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.