I did something the other day that I haven’t done in almost two years. I booked a flight for Thanksgiving. Over the course of the pandemic my TSA Pre-Check expired and I gave zero fucks about renewing it so I guess I’ll have to take my shoes off like everyone else again. Maybe I’ll get a good frisking. I actually kind of like getting frisked. I’m a pretty square guy so I don’t get many frisking opportunities thrown at me. It’s kind of cool and exciting.
I also didn’t even bother to put in my frequent flyer number. I used to go nuts over that shit. And I have no idea why. The highest I ever got was silver status and you don’t really get shit for that. But every year I’d volunteer for any trip I heard about to try and rack up those stupid points. I really thought someday I could get gold status. But, turns out I’m a failure at that too. Long reign the kingdom.
Never-the-less I’ve been thinking about airplanes a lot. And I’m kind of focused in on this one part of the flight attendants’ speech that I’ve always found interesting.
“In the event of a sudden loss of cabin pressure, place the oxygen mask on yourself before assisting others.”
I’ve heard that announcement on every flight I’ve ever taken. My whole life I’ve been told about that oxygen mask. You don’t really think about it too deeply. Until you have kids. Because I don’t know if you guys have picked up on this or not, but when they say “others” they’re talking about your children.
Being a parent is absolutely terrifying. From the moment she shows you that piss stick until, I guess, when you die. Which is even more terrifying because then you’re dead and you can’t do shit for them. It’s a pretty crappy deal. And no one really tells you too much about it until it’s way too late.
The worry is constant and never ending. I worry about them getting sick. I worry about them getting hurt. I worry about them getting bullied. I worry about them getting stolen. Though God help the poor bastard who steals my kids. He better at least have damn good wi-fi or he doesn’t stand a fucking chance.
The constant worry changes you. I can’t even watch movies anymore where something bad happens to a kid. I’ve tried watching The Joker three times. I’m a huge Joaquin Phoenix fan. I went to see it the day it came out in the theatre and ended up walking out when it got to the part about his childhood. It was just too disturbing for me. All I could see were my own kids.
I’ve ordered it twice on Netflix but had the same result each time. I’ve probably spent close to thirty bucks on that fucking movie and I’ve never seen the whole damn thing.
Fucking kids. They deserve a tiny bit of oxygen deprivation for what they’ve done to me. Parenthood has turned out to be a total mind-fuck.
But I do love them. Quite deeply actually. Which makes the arrangement even more annoying. I think it would be pretty damn hard to stomach their sweet little faces turning blue as I pull the mask toward me to start the flow of oxygen, secure the elastic bands tightly around my head, breathe normally and rest assured that even though the bag does not inflate oxygen is flowing freely to the mask. All, of course, before helping them. The others. My kids. Whose lives and well-being I’m responsible for every single minute of every single day. Forever.
In life though, is where I find the protocol to be more useful. It’s when you aren’t on an airplane and there’s a sudden loss of cabin pressure that you really need to put that mask on yourself first.
Because the truth is that you can’t do shit for anybody if you’re a total fucking mess. Your kids can’t be full of joy if you’re completely miserable and lying in the fetal position with Belle and Sebastien records playing on repeat all day long.
That’s the shittiest thing about having kids. They can’t be happy unless you are too. Good luck.
And these days, it seems being happy takes a shit ton of effort. There’s just too many things out there right now to bring you down. It’s a God damned menagerie of misery. It’s like one giant Las Vegas sized bum-out buffet. It’s open 24/7 and it’s all you can eat. Mmm. Giant bowls of sadness. So delicious.
I try my best to put my oxygen mask on first. Writing this blog is an oxygen mask. And the kind words of encouragement I get from people who read it is my freely flowing oxygen. So, excuse me for pausing the narrative but I'd really like to thank you from the bottom of my heart.
There isn’t much you can do about being terrified every single second of every day. And you feel pretty alone about it. I look around at the other parents drinking their Starbucks and casually staring at their iPhones. They don’t look scared. They seem to be handling it much better than me. I wish I knew their secret. I want to be like them.
It’s actually not that different than being a creative working in advertising. I’ve been doing this shit for a long ass time but to be completely honest I still get scared every day. It’s not really about the work. I know I can do that. It’s more about all of the things you can’t control. I’ve gotten laid off completely out of the blue. Fired without cause. And bullied worse than anything I ever encountered on some stupid playground.
A few years ago I was working for a very famous, advertising hall of fame guy. I idolized the man and all I wanted was to impress him. (Pro tip. Don’t ever idolize anyone in advertising. It never works out.)
But I was working for this legendary guy and we had one of those huge projects come in where they put the whole agency on it. The worst part of these all-hands-on-deck type of assignments is that they always make you present in front of everyone who’s working on it. So, basically, you’ve got to get up in front of the whole agency and present your ideas. Which kind of sucks and is more than a bit nerve wracking.
I was on round two or three of a script that advertising hall of fame guy really liked and I really wanted to get it right. I massaged every word of that fucking script. And then, just to give myself the best chance possible for success (bad idea), I sent it to him super early the morning of the presentation with a note asking if he thought I was in a better place with it.
The presentation wasn’t until 4 so I waited around pretty much all day, checking my email constantly, hoping for a positive response. But all I got was crickets.
Finally, 4 o’clock rolls around and we all gather for the presentation. The ECD would always start the ball rolling with a cheery, “Who wants to go first?”
“Why don’t you go first, Jeff?” famous advertising guy says.
I wasn’t expecting to get called out but I didn’t mind. I like going first in these kinds of situations. Knock their fucking socks off right out of the gate. I’m all for that kind of shit. But before I start, I ask him, “We’re you able to check out the script I sent you this morning?”
“Yeah, Jeff. I looked at it.”
“Oh.” I say. “I never heard back from you.”
“That was intentional,” he says.
I’m taken aback for a moment. I don’t know what he means by intentional. I’m flustered but I just decide to go ahead and start presenting the script. He interrupts me on the first line.
“Would you like to know why I intentionally didn’t respond, Jeff?”
Again, I’m caught off guard as I stand in front of an entire room full of people. I don’t really know what’s going on with advertising hall of fame guy. So, I really have no choice but to go along with it. I can’t make any words come out of my mouth so I just nod my head.
“Because I want to watch you shame yourself in front of the whole agency.”
Try presenting your work after your ad hero says that to you. I can save you the trouble and tell you that it doesn’t go well. And you do indeed end up shaming yourself in front of an entire agency. It’s quite unpleasant and will stick with you for a good bit of time.
Which brings me back to those oxygen masks. They ought to have those in a hell of a lot more places than just airplanes. Those things should be everywhere. There should be oxygen mask people. Oxygen mask kiosks. And oxygen mask minis that fit discreetly in your pocket and come in a range of fun colors. I should be wearing one right fucking now.
I don’t know which is harder and scarier. Being a parent or working in the single most fucked up industry in the entire fucking world. To be honest it might be a tie.
I don't have any answers for you. I just write. The only thing I can tell you is to always remember—even though the bag does not inflate, oxygen is flowing freely to the mask. Tighten the straps and breathe normally before helping others.