Thursday, December 27, 2007

...Pretty Eyes

"You have really pretty eyes."

I almost didn't catch it, but as a passenger was leaving the airplane on the last flight of my three day, Christmas trip, that's what he said. He didn't linger, he wasn't trying to pick me up; he said it just as if he was saying thanks for the nice flight.

I was tickled. After not seeing my family for three days, missing so many Christmas celebrations, and not having had a real meal in about as long, such a little gesture really went a long way.

The moral of this story being, if you notice something worth commenting on, do it. No matter how small or insignificant it may seem to you, it might brighten someone else's day beyond measure. I know it did mine.

Family and Food for Christmas

Having neither around me for Christmas this year, I realized how central to celebration family and food are to me. I spent this Christmas in lovely Akron, Ohio. (Please read with heavy sarcastic tone here). We arrived near midnight on Christmas Eve and went straight to the crew hotel. We didn't have to meet the van to go back to the airport until 5:45 the next evening, so we had all day to burn. Unfortunately, not a thing was open on Christmas day, including the hotel restaurant.

I talked to my family on the phone, but it wasn't the same as being there for the festivities. After my Christmas feast of beef jerky, satsumas, and three Hershey kisses, I went to the fitness center and ran for a while. The whole time wishing I was running to burn off calories from Dad's famous mashed potatoes and the apple pie I would have had for dessert.

By the time I went down to the lobby to get on the van, I was pretty hungry again, but I had eaten through all of my snacks. Thankfully, the hotel staff was thoughtful enough to put together turkey sandwiches for each of us to take with us. A turkey sandwich has never tasted so good as the one I ate alone on Christmas night, standing in the galley of an airplane. If anything, this experience makes me hope I never take my many blessings for granted, especially during the holidays. Out of the eight flights I worked, only two people thanked me for working on the holiday so they could get to their families to celebrate. Rather than complaining about the delays and seeing my face and attaching blame to it, it would have been nice for people to recognize that I did not climb the stairway to heaven to bring inches of snow down upon holiday travelers. I wanted to be at home with my family just as much as they did, but I didn't get the luxury of reclining my seat and having a cocktail...I was the one slinging those drinks and reminding people to return their seatbacks and tray tables to their upright positions.

Of course, this might have all changed if my Christmas layover had been in Costa Rica.

Friday, December 21, 2007

A Cello of a Companion

I just completed the longest trip I've ever worked. Two days ago, I returned, nearly comatose, from a trip that consisted of eight legs and four days away from home. The last leg, from LAX to Denver proved to be the most interesting.

I'm greeting passengers at the front of the plane, smiling, making sure no one is drunk, and that everyone is abiding by the one carry-on plus one personal item rule (yeah, right!). Here comes a guy with his cello in a hard case. He confidently walks past me and heads for the back of the plane. About a minute and a half later, the cabin inter-phone rings.

"Hi, it's Christy. The gate agent mis-assigned this guy. You'll have to hold up traffic. He and his cello need to sit in the first row, window and middle." Wonderful. Now I have to hold back 85% of the passengers trying to board our flight that is already 30 minutes late so Mr. Cello and companion can make their way back to the front of the plane. Why is it always the last leg on the last day of a long trip?

Mr. Cello and his cello make it to the front and take their seats. Mr. Cello and cello are all strapped in and settled and boarding commences. Not three people later, a gentleman -- three small children in tow -- proceeds to carry his stroller on. That is a no no, people. Strollers are to be gate checked. Period. Supposedly this guy was famous and thought he could get away with it. (This, according to the gate agent. I didn't recognize him, and quite frankly, why would anyone with money choose our carrier?)

This could possibly have been the longest, most painful boarding process to date, but eventually, we plugged the doors, pushed back, and were headed to Denver. Mr. Cello and cello and all other 130 passengers and five crew members arrived in Denver. It is remarkable how a thirty minute delay and an excruciatingly drawn out boarding process help to expedite the deplaning process.

A Perfect Day in San Diego

Finally! I used my travel benefits to spend a day with my brother in San Diego last week. I flew in at 10:30 Thursday morning and flew back out at 8:00 that night.

We started the day with lunch dockside at the harbor. It was wonderful. We ate out on the patio in the golden sunshine, which was an extra special treat since it was 12 degrees in Denver when I left that morning. After lunch we wandered around the shops and stopped into the Harley store where I bought Dad his requisite tank top.

Brian took me to see his apartment and meet his new roommate (who actually pays rent and doesn't eat his groceries). After seeing his new digs, Brian drove me past his hospital and then up the coast along the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH if you're a local).

I made a polite request to meet his former roommate to see if he would live up to all of my preconceived notions. Boy, did he! Ty-Baby is more than just a character, he's the star of his own one-man cartoon. After a half-hour monologue about the latest dramas in Tyler's life, we were on our way on the PCH again headed for Encinitas.

We stopped in at E-Street coffee (you guessed it, on E St. in Encinitas) for some warm beverages that we sipped as we strolled along Moonlight Beach. It was breathtaking. Sheer cliffs drop down to about 50 feet of smooth, flat, moist beach that is swallowed up by high tide. We were there as the sun was setting and it was simply gorgeous.

If that wasn't enough, Brian took me to the Self-Actualization garden up on the cliffs that overlook Moonlight Beach. Every inch of the garden is drenched in rich foliage. I was surprised by the number of people seeking self-actualization in the garden along with us, but it was still serene and peaceful due to the thick blanket of plants and flowers.

We ended our day with dinner at the Chart House, right on the water just off the PCH. The lobster bisque was to die for...imagine eating lobster flavored cream by the spoonful, yum. For dinner, we dined on giant sea scallops and a mixed grill platter of shrimp, salmon, and crab cakes. And for dessert we slipped our spoons into a molten chocolate lava cake that had to be ordered with dinner so they could prepare it fresh just for us.

After our jam-packed perfect day, Brian scooted me up to the airport in his little Black Miata (top up this time) with 20 minutes to spare.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Hartford Redeye

Redeye flights can be brutal -- as a passenger and a crew member. Two nights ago was particularly brutal due to the fact that our total on board was a whopping 28 people, all of whom but one fell asleep. The lack of activity on a flight like this makes it painfully difficult to stay awake, but I managed by reading and walking from galley to galley.

The crew was definitely full of character though. The captain looked like a GI Joe figurine, complete with muscles on top of muscles and indiscernible eye color. The first officer was a self-described hillbilly who referred to himself as "the little fat boy" in third person the majority of the time. The A flight attendant was the largest, most congenial gay man I have ever seen on a plane, or probably anywhere for that matter. And the B flight attendant was a girl about my age who was so tired she couldn't stop giggling.

During our crew briefing before we even left on the trip, the captain announced that he was thinking of going to a nearby restaurant for lunch once we got to Hartford. I was thinking this was a good sign already...I like a man with a plan.

We all napped and met back up at 2 pm for lunch. The hotel van took us to the Maine Fish Market Restaurant where the captain treated the crew to 2 pounds of steamers. Not knowing what steamers were, but suspicious that they might be a pseudonym for oysters, I quizzed him on their biology and preparation.

"No, they're not oysters they're clams, and yes, they are cooked," he assured me. When they arrived at the table, he instructed everyone on how to eat them. "First, you remove the don't want to eat that." Needless to say, this received comment from everyone else at the table, particularly large, congenial, gay man to my left. "Then you swirl it in the broth, dunk it in the butter, and down it," he continued instructing. I ate a couple to be polite. I wasn't choking them down, but they definitely aren't my favorite delicacy of the sea. It was in the spirit of experiencing this new place, so I'm glad I tried them.

I finished my night with the crew at the lounge in the Ramada across the street from our much nicer hotel. Has it ever occurred to anyone else that the yuckier and seedier bars draw people in with promises of free food and not to be beat drink specials? Well, apparently the Ramada bar offered drink specials, but our waitress wasn't playing that game. She flat out denied there were any happy hour drink specials and proceeded to charge us full price for our beers. The nerve!

The rest of the crew continued at the bar in our hotel while I bade them good night. We had a 5:15 am van to the airport the next morning after all. Even though I retired early, it was a full day and confirmed my opinion that I would find satisfaction as a flight attendant through the crews I get to work with. And I had quite the crew of personalities on this trip.

Christmas Tree Hunting

Last weekend was my first Christmas Tree hunting excursion. Like going to the pumpkin patch to pick your very own pumpkin off the vine, my childhood was sadly deprived of the experience of trekking through the woods to choose and chop down the perfect Christmas tree.

The family we went with has really transformed this activity into a wonderful holiday tradition. They all caravan up to the designated Christmas tree hunting site blasting Christmas carols on the radio, park, unload the pre-hunt feast and eat. Once everyone has had their fill of chili, the hunting begins.

Comically, tradition also stipulates that the son-in-law hike the furthest away from the caravan to pick his family's perfect tree. Ironically, it is always his little girl that gives up first -- five minutes into the hunt -- saying, "I want to go back to the car with Grandpa." The promise of finding the perfect tree induces her to hold out a little longer, but not much.

Because we have the perfect fake tree...3 pieces, remove from box, flip right side up, branches swing into place on hinges, and plug in (lights already attached), we were just along for the ride -- and to haul all the trees back home again in the bed of our F-150. Although I am somewhat against chopping down a perfectly good teen aged tree to place in your home and hang bobbles from, thereby removing a valuable resource from its natural habitat and installing a foreign fire hazard in your own home, I did thoroughly enjoy my first Christmas tree hunting experience.

Friday, November 30, 2007

New York, New York

Ah, New York for the holidays. My husband and I flew to NY on Thanksgiving morning to spend the holiday with family and friends. A forty minute layover in O'Hare was cause for concern, but in spite of pre-blizzard conditions in Chicago, we made our connection and were off the ground within 15 minutes of our scheduled departure. This would be my first time back to the city during the holiday list of tourist to-do's included Rockefeller Center (tree, skating rink) and 5th Ave (shop windows)among other things because I have never gotten to see them all decked out for Christmas.

We had a lovely dinner with family and friends. There was much to celebrate as one friend recently found out she was pregnant and her brother was interviewing for grad school the next morning.

There was no shopping for us on Black Friday. We enjoyed very natural rising (no alarm clock waking aid) and then headed into the city for dinner at The View and a show. The View is on the 48th Floor of they Marriott. The seating area of the restaurant revolves, providing diners with a dazzling display of the NY skyline in panoramic views. Unfortunately, we were enjoying each other's company so much, we hardly took notice of the vista. Not to worry, we'll be back again.

We nearly lingered too long at dinner, arriving at the theater in the middle of the first song of the 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. It was a wonderful show with several laugh out loud moments.

Saturday we took a driving tour of Staten Island to show off my childhood home, my dad's childhood haunts, and the little people house, among other things. Eric had a hard time believing it took nearly three hours to circumnavigate an island 14 miles long and 7 miles wide! After the island tour it was off to M&M's house for an Italian feast. And when I say feast, it is no exaggeration! We began with olives, chips and dip, bread stuffed with chicken parmigiana, and focaccia bread. For the main course we dined on pasta ears and sauce, sausage, fragioli, meatballs, and eggplant parmigiana. And of course, no feast is complete without dessert: pound cake with powdered sugar, ice cream, apple pie, and limoncello.

Sunday was another day for natural rising. We went back into the city for the Rockette's at Radio City Music Hall. Before the show we walked along 5th Avenue to take in the window displays and made our way down to Rockefeller Center. The tree was there, but unfortunately won't be lit until tonight, so that's another item still to be checked off the to-do list another time. We had brunch at the Bryant Park Grill behind the public library. The park was ringed with boutiques selling all kinds of trinkets and doo dads for Christmas and in the middle of the park was another temporary ice skating rink with -- believe it or not -- free ice skating!

The Rockette's were fantastic. And what a treat to see them at Radio City. My all time favorite will always be the toy soldiers number. What incredibly precise choreography! After the show I had to jump in a cab to La Guardia so I could be home for work on Monday. Cruelty of all cruelty, after getting in at 1:30 Monday morning, I had to be back at the airport for a reserve shift at 6:00 a.m. However, this was hardly a price to pay for such a grand Thanksgiving weekend!

Back to Work

Since my last enthusiastic post, I have indeed gone back to work with a vengeance. I thoroughly enjoyed my "three day" trip to West Palm Beach. That trip consisted of a red eye to WPB, a 25 hour lay over, a day at the beach, a lovely meal by the water, getting stung by a jelly fish, and a surprisingly good dinner at the hotel restaurant, and a 3 1/2 hour flight back to Denver. I got back from WPB in the morning and left for another overnight in Ft. Lauderdale that night. It was gorgeouse weather, but I was so exhausted from the red eye flight and no sleep all day prior, that I slept nearly all of my 12 hour layover away.

A pattern is becoming apparent to me. It seems that on each flight, there is one character that sticks out to me. On the WPB flight, it was a little old Jewish grandma. She had been interviewed by the local WPB news station because she was on the first flight from WPB to Denver on Frontier. She was going out for her grandson's Bar-Mitzvah. I wheeled her up the jet way where a customer service agent was waiting. She said, "I saw you on tv the other day." Little Grandma's response was, "I know, how did my hair look? Did I look ok?"

What a great trip to come back to work for!

I had a brief respite with a Thanksgiving visit to family and friends in NY. Since the holiday, I've been to Phoenix and Milwaukee.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Another Trip, Finally

I'm minutes from stepping out the door for my next West Palm Beach, FL, of all places. The posting has been a little (or a lot) thing lately due to a dearth of flights for me. It's been exactly two weeks since I've been at an airport and it's felt so WEIRD! I did manage to knit most of a scarf, write a couple of freelance articles, paint nearly the entire interior of our house, reorganize the kitchen cabinets, and read a couple of books. I'm not cut out to be a desperate housewife...or maybe I am, because more than three days at home not working makes me desperate to get out and do something or see someone -- anything!

So, I'll return in two days with fresh travel stories and a skin tone that's a shade or two darker if the weatherman received my request for good beach bumming weather.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

The Stuff Dreams Are Made Of

Well, one of mine anyway. I was sitting in a local Barnes and Noble killing time before meeting some friends for dinner, reading the Knitting for Peace book I would be splurging on, when someone caught my eye browsing the Crafts shelving ahead of me. It was a woman who had clearly been enjoying her retirement years for likely as long as I've been looking forward to my own. She wasn't wearing a kooky hat and her pants weren't swiveled askance. Rather, it was what she was toting that drew my attention. She was cruising the bookstore with a collapsible shopping basket on wheels.

My first thought was, "Now that's the way to go about increasing your home library!" Since grad school is over, I have lost my ability to justify spending hundreds of dollars on books in one blow every few months. In fact, I've relegated myself to bimonthly trips to the library to keep my literary coffers stocked. Ironically, the size of my neighborhood library is about 1/4 the size of the Barnes and Noble I was sitting in, and I could likely read through its collection in about three years of concerted effort. Thank goodness for Interlibrary Loan programs.

Now, however, thanks to this lovely pensioner and her mobile shopping basket, I have a new dream. One day, I too will buy books by the wheely basket load.

Sunday, November 4, 2007


It occurred to me as I was riding the employee bus back to the parking lot after my grueling three day trip that the best people to be smashed into a large, mass-transit vehicle with are flight attendants. For the most part, they fit the stereotype -- svelt and streamline. Although we all have luggage, we are very good at juggling multiple personal bags and squeezing rollerbags into the most impossible crevices. Most impressively, not only can one person fit for each indentation in the bench seating, but five flight attendants can squeeze into spaces intended for four normal people.

This opens up a whole other side of mass transportation for me.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

First 2-Hour Call Out

Yikes! I just got a call from crew scheduling for a three day trip...reporting in two hours. And here I am blogging. It's such a glamorous life. Here's the schedule
Denver - Portland
Portland - Denver
Denver - Minneapolis lay over
Minneapolis - Denver
Denver - Milwaukee
Milwaukee - Denver
Denver - Seattle lay over
Seattle - Denver
Denver - San Jose, CA
San Jose, CA -Denver

Whew, I'm tired already. The most I've flown so far is two legs in a day. My last trip was just an overnight, one leg per day. I've been spoiled.

It's off to get ready. Happy flying!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Carry-ons Suffer From Elephantitis

New York - Upon boarding a late afternoon, La Guardia to Denver flight, it became obvious to crew and passengers alike that many carry-ons were suffering the same affliction. Several were unrecognizably distended beyond their factory dimensions; others were overflowing with bottles, books, and unused articles of clothing; and still there were others that threatened to burst their seams. There's only so much one zipper can hold back before it bares its teeth, letting flow the tide of over packed (and often unnecessary) items.

Many ask the question, "Why?" Why do people feel the need to bring all their worldly possessions with them onto the aircraft? What do they have against the cargo holds? They do come with their own fire repression systems, and some are even pressurized and climate controlled for furry friend transport.

Lack of overhead storage is the main side effect of carry-on elephantitis. And yes, it affects nearly everyone on board -- especially the man who refuses to remove the garment bag containing the tux he rented for $300 and is told that it must go in the overhead bin for safety and security, regardless of how much the rental cost or how wrinkled it will become. Why must he endure such torture!?

One magic phrase people, "Would it be possible to gate check this?" It may seem scary, but gate checked luggage emerges from the Fraggle Rock that operates below the wings and slides down the ramps on the baggage claim carousels first and is almost never forgotten in the originating city.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

I'm There!

After five weeks of training, I'm officially a flight attendant. Hopefully there will be no more observation flights in my near future. I find them to be overly intimidating. I'm never quite sure whether I should be deferring to the check flight attendant, or just going about my job like I know how.

I flew two observation flights to Las Vegas on Saturday and Sunday and was constantly second guessing myself. Yesterday I flew an overnight to Chicago without a hitch, and tomorrow it's off to New York.

Coming home from Chicago, I did get the lecture from the "senior mama" about the need for unionization and a contract. She's been flying for 11 years and has everything figured out. After talking for nearly an hour in the back galley, I was running out of polite ways to defer comment. While I don't hold anything against good old union supporters, I am amused by the way they all seem to venerate the possibility of a contract - like it's a gleaming gold scroll that will protect them from all injustice and plain, old-fashioned hard work.

But hey, I'm just the FNG.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Graduation Day

I have my wings! During an FAA mandated graduation ceremony, my wings were pinned on by my favorite aunt and traveling inspiration. Naturally, the ceremony was followed by a cake and punch reception in the lunch room.

The path toward my wings was interesting, exciting, and trying at times. I fought fire, defended myself against hulking members of the Aurora City police force, served beverages from a cart throughout the HR and Executive offices, evacuated a mock up of an Airbus using two different exits, applied AED pads and administered CPR to a plasticized six year old, and passed nearly 30 tests with a 90% or better, among other things.

I still have to pass my Initial Operating Experience with another flight attendant standing over my shoulder marking a checklist while I do my job in the air, but I'm almost there. I can't wait to move past this step and get to the real flying part of the job. I'm looking forward to going to work and knowing that I'll be leaving my trainers and managers 39,000 feet below me and several thousand miles behind me. I do value my independence after all.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Pleasures Await...

I went out for Chinese food with my darling husband and parents to celebrate my husband's birthday. At the end of the meal, we each received our requisite fortune cookie with the check. Appropriately, my fortune read, "Pleasures await you by the seashore."

Considering I am two days away from receiving my wings, I think this is a sign I will be getting paid to lounger on the beach within the week! How did I come to lead such a charmed existence?

Friday, October 12, 2007


Yesterday, after a long day of training, I went to the grocery store to make sure I had everything I needed to make the salad I promised to bring for our class potluck. The lines to check out were long, of course, so I resigned myself to catching up on the latest gossip mags while I waited. It appeared that the line next to me was moving much faster, so I made a move only to see that someone was coming in behind me at the last moment.

I ended up knocking over a cardboard box display of chocolate bars as I was trying to maneuver my cart. There was nothing I could do, I was stuck behind my cart. It was a thing of beauty though, watching all those chocolate bars tip out of the display box and cascade onto the industrial tile floor. The best part was that two people actually stopped to help pick everything up. Needless to say, their Lindt chocolate display was more than a little rearranged. But thanks to the kindness of others, it was reinstalled in less than a minute and I was spared the embarrassment of causing a huge traffic jam down the main aisle of the grocery store during the after work rush hour.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Evacuations, Emergencies, and Rejected Take Offs, Oh My!

We've begun week four of training, and the second "scary" week. Although not certified, I can now provide CPR to infants, children, and adults; treat major and minor bleeding; diagnose a stroke; recognize a shocky passenger; and clean up the products of motion discomfort syndrome without getting any on myself. A helpful hint from this lesson is that coffee grounds and brewing coffee help to cover up the odorous evidence of a sick passenger.

Our trainer sent us away for the weekend, closing with "Are there any questions about abnormal aircraft attitude?" sporting a big grin on her face. We were so punchy by that point that a friend next to me murmured, "A plane's personality really has nothing to do with the way it lands."

In all seriousness though, these two weeks are really where the fact that flight attendants are responsible for much more than your can of soda and bag of chips is driven home. Flight attendants become the first responders in medical emergencies and the last ones off in emergency evacuations. For these reasons alone, a nice big smile as you board the aircraft for your next flight is a great way to recognize this and say thank you.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Scary Week #3

At this point, I'm almost finished with what the instructors so aptly call "scary week #3." Today, for example, we got to watch videos of what it looks like to be sucked out of a plane at 40,000 feet, and how a plane will become entirely consumed by flames in less than three minutes. Oh yeah, and we're responsible for preventing these things from happening, and if we can't, for the successful evacuation of all passengers in less than a minute and a half. No pressure.

We also learned about this scary phenomenon called clear air turbulence. This is extreme turbulence that hits without warning. Meaning, the captain may not have time to turn on the fasten seat belt sign and he won't call back to alert the flight attendants. The important lesson here is: even if the fasten seat belt sign is off, it's a great idea to fasten your seat belt anyway whenever you are sitting down. And if the drink cart is in the aisle right next to you...don't be shy, please reach out and help anchor that puppy down or it can do some major damage too.

There's a lot more to this job than serving Coke and pointing to the emergency exits. It's a good thing the flight benefits are good!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

A Day in the Life #1

Today's flight attendant lesson included our first exposure to "A Day in the Life" exercises. We all troop into the mock-up room where there is about one quarter of a fuselage set up with electricity, hydraulics -- everything a commercial airplane would have. We get to practice our jobs here before we're trying to figure things out at 39,000 feet in the air.

Today three of my classmates were flight attendants on the perfect flight: no over-sized carry on luggage, no screaming babies, no medical emergencies, etc. They had to do their pre-flight checks, board everyone, prep the galleys, make all the announcements, demonstrate all the safety information, and provide food and drink service. Although this was a perfect flight, it really illustrated how much there is to remember and take care of before you throw emergencies and other hang ups into the mix.

This was a great exercise. We had a lot of laughs. Mostly from the tiny key board the trainer used to make the ding sounds one would normally hear whenever the seat belt sign was turned on, for example.

It's OK, I Know First Aid -- Sort of

The past two days of training have been dedicated to first aid. What's interesting is that we do not actually get a Red Cross certification because then we can be personally held liable for any injuries we cause to the patient. This speaks to the sad state of our society. Specifically, how litigious we have become. One person's good deed gone wrong is another's lottery ticket to easy money.

Not to stomp on my soap box, but if you're having a medical emergency on board, pray there is also an EMT or nurse flying with you. Yes, as flight attendants we must all prove we're capable of administering basic first aid, including CPR, but that does not mean those skills will transfer to an emergency situation. A person whose livelihood is to be a first responder to accidents is really your best bet. They are tested everyday and are confident of their skills in emergency as well as classroom situations.

Training Flight #1

This past Saturday was my first training flight. It was a turn to NY-LGA. We were on the ground in New York for all of 40 minutes. It was exciting to finally be up in the air putting everything we've been learning about in the classroom to use.

The real flight attendants on my flight have been with the company from the beginning. While they all had a lot of little tips to make the job easier/more efficient, the mantra of the flight seemed to be, "I know they taught you to do it this way, and do it that way for the test, but this is how we really do it up here." I was surprised how soon they started in with this, not knowing if I was the tattle tale type or not.

I was the safety information model on the leg out. I managed to keep up pretty well, but probably looked like a puppet with a broken string up there. Once we reached cruising altitude, I was in charge of passing out the snacks. It felt like this duty took forever, but when I got back to the galley and asked the flight attendant, he said snack service went faster than it usually did when he worked with other trainees.

My least favorite parts of the flight already are trash pick up and compliance check. We are not allowed to say "trash" when collecting trash. It might be misconstrued as an insult to a passenger. And, we're not supposed to let the passengers put their trash in the bin themselves. We are expected to touch every single piece of trash in the cabin of the plane -- yippee. Every time the captain turns on the fasten seat belt sign and before take off and landing we have to do a compliance check to make sure every one's seat belts are buckled and their seat backs and meal trays are upright. This includes waking people up if they're sleeping and their seat belts are not visible.

The flight, although fairly bumpy, went smoothly. No medicals, no disturbances, and I didn't spill hot coffee on anyone.

Another One Terminated

Last Friday we did our self-defense training off-site from headquarters where we usually have class. Unfortunately, one woman got lost and didn't make it to class on time. The next day we all went on our first training flights. She was told not to report for her flight and to be at headquarters at 7:30 Monday morning to hand in her badges.

The farther along in training we get, and the better we get to know each other, the harder it is to lose someone. And for some reason, we seem to be losing people with more rather than less life experience. Now that we're more than half way through training, hopefully we won't lose anyone else.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Wheelchair Day

Up until today, one day on crutches and three months in a leg immobilizer was all I had ever experienced as far as limited mobility goes, thank goodness. Today I had another opportunity to see what it was like to try and function without full ambulatory capability. Part of in-flight training is to spend a day in a wheelchair so that we can learn to empathize with people with disabilities and to try to begin to think ahead about what those people might require and how we can best accommodate them. Today was my day.

I came to find that when I wanted to get people's attention so they would move out of my way I couldn't, and when I didn't want to attract their attention, that was all I could seem to do. My classmates were very good about checking in on me and seeing if I wanted a push anywhere while we were on breaks. And I even had a nice guy from the accounting department offer me a push out of the blue.

The whole exercise was very eye opening to say the least -- and I didn't even have to hassle with boarding an airplane, saying good bye to my wheelchair and worrying about someone taking me off the plane and reuniting me with my "legs" on the other end of the trip. While it's a relief that my "wheelchair day" is over, I also have more respect and awareness for people who live with disabilities and other challenges everyday of their lives.

Monday, September 24, 2007

The Industry for Me

I knew the commercial airline industry was for me when I started getting goosebumps as the pass bureau liaison was explaining our flight benefits. You just can't beat a free flight anywhere in the lower 48, and next to nothing prices to fly just about anywhere else in the world. Not to mention the list of other vendors and service providers that have lined up to offer employees discounts.

I've found a way to support my travel habit. What is still to be seen is how much time I will have to take advantage of these fabulous benefits when I'm not getting paid to fly.

Another One Lost

In the flight attendant world, they really aren't kidding when EVERYONE tells you to be on time. This morning, another member of our class was terminated because he was 15 minutes late. Originally, he was nearly an hour early, but realized he had forgotten his badge at home, so he started to go back to get it. When he realized he wasn't going to have enough time to make it home and back, he turned around and started back toward headquarters, but wasn't able to get there for the start of class.

To the trainers' credit, whenever they have to let someone go, they usually do it in such a way that other people in the class don't realize what's going on right away. We didn't really know that this gentleman had been terminated until well into the afternoon. I think part of that is due to the fact that the longer we all make it through this process and the better we get to know each other, the less we want to believe that someone would get fired for something like tardiness. The moral of the story is: being early with all of your badges, wings, manuals, etc. is being on time and can literally determine whether or not you have a job from one minute to the next.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

50% Recycled Air

Here's the gem I picked up from training yesterday. The air inside a pressurized Airbus cabin is only 50% recycled. And, what's even better, is the air that comes out of the vents overhead (the gasper vents if you want to get technical) is 100% new air, or air from outside the plane.

The moral of the story: if someone next to you is coughing and wheezing, it might not be such a bad idea to raise yourself up in your seat a little and put your face as close to that vent as possible, breathe normally, and hope for the best/pray for good health.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Our First Fieldtrip

Today was an exciting day at training. We took our first field trip to the airport and toured the crew room. They were also having a ramp employee appreciation day, so we got to go down to the ramp and watch them have their BBQ and play dunk the executive in the dunk tank. It was an interesting way to meet the leadership of the company -- sopping wet and shivering slightly.

I successfully passed the Federal Aviation Regulations exam this morning. Tomorrow morning's "memory challenge" will be all about company policies and responsibilities. Yeah!

Monday, September 17, 2007

One Lost Already

Today was the first official day of flight attendant training. We began the day with a series of five "memory challenges" -- four written and one oral. In order to remain in the program, you have to score a 90% or better on each of the 26 exams given over the course of training. You do get one chance to retake an exam, but five exams (or euphamistically, memory challenges) on the first day really upped the ante. And unfortunately, there was someone in our class that did not score 90% or better on at least four of her exams and she had to leave the program.

First and foremost, a flight attendant's duty is to ensure the safety of the passengers, which explains why such high test scores on regulations and procedures are required. Today was a harsh illustration of how seriously this duty is taken. It was especially sad to see this person leave because she uprooted her whole life to take this job. She sold a business, her home, her furniture, and most of her other belongings to relocate in order to be closer to the airport. Not to mention the fact that she had already gone through all the physicals, background checks, and badging appointments to become an employee. Her uniforms are probably on their way to Denver as we speak, for goodness sake!

Sadly, I think the flight attendant training is set up to reward good test takers and weed out those people who do not naturally perform well on tests. It is hard to see someone with such enthusiasm for the job be asked to leave on the first official day of training because she missed a few too many questions on the exam.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Sacred Showtime

Last night I went to mass at my childhood parish while I was visiting my parents. It was interesting to look around and see all the familiar faces...faces that I thought were ancient when I was ten and still look the same a decade and a half later. What was even more interesting was the music.

The same father and son combo provided the music last night that has been doing the music on Saturday evenings since before I graduated from high school. The father, who reminds me of Mr. Magoo plays the piano while his son leads the singing. What I find humorous is that everyone complains about the music, but no one else steps up to take over. It's the classic church dilemma.

Last night, while the priest and eucharistic ministers were cleaning the chalices, Mr. Magoo launches into what can only be described as lounge music. I swear I recognized strains of Rhapsody in Blue wafting their way up into the vaulted ceilings and over the congregation. My dad leaned over, snorted his displeasure and asked, "I wonder what hymn this is."

"Take me out to the ball game?" I facetiously suggested.

Music is a form of prayer, yes, but in my little hometown church, the sanctity of showtunes is being rediscovered to the disappointment of many.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Almost There

Tomorrow marks the first day of flight attendant training. All the requirements and hoops I faced just getting to this point have left me with a constant feeling of, "I'm almost there." Just one more doctor's appointment; just one more trip to the airport. Well, today really was the final appointment before training starts tomorrow. I am an official badge-carrier at my airline and DIA! Now all I have to do is study for the five tests we'll be having on Monday. Can you say, "Please remove the safety information card from the seat back pocket in front of you"? I'm almost there.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Now That's Refreshing

Am I capable of opening a door for myself? Yes. Is it nice when someone opens a door for me on occasion? Yes. In a world that is seemingly more introverted and/or self-absorbed, even little common courtesies go a long way. Seriously, peek into the local coffee shop. How many people are staring at a screen or sitting there with ear phones jammed in their ears? Now how many are actually sitting with at least one other person engaged in conversation?

My refreshing moment came as I was leaving Norlin Library this morning and someone actually looked over their shoulder as they were opening the door, saw someone approaching, and stepped aside to let them through the door first. Granted, nice door holder dude had the tell-tale white cord that traveled from his pocket and terminated at the ear buds in his ears, but it's encouraging. Right?

The Importance of a Broad Smile and a Fresh Scent

Along with a slightly darker complexion that is still peeling in places and a few souvenirs, I brought home some important lessons from my most recent beach vacation. We began our sojourn on the island of Curacao (the "C" island of the ABC islands in the Dutch Antilles). We lasted two days there, but only because all the other desirable hotels on the island were booked for the week and the travel agent was closed on Sunday. By Monday morning however, Bobby, at Majors Travel in New Dorp, NY, was on top of things.

Upon arrival at the Breezes Superclub, I am sad to admit that I was left with a less than appealing first impression. We pulled off Martin Luther King Road straight into the parking lot of our hotel. There was no winding path through a tunnel of trees, no carefully shaped shrubbery, and no tropical flowers or potted palms welcoming us at the entrance. Where is my paradise?!

Disappointment also lurked behind the door to our room in the pneumatic form of a rudely pungent odor. Imagine sea foam with the essence of mildew and hospital bleach. To escape the odiferous ambiance of our room we went to the bar for some tropical libations. One of my favorite images soon became a smoky plastic glass (day care size) with rum swirling around on top of its frosty contents. Unfortunately, it was rare that our drinks were served with a smile or friendly banter from the bartenders. Mama Love soon became our exclusive bartender because she loved to interact with the guests and never let anyone slink away from the bar with a drink made by her hands without at least finding out how their day was going.

Now, it's imporatnt to lower one's expectations when traveling in order to induce a state of being pleasantly surprised more often than not. Doing my best to abide by this rule of thumb, it was not until we reached the Occidental Grand Resort in Aruba that I realized how much energy it took to see the sunny side of our accommodations in Curacao.

Upon arrival, I received my answer; I had found my paradise. Not only was there a lush drive and circle in front of the resort, but there were pots of tropical foliage in the entrance along with a bellman who opened the taxi doors for us, and yes, even helped with our luggage. We were greeted warmly by the front desk agent and showed to our rooms. Like the front drive, our rooms did not disappoint. They were nicely, yet subtly decorated, overlooked the pool oasis, and smelled clean -- but not institutional -- without a hint of mildew or leftover swim suit water.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Another One Hits the Scene

So the motivations for this blogger dipping her toe into the vast, undulating blogosphere are numerous. First and formast, perhaps, is personal philosophy. Life's a should either be on vacation or planning a vacation. Secondly, having just graduated from a journalism program with little to no practical experience, I decided it was high time to get my feet wet, earn some street cred., and maybe even get paid for a piece or two. And lastly, because not only do I need space that is conducive to archiving my streams of consiousness (I tend to lose people when I write out loud), but I need a place to chronicle my travel mishaps, adventures, and flight attendant dramas. So, in accordance with the Amaral family mantra, "travel is so educational," let the scholarship begin!