A Day Without Steven Slater

This blog entry about the events of Thursday, December 16, 2010 was originally posted on December 17, 2010.

DAY 1:“The flight’s been canceled,” said the distraught voice on the other end of my cell phone, as I stood in line to board a flight at JFK International Airport in New York.

“What?! What happened?” I asked.

“There’s a plane malfunction.” 

Said malfunction meant that my friend and traveling companion Emily, stuck in Dulles in DC, would not meet me at our rendezvous point, Panama, where the two of us had planned seats next to each other for the connecting flight to our final destination: Santiago de Chile (in the country of Chile, of course).  We had joked for days how in Row 24, “‘E’ is for ‘Erik’ and ‘F’ is for ‘Feinberg’” (her last name), but the way things were looking, it looked like the F seat was up for grabs.

“The next flight isn’t until 24 hours from now,” she told me with lament.  But after the bitching and and complaining, we tried to look at the bright side of things.

“Well, at least they’re fixing the plane so it doesn’t crash,” I said.

“Yeah, I know it’s the end of the world,” Emily said.  “I’m just pissed I have to do this all over again tomorrow.”  (She had a whole adventure trying to get to the airport in time as it was.)

And so, with her delayed an entire day, I’d start my first day in Chile without Steven Slater.

I REFER TO EMILY AS “STEVEN SLATER” because that’s who she was this past Halloween when I went to visit her in DC that weekend.  In case you don’t remember, Steven Slater was that disgruntled JetBlue flight attendant-turned-working-class-hero earlier this year, who got into a scuffle with a passenger upon landing, told her off on the PA system, and then took his job, shoved it, and escaped out of the emergency exit with the inflatable slide — but not without taking two beers first (which makes him awesome in my book).  My part of the Halloween costume was the inflatable slide.

I met Emily several months prior to Halloween, in New York this past summer, when she lived in the Big Apple to do a graduate internship at the Federal Reserve.  More specifically, I met her at my apartment at 3am when she arrived with her bags from DC as part of a north-bound road trip with Stephanie (Italy, Switzerland) who needed to make time by driving in the middle of the night.  Steph, who had become friends on her birthright trip to Israel, made with the introductions, and eventually Emily and I became friends over the past summer.  She had planned a trip to Chile and Argentina this winter and asked me to tag along, if only for a part of her trip. Long story short, I was given the seat assignment 24 E (for “Erik” of course).

THE FLIGHT FROM NEW YORK TO PANAMA I don’t remember; I slept the entire way, tired from a night out to see the Tron Legacy midnight show before departure.  Upon landing in Panama City, my inner traveler kicked in, and I even surprised myself how quickly I could switch into Spanish-speaking mode when I’m surrounded by it.  It was about 60 degrees warmer than NYC and I neatly packed my winter jacket into a ball. 

I boarded the flight to Santiago.  “E” was for “Erik” and “F” was for the “Fat lady” next to me.  Well not obese per se, just very big boned; she fit that entire seat snugly.  The nice Chilean woman living in Panama was going home for the holidays, and slept most of the way.  We made for some small Spanish conversation when she asked me and the D seat for our silverware, so she could steal it and take it home.  “F” is for “Flatware.”

To my left in the D seat was a guy blasting Billy Joel into his ear buds: Ben, from Newport Beach, California, a middle-aged bachelor type who looked a lot like a clean shaven Jim Cramer from CNBC’s Mad Money.  To give you a look into his personality based on our conversation, he was a realtor in southern California living the bachelor life, who loved the bar scene on the Upper East Side of Manhattan when he went to visit, and proudly kept a USC Trojan’s logo on his luggage.  Another self-proclaimed “world traveler,” he usually judged places by their women, as he bounced from ex-pat area to ex-pat area around the world, looking for young, local tail — even if he had to pay for it he admitted.

“Before I went to the Philippines, I went on this Philippine dating site,” he told me.  “I had two girls lined up,” he said before going into the dates in detail.  “These girls are so desperate to get married at 24!”

“They want a ticket out of the country,” I told him.

“I don’t understand why they want to leave,” he said.  “It’s realy American there… you know, they got malls and Starbucks.  I was like, why would you want to leave?!  I mean, you got Makati, and the Fort…” he said, name all the ex-pat areas of Manila that middle-aged men usually go to look for young, local tail without ever really being exposed to the “real Philippines.”  I told him it was a lot different outside of the ex-pat zones, and that most people in Third World Nations drank Nescafé.

The 6-hour flight continued through two time zone hours ahead of NYC.  Copa Airlines flight attendants (possibly disgruntled) fed us twice — something Ben raved about for such a short flight — and poured us wine and rum Cokes.  The conversations continued, with Ben referencing the women of his travels by the number he rated them on a scale of 1 to 10.  “[The last time I was in Buenos Aires, I met this Nine Five… beautiful.  I met her at a cocktail bar and I took her up to my room and we had a ‘session,’ and then I had her put on this lingerie that I got for twelve bucks.  And this Nine Five put it on and we had another session.]”  When I mentioned that I was planning to go to trek in Patagonia, he said, “[I guess you can concentrate on trekking down there ‘cause there’s no women.  In Buenos Aires, they’re everywhere and that’s all you look at,]” he said.  “[I’m thinking of going to the Lake District on this trip, but that’s all beauty and stuff, and I should probably do that with a chick.]”

IT WAS STILL BRIGHT OUT when we landed in Santiago’s airport at 8pm.  We went through arrivals formalities, first paying the reciprocity fee for Americans ($140), Canadians, Australians, Mexicans and… Albanians.  (How did they get in there?)  Immigration, then bags, money exchange, and customs.  “So we should meet up for a drink, and get things going,” Ben suggested.  “It’s Friday night in Chile!” 


“You be my wing man, I’ll be yours,” he said excitedly.  “Man, I would love to get some Chilean woman tonight, and start this trip out nice.”  We had planned to meet at a bar in the Lonely Planet in middle of our two hotels — both about a few Metro stops away for both of us.  It was in Las Condes, an area that a Chilean man on the plane suggested since it was safe to walk around at night.  First we had to get to our respective rooms at different parts of town and did so with a shared shuttle minivan for $12. 

Seis miles pesos,” said the driver to Ben as we sat in the van.  He was completely confused.

“He wants your ticket,” I told him, since we pre-paid in the terminal.

“I think I’m going to be struggling with the language barrier here,” Ben told me.  “[I just felt like I was in Midnight Run.]”

It got dark really fast and nighttime in Santiago was pleasant, without much traffic.  Chile’s capital was pretty modern, and serve mostly as a starting/ending point for travels in the thin country, even though according to many sources, there wasn’t much to it.  Perhaps it’s because they’re all reading the opinion of one Lonely Planet author:  “Santiago’s charm is hard to pin down.  When people make comparisons, Santiago always seems to come up short.  Less cultural than Buenos Aires.  Less colonial than Lima.  Less Latin American than Mexico City.  Less exciting than Rio.  But it’s also less chaotic, less run down, less insular, less dangerous and less damn large.”

I checked into the private room at the Footsteps hostel near the Plaza Italia that Emily had reserved, and settled in before meeting Ben at the bar at 11:30.  Of course with my luck the Metro closed at 11, and I had to take a taxi ride.  Not surprisingly it was the ex-pat neighborhood, with all the international embassies, and the fast food joints and watering holes to sustain the culture.  Ben would have loved it at Flannery’s Irish Geo Pub where we were supposed to meet — if only he came.  I waited until about 1am for him to arrive, but he never showed up — even after all his hype.  I figured with his lack of Spanish and inability to take the Metro, he somehow couldn’t make it happen.  Either that or he found some young immediate tail at his hotel. In any case, I knew then that the “D” stood for the “Dick” that stood me up.

No matter, I sat with beers, and eventually introduced myself and chatted up Betsy, a graduate student from the University of Wyoming.  Afterwards, I checked out some Chilean girls doing some really bad Beatles karaoke, chat up a cab driver looking for some much-needed drunken late night eats, and eventually ended up at a greasy spoon near my hostel for an epic Churrasco Dynamico sandwich

A day without Steven Slater (aka Emily) was a great acclimitization back into indie traveler Global Trip mode — but I knew I was just getting warmed up in time for her arrival…


I also took a road trip with Steph in my travels since “Chinese Leftovers,” through the midwest like in the “Twisted” blog.  No tornadoes this time, but there definitely was midwestern kitschy tourist traps, like big turtle statues, big shoes made out of little shoes, the birthplace of Popeye (and Wimpy), and above all, the World’s Biggest Rocking Chair!

Next entry: Chilly, Chili, Chile

Previous entry: A New Trip for an American, Expressed

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Comments for “A Day Without Steven Slater”

  • Ben sounds like a real winner.  I wish STD’s upon him.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/17  at  05:34 PM

  • love the taxi ride video!  Darnit I wasn’t first

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/17  at  10:24 PM

  • markyt - yeah *shudder*

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/17  at  10:28 PM

  • hahaha Love it. D is also for “(pig)dog”,“desperate” and “diseased” wink

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/18  at  04:02 AM

  • LIZ! Ah, it’s like the good ol’ days… Where are you these days?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/18  at  11:12 AM

  • looks like the coach house of santiago chile…dynamico!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/18  at  03:45 PM

  • That’s the perfect description of Santiago!  Que buena onda! (Chilean slang)

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/18  at  10:28 PM

  • Oh, and I didn’t have to pay for a visa if you cross the border by bus.  But you have to pay if you fly into Chile.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/18  at  10:31 PM

  • Wow. Ben gives guys from Newport a bad name… although maybe they deserve it.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/20  at  04:34 PM

  • Erik- I’m back in Canada about an hour out of Toronto :D Now off to read the other entries…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/27  at  04:01 PM

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This blog post is one of nineteen travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip: Chill Out in Chile," which chronicled a trip through the country of Chile, from the central and coastal cities of Santiago and Valparaiso (plus a quick jaunt to Argentina's nearby wine region of Mendoza), followed by a trek through southern Patagonia, and a journey to Easter Island.

Next entry:
Chilly, Chili, Chile

Previous entry:
A New Trip for an American, Expressed


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