Yearly Archive: 2016

Roman Fraulini and Norris Stenson – “There’s no crying in business”

Roman Fraulini, Brian Balestri, and Norris Stenson on The Extraordinary Friends Show

Roman Fraulini, Brian Balestri, and Norris Stenson – Episode #5 of The Extraordinary Friends Show

“Most things I do end up being the hard way.” – Roman Fraulini

My guest for this episode is my good friend Roman Fraulini. He’s a Director of IT but don’t worry – we don’t spend any time talking about his day job. Instead we talk about his life experiences outside of IT.

They include:

  • growing up in a REALLY small Northern Minnesota town
  • joining the Air Force
  • how the Air Force influences his management style and his personal life
  • what it’s like to be a father having grown up without a father
  • and his Italian citizenship

For me Roman is part Andrew Zimmern, part Glengarry Glen Ross, part Zagat’s travel guide, part Cliff Clavin , and part Bear Grylls. But my favorite thing about Roman is that he will always play along with any absurd conversation that I start. He’ll join in without missing a beat, and he is never the first to break character and start laughing, no matter how absurd it gets. You get a small glimpse of that in the very beginning of the show when I ask him about where he’s from.

My co-host for this episode is Norris Stenson, a great friend I’ve known for almost 30 years. If I’m going to a party and I know Norris is going to be there, he’s the guy that I’m looking forward to seeing most because he’s a great conversationalist and always adds good humor to any situation.

If you only have 5 minutes go minute mark 43 to hear Roman’s story about the German maid.

As always, the podcast has bonus material at the very end including extra lightning round questions, and some funny pre-show conversations that are not in the video.

Enjoy!

PS. If you get a chance, leave some feedback in the comments below.

Listen to Episode #5: Roman Fraulini and Norris Stenson – “There’s no crying in business” | The Extraordinary Friends Show

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Jason Ostrowski and Erik Swanson – “Phone Numbers on Snickers Wrappers”

Jason Ostrowski Brian Balestri and Erik Swanson | The Extraordinary Friends Show

Jason Ostrowski Brian Balestri and Erik Swanson | The Extraordinary Friends Show

“Well, that’s probably the person I’m not saving.” – Jason Ostrowski

My guest for this episode is Jason Ostrowski – a flight attendant for a regional carrier here in the Twin Cities.  My co-host is Erik Swanson – my oldest (meaning we’ve known each other the longest) and also my best friend.  Erik and I asked Jason all sorts of questions about flying and being a flight attendant including:

  • Who are the most annoying types of passengers?
  • What happens when a person dies on a plane during a flight?
  • What is the procedure when passengers are caught in the act?

Jason and Erik are a couple of great guys and we had a really fun conversation.

Here’s the video of the show, but I should tell you, the podcast has an additional 10 minutes of Lightning Round questions and pre-show outtakes.

Enjoy!

PS. If you get a chance, leave some feedback in the comments below.

Listen to Episode 4: Jason Ostrowski and Erik Swanson – “Phone numbers on Snickers wrappers” | The Extraordinary Friends Show

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Jason Ostrowski and Erik Swanson – Episode 4 Transcript

Jason Ostrowski and Erik Swanson – “Phone numbers on Snickers wrappers”

The following is a complete transcript of Episode 3 of The Extraordinary Friends show You can also watch it on TV, watch it on YouTube, and listen to it on iTunes.

Brian Balestri: Hello and welcome to The Extraordinary Friend Show. I’m Brian Balestri and I’m really excited about tonight’s episode, so let’s just jump right in. First off, my good friend, Eric Swanson, is tonight’s co-host. Eric.

Eric Swanson: Hello Brian.

Balestri: How’re you doing?

Swanson: I’m great. Thanks for having me.

Balestri: I’m glad you’re here. Eric is the oldest friend I have. He is one day older than me.

Swanson: Not the best friend you have. I know, just oldest.

Balestri: He is the best friend I have too. You are one day older than me.

Swanson: I am. Yep. Born in the same town.

Balestri: We grew up in the same church, and so we’ve known each other as long as two people can know each other probably.

Swanson: Yep.

Balestri: So, question for you. You travel quite a bit.

Swanson: I do, yeah.

Balestri: And you fly, for it’s part of your job. How often do you fly a month, do you think?

Swanson: Probably twice a month.

Balestri: Okay. So you are familiar with flying and the pros and cons and the ins and outs of being on airplanes.

Swanson: I’ve spent plenty of time in an airplane, yeah. So I’m pretty familiar.

Balestri: Great. So that brings us to our guest tonight. Jason Ostrowski. Jason thanks for coming tonight.

Jason Ostrowski: Thanks for having me.

Balestri: Yeah. So Jason tell us what you do.

Ostrowski: I’m a flight attendant. Been doing that for about almost 24 years now.

Balestri: Really?

Ostrowski: Yeah.

Balestri: You look like you started when you were pretty young then if you have been doing it for 24 years. [chuckle]

Ostrowski: I did start pretty young.

Balestri: How old? So you’re a guy, I can ask you.

Ostrowski: I was 19.

Balestri: You were 19?

Ostrowski: Yeah, and I went to a business college, got done, didn’t know what I wanted to do and then someone said, “Hey, they’re hiring at this airline, why don’t you apply.” So I applied, got hired and I thought, “Oh, I’ll give it a year,” And I’m still there.

Balestri: So you love it.

Ostrowski: Yeah. It’s a combination of things. ‘Cause the job… It’s what the job can give you. ‘Cause it’s just the flexibility of the schedule and the time off to be able to do things, travel, it’s kind of a combination of all that, just what I like about the job.

Swanson: It’s like a recruitment video.

Ostrowski: I know.

Swanson: You’re turning this into…

Balestri: So we’re on public access. You can’t sell anything.

Ostrowski: I know.

Balestri: You can’t sell the job, no. So that sounds great. So the flexibility is, how often do you work? What are the hours that you work?

Ostrowski: It depends on the type of schedule you want ’cause I choose to work at night. I fly out at night, come back in the morning, so my days are free.

Balestri: Okay.

Ostrowski: So it’s great for me, because I have kids. I can be there for the kids programs and stuff like that, but when you’re new, that isn’t what happens. You get the worst schedule, the worst days, all the holidays, and that lasts for a few years. If you can get through that, then it gets better. If you can’t…

Balestri: The whole system is based on seniority, right?

Ostrowski: Yes.

Balestri: So, is there any performance factor in the seniority? Is it just number of days, number of years work.

Ostrowski: Just seniority.

Balestri: Really?

Ostrowski: Yeah.

Swanson: Is that how they decide who the lead person is on the flight?

Ostrowski: They have the choice, unless, it’s different with different airlines. There is a person that’s called the Purser, so they’re in charge and you have to go through a training for that. So they’re the lead of the cabin and then everyone else below that. But I’m not that person, I don’t have to do that, so.

Balestri: Wait, so is that a position that someone’s… Is it a good position to have? Or is it a…

Ostrowski: They get paid more, because they’re in charge of more duties and they’re in charge of money.

Swanson: They have to do the over the mic thing with a…

Ostrowski: No. That gets delegated out, but…

Swanson: Okay.

Ostrowski: But really if there’s a complaint, that person will get called to talk to the customer or something. But it depends on what flights they are. Those are on the bigger aircrafts with more flight attendants on. Smaller aircrafts with fewer flight attendants is just you and a type of plane that I’m on has two flight attendants. And so…

Swanson: I think every flight out of this airport has two attendants. There’s no big flights, unless you’re going to Europe.

Balestri: Really?

Ostrowski: Yeah.

Balestri: Oh, yeah right. So if you’re taking…

Swanson: No, I mean, they’ve really scaled down the size of the planes in the last couple of years.

Balestri: So what are the types of planes you usually fly?

Ostrowski: We have two aircrafts and it’s the regional carrier. So, it’s a 50-seat plane and a 76-seat plane.

Balestri: That is pretty small. And you like it that way. You like the smaller… Just because you can come back, is that why?

Ostrowski: What’s nice about it is, because it’s a smaller carrier, but yet, you can move up the ranks quicker in seniority and you can be home more often. It has its perks. But flying for a bigger carrier has its perks too, ’cause you get to go farther places and spend more time.

Swanson: More variety.

Ostrowski: And a little bit more exotic places than Des Moines, Iowa.

Balestri: So where do you usually end up? So you say you fly out, stay overnight, you fly back in the morning. Is that how it works?

Ostrowski: Yes.

Balestri: Okay.

Ostrowski: What I try to do is, take the shortest route, because that gets the most rest and I’m back the quickest, and it’s kinda like the biggest bang for your buck. Least amount of work, same amount of pay.

Balestri: Sure.

Ostrowski: And I could fly further out, it’s just the same pay, so.

Swanson: So flight is paid based on the flight, not on the destination, sort of.

Ostrowski: Kinda both.

Swanson: Okay.

Ostrowski: You’re guaranteed a base pay and if you don’t go over that base pay, then everyone’s making the same.

Balestri: Okay.

Ostrowski: No matter what you do. But if you’re flying over that base, then you have to work enough to get over that and then it does count the longer flights that you have to build it up quicker.

Balestri: Yeah, so a flight to Japan gets paid more than a flight to Des Moines, Iowa, right?

Ostrowski: Yes.

Balestri: Okay.

Swanson: But a flight to Des Moines and a flight to Kansas City are probably pretty similar.

Ostrowski: Well, Des Moines will be about just less than an hour. Kansas City would probably be about an hour and 30. So that’s person just doing a little bit more. And there’s more duties on a little bit longer flights. So it comes down to choice of schedule, what you wanna work. And some people like that one, that it’s a little bit longer. Maybe they like that destination, so they choose that.

Balestri: So can you work more hours? Can you work, say, more flights than other people, meaning you can control how much money you make?

Ostrowski: To a point. You have to have, with the regulations for hours worked, it’s that you have to have so many hours off in a seven day period, and you can’t do so much in a day. And it’s just how it fits in in a monthly schedule. If you can finagle everything, you can work more. It’s just how you put it together.

Swanson: But you don’t go from here to Des Moines and back in one day.

Ostrowski: You can. I mean, I don’t. I choose to do the overnight flight. So, I go to work at 8:30 at night, I come home by 6:00 in the morning or 8:30 in the morning, and because I don’t get a legal rest and it’s supposed to be at least eight hours rest, I get about six, and then I’m supposed to get the rest of that rest during the day. So I choose that type of schedule ’cause it gives me more time off.

Balestri: And so, you have two daughters.

Ostrowski: Yes.

Balestri: And so you’re with them.

Swanson: Works like a normal…

Ostrowski: Yeah. I think, for the first… When I did this type of schedule flying at night, my kids never thought I worked. They just thought I was always home. And I think they think, “Hey, Dad’s just a stay-at-home dad.”

Balestri: Yeah, right. Except for the trips you get to go on.

Swanson: Simply disappears every night, goes out of state, and is back before they wake up.

Ostrowski: Except for they never knew that because we would put them to bed, and then I would leave. And I would get home before they’d wake up, so it’s really like I was just home.

Balestri: So question that a friend asked that wanted to know the answer to this, and I have to admit, I like it too, which is, what’s the oldest a flight attendant can be? And does it differ by airline?

Ostrowski: There is no age. There is no…

Balestri: I thought so.

Ostrowski: Age limit. And it’s really just ability. So if you’re still able to do it and pass the training, you can keep doing it. If you can’t pass it, and there’s been people that… You just, physical ability, you have to lift so many pounds because that’s the doors, the emergency doors we have to open up and stuff… If you can’t do those physical things anymore, then that’s the time to retire. But if you could still…

Balestri: How often do they check?

Ostrowski: Every year, we have to go through a training.

Balestri: And you have to lift something? Like prove you can still lift something?

Ostrowski: Yes. So the training that we do is for our two aircrafts. And it’s two different type of doors you have to open. And you have to go through the module, to physically do it. And you have an instructor there watching you. If you can’t do it, you fail. And then you only can fail so many times, and then you’re done.

Balestri: You’re done. You’re out.

Ostrowski: That doesn’t happen very often, but that’s the course of action.

Balestri: Well, on a recent trip, I swear the flight attendant, she was a woman, had to be like 85. Now, she must have been stronger than she looked, but…

Swanson: She’s scrappy. She’s real scrappy.

Balestri: Scrappy young lady, old lady.

Ostrowski: During training, if you can just do it that once, that’s all you need.

Balestri: That’s all it takes. So she just rested up.

Swanson: Vitamins like crazy.

Ostrowski: Lift with your legs. [chuckle]

Balestri: So I don’t wanna know how much you make, but what is the range? So the purser has a little bit more responsibility, probably makes a little bit more money.

Ostrowski: Yes. And I don’t know the amounts of that because it’s not my airline. But in each airline, if they have a union or not a union, things are negotiated. But starting out as a flight attendant, you don’t start out very much, and it’s a very low base pay. And over the years, you get to a certain point, it gradually gets more. And then how you can work your schedule, you can make more. And really, it’s about 10 years into your career. Then it’s better. The first 10 years, it’s…

Swanson: It’s true of a lot of careers, right?

Balestri: Yeah, it is.

Ostrowski: You get to that turning point. So starting out, it’s a little struggle. Then you get to the decent wage, and then life can be comfortable.

Balestri: Right.

Swanson: But there’s also the perks that you get to hop on and go…

Balestri: Flexibility and the perks are a big part of doing the job.

Ostrowski: That’s a huge… It’s funny. I’ve heard this from stories. I haven’t talked to the people, but when they’re new, and they don’t have a lot of money and all the bills are tight and groceries are tight, they’ll take a flight that serves meals and they’ll go to Europe. And they’ll sit in business class and get all this stuff and then fly back. [laughter]

Balestri: So they’re not working. They’re just taking the flight for…

Ostrowski: Yeah.

Balestri: Okay. Fantastic.

Swanson: Just to eat.

Ostrowski: Well, I think they do ’cause it’s like, you can sleep on the flight. So it’s like, “Hey, I just slept, ate, free drinks, and now I’m coming back home.” [laughter]

Balestri: A way to make ends meet. That’s classic. Speaking of sleeping, on a long flight, going to Japan is one of the longest… It’s the longest flight I’ve been on, and that was a really long flight. I think it was 14 hours. Can flight attendants sleep on the plane, when they’re on shift?

Ostrowski: It’s with the regulations, and it’s kinda weird because flight attendants can be extended longer if there’s another crew member added. It’s different with the regulations, how it’s worded and how you can get by things. There are sleeping rooms, not really a room, but a place that they can go if they have and each person is supposed to take shifts.

Swanson: They rotate.

Ostrowski: But then also…

Balestri: Wait, where is that room?

Ostrowski: It’s not really a room. I was just on a flight, and there was this curtained off area of the seats that are behind and all the curtains went around. And I’ve never seen it before. And I was kinda like…

Balestri: So it’s just like a regular seat, just the last row, type thing?

Ostrowski: No, it was in the business class, and it was off to the side and this curtain went around. And so, that must be the little room you go in. And it was on the beds, and so they just probably slept in there. And it said something about, “Crew members only,” On the outside of it. And I’m assuming other airlines, different aircrafts’ set ups have similar but something like that. But also, too, if I’m gonna make up the number. You have to have 10 people on that flight. If you add another person, then it means they can actually fly longer. No one actually gets…

Balestri: ‘Cause you’re spreading the work out across more people.

Ostrowski: Well, that’s what it’s supposed to be but everyone else is just as tired. You just have one more person. It’s the reality of it. [chuckle]

Balestri: So, what is the best part about your job? Is it the flexibility? Do you like the work itself, the people?

Ostrowski: Well, what’s funny is ’cause the work… Everyone thinks it’s just a sky waitress. The work is we’re there for the…

Swanson: I didn’t say that. Did you say that?

Balestri: Yeah. I don’t know everybody that you’re talking about.

Ostrowski: Okay, not every… So, a lot of people have said that but…

Balestri: Sky waitress?

Ostrowski: Because they just feel like you guys serve drinks. But the customer service of dealing with people and it’s like you’re a counselor ’cause you have to deal with people’s problems or you do wear a lot of different hats, even amongst crew members. We’re there for the safety aspect of it and that’s what, primarily, we’re trained on. How often we use that? Not so often because you don’t want to use that.

Balestri: Right. Hopefully never.

Ostrowski: But that’s what you’re trained for. Because flights are long and you want people to be occupied, otherwise they’re bored and stuff, that’s where the service comes in and that’s what everyone recognizes it’s just flight attendants doing the service. But what I like about it is, again, the combination of things. It’s like just even if I was going to a small city and I’ll use Dubuque. I would never have chosen to go there just on my own, but we went there, had an overnight. It was a neat little city, see stuff that places I wouldn’t choose and flying home, I’m just like, “It’s kinda neat.” I just get to go somewhere. People that fly for business, they might have their meetings from 8:00 to 5:00 and they fly in the morning and leave in the evening. They don’t really get to explore and see stuff. And I think as a crew member with an airline, you get to explore more and check stuff out. And that with the flexibility and just the lifestyle, I think that’s what the job is. It’s a different lifestyle than other people’s jobs.

Swanson: Okay. How tired are you of showing people how a seatbelt buckle works? [laughter]

Ostrowski: The funny thing about that, so often, they’ll grab the same two ends and I get people like, “I don’t know how it works.”

Swanson: Like the two… You’re kidding me? You’re kidding me?

Balestri: Two female ends and just trying to slam altogether.

Ostrowski: Probably, at least, once a month.

Swanson: Morons.

Balestri: Seriously?

Ostrowski: Yeah.

Balestri: Do you just escort ’em off the plane? Just go, “You’re not smart enough to fly.”

Swanson: “I’m sorry. You failed.”

Ostrowski: Well, it’s the same person that can’t open their bag of peanuts. But… [laughter]

Swanson: Boom!

Ostrowski: ‘Cause I get asked that all the time. They’re like, “Can you open this?” And I’m like [makes tearing sound]. There’s a little tear tab on it.

Balestri: Do you just stare them down maybe be a little bit?

Swanson: So, if somebody’s trying to put two of ’em together that are the same, that means the guy next to him is trying to put…

Balestri: He’s just watching like, “Am I seriously sitting next to this moron?”

Ostrowski: I always think like, “Well, that’s probably the person I’m not saving.” I don’t know. [laughter]

Swanson: You’re gonna die, sir.

Balestri: Opening his oxygen. Just using both.

Ostrowski: And I’m saying, “Come this way.” They’re going the opposite way. [chuckle]

Balestri: Yeah. I assume you’re just sitting there watching this person like, “How long are they gonna keep slamming these two… ”

Swanson: You’re gonna tie them? What are you gonna do?

Ostrowski: You can get angry for those things, people asking you dumb questions or you think that they’re dumb. And I just think it’s funny. ‘Cause, just even with bags, you get used to what size fits on your aircraft and I know what size doesn’t. So, when people are coming on, it’s like “That’s not gonna fit.” And they’re like “I take it on every flight.” So, I go, “Every flight’s not the same,” and I’m pretty easy going. I just say, “Okay, go try it.” And then if not, I say, “You have to bring it back up here.” I could come get it but I’m thinking, “You’re the one that wants to bring it on, bring it back to me.”

Balestri: You fight your way back to the front and give it to me.

Ostrowski: So, this guy is like, “It fits on all these flights.” And I saw him try, try, try all different directions. Then he walks up, he’s like, “I guess you’re right.” And I’m thinking “Mm-hmm.” [chuckle] But…

Balestri: But you did the mature thing. You said, “Oh, okay.”

Ostrowski: Yeah, and I was like, “Okay, I’ll check that for you.” He goes, “Well, where are you guys staying?” He goes, “I’ll buy you a beer.” And I’m like, “No, no.” He joked about it, but that’s nice, and most people are pretty good.

Swanson: I ask the flight attendants where they’re staying and they don’t tell me.

Balestri: I don’t think that’s a good thing to do.

Ostrowski: We’re not supposed to.

Balestri: No, that’s crossing the line.

Swanson: Well, of course not. Right.

Balestri: So, that goes to a line of question I have. So you’ve been doing it for 24 years which is fantastic because you’ve seen a lot of changes I would imagine, right?

Ostrowski: Yes.

Balestri: In the beginning of your career, for instance, what would you say was the make up between male and female flight attendants? Was it more heavily-weighted towards women back then, or was it pretty evenly split? I guess I’m…

Ostrowski: When I first started, again, at the Regional Carrier, I think… At a Minneapolis base, we had 38 flight attendants, four of them were guys.

Balestri: Geez. Okay.

Ostrowski: And I think actually, that was probably a generous number for just being…

Swanson: 10%.

Ostrowski: That amount. And then we had a big hiring spree and throughout the years, it’s fluctuated from 200 to 300. And so now, we probably have… If it’s 300, maybe 50, 55 guys out of that number.

Balestri: Alright. Do the math. [chuckle]

Ostrowski: I’m a flight attendant. I don’t do math. [laughter]

Balestri: So, a higher percentage but still…

Ostrowski: Yeah.

Swanson: 20%.

Ostrowski: And I think to…

Swanson: It’s 60.

Ostrowski: It was more scoffed at back then being a male flight attendant and it’s becoming more mainstream, guy flight attendants. But the ironic thing, if you travel on foreign carriers, a male flight attendant is predominant instead of the female.

Balestri: Really?

Ostrowski: Yeah. So, like…

Balestri: Is Nippon Air, is one, the Japanese airline?

Ostrowski: I don’t know about that one, but I just know some Mexico airlines. It’s more of a male privilege to be a flight attendant than females on that.

Balestri: Interesting.

Ostrowski: And I noticed… I was just on a flight out of Italy on an Italian airline, and there was more male flight attendants on that plane than female flight attendants. And I don’t know if that goes across their whole airline, or if it was just that flight.

Balestri: Sure. Small sample size is what you’re saying.

Ostrowski: Yeah.

Balestri: Yeah, that’s interesting. So you…What is the hardest part of your job that no one realizes like a huge pain?

Ostrowski: I think the hardest part is the lack of sleep.

Balestri: Oh really?

Ostrowski: Because you’re on a different schedule and I’ll take a variety of people not just myself. Because you could have a seven hour a day, 10 hour a day, 14 hour a day, could be 16 and if you’re delayed it gets longer. You have up and down times, if you’re flying on the New York, you have a lot of sit time on the aircraft where you’re just taxing and it just, it wears on your body and the physical thing of just having those long days you’re beat at the end of it, when you’re done working, you’re done. And besides that physical thing, once you get well rested, then it’s a new day and it’s good and that’s why there is so many regulations on staff is because of the sleep and just the lack of be able to do your best ability for your job.

Balestri: According to the little research I’ve done, it’s safer to fly now than it has ever been before, so it’s probably not related to accidents or flight mishaps. What’s the worst part of your job? Is it just stupid passengers or is it?

Ostrowski: It’s funny ’cause… The worst part of my job is probably not the passengers and maybe not the sleep, I think it’d be dealing back and forth with the company because you might think rules are this way but the company think it’s this way and it’s so… You get people that are new and don’t know and so everyone has their own opinion how this rule is supposed to be, and looking at it different. So that is probably one of the hardest parts.

Balestri: That’s worse than drunks and people propositioning you?

Ostrowski: The funny thing about that is I think a female would probably say a different answer.

Balestri: Oh really?

Ostrowski: And as being a male in this job, I noticed that I get talked to different than a female flight attendant does. I think a male passenger that’s trying to get away with something, talks different to a female flight attendant. And with me it’s more of a short answer and they don’t try as hard to try to do something ’cause they think, “I’m gonna get nowhere.” Or maybe it’s just me, I’m not sure.

Balestri: Sure. Well, what kind of stuff are they trying to get away with? Getting a bag on that’s not supposed to be on? Or…

Ostrowski: Getting stuff for free or sitting where they’re not supposed to or… ‘Cause typically a guy tries to flirt with the female flight attendant, it’s harder to flirt with the male flight attendant, I think. It just depends.

Swanson: No it’s not.

[laughter]

Balestri: I’m assuming, well, I shouldn’t assume this. Do you get propositions? ‘Cause…

Ostrowski: No, but I wouldn’t say it’s really a proposition, a couple of weird stories. So flying to a destination I guess I had these passengers that had me on the flight out now they had me on the flight going back.

Balestri: So they feel like they know you?

Ostrowski: And so it’s like, “Oh yeah, it’s that flight attendant we know.” And we were overnighting and it was in South Dakota, and the lady on the way out handed me, she was married with her husband, their number on a Snickers wrapper. [laughter]

Balestri: Very classy.

Ostrowski: I know. And they said, “While you’re in town if you need anything, feel free to give us a call.” And I was like, “Okay.”

Balestri: Like the rest of the Snickers.

Swanson: With the picture of a swing…

Ostrowski: And so I was just all like… And it was funny I turned that in to my supervisor and I said, “I don’t know if this is a good letter or not.” [laughter]

Swanson: But the Snickers was delicious.

Ostrowski: No, they didn’t give me the snickers. It was just the wrapper.

Balestri: Right, just the wrapper.

Ostrowski: Yeah. So that was the weirdest one. And then there’s been, I can tell, a male passenger, that because I’m a male flight attendant they don’t know if I’m straight or gay and so I could just tell by their reaction they’re like, “I kinda think they’re hitting on me,” but I’m just like, “Whatever.”

Balestri: Good attention is good attention, right? So again if we were interviewing a female flight attendant, do they get hit-on a lot?

Ostrowski: Yes, they get hit-on a lot more.

Balestri: Probably at an annoying level I would imagine.

Ostrowski: And some of them, like it more than others. They’ll flirt with it and they’ll just kinda… And it probably depends if you’re single or not single. But I did training, and in training, someone said to the flight attendant I was training her, she was a female, a very rude comment about being a flight attendant that, “I bet you all the guys wanna be with her now.” And she came and told me that and I was like, “Do you want me to say something?” And when I looked at him, he was just staring at me like, “Oh my God.” And then she goes “No.” With the funny thing about it is I went to high school with this girl, and so we had a good rapport and stuff. She’s like, “I’m totally fine,” she’s like, “I just wanted to let you know, because I was there.” And he never said anything more and then he just sat there like… ‘Cause I didn’t think he knew I was on the flight until I was standing there and staring at him. And I was way up in the cabin but now he just didn’t say anything he looked out of the window.

Balestri: Busted, totally busted.

Ostrowski: So I would assume comments like those, probably are more frequent to female flight attendants.

Balestri: Yeah.

Swanson: One of the annoyances, it’s rare that I have anybody famous when I’m flying, but every once in a while there’s somebody that’s famous and it drives me nuts when other passengers go up and start… It would drive me nuts if…

Balestri: Doing the fan thing?

Swanson: Yeah, doing the fun thing and it’s like, “There’s not a lot of room here.” I imagine you have to push people back to their seats every once in a while.

Ostrowski: I haven’t had anyone that famous for people to come up…

Swanson: Nobody’s going to Dubuque.

Ostrowski: Actually no, but this actor I didn’t know until I asked someone else and they told me about his name, Shemar Moore. He was going to La Crosse Wisconsin. He was on a soap opera, he is on the tv show, he was in the Catwoman movie with Halle Berry. I don’t…

Shemar Moore

Shemar Moore (via Famous Hookups)

Balestri: Was he acting like he was big stuff?

Ostrowski: No. Not at all. He was just sitting in the front, and he was going to some opening of a mall to do, sign autograph promotion and some people behind him said, “Hey, you’re Shemar Moore. Can I get your autograph?” And so, he pulled out a picture and signed it and gave it to them. And I thought, “Should I ask for one for my wife? Or… ” But I said, asked her about it, and she didn’t know who he was, until I said to another flight attendant, Fran, “This guy was on my flight.” She goes, “Did you get an autograph for me?” I’m like, “I didn’t know who he was, so no, I didn’t.”

Balestri: You’re just supposed to automatically get an autograph.

Swanson: So wait, not only do I have to be annoyed by the passengers, now I have to be annoyed by the crew that are going to try and get his autograph.

Ostrowski: Except for I haven’t had a ton of people, but just my short list. From the Monkees.

Balestri: Davy Jones.

Swanson: Peter York. Tork.

Balestri: York I think it is.

Swanson: York, I’m getting it wrong.

Ostrowski: No. Is it Micky?

Swanson: Micky Rourke.

Balestri: No, that’s the actor. Micky Dolenz?

Ostrowski: Yeah. Micky Dolenz.

Mickey Dolenz

Mickey Dolenz of The Monkeys

Balestri: How long ago?

Swanson: 1968.

Ostrowski: No. Probably in the last four years.

Balestri: Oh okay.

Swanson: So he’s not…

Ostrowski: And then Bo and Luke Duke, the dark-haired one.

John Schneider

John Schneider (via Famous Hookups)

Swanson: Luke.

Balestri: Duke?

Swanson: I don’t know. From Dukes of Hazard. [laughter]

Ostrowski: I know. I’m going way back. See that’s why mine are all way back.

Balestri: These are throwback names.

Ostrowski: So that’s why no one recognizes them.

Swanson: I’ll do the star stuff. You can stop.

Ostrowski: See I’m terrible with it. That’s why I don’t get an autograph. I always say, “Do you know who I am?”

Balestri: So one of the things you’ve lived through, or worked through, I should say, is the 9/11. How has things changed from the time you were flying before 9/11 til… Obviously, a lot of new regulations and things like that, but has it made your job a lot tougher?

Ostrowski: After, for the next five, seven years, I’d say it was tougher because just with the regulations and so strict on what you can bring in, passengers. And then, it started to loosen up a little bit. And not that it loosened up, but it’s… You narrow down really what you’re looking for, what they’re doing to streamline it. And flying people are doing it more and more every day. You couldn’t keep the same restrictions and have the same amount of traffic because no one’s gonna make their flight. So you have to combine everything. And with new technology and the machines that they have for detecting stuff, that makes things easier, so things are gonna just always keep changing. And for a crew member, it made it difficult for a while. But then also, it gets easier too because you have background checks for yourself, with the company and everything, so you get to bypass the normal line where passengers are. And it used to be everyone was in the same line.

Balestri: Right. So I imagine the first few years, especially, people were pointing out things that they thought were suspicious or people who they thought were suspicious. Was that good, bad, horrible? What would you do if somebody said, “I think this gentleman is… ”

Ostrowski: It’s a lot of profiling that people do, and when you’re just a normal passenger…

Balestri: Right. Amateur profiling of terrorists.

Ostrowski: That’s probably the bad thing. ‘Cause they just get nervous for whoever’s on their flight that they think is this. And excuse me. It could be a gamut of stuff. And so, they’re not trained on it. So, you just take what they say with a grain of salt, unless they actually did say something or they’re pointing something out because people are gonna have those feelings. Even though we have business people that fly all the time, they get used to it, and they’re probably the easier person to handle. It’s the person that doesn’t travel that often that are more worried and…

Balestri: In terms of being worried about other passengers.

Ostrowski: Yes. And that’s probably where you hear the complaints, where they don’t have the experience of a frequent traveler to just be in the atmosphere of that, to make observations on that. [laughter] Everything to them is a threat.

Balestri: Do you get trained on how to spot things that are irregular? Or…

Ostrowski: Yes. And so, there are certain things I can’t talk about.

Balestri: Sure. I guess the question would be…

Swanson: How do we sneak past security?

Balestri: No. I’m glad that they are training you on that. But what happens when… I guess it depends on what it is that you see or hear or experience…

Ostrowski: Yes, and there’s a chain of command. And there’s procedures we have to do. And that yearly training I was talking about, so that’s something that we do in that yearly training. So every year, it’s new things come up, things are taken away, and we kinda get whatever’s new out there. And the new things to look for that people are doing to try to hide stuff.

Balestri: Have you had to kick somebody off the plane or is that usually up the chain, the captain or the pilot has to do that?

Ostrowski: No. I cannot technically kick someone off as a flight attendant. You have to… There’s always a pilot in command, which is the captain. And so, you bring it to his attention. It’s his call. But usually, it’s… If a flight attendant is uncomfortable with whatever situation is going on, they abide by that and say, “Hey, you’re the one back there. We’re gonna… ” You have to call the agents, and you have these procedures you have to follow to do it, but someone can be kicked off.

Balestri: Have you had someone kicked off?

Ostrowski: I haven’t had anyone kicked off myself. Again, I think it’s different being a guy flight attendant. It all comes back to the same. I think people that, I’ll say an intoxicated person, are more obnoxious, maybe, with a female flight attendant that they can get away more with. But we can’t have intoxicated passengers on the aircraft, so if it’s noticed before, it’s cut off right there and then they don’t get on the flight. So I’ve had that, where they haven’t even stepped foot on the plane.

Balestri: They’re just in the waiting area, totally bombed.

Ostrowski: The agent said, “This person seems intoxicated. Do you want him on?” And it’s like, we can’t take him on, especially once you’ve said that. And we can see him in the window. And they’re standing there, just all woBalestriling, and it’s like, “Yeah, they’re not coming on.” And then it’s taken care of.

Balestri: So somebody else had to answer for that.

Ostrowski: So then they call security, and the security comes. And they help deal with the agents.

Swanson: Gate agents don’t eventually become flight attendants. There’s no…

Ostrowski: Not, not… That’s only if they want to. They have to interview, get hired…

Balestri: It’s a completely different… Yeah, okay.

Ostrowski: Correct.

Swanson: It’s a different career path is basically what you’re saying. Okay.

Ostrowski: Yeah. And sometimes, people…

Balestri: Because gate agents have a tough life. Man, you couldn’t pay me enough to be a gate agent.

Ostrowski: If there’s no weather and no mechanical, your day is great. But one of those things happen, then… Just the other day, I won’t wanna be there.

Swanson: Oh, for the Delta outage? Right.

Balestri: But it could be mechanical somewhere else. It’s not even… Or the weather somewhere else, and the plane’s late coming in…

Swanson: And they have to deal with it. Yep.

Balestri: They have to deal with the constantly irate passengers.

Ostrowski: That’s the funny thing that you mention that, because a passenger complaining, the flight’s delayed because of weather. The guy looks outside and it’s sunny and he goes, “Well, it’s sunny here! Why aren’t we taking off?” [laughter]

Ostrowski: It’s because the plane’s coming from somewhere else that has weather. He didn’t realize that, so…

Swanson: Did he have trouble buckling his belt, too? [laughter]

Ostrowski: He probably was one of those guys. I don’t know, so…

Swanson: What is it? All State double check? “Can’t make it fit!”

Balestri: So as a passenger, I have pet peeves, but I’m curious to know if you have any pet peeves that the passengers do?

Ostrowski: It’s that when they walk onboard and they’re like, “I’ll have my steak rare.” You get that all the time. So it’s like, “Ha.”

Balestri: Oh, jokingly.

Ostrowski: Yeah.

Balestri: Ah, gotcha. ‘Cause you’ve heard that a billion times.

Ostrowski: Yeah. So that’s probably… And it’s not a big deal, but it’s just the one that you hear all the time. It’s like, “You’re really not a funny person, aren’t you?” [laughter]

Balestri: Back to the… I’ll tell you a quick story. I work in manufacturing in IT, so I worked with a guy and he was having to do some conversion of data, but he was on a flight ’cause he’s a consultant, and he’s talking on his phone. Now, he’s Middle Eastern to begin with. He’s a US citizen, he’s lived here his whole life, but he looks Middle Eastern ’cause he is middle eastern. Anyway, he’s on it, and he’s talking about the converting of the routings, which is a manufacturing document, and the bill of materials. And the short name for Bill Of Materials is BOM [pronounced ‘bomb’]. And when you expand the Bill Of Materials, it’s called an Exploded BOM [bomb]. So he’s on the phone, he’s talking about converting the routings, he’s having problems, and he’s talking about the BOMs. Did the BOMs load? Did the exploded BOMs load? It makes no sense, but he’s saying this. Well, needless to say, several people were like, [motions pressing the flight attendant button] ding, ding!

Ostrowski: And he got taken off?

Balestri: He got taken off.

Ostrowski: I was gonna say, that’s one of the words. If that’s ever mentioned and someone’s talking about it, it always has to be brought up and it’s up to the captain, again, about being brought off or not. And they’ll have someone come down to the plane and whatever the situation is. But most likely, someone will be taken off. [chuckle]

Balestri: Yeah. And he was a professional, he totally understood. He’s like, “Yeah, I can’t believe I was saying it, but I was just in the moment,” but he got interviewed for like four hours.

Ostrowski: He was that guy. [laughter]

Balestri: Well, yeah. He was that guy. So what other kind of stuff are you seeing on there, for example?

Ostrowski: For people being taken off? Or…

Balestri: No. Sorry. Have you ever seen any kind of UFO or unexplained phenomena? I mean…

Ostrowski: I haven’t seen it, but what I’ve heard is… And I wouldn’t say UFO, but when it’s lightning and stuff, where people say it’s just a ball of light went through the cabin, because the plane got struck by lightning. And I was flying with these people, I didn’t see this out my door, but the girl working in the back, she said she could see light coming in, around the door, the exit in the back, and it was from the lightning, ’cause the air gets so electrified and we’re flying so close. And I went up to the cockpit and you could see on the windshield that… They call it, I think it’s St. Elmo’s fire, but it’s the little electrical lines just going “Zzz, zzz”. And they’re kinda like a purplish blue, and it looked really cool. I’m like “Hey, that’s neat.” Some people might freak out. I didn’t. [laughter]

Balestri: Yes. So this must be a while ago if you were up in the cockpit, ’cause you’re not allowed in the cockpit now, are you?

Ostrowski: I can go in the cockpit. There’s a procedure.

Balestri: Oh, okay.

Ostrowski: So you call, and then they have to make sure…

Balestri: Secret handshake, or how do you… You can’t tell us I suppose.

Ostrowski: It’s just like, the door has to be locked once I go up there. The other flight attendant comes up, lock the galley. It’s just kind of a lot of work, and that’s if someone comes out to use the bathroom, it’s just the whole procedure. And then one of the guys has to have his oxygen on if the other pilot leaves.

Balestri: Really?

Ostrowski: Yeah.

Balestri: What’s the idea there? Oh, it for decompressions.

Ostrowski: It can happen.

Swanson: Decompressions.

Balestri: In the cockpit?

Ostrowski: Yeah.

Balestri: So even if he’s going to go to the bathroom, stick on the oxygen.

Ostrowski: Yeah.

Balestri: So have you had any close calls? Anything that you…

Ostrowski: I haven’t had anything that was really bad except for bad turbulence.

Swanson: Turbulence.

Ostrowski: And I would say, in 24 years, just one that scared me. And it wasn’t… I don’t know what that day was, but it was just like, we just dropped. And so when you get that drop, I was in my seat, but you kinda think, “Is today the day?” [chuckle]

Ostrowski: And I mean, I could joke about it, and everyone else… It’s funny, in those situations, everyone listens to you, which is kinda nice, because they’re just staring at you and I’m like, “I’m on!” [laughter]

Balestri: And you have to just pretend like nothing… “Hey, it’s just a 10,000 foot drop. It happens.”

Ostrowski: Yeah. And for me, I guess I try to have that kinda calm way about myself, so people don’t get alarmed. There’s some people who are like, “Oh my gosh!”

Balestri: You mean flight attendants who do that?

Ostrowski: Yeah. And it’s like, “You’re freaking everyone else out. Knock that off.” [laughter]

Balestri: Do they train you for that too? Do they say, no matter what happens, you’ve gotta pretend it’s not a deal?

Ostrowski: As much as you can. You talk about it, but until you actually go through it, you don’t know how you’re gonna react.

Swanson: Yeah. A family friend is a male flight attendant, it doesn’t matter that he was male or female, but broke his back because of the turbulence. He was up moving a cart or something and it was a little choppy, and then all of the sudden, “wham!” They got slammed.

Balestri: He hit the ceiling?

Swanson: He hit the ceiling and then came screaming back down onto the floor, broke his back.

Balestri: Ouch.

Swanson: Yeah. I mean…

Balestri: He’s done now.

Swanson: He’s done.

Balestri: Wow.

Ostrowski: We had a lady that broke both her ankles in the same situation, so she went up, came down, both ankles broken. I don’t believe she ever came back.

Swanson: Yeah, it’d be hard to. I mean… You start thinking…

Ostrowski: The fear and just I don’t know how her body is healed now. That’s another thing sometimes it’s just not worth it if you feel like that, if you got your body broke.

Balestri: What about… Generally your flights are how long?

Ostrowski: I try to do ones under one hour.

Balestri: Oh, so the chances of a lot of stuff happening are probably minimized then?

Ostrowski: Yeah. I mean… You can still have bad turbulence but you won’t get the big drops the same. We’re flying at a lower altitude and less likely of things happening. We’ll have a lot more moderate chop because we’re just low and it’s going through the clouds and it’s, people that are higher up, you’ll get your bigger drop when you go through different atmospheres.

Balestri: Haven’t they gotten… I’m not expecting you to be an aviation expert, but haven’t they gotten better at predicting the wind shears that cause those kind of things? Or is it still fairly common? I mean, I should ask you, [to Erik] you fly a lot, do you…

Swanson: But I fly…

Balestri: Short distances too?

Swanson: Yeah, I mean, three hours is about as far as I fly, but…

Ostrowski: And it changes because they’ll call the city and it’s the operations there. Have they had any reports of other aircrafts coming in, what it was. And then someone might have landed and say it’s only moderate. So they’re like, “Alright, it’s moderate, we’ll just keep going.” And then when you go through then it gets severe for you so then it’s just worst, it’s just…

Swanson: I will say often the pilots come on and say, “Folks I’m gonna ask you to buckle in because we’re gonna, we might experience some.” And I think it’s that situation. Somebody in front of them has run into it and they’ve gotten very good at communicating. Because they say it before we ever get to the chop then…

Balestri: They know it. They know it’s coming.

Ostrowski: Yeah. And then two minutes later you kinda get to the chop.

Balestri: It’s a good point. I wonder if it’s almost like Waze where people are reporting, “Hey, I just went through this area, it was really bad.”

Ostrowski: They do see it on the radar. On their radar that they have, they can see stuff coming, and they give a warning. But what’s funny a lot of times they’re like, “Well, it might be kind of rough, so why don’t you sit down and buckle up.” Nothing. It’s just a smooth flight. And then everyone’s staring at you like, “Well why are you sitting down?”

Balestri: You know what, yeah. I don’t have a problem with that. I’d rather know that I should buckle in and cinch up tight.

Ostrowski: Except for I do tell the pilots like, “Say something so they know, why we’re doing nothing.”

Balestri: That’s a good question. So you fly with all different types of pilots, right? It’s different pilots all the time. Or maybe it’s not. How many pilots do you work with?

Ostrowski: Again, it depends on… Everyone bids their schedule for what their life is. And so you’ll see some people frequently… ‘Cause I have almost like a permanent schedule, missing a few cities here and there, and some other people will do that. But you get a variety of new people coming in, or if someone calls in sick, and people on vacation, so everyone gets kinda swapped around. And you can go for three, six months without seeing that same person. Or you could work with that same person for a whole month.

Swanson: Are you talking pilots or other crew members?

Ostrowski: Well, both.

Balestri: If you were to think of the three most annoying people you work with, are any of them pilots or they are all flight attendants?

Ostrowski: Well, I guess working with them it would have to be a pilot or flight attendant. But it’s because everyone has a different personality, it’s the gamut. ‘Cause you get…

Swanson: He’s not gonna say it folks. [laughter]

Balestri: Flight attendants and pilots… [overlapping conversation]

Swanson: “It’s Bob Jones.”

Ostrowski: But it’s just their personalities and how they operate. Some people… It’s just like at work, you like to deal with them or you just say ‘hi’ and keep going. But when you’re caught in a cabin, the hard thing with our pilots, they have a door.

Balestri: They’ll just close it. “I’m done with you guys.”

Ostrowski: Yeah, and it’s like you don’t see them. But the flight attendant, you’re stuck in the cabin with them. And for me, again I think it’s different. I mostly work with women when I work with somebody. And I think guys and girls get along easier than if it’s two girls. They have more problems with each other than a guy and a girl or two guys. Just throughout the years, it’s just that’s where you see more of the attitudes or people can’t let go of things. [laughter]

Swanson: If you’re doing those short flights, I’m constantly amazed at how fast… Because they serve you drinks no matter what. You’re getting a Coke and cookies.

Balestri: Oh really?

Ostrowski: Well, ’cause for…

Swanson: You fly to Chicago, it’s a 55 minute flight, and you’re getting a Coke and cookies or whatever you want.

Ostrowski: For us it’s based on mileage. Chicago is a service flight. But I had flights to La Crosse, Wisconsin, that’s not a service flight.

Balestri: You can take a flight from Minneapolis to La Crosse? What is it like 15 minutes?

Ostrowski: That’s about 25. The one that’s 15 minutes is Rochester, Minnesota.

Balestri: People fly to Rochester? I did not know that.

Ostrowski: But you think of, you’re coming from Florida, Minneapolis, Rochester. So you’re not getting on in Minneapolis going to Rochester. They’re coming from distance doing that.

Balestri: Okay.

Ostrowski: And a lot of people are going there for medical reasons. And so on those flights, they’re the ones I always think of, “Hopefully not on my flight.” [laughter]

Balestri: Well, have you had any of that? Where a person passes out or has baby on the flight?

Ostrowski: I haven’t had anything drastic, but this is early in the career.

Balestri: ‘Cause your flights were probably longer early in the career, right?

Ostrowski: No. I was flying to Fargo. And so, going to Fargo I was training someone in, and this is when we could just have free access.

Swanson: Nobody wants to go there, so the rookie has to go to Fargo.

Ostrowski: But at that time, I had a key to the flight deck door. I could open the flight deck anytime I go up there and talk to them before 9/11. And I was training someone in, she was going through doing the service. I said, “Hey I’m gonna see if the guys want anything to drink up front.” So I go up there and I’m just chatting away ’cause it’s someone I haven’t seen in a while, and she calls up there and the captain answered and he’s like, “Is Jason there?” And he said, “No.”

Balestri: “No, he’s gone.”

Ostrowski: But he said, he goes, “We left him in Minneapolis.” And there was dead silence on the phone. And I’m like, “Ha ha ha, I’ll just go back there.” And so I go back there and this lady’s like “We have this lady having chest pains.” And I’m like, “The time you’re joking around… ”

Swanson: Right, the one time.

Ostrowski: So it wasn’t major but I had her put everything away and I’m the seasoned flight attendant so I said, “Okay, I’ll take it from here. You just say an announcement.” I switched the person sitting next to her, I gave her oxygen, and we made an emergency landing. So we get clearance to go in, nothing happened to her on the flight, I was monitoring her, we made an announcement that everyone stay seated ’cause medical personnel is gonna come on. They came on and got her off, and took her away. So, to me nothing major but I was just calm and just kinda dealt the situation, and I wasn’t gonna leave it to the new person ’cause that’s her first flight. [chuckle]

Balestri: Right, right. So you’ve probably heard of other stuff.

Ostrowski: Yes. A close friend I work with, she had someone die on her flight.

Balestri: Oh. Early in the flight, was it a long flight?

Ostrowski: It was in the taxi, and no one knew but…

Swanson: The taxi going out?

Ostrowski: Yeah. So no knew it besides…

Swanson: We’re going back.

Ostrowski: Passenger in front or behind rang the flight attendant call, and she came back, and she goes, “I think there’s something wrong with that person.” And they were already dead.

Balestri: Oh my Gosh.

Ostrowski: And so they went back to the gate obviously, and that flight got cancelled. [laughter]

Balestri: The whole flight got canceled?

Swanson: Which is funny, I mean it makes sense, ’cause you gotta probably do an investigation and…

Ostrowski: Well, ’cause you get everyone off and they probably found some other routing, or by that time you could book them on another flight…

Balestri: Oh okay.

Ostrowski: And that person’s still on there till they take ’em off and… [laughter]

Balestri: ‘Cause and you’re like they’re just gonna sit there.

Swanson: The guy in the window seat, has to climb over the dead guy. It isn’t funny, sorry…

Ostrowski: And then because of that situation you don’t use that same crew, ’cause that crew will probably get interviewed by the company, and have to fill out forms, and so they’re pulled off, and you have to call another crew in, so that’s why they probably got re-booked on another flight.

Balestri: Gotcha.

Swanson: Makes sense.

Balestri: A lot of logistics going into someone dying. So what about, short flights less likely that people are gonna get into monkey business. Is that the official term for it?

Swanson: You’re going there?

Ostrowski: So what do you mean by monkey business? [laughter]

Balestri: Well, the term, The Mile High Club. [overlapping conversation]

Swanson: I’ve never heard of this term.

Ostrowski: I would say it depends on who you are, if the short flight’s enough time for you.

Balestri: That’s a good point, good point.

Ostrowski: I haven’t had that happen but I’ve had flight attendants have that happen to. And it’s probably when, we have flights that are two-and-a-half, three hours. So we have longer ones and that would be your typical. And a story again, wasn’t mine. She was walking by, it was a dark cabin, and they were doing something and she goes, “I just threw a blanket over them and kept going.”

Balestri: That’s very…accommodating.

Ostrowski: Yes, and…

Balestri: Is that procedure? Is that what she should have done? [laughter]

Ostrowski: No. We don’t really have procedure on that.

Balestri: You don’t?

Ostrowski: It’s funny ’cause no one really talks about that, they’re probably like… It would probably be report that and you could have authorities come to the plane, it’s like, “I’m not gonna do that, I’m just like… ”

Swanson: It’s kinda like discharging your weapon if you’re an officer, you don’t wanna do the paperwork.

Balestri: Well, I would think there would be like, “Hey, we’re gonna bring the cabin lights up for five minutes… ” I don’t know, it seems like there would be something to…

Ostrowski: Bluelight special.

Swanson: And yell, “Shame, shame, shame.” [chuckle]

Balestri: There’s a time and place for… It’s your workplace, this is your workplace.

Ostrowski: And it’s funny ’cause I do night flights so you think it would be mine, but I haven’t had that. And our planes are smaller, and it’s a smaller bathroom, you probably only can get one person in it. That’s the other thing.

Balestri: Sure.

Ostrowski: So, no, I guess I’m boring on that, other people are the one’s with the stories not me. And again, I wonder too if it’s the guy flight attendant aspect. I don’t know.

Balestri: That could be, that could be.

Swanson: Maybe next time you could bring some of your friends that have these stories.

Ostrowski: Except for a good… Well, and again not my story. We used to have really small planes, and I don’t know if you’ve ever been on the ones without flight attendants. When I first started my career…

Balestri: How small of a plane is that?

Ostrowski: It was a 13 seat, it was called a Metro, and they would fly…

Swanson: I’ve been in them, but there’s was always at least one person that, at least the ones we went in.

Ostrowski: Not the place I was in. So this was 1992, ’93, they would fly, like to St. Cloud, they fly to the same places but little bit shorter distance. But Mitchell, South Dakota has a gentleman’s club, so they would fly a lot of ladies out there. And the pilot said there was only one guy and one lady on the flight, and when they were flying, it just kind of got bumpy and stuff, and all they have is a curtain, they look back and they’re just laying right in the middle of the floor.

Balestri: Oh my God.

Swanson: Wow.

Balestri: Alright. I have a small, it’s not even close to that story. [laughter]

Swanson: Where are you going because this is being recorded.

Balestri: I got nothing related to that. What I was gonna say, I’ve been on a flight where it’s just the pilot, and I think it was maybe eight passengers, four on each side. And it is very weird when the pilot just opens the curtains and goes “Okay folks, we’re gonna… ” You know what I mean? You don’t ever want that interaction, you kinda want to know that some guy’s up there taking care of everything.

Swanson: Right.

Ostrowski: Some people like the fantasy of, they have their image of what the pilot should look like and doing their job. ‘Cause if a young guy comes out, everyone’s always freaked out by the young guy, ’cause they’re like, “Oh is he old enough? Does he have enough experience?” And what’s funny is you can get your license at any time, you just have to retire at a certain age. So there’s some guys that they’ve had a career and then now they’ve been having their private license, but they got their commercial license and stuff, and they got enough hours, and they have white hair. So just because they have white hair, they look older like they have experience. The guy has been there less than a year.

Balestri: It’s all perception.

Ostrowski: And the guy that’s younger has way more experience, and so it is a big perception thing.

Balestri: So, the company you work for, how many of the pilots are female? Is it probably the reverse then that you have…

Ostrowski: No, I would say there’s less female pilots. And then, also, any job where it’s the opposite… If you think flight attendant’s mostly female, pilot’s mostly male, you always need the diversity in there. And so, when someone gets hired for a job sometimes, they have to have some of the mix. So you have a little bit. And if they start with our smaller airline, they can get hired onto bigger airlines quicker than probably a lot of the guys can, just because there’s not as many.

Balestri: Sure. Sure.

Ostrowski: And so, you’ll see them. And they come and go.

Balestri: Really?

Ostrowski: Yeah. And then also to…

Balestri: Because they’re moving up into bigger planes? Or…

Ostrowski: Yeah. So for a pilot, that is a drastic thing with money, moving from a smaller carrier to a big one. Flight attendants, it’s not as drastic. And so, and it takes you longer to get where I am with seniority at a major carrier. What I have, would probably be 50 years at some carrier. And it’s like, people will never see the schedule I get at a major carrier getting hired. And it’s just because there’s so many people, and you don’t have to retire as a flight attendant. And they work ’til they’re 85, 90.

Balestri: Alright. So two other questions. The first one is, we’re moving towards driverless cars, and there’s been talk about pilot-less airplanes. Do you think we’ll ever have airplanes take off and land, with passengers, without pilots?

Ostrowski: I can see it. I think it’s a long ways off because a lot of planes are automated. A lot of the stuff is automated, but I think they would always need somebody there. So you might need less people ’cause there’s always malfunctions. So, you always have to have a back-up. So what’s the… So I would see, what’s the back-up? So you have the one person that’s trained with everything there, even though they’re probably sleeping most of the time. But I guess I wouldn’t see just automated with nobody.

Balestri: I don’t think I could feel comfortable flying on a plane, knowing that no one is up beyond that door.

Swanson: I’m still uncomfortable with the concept of a car.

Balestri: True. True.

Swanson: So it would really be hard to believe you could…

Balestri: Alright. And then the last question, the last question was…

Swanson: Your last question.

Balestri: Yes.

Swanson: I’ve got more.

Balestri: Go ahead. What do you got?

Swanson: No, I’m kidding. I don’t.

Balestri: I know that you recently took a trip. One of the big perks is that you get to take very cheap flights. So how does that work? You pay just the taxes, is that what it is?

Ostrowski: It’s funny when you travel more, you find out more about it. On the carrier that I work with, when we travel in the United States, it’s free. And when we travel out of the United States, it’s a tax. But it’s only a tax when you come back to the country, not going out. So, we just went to Italy, and going to Italy…

Balestri: You and the family.

Ostrowski: Yes. So there’s four of us, two girls, my wife and myself. And whatever seats are open is what you get, and usually, if the nicer seats are open, you get bumped up to that. So we got business class, going out to… All four of us. And I’ve never been in business class before. And it was so nice. Because we had the beds that would lay down, and we got our little free TUMI kit and it had a down pillow, almost like a down comforter. It had these imitation Bose headphones, and it was… I was like, I could fly there and back home and I’d be happy. It was so nice.

Balestri: A couple of things, real quick. So, that comforter, are they taking that off? Is it a one-time use? Or the guy, the big…

Ostrowski: No, so… [overlapping conversation]

Ostrowski: It’s in plastic, so the next flight, it’ll…

Balestri: It’ll be a new one.

Swanson: Right. But they’re not stuffing it back in plastic and sealing it up.

Balestri: Fold it up.

Ostrowski: Well, that’s not my department, so maybe, I don’t know. No, no, I don’t think…

Balestri: Different carrier. [overlapping conversation]

Ostrowski: But I don’t believe so.

Balestri: Alright, but go ahead. You were saying, so then coming back…

Ostrowski: So coming back is when you pay the taxes. So depending on what country you’re coming back from, the taxes are different. So, if we were coming back from Italy, it’s one price. If we would have took a train and went up to Paris and came back, it’s a different price. It fluctuates, and that’s the price you pay. And different countries are more expensive. And I think Heathrow is the most expensive to come back on. So if you’re gonna fly there, or fly into there, then take a train to somewhere else and fly back.

Balestri: So, you dodged my question about, if you noticed that, how much you can make as a flight attendant. See if you’ll dodge this one. How much did it cost for your family to fly to Italy and back?

Ostrowski: I can say this.

Balestri: It’s just the taxes, right?

Ostrowski: It’s kind of a two-part question for me, because I couldn’t make it back on the airline that I’m associated with. So we have agreements with other carriers.

Balestri: Kind of reciprocity, right?

Ostrowski: Yeah. And so, the carrier that I work for, it would cost $263 for the four of us.

Balestri: To fly to Italy and back for four?

Ostrowski: And we got business class on the way there. And then on the way back, we were just hoping for a seat. But because there was a European carrier that was having a strike, flights got all screwed up, and so we took an Italian airline back. And you have to pay a fee plus the taxes. So we flew to Chicago. And that was $562 for the four of us, so a little bit more.

Balestri: Still, for a family of four to take a flight, that’s pretty amazing. Alright, well, we’re quickly running out of time, and I wanna get to one of my favorite things, which is…

Swanson: We’re almost out of time. It’s so much fun. It’s going so fast.

Balestri: I’ll just edit him out completely. Don’t worry.

Swanson: No, I’ve enjoyed this.

Balestri: You’ve been great.

Swanson: I hope you have.

Balestri: I’ve been enjoying this immensely. Lightning Round. We just run through some questions. You’re involved. You both get asked the question. We alternate them. First off, high school nickname. Did you have a high school nickname?

Ostrowski: No.

Balestri: At any time in your life, did you have a nickname?

Ostrowski: When I was younger. One kid called me Chuck because he thought my head was round like Charlie Brown.

Balestri: One kid, one name. What about you, nickname?

Swanson: Swanny.

Balestri: Swanny for Eric Swanson. Okay. Alright, so, let’s say you inherit $10 million, right? What are the first three things you buy for yourself.

Ostrowski: Go with him first.

Swanson: I was liking that you were asking him first. I gotta believe I’d pay off all my bills. That’s the first, I mean that’s…

Balestri: So, hopefully, there’s still nine million more.

Swanson: Yeah, a little more than that. Yeah, I think you buy a house in the mountains, and you buy a house on the beach. So, you’ve got…

Balestri: Okay, two nice houses and no bills. Alright, you bought you some time.

Ostrowski: I would buy a classics sports car, and my favorite is like, the old, I think it’s 1956-62 Porsche Speedster, and then a place in like Italy or France. And then payoff everything.

Balestri: Great. So no bills. Alright. What about? Oh, here’s one for you. What friends do you have, that you see more often than the guy that cuts your hair or female, whoever cuts your hair? So, you go to the barber every once in a while, like every six weeks or whatever. How many friends, if any, do you see more often on that person?

Ostrowski: It sounds bad that I see a lot of friends, way more often.

Balestri: Do you?

Ostrowski: Yeah.

Balestri: That’s great! That doesn’t sound bad at all. That’s the right answer.

Ostrowski: Because, I’m a social person, so I always want people over at my house. I always wanna get together. I always wanna go somewhere. I always wanna do something. And, my wife just wants me to stay home and just have us.

Balestri: Well, that’s a different situation, but…

Ostrowski: Yeah.

Balestri: So you’re seeing a lot of guys? That’s a lot of friends. That’s fantastic! What about you?

Swanson: All of ’em.

Balestri: You see all of…

Swanson: How often do you think I go to a barber?

Balestri: Oh, good point. [laughter]

Balestri: Alright, so…

Ostrowski: A buff and shine. [laughter]

Balestri: This was a… This, sounds like you have the answer to this one. What celebrity people tell you, you look like? Charlie brown? Is that the only celebrity?

Ostrowski: No. Usually I have a little goatee, and when I play…

Balestri: It’s like a soul patch? Or an actual goatee?

Ostrowski: Yeah, yeah. So, a little soul patch. And, when a play lot of tennis, I wear headband. And they say I look like Apolo Ohno.

Balestri: There you go.

Swanson: Oh, I can see that.

Balestri: I totally see that. That’s good.

Ostrowski: I don’t have that look going today, but that’s the look I have when I play tennis.

Jason Ostrowski and Apolo Ohno

Jason Ostrowski and Apolo Ohno

Balestri: What about you?

Swanson: Pat Kessler, from one of the local nine or Channel Nine News.

Balestri: I have to look that up. I don’t know the…

Swanson: And he’s kind of a doughy guy like me. No offense Pat.

Erik Swanson and Pat Kessler

Erik Swanson and Pat Kessler

Ostrowski: Doughy! [chuckle] ‘Cause, that’s what you’d go for.

Swanson: Yeah.

Balestri: I’m sure he’s watching.

Swanson: He might be.

Balestri: What’s the most valuable price you’ve ever won? Money? Value of the thing?

Ostrowski: I haven’t won anything that valuable.

Balestri: Mine is a $5 scratch off thing at Taco Bell.

Ostrowski: That’s it? $5?

Balestri: Yeah.

Swanson: I won a computer once.

Balestri: And what was the situation?

Swanson: It was a trade show like thing and you, a random drawing…

Balestri: Throw in a card?

Swanson: Yeah, a random drawing.

Balestri: Oh. That’s nice.

Swanson: They announced that there were 700 people in the room, and I walked up and got my Toshiba laptop.

Ostrowski: I think mine are like concert tickets, like when you call in. ‘Cause it’s whatever…

Balestri: Do you call in for concert tickets?

Ostrowski: Yeah.

Balestri: Do you have a secret for doing it?

Ostrowski: No. I just randomly called, and I was like, “I made it through!” And, it was the only one time, and…

Balestri: What was the concert?

Ostrowski: It was a KDWB thing, and so it was for Halloween. So, I got four tickets, so, it was just me and my wife, and two friends went to it. And, I can’t think of the band’s name. I know the songs, but I can’t think of the name. So… [laughter]

Balestri: Was it a good concert?

Swanson: Was it The Cure?

Ostrowski: It was okay. It wasn’t The Cure.

Balestri: And, let’s see. One more here. I believe we got time. Here’s a tough one. This is a, “Would you rather.” Yeah, would you rather. Would you rather – if you had to – throw trash in Yellow Stone Park, out your car window, or park in a handicap parking spot on Black Friday?

Ostrowski: I’d park in a handicap parking spot.

Balestri: You would? And why would you do that? Versus throw the trash?

Ostrowski: I’m a recycle type of guy.

Balestri: There you go. Eric?

Swanson: I’d throw the trash.

Balestri: Throw the trash?

Ostrowski: Yeah, I don’t wanna get killed in the parking lot, over a parking spot.

Balestri: When you get out of your car?

Ostrowski: Yeah.

Swanson: I’d just make sure I limp, when I walk out of my car. [chuckle] [laughter]

Balestri: Act the part, there you go. Alright, we are out of time, so thank you very much, first of all Jason thanks for…

Ostrowski: Thanks for having me.

Balestri: Showing up. This has been fantastic. You answered all my questions about being a flight attendant and flying. Eric great job as a co-host.

Swanson: My pleasure, thanks. I hope to be asked back.

Balestri: You very well might be. [laughter] And again thanks for tuning in and have a great night.

[music]

 


 

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Paul Blomkalns and David Bryan – “Dates with Cadavers”

David Bryan, Brian Balestri, and Paul "Blah Blah" Blomkalns

David Bryan, Brian Balestri, and Paul “Blah Blah” Blomkalns

“The thankfulness washes away the awkwardness” – Paul Blomkalns

My guest for this episode is Paul Blomkalns – a Nurse Practitioner and a really great guy who I met through my good friend David Bryan.  Both these guys are a lot of fun to hang out with and tell great stories.  But both were quite reserved for the first part of the conversation which really surprised me.  I hadn’t expected them to be so professional and take my little talk show so seriously.  But after lobbing several ridiculous questions at Paul they eventually relaxed and we had a great conversation.
Our topics mostly centered around what it’s like to be a nurse practitioner and included things like:
  • What is the grossest thing Paul’s ever seen
  • Who make better patients – men or women
  • And what he does when he’s propositioned by cougars
I have to apologize for the video and sound quality in this episode.  We recorded this episode at my cabin on a beautiful July day, and I apparently set up the camera wrong so the whole episode is slightly out of focus. Plus there’s background sounds through out, and then near the end I start getting pinged on my phone because we were late for a floating happy hour.
If you only have five minutes, skip to minute mark 44 where Paul tells a story about how he almost kills himself while duck hunting alone.
Enjoy!
PS. If you get a chance, leave some feedback in the comments below.

Listen to Episode #3: Paul Blomkalns and David Bryan – Dates with Cadavers | The Extraordinary Friends Show

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Paul Blomkalns and David Bryan – Episode 3 Transcript

Paul Blomkalns and David Bryan – “Dates with Cadavers”

The following is a complete transcript of Episode 3 of The Extraordinary Friends show You can also watch it on TV, watch it on YouTube, and listen to it on iTunes.

 

Brian Balestri: Alright, hello and welcome to the Extraordinary Friends Show. This is a special episode today. We’re at a remote location. We’re actually in what is called the Club House which is at my cabin. Next door to me on my left is my next door neighbor and good friend David Brian. David, you’ve lived up here… Well, you’ve had a cabin up here, sorry, for how long?

David Brian: 20 plus years.

Brian: 20 plus years. We got ours about three years ago and that’s pretty much when we met.

David: Yeah.

Brian: On my right is David’s brother-in-law, meaning both your wives are sisters.

Paul: Correct.

[chuckle]

Brian: This is… I only know him as Paul. A good friend that I’ve known for three years, but I don’t even know how to pronounce your last name. How do you say your last name?

Paul: My last name is pronounced Blomkalns.

Brian: Blomkalns.

Paul: Correct.

Brian: Alright. I’ll have to have you write that down for me so we have it correct.

Paul: Alright. No problem.

Brian: So Paul, you are from Louisiana.

Paul: Correct.

Brian: But I probably didn’t say that right, did I?

Paul: No, you said it right. Louisiana.

Brian: Okay. How about where in Louisiana?

Paul: New Orleans. Or just north of New Orleans.

Brian: Is it in a city north of New Orleans?

Paul: Mandeville. But most people have a better idea of where it is by just saying New Orleans.

Brian: New Orleans. Okay. Well, both these guys are wondering what the heck it is that I wanted to do with this whole thing, and it’s pretty simple. I just wanna find out about your job, which is…

Paul: Nurse practitioner.

Brian: Nurse practitioner. And before we started, you were telling me that specifically you were a nurse practitioner, which is different than maybe what I would consider a nurse.

Paul: Very true.

Brian: So how about walking me through what the difference is?

Paul: Nurse practitioner, you obviously need additional education, a Master’s degree or higher. There’s a lot more responsibility as far as taking care of the patients, and there’s also a lot more autonomy. When you’re a nurse, per se, you basically have to follow doctor’s orders based on a plan of care, and when you’re a nurse practitioner, you’re basically giving orders for the nurses to carry out, as far as diagnostic testing, medication administration, any one of those things.

Brian: So… Go ahead.

David: I was gonna say, so what can a doctor do that you can’t per se?

Brian: Good question.

David: Or what distinguishes the two?

Paul: Right now, at least in Louisiana, in order for a nurse practitioner to practice, you have to have a collaborative practice agreement with a doctor, meaning you have to work under a doctor’s… Basically under their license as well. Most other states, and I’m not really sure about Minnesota or Wisconsin, but most other states you can practice independently. One thing in particular a physician can do that a nurse practitioner cannot do is, let’s just say, surgery. But as far as diagnosing patients with illnesses, ordering diagnostic tests, prescribing medications, ordering home health care, etcetera, basically you’re doing the exact same thing that a physician does.

Brian: So are you kinda the lead for nurses? Does every hospital have nurses and then nurse practitioners and then doctors? Or is it…

Paul: Most hospitals now have mid-level providers, is what they call ‘nurse practitioners’. And it seems like there’s more and more nurse practitioners being hired, almost on a daily basis, especially in my hospital, to fill kind of the gap. Especially in the internal medicine perspective, where there’s fewer and fewer physicians. There’s a lot more physicians nowadays in various specialties and not so much just as broad internal medicine. So a lot of the nurse practitioners are filling the gap where we don’t have as many physicians anymore.

Brian: So you’re working with patients on a daily basis, right?

Paul: Every day.

Brian: And are you doing the whole spectrum of things that nurses do for patients, or you kind of like upper end, diagnostic and prescription type stuff?

Paul: Well, I would think it’s more upper end diagnostic and prescriptive stuff. I mean, as a floor nurse, I’d make rounds on the patients. I would take vital signs. I would administer medications that were ordered. I would look at lab values, etcetera. But basically, you would do what’s expected of you to be done on a day-to-day basis, which is listen to the other physicians. My day-to-day basis is I’m the one that’s going in assessing the lab values, assessing the vital signs, assessing the complaints that some of the patients are telling me, as far as what’s bothering them, and then it’s my job to try and figure out exactly what’s going on, etcetera. If somebody’s having excruciating stomach pain, we’d order a KUB, which is basically an x-ray of the abdomen.

Brian: You know, I know what a KUB is. [To David] Did you know what a KUB is?

David: No, I didn’t know what that is.

Brian: No, I’m just kidding. KUB is what? x-ray of the abdomen?

Paul: Basically, in layman’s terms, x-ray of the abdomen.

Brian: I have a problem with that word, because you’ve maybe found out on the first episode. So what made you go into this practice, this career? How did you end up as a nurse practitioner?

Paul: Well, my sister is a physician. I didn’t wanna go that route with the tremendous amount of additional schooling and I worked as a floor nurse for many years and then I started working in the ICU and CCU, Intensive Care Unit or Coronary Care Unit and it was at that time that there was so much expected of the nurses that I figured that I was almost acting independently at that time, but was not getting the pay that let’s say a nurse practitioner or a physician would be. And at that level of nursing, ICU or coronary care unit, you tend to get burned out quickly, just because of how sick the patients are, day in and day out. Most, I wouldn’t say all, but a large percentage of patients that are in those units, ultimately do not do well. And after X amount of years that tends to take a lot of wear and tear on you and I decided it was time to get out and go back to school and just practice at a higher level.

Brian: Okay. So, have you seen dead bodies?

Paul: Lots.

Brian: Lots?

Paul: Lots.

Brian: [To David] How many dead bodies have you seen?

David: Two.

Brian: Really?

David: Yeah.

Brian: Personal, relative type thing?

David: One personal relative and my wife’s a physician and she snuck me up to her, in medical school and she showed me her cadaver.

[laughter]

David: ‘Cause you have them for a year…

Brian: This was a date situation?

David: It kinda was. So, you have the cadaver for a year, so they become attached to them. So it was like…

Brian: She wanted to show off her friend. Her dead friend.

David: Exactly. Right.

Brian: Alright. So, you’re not working with cadavers, I assume, right? These are real people… Well, obviously the cadavers are real persons…

David: Now, let me go back on you. Have you seen a dead person?

Brian: I have not. I’ve never seen a dead person. That’s where I’m interested in. Because, my parents are old and my mother… Well, my father passed away, but I didn’t see him until… I guess until… Let me rephrase that. I’ve seen people at funerals. So, not counting people at funerals is what I was thinking. ‘Cause you see them like right after they’ve just died, right?

Paul: More so than I wanted to. But sure, yeah. It’s a part of medicine. We had dates with cadavers too when I was in school.

[laughter]

Brian: But a different kind of date. Okay. This was just to show the cadaver. There was no…

Paul: Well, I mean, no, we go up there and a lot of times, if there was some work to be done, or you’d read on something that interested you in a book that you were gonna have to do eventually anyway, you’d go up there, perform a little work and find whatever nerve you were looking for, a vein or artery and…

Brian: With your date alone?

Paul: Sure.

[laughter]

Brian: Is that pretty good. Get the mood going kinda thing? Or is that pre go to the clubs thing?

Paul: No. Well, probably pre go to the clubs thing. [chuckle] But, I don’t know if it’ll get the mood going. Because you had an interest about dead bodies etcetera, sometimes, other people have the same…

Brian: Yeah. I suppose, if I had a chance, I’d go see a cadaver. Why not? What was the name of your cadaver? Did you name him?

Paul: Don’t remember the name. Don’t remember the name.

Brian: Apparently that’s a thing.

Paul: Yeah? It is?

Brian: So what’s the best part about being a nurse practitioner from your perspective?

Paul: Although it takes a little while, you do get a lotta, lotta respect from the physicians, but you have to prove yourself, obviously, initially. Because, there is a stigma between, at least there is a slight stigma between physicians and nurse practitioners. A lot of physicians do not like nurse practitioners, because in a lot of sense, there is a difference, but in a day-to-day, hospital-to-hospital, patient-to-patient basis, there isn’t that big a difference between what we do and what a physician does, in my opinion. Obviously, opinions vary, but…

Brian: They obviously think there’s a huge difference.

Paul: Yeah, no doubt. And obviously, they’ve been through a lot more schooling, they deserve the respect and the, I guess… How can I say? Let’s just leave it at that. They deserve the respect they get, but a nurse practitioner to me, you do have the luxury of spending more time with the patient, so the patients tend to get… I get more attached. I tend to have a lot closer working relationship with the patients than a lot of the physicians do. I find that nurse practitioners are much more of a patient advocate than a physician is, just because physicians are so concerned about the actual medical perspectives going on and they handle that. Whereas, we go into the whole psychosocial, what’re they gonna be experienced to or with when they go home? What is their home environment like, etcetera. We get social services involved to try and help the patient, not only in a medical basis, but more of a holistic way.

David: So, if I recall, you’re a hospitalist right?

Paul: I’m a hospitalist, right.

Brian: What does that mean?

David: I’ll let him explain it.

Paul: A lot of nurse practitioners, they work in clinics and hospitals, etcetera. As a hospitalist, I strictly work in the hospital. If you’re not sick enough to be in the hospital, I won’t see you.

Brian: Sure, sure. Okay. So, you see the good stuff. From that perspective.

Paul: Yeah. I mean, it’s a little bit different than a clinic level where the people can walk in and walk out at their leisure.

Brian: No emergency, no… Probably not close to death, right?

Paul: Correct. Whereas a hospitalist basically, you’re sick enough to be in the hospital and at times, you’re dealing with life and death decisions on a daily basis. Now with that being said and done I can’t speak with all nurse practitioners, but my particular group of physicians that I work with, there’s not a one bad physician in the bunch. They’re all very, very supportive, all very, very helpful. And as a nurse practitioner, I do not know all the answers to all the questions. And if a patient asked me a question that I don’t know, I tell them, “I honestly do not know the answer to that question, but I will find somebody that can.” And it’s just a matter of stepping out of the room and making a phone call to the physician.

Brian: You don’t just Google it? [laughter]

Paul: I have done that for my own personal education, absolutely because… I’ve only been a nurse practitioner now, for coming up on three or four years. There is a lot that I don’t know in terms of medicine. You can only learn so much from a book, and a lot of which you learn is in practice. And the fact that I have physicians that I do have the collaborative practice agreement with is tremendous just because I have such significant support for those times when I don’t know the answers to the questions.

Brian: So Paul, they’re all good, but some of them are better and some of them are worse than others.

Paul: Very true.

Brian: We’re not going to say names, but there’s probably one that just doesn’t quite get it.

Paul: True.

Brian: And what do you do when you know… You’ve made a diagnosis one way and he or she makes a diagnosis a different way? Do you try to steer him or her into the right direction? Or do you… That seems like a very political situation in effect, right?

Paul: It is. It is. And ultimately, a nurse practitioner, I think I’ve said it already before, we are the patient advocate, and if I feel very, very strongly in a situation where I am right and you try and approach the physician with, “Hey, look, you know I think maybe we should look at things a little differently. This is my take on the lab values, the diagnostic tests, etcetera. I think we’re going this way with this problem.” And if they’re totally against it, well, in our hospital, we do have a hierarchy of commands. And if I’m not getting anywhere with a potential, what I would say, problem, something that may hurt the patient, I just go up the hierarchy of commands and go to another physician that’s at a higher level with my respective group.

Brian: You can’t juts put them in a headlock, right?

Paul: As much as I’d like to at times, no, that doesn’t work.

Brian: Doesn’t work that way. You’re dealing with all sorts of stuff on a regular basis, especially if you’re at a hospital because people are especially sick. Does anything gross you out?

[laughter]

Paul: Yes.

Brian: What stuff grosses you out? Is it a type of thing? Or is it a smell? Or is it…

Paul: I would say, two things in particular. Sometimes, some of the wounds I see…

Brian: Really?

Paul: Are particularly foul smelling.

Brian: It’s the smell?

Paul: It’s the smell. And I just had a patient the week before I came up to vacation that actually had a wound that was infected enough that when we started debriding it, it was full of maggots.

David: Do you ever almost throw up?

Paul: Oh yes. I’ve left the room several times, gagging. Yes I have.

David: Is that the grossest thing you’ve ever seen? Or what is the grossest thing you’ve ever seen?

Paul: The maggots are pretty bad.

Brian: So wait a minute, can you give us… Without obviously giving us the patient, what was the context where a person would have maggots in their… Where was the wound? What was the body part?

Paul: Lower leg…

Brian: Lower leg, and…

Paul: Above the ankle, into the calf. It was an elderly patient that obviously, the family had…

Brian: Neglected? Or… Really?

Paul: Neglected somewhat and a diabetic to boot. And when you have diabetic wounds, they are very, very slow to heal, and they often get more and more infected. And a lot of the, I guess, poverty-stricken areas, even down towards New Orleans, they don’t have air-conditioning, so they leave the windows open, etcetera, so that flies can come in, lay their eggs, etcetera.

Brian: In a book, the Richard Sharpe series, they would talk about using maggots to… Intentionally, put maggots on a wound because I guess, the theory is, they only eat dead skin.

Paul: Correct.

Brian: So the maggots are not necessarily a bad thing. Just gross…

Paul: It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but if you’re not expecting it and you’re already dealing with the smell of the wound, and you go in and help start to debride things, and then, all of a sudden, there’s worms…

Brian: What are you saying there? Debride? Okay.

Paul: Debride. Removing dead or dying tissue.

Brian: I’ll explain here. This goes on public access and podcast, and so, I make show notes. And I’m gonna look up debride. So you were working with this patient. Was he awake? Or was she awake?

Paul: Oh yeah.

Brian: And did he… Is it a he or she?

Paul: He.

Brian: Did he have any idea that his leg was filled with maggots?

Paul: No.

Brian: Were you the only person working on him?

Paul: No. No.

Brian: So who took over when you were like, “I’m out of here”?

Paul: They had an ET nurse, which is basically a wound care specialist nurse. That’s all she does, is go in and assess with wounds.

Brian: Oof! So you said there was two things, if I remember right.

Paul: Right.

Brian: What was the other thing? Sponge baths? Is that…

Paul: A what?

Brian: Sponge bath. Do you ever have to give a sponge bath?

Paul: No.

[chuckle]

Brian: Do they do that still?

Paul: No. I don’t think.

[chuckle]

Brian: I don’t know. I thought that’s what they did.

Paul: The nursing assistants and…

Brian: Oh, that’s entry-level stuff?

Paul: Entry-level stuff. Student stuff that they… Just like anything else, it’s a rite of passage. They make them do some of the lesser desirable things. [laughter] No, I mean, obviously, the patients get bathed every day, but no, I haven’t done any “sponge bath” in, really since I was a student, so… I’m a nurse, I mean…

Brian: But you have done them?

Paul: Oh yeah, sure!

Brian: Do they always pair up the gender so like, women are doing men, or men are men… Is it just like whoever is the patient is…

Paul: They try and do that, you and try and have as much… Protect as much patient modesty as you can, but that’s not always the case, so as far as bathing is concerned, you try and match genders, make the patient feel as comfortable as they can.

Brian: I gotta believe that’s awkward for everybody involved.

Paul: Oh no, it’s awkward, and, I mean, they tried to stop sponge baths in the ’50s, by the way. [laughter] We have nice little throwaway cloths that you heat up, that they’re nice and warm and wipe ’em down, you don’t usually need any water or anything.

Brian: Okay, so effectively a sponge bath, but it’s not a sponge and a bucket of water and… [laughter] Alright, so I interrupted…

Paul: Right. It is awkward, but a lot of times, the patients are so extremely grateful that they were actually… Got clean, that the thankfulness kind of washes away the awkwardness that you had during the… So it’s just like, when you’re feeling disgusting and take a shower, how good it feels, same thing.

Brian: Right. [To David] So, back to your dates, did you ever do, like, a sponge bath date with…

David: No, but I was kind of wondering, as a patient, can you request a nurse do your sponge bath?

Paul: I guess you can request pretty much anything, but we do often come across patients that are sexually inappropriate and because of that…

[laughter]

Brian: Wait, wait, wait. They came in sexually inappropriate or they became sexually inappropriate when they saw who their nurse was?

Paul: Either one or all of the above, and a lot…

David: How often are you hit on?

Paul: It’s happened on occasion.

Brian: Really?

Paul: More 30, 40 pounds…

Brian: Lighter?

Paul: Lighter. Before I became calorically…

Brian: Challenged.

Paul: Challenged… [laughter] Or gifted.

Brian: Gifted, yes. Alright. [laughter] So. Male or female? Both?

Paul: Both.

Brian: Nice!

Paul: No!

[laughter]

Brian: Well, you know, hey! You just know that you have options, I guess. You are happily married…

David: It’s always good to be wanted.

Brian: Right, exactly! Exactly, exactly. So what’s the second thing that grosses you out?

Paul: When people get impacted.

Brian: [To David] Do you know what that means?

David: Yes. Do you know?

Brian: I don’t. I think like a tooth might get impacted, but I don’t…

David: Or your colon might get impacted, too.

Brian: Mine won’t.

[laughter]

Paul: Mine neither, but… No, when a patient’s colon becomes impacted and they can’t use the bathroom, can’t defecate.

Brian: Oh so, constipated would be the early stage of impacted, maybe? On the spectrum of…

Paul: Right.

David: What do you do to unimpact them?

Paul: Well, there’s obviously oral…medication that you give…

[laughter]

David: What if the oral medication doesn’t work?

Paul: Fleets enemas.

David: What if that doesn’t work?

Brian: Wait, wait, wait, what’s that? It’s just an enema?

Paul: Fleets enemas, and if those all don’t work…

Brian: Fleets?

Paul: Fleets.

David: Have you ever had to physically go in and unimpact?

Paul: Absolutely David, you must be married to a physician.

David: Must be.

[laughter]

Brian: When you say go in, what do you mean?

David: Well I’ll let him explain what that means.

Brian: Well, maybe let’s hear what you think it means first.

David: I mean, physically…

Brian: With a hand or the Roto-Rooter, or…

Paul: Digitally…

David: With a finger, yeah.

Brian: Is that the most high-tech device that we’ve come up with for that situation? [laughter]

Paul: It can’t be the most high-tech device, but it is effective, and it does happen. And even to this day, I’ve written orders for nurses to digitally dis-impact patients which I had to do, obviously, when I was a nurse. And they’re so squeamish about it, they’ll almost do anything to avoid it while the patient’s… And not always, I’m speaking broadly, but sometimes just a new nurse that is not comfortable doing it, say they tried and it didn’t work or whatever, and the patient’s literally writhing in pain, biting at the sheets, etcetera. And you just go in and do it, to help the patient.

Brian: When was the last time you had to do that?

Paul: About a month or two ago.

Brian: Really? It was a patient, not someone you knew?

Paul: No, a patient.

Brian: Okay, just checking!

[laughter]

David: Not sure where you’re going with that…

Brian: So… Not to get too gross about it, but once you get it started, does everything kinda… Happens?

Paul: Typically. Typically, yeah.

Brian: Flows on its own from then on?

Paul: Typically.

Brian: Maybe like immediately like, whoosh, I feel much better.

Paul: Saying the same thing. They’re obviously embarrassed, but soon the embarrassment gives way to… They feel better immediately.

Brian: So much better.

Paul: No, they crack jokes the next day a lot of time when we make rounds. “Hey, boy that wasn’t fun at all.” It’s like, “Well it wasn’t fun for me either.” [laughter] But, in the same sense, they say, “Thank you so much, I was really, really in tremendous agony”, so…

Brian: Wow. Alright, so back to the doctors and nurses, do you think… I think it’s different now, but classically people think of nurses as being female or… Is it generally a female role, or… ‘Cause I know a couple of nurses now that are male nurses. But is it 50/50, is it regional?

Paul: I wouldn’t say it’s 50/50. I’ve never worked anywhere expect for just outta New Orleans but there are a lot of male nurses now in the field, and it seems like every year, more and more are going into the field and there have been, I mean, obviously, there’s a stigma. There’s been movies about male nurses and…

Brian: What movies are these?

Paul: What is that? Meet the Fockers.

David: Meet the Fockers, yeah. The whole Fockers series. Have you ever seen them?

Brian: I have. With Ben Stiller?

Paul: Ben Stiller.

David: Ben Stiller is a male nurse.

Brian: Is he really? I didn’t realize that.

Paul: So, it’s always… There was a joke on that?

Paul: You get joked at initially. It’s funny as much as I was teased and basically ridiculed being a male nurse early on, now, it…

Brian: Who was doing this?

Paul: Friends. Extended family, probably my brother-in-law…

[laughter]

Paul: At one point in time. I don’t remember, but I’m sure it’s probably came on.

David: I don’t recall but you never know.

Paul: Don’t put it past you.

Brian: [To David] There’s probably other stuff you don’t recall, right? So, yeah.

Paul: But it’s funny once you specialize, whether you become a nurse practitioner, go into nurse anesthetist, it’s hard for me to say, but once you start to get to those upper roles of a nursing, male or female, nobody, I haven’t heard a crack since. So…

Brian: Sure. Between female doctors and male doctors, are one more comfortable with male nurses than the other?

Paul: I don’t think so. I mean I can’t speak for all the hospitals, I’ve only basically only worked in one my entire career. But just like almost in every other profession, regardless of what somebody thinks about you initially, whether you’re male, female, just out of school, been out of school 10 years, you have to prove yourself in whatever profession that you’re in, to prove that you’re capable, that you do know what you’re doing and you can be trusted, not only making decisions on your own but if you don’t know the answers to the questions to where you can’t make educated decisions, you look for somebody that does.

Brian: Being comfortable asking for help.

Paul: Right. That goes a long, much long… It means a lot more to people if you’re willing to admit that you don’t know something versus making a misdiagnosis, prescribing a wrong med, and potentially harming the patient.

Brian: You can prescribe meds?

Paul: I can, yeah.

Brian: The whole spectrum?

Paul: You can, and there’s also an additional hoop you have to jump through in order to prescribe narcotics outside the hospital. I prescribe anything and everything except for narcotics. Now, in the hospital, with my collaborative practice agreement with the physicians, we prescribe narcotics but they’re actually seeing… When we place order on the computer, they’re watching what we’re ordering.

Brian: Okay. So, there’s checks and balances?

Paul: Oh, there’s obviously checks and balances, but when a patient… The patients I have, I admit into the hospital and I discharge from the hospital, so when a patient gets discharged from the hospital, I’m actually the person that’s writing up prescriptions for them to go get filled as an outpatient.

Brian: So, would a narcotic example be Valium?

Paul: Valium.

Brian: Any other good stuff?

Paul: Vicodin, Percocet, you know, all those. With that comes a whole other gauntlet of responsibilities, liabilities, etcetera. Some nurse practitioners have jumped through the extra hoops, paperwork, meeting with the State Board of Nursing in order to get that, to do…

Brian: To do the narcotics?

Paul: To do the narcotics. I do not necessarily want that added responsibility and…

Brian: So, you can’t get me Valium if…

David: I was gonna say, were you looking for a connection, or…

Brian: I had Valium as part of eye surgery and that’s… Not that I’m saying it should be a recreational drug, but it felt really good. I have to admit that.

Paul: Can’t help you captain.

[chuckle]

Brian: So, I had a couple other questions about… So, back to the worst part of your job, because that’s… I find intriguing. Who are the worst patients? Who are the worst types of patients? What kind of patient drives you nuts? Or are you just, you’re cool with all of them, none of them bug you?

Paul: None of the patients in themselves bug me. The family members, because there’s always a multitude of them, they’re oftentimes… I’m never intimidated by any patient’s diagnosis and/or personality per se. Some of the family members can wear you down, break you down quickly.

Brian: Because they think that you’re misdiagnosing or that you’re not showing enough attention?

Paul: Anything and everything. Anything and everything. A lot of times, basically, and I’ve had… You go into a patient’s room. You’re talking to the patient. They’re telling you problems. You’re explaining to them the plan of care, what your thoughts were, etcetera. You have family members basically writing down every word that you’re saying.

Brian: I’ve done that. I turned on the recorder on my phone last time my wife was in the hospital. I can’t remember it word for word, so why not record it?

Paul: I’ve had that happen. I’ve had… Gone into the room and had family members on their iPad, and I go into the plan of care is, etcetera. “We’re gonna do this because of this. We’re gonna do that because of that”, whatever. And they’ll be, “Well, it says right here on WebMD. Shouldn’t we check for this with these diagnoses and… ” [laughter] No. It’s not quite that simple and that is kind of a dangerous thing for the family members if they’re not medically inclined to think they can get more educated than a clinician just by looking on WebMD for a few minutes. So, like I said, patients, I think, they’re all different. I think they’re all challenging, which is one of the reasons why I enjoy my job so much. As far as anything, or anything I can’t handle, no I don’t know the answer to every question, however, I would much rather take care of a single patient in the room than take care of the patient and three or four self-proclaimed “doctors” in the room.

Brian: Alright, can you tell the difference between male patients and female patients? Like are one better at being a good patient or not?

Paul: Well, I hate to say this, ’cause we’re all male here. As far as a patient that’s in pain, I would rather take a female patient any day, with any kind of pain.

David: Higher tolerance?

Paul: What’s that?

David: Higher tolerance? Pain tolerance.

Paul: Much higher tolerance.

Brian: Do you think that’s true?

Paul: Absolutely, without a doubt.

Brian: Well, how do they measure that?

Paul: I mean, I guess you don’t really… But there’s no scale to measure it on, but seriously, I would take a patient… I would take a female with a knee replacement any day over a male.

Brian: Oh, I guess that men are just kinda wimpy, kinda whiny?

Paul: They’re wimpy, they’re whiny, they want more pain medicine. [laughter] It’s like clock work. Absolutely. Any extremely, exceptionally painful procedure and/or diagnosis, I’d like to take a female, any day.

Brian: Hmm. What about celebrities? Have you ever had anybody famous come in that you’ve had to take care of?

Paul: Locally famous, not necessarily famous throughout the country. So yeah, I’ve had some…

Brian: What was the local… Famous for like TV show, or athlete, or something?

Paul: I’ve had some local sheriffs come through, a time or two. I’ve had very prominent attorneys come through which are almost at celebrity levels down there, some of ’em with all the advertising they do.

Brian: So on the sheriff…

Paul: Few musicians, etcetera.

Brian: Oh, really?

Paul: Mm-hmm.

Brian: So the sheriff, did you kinda say, “Take a look at my name, so that if anything happens, you’ll remember who was taking care of you.”

[chuckle]

Paul: No.

Brian: Like when I did that digital thing for you…

Paul: No.

[laughter]

Brian: You ever have to do that for…

Paul: No, no. Never. Never tried to get out of a…

Brian: I would think you’d get out of any ticket for the rest of your life, if that was the situation.

Paul: Right. No. [chuckle] I haven’t asked, but… Maybe I missed out on an opportunity.

Brian: How about hot patients?

Paul: Yeah.

Brian: So do you ever just, go… Now, how do I say this? Do you just turn that off ’cause you’re a professional? Or is that hard to do?

Paul: I mean, it’s not hard to do. You’re a professional, now, obviously you do see patients that are 98 years old that are shriveled up like a raisin. You see…

Brian: These are the hot patients you’re thinking of?

[laughter]

Paul: No. No. No.

Brian: Okay. Just… [laughter]

Paul: You run into 30 to 40-year-old patients that are… Have taken good care of themselves and are attractive, but that’s as far as it goes.

Brian: [To David] Were his arms crossed like that, before I asked the question?

David: I think so.

Brian: Okay. Alright.

[laughter]

David: You tryin’ to pick up on a tell?

Brian: I don’t know. I don’t wanna be… I don’t think you have to worry. We’ll just cut out anything you don’t feel comfortable with but…

Paul: No, I’m fine.

Brian: Yeah.

Paul: No problem.

Brian: I don’t think you’ve said anything that…

Paul: No. Indeed, some people are obviously more attractive than others. But at a professional level, that’s it. Have I been propositioned by young patients? Yes, I have. I’ve been propositioned by… I was just telling [chuckle] my wife not too long ago that…like an 89-year-old propositioned to me.

[laughter]

David: So wait, what did she say? What did she say?

Brian: Did she want to go swing dancing, or what did she…

Paul: She basically asked me to crawl into bed with her and warm her up.

Brian: Is that part of the service you offer?

Paul: Not even close.

Brian: Okay.

[laughter]

David: Well, what are the chances that’s exactly all she wanted?

Paul: Well, I mean, it could have been. Could’ve been. But I guess I could tell by the tone that it was something in addition to that. And then I’m just like Mrs. So and so that’s…

David: So now what if a 25 year old patient asked you to do the same exact thing?

Paul: Then the comment is exactly the same. That…

Brian: You’ll have to wait till my shift ends.

[laughter]

Brian: I get off at seven.

[laughter]

Paul: No. I say, “That comment is totally inappropriate, and…”

Brian: You say that?

Paul: Absolutely.

Brian: Awe, that really takes the fun of it, I would think.

Paul: It does, but I’m there to…

Brian: Do you say. [whispering] “…because people are listening? I gotta say it…”

Paul: No. [chuckle] No.

Brian: The reason I’m getting to ask these questions ’cause I know that you’re a man of integrity, and you wouldn’t do anything like that, but…

Paul: True.

Brian: Does it feel pretty good, when someone propositions you?

Paul: No. Not from a patient, no.

Brian: Really. Just the doctors?

Paul: No.

[laughter]

Brian: [To David] He can’t be broken. He can’t be broken.

David: Just give him another drink.

Brian: I know. Do you need another drink? We can…

Paul: No, we’re good.

Brian: …do a pause here. So my daughter is thinking about going into the nursing practice. Do you think it’s a good industry? Is it a good career to take?

Paul: It’s been good for me. It’s been good to most of the people that I’ve worked with for years. I’ve steered a couple younger nurses to go into, especially the nurse practitioner program and they have. And they’ve come out, and they’ve been very thankful and appreciative.

Brian: Okay, so break it down, how many years of schooling do you need, post high school, to be a nurse? Like an entry-level nurse?

Paul: Coming out of high school, initially, as far as prerequisites concerned, you need a minimum of two and that’s really taking a lot of hours, more likely three, to get your pre-nursing done. Nursing school…

Brian: Entry level into a hospital as a nurse or a clinic?

Paul: No. That’s just prerequisites before you go to nursing school.

Brian: Oh.

Paul: From there, you go directly into a three year nursing program. At least to get your BSN, your Bachelor of Science in Nursing.

Brian: So it takes six years, post-high school, to be a nurse?

Paul: To be a BSN.

Brian: Okay.

Paul: A Bachelor of Science. Now, you can get into an Associate’s degree, etcetera, which I think is significantly less. But I think those nurses can’t do IV push medicines. Basically their hands are tied as far as what they can or can’t do. If she’s gonna go into it, she wants to get a BSN, where she doesn’t need somebody to give her IV push medicines, etcetera. And then, nurse practitioner program from there is an additional two years.

Brian: So how many years of post-high school, have you had?

Paul: How many post years of high school have I had?

Brian: Yeah.

Paul: I went to LSU for four years, and that’s just because for a while I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do, so basically I have a lot of credits toward a general studies degree with a minor in microbiology. Went to nursing school for three years, and then I went back and got my master’s, which is an additional two years. So, for myself, I did nine years of schooling past high school.

Brian: Holy buckets, that’s a lot!

Paul: It is.

Brian: Wow! Way more than I’d be willing to do, I think. But you wouldn’t have to do that many, if you knew, going in…

[overlapping conversation]

Paul: No, no. Yeah, you wouldn’t have to do that many. A lot of the laws and rules are changing now to where the nurse practitioner profession is gonna be a doctorate program now.

Brian: Really?

Paul: So I think the best that you could do now, as far as time, would be two years of prerequisites, three years of nursing school, to get your Bachelor of Science, plus four years. It’d be nine years to get your nurse practitioner now.

Brian: Jesus! You’re doing serious stuff, so I guess it makes sense. I just had no idea it was that much.

Paul: It’s a lot of schooling. You’ve got the same thing with anesthesia. It’s basically, it’s almost exactly the same thing, and they’re making anesthesia now a doctorate to where you need to go four years post.

Brian: Okay.

David: Now, do they want you… Can you go right into your BSN program, into these programs? Or do they want a certain amount of work experience first?

Paul: You can, if you have an exceptional grade point average. Sometimes they do pick you up basically right out of school, etcetera, but I would say unless you’re total top of the class, even if you have anything less than like a 3.8 GPA, a 3.9 GPA, they typically want you to work in your profession for two years to get the experience working with patients before you go to graduate school.

Brian: Alright, so we’re burning through our time here, and I wanna ask you about the other part of your life, which is you grew up in Louisiana, right?

Paul: Born and raised, correct.

Brian: Born and raised. All right. And as part of that, you are… Are most Louisiana… What would be the plural of a person who comes from Louisiana?

Paul: Louisianians.

Brian: Louisianians. Are most Louisianians outdoorsmen like you? Is that a common thing?

Paul: I wouldn’t say most, if… From where my region, where I live, which is Southeast Louisiana, I would think most of Southeast Louisiana people would dabble in fishing or hunting, if not commercially, or guide services taking people fishing for a living, they do it just recreationally, to catch fish, have fun, put some meat on the table, etcetera.

Brian: So, to that end, we’ve talked before, you have a wide range of animals that you’ve killed and eaten.

Paul: Correct.

Brian: What are some of your favorite non-cow, pig or chicken foods?

Paul: I love… One of my favorite soups is obviously, or maybe not obviously, turtle soup. To me, that’s…

Brian: So you trap, or shoot, or hunt? How do you catch turtles?

Paul: Most of the turtles are caught just basically on jug lines, which is basically a piece of meat or a piece of fish tied to a Coke bottle, that are spread throughout the swamp, anywhere from as many as you wanna do, from 10 to 100.

[laughter]

David: Now I’ve heard, though, turtles are just nasty to have to clean.

Paul: Yeah, they’re disgusting.

Brian: So worse than the things you’re seeing at your day job?

Paul: No, I wouldn’t say that, but they’re nasty and difficult to clean. I don’t have a whole lot of experience cleaning ’em. Fortunately, I have friends that are a lot more experienced with me. If I say, “Look, I’ve caught a turtle, can you help me out with it?”

Brian: So they’ll clean it for you?

Paul: Yeah, sure. They want some of the meat, obviously.

Brian: Okay.

Paul: Sure.

Brian: How big are these turtles?

Paul: I’d say your average snapping turtle might be 20, 25 pounds. That’s a good one. But a big alligator snapper can push up to 100 lbs.

Brian: Really?

Paul: And that’s an extremely rare turtle because it’s extremely old.

Brian: Yeah.

Paul: And in fact, my father and I caught one on a jug line. This was many, many years ago. We always talked about how great it’d be to catch a real old timer, one bigger than a washtub. And we caught it, and my dad was just terrified that it was gonna bite my hand off, trying to unhook it. And then we started looking at this thing after we hooked it. It wasn’t hooked bad. And we started talking about how old it was, probably easily over 100 years old and…

Brian: Really?

Paul: And one thing led to another, and we felt sorry for him, and we set him free.

Brian: Took some pictures, I hope.

Paul: No, back then we didn’t bring cameras in the swamp. No camera phones. It was way before all that.

Brian: Wow. How do you know… They obviously lived to over 100 years, and you figure by size, it had to be. Would they be better tasting after 100 years? It seems they’d be pretty…

Paul: Nah. I think all turtle meat is the same. It’s not like an old, old cow or an old, old pig.

Brian: What else have you eaten besides turtles?

Paul: Well, crawfish obviously. Frog legs is another thing that I really, really like.

Brian: You like frog legs?

Paul: I do.

Brian: [To David] Have you had frog legs?

David: Oh yeah.

Brian: So, you’re not from Louisiana, right?

David: No, I am from Louisiana. I grew up in Louisiana.

Brian: How did you guys end up here?

David: When my wife did her residency, she did it up here, and we just stayed. I grew up in New Orleans also, so I’ve eaten all these. I’m not an outdoorsman, but I like to eat all the stuff.

Brian: So you’ve had turtle, frog legs.

David: Yep. Turtle soup is a delicacy down there.

Brian: Does that mean it doesn’t taste good?

David: And it is good. And it is good.

Brian: It does taste good.

Paul: Oh, you better believe it.

David: My kids are picky eaters, and they like turtle soup. There’s a restaurant down in New Orleans. That is what they’re known for. {David texted it to me later. It’s called the Commander’s Palace}

Brian: What else have you eaten? Wild boar, anything like that.

Paul: Oh, yeah absolutely. I may hunt wild boar with my kids, friends, I have lots of friends from actually up north that come down to hunt wild pigs with me. And in that certain situation, some of the people that come down to hunt with me, they’ll shoot the bigger pigs just for the trophies, the heads to mount on a wall. I tend to let those go because they’re a pain to clean, a pain to handle. When you’re dealing with a 300, 400 pound animal, there is nothing easy about cleaning them, getting them in or out the boat, etcetera. So I tend to shoot the smaller ones, which are better eating.

Brian: So there’s a story apparently, where you were hunting ducks up here in Wisconsin.

Paul: Yes.

Brian: Tell that story because I’ve heard it’s interesting.

Paul: Well, after Hurricane Katrina, the hospital that I was in basically almost shut its doors. I went back down to relieve the crew that stayed for the storm, then came back up here [Wisconsin]. They said they’d let me know when they needed me again, so this was the place to go. And we came up here, and my wife wanted to try duck hunting with me so went back to a lake that we have and did some duck hunting.

Brian: When is this? What time of the year?

Paul: This is late October, into November, so it was cool. It was cool up here. And so, I just figured at the time we’d shoot them and they’d drift to the bank and I would swim over, not swim over but go pick them up and that would be the end of it.

Brian: So you didn’t have a dog along or anything?

Paul: No, no dog.

Brian: Just gonna wait for them to float over.

Paul: No pirogue. No canoe. No anything to go get them.

Brian: What was that middle thing?

Paul: Pirogue.

Brian: What is that?

Paul: Pirogue is basically a Cajun dugout canoe, and they’re not dugout anymore, but basically a very, very small canoe with lower sides that you use to go through the swamps, etcetera. It’s not as long as a canoe. You can maneuver them between cypress trees a lot easier and better.

Brian: So you got none of that. You’re just on the shore shooting ducks.

Paul: Nothing. Just on the shores, shooting ducks. Wife got cold. She said she’d go ahead and go back in. And I was still waiting for the wind to blow the ducks over. Well, the wind took and quit when the ducks were mid-lake.

Brian: So you got a bunch of dead ducks floating out in the lake.

Paul: Right. And they’re not moving at all, and I’m waiting and waiting and waiting. And finally, I decide… Actually, Sarah was cold, but she stayed to watch me go in the water. Then she said, “That’s enough. I’m leaving.” [laughter] But I knew I couldn’t swim with my clothes on, so I figured I didn’t want to shoot ducks and let them go to waste or rot or let another animal get them. So I stripped down naked and…

Brian: So, middle of November, you’re buck naked on the edge of the water.

Paul: Mm-hmm. And I take the…

David: There could be a Bravo series about this.

[laughter]

David: Don’t they have… All the Naked and Afraid and all those, you know?

Brian: I’m just trying to figure out, is this a hunting best practice? “Well, they’re dead, might as well take off all my clothes.”

Paul: No, it’s…

Brian: Is it a Louisiana thing? [To David] Have you ever heard of anybody doing this?

David: No.

[laughter]

Paul: In hindsight, no, it wasn’t the brightest move, but I didn’t wanna…

Brian: Did it work?

Paul: No, it really didn’t. I think out of the ones we shot, I only retrieved, or was able to retrieve, one because when I swam out there and actually got a hold of them, I was almost freezing to death to begin with, but on the way back, about halfway to the bank, I had hypothermia setting in rather quickly.

[laughter]

Brian: And as a nurse practitioner, you actually knew the symptoms and knew what the heck was going on.

Paul: I wasn’t a nurse practitioner then, but I did know the symptoms. And I did stop twice along the way, thinking that it would be shallow enough for me just to walk out. And I went under, both times. The second time I went under, I almost didn’t make it to the surface again because your muscles just don’t work well anymore. And I told myself that if I stop one more time to try and walk out, I’d be left floating in the lake.

[laughter]

David: At what point did you think to yourself, “This was not the best decision I’ve ever made”?

Paul: The first time I went down, which at that point, I let go of the ducks that I had.

[laughter]

Brian: Okay. You were swimming with one hand and got the ducks in one hand?

Paul: Right. And at that point it was like, my life or the ducks and…

Brian: Or the dead ducks.

Paul: Right, or the dead ducks. And so that finally, like I said, I promised myself I wasn’t gonna stop swimming and I finally did get to the point where my next stroke actually dug into the mud. And I dug my way out and put my clothes back on as best I could, even at that point, putting my clothes on seemed like an eternity ’cause you move like a sloth.

Brian: You just… Nothing functions.

Paul: Nothing functions. And what does function, functions exceptionally slow.

David: I was just thinking what the obituary would have read.

[laughter]

Paul: So yeah, it wasn’t a bright move.

Brian: Was it your will to see your wife again or just sheer embarrassment like, “I gotta get outta here ’cause I don’t wanna because this is an embarrassing way to die.”

[laughter]

Paul: I think it was the will to survive, see my wife again, family, sure.

Brian: Alright, so do you have any quick questions?

David: No.

Brian: ‘Cause we’re gonna do lightning round, which is the last thing we do. Lightning round is a series of questions…

Paul: Just like [Jim] Cramer.

Brian: Like Cramer. He does that?

Paul: Lightning round, sure.

Brian: Alright, let’s do it. So quick question, so who’s the funniest person, present company, well it doesn’t… Who’s the funniest person you know and why do you enjoy their humor so much?

Paul: I would have to say a good friend of mine, back home in New Orleans.

Brian: What’s his name?

Paul: Name is Kurt Gretch, he is actually a car salesman by trade.

Brian: Really?

Paul: Yes. But he owns a large percentage of the car dealership so he’s not only a salesman but he’s extremely intelligent, extremely witty, extremely dry humor. But a very, very, very humorous individual.

Brian: Good deal. [To David] What about you? Funniest person you know? Putting you on the spot.

David: Boy you are. I don’t know, I’d have to think about it.

Brian: Alright, think about it. What else? Paul, second question, come back.

David: Aw, don’t come back to me.

[laughter]

Brian: Isn’t there any like your brothers, or your buddies or the other teachers or anything?

David: Oh, yeah, I mean to say, it would be… It’s just a group of us, I guess we get together and…

Brian: You have a good time.

David: Have a good time. Pour a few drinks, everyone gets a little funnier, you know.

Brian: Everyone’s funnier with a few drinks. [To Paul] If you inherited $10 million what would be the first three things you’d buy?

Paul: 10 million? A very large piece of property.

Brian: Okay. Here in Wisconsin or down in Louisiana?

Paul: With 10 million I could retire and be up here.

Brian: Okay. And like you’re talking 100 acres or something like that?

Paul: Yeah, a hundred, couple hundred acres or something like that.

Brian: Step one. Item two?

Paul: Item two, I would probably purchase a big condo on the coast of Florida or Orange Beach, Alabama, etcetera.

Brian: Okay. We’re burning through it pretty quick. Alright.

Paul: Yeah, we’re doing alright.

Brian: The last item, or a third item?

Paul: Whew. That would be a tough one. My wife a new car.

Brian: There you go, nice. [To David] How about you?

David: I was just thinking he had two big things for him when he throws his wife a…

[chuckle]

Brian: Well she gets to stay at the property.

Paul: Well, sure and she wants the beach place worse than I do so…

David: I, you know, me I would buy a place down in New Orleans, I mean ultimately…

Brian: Oh, really?

David: I wanna retire half the time up here, half the time down there.

Brian: Okay, winters up here, summers down there?

David: Correct.

[laughter]

David: I want the extreme heat, the extreme cold, I want no comfortable climate at all.

[laughter]

Brian: Perfect. Yeah, you got it figured out. He’s got it figured out. Nicknames in high school and/or college? Did you ever have a nickname?

David: Appropriate nickname for this show.

Brian: Inappropriate is fine.

Paul: No, I mean my last name is…

Brian: What is your last name again?

Paul: Blomkalns. B-L-O-M-K-A-L-N-S.

Brian: Somebody couldn’t come up with a name that would play off that?

[chuckle]

Paul: I mean one of my friends, good friend of mine back at home, when I would introduce myself to people, and it’s not a common name anywhere in the world but especially in southeast Louisiana where you have a bunch of Cajuns, etcetera, they’re like, “What? What? What do you say? How do you spell… ” Good friend of mine, he just said, “Oh, don’t worry about it, his name’s Blah Blah.”

[chuckle]

Brian: That stuck?

Paul: Blah Blah has stuck for probably 15, 20 years now.

Brian: So there’s a whole crew of people who call you Blah Blah?

Paul: That is correct. Paul Blah blah.

Brian: Paul Blah Blah. [laughter] That may be how I’ll remember you. [To David] What about you?

David: You know either one or two things. Either DB, which is my initials.

Brian: Okay. David Brian.

David: Just like a lot of lazy friends, which is easier. Or I had a group of friends that used to call me Hoss.

Brian: Hoss?

David: Hoss.

Brian: Like…

David: Like Gunsmoke.

Brian: Gunsmoke. He was the big smart one, right?

David: I don’t know if the big smart or the big dumb one…

[laughter]

Brian: Hoss, what was…

David: Well how about you? We’re gonna throw it back at you.

Brian: My nickname was Brady in college.

David: After Brady Bunch? Greg Brady?

Brian: It was after the dad actually. It was before it was known that he was gay, not that that matters. But that was…

David: I thought maybe it was Greg Brady ’cause you had a thing for Florence Henderson?

Brian: No, no, no. Well so did, theoretically…

David: Right.

Brian: Because I was so mature, apparently, was the deal. That’s my theory. Okay, if you were in a zombie apocalypse and you had a choice of three different weapons: The weapons are nunchucks, chainsaw, or a four-iron. What would you choose and why?

Paul: Four-iron, swing it around in circles, more rapidly. Probably do a lot more damage quickly. A chainsaw would tend to wear you out in a hurry ’cause of its weight.

Brian: You gotta worry about gas.

Paul: Gas, right. I don’t know how to use nunchucks and I figure my bad golfing skills would come in handy.

Brian: Same thing for you?

David: You know originally I was going to say chainsaw but…

Brian: The gas part?

David: Yeah, gas part and the weight.

Brian: Yeah I suppose. Alright, would you rather have a significant speech impediment…

Paul: Some people say I do.

[laughter]

Brian: That’s kind of why I asked this question. Or a Jersey accent, which would you choose?

Paul: I’ll stick with my Southern speech impediment.

Brian: Southern speech impediment? What about you?

David: Oh, Jersey accent.

Brian: So he doesn’t have much of an accent at all, do you lose it after living here so long?

David: You lose it, you lose a little bit, and it’s a hybrid.

Paul: By the way, both of you guys are the ones with the accents.

Brian: Oh really?

Paul: Oh yes. Not me.

Brian: So sounding like Johnny Carson like we do, we have the speech impediments. Okay, alright. Last one would you rather… And this one I think is a good one for you for outdoorsy. Would rather… We are running out of time. So would you rather throw trash like your McDonald’s bag out the window in Yellowstone or park in a handicaps parking spot on Black Friday? You gotta do one.

David: That’s an easy one.

Brian: For you?

David: Yeah.

Paul: I’d park in a handicapped spot.

David: I’d park in a handicapped spot ’cause there’s plenty of them, no one ever uses ’em.

Brian: Really? On Black Friday? And you’d do same thing.

Paul: Absolutely.

David: Put it this way, if they’re gonna fight the Black Friday crowds to begin with, they can’t be that handicapped.

[laughter]

Paul: My point exactly. Most of the people that I see with handicap stickers that pull into the parking spot in a hurry, they walk 10 times better than I can, so no. No trashing Yellowstone.

Brian: Alright. We are out of time. So I wanna thank my guess here Paul Blah Blah or as I’ll learn…

David: Blomkalns.

Brian: Blomkalns. Paul Blomkalns. I really appreciate you doing this, I know you were a little nervous about how this was gonna go. Do you think it went okay?

Paul: Oh absolutely, the Bourbon helped obviously. [chuckle] But no, all said and done. No, great.

Brian: And also my good friend David Brian, you’re a great co-host, well done. Alright I think we’re set, thanks a lot guys.

[music]


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Jill Strickland, Grace Nxx, and Matt Beukelman – “Ride or Die!”

Grace Nxx, Brian Balestri, Jill Strickland, and Matt Beukelman

Grace Nxx, Brian Balestri, Jill Strickland, and Matt Beukelman

“I refuse to wear my own hair.” – Jill Strickland

In this episode my friend, Matt Beukelman, and I talk with our good friends Jill Strickland and Grace Nxx about what it’s like to be black women in America.  As you see in the Show Notes below, we cover all sorts of interesting topics including:

  • The extraordinary lengths that black women go to for their hair
  • What it’s like to work in predominantly white and predominately male company
  • Why you should never ask a person “where they learned their English.”
  • How few available/eligible men there are for black women
  • Plus we talk about how I became the “3rd blackest white guy in IT”.

And if you only have 5 minutes – jump to minute mark 32:10 in the YouTube video or 33:30 on the podcast to hear Jill’s story about the time she caused “all hell to break out” in her high school cafeteria.

Watch Episode #2: Jill Strickland, Grace Nxx, and Matt Beukelman – Ride or Die | The Extraordinary Friends Show

Listen to Episode #2: Jill Strickland, Grace Nxx, and Matt Beukelman – Ride or Die | The Extraordinary Friends Show

 Show Notes

(more…)

Stephen Meade M.D. and Chris Alme on Extraordinary Friends – “It wasn’t a dumpster fire.”

Stephen Meade MD, Brian Balestri, and Chris Alme

Stephen Meade MD, Brian Balestri, and Chris Alme

This is it – the very first episode of The Extraordinary Friends Show!

I am so happy with how it turned out, and that is 100% due to my great guest, Steve Meade M.D., and co-host, Chris Alme.
In the show, Steve tells us about:

  • Who are the worst kinds of patients
  • What he hates most about his job
  • The grossest thing he’s seen as a doctor
  • Plus all the good things about being a doctor

Steve also lets us in on a dirty little secret – that being what the admitting nurse writes down when you don’t give a reason for why you want to see your doctor

Both Steve and Chris are really witty guys with easy laughs and together we had a really fun conversation.

Lots of interesting topics covered (see the Show Notes below) and lots of good laughs.

Check it out, and then please…let me know what you think in the Comments section below.

The Extraordinary Friends Show Podcast

The podcast is the same exact same content as the public access show / YouTube video (above) EXCEPT with the addition of 2 minutes of post-show shenanigans.

Also:

(more…)

Stephen Meade M.D. and Chris Alme – Episode 1 Transcript

Stephen Meade M.D. and Chris Alme on Extraordinary Friends – “It wasn’t a dumpster fire.”

Podcast Introduction

Brian: Hi, this is Brian and you’re listening to the very first episode of The Extraordinary Friends Show, a combination public access TV show and podcast, where I sit down with a couple of my good friends and talk about their careers, hobbies, and life experiences. In this episode, my co-host is my longtime friend, Chris Alme, and together we talk with fellow poker buddy, and friend Dr. Stephen Meade, known, of course, to us as Steve, about what it’s like to be a family physician. Steve tells us about who are the worst kind of patients, what he hates most about his job, and the grossest thing he’s seen as a doctor.

Brian: Plus, of course, all the good things about being a doctor. Steve also lets us in on a dirty little secret, that being what the admitting nurse writes down when you don’t give a reason for why you wanna see your doctor. Both Steve and Chris are really witty guys, with easy laughs and together we had a really fun conversation. And if you stick around to the very end I’ve added some post show outtakes. Pretty funny stuff, so enjoy.

(more…)