Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Safety First! Airlines Are Using More Engaging Methods to Get the Message Across

Airline safety demonstrations are not only boring but also apparently meant for first time flyers, Neanderthals, or hermits who have never been exposed to the invention of seat belts. ‘To insert the seatbelt low and tight across your lap insert the metal fitting into the buckle. Tighten the belt by pulling on the loose ends of the strap. To release your seatbelt pull on the buckle flap’. What some find self-explanatory others must find perplexing.

Because safety comes first, crew member announcements are trending toward fun and engaging briefings that leave the passenger both educated on emergency procedures as well as enthused and comfortable on board the aircraft. From my frequent travel I’ve found various airlines have employed music, humor, and sex appeal in getting the safety message across.

Music has long been a powerful tool in communicating messages. No matter the genre, through lyrics, music ingrains feelings and messages into listeners. David Holmes, a Southwest Airlines flight attendant has become a company sensation and a push toward lively briefings that get passengers’ attention. Holmes has lyrically and rhythmically translated the Southwest spiel into rhyme and raps the entirety of the safety demonstration. What better way to convey important information than through a tune that people can bounce along with and will remember long after they deplane the aircraft?

David Holmes, Southwest Airlines

On a recent flight to Oklahoma City I was privileged to experience Holmes’ lyrical treat. After all the passengers had boarded he got on the intercom and really shook things up. He requested ‘audience participation’ in giving him a beat by having all the passengers stomp and clap in rhythm. Stomp, clap, stomp, clap…people in all aisles were laughing and bouncing along to the beat. Uptight business travellers began to loosen up and clap along. The other flight attendants got their dance on and the whole plane was a brief but bumping party. Most importantly, we were all having fun and listening to important safety features of the Boeing 737…or Soul Plane as I was calling it.

Check out this link to watch David Holmes' pre-flight rap!

Though music is an effective way to brief passengers, humor always wins hearts. On several airlines, flight attendants are incorporating comedy into their announcements and safety demonstrations to entertain and get the attention of travel weary passengers. The following one liners made me giggle despite being in uncomfortable airplane surroundings; being crammed in a middle seat, beside virus-ridden seatmates, breathing 'fake' air, at the mercy of screaming babies, and after being nickled and dimed for every amenity:

  • 'Should we experience a drop in cabin pressure, oxygen masks will drop from above your seat. First, stop screaming. If you have a small child traveling with you, secure your mask before assisting with theirs. If you are traveling with two small children, decide now which one you love more'.
  • 'To operate your seatbelt, insert the metal tab into the buckle, and pull tight. It works just like every other seatbelt and if you don't know how to operate one, you probably shouldn't be out in public unsupervised'.
  • 'As you exit the plane, please make sure to gather all of your belongings. Anything left behind will be distributed evenly among the flight attendants. Please do not leave children or spouses'.
  • ‘We'd like to thank you folks for flying with us today. And, the next time you get the insane urge to go blasting through the skies in a pressurized metal tube, we hope you'll think of us here at US Airways.'
  • ‘In the case of an emergency water landing follow the instructions of a uniformed crew member…the naked ones can’t be trusted.'
  • As the Ryan Air (budget European airline) flight geared up for takeoff the captain came across the intercom and howled ‘Yeehaw.'
  • ‘In order to enhance the appearance of your flight crew, we will be dimming the cabin lights.'
  • ‘Should this flight turn into a cruise, your seat cushion can be used for floatation’
  • ‘Please be careful when retrieving your luggage and personal belongings from the overhead bins. Shift happens.'
  • ‘If you’re smoking onboard you better be on fire and if you’re on fire we will put you out.'

Smoking on board an aircraft is not only illegal but on Delta, it’s an especially naughty thing to do. Delta Airlines’ safety demonstration video showcases a very sexy redhead, a real flight attendant named Katherine Lee, to deliver the message that, ‘smoking is noooooot allowed on any Delta flight.' She alluringly wags her finger warning passengers not to smoke onboard. Her message implies that if you smoke on the aircraft you'll not only be prosecuted and faced with hefty civil fines but you're also going to get a spanking. Her high cheekbones and full lips have earned her the title of Deltalina, in reference to pop culture’s hottie Angelina Jolie. Apparently sex sells. After seeing this safety video, the only thing that is smoking on Delta Airlines is Deltalina.

Katherine Lee 'Deltalina', Delta Airlines

Not smoking has never been so seductive! Check out Deltalina's spicy safety video at

Next time you’re on a flight and you hear an entertaining buckle-vest-mask ditty spread the word and leave a comment here on Faraway Pillow. Though most airlines still try to brainwash their rules and regulations through hypnotic, monotone announcements, other airlines like Ryan Air, Southwest Airlines, US Airways and Delta are using more engaging methods to achieve ultimate decorum.

‘Thank you everyone for reading this blog posting. I know you have a choice when it comes to travel blogs and I appreciate you choosing Faraway Pillow. Welcome to the end of this posting or wherever your final internet browsing destination may be. Your luggage can be claimed at baggage carousel number 3. Buh-bye'

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Coral Conservation- A Tale of Extreme Measures

'This is it…the’s over. I have been married for only one week and here I am, drowning on my honeymoon.’ These were my panicked thoughts as I gasped for air, ripping the snorkel tube from my mouth, struggling to keep my head above water. I flailed and screamed, between water-filled coughs, desperate for help as I was sure I was going to die.

My Great Barrier Reef expedition wasn’t all calamitous. It actually started out quite nice. I was so excited to visit the Great Barrier Reef for my whole life. It was on my life list of things I must do, see or experience. Number 27: visit and explore the Great Barrier Reef, one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. Though a bit scared of ravenous and predatory fish, claustrophobic when literally surrounded by fourteen feet-high coral, and a relatively weak swimmer, I was excited for the opportunity to share such an exotic eco-experience with my new husband.

We boarded a modern, high-speed catamaran with a group of about twenty other people headed for Green Island, a small, tropical atoll located 45 minutes by boat (16 miles) from Cairns on the Australian mainland. The island is home to the only rainforest off the coast of Australia and a 6,000 year old coral reef. The coral cay is home to 120 species of native plants, colorful bird and marine life, and breathtaking coral gardens to explore.

We were instructed by the crew to never, ever step on or touch the coral. Simply touching corals can cause the death of an entire colony. Oils from your skin can disturb the delicate mucous membranes that protect the living coral from disease. Standing on coral can kill the living coral polyps that are the builders of the reef structure and will essentially devastate organisms that have been growing for thousands of years.

My better half and I donned our rented flippers, goggles and snorkel tubes and looked something like alien sea creatures. We were told to spit in the goggles to prevent them from fogging up once submerged. I turned to my husband and clarified, ‘so everyone who has worn these before me has spit in them?’ My husband chuckled and shamelessly hawked a generous portion of spit into his goggles. I followed my husband and the rest of our group and did the same.

With saliva dripping down my goggles, and my face, I plunged into the crystal clear waters of the South Pacific. The reef extends 1,200 hectares, basically as far as the eye can see. The coral rises up about fourteen feet from the ocean floor, which is shallow near the coast of Green Island, and in some places nearly touched my stomach and chest as I swam above it.

In the warm, tranquil waters I saw graceful sea turtles, rainbow-hued reef fish that tickled my skin as they brushed past me, and slithery eels that peered eerily out from the sea grass beds. I bobbed around behind my husband who insisted on getting further and further away from the shore.

Under water, my husband waved his arms to get my attention and pointed at a giant, menacing barracuda. Its large body was long and silvery. Its gnarling fang-like teeth made for a fearsome appearance. I began to panic as my husband approached the carnivorous fish. I yelled through my snorkel tube for him to stop, inhaling water in the process.

I can swim but I’m no fish. Choking from sea water, I began to sink. I was in the middle of a coral garden surrounded by fragile, living flora. Plentiful coral stood just a foot beneath me and offered a place where I could calm myself down and cough up the water I had inhaled. However, I remembered the cautionary speech from the boat and refrained from stepping on or touching the ancient coral. I wasn't going to be responsible for ruining thousands of years of natural wonder!

My husband sensed my trouble and came up from his underwater barracuda exploration to help. More concerned with my safety than with the stony organisms below, he stood atop the reef and held me with my head above the water. I coughed up salty water shivering and panic-stricken but after a few minutes I finally caught my breath.

Thankfully my knight in shining snorkel gear risked sacrificing an entire coral colony to save my life. Though nature is precious and I would apparently do anything to preserve it, perhaps I shouldn’t have been so reckless with my own life. This eco-trip was a fantastic opportunity to experience the Great Barrier Reef though I’d recommend a life vest for everyone. It not only makes navigating the coral gardens easier and safer it also covers your chest and stomach, which at some points come very close to being scraped by dagger-sharp coral. Lastly, in hindsight, in the event you are actually drowning, I'm pretty sure no one will blame you for gently bracing yourself on the reef to avoid certain death.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The City of Angels Cookie Tour...Heavenly!

'Lose weight, cleanse, and rejuvenate your body. It’s as easy as eat a cookie, skip a meal. You see results immediately. Choose from chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin, Lemon or cranberry orange'...On my most recent flight to southern California I chuckled while reading the product information for the Hollywood Cookie Diet on the glossy pages of SkyMall, the in-flight shopping catalogue that graces the seat pockets of nineteen different airlines.

To me, SkyMall is an essential part of every air travel experience. Flipping though the 150 pages of merchandise that ranges from ridiculous to practical and downright brilliant is a ritual of past, present, and future trips. Perusing SkyMall during my flights parallels my habits of over packing my suitcase and forgetting to put my carry-on liquids in a clear, 3 quart Ziploc bag.

I noncommittally browse SkyMall or ‘window shop’ while looking out the cabin window every so often, to pillowy, white, cloud-covered atmosphere, high above the world below. I have a little game where I go through each and every product and say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ as to if I would ever conceivably buy it. It is a remarkably effective way to kill a couple hours on a flight if you’re feeling too brain dead to read or do anything productive with your time.

I got to page 139 and saw the Hollywood Cookie Diet. A definite ‘no, I would never buy this’ but in the name of research, as I was on my way to Los Angeles, I took interest and read on. Only $19.99 for a three-day supply... Why are gimmicky offers always $19.99; like that extra cent saved is really going to sell you on the product? I laughed to myself and felt sorry for any overweight cookie monster that actually thought this fad diet was a sustainable way to loose or maintain weight.

I wasn't trying to lose any weight for an upcoming film and I didn't need to sausage myself into a little dress for a red carpet strut, so I abstained from trying the ludicrous Hollywood Cookie Diet and formulated a healthier and more moderate, travel-oriented, food-obsessed, L.A Cookie Tour. It’s less of ‘skip a meal, have a cookie’ and more of ‘have an incredible meal and finish it off with a cookie'…you’re on vacation after all. A real cookie monster, undeterred by thoughts of a slightly enlarging waistline, cannot miss Huckleberry Café and Bakery in Santa Monica, Clementine in L.A., and Jin Patisserie in Venice Beach.

Huckleberry Café and Bakery

I arrived at Huckleberry to find a long line of anxious food lovers waiting to lunch on farmer’s market-fresh salads, hearty chalkboard special sandwiches and drool worthy desserts. The smell of the buttery croissants wafted through the packed Santa Monica café.

I inched past the crowd to the back of the line where I picked up a menu. My mouth began watering as I pondered what to order. My husband and I decided to share the turkey meatball sandwich and the market-fresh roasted beet salad with burrata. For those who haven’t tried burrata: step away from the computer and immediately go get some. It will change your life. The soft, Italian cheese made from part cream and part mozzarella dribbled down the field greens and covered the salad with a rich, creamy loveliness.

As good as the lunch was, the dessert was even better. I enjoyed a peanut butter tart and a salted caramel cookie. If it wasn’t for the ravenous crowd behind me and the massive selection to choose from I would have ordered more. The tart was smooth, velvety, and tasted like a delicate cloud of peanut butter. The cookie was buttery, sweet, and salty and left me desperately wanting another one.


How did Clementine brighten my morning? Let me count the ways…Clementine is a cute little bakery in Century City (Westside L.A.) that serves cookies the way your grandmother used to make them, with love. It’s a family owned café and bakery and is a local favorite for fresh-baked pastries, seasonal salads, sandwiches, and homemade soups.

I arrived at the tiny neighbourhood bakery early in the morning to find it packed with Hollywood types, fringe artists and CPA’s, stopping for breakfast before a day’s work. I ordered the house granola- crunchy, flavourful, and just sweet enough. In the name of journalism, I also ordered a German chocolate cookie made with Valrhona chocolate. The sugar from the batter had crystallized on the top leaving a shiny, crunchy exterior. The inside of the cookie was soft, spongy, had crunch from the walnuts, and decadence from the chunks of Valrhona chocolate. I dipped a portion of the cookie into my morning coffee and just about died from pleasure.

Jin Patisserie

Imagine if Tokyo and Paris got together and had a baby…a baby bakery that is. Jin Patisserie is a smart cross between Japanese perfectionism and French passion. Linger over high-tea, gourmet finger sandwiches, and house-made chocolates in the Zen garden located in the front of the restaurant.

I enjoyed a tasty roast beef sandwich while cocooned in the lush paradise of the Jin garden. The garden is simple and elegant with trees, bushes, and grasses that made me almost forget I was in the middle of a metropolis. A water fountain bubbled in the centre and mixed with sounds of French electronica which created a peaceful, hip feel.

The pièce de résistance of the meal was the selection of French macaroons. Let’s just get this straight… a French macaroon is not just a cookie, it is the cookie. I’m not talking about those overly sugary, grainy, coconut monstrosities that are popular in America. I’m talking about flawlessly attractive, delicate, meringue-based, domed cookie sandwiches filled with flavoured butter cream.

I savoured three macaroons while the world around me stopped completely. First, rose. Second, salted caramel. Third, raspberry. Quiet, quiet, quiet and then… taste explosion! I was speechless and you will be too.

The moral of the story: skip fad diets, resist the urge to try to look just like celebrities (can anyone really eat puréed Gerber baby food for an entire week?) and enjoy life. I understand in order to look slim and glamorous at all those Hollywood premiers eating cookies all day isn’t the best way to maintain your girlish (or boyish) figure....that's just how the cookie crumbles. However, in moderation, life is all about enjoying and indulging in simple pleasures. Go forth, travel, eat, and enjoy.

Next time you’re in the City of Angels try my L.A. cookie tour. You’ll think you were in heaven.

P.S. A shout out to my best friend...thanks for some amazing recommendations and for being such a sweet cookie!