So Let Me Get This Straight
Oct 23, 2021
Over the last couple of weeks, I have been describing my experiences during the Wuhan Flu lockdown and how I instinctively leveraged my POW training to maintain my self-respect and sanity during these most incredible times. I described a key element in that training called “Little Wins” where you resist and be as non-compliant as you can and when you can, all the way up to the point that serious consequences result.
Now, let me clarify one point here, and that is how one defines ‘serious.’ This can only ever be a personal, subjective judgment. In terms of a real POW situation, it translates to how much pain or discomfort a prisoner can withstand before he must submit. And to be clear, we all have our limits and to pretend otherwise is a fairy tale told by Hollywood script writers. Because I have built up my tolerance for “social pain” over the years my threshold is fairly high. As a result, I am willing to push and test (more on ‘testing’ later) the boundaries farther than most though not as far as others. We all bump up against our own limits from time to time (if we’re living a full life) and there is no shame in shrinking away from meeting those limits. Why? Because the attempt itself provides strength for the next attempt. It is, quite literally, a no-lose situation. Moving on…
Continuing our story from last week, I had just boarded the first leg of my Southwest Airlines flight from the People’s Republic of Portland to Orlando, Florida. I was dutifully wearing my mask, not because I agreed with any policy or mandate, but because I simply had no leverage yet to not comply. Yes, I could have driven my car across country as part of my permanent move to Free Florida or maybe even taken a bus. But because of the wildfires, I had simply run out of time before my scheduled start date for my new job. As a result, I accepted my condition of diminished options and decided to strategically comply, but only when absolutely necessary.
Now, when I purchased my ticket, I sprung for the extra $50 for the ‘privilege’ of boarding first. As a result, I was among the first to board and I chose a seat as close to the main cabin door as I could, row 1 or 2, if I remember correctly. This will become important later, but at the time, I could never know how important this choice would become.
Now, as I took my seat, I kept my mask on. I did this for the exact reason as I wore it to board the plane: I had no leverage (yet); we were still on the ground, and I was certain that these air-waitress Karens would kick me off the plane at the first indication of any non-compliance if they could.
Once boarding was complete, the aircraft pushed back from the gate, taxied and took off normally with nothing unusual occurring. However, once we were in cruise, I decided to start testing the boundaries of what was ‘permissible.’ I took the water bottle from my knapsack, pulled my hat down to feign sleep and, with my hand firmly on the bottle resting on the tray table, pulled my mask down like a normal human. Why? I was testing the limits of what they would enforce while in flight, in search of more Little Wins; I refuse to be my own jailor and will constantly be on the lookout for opportunities to carve out just a little more Liberty for myself.
Within moments, the Air-Karen waitress attempted to get my attention from the other side of my closed eyes saying, “Sir? Sir?”
Ha! Well, that didn’t take long…
I was ‘asleep,’ so I ignored her, of course. It was then that she actually reached across the passenger to my left and ‘woke me.’ “Sir, you have to have your mask covering your mouth and nose completely.”
“Oh, I’m sorry,” I lied as I pulled my face diaper back up over my face. Now, from my perspective, this small test of their boundaries was a resounding success! The point was not to defy, it was to test. I now knew exactly how far I could push the rule and I knew exactly where/when they would enforce it. And boy, howdy. They were Johnny on the Spot with what little stolen authority they had.
Yes, I could have made a fuss and proclaimed how the air-waitress was a fascist or how Southwest Airlines was acting without authority. And I would have been absolutely correct in all of it, but could I call it ‘surviving’ if the flight landed early jut to kick me off and charge me with a felony?
No, their leverage over me was still in play because I had a connecting flight in Denver. There was nothing that precluded Southwest Karen Airlines from denying my ability to board in Denver and continue my journey to Orlando. So, while I had successfully tested their boundaries, I was still under their thumb for the time being. And then I wondered: If I continued to flout their silly rule, how committed were they to be enforcers beyond just the first request?
So, just as soon as the self-satisfied Air-Prison Guard returned to the back of the aircraft, I immediately pulled the face mask back down to my chin, carving out a little freedom for myself and continuing my test. Not long after, she returned, again instructing me to make sure my mask fully covered my mouth and nose adding, “I’m not going to tell you again.”
Well! Looks like this Air-Karen was feeling her fascist oats! I think I just had an up close and personal lesson on what the effects of no accountability are on the employee/customer relationship. This Air-Waitress had translated her very minimal responsibility to make sure passengers can properly operate a seatbelt and have a satisfactory supply of mini pretzels into a prisoner/guard relationship complete with implied threats of violence. Thanks Southwest Airlines!
Needless to say, this cat and mouse game continued all the way to Denver. After we landed, this particular waitress was at the main cabin door and, when she opened it, I stood up, made my way to the door ensuring that she watched me remove my mask and then departed the aircraft. And, as before, I walked through the Denver terminal to my next flight completely maskless. Nobody stopped me or made one issue with it. Little Wins.
My connecting flight from Denver to Orlando went in much the same way. I wore the mask during those times that I had no leverage and tested the limits of what the air-waitresses were willing to enforce throughout the flight. I think the most amusing part of the entire leg was when the Air Waitresses posted an actual guard next to my seat to watch me for the duration of the flight.
Yes, you read that correctly. They actually put a male air-waitress at my row where he stood just watching me. Yes. He stood there for the remainder of the flight, approximately 45 minutes, just standing there like a prison guard.
When our flight finally arrived in Orlando, I did the same thing as in Denver, removed my mask while on the plane, and left. How could I remove my mask before deplaning, you ask? Because Southwest Airlines’ leverage over me had just expired. So why continue complying when they have no leverage? Little Wins.
In spite of the small challenges on my trip, my arrival in Orlando was a resounding success. We can call it a success because I implemented my POW training and “survived with honor.” Specifically, I “survived” because:
- I was NOT being arrested on a felony charge of “interfering with a flight crew” charge and
- I had successfully completed my trip all the way from Portland to Orlando while carving out as much freedom as I could while en-route.
How better to define success?
But the story doesn’t end there! There was much more Liberty to find before I left the airport!
You see, because my flight terminated in Orlando, Southwest Airlines leverage over me had expired and once that leverage evaporated, so too did my willingness to comply with the SWA prison guards’ requests. But Karen Airlines wasn’t done with me just yet.
But more on my arrival in Orlando and the SWA gate agent who attempted to intimidate me using the poor Orlando police as a prop next week!
Founder of BreathEasy, the tool that crowdsources non-compliance, coming soon!
So Let Me Get This Straight
October 16, 2021
By Robert Altomare, BreathEasy
In my article from last week, I described for you my realization that I was a de facto prisoner in my own country. It occurred when I noticed that I unconsciously responded to a social distancing sticker on the floor with the POW survival tactics (SERE) that I learned while in the military.
The military taught us a variety of techniques to not only survive captivity, but to also survive it with honor. One of these techniques given to us was the idea of “little wins.” Now, little wins aren’t meant to bring the prison camp guards to their knees or get extra food rations. No, the purpose of creating small victories for oneself while imprisoned was to maintain the prisoner’s self-respect when forced into unimaginable conditions.
My ‘small win’ that day in the grocery store was my instinctual refusal to obey a little sticker on the floor that was put there for my “safety.” It was the moment when I moved off the sticker and realized why I moved off the sticker, that’s when I knew that my country was in serious trouble. I realized in that moment that I was being forced to ACT like a prisoner by my own government.
There are many among us who are fighting to restore these United States to what it was intended and founded to be. And, ultimately, I am an optimist in that regard; the state of the world today is simply not sustainable and the People have simply seen too much. These things cannot be unseen, no matter how hard MSNBC tries to tell us that the crowd is chanting, “Let’s Go, Brandon!” However, no matter how assured our victory is or how inevitable Liberty is ordained, this does not excuse us from defending and fighting for our national ideals and the Rights inherent to our Humanity in the here and now, no matter how optimistic we may be.
This notwithstanding, this week’s essay is not a discourse on Traditional American Values. Instead, I’d like to expound on last week’s lesson to better arm you for your daily fight for personal freedom. I provide this lesson in the form of a personal story to teach how you personally can create those little wins in your normal day-to-day to resist the tyranny seeping in all around us.
Now, before I earned my refugee status in Florida, I lived in Portland, Oregon; the belly of the Antifa beast. I can tell you from personal experience that Portland is no longer simply “Keeping It Weird” and Portlandia is not just some quirky little show. It is a documentary!
The inmates have most definitely taken over the asylum in Portland. The ironic thing, of course, is that it has always been “governed” by fools, ignoramuses and true believers of their Marxist cause. All 2020 did was poor gas on the already smoldering garbage pile in front of the hobo tent that they called a city.
So, in 2020, I had had enough and decided to leave (thus my refugee status) and moved back to the Sunshine State. For a variety of reasons, I decided to fly to Orlando, via Denver, on Southwest Airlines (yes, THAT Southwest Airlines). Now, I absolutely knew I was going to be forced to wear a mask in order to fly aboard their aircraft; this was a given. And, normally, I would not do such a thing (even in Portland I could count on one hand how many times I wore a mask) but I simply had no leverage to avoid it at the time.
And this is one key idea that I wish to communicate to you, the idea of leverage. Sometimes you have it and sometimes you don’t. But you ALWAYS have a choice to participate. Nowadays, I approach every commercial interaction the same as when I walk onto a used car lot; I can always walk away. I can’t tell you how many restaurants or other businesses I have spun on my heels and left when they demanded I wear a face-diaper while saying, “It’s our policy…” Yeah, well, I don’t work here, Toots. Smell ya later.
But a lack of leverage does not mean I must fully submit like some simp, either. And this is where so many Patriots get tangled up and where the idea of “little wins” becomes so important: Many fighters for Liberty believe that they must die on every hill they encounter. Now I am not advocating for unmitigated surrender. But what I AM saying is that there is a way to follow a POW’s survival tactics; find that middle road, survive with honor, and then flip them off later while you’re sipping your latte without a mask.
Here’s how I did it on my flight from Portland to Orlando in 2020:
First stop: ticketing. As many have seen, it is now no longer necessary to go to the ticket counter at many airports; there are kiosks where you can obtain your boarding pass. Of course, key to this is not having any bags (I sent mine ahead and only had 1 carry on). PLANNING!
So, I exited my Uber, maskless, walked through the terminal, maskless, and obtained my boarding pass from a kiosk, maskless. Remember! This is Portland, “there are 486 genders,” Oregon! In spite of my location, nobody hassled me as I walked through the terminal. Not one of those hipster doofuses with their sustainably sourced, horn-rimmed glasses, hemp-woven skinny jeans and ironically-worn Converse high tops made one comment to me. In fact, many looked at me with a “I didn’t know we could NOT wear a mask in here” look plastered on their handlebar mustachioed faces. Little Wins. I will not be my own jailor.
Next Stop: TSA. Now, this is a completely different story than the kiosk. I must actually interact with a government burger flipper security guard in order to get to my gate. So, what did I do? I put the mask on. Why? Because I had no leverage at that stage of my journey.
HOWEVER! When I finally got to the TSA gatekeeper, I told Officer Zul repeatedly that I “could not hear him” until he finally pulled his mask down to speak to me. Of course, what did I do? I asked him to put his mask back on! That was just for me as I smiled beneath my face diaper.
Once through the useless TSA gauntlet, I immediately took my mask back off again and walked through the terminal, and again, not hassled by anyone. Of course, nobody would KNOW you could walk around the airport maskless because nobody ever dared to test! Stop being your own jailer. Again, through this small act of defiance, I created for myself a small circle of greater Freedom than would have been normal. Again: Little Wins.
Next Stop: The Gate. I walked down the concourse to my gate, maskless, of course, and found a nice window seat looking out over the ramp to patiently wait for my flight to begin boarding.
Now, in short order, the masked, middle-aged, Portland female (I assume, this is Portland, after all) gate agent walked over to me and asked, “Do you have a mask?” to which I responded, “No” (I of course DID have a mask, but I was feeling plucky.).
She then proceeded to say, “Yes, well, masks are required here at the gate, here you go” and she handed me a mask. I dutifully and politely took the mask but laid it on my lap and returned to surfing the internet on my phone. It was at this point that she saw that I was openly ‘defying her authoritay’ when I didn’t put the mask on “as required” and proceeded to inform me of such. Now, I can’t exactly remember how the whole interaction went, it’s been a year now, but she was visibly perturbed when I told her very simply, “No.” As I knew and she was quick to learn, she had no leverage (yet) to force me to do literally anything (to say nothing of authority). So, after some words were exchanged, she finally let me be. Little Wins.
Later, when it came time to board, they lined us all up, firing squad style, in preparation for boarding as efficiently as possible (no social distancing required, incidentally!). Did I put my mask on at that point while waiting to board? Of course, I did. Why? Because I had no leverage to avoid it. I needed to be on the plane.
Finally when we were allowed to board, I handed my boarding pass to the very same gate agent who before felt she had some sort of authority over my health and she dutifully (but begrudgingly) allowed me to board the plane.
Find out next week when I share more examples of creating little wins on my flight and the small kerfuffle created when they called the police in Orlando! Spoiler alert: no jail time was served. 😉
Rob Altomare, Founder of the BreathEasy App, set to launch in just a few short weeks!
So Let Me Get This Straight
October 8, 2021
By Robert Altomare, Founder of the BreathEasy App
It wasn’t a thunderous clap of an epiphany when I realized I was a prisoner in my own land last year. Instead, it crept up on me without a conscious thought as I stood in the checkout line in my local grocery store. I was simply standing there, my eyes softly touching upon all the candy bars and celebrity gossip rags lost in my own blank mind when I looked down at the newly installed decals providing the ‘proper and scientific’ social distancing spots we were all instructed to stand upon. Sure, I had seen them before, but this time was different. This time the dots connected, and it all became clear in an instant.
You’ve seen them, haven’t you? Those ubiquitous circular decals on the floors of so many of our local businesses? They all have some variation of the ‘for your safety, stand here’ theme and they are all precisely laid out exactly six feet apart. These stickers are about as subtle as a Communist speech writer from the 1930’s.
It was in that moment as my eyes touched upon the bright yellow sticker at my feet that, without thinking and by pure instinct alone, I moved off the sticker to stand literally anywhere but that sticker. This was not a conscious decision of noncompliance but rather a return, an unconscious recollection, of my POW training so many years ago during my military service. In that moment, in that small act of unconscious and instinctive defiance, I carved out just a little more freedom for my already-greatly diminished circle of Liberty and in so doing, made a hard and unavoidable conclusion.
What I am describing may likely need a little context, so please let me provide you that background now:
In general, the military trains its people in their chosen specialty and then ships them off to the ‘field,’ whether it is Army, Navy, Air Force or Marines. However, for some military specialties that carry a special risk of capture by our enemies, these individuals are provided just a little extra training; that training is called SERE (Survival, Evasion, Rescue and Escape).
The purpose of this training, at its core, instructs a potential Prisoner of War how to survive his capture (presumably in a POW camp) and return with honor. Again, the purpose is not to dig tunnels like in Hogan’s Heroes, nor is it to calmly tell his interrogator, “I ain’t tellin’ you nuttin, you red commie bastid.” I can think of no quicker way to not survive captivity than these Hollywood-inspired tropes. It also doesn’t teach you the Hawaiian sign for ‘good luck’ (but that’s another story).
No, the purpose of SERE training is to survive the un-survivable and return with honor. Keywords here are: ‘survive,’ ‘return’ and ‘honor.’
The need for this type of instruction was identified after the end of the Korean War (if memory serves) when the North Koreans allowed (some) American POWs to return home. These former POWs were not only in a state of shell shock, but they had also endured extreme and inhumane treatment that only illiterate North Korean communists could dream up. This included things beyond ‘simple’ torture to also include brainwashing and other psychological torture.
The American military of the 1950’s and ‘60’s discovered that many former POW’s were committing suicide after their return home. These men had endured unspeakable horrors only to pack it all in after they were safely home? Why?
Guilt. These men felt unresolvable guilt for having succumbed to torture and gave up information that they felt obligated to protect and not divulge. Such was the state of mind of a 1950’s military man.
So, after hundreds if not thousands of interviews and studies, the military developed the SERE training program. It was intended to give potential captives the tools to survive inhumane conditions and captivity the best they can while at the same time maintaining their self-respect, dignity and honor after they broke from the torture (everyone breaks). I personally went through this training. Trust me when I tell you: a lot of self-learning happens in that training.
One of the small tools the training gives you is the concept of ‘little wins’ in the face of insurmountable obstacles. In a POW situation, you are not John Rambo, and you will not defeat the entire North Vietnamese army by yourself with a belt of bullets hanging over your shoulder. So, instead of unrealistically fighting making a ‘last stand’ that will surely end up with you dead, the prisoner is instead trained to carve out little freedoms for himself where he can, if even just a little bit and if even for just a short while.
For example: If a rule is made by your captors that you must eat with your left hand, you eat with your left hand. That is, of course, until they aren’t looking and then you immediately switch to your right hand. This tiny act of non-compliance is in fact a HUGE victory psychologically. These tiny acts reinforce the individual’s inner strength even when beset upon all sides by injustice and cruelty. Do not underestimate the cumulative power and strength of the little wins.
Returning to the grocery store and my instinctual move off the little sticker (the idiomatic megaphone on an Orwellian street corner) imploring me to stand exactly here, it was in the moment that after I moved off the sticker I realized why I moved off that sticker: I was implementing the little win strategy taught to me as a survival technique as a prisoner. That was when my slow realization took hold: I was a prisoner in my own country.
My move off the little sticker was the unconscious move to resist a soft tyranny. Right there, standing in the checkout line of my local grocery store, I carved out just a little bit of freedom for myself and chalked up one little win which, later, would later build to yet greater wins (more stories to come!).
There is a time and place for everything. But all the while, just remember: It all begins with the small wins.
Yours in Victory
“I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided; and that is the lamp of experience. I know of no way of judging of the future but by the past.” Patrick Henry, 1775