Monthly Archives: December 2011

Fait Accompli & Other Tales

Fate – otherwise referred to as destiny, fortune, chance, luck, doom, future, coincidence – is a tricky thing. If you believe in it, do you leave your life up to the fates and live life without care? Or do you make a desperate attempt to change what you think is coming? How do you make sense of this path that may already be chosen for you?

I believe that everything happens for a reason, but is that the same thing as fate? Is it fate that I lose my wallet and someone recovers it on my birthday? Or is that just stupid luck? Was it my fate to write this blog post? Hmm…

This time of year we are all filled with gratitude and thanking our lucky stars. Here are a couple of feel-good stories that might make you a believer:

  • On September 11, 2001, people working in the Pentagon watched televised coverage of the Twin Towers. After watching for some time, a naval officer Frank Thorp IV ordered his team to get back to work: “I came to realize, ‘Hey, we’ve got this big project due.’ So I said, ‘Hey, everybody, let’s get back to work.” But then he suddenly changed his mind. “For the first time in my life, I said, ‘But first, let’s all go get a cup of coffee together.’ To this day, I have no idea why I did that. All of us got up, walked out of the Pentagon or walked out of the office, walked down the hallway, and the plane hit about a tractor-trailer’s length away from my office.” You can read the whole story here.
  • Identical twins Adriana Scott and Tamara Rabi were separated at birth in Mexico. At 20 years old, they met by chance through a mutual date in college. They had been living just 25 miles apart in New York for most of their life, and had no idea. Get the details of their story here.
  • Mr Play-It-Safe was afraid to fly. Packed his suitcase and kissed his kids goodbye-eye. He waited his whole damn life to take that flight, and as the plane crashed down, he thought, “Well isn’t this nice.” And isn’t it ironic…*

Or is it just FATE? I guess we can’t avoid it.  

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(left to right) Scott Montgomery, Jessica Frances Dukes, Maribeth Monroe, Travis Turner (photo by Michael Brosilow)

56% of Team Woolly does not believe in fate. What about you? Share your stories with us! Tweet @woollymammothtc using the hashtag #EverybodyDies!

* This is not a true story. Thank you, Alanis Morissette, for your brilliant lyrics.

~ Noel Edwards, Marketing and Communications Assistant

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The Do’s and Don’ts of getting through with Airport Security

The term Frequent Flyer was coined to describe my family. My grandfather, who was a pilot in the Air Force, met my grandmother when he was a passenger on a plane where she was a Flight Attendant. My parents met in an airport when they were both on business trips. My dad traveled for work when I was young and got to keep all his frequent flyer miles, which were later used to fund family vacation flights. There was a time when I was considering getting my pilot’s license before my driver’s license. Not only does this mean that my idea of fun is a single prop plane ride over a lake on a windy day, but that I have passed through airport security more times than I can count. Most of those trips journey through the realm of TSA were at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson international airport, you know, the busiest airport in the world. Which is why I thought it would be nice to give all you lovely Woolly Blog readers a very special holiday gift, my “Do’s and Don’ts” of getting through a TSA security checkpoint.

Do plan ahead: Wear shoes that slip off easily and pants that don’t need a belt. You do not want to worry about potentially flashing the entire screening area as the full body scanner gives some security agent an x-ray vision look at your whole body.

Don’t pre-wrap any presents: While TSA isn’t gonna stop you just for having that DVD for you sister already covered in paper, if you leave your fingernail clippers in your bag and set off security that mysterious DVD shaped object will need to be unwrapped and searched, and I bet most TSA agents don’t open presents like my grandmother who is trying to save all the paper and reuse it next year.

Do ask to be screened in private: If you are traveling with large amounts of cash or precious items there’s no need to open your suitcase full of twenties or your bag of Tiffany’s jewelry in front of other passengers. You can have your valuables searched in private and all you have to do is ask.

Don’t bring matches with you: Instead bring a lighter. In 2007, TSA stopped caring about lighters because stopping every smoker and pyro who goes through the airport and telling them they have to throw away their lighters was taking up far too much time; time which TSA was supposed to be using to find real explosives. Matches though, those are still bad.

Do take your musical instrument: TSA will allow you to take one musical instrument through security in addition to the one carry-on bag and one personal item, though not all airlines are cool with you taking all that stuff onto the plane. Plus no one wants to be the guy with extra stuff when they start asking Boarding Zone 4 passengers to check all their carry on items, so maybe you should just treat it as your personal item. Either way TSA recommends checking brass instruments and bringing string instruments with you on the plane. I assume this is because guitars will make for better mid-flight jam sessions than trumpets.

Don’t bring your parachute: While TSA has no problem with this, they do advise skydivers to arrive 30 minutes early to allow time for security officers to inspect a parachute rig if it arouses suspicion. And seriously how does bringing your own parachute not arouse suspicion? Would you start a business with someone who was already filling out the paperwork to file for bankruptcy? I think not.

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Scott Montgomery plays a TSA Agent in SPOILER ALERT: EVERYBODY DIES (photo by Michael Brosilow)

Hopefully this simple list will help all you travelers this holiday season.

~ Cameron Huppertz, Literary Assistant

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Come Fly the Friendly Skies

I’m sure there’s a clinical condition that defines my relationship with flying. I’m so certain that I’ve never looked it up and have instead ironically dubbed it, “The Murtough Syndrome.” Symptoms may include but are not limited to the following: anxiety, insomnia, compulsive praying, stating “I’m too old for this shit,” and comical hijinks with your new partner Riggs. Most importantly all of these symptoms will come about near the end of a job you’ve done for a number of years. You may be approaching retirement or in my case… six months before taking the job at Woolly.

In my job prior to Woolly I used to travel a lot for work. No…that’s an understatement. I flew so much that I knew the flight attendants by name. I developed a system for packing my bags to ensure a speedy passage through the TSA security gauntlet. I collected enough frequent flier miles to join NASA on their next Moon mission. I didn’t buy first class tickets I got upgraded—for free. You know that guy from “Up In The Air“…amateur.

I used to travel a lot for work.

You tend to remember when you have bad experiences during a flight. I can attest to this personally. I’ve probably told this story more than a hundred times but it’s just as clear in my mind now as the day it happened.  Spoiler alert: I almost died.

It was like any other flight in all the same boring ways. I was selected by TSA in Los Angeles for special search. (1) I got through security after a friendly encounter with a man wearing latex gloves, then proceeded to my gate to check the flight status. My red-eye flight from LA to DC was on time so I checked in at the counter (2) to see if there was any chance of being upgraded. First class was already checked in full and I was now at the top of the waiting list. I headed to the nearest Hudson News and bought my usual compliment of cross country beverages. (3)

When the time finally came for passengers to board the plane I took my place in the business class elite boarding line. (4) After a week in LA for work it was nice to have the opportunity to jump the line, put away my bags and relax while the rest of the passengers boarded the plane after me. A short time later the plane slowly made it’s ascent into the heavens and we were on our way home.

The drama took place 35,000 feet off the ground flying east over the Rocky Mountains. We had been in the air for almost two hours when the captain turned on the seat belts light and the flight attendant’s voice came over the intercom, “The pilot has asked that all passengers return to their seats.”

“Attention passengers this is your captain speaking. We’re currently over the great state of Colorado on the eastern side of the Rocky Mountains. We may experience some turbulence for the next few minutes. Flight attendants will continue to serve beverages but please remain in your seat.” The shaking started half way through his speech. His confident baritone reassured passengers that everything was fine and that he and the flight crew had everything under control.

The flight attendants proceeded down the aisles serving drinks to passengers as we were shaken side to side, jolting up and down, and generally getting tossed about in the fashion one might expect in an industrial grade washing machine on spin cycle. It was unnerving but not unusual. I’d been through worse turbulence and was the picture of serenity. I had a bottle of Diet Coke in my hand, and was reading a book when the woman sitting to my right looked at me and said, “I’ve never been through anything like this! This is crazy!”

“It’s nothing to worry about,” I said. “It’s actually pretty common flying over the Rockies. I’ve done this flight a few times with turbulence worse than this—it should be over in a few.”

The Captain abruptly came over the intercom, “Flight attendants take your seats.”

“That’s not good,” I said.

“What’s not good?” The woman was looking at me with a panicked look in her eyes. She was holding on to her drink with both hands

“It usually means it’s going to get worse before it gets better,” I said calmly.

Sometimes I really hate it when I’m right. The Captain came back over the intercom as the plane continued from spin cycle to agitate. “Attention passengers this is the pilot. You may have noticed we’ve been experiencing a bit of turbulence but it looks like… HOLY SHIT!”

I am not substituting words or taking any liberties with what came out of the pilot’s mouth. I remember everything in perfect clarity given what happened next. We starting falling out of the sky.

Now you’re probably thinking… not another “My plane fell out of the sky” story! Trust me when I say that what I’m describing is not an exagerration of the facts. We were flying at 35,000 feet. The pilot screamed “Holy Shit” over the intercom then the plane started to drop like it had a date with destiny.

What happened in that moment is one of the most surreal and memorable experiences of my entire life.

I experienced weightlessness.

Something about an immediate drop in altitude resulted in everyone in that plane experiencing a brief moment of zero gravity (5), then we began to plummit towards the earth. As a child I always wondered what it would be like to be an astronaut, I saw Space Camp… it looked pretty rad.

In that fleeting moment I thought of Ron Evans, an astronaut who grew up in my home town of Topeka, Kansas; graduated from a high school not far from mine; and orbitted the moon in a lunar module more than any other human being. He had done something with his life. We were both from the same town, we had both experienced weightlessness, but he had seen the Moon up close and personal. What a waste…what have I done with my life?

Everybody on the plane started to scream. The drinks that had recently been served by the flight attendants were thrown into the air as people reached out desperately to grab on to anything they could get their hands around. The woman next to me grabbed my arm so tightly that later I found bruises in the shape of her hands where they had clenched my fore arm.

This is where the whole “life flashing before my eyes” thing was supposed to happen, right? Wrong. I’ve heard all the things that supposedly go through your mind when you’re about to die but all I could think about was my wife and how much I had been looking forward to seeing her. I know… I’m a romantic. It’s pathetically charming. Deal with it.

The sounds are nearly impossible to describe but amidst the cacophony of screaming, bags falling out of over-head compartments, and drink glasses filled with a bevvy of beverages splashing on every surface in the plane you could also hear the sound of air screaming past the windows. It reminded me of an old World War II movie where dive bombers drop out of the sky towards their target before dropping their payload. (6) What I heard was an unmistakable horrible howl that immediately made me think that in this plane I was the payload… and I didn’t like where that line of thinking was taking me so I started praying.

It’s important to point out that I don’t pray. I’m not what you would call religious. I do my best to believe in God, and I even capitalize “God” out of respect for a supreme being that I choose to believe exists despite a lack of hard evidence.

“Dear God, please protect us on this flight to Washington, DC. Dear God, please protect us on this flight. Please protect us on this flight.” Over and over and over and over again until the plane—stopped—dropping.

“Attention passengers and flight crew. We passed through a pocket of dead air that caused the plane to experience a rapid loss of altitude. We are now at 17,000 feet and climbing back up to our standard cruising altitude of 35,000 feet. Everything is under control and we appear to have passed out of the turbulence now. I apologize for any discomfort this may have caused. The flight crew will be serving complimentary beverages for the remainder of the flight. Please sit back, relax, and enjoy the remainder of our flight to DCA.” The intercom clicked off.  The whole plane was silent.

The woman released my arm. She was crying. I looked around at my fellow passengers and saw tear stained faces all around me. I also saw a horror show of air masks deployed and fallen from their compartments in front of every passenger. Passengers were covered in an assortment of fluids, drinks and other less appealing substances. We were all a mess…but we were alive.

Before I fully understood what was happening the woman next to me was hugging me. “My name is Eileen. I work for a magazine that does video game reviews. I just came from a meeting with the people at EA Sports. I was playing the new Madden like three hours ago. It was amazing. I didn’t even ask what you do. You look like you’re traveling for work. I’m so sorry about your suit! You’re covered in bloody mary. Let me see if I can help you with that… I don’t think this is coming out. (7) I’ll see if I can wave down the stewardess for some extra napkins.”

I learned her entire life story over the next two hours. Everyone around me was talking to each other for the remainder of the flight. It was the most alert flight I’ve ever been on with the most conversational passengers. We had survived something terrible together. It’s amazing how those harrowing experiences form instant connections between people.

We talked, we laughed, we cried. We all got complimentary beverages. (Some of us more than others.) All the while in the back of my head there was a single line that continued to run on repeat until the wheels touched down in DC, the pilot navigated the plane to the gate and the seat belt light went dark.

“Dear God, please protect us on this our flight to Washington, DC.”

I literally kissed the ground when I got off the plane and reached the terminal. I wasn’t the only one. We were all grateful to be on solid ground. There were a lot of us thanking God.

The Murtough Syndrome started immediately following this flight. I still find that now, years later, I say that little prayer right before take off and landing. Flying means putting your faith in other people. We put our lives in the hands of the men and woman who steer those crafts through the sky. I wouldn’t say I have deblitating anxiety about flying. I just flew home to Kansas for Thanksgiving… but I am accutely aware of what I have to do in order to be comfortable with flying. Ironically my iron-clad routines developed during my business travel years help overcome that discomfort but it doesn’t eliminate it entirely. That’s life… every day you have to chose to either avoid a problem or face it.

I’m flying to Chicago for a wedding this coming weekend and I’ll be back home again to visit family for the holidays. I’ve always figured that when it’s my time to go I won’t get to choose how it happens. So I just keep living my life.

~Zacory Boatright, Director of Business Development

*You may have noticed the numbered links in the above paragraphs. Click on them to read Zac’s Pro-Tips from a Seasoned Traveler.

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Pro-tips From a Seasoned Traveler

Please note that the following tips are intended to be read along-side another post entitled: “Come Fly the Friendly Skies.”

(1) PRO-TIP: Full size USB hard drives look like bombs. Or at least they do to the vast majority of TSA screeners. Also note, don’t ever actually use the word “bomb” to jokingly describe said device. Explain slowly that it’s a USB hard drive and you need it for work. It’s likely that you’ll have to repeat yourself numerous times. It’s also likely that you’ll have to pull out your laptop, start it, connect the drive and demonstrate that it’s not a bomb. Again, it would be a mistake to proclaim at this point, “I told you it wasn’t a bomb!”

(2) PRO-TIP: It is usually true that at airports across the country when a airline counter attendant is presented with a frequent flier card they immediately go on the defensive. The assumption is that you want something from them and have an inflated sense of entitlement. I encourage you to be very nice to these people. That airline owns you for the duration of your flight—nothing good can come of poking a sleeping bear. Or as I call her, Lorraine.

(3) PRO-TIP: Buy a bottle of water before you go on a cross country or international flight.  If you’re a soda drinker buy a bottle of water and a soda. Long distance air travel dehydrates you and the experience is significantly more enjoyable if you have your own beverage available when you really want it and not on the flight attendant’s schedule.

(3a) FIRST CLASS PRO-TIP: If you’re flying first class ignore the above tip. You’re going to be rolling in free booze and snacks all flight. Look down your nose at the people in coach and laugh silently to yourself knowing that when you want a drink the flight attendant will bring you a drink. You’re flying like royalty. This is how people are supposed to fly. Welcome to ‘the show.’

(4) PRO-TIP: You may be one of those people who hate it when the Frequent Flier Elite Members are called ahead of the rest of the passengers to board the plane. The logic behind it is that folks who are traveling for business carry more stuff and spend more money per year on flights. The airlines show their appreciation for customer loyalty by letting those passengers board first. I’ve heard numerous disgruntled families on vacation in route to Disney World complain that I got to board the plane before them. I have little sympathy for people traveling for vacation having to wait a few extra minutes when I am going home after being on the road for three weeks straight working. Perhaps I’d be more sympathetic if they were related to Mickey himself.

(5) PRO-TIP: Check out the “Vomit Comit” – and trust me when I say that this is not something you want to experience on a commercial airliner.

(6) PRO-TIP: Please refer to pro-tip number one and notice that I did not use the word bomb while describing “Dive Bombers” except in describing the type of plane. I also didn’t mention what it was that these air-craft dropped from their BOMBay doors. Bomb. Bomb-bomb-bomb-bomb. Bomb.

(7) PRO-TIP: Bloody mary doesn’t come out of a wool suit. You can try but you’ve been warned.

~Zacory Boatright, Director of Business Development

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Privacy in the Internet Age

I was lucky. I got my first harsh lesson on Internet privacy when I was 12. I was probably the most Internet-savvy person in my household, and the only advice I got about message boards was ‘You Never Know Who Someone Could Actually Be’ – and  I took this advice to heart. So much, in fact, that when one of my friends (let’s call her Sydney) began frequenting message boards for our favorite TV shows, I was nervous for her. But she didn’t seem to share my concerns.

So with perfect 12-year-old logic, I went online to fight fire with fire. I made an online account (alias ‘Jen’) on her favorite message board, and soon enough, Sydney and Jen ended up on the same chats, and Sydney even engaged Jen in an email discussion. They became friends. But when Sydney began telling Jen about me, I realized it was time to reveal what I had done and who Jen was. Not only did this revelation throw a major wrench in our friendship, but I learned first-hand just how easy it is to hide who you are online.

Yes, I am aware this was creepy, an invasion of privacy, and super skeevy to do to a friend. Yet at the same time – apart from Sydney, who else cared that Jen was a made up persona? No one. Why? Because no one knew.

Today, Facebook is one of the most popular sites out there. A person’s LinkedIn profile often tops the list in a Google name search. These sites make it harder to create a false identity, and though it is still possible, people rarely take the time to fabricate a persona on Facebook the way they did on MySpace. But with dedication and some time, anything is possible.

It’s easy to think that the person on the other end of the Internet is actually who their picture and profile say they are. But perhaps the parent of someone who went to your college is the hiring manager of that job you just applied to. The chance that your potential boss is now able to see your Facebook page just jumped exponentially.

Legal? Yes. Ethical? Maybe. What do you think? Once it’s on the Internet, is it public for all to see? Is it the same as if you handed your friend a physical photo, and he showed it to his mom? Do you know that technically any photo you upload to Facebook is visible to the entire Internet, so long as they use the hidden link and not the one you see in your URL bar?

Facebook recently settled a privacy suit and that acknowledged it had engaged in deceptive privacy practices by, among other things, allowing user data to be shared via third parties without the original uploader’s knowledge. This meant that while I might have chosen not to share my data, an application could access my information because my sister had allowed the app to see the data from her friends. Much like I was able to find things out about my friend Sydney from what she told to Jen, once someone knows details about a person, they have the ability pass those details on – regardless of how that information has been obtained.

And once information is put somewhere on the Internet, it exists and is available for anyone to find, should they so choose to put in the effort.

So… do you know who all your Facebook friends are? And more importantly, how much do you trust them?

~ Allie Heiman, Assistant to the Production Manager

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On the Spoiler Alert, Everybody Dying, and Connectivity

Check out our "Know the Facts" campaign in our lobby during the run of SPOILER ALERT: EVERYBODY DIES

 

I remember very distinctly when the sixth Harry Potter book came out. The Halloween after its summer premiere, a friend of mine dressed up as “The Ending of The Half-Blood Prince” and his t-shirt read: SNAPE KILLED DUMBLEDORE.* There were several attendees at a party we went to together who had not read the newest J.K. Rowling novel, and were upset that he had spoiled the ending for them. The most curious thing is what happened next: all of them read the book anyway.

I know the dangers of salmonella, but I eat raw cookie dough anyway. I’ve heard of the statistics and read articles on plane hijackings, but I get on them to travel anyway. How could I not?

Spoiler Alert: Everybody Dies is a very unique Second City piece, in that it has a pretty clearly defined theme of FATE (yes, in all capital letters). I won’t spoil the sketches for you, but let’s just say they’re unavoidable. The connectivity experience you’ll see in our lobby taps into this idea of “knowing the ending” or the outcome, and asking our audiences what comes next? We’re filling our lobby to the brim with facts about the Woolly environment so that, as a patron, you can be clearly informed about what you’re getting into. Guided by the wise Professor Mammoth, you will “KNOW THE FACTS” about elevators, snacks, drinks, cell phone usage, and bathroom soap. Whether you like it or not.

Once you know your ending, what do you do? How do you continue living? Do you live life to the fullest—do you live in fear—do you laugh in the face of danger and (possibly) doom? Those are a lot of heavy questions, I know, but I’d like you to ponder them when you come to see Spoiler Alert: Everybody Dies. And check out our sign-tastic lobby; before, during, and after the show, stopping by on your lunch-break, or whenever you’d like. We’d love for you to know the facts.

*For those of you who didn’t know that spoiler, I truly apologize. They’re great books! Go read them anyway!

~ Melanie Harker, Connectivity Assistant

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North Side – South Side & Sports Rivalries

Aaron Bliden, Scott Montgomery, James T. Alfred, and Travis Turner in the scene "Baseball People." (photo by Michael Brosilow).

Red Sox vs. Yankees. Ohio State vs. Michigan. Celtics vs. Lakers. UNC vs. Duke. Barcelona vs. Real Madrid. Chicago Bears vs. Green Bay Packers. And Cubs vs. White Sox.

As a Red Sox fan and a loyal follower of the fiercest rivalry in all of sports, I hesitated at first to add the Cubs – White Sox rivalry to this list. After watching the “Baseball People” sketch in The Second City’s Spoiler Alert: Everybody Dies and talking to loyal Cubs and Sox fans I conceded. This feud, one of the oldest in baseball, stems from much more than a fight to secure the league Pennant. It reflects the deeper North-South divide in Chicago and has produced serious (and malicious) fans.

The founding of the American League in 1900 brought the White Sox from St. Paul to Chicago where they won the first “official” American League game against Cleveland the following year. The Sox presented direct competition to the Cubs, a National League Franchise, which forced them to play their games south of 35th Street. The two teams faced off in the early years, and the White Sox won the 1906 World Series by defeating the Cubs, four games to two. This remains the only all-Chicago Fall Classic.

To this day the Cubs and Sox ballparks remain separated by the Chicago River, as do fan loyalties. Cubs fans are North Siders. White Sox fans are South Siders. Both Cubs and Sox fans made it clear to me that they developed their allegiance very early on based on where they grew up and never shifted. The North-South separation in Chicago developed from a large disparity in income and demographic makeup, but each side has a baseball team to represent them in the feud.

Cubs and Sox fans present similar dislike and unwavering devotion. Wrigley Field is a tourist attraction. Obama isn’t a real Sox fan. Sox fans are uncontrollable drunks. Cubs fans don’t know a double play from double bubble gum. Both sides think that the other is more belligerent and less dedicated. Everyone feels that they have a hand in ending or causing the curses that have plagued each team. In Spoiler Alert: Everybody Dies, the “Baseball People” sketch draws on the Cubs-Sox rivalry among friends to unveil racial stereotypes and to mock the absurdity of the North-South side divide.

With the all-time series standing at 49-41 in favor of the White Sox, what is the fate of this rivalry? Can the Cubs surge ahead and break the Curse of the Billy Goat to bring a World Series to the North Side after a drought of 103 years? Will fans stay in the North-South side divide? Are you a sports fan of a team with a fierce rivalry? Let us know, we want to hear your stories!

~ Bridget Miskell, Development Assistant

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