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 journey...one 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!