To quote a movie I own (Milipitas Monster): "I'm NOT having a good time"
So I'll give a quick update since February before I move on to how I am vehemently mad at American Airlines.
So life has been been insanely busy since Februrary. The months have flown by, and can't even tell you everything thats been going on. I know I've kept meaning to blog and tell you all how I'm angry at this, or the stupid thing I saw (like people backing up on the highways and such) but I've been busy enough that I haven't been able to do it. A lot of huge changes on kernel.org have been keeping me busy - we've deployed 4 new servers, and two of those were to Europe. My dad was able to land a job so things got a lot better on that front, though it wasn't perfectly ideal - but things are working out there so it's all good.
I just got back from Ottawa, which I was up there for the Ottawa Linux Symposium - which was a really good trip. I happened to be up there to give the BOF for kernel.org, which went really really well. a bit more than 70 people ended up showing up to the BOF, which far exceeded the 5 I was expecting - and to top it off people seemed to find it very useful. At some point there will be video footage of me making a complete idiot of myself in front of people, and now in front of the whole intarwebs ;-)
Ended up staying up there for Canada Day which was one of the most amazing street parties and national holidays I've seen. It was something else, and it isn't something you would find in Washington, DC. I mean, the national museums were free for normal exhibits (in fact I wandered over to the national gallery and saw the Renoire landscapes - which was an awesome exhibit). And had an interesting run in over at the Dominion tavern. If you've seen Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter you'll recognize the Dominion as the tavern where the giant fight with the vampires occured. Well I happened to go in and I ordered a coke, there were a couple of people at the bar and I asked the bar tender 'Have you ever heard of a movie called Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter? The people at the bar started laughing nigh uncontrolably and the bar tender calmly said 'Jesus is out back'.
This is the point where most people would double take and go *WHHHHHHAAAAA?*. Thats exactly what I did. So in true fashion I went out back, and yes I found Jesus. (I've even got photos of him)
Finished my coke and headed out and called HPA to let him know of this fantastic news, and he came straight over and we went back in. Turns out that 'Jesus' must own the Dominion as he was behind the bar serving when we went back in, so we wandered up to him and ordered two cokes and I calmly asked 'Are you Jesus?'
J: I was once
And I shook his hand and thanked him for such an awesome movie. And I can now say 'I found Jesus, he was out back and he served me a coke'.
So yeah Canada day was fun and I would love to be around up in Canada at some point again for it! But sadly this brings me to the part of the entry where I'm going to turn quite bitter, angry and I'm going to say a lot of things that will probably not endear me to American Airlines.
American Airlines or how they tried to kill me
Let me preface what I'm about to say with a few statements. I have in the past been a VERY happy American Airline customer, I'm a frequent flyer member with them and I have a reasonable amount of miles with them (enough for a couple of free flights I think), and of all my airline stories American Airlines has never made 'the cut' so to speak. I mean I was FLOORED and impressed back in Novemeber when I flew home and there was a measely delay (not anything to even worry about in my book) and I couple of weeks later I got an e-mail profusely apologizing for the delay and showering me with free frequent flyer miles (I never even complained, a delay of less than a day is peanuts when you compare it to sleeping in airports when trying to get to interviews, or being told your flight hasn't come to this airport in 6 months, etc). So when I say I'm VERY disapointed I want you to understand why I'm dissapointed.
American Airlines unwittingly caused me quite a bit of suffering, grief and anger because of a 4.5 hour flight from Chicago O'Hare to San Francisco Intl. I would go so far as to claim they unwittingly tried to kill me.
A bit more back story, to make my point very very clear. I have a nut allergy. Specifically I have a tree nut allergy, not to be confused with a peanut allergy as peanuts are legumes. Peanut allergies and tree nut allergies are actually very similar, and in a lot of cases having one means you have the other. I scaped the serpents tongue on the peanuts though but for the purposes of my rant the same arguments and concerns come up for people with peanut allergies as well as tree nut alergies. I digress with the peanut allergy explination however.
I have a nut allergy. One could even go so far as to call it a severe nut allergy. To give you an idea of how severe I've had an epipen since I was probably 5, I will likely need a constant perscription for an epipen for the rest of my life. Luckily I have had only one occasion where an epipen might have been useful, and that was before my family knew what an epipen was. All of my friends have a good idea of how serious this allergy is, and I don't hide it from them. In general this is something that's actually quite easy for me to avoid and manage (which is a bit different than people with peanut allergies - I do feel for you guys out there with those) Nuts are most commonly found in desserts, so I tend to be overly cautious about eating them, along with medeteranian food, and a few things along those lines. And MOST nuts I'm not so allergic to them that accientally eating a small amount is going to send me anaphylactic, it'll just make my mouth tingle. So while it is normally manageable there is a specific situation that is unavoidable and can cause massive havoc.
Peanuts and nuts have a tendency to leave small amounts of dust (or in the case of bagged varieties quite a bit) that is easily kicked up into the air. Now in a normal environment this isn't that big of a deal, they will float around for a bit and settle like normal dust. In a normal sized house (lets say my apartment with about 1K sqft of space) a small handful of nuts from one person means there's a very small particle count in the air, and it's unlikely to affect anyone but the by far most severely aflicted. However, lets change the environment here. Lets take that one person with a small bag and double the total sqft to 2K, but instead of something like a house you make it a presurized cabin that's recirculating air, a lot of recirculated air. In this environment your going to basically keep most of those particles in the air both as people move a lot and as the forced air is recirculated. This makes for the concentration of nut dust particles in the air to be a lot higher with very little effort.
Which brings me to my main complaint. American Airlines (along with a lot of other airlines apparently - they aren't on their own but my rancor is currently targeted at American right now) have reversed a long standing choice to not serve nuts on aircraft (along with peanuts - though peanuts seem to still be mising). In fact they have gone so far in the reverse it's mind boggling. Apparently first class passengers (on flights who's 'snack time' is after noon) are being given a mixed nut assortment which consists of cashews, almonds and walnuts I believe. And in coach the 'cheap' option for a snack (at $3) is a trail mix assortment with cashews.
Needless to say when I found this out after 3 hours of being in the air and experiencing some odd itching, a bit more caughing than I would have expected and a nose that made the niagra falls seem like a babling brook a light went off in my head and I dove for the benedryl in my backpack immediately, and called for a stewardess.
I was in the process of a good sized (though at the point non-life threatening) allergic reaction to the nut dust that was being forced to breath, and could not escape from because the other passengers were being given / sold nuts on the aircraft.
What followed is as close to a timeline as I can give, but due to me being absolutely internally livid and being very concerned with my own internal state (being very aware of what was going on and trying to make sure that if things got worse that my epipen was easily available and that my traveling companions were aware of what was going on)
~3hrs into the flight (at least 2 hours after the nuts were first served) I make the realization that the insanely runny nose (as well as the other symptoms) I've had for that last 2 hours or so is not because of the normal random traveling bits but because I'm in the middle of an allergic reaction to the nut dust in the air. There's nowhere to go to get away from it all, and to be honest the worst of the damage is done - the particles are already logged in my lungs, even putting my on oxygen at this point won't really fix the problem as the bits are there in my lungs and my body is already inflamed. I dive for my backpack under the seat in front of my and pull out the benedryl down two tablets, pull out my penguin mints (caffinated mints) start chewing them like there's no tomorrow and call for a stewardess. I inform my traveling companions of my sudden epiphany. I'm now actutely checking myself and paying attention to my breathing and such - if things get bad my epipen is in my backpack and the only thing I could do is down a non-recommended amount of benedryl, take the epipen and chew through what's left of my 'caffiene pills' in the hopes of them getting the plane down in time for them to get me an EMT. We are at cruising altitude for an S80 - 30,000 - 40,000 ft. An emergency landing might not be fast enough for me if it gets that far.
A stewardess comes over and I ask two very blunt very simple questions:
- I need a glass of water immediately
- What are the EXACT contents of the trail mix as I have reason to believe I'm having an allergic reaction to the nut dust from it. (that's all the nuts I know about at that time and I need to know if the REALLY bad nuts were included. If so this is going to get a lot worse, if not it won't get really bad for a while yet but I'm not in a good situation)
Sadly it became very clear very quickly that she did not speak english very well, kept saying 'there aren't any peanuts on the plane' and that my second question had her way too confused. She ended up going and getting me my water, and bringing me back a bag of the trail mix and tried to give it to me. I refused the bag, took the water. My traveling companions had some things to say about trying to give someone possibly having an alergic reaction the very thing they are allergic to. The stewardess wandered off after that. I was quite angry, determind and very very concerned - but so far I hadn't heard of any of the REALLY bad nuts on the ingrediants so this likely wasn't life threatening to me.
The head stewardess for coach (seemingly) came over a couple of minutes later and asked a few questions and tried to figure out what as going on exactly. I explained that I had reason to believe I was having an allergy attack due to the nut dust being forcibly recirculated through the cabin from the trail mix containing cashews. She quickly pointed out that 'Policy does not allow us to not sell the snacks' (fine, great the damage is already done and at that minute I didn't care but for the record that's a darned bad policy) and two 'That first class had a mixed nut assortment'.
I quickly interogate her with regards to the contents of the mixed nut assortment and make sure that the danger nut is not present. I'm now even more concerned as first class was just given the assortment, this explains a lot more about why I'm having the troubles I am. She mentions understanding allergies, as her daughter (may she rest in peace as she died of a medical condition) was at times on some of the very heavy duty anti-histimens and epipens and such were not uncommon to her because of this. She understands my concerns but ultimately (and I agree with her) there isn't anything she can do to stop the cause (it's already in the air - the only thing they could do is recirculate out all the air and pump in fresh air). She also mentions the morning / afternoon thing (even going so far as to suggest that I only fly in the morning! I've always had connecting flights when I fly and invariably I get leg 1 done in the morning and leg 2 done in the afternoon / evening) and asks me to make sure that if there's anything I need to let them know.
I am then stuck on the aircraft for another 1.5 hrs until we get to San Francisco Intl.. My brain is fried, my nose is a mess (the second stewardess had given me some tissues, and wow did those tear my nose apart), the caughing and breathing issues are now a bit more noticable. I get off the plane get to my luggage and at that time I'm rather sick and in no capacity able to fight / argue with American over the predicament. I did however make sure to ask the stewardess for the 'correct' path to complain through, as this wasn't going to end there.
I get home, still taking benedryl, take a very long hot shower (which helped a lot but obviously not enough) and tried to sleep. I didn't very well, between caughing and my nose I slept in 45 minute chunks and that was only about 6 hours at best.
I filed my first complaint, requesting a responce from American on Tuesday morning. I have kept copies of the form that was sent. I have not had a responce from American thought they claim it can 'take a week to respond to your request'.
Wednesday was the first day where I started really feeling 'human' and not fuzzy brained. I was able to sleep Tuesday night, I was still on benedryl and I was using my inhaler.
Today is July 6th, I flew on Monday. I'm still caughing (though thats getting better), and my nose is still not 'normal' (being unnaturally stuffy / runny). I don't consider being forced to breath a toxic substance in an enclosed space for 4.5hours, and then suffering for a week afterwards to be an acceptable way to fly. It absolutely shocks me that American, as well as many other airlines, would serve nuts on the aircraft. They already know how allergic people are to these and it's not like they bill their flights as 'contains nuts', and by the time someone who's allergic to them finds out it's too late to get off. I'm genuinely scared that for the airlines to take this seriously someone is going to have to jab an epipen in their leg and land an aircraft, and I pray that that someone won't be me. For now I will wait to hear what American has to say, I am trying not to harbor explicit ill will towards them and I want to continue thinking that this is a problem of the left hand not talking to the right hand about the issue. If AA responds and takes my issue seriously I'll be happy, if not I will contact a number of advocacy and complaint departments (including the FAA) about the issue and the problem the issue presents. I would just rather AA not try to ignore this but take it seriously, and I understand one of the issues the stewardess brought up: they can't stop people from bringing nuts onto the aircraft and consuming them. While I understand that, and I accept it - the airlines shouldn't encourage nuts being on an aircraft by giving them out or selling them. If someone brings nuts onto an aircraft on their own thats one thing, but if the airlines gives them out that's quite another.
Ok I've ranted enough on that, and I know right now I'm hurt (both from AA making me sick for several days and for them taking up serving nuts again after not doing so for such a long time) and I'm angry (same reasons really) and I'm giving AA a chance to make things right, I just hope they take it seriously :-/