Sunday, April 24, 2016

Prince


I never had Prince as a passenger.  As a flight attendant for his hometown airline, it seemed like all of my co-workers and friends did.  The story was always the same.  He boarded after everyone else up the outside stairs.  He slipped quietly on the plane into 1A, his bodyguard next to him at 1B.  He was gracious and kind but didn't usually speak to anyone.  His bodyguard ordered him a ginger ale, no ice, with a straw.  He rarely ate any food from the plane.  He always had purple on, and high heels.  He was so short that he could put his feet on the bulkhead in front of him and his legs were stick straight.  After arriving at the gate, he and his bodyguard slipped off as easily and quickly as they had slipped on, and were met by an airline employee who escorted them down the outside stairs into a waiting limousine.  At that point, some of the other passengers had a glimpse of him, and the rumor mill started--"That looked like Prince, did you see him?" and they would ask the crew and the crew would smile and confirm that he had indeed been on the same plane as they had. 
I always hoped that I would have him as a passenger.  Now, that will never happen.  But I do have a Prince moment of my very own.  2003 was one of the hardest years of my life.  A diagnosis in February of Breast Cancer. A double mastectomy weeks later.  6 months of chemotherapy. Hair loss. Doctor's visits after doctors visits.  No work, and no energy to do much other than sit at home.  An unexpected weight gain from the chemo.  (Who knew?)  Depression.  But by the end of the chemo cycle, an unexpected gift came my way.  A friend had box seats for a Prince concert, and invited me!  I dressed up for the first time in a long time.  We listened to Prince in the car on the way to the concert.  By the time he started playing, we were excited beyond belief.  We danced and sang and danced until we couldn't dance any more.  He was our hometown hero, and the huge crowd treated him as such.  He was ours, and each song cemented that.  "Purple Rain" brought Minneapolis and Prince into the country's consciousness.  "1999" came out and seemed so far away, until it was 1999 and it was the only song played at midnight anywhere in the world.  "When Doves Cry" was heartfelt and sad and hopeful, all at the same time. "Let's Go Crazy" was a perennial party song, and was a particular favorite of mine during that difficult year.
Waking up the next day, still excited over what had happened the night before, the same group of friends headed out to our sons soccer game.  As we went over and over every moment from the night before, I tried to ignore the growing pain in my chest. Soon it became obvious to others that I was in pain, and very soon my husband decided I should go the emergency room.  The Doctor did all the normal tests, read through my recent medical history, and nothing was showing up.  He asked what I had done the night before.  I'm sure I lit up through all the pain, and said "I was at the Prince concert!  I danced for hours!".  He smiled.  "I'm quite sure you pulled a muscle."  "How?" I asked. He asked if I had been physically active the past couple months.  I confirmed that I had not been.  He smiled again.  "You pulled a muscle dancing all night at the Prince concert. Rest and the pain will diminish within the week." 
When we went to pick up our son, I sheepishly had to tell the truth to everyone.  It has become a story that  has been repeated and enjoyed many times by our group of friends and family.  I was the butt of the joke.  It bothered me at first.  But now, I think back and know that that night, with Prince and my friends and family, I was happy and free and forgot I was sick, and I danced so much that I pulled a muscle.  And that is my Prince story.  He gave me great joy and happiness at a very difficult time, and even though I never had him on a flight, every time one of his songs play, I feel that same hopefulness and joy I felt that night at a very low point in my life
  "Dearly beloved, we are here to get through this thing called life."  --Prince

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Clueless in Dayton


Normally on this blog I am "outing" rude, obnoxious or just generally clueless behavior in airports and airplanes.  Today, I am "coming out" as the "ONE", the clueless one, the one not paying attention to her surroundings, the one who drives everyone else crazy.  This isn't easy.  But it must be done.

As an employee, I travel free.  That is THE perk, the Holy Grail, the benefit that our jobs offer that gets the most attention, and the most envy.  And it is wonderful.  Mostly.  But we have to fly standby.  We can't book seats ahead of time.  We can look at flight loads, and try to determine the best flights to take.  But it is a gamble, and one has to be extremely patient, flexible and focused.  Enter me.  After a 3 day conference in Dayton, Ohio, the Erma Bombeck Humor Writers Conference, I find myself burned out:  too much fun, too much laughter, too many early mornings and late nights, too much wine, too many desserts, etc..... too much of everything.  (Not to mention the convention of drum majors in our hotel that combined hundreds of young, male party animals with an all night party so crazy in the lobby that the staff of the hotel took the furniture out of the lobby to give them more room to party.  Really.)

So, after seeing that there's not a chance in Hell of getting out of Dayton that day (too many Ermaites and drum majors, I fear)  I hitch a ride with a new friend to her hometown of Indianapolis where possibilities look better for a seat on a flight.  We have a rough start, spending an hour getting out of Dayton, while her GPS sends us into the depths of the city, where we are sure that we 1) We won't make it out of there alive and 2) We will never make it to Indianapolis.  (It turns out that we both have direction dyslexia, and 2 of us in one car with a misbehaving GPS, well, that's just not smart.)
But with her husband's help, we get the heck out of Dayton.  We dissect the conference, day by day, class by class, person by person, until before we know it we are there.  We hug and say goodbye as only people who have been in the trenches can, new BFF's who have shared something impossible to explain to anyone who wasn't there. 

The flight I want to take is at Gate A7.  I make it there, settle in, and call my sister to tell her all about the weekend.  I watch the plane pull in, passengers disembark, crew get on, and boarding commence.  I finally hear my name called, and I go to the podium.  I repeat my name, that I got paged.  The confused gate agent says "I didn't page your name."  And then I see it.  The destination on the podium.  Atlanta.  "Are you going to Atlanta?" she said.  I admit it .  I said "Shit!" in front of her and many other passengers and I probably can get fired for that.  "NO!  Denver!"  I said.  "That's across the hall at A8" she says,  and while she calls Gate A8 to tell them I'm on my way, I run through people and wheelchairs and around a electric sidewalk and pant my way to A8, and I say "I'm the one Gate A7 just called you about" and she says "I already gave your seat away because you weren't here" and I know I have just become them:  the ones I write about, the ones that drive me crazy, the clueless ones.   But this angel of a gate agent sees that I'm at my wit's end, and she gets me a seat.  Not a real one, but a jump seat, which only other Flight Attendants can ride, and with lots of other rules, but she gives me one and I think I hugged her and ran down the jetway.

One of our brilliant speakers this weekend, Judy Carter, did a bit about flying.  How by the time we get to the plane, we have given pieces of our mind away.  To the TSA guy, who drones on about liquids and computers.  To the gate agent, who has changed our aisle window exit seat to a middle seat next to a screaming baby.  To the flight attendant, who snarls when we ask for 2 bags of peanuts.  We give all these people (at least in our heads) pieces of our mind and by the time we get to baggage claim and see our bags going around in a circle, we are completely out of our minds and don't even know which of 100's of black bags are ours, and I know at this moment I am this person.  And I have made fun of this person so many times.  So, as I often do, I give this person (me) a name. Clueless in Dayton.  Welcome on board.  Enjoy your flight.  Do you have any idea where you are? 

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Top Ten Dumbest Questions to ask your Flight Attendant

1)  "Where are we?"  There's a reason I'm in the back of the plane, serving you.  I don't know where we are.  I almost never know where we are.  It's not my job to know where we are.  Be grateful for that.  I'm direction dyslexic.  I can't find my way out of a paper bag. 
2)  "When's the next flight to .....?"  I 'd have to be a genius to know that.  We have literally thousands of flights per day.  If I had them all memorized, well, that would just be a massive waste of brain space. 
3)      "Where is Row 1?"  Seriously. 
4)      "Can I use the bathroom on the ground?"  Yes.  The year is 2014.  What you do in the bathroom doesn't end up on the tarmac.  Thankfully. 
5)      Question from me:  "What would you like to drink?"  Passenger:  "What do you have?"  O.K.  This is totally annoying.   Because, 1) The choices have been announced over the P.A.  2)  The choices are listed in the in fight magazine  3)  The choices have been the same for years and years.  At least give me a category:  soft drinks, alcohol, etc.  And while we're at it, please take your headphones off for that brief minute or two we're talking to you.  Repeating ourselves over and over makes us very cranky. 
6)  "Why don't you open this exit for me so I can make my connection?"  Well, I would be happy to.  With certain conditions.  If you can pay  my salary for the rest of my career, you got it.   Because I will very likely be fired.  And I'm not cheap. 
7)  "Can you hold my connection?"  No.  On time departures are one of the most important rankings in the industry, and the airline will leave you behind in a heartbeat to get that very important statistic.   We would love for that not to be the case, but it is. 
8)  "Smile!"  This is not really a question, but more of a command.  First of all, YOU smile on command.  YOU smile for 14 hours straight.  YOU smile when people tell you to smile.  Doesn't work. 
9)  "Can you  1) upgrade me to first class for free,  2)  take other people's bags out of the bins so I can put mine in, or 3)  Bring me a steak, medium rare?   Again, no.  There are many, many of you.  Some days many more than usual.  While we care about each of you, it is in all of our best interests if we treat you all the same.  People get jealous.  And they write letters to our company when they perceive they are not being treated as well as others.  When we finally get home, we don't want to be on the phone with our managers. 
10)  No, we don't serve steak.  No, we don' t have magazines.  No, we don't have pillows.  Yes, it's been that way  for many, many years.  We don't make the decisions.  We just have to enforce them.  Yes, please let the company know how unhappy you are.  And while you're at it, let them know how unhappy we are too.  We liked it better in the old days, too. 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Emotional Support Animals?

It's been in the news a lot lately.  People can now bring dogs, cats, pigs, even miniature horses on an airplane.  For free.  All you have to do is go on the Internet and basically buy a certificate that states your "animal" is an emotional support animal.  The information I found on the Internet says:  "Any animal can be an emotional support animal.  Federal law does not require these animals to have any training.  You do not have to be disabled to have an Emotional Support Animals.  These animals are for people with mild anxiety or depression. "  Now, I have absolutely no issue with an animal that is on an airplane with a passenger and is necessary to this passenger's well-being. I always (used) to call any animal on board my favorite passenger.  Service animals (definition:  service animals must perform a task for an owner with a disability or medical condition) are amazing.  Not to repeat myself, but they are the best behaved passenger on the airplane. They don't get mad when we run out of space for their bags.  They don't care if we're 2 hours late. They behave.  They do.   They are trained to.  They can't misbehave if they try.  It's in their DNA.
  Not so with these new, "I bought a certificate for my animal from the Internet to avoid the outrageous airplane fees those thieves want to charge me" types.  In the past year, I've had Emotional Support Animals that bark.  A lot.  Lay on empty seats or onto other's passengers body parts, lay spread out into the aisle so that I've had to step over them every time I walk by. They snarl at everybody.  They whine.  They have diarrhea.  (If you think a baby's soiled diaper is a bad smell in a tight space, times that by 10).  They steal food from the passenger beside them.  They beg for food from the passenger beside them. You get the idea.  So after a flight with 3 very large males (people) and 2 very large dogs and 2 cats (not in cages) all in one very small row with 150 other people, I went to my manager and complained.  She agreed. " This is something that has gotten completely out of hand. Is it likely to stop?"  I ask. "No" she says.  "But I can one up you" she says to me.  "This morning, in our home town, they had to board an emotional support chicken."  A chicken.  Spend some time imagining having your seatmate on your next flight be a chicken.  Support?  No.   Complete and utter nonsense?  Yes. . 

Friday, June 29, 2012

THe Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day  written by Judith Viorst was one of my children's favorite books to read when they were little.  It told about a day gone horribly wrong: from not getting a seat by the window in the car, to having to eat lima beans for dinner when he hated lima beans, to having to wear his railroad -train pajamas, when he hated his railroad train pajamas.  I had a day like that last week.  Our airplane was late because of a storm.  Guess where we were trying to go?  Yep, right back where the storm was. Our original plane was an hour late arriving, so we were almost 2 hours late leaving.  The storms made our flight extra long ,and very turbulent.  Our next flight was now 2 and a half hours late, heading back into, yes, the very same weather pattern.  I won't bore you with the details, but suffice it to say that we ended up at our fourth stop of the day, at 2:30 in the morning, exhausted, hungry and feeling like we had been tossed around like a ride at the fair. After bouncing around all day, I lay down on the quiet, still bed in my hotel room and woke up exactly that way in the morning.  Sick.  Because, during the chaos of the day before, I had apparently eaten something that didn't agree with me.  If I didn't take the trip, the crew and all the passengers would be stuck because we don't have replacement flight attendants in this city.  I soldiered on, got dressed and showed up for work.  Well, guess what.  The weather system that had wrecked so much havoc the day before, had now shown up here.  Of course.  A couple of hours later, we finally left.  After one of my many trips out of the bathroom, a passenger stopped me and said "Am I going to make my connection?"  After checking out her intinery, I said "I think you need a Plan B,"  She started to cry, and said "I'm getting married tomorrow morning at 10 o clock in a city 3 hours away from the city I'm connecting to. "  Oh boy.  I thought I was having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. I couldn't say "Why did you book the last possible flight on a Friday night for your very own wedding?  What about the rehearsal?  When will you do your hair? "  I didn't want her flat out losing it on me.  So, as we talked about "Plan B", all I could think of was Alexander, and his really bad day.. Wait until you grow up, kid.   Then you'll know what a bad day really is. 

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Work on a holiday? Thanks, but no thanks.

Memorial Day, sitting outside with a good book and a cold drink under a sunny sky, I received a somewhat snarky text from my sister. "In your blog, could u explain why a gate is not ready when u land?  And why does it take so long to open the door?  Lovingly, your sis."  Now I agree, she doesn't sound very "loving" at this moment.  And that's my point.  Flying can send even the most rational, calm and seasoned traveler (said sister) into a tailspin.  (She later shares lurid details of a horrendous travel day complete with cancellations, mechanical delays and hordes of holiday travelers, leading to her less than charming text.)

  Sometimes we say people check their common sense with their luggage, but we can't really say that anymore because hardly any one checks their bags nowadays.  (But, that's another story for another day.) I once spilled tomato juice on a priest who was reading his bible.  My first thought, after "****"  (under my breath) was "Thank heavens (!) I spilled on a priest, and not the crazy lady in 4C with her white linen dress and holier than thou attitude." Wrong. The priest, with a big glob of tomato juice on his shoulder, looked up at me and as I was apologizing, getting towels, talking about using club soda to get the stain out, and said nothing.  This, of course, made me talk more.  I heard myself say "Thank heavens (!) you're wearing black.  This should wash out easily.  Where are you headed today?"  Still nothing.  His neighbor finally looked up at me, and with a wink, said, "Young lady, I'll have a Sprite.  Because if you spill it on me, it won't stain, right?" And with that, the priest let out a noise, kind of a combination of a snarl and a hiss, and looked back down at his bible. 

So, the answers to your questions, sis?  I'll get back to you on that.  It's a holiday, and I'm NOT at work. And, there's a reason for that.

And one more thing:  Buh Bye, now.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Fly Free?

The first reaction most people have after hearing you work for an airline is "Oh, you get to fly for free, right?"  Yes, we do.  Mostly.  International flights have a nominal fee, and some airports charge taxes for entry, but yes, we do fly for free.  Not so fast, however.  My standard comment is 1)  We can get on flights that  nobody else wants to go on and 2) We can go when nobody else wants to go. As we all know after 9/11, bankruptcies, and the price of fuel, seat capacity has gone down and consolidation has made it very hard to get anywhere.  In what I like to call the "Highs and Lows of working for an airline" (get it?) one day I can be on a first class flight to Australia, with seats that lay completely flat and be served champagne before the rest of the passengers even board.  The next day I can spend hours, which turns into days, trying to get on a plane to Tulsa, Oklahoma.  Yesterday I took a short little hop and ended up getting the next to the last seat, and it was even a window exit row seat.  Perfect.  I noticed the woman next to me did not seem at all happy about me sitting there, but I was there and I wasn't leaving.  (Well, sometimes the gate agents do come and take us off if a regular, full fare paying passenger shows up late and wants their seat).  That's obviously a "low" of flying free. 

Luckily, the flight was relatively short and sweet, because my seat mate sent me evil glances about every 10 or so minutes.  I had showered, I had all my body parts in my seat, and I even let her hog the middle armrest.  As we taxied into the gate at our destination, she turned to me and said "How did you get that seat?  When I checked the seating chart a half hour before the flight, that seat was open." I knew I couldn't tell her the truth, that I was in the seat for FREE, because I worked for the airline.  She would have hit me with her very large Gucci bag, that frankly, really didn't fit underneath the seat in front of her, but I was off duty, and not about to tell her that.  I smiled widely at her, and said, "Oh, I'm a million miler (well, I clearly am) and I was here early and the gate agents very kindly put me on an earlier flight so I could visit my aging, ill grandfather before he goes into a nursing home tomorrow. Wasn't that kind of them?"

Properly chastised, she turned away. When I saw her again in baggage claim, she walked as far away from me as she could.  Imagine if I would've told her the truth.  Gucci bags leave big bruises.  Believe me, I know. 

Thursday, January 19, 2012

LaLa Land

Today took me to Los Angeles and back. Lala land. It proved to be a lala kind of day. During boarding, a man was standing right beside me going to his seat. He looked at me and said "Do you have an air sick bag?" As I rummaged for one in the closest seat, he let loose and projectile vomited all over me, my seat, another passenger, his bags and the aisle. As we ran for cleaning supplies all the while holding our noses, passengers just kept walking right through the "mess" to get to their seats, even though we directed them elsewhere. It was, to say the least, not very appetizing at 8:00 in the morning.


After we took a delay, for cleaning said mess, de-icing, and who knows what else, we left an hour late. That left everyone thirsty, hungry and cranky. While we bumped around the mountains, a passenger said to me
"Did you know that there's a kitten running loose around the plane?" "No" I said. "Are you sure it's not a rat or a mouse and not a kitten?" (Editor's note: A mouse or rat running around a plane would be much more likely than a kitten). "No", he said, "it's for sure a kitten." So, I start looking around while carrying a bag of trash in my hand, and I spot the kitten,sticking it's tiny little head out from beneath a seat. I reach down and grab her, and I walk down the aisle with a large, overfull garbage bag in one hand and a kitten in the other. Talk about feeling like you're in lala land! We make a PA--"If you have brought a kitten on board and that kitten is not in it's approved luggage carrier, please come to the back galley and claim your kitten."

A woman strolls back and claims her kitten, while she is purring in my lap. I must say, holding that purring kitten was the highlight of my day. Much better than cleaning up the remains of 33C's breakfast.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Endings....and Beginnings....

One of the best things about this job is that every single day is different. Even if you do the same flight over and over, the group of people that is gathered together that day is new, the crew is different, etc. That's good for those of us who get bored easily, or those of us (me) who are always interested in meeting new and different people. Last week, my longtime girlfriend did her last trip, as she is retiring after 31 years of flying. It is bittersweet, to leave this job that becomes a lifestyle. We celebrated in style, with flowers, dinner and wine in Paris and friends meeting us at the end of the flight. There were tears, hugs and many good wishes for the future without this job; with no more jet lag, no more crabby passengers, no more layovers. On this same flight, during boarding, an obviously ebullient passenger walked by with a huge smile, saying "Hello!" I replied "Hello, how are you?" He said: "Fabulous! I surprised my girlfriend in Paris and asked her to marry me!" Me: "She apparently said yes by the looks of your smile?" "Yes, she did" he said. "She's right behind me." As I got to know them and their story, their short courtship, how they both knew by the end of their first date that each other was "the one", their plans for their future, I felt extremely lucky to be a part of this special moment for the two of them. The rest of the crew and I showered them with champagne, chocolates and attention, and by the end of the flight, insisted on keeping in touch so that we would know the end of the story. With this job, you see many beginnings, many middles, but not so many ends. Passengers come on the flights, connections are made, then everyone goes their own way. But in this case, Krista and Blake, please let us know how this beautiful love story turns out. Because we all fell in love with you two, with your promise and youth and pure happiness. And your beginning.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

No to Kindles in Airplane Lavs

As I've written about before, there are lots of rules on airplanes. There has to be. It's a tiny space, crammed with people who don' t know each other, aren't familiar with the procedures, are ready to blow at any moment. But this weekend, several new P.A. announcements came to mind. "Ladies and Gentleman: As there are 257 of you, and 6 lavatories, it is never a good idea to settle into the lav with a KINDLE. There will be a line up of people, angry people, who, when you finally open the door with said kindle in hand, 20 minutes later, will want to choke you. You are not in your bathroom at home, which 1) doesn't have blue fluid in the lav, and 2) is usually bigger than a closet (and smells way better, let's hope). "


Announcement number 2) "Ladies and Gentlemen: Although I just spent the last five minutes going over our service and all the products available during this flight to eat and/or drink, I will gladly repeat them at every row, and even every person if necessary. But, when I do repeat that whole, REALLY long list, please listen to it. After I go through that list for the 100th time that flight, please don't then say "do you have buttermilk?" Really? Have you been to a restaurant, or frankly, anywhere, lately, that has buttermilk? Do they even make it even more? Isn't it awfully bad for you? Hasn't it been outlawed in most states?


So, in conclusion, please, no kindles in the airplane lavs. And, no buttermilk has ever been served on an airplane. Ever. And hopefully, never will be.