The Dogs

It's so hard to raise responsible parents these days.

Before I was born my mom was crazy. Not that she isn't crazy now, she is, but it's more of a "You should try to smile more so that people won't feel intimidated by how imposing you can look with that beard and those tattoos" crazy. The kind of crazy every mom is, really, honed by years of acute adolescent psychological torture and shock therapy.

The kind of crazy that looks at her manchild and can't help but see the eight year old boy who put two teeth straight through his lower lip, after he hit a crack in the pavement and discovered the laws of physics while riding a skateboard down a hill. On his hands and knees... Head first...

Fun Fact:  mass X momentum + gravity = blood

My mom was 25 when I was born. Having previously been 25 myself (about a thousand years ago) I cannot imagine what a total reality changer that would be. Or how one would deal with such a sudden and complete life change. When I was born, my mom found Jesus. Burned her collection of first edition Led Zep vinyl (I know! I still mourn the loss every time I log in to Ebay). She burned her tied dyed shirts, tossed her cigarettes (hand rolled. no filter) and never looked back. Ever.

She completely embraced the life of a caring, protective (read also: controlling), semi neurotic, usually worried, always loving mother. And she did it all for me. It may have been a little over kill. But at the same time it's part of growing up. You just can't play your cards fast and loose when there is a tiny human relying on you to feed it and keep it alive and clean up it's shit. (literally and figuratively) And the truth is, there's not a single day I'm not thankful she made that change. Because I would be totally mental if I had grown up in the life she lived before.

Before I was born, my mom was a rock climbing, globe trotting, shroom hunting, wild child. I was conceived in Australia, where she met my biological father. It was that whole opposites attract thing. He was into real estate or some kind of hoity toity business stuff. My mom worked as a Jillaroo on a 1 million acre ranch in the wasteland notoriously known as "the outback" and that doesn't mean some pussy chain restaurant. That means you gotta be tough as a coffin nail to survive. She was home renewing her work visa to go back to the ranch when she found out I was in the oven and never left the US again. I just drained all the piss and vinegar out of her.

Before Oz, she traveled across the Sudan by third class rail (like all those movies where people bring goats and chickens on board and sit on the roof to escape the crushing heat) while she had malaria or some kind of exotic disease. Spending hours hunkered down in the bathroom of the train, which consisted of a 3x3 foot room with a hole cut in the floor. People shit directly down onto the tracks as they pass below. Then wipe with the left hand and smear it off on to the walls.

don't try and steady yourself on the wall
Once, she almost got herself locked inside the tomb of some Egyptian pyramid because they didn't notice they had stayed past closing time, wandering the depths. Nowadays, she doesn't want to stay at a hotel if they don't have at least 20 reviews on I know right? Oh how the mighty have fallen.

Anyway, besides taking me backpacking through Mexico when I was 17, and a trip to British Columbia, since I've been alive my mom and stepdad (both of them aggro thrill seekers once upon a time) never so much as left the country. They have always lived relatively quiet, even slightly mundane lives peppered with small adventures, like hiking the occasional peak, watching Smallville or skiing a blue square.

My whole life they have managed to never get themselves into a single tight spot or sketchy situation. No doubt afraid that they might be taken from this world, leaving me to inevitably starve to death, or slowly be subdued by my own ineptitude.

Then I got married. I started a life, and apparently they decided that it was time to say screw it and go have the adventures they had been avoiding for so many years. Now if something happens to them, they know my wife will make sure I don't just sit around watching action movies with my dogs, smoking cigars, eating pizza and rum for breakfast.

So my parents, who hardly wandered beyond the three states which line the Pacific coast of this great nation through my whole life, suddenly found work, packed up and relocated to Tripoli. The capital of Libya. A boring, stable little Arab country. A country they assured me had absolutely no terrorists, unrest or dangers that I needed to worry about.

The US state department had not issued any travel advisories for Americans in Libya for many years. The government was stable and had made a massive effort to completely eradicate any terrorist cells that may have been hiding there before. In fact my parents were going to work with "Aecom", a massive international corporation that was hired by the Libyan government to build national infrastructure in an effort to turn Libya into a viable tourist destination like Dubai.

That was back in July 2010, when they moved. Seven months later Libya is a war zone. The streets are in chaos with protesters demanding democratic freedom. (who can blame them? They'd prefer a government that doesn't just kill everyone who isn't drinking the kool-aid) The army (supplemented with African mercenaries) is gunning down crowds of protesters by the hundreds, maybe thousands. No one knows for sure because there is a total communication black out on almost all media, reports are only by estimates of people in the area witnessing the events, but there are at least 300+ confirmed dead.

Soldiers and ambassadors are defecting, saying they refuse to support the genocide of their countrymen. Two Libyan fighter jets landed in Malta seeking refuge the other day. The pilots said they defected from the army because they refused to follow an order to drop bombs on fellow Libyans in their own town.

The government is crumbling, yet still making threats that if the protests continue "the streets will run with rivers of blood". There is talk of a full blown civil war.

And my parents? My parents are holed up in some company owned house outside Tripoli, with all their coworkers, waiting for a chance to escape the country and reach safety in Malta.

30 years without so much as an earthquake, mudslide or race riot (and we lived in LA man!). The most exciting thing that ever happened was when we came home to find our house had been robbed by some stupid drug addicts who went through the strong box and missed an envelope full of cash, but stole my mom's fake plastic pearls.

*fun fact: The morons of the Pasadena PD took 40 minutes to arrive on scene and when they did they drew guns on me and treated me as a suspect. Apparently a lot of 16 year old burglars hang around for an hour after the crime and then stand in the middle of the street with a flashlight and flag down the police cars

I let my parents out of my sight for a few months and they get themselves stuck between a psychotic despot who would rather murder all his citizens than give up dictatorship, and a rampaging mob hell bent on fighting their way to democracy.

The good news for now is that Aecom has a tiny army of a private security force which should be able to hold down the fort long enough to get their people out of Libya. So far that's the only news we have. Now it's just a waiting game to see how long it will take for them to get out safely. It's been a day without any contact so far. I'll update this as things develop.

In other news, all these shenanigans have totally screwed up my carefully laid plans for Bali yet again. Since the tickets I got for my parents to Indonesia departed from Tripoli, it's gonna be hard for that flight to work since 1) My parents will hopefully be back in the US by the time the flight is supposed to leave and 2) all flights have been canceled in Tripoli. Probablyu because of the whole war thing...

I called emarites air to try and get a refund for their tickets so I could start looking for flights out of Seattle and they told me to contact expedia.

I called Expedia customer service and I swear this conversation is literally what happened. Christy will confirm I called on speaker phone.

Outsourced Indian Customer Service Drone: (super thick accent) Hello, thank you for calling Expedia, how can I help you?

Me: Hi, I need to find out what the process is to obtain a refund for a flight I had booked for my parents to fly from Libya to Indonesia.

OICSD: Okay, I would love to help you with that today. Can you give me the confirmation number?

Me: bla bla,, numbers given.

OICSD: what was that before the B? a V or C?

Me: Beta - Charlie - Foxtrot niner 7458

OICSD: (reads back incorrectly. we go around two more times before it is clear) Okay sir, I would love to help you with that today. What information do you need regarding this reservation?

Me: I said I would like to get a refund. All the flights are obviously canceled and my parents are evacuating Libya. I called the airline to get a refund and they said to call Expedia.

OICSD: I see. you say your flight is canceled?

Me: That's what they said.

OICSD:  And why exactly was this flight canceled? (I swear she really fucking said that!)

Me: Umm. (Wife in disbelief bursts into wild innapropraite giggling)

OICSD: You claim the flight is canceled? Why would it be canceled?

Me: Because there are riots in the streets. People are being gunned down by the hundreds, bombs are being dropped on the city and the military is moving in to crush the uprising by massacring anyone in their path.

OICSD: I see. Well, I will need to send a fax to emirates airlines and confirm this. (Seriously. She said a fax! from India to Qatar. To confirm that international news was taking place and it would impact the flow of airline traffic from the area)

Me: You sure you don't want to use a telegram? Or maybe a carrier Pigeon?

Now which was the send fax button again?
OICSD: I will need to place you on hold for 3-5 minutes.

Click... Crazy trumpet music playing. We wait.

14 minutes later...

OICSD: thank you for holding. I would be happy to help you with this today. I have contacted emirates airlines and they confirm that all flights have been canceled. But only up until Feb 28th. You're flight is on March 9th and there is no decision posted yet on this date.

Me: I'm pretty sure that things are not going to be all back to normal and dandy by March 9th.

OICSD: I cannot process a refund voucher for you at this time. You will need to contact Emirates airlines and talk to their customer service instead.

Me: I called them first and they told me all flights are canceled and I needed to get a refund through Expedia.

OICSD: right now your flight is still on the schedule because March has not been processed yet.

Me: I don't care about that. There are extreme circumstances here and everyone is being evacuated. I just want to cancel the tickets and get a refund or change the ticket.

OICSD: I cannot change any ticket you need a refund and then re order new tickets for the current price.

Me: You should stop saying you'll be happy to help me if you're actually not going to try and help me at all.

OICSD: Here's the details for your flight... Please be advised that your parents should arrive at the airport in Tripoli at least 3 hours before the flight is scheduled to leave so that they have enough time to check luggage and get a seat assignment on the flight.

Me: Are you serious?! I just told you people are being gunned down  in the streets. There are jets dropping bombs and snipers shooting into crowds. My parents aren't going to be checking in at the Tripoli airport! They are trying to flee the country. Without getting bombed! By the time March 9th comes around they won't be anywhere near the airport in Tripoli. Hopefully they will be back home and not dead!

OICSD: Let me give you a confirmation number for your account. Can you confirm you parents' birth dates?

So maybe they aren't outsourcing customer disservice to India. Maybe they are outsourcing to the fucking moon. Or the center of the earth's core. Where they don't have any news outlets and the only communication technology is a LAN line and a fax machine. But one thing is for sure, Exedia's policy on refunds due to cancellations caused by international uprisings and mass genocide? Pry the money from our cold dead hands... Top notch operation over at Expedia. I'll toootally use them again...


  1. Entertaining & educational (thanks for the physics lesson) I am beginning to suspect, though, that customer service is not your friend.

  2. Jesus.

    I seriously was expecting a light-hearted story about how you sucked the life out of your mom (kidding!), but not that they are in Libya.


    I can only imagine what you and your family are going through worrying over here let alone what your mother and stepdad are going through.

    I hope they are okay...keep us informed.

    And customer service these days everywhere is a freaking joke.


  3. Holy Crap. I hope they get home soon.


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