and I knew she would be dead-set against this. There was absolutely no chance of this happening in my mind.

I didn’t make writing this a priority during the break because I thought it was a total waste of effort, because of course, They are never going to print this. Then one evening I realized vacation was ending soon, so I sat down at the typewriter at 12:15 a.m. and belted out some copy.  I labeled it “Giving The Bird” because the newspaper was named “The Cardinal” (our school mascot).  It mattered little that the name was provocative and would never be approved by the school administrators because: They are never going to print this. No way, no how, never.

The first day back at school, I wondered if Diana had been told about my new project. It didn’t take long for this answer. As I entered the newspaper room, Diana glared at me.  I slowly walked over to her, paper in hand. Before I could say a word, she thrust her hand out, fully extending her arm.

“Let’s see it,” she demanded in full librarian scowl.

I handed her my work.

She read it intently, the scowl now turning more into disgust. At no time was there any hint of a smile.

“This looks like something you would write very late at night, right before you go to bed,” she barked.

I shrugged my shoulders with a sheepish look on my face. Busted! However, I liked what I had written, for the same reason I blog today. Because IT WAS FUNNY.  Yet I still felt foolish for even spending my time on this because I was surer than ever that: They are never going to print this.

I would have loved to hear the discussion between Mrs. Maher and Diana about Giving The Bird.  An average teacher transfers knowledge and provides an environment for learning. An extraordinary teacher recognizes potential that a student doesn’t even realize he or she has and then provides the avenue for developing that potential. I’m sure Diana vehemently protested, but if you remember, Mrs. Maher did not say they “might” print my quips, she said “will”.  To my utter astonishment, Giving The Bird made its debut, mostly unedited, in the January edition of The Cardinal.

The column was an instant hit; the students absolutely loved it. The jokes were all about things at the school. (I wish I could give you examples, but those newspaper are buried deep in my attic) It was so popular, that I was the speaker at our Senior Banquet, presenting a final oral version of “Giving The Bird”.

Those 15 words uttered by Mrs. Maher in 1975 had a huge impact on my life. It gave me the confidence to join the Buchetlite staff at the University of Akron as a freshman. I then had the gumption to convince Jane the editor to give me my own weekly humor column, Ake’s Pains, as a sophomore.  It was also a huge hit.

Without an Ake’s Pains column in college, there would be no Ake’s Pains blog many years later and there would be no “Just Make Me A Sammich” book. (Side note: I met my wife as a direct result of working on the Buchtelite my sophomore year, so my entire life ended up being impacted)

I am a humor writer because of Mrs. Maher. I am an author because of Mrs. Maher.  This is all the result of Mrs. Maher. It’s perplexing how at the time you don’t realize the great things people are doing for you. You don’t see how much people influence your life, in real time.  This humor writer may have been born with some natural talent, but he was made in Mrs. Maher’s classroom at Kenmore High School.

For info on my book: http://www.donake.net/