Random Moments in Gaming

While video game programmers put a lot of work into making their creation suitable for the public, there are very few games that are perfect upon release. There are some titles that can present you with an developmental oversight that not many gamers come across. Or you can create a situation within the game that is unique to you.

I’d like to share my list of WTF moments I’ve either encountered or instigated in some of the games I’ve played. Each entry will feature the game title and a subtitle summing up the situation.

1) Far Cry 3’s The driver must really hate these guys – When it comes to first-person shooters or role-playing games, I am someone who prefers stealth or killing from a distance. In the case of Far Cry 3, this approach allowed me to see something extremely unexpected and funny. I was positioned on a cliff overlooking a beach, and there were a couple enemy soldiers patrolling the area between me and my objective. I was ready to take them down with a bow and arrow when I saw a jeep – being driven by their comrades, I might add – turn the corner and start driving through. I quickly chose to bide my time and wait for the vehicle to pass by. What I didn’t expect was for the two guys on foot to get run over and killed instantly. To make it even more hysterical, the car didn’t even slow down or deviate from its path. Of all the moments that made the list, this is the only one I could easily build a story around.

2) Skyrim’s Because I literally didn’t see the bridge – Generally, I am a very observant person – a trait that’s served me well in my everyday life and in video games. That doesn’t stop my keen eye from occasionally failing me. One of my biggest blunders occurred when I wandered into Sovngarde, the mystical realm in the fantasy adventure game of Skyrim, for the final fight of the game. It should have been impossible to miss the giant bridge leading to a temple in the center of the map. I somehow developed tunnel vision when I got to this stage and ended up walking off the edge of a waterfall in an attempt to get to the building.

3) Skyrim’s Magic-user turned creepy stalker – One mission in Skyrim entailed that I sneak into a library, grab a magic scroll, and get out by any means necessary. This proved difficult when a sorceress and two guardsmen entered the library the instant I grabbed the scroll. I was determined to try to get out undetected and spent some time sneaking my way past the patrolling guards. I thought I was home free when I turned into the entryway. I was surprised to see the sorceress seated between me and the door, but I quickly backed away into the shadows. Thankfully, she didn’t see me even though the movement made her get up and wander into the library. However, she did see one of the guards, which worked in my favor thanks to a wacky game glitch. For whatever reason, she started dogging the poor guard as he moved back and forth across the room and repeatedly said to him, “You need to leave.”

4) PUBG’s Yes, I am this easy to kill – I have only been playing the online multiplayer deathmatch game, Player Unknown Battlegrounds (PUBG) for about two months and am still very much an amateur. My general tactic is to sneak my way through the match and avoid conflict as much as possible. There are two things that need to be said so that the following anecdote makes sense. First, any player can get a speed boost by finding and consuming energy drinks or painkillers. Second, I am not very good at paying attention to my surroundings. That being said, I was running through an open field and was feeling fortunate because no one was shooting at me. The next thing I know, another player with a speed boost sprinted up behind me and beat me to death with a frying pan before I could react.

5) Fallout: New Vegas’ A deathclaw’s hidden weakness – Ever since I started playing the Fallout series, I have been terrified of deathclaws – the deadliest creatures in the game. I am scared to face just one of them, let alone a horde. In Fallout: New Vegas, one mission entailed that I clear out a quarry that had been taken over by 7-10 of these monsters. After several failed attempts to take them out without getting killed, I inadvertently discovered a game exploit that worked in my favor. They were virtually unable to get near me if I climbed onto one of the boulders spread throughout the quarry before they saw me. The one time I attempted this tactic after being spotted, the deathclaws easily followed me up there. One thing’s for sure – it’s funny watching them run in circles while I slowly gun them down.

6) Resident Evil Revelations 2’s Boss forfeits the fight (spoiler alert) – RE Revelations 2 isn’t the best game in the series, but it is more suspenseful and horrific than most of the recent entries. The game has a variety of different monsters that are hard to put down. Especially Neil, the traitorous human rights employee who sold out his co-workers for genetic experimentation. Unfortunately for him, Neil is in turn betrayed by the person who put him up to this and is transformed into a formidable hulking creature. I faced a bit of a problem trying to defeat him on the medium difficulty setting for the game. After getting killed by Neil several times, I decided to switch tactics and I ran underneath an overhang on the eastern edge of the map to avoid one of his jump attacks. Oddly, this resulted in Neil flat out disappearing and my playable character, Moira, speaking a line of dialogue that signified the end of the fight. I couldn’t immediately comprehend what happened, so I reloaded the game from the last savepoint and started the battle over. I was pleasantly surprised when the same thing occurred when I ducked underneath the eastern overhang. I don’t know if this exploit would work for everyone, but it is an easy way to bypass a tough fight.

7) Dead Island’s Being cautious just bit me in the ass – In addition to the zombie populace in Dead Island, you must also contend with criminals who will fight you for needed resources. At some point in the game, I ventured into the stockroom of a distribution company in search of food. I’d fought my way through a horde of zombies to get here, and I had to eliminate the criminals shooting at me before I could enter the stockroom. I thought I was perfectly safe firing from the cover of the entryway. I had only one hoodlum left to take out when I suddenly heard a noise behind me. I turned just in time to see one of the exploding zombies had crept up on me unnoticed. It blew up a second later and took me down with it.

I’m sure there are other games where I’ve either done something or witnessed something unexpected. I have other WTF moments in previous blogposts – referenced below – I’ve written. For now, here are the scenarios I remember that really stand out. I hope to collect many more good anecdotes from future games that I can write about.

I hope you all enjoyed this article. If so, be sure to tune in next month for my list of the worst games I’ve played.

For more of my video game follies, check out the following blogposts.








My Top Ten Favorite YouTube Gamers

Have you ever wanted to play a certain video game but didn’t have the time or motivation to go for it?  I know I have.  I found an answer to this dilemma with YouTube.  I started out by watching videos of entire games that I believed I would never play myself.  Gradually, I discovered enough likeable personalities, game vloggers, and highly creative YouTubers to compile a list.  I’d like to share with you my top ten favorite YouTube gamers.

10) RadBrad – RadBrad has the distinction of being one of the first gamers I discovered on YouTube, though I can’t recall what was the first game of which I saw him do a playthrough.  I thought him to be funny enough that I kept tuning back in to hear his commentary on a number of video games.  The one thing that keeps him from getting a higher spot on this list is that he doesn’t always finish the games he starts.  I suspect he makes a living playing video games based on how many videos he uploads on a weekly basis.  But I also imagine he doesn’t have enough time to see all these games through to the end.

9) Cloud8745 – When I took a video game design course in college, a classmate told me about one of the most sadistic games ever made – I Wanna Be the Guy – where just about every object in the game is designed to kill you.  Curiosity led me to look up the game online, which in turn led me to the YouTube videos of Cloud8745.  His unique commentary or rants on some of the game’s scenarios made me an instant fan of his.  Sadly, he has difficulty maintaining his own YouTube channel.  Many of the videos showcasing his gaming antics have been made available by fans of his.

8) Yeti112 – He is a YouTuber who has the distinction of making animated parodies of video games, particularly the Resident Evil series.  I’m not entirely sure how or when I stumbled across a video showcasing Yeti112’s work, but I found it highly entertaining and clever.  I especially love his ‘Resident Evil Stories’ series for their running gags and humorous situations.  While he doesn’t upload new videos that often, his work is unique enough that I get a kick out of it.

7) Jordan Underneath – I stumbled across Jordan Underneath due to our shared love of the Resident Evil series.  I was drawn to his honest critiques of the games and the monsters therein.  He can be counted on to give it to you straight instead of ranting or being preachy.  While I’ve enjoyed his videos pertaining to games he’s played, he has recently turned to making dark or surreal artistic videos instead.  I know he suffers from depression; though some of his recent videos have gotten me concerned about him, I’m glad to see he’s still going strong.

6) Dartigan – What makes Dartigan a unique YouTuber is that his videos consist primarily of him nitpicking the newest or most popular video games on the market.  Granted, I’ve seen other YouTubers who do the same thing, but I find Dartigan’s nitpicks more well thought out and humorous than most.  I routinely tune in to his channel to see whatever new game he’s scrutinizing.  One of my favorite video games to hear him pick apart would be Final Fantasy XIII.  I haven’t played this game myself, but it’s not necessary to understand most of the nitpicks.

5) Proton Jon & Superjeenius – If there’s one thing I love about watching gameplay videos on YouTube, it would be listening to the commentary of the player – the more humorous, the better.  Watching Proton Jon’s and Superjeenius’ playthrough of Resident Evil 5 is guaranteed to get me rolling on the floor laughing.  Whether it’s hearing Jon make a random reference to football – which a drinking game could easily be built around — or Superjeenius’ irrational fear of computer-generated spiders, I can always count on their videos to brighten my mood whenever I’m having a bad day.  For anyone who doesn’t want to see their run-through of the entire game, I would recommend checking out their top 20 best moments.  The one downside – this is the only co-op game I’ve seen them partner up on.  They play off each other so well that I wouldn’t mind seeing them team up for another video game.

4) ZackScottGames –  He is another active gamer whose commentary I enjoy, but I’m not sure which game led me to discover his channel.  I find ZackScottGames to be very personable and he has a laugh that I find infectious.  Though he gravitates more toward kid-oriented video games, he does occasionally work in a horror game.  My personal favorite videos are his highlights of Resident Evil: Revelations or Don’t Starve.  I also love that he ends each of his videos by introducing his two cats – one of which sadly passed away recently.  If you are looking for a fun YouTuber who can be counted on to provide a good laugh, he is definitely one to check out.

3) Jazzman1226 –  I don’t know if Jazzman1226 is a gamer per se, but he or she is a master of putting together musical tributes to video games or movies.  I love how this particular YouTuber edits together clips from the various Resident Evil games to match a particular song of his or her choosing.  Of all the fan-made music videos I’ve added to my personal YouTube playlist, the majority were created by Jazzman1226 (but shout-out to the runner-up, MrAlbertWesker0).  I look forward to whatever new tributes Jazzman1226 has in store, especially if they are on par with my particular faves of “Super Psycho Love,” “Something I Need,” “The Silence,” and “Unknown Soldier.”

2) Tipster – A prolific game vlogger I discovered just a month ago, Tipster earned a spot near the top of the list for the hot-off-the-presses news he provides about the gaming industry.  He is definitely a YouTuber worth checking out whether he’s relaying info about a new game console in the works or sharing his opinion of newly announced video games.  I don’t know of very many vloggers who are as active and comprehensive.

1) Radtv5150 (with Audemas) – As with the other game commentators who made the list, Radtv5150 is one to check out for a good laugh – especially when he does a co-op game with his buddy, Audemas.  What sets Rad’s videos apart from the rest is that he easily freaks out – in ways I find downright hysterical — when faced with video game creatures ranging from crocodiles to mutated monstrosities.  And Audemas will sometimes instigate a situation that gets his gaming partner, or both of them, killed.  What’s better is that Rad isn’t the best when it comes to aiming.  In his playthrough of Resident Evil 4, he even manages to miss a very large target with a rocket launcher.

The majority of unique personalities on this list can still provide a source of entertainment even if you’re not a gamer.  Whether you’d prefer exploring the creative artistry of Yeti112, Jordan Underneath, and Jazzman1226 or laughing at the comedy stylings of Proton Jon, Superjeenius, ZackScottGames, and Radtv5150, I would highly recommend checking out one or more of these channels.  I hope you found something on my list that appeals to you.

My list of Top Ten Quirkiest Video Game Characters

I’ve played dozens of different video games in my lifetime and have come to count hundreds of different characters as endearing. But there are also a handful that particularly stand out and whom I count as the most memorable. What follows is my list of the top ten characters who make me smile or laugh whenever they come to mind.

10) The Meeps (Quest for Glory)
Of the many quirky characters present in the first Quest for Glory game, these furry subterranean creatures are, in my opinion, the funniest. The player needs only to obtain a patch of green fur from them for a potion, but the game designers threw in a red herring on how to get the fur. The player has the option to try and attack them. But any attempt to do so bears a striking resemblance to a poorly-played game of Whack-A-Mole.

9) Kinzie Kensington (Saints Row 3 and 4; Saints Row: Gat out of Hell) – (spoiler alert)
Saints Row is a franchise revolving around a street gang that started off serious, but each new installment has since gotten more silly and over-the-top in a good way. I never played the first two games and am not even sure what drew me to the third one. But it is a series I have grown to love due to its many colorful characters. The one I found the most quirky — at least until the fourth game was released — was paranoid cyberhacker Kinzie Kensington. Of all the characters in Saints Row 3, I find her the most eccentric and interesting. What makes her stand out the most is her dual personality. At times, she comes off sweet and someone you just want to give a hug. And on the other hand, she is feisty and has one wicked mean streak. For instance, after Kinzie delivers a vicious beating to one of the antagonists in the fourth game, she rolls off him, adopts a serene Indian-style pose, and in a bubbly tone tells her friends, “I’m done.”

8) Special Agent Tanya Adams (Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2)
What I really enjoy about the Red Alert series is it takes place in an alternate history where Hitler was assassinated, the Holocaust never happened, and Soviet Russia became a more dangerous force to be reckoned with. What I love even more is the spunky female commando Tanya Adams (portrayed in the second game’s cinematics by actress Kari Wuhrer) who acts as a frontrunner and one-woman army against Soviet soldiers. She adds a unique energy to the roleplaying strategy game, and her gleeful battle cry of “Yeah, baby!” when she prepares to take out enemy infantry or take down nuclear silos is one of the main reasons I adore this game as much as I do.

7) Simon the Killer Ewok (Star Wars: Galactic Battlegrounds) – (spoiler alert)
Cheat codes have been included in video games ever since the early days in the seventies and eighties, and serve as a way to win with minimal effort. But I don’t know of very many games that feature a character who is only generated through use of a cheat code. Pressing enter and typing “SimonSays” in the game, Star Wars: Galactic Battlegrounds will give the player control of a single Ewok called Simon who can decimate any enemy army, soldiers and vehicles alike, all by himself. Call me crazy, but the majority of my time playing this game was spent delightedly watching Simon go to town against Imperial or Rebel forces.


Clockwise from top left – the Meeps, Paul, John Smethells, Yes Man (photo credits at end)

6) Conrad Verner (the Mass Effect trilogy)
Behind every great hero is a wannabe who strives to live up to the hero’s ideals. I’ve seen that formula used in countless stories, but the Mass Effect series puts an interesting spin on it by giving the wannabe delusions of grandeur. Conrad Verner’s antics, ranging from asking for inclusion in an elitist military unit to unwittingly promoting a terrorist organization as the “good” guys, and Shepherd’s reactions to those antics get me chuckling every time. As with many of the characters in the trilogy, his survival at certain points throughout the three games hinges on choices made by the lead protagonist, Commander Shepherd. The sci-fi video game trilogy has tons of interesting characters to interact with, but there is something about lovable loser Conrad that adds an extra special element to the overall story.

5) Potato-Glados (Portal 2) – (spoiler alert)
The basic premise of the Portal games is that you’re playing as a character being used as a proverbial guinea pig in a science facility and made to solve logistical puzzles as you wander from one testing chamber to the next. And all the while, an insane artificial intelligence (A.I.) is monitoring and trying to dictate your every move. Through all of the first game and half of the second one, that A.I. is Glados, until another A.I. called Wheatley conspires to take her place as the governing source of the facility. Though Wheatley turns evil once he has ultimate power in his grasp, he still turns the tables on Glados in a very amusing way – by attaching her CPU and voice modulator to a common potato. Potato Glados’ lack of mobility and desire to regain control causes her to team up with the protagonist she previously tried to kill. What I find most hysterical about Portal 2 is that you literally have a root vegetable as an ally for half of the game.

4) John Smethells, the “omniscient” steward (Titanic: Adventure out of Time)
I’ve seen many games offer a tutorial to give the player a sense of what buttons to use. But the way the period-piece mystery game, Titanic: Adventure out of Time, presents it is very comical. Minutes into the game, your protagonist is greeted by a steward named John Smethells inside a nicely rendered replica of one of the ship’s deluxe rooms. Answering yes to his question on whether you need help finding your way around causes him to break character and start talking about which buttons on the keyboard are needed to move, interact with other characters, or pick up important objects. What further shatters the immersive experience is he also gives you instructions on how to register the game online. The fact that all this info about computers and the Internet comes from a guy dressed like a 1912 ship steward couldn’t be more hysterical.

3) Yes Man (Fallout: New Vegas)
Of the four characters to ally with when it comes to seizing control of the casino strip in Fallout: New Vegas, Yes Man is by far my favorite. Though he is a dangerous robot called a Securitron who has been reprogrammed by the duplicitous casino kingpin Benny to stage a coup, Yes Man’s allegiance is prone to shift to anyone who interacts with him. As Yes Man cheerfully puts it when first met by the main protagonist, “I was programmed to be helpful and answer any questions I was asked. I guess no one bothered to restrict who I answer questions for. That was probably pretty dumb, huh?” The fact that he’s stuck with a permanent smiley face and sounds so cheery even when he says something particularly dark really cracks me up.

2) Muggy (Fallout: New Vegas – Old World Blues)
When the player ventures to an area called Big Mountain in the Old World Blues expansion pack, he or she find the main hub of a science facility at its core houses a number of everyday appliances given artificial intelligence and unique personalities. While other A.I.s in the hub, such as the toaster or jukebox, are entertaining, the mobile obsessive-compulsive little robot called Muggy steals the show. Like Yes Man, Muggy is a Securitron, but is much smaller than any other one found in the game. In addition to his small stature, Muggy has a permanent cartoonish teacup displayed on his face monitor. He was deliberately programmed to be obsessed with cleaning the ceramic cups and occasionally curses the scientist who made him this way. Much as he might hate his compulsion, he is doomed to drone on and on about it. Best quote: “Mugs, Mugs, Mugs. Mugs, Mugs. Mug-a-mug. Mug-a-mug. Mugs! God, why can’t I stop singing this f***ing song?!”

Last but not least, here is my all-time favorite quirkiest video game character:

1) Paul (Saints Row 4)
Much of the plot for Saints Row 4 entails the systematic destruction of a virtual world built to enslave humanity. This task falls into the hands of the leader of a street gang. Step one: the leader must rescue his or her teammates from each one’s individual simulated hell. Of all the virtual “nightmares” encountered, the one built for Pierce Washington takes the cake. This particular simulation kicks off with a battle against human-sized energy drinks – or rather humans dressed up as purple aluminum cans. And just when you think it can’t get any crazier, in comes Paul, a gargantuan soda can that roars and has the ability to shoot laser beams from his eyes… It’s hard to find the words to do this character or battle justice, so here is a YouTube video of that, courtesy of one of my favorite gamers out there, RadBrad.

If you enjoyed this list, feel free to leave a comment below. And be sure to tune in next month for “My Top Ten Favorite Badass Video Game Characters.”

Photo Credits:
The Meeps
Yes Man

MRI Exam

My MRI technician seemed competent enough and left the room as I slowly unbuttoned shirt and trousers. I wanted to be the first person in the morning while everyone in the MRI facility was still fresh. I arrived before an 8:00 am appointment, spending ten minutes glancing through a waiting room pamphlet entitled “Magnetic Resonance Imaging – An Inside Look.” It was supposed to inform and calm the fears of MRI first-timers during check-in, but had someone actually included an idiotic pun as part of its title? An “inside look” indeed. The booklet was helpfully illustrated in a cartoon-style for morons. 

The first page asked “What is magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)?” before answering itself, “It’s a way to look inside the body without using X-rays.” I hoped the rest would prove more enlightening. Further explanation wasn’t all that reassuring, to wit, “Your body is composed of tiny particles called atoms. Under normal conditions, the protons inside these atoms spin randomly.” 

I paused a moment. Was this why I occasionally feel disoriented listening to local newscasts? And what happened to all the molecules I learned about in high school? I continued reading. “A magnet creates a magnetic field which causes the protons to line up together and spin in the same direction, like an army of tiny tops,” the prose intoned. 

Who in heck wrote this? Five-year-olds are mesmerized by armies of tiny tops all spinning in the same direction, but I wasn’t captivated quite yet. Magnets don’t normally generate anything other than magnetic fields. Was I, in my seventh decade of life, anticipating my protons lining up together like tiny tops? I assumed my protons have figured out how best to align themselves without outside assistance after all these years. 

The pamphlet continued, “A radio frequency (RF) signal is beamed into the magnetic field, making the protons move out of alignment – similar to what happens to a spinning top when someone hits it.” I suddenly remembered a childhood wooden top bouncing off my grandmother’s kitchen walls accompanied by shrieks of alarm. Would my body’s protons begin bouncing off walls when they were moved out of alignment by a radio frequency signal? I read on, more disconcerted. 

“When the signal stops, the protons move back to the aligned position and release energy. A receiver coil measures the energy released by the disturbed protons and the time it takes, and a computer constructs an image on a TV screen.” I pondered the words, “the protons move back to the aligned position.” Why did the writer use the singular word “position” instead of plural “positions?”  Would all my spinning protons gather into a single golf-ball-size cluster-position instead of their previously normal happy positions? Where would this new golf-ball-size cluster reside? How would I greet my wife later in the day? “Hi, Honey, I won’t be eating dinner tonight because I feel really heavy on one side. All my protons have moved back to one aligned position.” 

Besides, how much energy is released during a typical “proton alignment” process? Would I become a walking grenade? How “disturbed” were all of my protons going to be after realignment? Would I feel a little buzzed while they were quieting themselves, like a Friday night martini? How do they know to resume their original positions? Would I have the same outward appearance or look like an alien in “Invasion of the Body Snatchers?” I guessed I shouldn’t bother asking the MRI technician. 

But what was I to make of the next section called, “Understanding the Risks and Benefits?” Why was it necessary to bring up the subject of risk at all? “At the scanning site, due to the strength of the magnetic field, you must remove all metallic objects before scanning. For example, jewelry, glasses, zippered clothing, nonpermanent dentures and credit cards must be removed.” What happened to people who don’t have “nonpermanent dentures” but permanent dentures? Would their permanent dentures turn into six-inch balls of exploding debris? 

I took the pamphlet into the changing room and snuck a last glance at it, discovering a perturbing statement, “In general, an MRI scan cannot be done if a person’s body contains a metal object that contains iron – the object may be moved out of place by the magnetic force.” Yes, I could foresee a problem with long-forgotten surgical staples suddenly exploding like shrapnel from internal recesses, flying through the air and sticking to huge surrounding magnets. I left the changing room to discover a second business-like technician, clipboard in hand. 

“I know you’ve been asked this already,” she said, “but do you wear a pacemaker, or have defibrillator wires, surgical implants, plates, screws, or prostheses in your body? Have you ever had surgery, a gun-shot wound, or imbedded metal in you that you’re aware of?” She inspected me closely as if I were hiding something under my flimsy hospital gown. “Come with me,” she commanded, leading me into the next room with a ceiling-high, ten-ton, evil-looking machine with a hole in its side into which I would soon be inserted, but could hardly accommodate my shoulders. 

Handing me a pair of ear plugs, she said, “Take your shoes off and lie down. There’s a lot of noise when the machine operates so put these in.” I had been wondering if I should insert the plugs into other orifices than ears. “After you’re settled in, you cannot move until the scan is complete. Here’s a panic button to push in case you need it or something goes wrong. This should only take 25 minutes. Don’t worry.” She seemed unconcerned that “something might go wrong.” How was I supposed to know how something was “going wrong?” If “something went wrong”, I might be slightly too dead to push a panic button. 

BZZZZZ … the noise was incredibly loud and went on for more than a half-hour. Suddenly there was silence, followed by bangs and clanks, and I felt myself sliding into light. Maybe this is what being born was like. 

I donned my clothes and returned to the waiting room to read the last page of the pamphlet while the receptionist finished paperwork. There was a final comment I had missed, “Though the use of magnetic fields is not thought to be harmful, short and long-term side effects are unknown.”  

Whoa! I didn’t especially mind long-term side effects, years in the future, like after I’m buried would be good, but what sort of assurance was a statement “short-term side effects are unknown?” Did this mean I might, through no fault of my own, begin dropping favorite activities like reading, writing, alcohol, and long walks in the fall, not necessarily in that order? 

Walking back to the car, thankful it was over, I was dismayed to find I still couldn’t predict where the Dow Jones Stock Index was headed the next day.

Three Principles to Fly By

Because we fly a lot, my husband Greg and I are sensitive to airplane etiquette. Recently, we were disturbed by a man who was clipping his fingernails two rows ahead of us on a plane. Now I know that clippers have advanced to the point that some can trap wayward debris in carefully designed, built-in cavities. I also know, firsthand, that they don’t work perfectly. Odds and ends always get away. It’s bad enough to have to brush off a seat full of cookie crumbs left by a previous passenger. But fingernails…really?

Dear Friends, let’s take a look at some of the ways we can be a little more courteous to our fellow passengers.

1. Take care of personal grooming in privacy.

As you prepare for travel, there are many things to consider. You may have to temporarily stop delivery of your mail or ask a neighbor to collect it while you are away. If you have pets or plants, you need to make arrangements for someone to care for them. Checking the weather forecast will help you determine the type of clothes to pack.

Before adding toiletries to your luggage, take a couple of minutes and put your nail clippers to use. If you just can’t squeeze in the time before your trip, place the coveted clippers next to its dreadful cousin—the nose hair trimmer—in your suitcase, where the two can keep each other company until arrival at your final destination. No one wants to see or hear either of those in action.


People are watching.

I’m pleased to say that I’ve never witnessed anyone onboard pulling out a razor to tend to a few missed spots. Personally, I have been tempted to paint my nails while en route, but I abide by the unspoken, yet commonly understood, rule that certain finishing touches aren’t spectator sports.

2. Pay attention to your boarding status.

Unfortunately, we are not all treated equally in the caste system of airline travel. At least that’s the case with Delta Airlines, upon which Greg and I frequently rely. Dare I say: polite discrimination is necessary in the boarding process?

On your boarding pass is the heading, Zone. Look beneath it to find a poorly disguised indication of your affluence. This is what determines when you may embark. Unseasoned travelers, or anti-establishment rebels, typically rise too soon from their seats, crowd together, and block the path of First Class and Premium passengers—the upper crust of airplane society who board before most everyone else. For the majority of us in other designated Zones, I suggest we step to the side and allow High Society to go more easily on their way. Additionally, let’s bow, ever so slightly, as they pass by. They have, after all, impressed us with the status they have achieved by either paying big bucks for their cushy seats or by manipulating airline miles and credit card spending to earn upgrades into the royal realm. They deserve our silent admiration, if only for a moment. Take solace in knowing that even they must yield to people needing assistance or to those traveling with children under two, with strollers or car seats.

Next to board are various levels of the working/middle class. These are my people. We own the Sky…Zone. We achieve higher and higher status—Silver to Gold to Platinum to Diamond Medallion—as we accrue more and more miles through air travel or as we rack up exorbitant credit card balances. We are frequent flyers, good spenders, and oftentimes, both.

The extent of snobbery in Sky Zone most recently cost me $19 extra to upgrade from basic, main cabin seating to Delta Comfort+. It was well worth a bite size Twix and mini banana, wine, extra leg room, and free SHOWTIME episodes of Penny Dreadful, Season 2. Is it not obvious that Sky Zone people are on our way towards magnificence and, like those who went before us, deserve a clear path to our assigned seats?

Zones 1, 2, and 3 are reserved for the have-nots. Because of their lowly position in the pecking order, they are last to be summoned forward and, once onboard, may struggle to find room in the overhead bins. Do not fret if you are assigned to one of these final categories. You are still classier than the other people waiting to board who sit in front of charging stations and don’t intend to share the extremely limited power. They roll their eyes and begrudgingly lean an inch to one side when someone approaches and asks to plug-in. If it were up to me, I would strip the classless of their coffee or tea, water or juice, peanuts, pretzels, or crumbly cookies. Make way! For cryin’ out loud.

Ahem. Air travel affords the perfect opportunity to practice getting along with other people.

3. Once on board, stow your belongings, sit back, relax, and control yourself.

• Kick the seat or tap too hard on the personal entertainment system in front of you.
• Monopolize the armrests or invade your seat-mate’s allotted space.
• Recline your own seat too quickly.
• Speak softly when carrying on conversations.
• Cover your mouth when sneezing or coughing.
• Say please and thank you to the stewards.

We can’t rely on rocket science alone to make airline travel more enjoyable. Let’s remember our manners.

(Farting is fine as long as you deliver silent ones. No one can really tell where those come from anyway.)