Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Flames. Flames, on the side of my face

"This isn't too bad."

I had just gotten sprayed with pepper spray in an "X" pattern across the face, as part of the DC Metropolitan Police Academy's training for handling OC spray.

Quick primer on self-defense spray: The spray is called Oleoresin Capsicum, or shortened to OC spray for short.  Mace is a conpany, which started the concept using teargas as the agent and then it too switched over to OC.  There's a pretty good explanation of the ingredients in the wikipedia page linked above.  

MPD, like many other departments has officers get sprayed before getting OC so they know how to handle themselves when it happens to them.  I say when and not if, because cops get sprayed a lot, 99% of the time by other cops.  We call these cops, "dicks". So after being sprayed, they have to pretend to cuff a dummy and then read a number being held 50 feet away to simulate reading an address off a house and then finally you need to protect your firearm as someone tries to take it.

I should say that in my 5 years with the NYPD, I had been exposed to OC several times, but always it was a contact hit.  I was generally running into a cloud of OC after another cop has sprayed a perp.  See, you're supposed to spray them and then back off and let the OC do it's job, but a lot of times you're in an apartment and someone sprays a guy and you're all in a closet and then you're playing Seven Seconds in Heaven with handcuffs and much more cursing.  But this was a direct spray to the eyes, nose and mouth. Night and Day.  Arbys to In 'N Out. OTPHJ to ... well you get the point.

I keep referring to other people using OC, as the only time I used it, it had no effect on the 6'5" guy on PCP who later bit my neck.  So just know this stuff doesn't work on everyone.  Apparently 20% of the population is immune.  I am not in that group of people.

So we assembled outside, where is was rainy and cold, and lined up to get sprayed.  When it was my turn, I closed my eyes and mouth, deep breath and then came the Devil's money shot.  I could feel the heat on my face, but it wasn't until she told me to open my eyes and I found that I couldn't, did I realize that I had made a poor life decision in being a cop again, much less an unpaid one.  So OC is a lacrimator, which basically means you cry a lot.  But those tears feel like lava, and the remedy is sadly the hardest thing to do.

I was coughing and squinting and cursing. If Popeye had a love child with Mr. Magoo, that would be me.   You need to open your eyes to allow the air in, as air and water are the best ways to decontaminate.  I passed the obstacle course, though seeing that number in the dark through my eyeballs of fury was not easy.  My face felt like it was on fire and my eyes wanted to close, but when they were closed it hurt 100 times more to open them.  And you needed to cry to get the OC out of your eyeballs.

And the snotting. So much snotting.  As my friend Steve used to say, my nose was running like Carl Lewis.  Snotting everywhere.  I was lacrimating out of every orifice on my head.  I also managed to wipe some of the OC on my left neck so I had a nice burn developing there as well.  I was blowing my nose on my t-shirt, because I didn't care about my looks at that point.  Hell, I couldn't see enough to know what I looked like anyway.

I haven't showered since, because the water reactivates the OC, and I'm waiting until I arrive at my mother's house where my crying will be mistaken for that of my new nephew who is 3 months old.  I can still feel the OC in my eyes and on my face.  And the experience reminded me again of why its so important to talk your way out of situations. My partner in NYC was a guy named Will who had a quicker temper than me, but we worked really well together.  I often played good cop to his bad cop, as defendants would refuse to work with him and only talk to me.  You need to be able to talk to people and also be ready to put your hands on people.  But if I never have to pull that stupid can out of its holder, that's fine with me.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Cruises: A Binary Reaction

I blame Dr. Cohen.  Steve Cohen was my history teacher in high school. In 11th grade, we discussed Disney World and Dr. Cohen, who leaned a little left of center, said that theme parks were a terrible illusion, that took people's hard earned money and gave them only a glimpse of a false utopia, with happy people and clean walkways and constant parades.  I never passed Exit 7A on the Jersey Turnpike again the same way.  Thanks a lot, Dr. Cohen.   I was reminded of that lesson when I took a 7-day cruise to Bermuda courtesy of my job.

Now before I get into the cruise, let me say that none of my previous jobs have ever taken me on a cruise before and so I am incredibly grateful that Allyson and I could go on this cruise.  I have learned that cruises are a binary experience.  You either love them or you hate them.  There is little in between.  This very much depends on the kind of travel person you are. Do you like visiting cities and walking until you get lost or riding public transportation in those places to get a feel for the average citizen?  Yeah, cruises aren't for you.  Do you like your alcohol colored blue with umbrellas and plastic flamingos in it?  Getting warmer.

So, let's get into this, shall we.  The ship, you don't call them boats, was the Explorer of the Seas, and she sailed from Cape Liberty, NJ.  Cape Liberty doesn't exist, but it sounds better than its actual name, the Bayonne, NJ waterfront.  The ship is one of the largest in the world, and carries over 3,100 passengers and over 1,000 crew.  To put this in perspective, it is larger than the USS Intrepid, which is the aircraft carrier that most NYC kids know from field trips.  The voyage was to take 7 days, with 2 getting to Bermuda, three in port, and two returning.

This is not really a ship, or a boat.  It had an Irish Bar and a rock climbing wall, and 6 hot tubs, and an ice skating rink.  It was like a floating city.  But not a city you would want to live.  More like a floating Branson.  The problem with all of these opportunities are that they are just okay.  Don't get me wrong, seeing an ice show while sailing along the Atlantic Ocean, is wild.  However, when you take the experiences and put them side by side, the shine dulls a bit.  Let's take the food.

One of the reasons people go on cruises I've learned is to eat.  Not so much eat, as shovel food into their gullets and eat two bites of everything and throw the rest away.  The main dining area has two seatings.  6:30 and 8:30PM.  The room feeds about 1,500 people at once which means that all of your meat is cooked well done and the logistics of serving all of these meals is far more impressive than the actual dishes being served.  The other dining option that most people go to is the Windjammer, which is the giant buffet that's open for most of the day.  This is where you see the professional eaters.  This also is where you see the absolute fear of the cruise lines about Norovirus, and the lengths they go to have you wash your hands.  There is a gauntlet of Purell dispensers blocking the way into the buffet and a woman yelling "Washy Washy", which I still hear in my nightmares, at you as you enter.

See, people come on the cruise to be gluttonous and cruise lines are all about helping you fulfill your goal.  The buffet has many mediocre varieties of food, ranging from hot dogs and burgers to "build your own pizza".  And it functions much like any other buffet,  whether in a casino or strip mall.  You get all kinds of different food, eat a bite of each thing, and then throw it all out.  The most popular thing offered at the buffet was the Mongolian Grill.  Which proves my point about cruises.  When offered culinary options, the masses choose a meat and veggie concoction that is covered in a sweet sauce meaning it tastes the same regardless of whether its beef, chicken or rubber.

I think cruises depend greatly on where you choose to go.  If you choose a Caribbean or tropical destination, just know that the companies put their largest ships on this route with all the most attractions, from bumper cars to projected movies of the sea so inside staterooms feel like they have windows.  I'm not kidding.  These voyages are filled with people who want to drink and eat and tan.  These are the ships that allow you to do zip line and drink mai tais in Haiti . But a piece of Haiti behind miles of razor wire so none of the drunks realize that they're paying $10 for a daquiri in the poorest country in the Americas.  Do you go on vacation to escape, as Dr. Cohen would ask?  Then cruises allow that.

There are smaller ships to Europe or the Greek Isles, and those ships are smaller with less of the attractions which put more of the focus on the destinations.  This is how I may cruise again.  May. It will need to be a little while before I think about setting foot on a boat.  I still can't get this damn song out of my head.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Ad I Hate Most

There's an ad running right now from Prudential that is clearly designed for Boomers or those about to retire.  Here it is:

I get it. This ad is designed for long-time employees of companies like GM or IBM and others where you earn the gold watch and then decide what to do. I call bullshit. None of those jobs they mentioned couldn't have been had sooner. I get it. Its scary.  I've worked in three states.  I have two pensions and about 5 401Ks.  This is how it works.  Not for my parents.  But for me.  I'm not waiting for 65 to do what I want to do.  That time is now.  Life is way too short to toil at a job for 35 years to get to do what I want to do.

Everyone wants their kids to have better than them.  Even if I had kids, that wouldn't be possible.  My Dad was a banker and my mom was an interior decorator.  I learned to live my life whatever that means, and especially without kids that means being happy, which I am.  Allyson and I travel to different countries every year and that matters way to me than saving an extra $35 a month so that maybe when both my hips are fake I can have the life I dream.

Live the life you want now.  No one will judge you later.  They'll only be jealous.