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On the Road: Mobile Phones and Restrooms. (It’s a Don’t.)

It’s official.

When it comes to mobile phone use, no where is sacred.

Here’s how I know:

I listened to a mom have an entire conversation with each and every member of her family from the stall in the women’s room at Portland International Airport (PDX) today.

This was after I had to navigate around a woman who was leaning up against the bathroom wall like she was waiting in line for a restroom to open up, when, in reality, she was just supporting the arm she was using to hold her phone up to her ear. I asked her if she was in line and she grinned and said, “Oh, no, sorry. I am just on the phone.”

Great. Hope whoever’s on the other end of the line enjoys the sounds of bladders emptying.

Since I was already delighted by the prospect of my tinkle being broadcast to a listener unknown somewhere in the world, you can imagine how pumped I was to get myself situated only to have Mom / Susie / Jimmy / Dad enter the stall next to me. For. Real. She spoke to her husband, her daughter, her son. Full-fledged conversation in which she told one of them she was actually USING the restroom.

OH. EM. GEE.

There are a few things that will send my father’s blood pressure straight through the roof. Talking on the phone while using the bathroom is one of them. (Hey, he wasn’t raising ignoramuses, yo.) Not having a clean towel for his evening shower and discovering all the towels in the house piled on the bedroom floors of his children was another. Cutting him off while driving is another. Ok, ok. Stopping there before I get too off track. My point here is that I would have loved to see his face / watch his reaction if he was relieving himself and someone started yukking it up on a mobile phone at the urinal next to him. When this happened to me today – twice in one bathroom visit – I definitely channeled him and felt irrationally angry about this.

Seriously, people. This is a PSA – please stop the madness. Let’s all band together and protect the one place that should be spared from mobile phone use of any kind – public restrooms, especially those with lots of stalls. (Not sure the single stall / private public restroom phone use is any better, but at least it’s more discrete.) Let’s act civilized and exercise patience. There’s nothing you have to say while hovering over a public restroom toilet that cannot wait five minutes. Unless it’s a medical emergency. I think that might be the only acceptable use case.

Listen, I get it.  I am a working mom who travels for her job – so I know first-hand that anytime you can connect with your family while on the road is a welcome one. But that doesn’t include restrooms. For real. They are not a ‘quiet area’ for you to connect with loved ones. Put your phone in your bag, use the restroom as intended, WASH YOUR HANDS, then make your phone call when you are back in a public area. I feel like moms (or parents) should know this more than anyone else – if only to teach their kids civilized behavior by example.

The irony in all this?

In the restroom at Phoenix Skyharbor, my work phone rang.

Obvs, I let it ring.

A woman somewhere in the restroom suggested I answer my phone. As in, “Oh, geez! That frightened me. Can you pick that up? or silence it?”

No. I cannot. I am using the restroom. 😉

Portlandish: Oh Deer!

Portlandish: Oh Deer!

I have mentioned before that flights back to Portland are my favorite. Mostly because it means I am heading home to my family (and bed and pillow), but also because they oftentimes offer unrivaled visual spectacles.

Take that picture, for instance.

Yes, that’s a deer (?!) rack.

ON THE LUGGAGE BELT.

AT THE AIRPORT.

IN PORTLAND.

I have never in my life seen a real deer rack that close. Let alone one riding the luggage belt a bag ahead of mine. (For the purposes of this blog, I am assuming it’s a deer rack vs. some other animal antlers.) And I am not convinced that the bag between my bag and the deer rack didn’t contain other deer parts. It was this weird, plastic, blue cooler-y looking thing. The drama queen in me fully expected it was full of deer steaks and organ meat. The hidden vegetarian in me wanted to cry. The Curious George in me couldn’t stop staring. In fact, he made me stay and take MORE pictures even though my bag was one of the first ones out. Hahaha.

The pic above is from my deer-rack-stalkerazzi efforts. The pic next to this paragraph is the one that I first took – when I was done photo-34staring at the deer rack trying to figure out if I was actually seeing what I was seeing. The clamor from the few other passengers who had already made it to luggage claim and airline employees confirmed that yes, they were indeed antlers. My trying-to-find-the-camera frenzy is reflected in the blurry picture. By  the time I realized that YES – they were indeed ANTLERS, I almost missed my picture opportunity. So I hung around to get a better shot.

To be honest, I was equally amused and grossed out. I totally assume this deer rack hitched a ride from PHX to PDX on my lovely little suitcase because they were so close together in exiting. I mean really. It’s the first proper suitcase out behind the rack and the weird, plastic, blue cooler-y looking thing. They definitely touched. Ew. I am not sure why this grosses me out, but it does. Ew.

Of course, there’s a pre-story to all of this. Despite my very best efforts to avoid using the bathroom on such a short flight, I failed. Sooooo….Coming out of the bathroom when I was going in was a gal in her 60s with a camo baseball hat and camo shirt on. (You see where this is going.) I thought that was kind of an interesting fashion statement, but, hey, I very rarely stray from all black, so who am I to say? This could be the hottest look on the runway as far as I knew.  While I waited for the deer rack to make its second loop so I could snap proper pictures for this blog, my bathroom trip came back to me in a flash. In that instant, I KNEW these antlers were hers. Knew it. My eyes darted around the crowd, and yep, she was waiting for luggage. As I left after snapping my pictures, I caught a last glimpse of the antlers – and the weird, plastic, blue cooler-y looking thing – sitting on top of her suitcase. Hahaha.

Chalking this up in the learn something new every day category. I never knew you could “check” tokens of your hunting trip!

The View from Up Here

Since moving to Portland, we spend a lot of times in planes – whether it’s going to visit family, heading out on vacation, or traveling for work, it seems that one of the Clarks is on a plane at least every month!

I don’t love to fly, but it’s one of those things you get used to the more you do it. Over time, I’ve discovered one of my favorite things about flying are the views out the airplane windows. Seems obvious, I know. But really, it’s funny how such a mundane oval shape becomes your passport to some of the most incredible views.

I started taking pictures from the sky over the last few trips and am in love with some of the shots I got. Landscape shots seem harder to get – I guess you can’t fault the camera for not taking clear pictures at least 10,000 miles from the camera – haha. Cloud pictures are another story – I don’t think I will ever tire of looking at clouds. Each day, these little sky pillows form new and different patterns over our world – it’s really pretty breathtaking to fly among them and see things from their perspective.

I’ll be posting my sky shots here on this page periodically.

Portlandish: Blend Your Own Frappuccino

PDX and American Airlines are running a Summer Splash promotion where one lucky traveler will win a $1,000 travel certificate. As part of the on-site activities, the PDX Starbucks was doing a “blend your own frappucino” thing.

We happened by on our way to baggage claim last week.

And you knew this would happen, right?

Needless to say, the kids and I got a huge kick out of this. Hahaha! It’s one of my favorite things of the year so far.

I feel like this is a perfect Portland promotion – exercising / using your own body power to make your own free coffee treat. Combining two Pacific Northwestern loves! 🙂

To Quote Dug from Up – “Squirrel!”

Walt Disney World squirrels are the new South Jersey Shore seagulls.

My word.

Before last week, I never noticed squirrels in Walt Disney World, never mind noticing their snack-stealing behavior. Let’s just say there are squirrels and they are Hungry.

We were at Blizzard Beach one day and I noticed a squirrel sitting in someone’s stroller eating food. I was tempted to go a little Portland on him – that is, make him my pet and push him around the park in the baby stroller, potentially with a set of squirrel-sized Mouse Ears. (If they make them that size. Which I imagine they do because Disney merchandise is prolific enough that pet-sized Mouse Ears don’t seem out of the question.)

I mentioned it to my brother. He shrugged it off. So did I. Until I went back to our spot and caught a squirrel sneaking up behind me as I ate a Kind bar. Hmmm. I jumped up and clapped like a fool (or did some other foolish trying-to-scare-the-animals-away human behavior) in an attempt to scare him off. To say he was bored with my attempts to shoo him away is pretty much the understatement of the year. He was more like defiant and kept approaching me.

Ewwwwwwww! I like animals and all, but sharing a Kind bar with a defiant squirrel is a bit over the top. I got up and walked away, but turned back to see what Defiant McSquirrelpants did.

You know what that little sucker did? Hopped up on Kenny’s backpack as if he KNEW that’s where the Kind bar came from. Oh no. The Philadelphian in me was NOT having any of that. Disgusting. I lifted and banged a lounge chair a few times. That seemed enough to startle him and he skipped off. Yes, skipped. I told you, he was defiant. And I imagine a defiant squirrel skips off vs. skitters off to make sure you know he CHOSE to leave vs. YOU scaring him off. (BTW – important distinction here – I think the Portlander in me probably should have hand-fed the squirrel tiny bits of organic kale chips, while stroking his fluffy tail and applying Neosporin to the sores on the side of his face.) (Omg. Ew. I am still mostly Philadelphian. Hahaha.)

I grabbed the backpack and put it on, then walked to the edge of the kiddie pool. I couldn’t get away from that thing fast enough. I was kinda freaked out by how aggressive he seemed. My brother teased me for being a dork who wears their backpack around the water park. I told him about the squirrel. He laughed and teased me more. Man, I miss hanging out with my brothers – haha. Do they EVER stop teasing? We’re in our thirties, so seemingly not. I’m gonna chalk that one up as a loss.

About 10 minutes later, I went back to drop my backpack. I was sure Defiant McSquirrelpants had moved on down the road to people that had accessible food. I was right. He wasn’t there. BUT – he left remnants of his sneaky snack attack visit to my nephew’s stroller. Yep, he came back and ate a bag of Utz Phineas and Ferb pretzels and some leftover chicken nuggets. See? I told you he was defiant. And, apparently, determined. Ewwww.

We didn’t see him for the rest of the day.

Ew.

Ew.

However – there’s always a however, isn’t there? – we met one of his buddies later in the week at Epcot. This time we were happily skipping out of Journey into Imagination back to our strollers. (Ok, that really didn’t happen. No one skipped.) My sister-in-law and I were ahead of the pack. She suddenly yelled, “Dennis! DENNNNNNIS! There’s a squirrel!” I looked. Indeed, there was a squirrel. Sitting in the storage area under my nephew’s stroller. Holding goldfish crackers, which he was serving himself from the snack cup. He was unfazed by our presence and sat there eating away.

Instead of shooing him away, Dennis grabbed his iPhone and started snapping pics. I already had my camera ready. Please. This whole scene was screaming blog material. As soon as Kerri started the word “squirrel”, I reached for the camera. Hahaha. I am pretty sure this little guy was posing. He knew the tens of readers of this blog could potentially make him famous.  LOL.

 

Eww.

Eww.

After the photoshoot, Dennis shook the stroller. Normal scare tactics like simply looming over him, yelling and clapping / making loud noises did nothing. (Definitely friends with – or related to – Defiant McSquirrelpants.) The squirrel hopped out and ran.

But only about two steps away. Then – I guess he decided that goldfish were simply too delish to pass up – he turned and hopped back into the storage area under the stroller! WHAT?! Kerri screamed. Which caused Colin to scream, and Grace to proclaim that she only likes puppies and ponies, not squirrels. (Hahaha!)

Ewww.

Ewww.

Dennis shook the coach and he ran away. For good.

Moral of the story? Parents, don’t leave unattended food in your strollers. It will get eaten. I think I am more grossed out by the fact that if you don’t see it happen, you may not even know a squirrel was in your baby’s stroller. Like literally just sitting there, hanging out, chillaxing with some snack crackers. He leaves, probably with nary a trace, and you pop little Johnny in there for a nap. Ew. Ew. Ew.

 

Disney’s MyMagic+

Disney’s MyMagic+

As luck would have it, we got to trial Disney’s new MyMagic+ technology during our August 2013 vacation at Walt Disney World. It was a nice, unexpected surprise.

We were originally booked at the Dolphin, but switched over to the Yacht Club about six weeks ago so we could share the same pool as my Beach Clubbing brother and his family. We’ve stayed at the Yacht Club a few times now, so we thought we knew what to expect when checking in, etc. But this time, there was a little extra magic (sorry, couldn’t resist!): the Yacht Club is the test resort for the Magic Bands – woo hoo!

I have to admit I’ve been slacking on my Walt Disney World news stalking, so I was caught a little by surprise that the bands are here. (Well, for some…almost here for all!). I was even more surprised when I arrived at the Magical Express desk and the gentleman said, “Oh, you didn’t have your Magic Bands shipped to you, so you can pick them up at the front desk.” At that point, I didn’t really know what he meant – haha. I said something to Kenny – who is apparently a bit more up to speed on WDW happenings – and he said it sounded like we were getting the new bands. He was right.

Upon checking in at the resort, we received our Magic Bands. I feel like there was a lot of drama and fanfare around it – haha. They don’t just have them waiting for you – the cast member disappeared behind closed doors and brought them out to us. He was kind of hilarious – he strutted that box out like it was Cinderella’s glass slipper on a pillow. Haha. He opened the box, told us all about the bands and what they’d do for us. In normal circumstances (and you know the Clarks weren’t operating under normal circumstances – lol!), the bands are:

  • your room key (including charging privileges, if desired)
  • your park entrace key
  • your fast pass+ ticket(s)
  • your link to your vacation – you can log into My Disney Experience, plan your day (including Fast Pass+ scheduling and meal reservations) and make changes on the go via the mobile app.
  • your link to in-park experiences – as an example, Gavin used his Magic Band to store the Test Track vehicle he designed, then loaded into our test car, and then loaded it again for the leaderboard rankings at the end of the ride. Pretty cool stuff – I am excited to see how else they use this capability!

So, because it’s still a test, it seems the finer details are are a little fuzzy amongst the cast members. It’s understandable – this is new technology that brings together a lot of Disney processes, so I get that they haven’t figured it all out yet. Here are some tricky things we faced:

  1. Because of the strict pool rules at Beach Club / Yacht Club, we also had to be given room card keys in case they wouldn’t let us in with the Magic Bands. (Now…if Yacht Club is the only test resort, and the Beach Club and Yacht Club share the same pool…why wouldn’t our Magic Bands be proof enough that we were allowed to use the pool? This made no sense to me.)
  2. We are annual pass holders, so we typically use that card to gain entrance to the parks. We asked the guy checking us in about linking our passes to the bands and got sent to the concierge. Kenny visited with the concierge and was told that we had to use our annual passes to gain entrance to the parks. (Um, what? This thing is live and you don’t have a way to link it to annual passes? Again, this made no sense to me.)

This meant that the Magic Bands were not actually helping us – they were just one more thing for us to keep track of. We’d have to use the band as a our room key / wallet, the fake room key to use the pool and then our annual passes to go to the parks.  Hahaha. Insane, right? Kenny and I couldn’t wrap our heads around this – why in the world wouldn’t they make sure the technology synced for what were – in theory – the most loyal park fans, that is, the annual pass holders? (Ok. I’ll admit it – this was mostly me. I was incredulous that they wouldn’t have fixed this before even doing a soft launch within one resort. Being a professional communicator / marketer, I couldn’t wrap my head around this – it seems important to keep your most loyal fans engaged, if not at the forefront!, of exciting innovations like this!)

Because he’s so awesome, Kenny persisted – he read and researched and tested things – AND linked our annual passes to the Magic Bands. Also, they worked for entrance into the pool. Woo hoo! Crisis (ha!) averted.

Here’s what we learned:

  1. Magic Bands are available now at the Yacht Club. The concierge told my sister-in-law that they will be available at Beach Club next (within a few weeks).
  2. Magic Bands are expected to be available – in full use across WDW – by end of December / early January.
  3. Magic Bands last for two years.
  4. You can only get three FastPass+s a day with the Magic Bands.
  5. We were able to schedule FastPass+ visits with our Magic Bands AND use our annual passes (i.e. paper tickets) to get fast passes once in the parks. Don’t worry, we didn’t take advantage of the system – Kenny wanted to test it out and see what worked given the mis-information we received about the bands not linking to our passes, etc. A cast member did tell us that will NOT be the case once the full roll out happens later this year.
  6. You can wear them in the pool, shower, etc.

It was kind of cool being part of the test group for these things. It seemed many of the cast members hadn’t encountered the bands too often as of yet, so we got a lot of questions and drawn into a lot of conversations in ride / character lines, etc. I am guessing this is part of Disney’s plans, because almost all of the conversations started with, “So how do you like your bands?” Haha. We also had many people ask where we got them and how they could get them, too.

My Take

  • I liked the bands.
  • I found the band comfortable and I forgot I was wearing it most of the time. Same for Kenny. Same for the kids. In fact, my kids were excited to put theirs on every day and would remind each other not to forget to wear it!
  • While I am not sure that I love the daily maximum of three passes in one park only, when we thought about it, that’s really all we’d get anyway given how we vacation there. Overall, I think this will even the playing field for all visitors – no more rush to the parks to fight the crowds to get Soarin’ Fast Passes – haha. We can actually sleep in, mosey over to the parks in the afternoon and leisurely hop on Soarin’ because we pre-booked our time the day before. Assuming I don’t have to have a day-by-day plan months in advance of my vacation, I kind of like having the ability to book my FastPasses the night before I go to a park like Kenny was able to do last week. I think it will allow us more freedom to have fun. (Haha – not that rushing to the parks for rope drop so you can grab Fast Passes isn’t fun…but you know what I mean. ;))
  • I like that you will be able to personalize them to some extent. (Of course, I couldn’t take advantage this time since I didn’t know we were getting them – but there’s always next time! :)) I know, I know – it also means you are giving even more money to Disney, but I thought these little wrap-arounds were seriously cute.
  • There seems to be a lot of potential with these things. Like our kids’ bands are linked to our bands so if they ever got lost, eventually, a Disney cast member would be able to identify us, find a cell phone number and contact us. You might even be able to upload a picture of your kids to add a layer of identification security. Also, I feel like they’ll be expanding the interactivity capability Gavin used at Test Track – I’m interested to see what they do in that space.

Overall, we liked the Magic Bands. We’re heading back in a few months, and, for that trip, we’ll get to fully utilize the pre-planning aspect of them. We’ll see how that goes :).