Saturday, April 18, 2020

Why being a Flight Attendant is a (little) bit like being Dr. Fauci

In the midst of the Coronavirus 19 quarantine, I have listened to Dr. Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, talk to the American people every day.  Stay home, practice social distancing, the need for more testing, let's flatten the curve, the need for more PPE, stay home, etc..........   I empathize with him for many reasons, but the one that comes to mind especially is trying to tell/advise/suggest what a country of around 330,280,000 million people should do to protect themselves, but more importantly, protect others.  It occurred to me that as flight attendants, we see people behaving in ways that are not only harmful to themselves, but dangerous to others.  When we say, "Ladies and Gentlemen, the Captain has advised us that there is "rough air" ahead.  We are suspending our service and will be sitting down, and service will resume when it is safe.  Please check the security of your seatbelt and remain seated while the Seat Belt Sign is on, for your safety and the safety of those around you." It never fails, the minute we are belted in ourselves, a call light goes off.  Is it an emergency?  Is someone having a heart attack or sick in some other way?  I can't take the chance that this call light is a mistake.  I trudge up the aisle, bouncing around the whole time, running into legs and arms and people, and finally reach the row.  "Can I just get a glass of water?  I have to take a pill."  I explain that will have to wait until the "rough air" clears up, and then I will get that glass of water.  As I wobble back to my jumpsuit, a very strongly waving arm stops me.  "I really have to go the bathroom.  Can I go? "Me: "You should wait if you can."  Passenger:  "I can't." 'If you can't, wait, be really careful."  Inevitably, that passenger is in a middle or window seat, so the whole row of passengers has to stand up to let them out.  All of them are now out in the aisle being tossed around and endangering those around them.  On landing, an announcement is made "Please stay seated until the seat belt sign is turned off, and leave your baggage stowed."  Inevitably,  many don't wait.  They have a connection.  Only a 20 minute connection.  They need to get to the front of the line to get out first. They need a new seat near the front of the plane.  They have to go to the bathroom because you wouldn't let them go before.  I had a gentlemen open his overboard bin before we came to "our complete and final stop."  He pulled his large, heavy suitcase out and it fell on the head of the woman sitting under the bin. She screamed It was utter mayhem, as I tried to see if the injured passenger was ok, but the man, the passenger who caused this, was gone.  He had a tight connection, and that was more important than seeing if someone was hurt by his actions.  Another day I had a passenger with an "emotional support" dog.  She was in the first row of the plane.  Her dog had diarrhea as we landed, but instead of staying, she got up as soon as we stopped and dragged the (still having diarrhea) poor dog behind her, thus leaving a trail of diarrhea for every other passenger to walk through.  I get no joy in repeating these stories.  As I have often said in this blog, I have seen wonderful acts of kindness, every day, performed by strangers.  I have also seen really "shitty" behavior.  (Sorry, I couldn't help it).
How does this relate to the quarantine?  An airplane is a group of strangers put together by happenstance for one hour, 5 hours, 10 hours.  Our job as flight attendants is to enforce the rules (that are there for a reason) so that each person is safe and cared for.  To take care of each person, each passenger, in whatever way that may be for that person.  In a crowd of what can be hundreds, making sure that each passenger feels taken care of if they are ill, or frightened, or grieving, or trying to parent unruly children.  This is what Dr. Fauci is trying to do.  Take care of each one of us, and our front line workers.  Because he knows that sometimes people won't follow the rules, because they feel the rules don't apply to them.  Or the rules are silly, and their needs overtake others needs.  Or maybe they are smarter than the rest of us, and know better than we do.
But now, in this unpredictable and scary time, can we all just follow the advice of the medical community?  They are the experts in this situation.  They are telling us how to survive.  Much like when you get on a plane, go to school, go to a baseball game, go to school, live your life.  Listen to those who work in these places every day.  They know best.  Trust in them. Trust in your grocery store stocker, when they tell you they are out of toilet paper (there's none hiding in the back room).  Trust your waiter when they say "I wouldn't order the salmon today" or your doctor when she says "Wear a hat when you are out in the sun."  Trust that people know what they are experts in  And, please, if your emotional support dog has an accident, don't walk away! Clean it up!  

Monday, April 15, 2019

Humble Roots

I grew up in a very small town in Pennsylvania.  Well, truth be told, several small towns.  Each shared an easy, laid-back way of life, neighbors who knew everything you were doing.  A big event for us was going out in a car at night, with flashlights, pulling onto the side of a road and parking, looking for deer.  We did this every weekend.  

I had no reason to believe that my future included anything different.  But it did.  I went to college in a town much larger than my hometown, Indiana, Pa.  In my senior year of college I decided to apply to be an airplane stewardess.  I really don't know why. I had been on a plane only once, a very small plane that took me from Ocean City, Maryland to Pittsburgh so I could be at my Grandfather's funeral.  My best friend from grade school said I had stood up at the sixth grade banquet and said I wanted to be a stewardess.  (I'm not being politically incorrect--stewardess was the proper name at the time.  Now the job is called Flight Attendant). When she and I talked about it, I remembered being with my mom at her job which was cleaning Mrs. Sleighter's house. Mrs.  Sleighter had a huge library, and I being an avid reader sat there for the hours my mother cleaned. One of the books I found was called "Coffee, Tea, or Me?" It was a, perhaps exaggerated, book about a woman whose job was to be a stewardess.  This woman flew all over the country, slept on her friends couches, met celebrities and business owners, and told her story in this book. Whether I realized it or not, that book somehow entered my consciousness. 

So, back to college. Three different interview and three different airlines later, I got hired by Northwest Orient Airlines. I distinctively remember them saying I would have to move to Minnesota. When you grew up in Pennsylvania, you know about Chicago, then California. Not too much in between. I wasn't sure about this move. But my grandmother and my mother encouraged me to accept the job, even with sadness about me moving so far away. After all, if you work for an airline, you can fly free anytime, anywhere, right? 

Well, fast forward 10 or 15 years.  I was a (Flight Attendant ) now. It was wonderful and hard. Wonderful to see different cities and meet new people. Hard to leave family and friends in Minnesota and Pennsylvania for holidays and weekends. But in the back of my mind, I always thought "what is a girl from small town middle America doing flying all over the world and seeing things that no one ever thought they would see?" But I was. I saw cities and toured so many castles and monuments that, with jet lag in full control, I can barely remember. Tokyo, Seoul, Amsterdam, London, Oslo, Dublin, Paris. Paris.  Paris was a city that I had yearned to see my whole life, but was not a city that I don't remember clearly.   Driving into the city was like a dream come true. The Eiffel Tower, the River Seine, charming bistros on every corner. Every where you looked was beauty. It was old, dirty, real, busy, rough, beautiful, sparkling, lovely, but unforgettable. 

Then I came upon Notre Dame. You can't miss her. She controls a whole corner on the Seine, a whole block or two or three. She sits there like a queen, like a queen waiting for her subjects to come to her. And come to her, we do. You can't resist her. Her columns, her art, her sculptures, her heart. I had just a short time with her, but I wanted to go back. I always thought I could go back. 
But a fire, a fire that blazed for days and days hit her.  Will she survive? Will she be rebuilt? Will her spirit still be there even if her frame is gone?  I believe so. Her spirit and strength will be there, forever. Her memories will always be in my mind, along with my childhood acceptance of a very simple life, that turned out to be not so simple.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

It's the Little Things

I was walking the dog the other night.  She was walking down the sidewalk, happily sniffing everything.  All of a sudden she saw something on the other side of the street, and pulled me over with her, with great urgency. I had no idea why. Then I saw three people walking on the sidewalk.  My dog went directly up to them and sat down in front of them, and they stopped walking and looked down to greet this dog, a stranger to them. The gentleman in the group said to me "How did she know?" and I waited for what was next.  He said "We really needed the love of a dog tonight." My nature is to ask questions and know what was going on. But I let it happen, watching the obvious (and much needed) connection between them.  It was a beautiful thing to see.

That got me to thinking about the small things, the little things, that happen every day.  In a world filled with so much conflict and pain, the little things can make all the difference.  Sometimes they are hard to find on an airplane. The business of boarding, the stress of passengers getting to their seats and the stress on the crew's part of taking care of a million little problems.  But, if you have a minute, and you take the time, those moments are there. 
I've been blessed to have many. I look for them, to be honest. They are what keep me going day after day, when I would prefer to be at home watching Netflix. They include the passenger who thanked me for coming to work on a holiday so she could visit her new grandchild. The little 5 year old boy who asked me for my phone number, and then asked if I could come on his vacation with him.  (My favorite!)  The family who was going to a long postponed family reunion. The refugees coming to America with little but hope in their heart. The soldiers coming home from overseas.  Graduations, weddings, funerals.  Every single person on that plane has a reason to be there.  It could be exciting or painful.  But to share that with them, like my dog did that night, is special.

One of my favorite stories is an evening flight back to my home. I'm always happy to be coming home.  It was a late enough flight that most passengers had no connections, were going to this city, going home after a long week.  Calm and peace was pervasive. At the boarding door, a woman in a wheelchair got on the plane. I said "How are you tonight?"and asked her where her seat was. She was concerned because they had given her a seat in the back of the plane and she said "Well, I am 94 years old and I'm worried that it will will take too long to get to my seat and I will make the plane late." I immediately announced to the group of passengers sitting right there that I needed someone to switch seats with my new friend who needed to to sit near the front of the plane. On many flights, that simple request will not be honored. But that night, it was. A gentleman stood up and said "What is my new seat?" and that was that. Until later.  My new friend thanked me for my help, and said "You are a day brightener. You are here to make people's days brighter. " I was visibly touched.  And I replied "As are you." A little moment. But not forgotten. Not ever.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Happy Mothers Day

I was chatting with the family sitting across from my jumpseat, coming from a holiday cruise. They were telling me about their vacation, and how much fun their 15 year old daughter had, returning home with many new numbers (mostly guys) in her cell phone and sadness at leaving her new friends. The dad (we'll call him Mike) mentioned that his parents were returning from an extended stay in Costa Rica the following Tuesday. "I'm working that flight!" I said. "They are in First Class and they're in their late 80's and their names are -----------------, Mike said. I promised to look them up and went on with my duties. As has become a quite annoying habit lately, I forgot all about this incident until about 15 minutes before landing on the flight Mike's parents were on. I walked up to the front of the airplane and quickly figured out who Mike's parents were. They were sitting quietly holding hands watching the airplane descend through the clouds. I introduced myself and explained that I had met their son and his family on another flight several days prior. "Mom's" face lit up, and as we talked about their vacation, her son's vacation, her grandchildren and I said "I have to tell you something." When Mike and his family boarded the plane and settled in, they noticed an older woman struggling with her baggage. Mike jumped up, and without any prompting, followed this woman to the back of the plane simply to help her stow her luggage. He, of course, got stuck at the back of the plane, and when he finally returned I thanked him over and over for what he had done. He didn't understand why I was making such a big deal about it, until I explained that I see so much bad behavior, that I am really touched when I see good, kind, giving behavior. Mike said, "That's what I was taught growing up by my mother."

So, here's the really cool part of the story. I got to tell Mike's mother, a perfect stranger, something lovely her son had done, and even though he was 55 years old and the lessons she had taught him were a long time ago, her smile turned even bigger and she just shook her head and said "That's Mike. That sounds just like him." And she got tears in her eyes, and I got tears in my eyes, and I knew that I would never forget that moment.

For my boys: You make me proud to be your mother. And you always will.

And for my mother: You left us too soon. I miss you everyday. and I love you, to the moon and back.

Monday, April 9, 2018

She Got Away

One of my favorite reasons for working the long flight to Hawaii, is well, it is Hawaii. To me, even a short layover of 20 hours in the Aloha state is worth it. Seeing a glimpse of the beach, of the sun, of all the beauty that this island entails can help get me through a long winter. Another big reason I love these flights is that people are generally happy to be on the plane, often having realized that long awaited, long planned for goal of a family trip to the beautiful islands. When the flight attendants are happy, and the passengers are happy, it's a really good combination. Eight or ten hours together and six or seven services is also enough time to really get to talk to people. I LOVE getting to talk to people.  I love hearing their stories.  I love hearing how they have been planning these trips for many, many years. I love sharing with them all of my restaurant recommendations and fun things to do on their vacation. I love sharing my love of Hawaii with them.
A couple of months ago, a flight to my "happy place" became even more special.  A large family of six people all boarded in "Make A Wish" t-shirts.  We all know what that means.  Someone in the group has a very serious illness, and more than likely this trip is their wish come true.  It gives me goosebumps just to think about this, because most often the recipients of these trips are children.  Children that have gone through things that no child should ever have to go through.  Someone once explained it better than I ever could.  Children get to live in a bubble for awhile before they grow up, but for these children, their bubble burst long before it should have.
As the family got settled in their seats, I introduced myself and offered any help I could give.  The family consisted of Mom and Dad, twin sisters and two brothers.  One of the twin sisters was very talkative, and the other was quieter.  
The more talkative sister, June, said, "I just had my 8th Birthday. I had cancer. But I'm better now and my hair is growing back and we are going to Hawaii!  We got up this morning at four o'clock and left our house in our pajamas, but I changed in the car, because I can't wear my pajamas to Hawaii!"  I was in love with this child before she finished her sentence. Not only was she adorable and sweet and a survivor, she was decked out from head to toe in jewels, glitter and all things pink. Be still my heart. As the long flight went on and on, and June got tired of her movies and her snacks and her family, she came back to visit me in the galley.  I had her practice sitting on the jump seat like we do for take-off and landing, then showed her around--the ovens, the drinks, the snacks. Back on the jump seat, she sat on my lap (jump seats are the smallest seats in the whole world) and started to look at all my jewelry, because to be honest, I'm a jewelry freak, too. I'm usually covered in far more jewels than I am supposed to be wearing while at work.  She would touch my bracelet, and want the story on it  --where it came from, when I got it, why did I like it.  I would do the same to her.  The same with earrings and necklaces. By this time she had figured out I was a kindred spirit, a girly girl who loved all things well, girly. But then we got to rings. June said, "I just painted my nails last night for the trip! I bet you did, too!  Let me see your nails!" And I remembered I had not taken the time to paint my nails, and not only that, I hadn't even thought about my nails for a while and they looked like it. I tried to hide my nails, but she wouldn't have it and the look on her face when she saw my "nails" was classic. 
"You didn't do your nails for the trip to Hawaii?  Why not?  How could you go to Hawaii and not do your nails?" I knew telling her I went to Hawaii almost every week wasn't going to be a good enough answer, so I just fessed up and said, "I forgot to do my nails last night and it was too late this morning and I was too rushed," and June looked at me like the teacher used to do in school when I was chatting with my neighbor and said, "Promise me you won't ever do that again, ever."  And I did.  I promised my new friend June that for her, I would always check to make sure that my nails were done before I went to Hawaii, or on any plane.  Every single time.
June went back to her seat and I went back to work.  Every time I passed by June, she looked up and smiled at me like we had a secret. (We did.) But in the craziness of getting to Hawaii, people rushing off the plane to get to their long awaited vacations, June disappeared. Not just June, but her whole family. I was devastated.  My new girlfriend was gone.  As I deplaned I looked for her everywhere, hoping that she had not gotten away from me.  But she had. She got away.  I had come up with an idea that we would be pen pals, and that I would send her jewels and postcards from far away destinations, and I would know that she was OK, that she truly had put her cancer battle behind her for good.  But that didn't happen.  She got away.
But part of her will always be with me.  If you see me on a plane working,  please check my nails.  Because I promised June that I would always take the time to paint my nails. You never know if the lovely Miss June will cross my path again.  But I have to be ready for her if she does.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018


The dreaded word "Boarding" comes over the intercom. We look at each other and sigh, and wonder if today we'll need our hard hats, our suite of armour, the patience of a saint. We will. "Boarding" is almost always the hardest part of any flight. People line up outside in the gate area, getting into position, staking their claim--sometimes an hour before the flight even leaves. When it is finally time to board, they rush on with arms full of bags, coats, coffee, etc. Then the battle for the overhead space begins. Some people know the drill and put the roller bags in wheels first, handle out, leaving more space for others bags.  Others believe that they should stow their bag in the first bin they see, even if that is row 1 and they are sitting in row 45. No. Others believe that the place they get to stow their bag is only right above their head, and get angry if I move it to make more space. Others take so long to decide where to stow their bags that a very long line forms behind them. Oblivious to the chaos they are causing, they wonder "Does the white bag fit better here? Where should my coat go? Did the Dodgers play today? Wonder if the person sitting next to me is normal?" I watched a man get on and put his bag away, then closed the bin with a big space left in it. Another passenger came on and opened the bin and started to put his bag in there. The first passenger stood up and said, "No, you can't use that bin. I saved a spot for my wife's bag in that bin." I clear my throat. "Actually, you don't get to save a spot for your wife's bag.  First come, first serve." I say.  Score: One happy passenger, One really pissed off passenger--make it two, his wife will be pissed off too when she finally gets on. 
Our job, the crew's, is to try to get a handle on all the craziness. "Miss, someone is already in my seat."  (Sir, that's your boarding pass for your next flight, not this one.) "Can I have a glass of water? I need to take a pill." "I have a connection in (arrival city)--are we going to be on time?"  (Geez-we haven't even left yet and you are already worried about being late)?  "Is there anywhere to put this painting/lampshade/flower arrangement/parakeet?" Without a doubt, this is the hardest part of our job, but we don't get paid for this. I don't know why.  No one has ever given me a good answer for this. It annoys me to high heaven.  Besides all this, there is a huge push to be on time, to make sure everything is taken care of 10 minutes before we are supposed to leave. Because on time ratings are very important to our airline, to our reputation. But, very often, the plane has just landed from another city, taken 20-30 minutes to deplane, needs cleaned and catered, and maybe 20 minutes has been reserved for this. And then 150 new passengers, bags, and problems come on and we need to make it all "OK" in minutes. I get really crabby during this process, which is bad because this is my first interaction with the passengers.  Add to this, overhead bins have been reconstructed to fit more bags in the bins.  Now, one bin can hold 120+ pounds.  We have to lift this! It's really heavy! I've already had to go to Physical Therapy off and on for 10 years to deal with the effects of these bins. They say I should do stretches to prepare for lifting these bins.  Really?  When? In the 5 minutes before some passengers get off and more get on? When I could eat?  Or go to the bathroom?
No thanks.  I think I'll take a minute to myself, check my phone and my lipstick and go head to head with the overhead bin when the time comes. Another day, another physical therapy appointment.   

Monday, April 2, 2018

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. 

The worst things a passenger ever said to a flight attendant

It is normal to get stressed out when you are flying. The security, the rules, the weather--sometimes it all seems to conspire to ruin your travel plans. You get angry, and you take it out on your family, your fellow passengers and mostly your flight attendant crew. Because, we control the weather, don't you know?? It really is our fault that your were late leaving your office, therefore late to the airport, therefore you didn't get the window seat you wanted.  It is our fault that a screaming baby is sitting right next to you, with a mother who orders a glass of wine and pulls out a Cosmopolitan magazine and wants to forget she has a child for a couple of hours. It really is our fault that there is a huge snowstorm coming because we really like to be stuck on an airplane for many long, extra hours that we most likely are not getting paid for, and that will force us to miss putting our own children to bed. A 3 hour flight turning into a 6 hour flight?  Bring it on. An 8 hour flight turned into a 12 hour flight, and oh, an unscheduled stop somewhere just for the fun of it? My idea of a good time.

Each of us flight attendants has a war story, or many, of the worst things ever said to them. For years, mine was of a guy who blamed me for him missing his Christmas with his family. It was my first Christmas after having my child, and I was missing that as well, but no sympathy for me from him. 
But a couple of years ago, I got another story. It was my first flight of the day, a decent hour of the day, I had slept well the night before. A man and his wife got on and came to the back of the plane where I was standing, between the two bathrooms. (It's the only place to go)  I smiled and welcomed them on board.  Pretty quickly, the man said "Are you ok?" "Yes, why?" I replied. 
He thought for a moment and then said " You look haggard". I went into my self-protective mode. "Haggard?  Not just tired, but haggard?" I answered in a very calm voice. (Right).  His wife gave him a look like "what are you thinking" and with the biggest, brightest most un-haggard smile I could muster I said "Please don't say that ever again to anyone" and walked off to dazzle the rest of the crowd with my haggard old self.

During debriefing that night, ( a fancy name for happy hour) I was telling my story. The floodgates opened. My co-workers shared their horror stories with me. 
"I had a passenger who told me there was no way I was as important as she is." 
"I had a first class passenger that said he paid a lot of money to sit up there and be an asshole."  
"I had a passenger ask me why my airline is hiring so many ugly flight attendants."  
"I had a passenger tell me it's a good thing we aren't monitored for weight anymore." 
 "I had a passenger call me a faggot when he was deplaning (in front of his children)."  
But this next one made each of us gasp. 
 "I had a passenger tell me he hoped our airline was obliterated from the face of the earth." This charming statement was made because said passenger had missed his connection due to weather. Each of us sighed, and knew that being haggard, fat or ugly was nothing compared to being obliterated from the face of the earth.  I guess I'll take haggard any day.  

Sunday, April 24, 2016


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. At the end of the flight, 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?