Monday, July 28, 2014

Passenger of the Day: The Kid in First Class


by Penguin Scott

How could he not be looking out the window? When I was a kid, it was the most awesome thing in the world, to look out the window at the activities on the ramp and to see the planes taxing around. Heck, I still do! I remember how Mom used to walk me onto the plane and make sure I was comfortable and that the flight attendants would look after me. She'd give me a kiss and leave me there in my window seat, and usually in the first row. I was so young- kids today don't fly by themselves as young as I did back then; I was about 5 when I started flying alone. I suspect Mom hesitated just out of sight to make sure I wasn't crying. No time for tears, 'there's a Texas International, oh, and a Braniff, I love those colors! Look at the Southwest 737, I see those flying over our house!' The memories, for me, are still so vivid.

But this kid, not only was he uninterested in the goings on out the window of 2F, he pulled down the shade, stuck a pillow between his head and the wall and closed his eyes. I didn't like this kid. From my jumpseat at door 1L, the best view I had outside was through his window, and he just sat there ignoring it all. The nerve!

Shortly, we'd push back and turn onto the runway, which was just beyond the apron of this small airport. The pilots would rev up the engines to nearly full throttle before releasing the breaks and we'd shoot down the runway and fly into the air at great speeds, and at a greater rate of ascent than normal. This was Orange County and the high fallootin' folks who live near John Wayne Airport worked out a deal where aircraft must follow noise abatement procedures, and are limited to use the airport between 7am and 11pm. After shooting into the air, the plane levels off as it reduces power. Once over the ocean, it resumes a normal climb as it turns to the north or south. I love taking off from this airport, and even though I was unable to see out the windows of first class, I was all smiles.

The kid was like his father, seated next to him, in that he was short and heavy. His glasses were framed in black, where his father wore clear frames. His father was actually the interesting one of the two. He had golden hair, like he wanted it to be blonde, but, well, golden is what we get. His fingers were pudgy and his thumb had a silver ring on it. His watch was large and jewel-encrusted and was framed by two bracelets, big and gaudy. He was dressed in a bright orange shirt about 2 sizes too large and baggy black plaid shorts with large pockets full of electronics. On his feet were colorful sneakers with no shoe laces. It sounds like I could be describing someone in their twenties, but Mr. Jeweled Watch looked like he was pushing 50. This was a man built for comfort, not speed. He obviously had money, but more so than what he had in style.

The man in front of him obviously had money as well. But this man was dressed in a nice button-down shirt with cuff links and read the financial times while his wife, in a tangerine wool jacket, closed her eyes for most of the flight. Mr. Jeweled Watch probably made his money from services, such as from an air conditioning business, or owning a car lot. Mr. Financial Times made his as a CEO or from stocks. It's fun to watch first class passengers and try to imagine their livelihoods.

After leveling off, the boy, of about 8 years of age, gave up his nap and the window shade opened again...too late, kid, now I have to work! I began to take drink orders from the passengers in first class, of which there were 12. When I got to Mr. Jeweled Watch, I was afraid he was going to be stand-offish, maybe even a bit short, or rude. I couldn't have been more wrong. He was quite nice, with his large bag of goldfish crackers, asking for a plastic cup to put some in. He had taken out a DVD player and the boy began watching Sponge Bob. I commented on liking Sponge Bob and he smiled at me politely and went a bit shy. The boy was polite, another sign that as gaudy as he was, Mr. Jeweled Watch was a good father.

It was at this point that Mr. Jeweled Watch pulled out 3 individually wrapped sugar cookies with images of Mickey Mouse in frosting and handed them to me, saying they were for the crew. He apparently had been to Disneyland. I thanked him and later gave him a card of thanks.

During the flight, he and his son laughed together and seemed to really enjoy their time on board. They weren't demanding at all, didn't finish the snack that came with their first class seat, and hardly drank anything. They were delightful passengers and as he walked into the humid Houston jet bridge leaving the plane behind, he shook my hand and thanked me for the great service. The boy smiled and I handed him a pair of plastic wings. His face glowed and he thanked me as he showed his father and walked away. Surely, he didn't get as much excitement from those wings as I did when I got mine as a kid. But it seemed to make him happy, and that's all I hope to do.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Brown Shirt by Penguin Scott

Passenger of the day:

At first there wasn't much remarkable about Brown Shirt. Sure, he was fit, that was the first thing to notice about him. That, and his youth. Together, as well as the tight brown tee and snug denim jeans he wore, it was the kind of look that garnered second glances from many of the passengers who had already boarded and settled into their business class seats, but attractive people aren't anything new. I noticed the middle-aged woman in 8F eying him up and down as he made his way to his seat. Our eyes met and she quickly looked down, having been caught checking him out.

Brown Shirt, at first look, seemed to be in his mid to late twenties. After closer inspection, I think he was more likely to be in his mid thirties. He had a full head of light brown, almost blonde hair. His skin was youthful, but was just starting to show signs of the recklessness of youth; too much time in the sun, not enough moisturizer.

It wasn't his strong physique that piqued so much interest in Brown Shirt for me to feature him as Passenger of the Day. It was hard to ignore, with his tight brown shirt with super short sleeves. It showed off his well-developed arms, the kind more akin to a gymnast than a body builder. The tightness of the shirt also showcased a tight pair of pecs. I would imagine that 8F would have liked the rest of the torso, with a six, no possibly an eight pack.

He reached his seat at 6G and before placing his carry-on items away, he removed the things he would need for our 5-hour flight to SFO. A small laptop, a pair of bulky and expensive head phones, a few power adapters with the cords neatly wrapped around, an electronic tablet and an Ipod. This was a guy who's security blanket was technology, but this isn't what stood out, either.

The space above his seat had already been claimed. The man in 6F had arrived just before him and placed his larger item there. He pulled down the overhead bin across the aisle, towards me, and found a spot for his larger item there. When he reached up to put his bag in this space, even the large surly man seated next to me took notice. The arm muscles went taut with the weight of the suit case and the shirt lifted up over the waist band of his jeans exposing a bit of skin. His jeans were low and a decorative band with bright stripes was exposed; flashy and expensive underwear. I guess if I had a body like that, I'd be a little showy as well.

Still in need of space for a smaller back pack, he moved a row back and found space in a bin, but there were a few blankets that someone had placed there. He half picked one out and asked the man in 6F if he needed the blankets. Being told no, he pushed them back to make space and then leaned down to pick up the back pack he'd placed on the ground. While he did this, 6F put his back pack in his space. It made me chuckle as I could see Brown Shirt roll his eyes, 6F clueless to the fact that the space was not arranged for that of a stranger. Without hesitation, Brown Shirt shoved 6F's small bag to the back and placed his back pack in front and then lifted the large bin closed, again exposing the flesh above his colorful underwear waistband. The woman in 8F again taking note, and this time not looking to see that I noticed her.

What I noticed next and what happened for much of the flight is what was so remarkable about the young man with the rock-hard body in 6G, Brown Shirt. It was an activity I've seen before but never with such vigor, and I know my writing abilities will fail to provide a picture that does this story justice.

It couldn't be from stress. Brown Shirt was too young for that much stress, and judging from the head phones and Ipod and the fact that he seemed to be watching shows on his computer, it's not like he was overworked. Although, seeing a young man such as Brown Shirt having a business-class ticket made me wonder just what he did for a living. We were leaving the nation's capital for Silicon Valley. Perhaps he was a big shot with some technology company visiting DC to talk lawmakers into opening up loopholes so his company can further cash in. Or maybe he was just visiting family, a rich fortune 500 member, perhaps, who demanded certain results in the lofty expectations that the rich have on their family.

Maybe it wasn't stress, but simply a nervous tic. Or maybe, just maybe, Brown Shirt had the best tasting fingers of all time! Yes, Brown Shirt spent much of this trip biting his fingernails. But this wasn't your grandfather's fingernail biting. This was a craft honed and perfected by a pro.

Think of a young boy at a picnic. He's not eaten in hours and has been playing rigorously on the playground with other boys his age. He's not worn out yet, but he's got a voracious appetite. Mom calls the boy to the table and hands him a plate of chicken wings. Some of his friends are still playing, so he's in a hurry to eat so he can get back to the jungle gym. He eats one wing in less 15 seconds and moves on to the second. While eating the second he's already eying his plate for which wing will be third. He eats quickly and with passion.

This is the image I had in seeing Brown Shirt attack, not only his finger nails, but cuticles, as well. Placing his finger into his mouth, he'd move the finger this way and that, while his jaw moved the teeth up and down to get at the good part. He'd take it out and regard it briefly for a new plan of attack and then pounce on the victim. Every now and then, he'd free a piece of dead skin and roll it around in his mouth, letting his tongue feel it against the back of his teeth, moving it from one side to the next before ingesting it. Then he'd go at it again.

He moved with quickness. He was a professional. This was a race and he was far, far ahead. There was so much to eat and not one, but TWO hands with five fingers each. One finger, then the next; nail and then cuticle. Right hand and then left, all the while intently watching the images on his laptop and oblivious to anything else going on aboard the plane. Finger in, chew, turn, gnaw, turn, chomp, chew, gnaw, turn, bite, finger out, observe, finger in, chew, gnaw, turn, scrape, scrape, chew, turn, gnaw, turn, chew, scrape, turn, gnaw, finger out, another finger in, chew, scrape, gnaw, turn, gnaw, gnaw, gnaw, turn, chew, bite, enjoy.

Then the airplane door was closed and we pushed back. My seat was rear-facing and in the center of the plane, his was forward-facing, next to the window. I had only to turn my head to look outside and I could see him clearly, going to town. I would eventually lose interest in watching his appetite for fingers as I enjoyed a meal (not finger food) and a movie, followed by a nap. When I awoke, I noticed he was still at it. It made me chuckle. This was some good entertainment, here!

I've never seen anyone chew their fingernails with such vigor. I am certain to never see this again. It wasn't for the tightness of the shirt to show off the hard work in the gym. It wasn't for the youthfulness of being in business class, surrounded by business travelers. For looking like a squirrel going after a meal in the park, you, Brown Shirt, are passenger of the day.

The Pacer by Penguin Scott

Passenger of the Day: The Pacer
by PenguinScott

I took the escalator down to the food court and loved the view of the LaGuardia tarmac from the ground floor seating area. I was in search of a great Reuben sandwich I had heard about from a flying partner, so I walked from one place to the next, but never did find it. For a food court, there weren't really many choices; Italian, Chinese, Mexican, pretzels or a takeaway sandwich shop. A man was in my way as I moved from one end to the next, pacing, his cell phone wire tracing its way from the black phone in his hand up to his ear. He was oblivious not only to my trying to pass, but of others moving about the cramped seating area, as well. I said excuse me, which didn't seem to register, but he just happened to casually pace in a direction that allowed me to pass with my bags in tow.

After securing a burrito and making my way to a seat near the windows, with views of aircraft, I noticed the blockade guy still pacing about. He wore a crisp white shirt tucked neatly into black slacks. He was too important-looking to not have a jacket...ah, there it was, hanging on the back of a chair at a nearby table. He had begun pacing in larger circles and at this point was further from his table than he needed to be. On the table was his expensive-looking briefcase and on the floor was a large, black roll aboard suitcase of fine leather. It appeared out of place among the brightly colored chairs and modern art hanging form the rafters of the food court in concourse B. He was a diamond in the rough! He is my passenger of the day.

He wasn't talking on that phone with it's cord attached to his ear. It was more like he was just listening. Books on tape? His expression was that of concentration, paying very close attention to whatever it was coming through the cord. Big deal going down at work? And always with the mindless pacing; back then forth, around this table and then that, towards me, then away. Listening in on a board meeting?

He was in stark contrast to others in the area, especially the family seated next to me; the young girl eying me with great curiosity. Nearly everyone in the family- mom, 3 kids and grandmother- wore flip flops. Mom's was pink, to showcase her nice white cracked feet that supported a large frame. The older boy's was black with white skulls- a hooligan. The girl who seemed fascinated with me wore lime green ones. I wasn't sure if they were flying today or visiting the airport pool facilities, but judging from Mom's skimpy white blouse and very skimpy black shorts, I'd say if flying, she'll be asking for a blanket, while on the plane her flight crew sweats in their polyester uniforms. I miss the days when people looked put together when out in public. The Pacer looked nice.

Mostly, I watched out the windows. In the distance I could see planes flying to the south, then turning west, towards us, their bright landing lights flickering in the New York afternoon heat. It would only take a few minutes and they'd be landing on runway 22. The Pacer was still pacing, not seeming to look at anything in particular; the ground, the empty tables, his phone, the upper corner of the food court. He seemed oblivious to the fact that anyone was around him. He was completely lost in whatever was going on in those headphones. He didn't seem worried or upset, just very focused. The table supported only his bags; there were no food or drink items.

After completing my meal, I sat and waited for the time at which I should head to the gate for my flight. I was tired, not having gotten as much sleep as I should have, even though I had a 17-hour layover. But the six hours of sleep would have to do for the very long day ahead of me. It was a day very different from what The Pacer was used to, I'm sure. I'd board a plane with people going to Houston. During my announcements, I would find a red warning light on my control panel above my jumpseat. I would call the captain, a pack of mechanics would board and play with buttons and scratch heads until an hour later the fix would be found. At this point, the plane would miss our window of departure and we would sit in the penalty box, an area where planes hold away from the gate, for another hour. Four times the captain would have us ready the plane for departure and three times it would end up not working out and we'd sit longer. The Pacer, on the other hand, would earn money from the backs of people working for him...or if not people, his money would earn him more.

After reaching Houston, I was still to work home to San Francisco. Fortunately, it was the same plane, so I wouldn't misconnect. But this would be the fun flight; tired from lack of sleep, worn out from a full meal service in first class on the flight from New York, plus assisting in economy, eager to get home after a 2-hour delay, and having to do another boarding process. Good times, indeed. But The Pacer has no idea of this kind of life.

We arrived in Houston and mechanics again came on board to deal with a few write ups we had in flight. An ash tray went missing from the lavatory, and while smoking is most forbidden, it's a must have item in case someone does light up, they have to have a proper place to put it out when we yell at them for doing so. A light in the galley was out and a drain in the lavatory was plugged. 

Needing paperwork for the flight home, I walked up to the gate to have it printed out. Catering arrived with my new galley just as passengers began boarding. The senior flight attendant in back was asking about ice and the hand held devices we use to sell food and drink items in flight. The new captain for this segment asked about his crew meals, but there were none. He asked for coffee, which I went to make but discovered they had yet to turn on the water supply in the galley. Meantime, we are still boarding. Passengers ask about the delay and hand me their trash and ask about room for luggage and make comments about the plane not having a closet or entertainment. I have to make boarding announcements, as well. I check the coffee that's still not brewing, close overhead bins, hang jackets for customers in first class and ask the pilots to call about the lack of ice in the back galley. I'm asked about the coffee and tell the captain it's not brewed yet. I want to inform him that I'm not a Genie and that I can't blink my eyes to make it appear, but he seems too business-like. He'd get along with The Pacer, I'm sure of it.

I make more announcements and deal with more passengers and a catering rep shows up with two bags of ice and a couple of extra snack trays, which must be for the pilots since I had enough for my passengers already. I can't keep the bin the ice is in, so I remove them for the rep and discover much has already melted and the bags are not completely sealed, so now I have a counter full of water. I can't have bags of ice leaking all over my paperwork, so I take them to the aft galley while my flying partner makes the door-closing announcement for me.

When I walked back to the front of the plane, I had to arm the doors. As I turn from this activity, the captain shows up demanding to know if his meals had arrived and wondering why the doors were closed without letting him know this information. He starts into me, saying something about a need for better communication, like I did something wrong. I calmly look at him and inform him that it is not in my scope of job functions to notify him of the door closing; that's the job of the gate agent. I followed up with letting him know that he failed to inform me that he was ordering crew meals, and when they arrived with melting ice, my priority was to get the melting ice to the aft galley. When I returned, the doors were closed and I had to arm them and clean up the water, which was laying siege to my paperwork. I think The Pacer would have been proud of the manner in which I stood my ground.

He seemed to understand, and after a grunt of disapproval, turned his attention to the meals themselves, asking to see them. I took them back out from the cart and placed them on the counter. They were wrapped in plastic wrap, so it they were difficult to view. He poked at it it bit, didn't seem pleased and went back into the flight deck. I wasn't sure if he was going to have new meals brought or if we were now ready to go and my flying partner was as confused as I was. I followed him in and waited, but he said nothing and ignored me. I asked him if he was ready to go. He growled a yes. He'd nearly forgotten, but I asked if he wanted his damned coffee. I didn't really say damned, but I was thinking it.

I put the meals back, delivered a hot coffee and closed the flight deck door. Finally, we could perform our safety demo for the passengers. Finally, the brakes would be released and finally I would start getting paid for the Houston-San Francisco segment! That's right, flight attendants only get paid when the plane's brakes are released.

The Pacer probably made as much money in the half hour I watched him pace as I made in my long day of dealing with passengers and pilots. It's not always easy or glamorous. But it's my job and I love doing it. Like The Pacer, I used to make good money when I was a general manager, but I didn't have any free time back then, and certainly not as much fun. I think I like things better the way they are now.

Bees Get the Honey by Penguin Scott

Mr. Sir stepped on board the full 737 and immediately started in on the customer service agent who was standing in the galley drinking a cup of water and chatting with the flight attendant. “I'm NOT going to check this bag and you can't make me!” he demanded. The agent slowly turned his gaze to the man and took a drink of water. He said nothing and continued his conversation with the flight attendant.

Mr. Sir was a tall and broad man. I was happy he was not seated next to me. Next to me was a demure and quite attractive young black woman, who spent nearly the entire flight reading a book; one of the best kinds of seat mates there are...besides an invisible one! He wasn't next to me, but he and his wife were behind me. He sported a very full beard, nearly white, to match his hair. He looked to me like a Harley rider, one of the cookie-cutter variety, big, intimidating, hairy, like so many I used to know when I was the GM of a dealership. He probably carried a rifle in his arm and Jesus on his sleeve and his mind would be as open as a gift shop on Christmas Day.

Looking to store their luggage, the two of them began opening overhead bins, since most were closed now that we were only moments from the time when we are supposed to be pushing back from the gate. I thought I had seen an open spot over 3C, and mentioned this to the wife, but when she opened it, there was no room. I made an apology, but she didn't seem to hear as she continued her search. I was getting frustrated in watching them, so I turned my gaze out the window to watch the ramp workers load bags onto the plane, instead- I supposed there was a good reason they place every bag on its belly and not its back. Mr. Sir asked his wife if she wanted the window or the aisle, and her decision placed her immediately behind me.

This really began my in flight entertainment. The two began a conversation of complaints that would last over an hour: Airline booked their flights so they had to come from one end of the terminal to the other to catch this flight. He noted that even had their arriving flight been on time, boarding for this flight would have commenced before they were scheduled to reach the gate, so it was a good thing this flight was running late, too. I thought to myself, yeah, Airline sits there and schedules gates just for you, knowing you needed the exercise. “Well, at least this flight will be safer than that last.” she responded. “Let's hope so.” I wondered what was so unsafe about their last flight.

I tried to block them out as best I could, watching the goings on out my exit row window. Soon I could see us enter the penalty box and I knew something was up. Sure enough, we came to a stop and the engines shut down. The captain came on the PA and informed us that air traffic control (ATC) had given us a ground hold due to weather and needing to space out incoming aircraft to SFO. We would be delayed for an hour, however, that can often be altered and we could be taking off sooner. Not on this trip. We'd be there for the full hour and I'd be listening to Mr. Sir and his wife complain and make calls altering their hotel and rental car agreements.

Mr. Sir now blamed Airline for this delay. I wanted to turn around to inform him that an ATC delay had nothing to do with airline, but I knew that would be futile and would most likely only enrage him further. I kept silent and just listened. I didn't want to, but his voice was so loud. “Airline should buy all our drinks for this kind of delay.” he demanded.

The flight attendant made an announcement that due to the delay, the satellite TV system would be complimentary. Soon, it was determined that several TVs were not working properly, so the system was re-set. The re-set did little good and from my seat I could see there were a few not working. I quickly found out that Mr. Sir's was among these. Of course he complained again, “What a great airline, they promise free TV for everyone, but not us.”

When the hour was up we were quickly racing down the runway and alighted from Dulles Airport. The complaints came to an end. When the drink cart arrived to his seat, he ordered 2 rums and 2 Baileys. The flight attendant kept to company regulations, telling Mr. Sir that we are only allowed to serve one drink at a time. While an actual company policy at Airline, it's one mostly ignored by flight attendants. Mr. Sir acquiesced and then, the flight attendant made my day by charging him.

It was later, in flight, when hanging out in the galley, when I found out about Mr. Sir's attitude when boarding the plane and I also heard that he was the only one they charged for alcohol on the first round of drinks. So it's true, bees really do get more honey with sugar!

About 3 hours into the flight, his wife starts bumping my seat at regular intervals; slamming into it, pushing the seatback forward, bumping it. It began driving me insane. It would let up for about 10 minutes, then start again. Finally, at wit's end and fearing for what I was about to start, I undid my seat belt and turned to face his wife. I smiled and I politely asked, “Is everything OK?” “Who me?” she asked. “Yeah, there seems to be something wrong and I thought I'd check to see if you're OK. You keep hitting the back of my seat. Can I get you anything?” She said she was about to go berserk and was ready to get off this airplane, and Mr. Sir interjected that it had been a very long day. I casually glanced at him and then back to her, “Well, let me know if I can get you anything. We've got about 40 minutes left of flying time and we'll be on the ground soon.” She thanked me and I took my seat happy that it went so well and that I decided not to change out of uniform for the flight.

Finally, we arrived at our gate in San Francisco. As his wife apologized to me for the seat, Mr. Sir scolded another passenger for not knowing how to deplane, “You're supposed to wait for the people ahead of you to get out first!” At least this infraction kept his attention from me, as I had about reached my limits with his attitude. Welcome to SF, Mr. Sir, and good luck!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Black Friday comes to Thursday by PenguinScott

This year’s holiday internet battle cry apparently centers on Thanksgiving and workers not being able to spend it with family for having to do their job. Post after post from people I know deplores Americans to avoid shopping on Thanksgiving. “Think of the employees!,” they read, and, “They deserve to be with family like you do!” Is it only in America that we constantly have the need to project our desires onto everyone else? A few things came to mind around the 80th time seeing one of these posts.
                Anyone who gets a job in retail certainly doesn’t do so with the expectation that they will have the holidays off. I’ve worked in retail and I knew this going into the interview. I’ve worked the holidays as everyone in retail has. Sure, the first time I spent the holiday away from family was a bit tough. But I had something else working for me- pay.
                A lot of people enjoy working holidays for the holiday pay. I’m sure these days, in these hard times, these people depend on working Thanksgiving for the holiday pay that I hope they are making. Even if they only earn their normal rates of pay, let us not assume that everyone wants to be home not earning money.
                Then, there are those who don’t have family to spend the holiday with. Maybe they are college students too far from home or too broke to afford an airline ticket. Maybe it’s the crazy cat lady who has no one of the human kind to be with. Perhaps it’s someone who just can’t stand to be with family so bad that they shiver at the suggestion of staying home so they can be with those who judge, condemn, argue, smother or push other’s down in a competitive nature. I know I can only handle being in close proximity to my family for about 5 days, max (not for the reasons I just mentioned, in case they’re reading this). Some people can’t stand to be around family for 5 minutes.
                I hear the cry- stay home. Don’t go shopping. Avoid the malls. But for me, it’s about bucking the system; I’m such a rebel. I don’t want to shop on Black Friday mainly because it’s become expected to do so. I don’t want to shop on Black Friday because I’m saving money and I don’t have a lot to spend. I don’t want to shop on Black Friday because there really is very little that I need. I finished my holiday shopping weeks ago. Big screen TV for $100? I’ve already got one. DVD player for $20? Got one of those, as well. I think I’ll avoid the crowds and make a turkey sandwich, thank you. And I certainly don’t want to go shopping on Black Friday and join the fray of morons clamoring with fellow white trash royalty and ne’er-do-wells as they literally bust down doors and claw their way over their fallen to reach the stack of made in (insert foreign sweat shop country here) electronics, which will probably explode in 13 months, right after the warranty expires.
Penguin, post feast
  This year, I spent Thanksgiving with friends in Santa Rosa. These are good friends, and they know they are after hearing how I spent over 2 hours driving up from my home in Pacifica. Normally, that drive should take just over an hour and it’s no secret that I hate driving, especially in heavy traffic. But it seems either the city was being evacuated, or everyone and their dog was going to Northern California for the day…and apparently left about half an hour before I did! “Aren’t you people supposed to be at home cooking things?” I yelled from within my car (the Peng-U-V). There were as many people, or more,  walking on the Bay Bridge as any weekend during the summer! I was absolutely blown away. Maybe people were taking heed of the cries on line to spend the holiday with family; they just didn’t see the words, “at home.”
A line forms for a shop opening at midnight.
                The interesting thing about this Thanksgiving was that the daughter of our host had to go to work that evening. She worked at the mall, which opened at 8PM on Thanksgiving night. I’d never in my life thought I would see Black Friday come to Thursday evening! The question went around the group as we loosened our belts after the feast, seeming to knowingly save me for last, “Are we going to go to the mall tonight?” “Do you want to go to the mall and watch the chaos?” “Who wants to go to the mall?” The questions shot around the group like if asked enough, someone would win a prize. The prize was that when finally asked, I said, “Sure, let’s go!” After all, I didn’t want to be the only ‘no’ and I’m all for watching a train wreck.
                I did have some ground rules; I’d already posted that I would not be seen in a shopping mall on Thanksgiving and hoped to keep my reputation up to par. “No checking in, post no photos of me and if anyone ever asks, I was never here.” They were in total agreement, so off we marched to join the throngs of humanity at the mall.
A line for a bra sale outside Victoria's Secret

                The mall was much like a mall would be on any Saturday afternoon…but it was nearing midnight! I couldn’t believe all the people shopping this time of night on Thanksgiving. It was as if we have been doing this for years. Sleeping children were pushed in their strollers or sleepily clung to their parent’s hands while wearing cute PJs. My parents would never have brought me shopping at this time of night when I was 5! Groups of high school kids hung out like something from a teen movie and roamed in small packs. There were a few lines and mostly very well behaved people (we did see one fight nearly break out, but fisticuffs and weapons were not involved, although, I had my camera’s video function ready, just in case).

This boy kept watch over the family plunder.
   We laughed that we would make great hecklers as we observed the insane. Seeing the signs for “Doorbuster” deals, I made a comment about how it was amazing that, upon seeing some of the deals, the doors were actually still on their hinges! We commented on how some dressed, observing which stores remained closed and looked in wonder at the people eating in the food court, while our bellies were still so full.
Then, like flies, we went down. M found thermals normally difficult find, let alone for half price. C found sweaters that would make a great gift for family. But I held out. At least until I found the 800 thread count 100% Egyptian cotton sheets half off, followed by the cutest little shirts for my nephews. An $80 pillow for $25? Yes, please. Underwear for 25% off? I could use new underwear- I’ll bite.
Oh, no. What have I done?

            Dammit, my friends lured me to the mall under the pretense that I could go and make fun of those who bought into the frenzy of Black Friday on Thursday evening, and there I became one of them. In fact, after going back to C’s house, we returned to the mall for more, shopping until 2AM so C could buy a jewelry stand. You’re welcome analysts and retail giants. I’m happy to help your numbers kick off the season. I will sleep very well at night doing so- on my soft bed sheets and sensor gel pillow – that I found fifty percent off!  

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

A Trip to Beijing, China

August, 2013
The smoggy view of Beijing I'm used to, taken from my hotel
Before going to bed I checked the computer. I was number 2 for a 4 day trip and there was 1 on the board- to Beijing. I think I rolled my eyes. I’ve been trying to get to Beijing for over 5 years. It’s been at least 9 since the last time I was there. It’s a neat city to visit, I wanted to return to the Great Wall and do some shopping. But it’s the most senior trip in the system and continually eludes me. I was so close. So yes, I rolled my eyes; so typical, the rotten luck! I hoped that something would happen; maybe another 4 day trip would pop up overnight and the flight attendant in front of me would get that, leaving me in line for Beijing.
      My phone rang at 0600hrs. I knew who it was by the ring-tone. The crew desk advised me they had a trip for me. As soon as she read the trip ID number, I recognized it…Beijing! I remained calm as I wrote down the information, thanked the scheduler, hung up and closed my eyes with my head dropping and a smile upon my face, full of joy. Finally, I would return for my 3rd visit.

A child's ride outside the local grocery store.

      Unable to sleep, I simply got up. I grabbed my Chinese money, packed, had breakfast and left for SFO. There would be no tardiness for me today. I felt on top of the world as I drove to work. Traffic was light and I caught all the lights green; fortune shown upon me. Did I hear singing? Some angelic choir, perhaps?
      Trips to China can be difficult to work. I love how some of the passengers say hello during boarding, but then later in flight, when told to be seated because the seat belt sign has come on, suddenly, don’t speak English! It seems like most passengers don’t like staying in their seat. They roam around the plane, visit friends and congregate. They go to the jump seat windows, raise the blind and look out, often taking photos. We’re over the Pacific Ocean. What are you taking photos of? When the chime sounds and the pilot comes on the PA to ask everyone to be seated is when many decide to get up. They ring the call bell to ask us for another customs form when they make a minor mistake, not understanding that at least when coming to the US, it’s all right to cross it out and make the correction on the form. And perhaps most irritating is how so many don’t put their tray down for us. It’s like a shock to them that we are asking what they want to drink or eat. Why do you think I’m pushing this heavy cart down the aisle…my health? You see the cart coming, start thinking of what you want to drink and have your tray ready!
     And the trip home was especially difficult for me, as I’ve never seen more passengers on our flights who didn’t speak any English. It was frustrating asking what they wanted to drink to have them point at the cart, full of sodas, teas, coffee, water, juice, milk and beer. What are you pointing at? All right, don’t learn how to say tea, orange juice or water. Maybe have someone make you a card with both English and Mandarin so you can show me what you wish to order, since showing you the menu with drink logos doesn’t seem to work either. I thought the Coca Cola brand logo was international. A mechanical issue delayed our takeoff nearly two hours, yet one yahoo rang the bell to ask me if we’d be landing on time. Yes. Yes we are landing on time because Santa is our pilot, and you know, he tends to fly fast! It was trying at times, to say the least. “Where are we?” another passenger asked. We all laughed out loud. Um, I don’t know…Boston? I’ve not looked out the window in 6 hours. I have no idea!
      The crew was great to work with. Everyone got along and worked very well as a team. There was much humor and I enjoyed my time with them. Asian crews are different from other crews I work with. They have unique culinary needs that they remedy themselves. It’s not unusual to see them bring soups, hot wings, steaks, legs of lamb, citrus and one time they even baked a cake on the flight. Many are bringing things difficult to fine in Asia. I’m always fascinated watching the culinary skills of Asian crews.
     Not having been to the Chinese capital for such a long time, the crewmembers were a wealth of information about the new hotel, where to find good deals on the products I wanted to shop for, and who to seek out for a great massage. These are the things important to a flight attendant. This trip, I decided was about shopping more than sightseeing. I had just picked up a trip to Beijing for the following week (when it rains it pours; 9 years without a trip to Beijing and now 2 trips in as many weeks) and I would put off a visit to the Great Wall for then.
My hotel room with glass bathroom walls.
      China is a great place for massages, as they are so cheap. In Beijing, an hour massage with tip costs about $25. They aren’t always the best massage. The first one I had on this trip was a petite woman with pink toenails who basically just wanted to rub the same 4 spots on my back for 20 minutes each. I had to ask her to start on my arms and legs and when she was finished, I asked for my hands to be done. She balked, but I told her I’d tip her for it. The massage felt very good at the time, but the next day I was sore on those 4 spots she had rubbed so vigorously.
      Shopping can be a pain in China. Fortunately, there are places frequented by airline crew, and these places aren’t as annoying as others. After all, they have to keep us happy or we all leave and find a new place. But in the markets, as you walk past the stalls full of wares, the workers stand at the entrance and call out to you, “Hey, you look. You want glasses? You need watch? I have purse! Come look, you buy!” No. No. No. As much as a glance into a shop turns these Chinese merchants into a bunch of seagulls and you have a nice big piece of shrimp on your forehead!

      I went to the Pearl Market with 4 other flight attendants on my crew. It was about 20 minutes from our hotel via taxi in the heavy morning traffic. I found that in the 9 years since my last visit, drivers seem to be catching on. Last time I was here, lanes were merely suggestions. Riding in a taxi was a horror, or a thrill if you are into such things. And I was always juniored into the worst place- next to the driver. Most motorists now do a very good job at keeping in their lane. And there were much fewer bikes on the roads, weaving in and out and playing Tetris at the lights, squeezing past stopped cars.
Shopping in Beijing; photo not mine.
      I’ve found the weather in Beijing to be oppressive on my past summer visits. Between the heat, humidity and smog, it’s not a great place for a picnic. I couldn’t get over how clear it was as the plane neared the airport and the city spread its complex carpet of buildings, parks, roads and entertainment complexes below. The skies were uncommonly blue and the weather was very nice; only slightly muggy and quite comfortable at night. The next day was slightly warmer, but still very manageable. The day we left, however, some 44 hours after touching down, the smog was a bit more noticeable.
      My shopping was a success, but Vaughn, Kitt and Sandy were ready to return to the hotel before I was. Vaughn asked if I had plans for dinner. Since I didn’t, I asked if he would like to join me. He said yes and Marianne and I continued our shopping pursuits for another couple of hours. We then returned to the hotel, where I set out to find a good foot massage. The woman I was told gave wonderful massages had moved and I had the old information, so finding her was a fail. I returned to my hotel and found another woman who would come to my room. My feet were sore, but not as much as my right ankle and left knee. Between the long flight the day before and all the walking I’d done in Beijing, my dogs were barking, and you know how I don’t like barking dogs!
      My foot massage (which in China includes the back, arms and legs) was the kind where you close your eyes and they constantly roll back. Your inner dialogue repeats, "Oh, my gods." Every now and then she'd hit a sweet spot and I'd think, "Fudge." Only not fudge, but the full-on F-word. After all, it's just my inner dialogue. Even if she could hear it, she doesn't “speakul the Englais” and she really does know how to give a sweet massage! I had her go easy on the sore spots that still resided in my back muscles. The part where she got to my feet and legs was bliss.
      She finished just in time for me to change clothes and meet Vaughn for dinner. In the lobby, he told me Kitt would be joining us. Good news; the more the merrier! With none of us knowing the area, we took the advice of another crew member and went to the food court in the mall across the street. Food courts in China are so much more interesting than those in the states; not full of mass-produced meals from national conglomerates.
     After ordering an oyster pancake and some dim sum, I found Kitt and Vaughn and took my seat at the smallish table with silver metal chairs. Kitt, wanting beef, had gone across the hall to McDonalds for a Big Mac and fries. I know, right? Who goes to Beijing and eats at McDonalds? I could tell his was a foreign value meal; the soda cup was the size of a can of soda and not the huge monstrosities served in the US.
      Vaughn, wanting vegetables and rice, had gotten a variety-pack meal from the food court; rice, soup, diced chicken and some vegies. He said it was good, although he seemed a bit uneasy with the whole deal and only finished half of what was on his tray. It was his first time in Beijing, and perhaps his first time in a Chinese mall food court, where one purchases a debit card for each station; no money changes hands. There were all sorts of great looking Chinese dishes. There were soups, dim sum, dumplings, noodles and all sorts of foreign oddities to delight the palate of those bold enough to try something new.
Gyoza and dim sum at the food court.

      The conversation came easily between the three of us. Vaughn was full of questions for both of us and Kitt was very outgoing. I enjoyed the conversation as much as my dinner companions obviously did, as we sat there for about 90 minutes- long after we had finished eating.
      People watching was fun as the conversation meandered around our lives and interests. Suddenly, I became very much aware of how great my life was. Here I was with two people I had not known before the previous day half way around the globe. Vaughn and I had worked together a few years prior going to Sydney, but we had not spent any time together. I love that I get to meet new people all the time with my job. I love that we bond over our jobs and sharing a city and new experiences. I love that in a short amount of time, I get to learn so much about people, and chances are, I won’t see these guys after this trip for months. Maybe years!
      Kitt is Swedish, hailing from a small town almost an hour north of Stockholm. He left for New Jersey at 17, although I didn’t ask why he moved. His parents still live in Sweden and he goes home once a year, although it’s been 2 since his last visit.
      I was amazed when he met us that morning to go shopping. He wore a grey tee shirt and jeans with the legs rolled up to the middle of his calves, very European. I had to comment to him at how well his uniform had hidden his muscles. I could tell he was in good shape, but now one could see just how well developed, and large, his muscles were. So large, in fact, that his veins sat above them, restrained by skin, looking like a map of German roads. Obviously, a guy who spends a ton of time in the gym.
      When I first met Kitt, I couldn’t tell he was gay. He did look German, with facial features typical of such, and blond hair with a hint of wave in the front. During the whole flight, it was hard to tell if his demeanor was slightly effeminate or just European. But when he spoke now, out of uniform, he definitely sounded gay. He began to speak of his partner, who he had married 14 years ago. I asked if he was a body builder as well. He is, but Kitt says he’s not as big. Well, If he were half as muscled as Kitt, he’d still be ripped.
      His partner owns a car dealership in the Denver area that specializes in luxury cars. They drive a used Bentley that was originally over $200.000, but they got it for “cheap”; a measly $50K! I looked at Vaughn, who looked at me, and said, “Obviously one person’s cheap…” Vaughn finished the sentence for me.
A street near our hotel.
      Vaughn is a larger black guy who lives outside Vancouver with his wife and daughter. He has two boys, as well, both in college. He normally only flies to Sydney, but has decided to start flying Beijing trips to do what so many other flight attendants do; sell inexpensive Chinese merchandise in the US. He told us of his plans to build a customer base through a web site to sell iPhone charge packs. But after he saw the quality of small Bluetooth-enabled speakers, he’s’ now convinced he can make over $900 in just 4 months.
      When asked about his plans for his first trip to Beijing before we left San Francisco, he told us that other than shopping, he was only going to stay in his room. He had no interest in seeing the Great Wall of China, Tiananmen Square or the Forbidden City. I was actually a bit surprised he was open to have dinner with me, thinking maybe he’d stay hidden in his hotel room that evening.
      He comes across as a shy, quiet type, who doesn’t like adventure or risk. In fact, he admitted as much at dinner. We started talking about cruises (Kitt has been on over 30) and he mentioned his fear of being at sea. “I can go all around the world and have no problem walking in bad parts of town, but being on the water in the middle of the sea…”
      Vaughn was very inquisitive and often kept the conversation going with a line of questions – what’s a luxury car to tell someone to stay away from? What’s your favorite city? What do you like most about going on a cruise? I could have sat there another hour, but when Kitt suggested we head back, we all just got up. I was eager to hit the gym, sauna and soak in the pool on the 27th floor of the Renaissance Hotel with a grand view of the moon rising over the ancient and now modern looking capital city. That was sort of surreal; being in a pool with such a view.
The pool at the Renaissance Hotel. Great views.
      As I clung to the side of the pool, I thought about dinner. It was very much like dinners I’ve had before in cities like Sydney, Seoul, London, Frankfurt or even New York, Miami and Chicago, getting to know crew members for a short time. I love my job and how I get to peek into the lives of so many interesting people while seeing so many wonderful places.
      After my soak, I returned to my room and opened a beer. My view from the 17th floor was the same as from the pool, only ten floors lower. The moon was rising. The buildings flashed images of children jumping rope. The Chinese do love flashing buildings at night! Tomorrow would be breakfast, packing and taking the bus back to the airport for my flight home. I can’t wait to return. Next time, I will go to the Great Wall of China. They say you can see the wall from space, but did you know you can see space from the wall? Lots and lots of space.

Monday, August 12, 2013

A Day in the Life by Penguin Scott

After a long day at work you go home and what do you do? Cook dinner? Chat with your loved one or a neighbor? Throw a load of laundry in the washer? Take the dog for a walk? Maybe run to the store or work on a project in the garage.

    As a flight attendant, I don’t have the luxury of doing such things when I’m done with work. Half the time, I’m in another city; whisked away in a van to a hotel with a dozen sports channels on the TV and other various cable channels, all of which never live up to their name (Headline News rarely covers the headlines, Discovery Channel is full of things better left undiscovered and don’t get me started with MTV!). The workout rooms are small and the pools are often infested with children. For me, domestic projects have to wait until my days off and compete with all the other minutiae of things that need my attention; cleaning, errands, tasks, and, oh yeah, rest.

    There still seems to be an impression of glamour when telling others I’m a flight attendant. In many ways, I guess that’s still true. The hotels are deluxe retreats, the travel is wonderful – if you’re into travel, and one is exposed to a whole new world; one which is smaller than the one in which most people live. Breakfast in New York, lunch in Chicago, dinner in San Francisco; it’s no wonder it’s hard for me to keep track of time. I can be gone for 2 days and it feels like 5!

Aviation; an old propeller engine by PenguinScott

    Many people have no idea what really is involved in a typical day of a flight attendant. So I thought I’d open a little window into my world, which isn’t as easy as it might sound. Ours is a life full of Federal oversights, technicalities, legalities and union rules. I won’t bore you with the why’s of certain things, but feel free to ask if you would like to know more.

    First, a little background, one of the most annoying questions I get is what route I fly. Only the very senior can hold a route, and even then many don’t always fly the same trips. Each month we bid for our flying, and for most of us at my airline, we fly one month on reserve (on call) and the next month is a line month, which means we know exactly where we will be all month. We can trade and drop trips, thus we have much more control of our schedule. On reserve, I only know my days on and off and trading days is much more complex and often very difficult to do, as they are done so at the discretion of the crew desk, who need to ensure there are enough flight attendants to cover the ever changing needs of the flight schedules.

    For this typical day, I’ve chosen a reserve day. This when we have the most chance of experiencing problems, or as I like to say, having my trip go wonky. Things can change at the very last minute on reserve. You may think you’re going to do one leg to Denver and then fly home, but once in Denver, they may send you to Dallas for a layover and all of a sudden, you’re gone an extra night. That’s why I always keep my bag packed for as many days as I’m good to fly. Even if I go for a two-day trip, if I’m good to fly for 5 days, I pack for 5 days!

    Before going to bed, I look on line to see where I am on the list of reserves for the following day. This helps me gauge if I might get called for an early flight or a later one. I’m high on the list, so I go to bed at 2200hrs, which is very early for this night owl, who prefers red eye flights. (It helps with this job to use military time, so I’ll do so here as another way to show you what my life is like.)

    Sure enough, the crew desk calls at 0315 for a check in at 0835. I’m told I’m going to Philadelphia. After hanging up the phone, I now have to figure out what time to set my alarm. I have to leave my house an hour and 10 minutes before check-in and I usually allow an hour to wake, shower, print my paperwork for the trip and grab a bite to eat. After doing the math and checking it, I pray that I can get back to sleep. This is much more difficult than it seems. With a constantly changing schedule, my mind often thinks, ‘that was a good nap and now, let’s think about ‘all’ the stuff’!

    On the drive to work, I realize that I forgot to factor in that this is a Thursday and I hit rush hour traffic. Fortunately, it’s not too bad and I don’t have far to go in it; this is why I choose to live close to the airport. We are provided parking in a garage and a bus takes me to the terminal, which is why I must allow just over an hour to get to check-in even though I live 15 miles from work.

    Once past security, I squeeze past those who see the people mover as a ride and fail to keep to the right so those of us actually wishing to get somewhere soon can pass. I yell out, “Passing on the left and keep trudging through. Soon, I reach in-flight, our base of operations in the bowels of the airport terminal. I say hi to other flight attendants I recognize, never remembering their name or how it is exactly that I know them. Maybe it was a flight to Maui last year. Maybe it was a flight to Orlando last month. I have no idea, so I just say hi with a big smile and feign interest. I’m only really here because I have to check my mailbox and then log onto the computer to see what cyber info has been handed down from mother airline, in all her wisdom.

Passengers by PenguinScott

    After filling up the circular file, I find my room to brief with the flight attendants I’ll be working with. Those who are based with me in San Francisco (SFO) will be there. Sometimes we might fly with crewmembers from other bases; they will meet us at the plane. On this trip to Philadelphia, I’m assigned the purser position, which means I’m the lead flight attendant on the trip. I make the announcements, work first class and am responsible for briefing with the captain and relaying information to my crew. We are a crew of 3, flying an A320.

    Following the briefing, we emerge from the belly of the terminal and make our way to the gate. I brief with the customer service representative (CSR) and board the plane. Next is a busy time for me; stow my luggage, perform safety checks of equipment, brief with the captain, check galley provisions and start getting the galley ready to provide world-class pre-departure service to the wonderful people who occupy the first class seats, all while greeting the passengers with a smile, a few laughs and trying to look chipper as one can be at 0900hrs after getting 5 hours of sleep!

    Mr. Sir is upset that he’s not sitting with his wife and asks if I can help move people around. I know he’s already asked the CSR and been told the flight is full and he’ll have to ask people to move. I tell him the same thing; we are not allowed to move passengers. Tee-Shirt-Mom boards with her stroller, already tagged to be placed in the plane’s cargo hold, so I have to remind her to take it to the door so a baggage handler can stow it for her. People are shoving 2 and 3 bags in overhead bins sideways, so I have to make an announcement telling them not to do this. No one listens to our announcements, but I did my job. The bins fill up and there are still 20 people on the jet way with large roll aboard bags. I inform them there is no more room for bags and that they now have to check them, which really makes me a popular person. 2A , 2E and 3F all have jackets for me to hang. Mr. Got-an-upgrade-and-has-never-flown-in-first-class finds out he can have alcohol right now, and asks what I have. I ask what he likes as I have no intention of trying to name all of our drinks. I make his screwdriver, pour 2 red wines, and deliver 3 ice waters, a beer and 2 gin and tonics. The first officer wants a coffee with cream and sugar and the captain asks for a diet coke. The interphone rings and the flight attendant in the back tells me there are bags coming forward to be checked. I have overhead bins to close before we can close the door and 1F would like another glass of wine.

   Finally, the CSR hands me some paperwork, signaling that we are finished boarding and she closes the aircraft door. I make an announcement asking for all electronics to be turned off. About half the people actually do this, and most who don’t are in first class. I check with the pilots to make sure they have all they need and confirm that they want to eat their crew meal later in the flight and will call me when they are ready to eat. I make sure all passengers are seated and notify the pilots that we are ready to go.

    Now I start getting paid. You read that right. I am only paid flight time, which means once the brakes are released and until they are set again. It’s the same for pilots. This is why, so often, when we know there is a delay in taking off, that we push from the gate and go sit on the tarmac. We want to be earning money, and we can’t when sitting at the gate with the door open. Of all the jobs I’ve had in my life, I think it’s the hardest I’ve ever worked for free.

Wheel markings and chocks by PenguinScott

    As purser, I make another announcement welcoming the passengers and introduce the video safety demo. For planes with no video equipment or if it’s broken, I have to read it live, while the crew demonstrates the safety features. Following the demo, I check for customer compliance, secure the galley and take my seat in the jump seat for takeoff. This is where I go over my emergency commands in my head, just in case, as there are only two times you can evacuate a plane: before takeoff and after landing!

    The flight time to Philadelphia is over 5 hours, so there’s no hurry to the service today. It’s drinks with warm nuts from the oven, drink refills, hot towels, lunch, ice cream and 90 minutes later I might get a chance to sit down for a minute before the cockpit calls to come out to use the lavatory.

Since two people are required to be in the cockpit at all times, I now have a chance to escape the passengers for a few minutes up front. I cherish my time spent in the cockpit during flight and the opportunity to get a front-view of the terrain below. I look over the cockpit controls; 32,000 feet, wind from the west, coming up to Denver with aircraft at our two o’clock and four o’clock. The pilots like to ask where I live, where I’m laying over, how the passengers are doing, if it’s cool or warm enough in the cockpit and sometimes we chat about world events or company goings on. It’s almost always the same drill.

    Later in the flight I’m back in the cockpit for a second break and this time I’ve got the pilot’s crew meals. The first officer scoffs at how cheap the pasta dish is. He asks if this is the same pasta I serve in first class. It is. He is dumbfounded at how we get away with serving it for what people pay to sit in first. I sort of agree, but offer, “Well, I smile a lot, if that helps!” This makes him laugh and the buzzer sounds notifying us that the captain is ready to re-enter the cockpit.

    Now we play Stay Awake for the rest of the trip, going out to replenish drinks every so often and reading magazines left on the plane from previous crews. You can normally see the crew start to get excited about 40 minutes before landing. Not only for the work we have to do to prepare for landing, by putting things away and collecting trash in the cabin, but just in the excitement that soon the seatbelt sign will be on and the constant line for the lavatories at the back of the plane is finally gone.

   This trip has gone well; the passengers in first class weren’t as needy as they can be. Some were quite nice and talkative as they got up to use the lav. The guy in 3F was surly the whole time, but at least he wasn’t demanding. Mr. Upgrade wound up sleeping most of the trip. Madam was nice, telling me about her cruise to Alaska with her daughter, who lives in Oakland. I enjoyed the flight and working with the crew in the back. But it’s great to take my jump seat and finally see the tree tops out the window of door 1 left. Hello, Philly! I make my landing announcements, with a dash of humor, and I enjoy looking at the passengers who catch it, chuckle and look up at me. The woman in 9E gives me a thumbs up when I ask that people keep their conversations interesting when saying that they can now use their phones…as we are all listening.

   The taxi to the gate seems to take forever, like we actually landed in Camden and are just going to drive the rest of the way! Seatbelt sign is off, so I’m up to disarm my doors and check that the aft doors are also disarmed by calling the crew on the interphone. The jet bridge comes and the agent opens the door. I tell her that I have 2 passengers who need a wheelchair and have no other specials; sometimes we have unaccompanied minors that need an escort off the plane. I now say goodbye to over 130 passengers; trying to vary the parting comment so no one hears me say the same thing twice; goodbye, farewell, thank you for flying with us, enjoy your day, see you next time, have a great day, thanks for your business, goodbye, see you soon, thank you, farewell, adios, have a great day, etc. A few passengers thank me for the great announcements. Two shake my hands, one gives me a hug. That hardly ever happens, but I never refuse a hug.

Airplane getting serviced photo by PenguinScott

   The pilots rarely stay in the same hotel and they leave with the passengers. Soon, the plane is empty and a few passengers are waiting near the door for the strollers to be brought up from the cargo hold. There isn’t a crew waiting so we have to wait on the strollers as well. Once all the passengers are clear, we can enter the terminal and head to our pick up for the van to the hotel. It’s all prearranged and the pick-up area is listed on my paperwork.  The van shows up after waiting a few minutes and we are taken to the hotel. This time we are down town, since the layover is more than 20 hours. If it were less, we would stay in a hotel close to the airport. Check in is a breeze for us; a name and some information on a form and we are handed keys.

   I say farewell, for now, to my crew. I head to my room, change out of my uniform and head out to explore the city. I don’t have long, as my return flight is 0800 the following day and those 5 hours of sleep the night before are dragging me down fast. But I love Philly and head to my favorite spot for a great cheesesteak sandwich. I walk a few miles and return, exhausted, to my hotel room. I enjoy the fact that my windows face an apartment complex across the alley and spy on a few people who seem to enjoy the fact that they live across from a hotel with prying eyes. Oh, you didn’t know I’m a voyeur? I see a topless lady playing with her 3 dogs, a couple having sex through half-drawn blinds and a guy eating dinner on his sofa. He looks over and up at me and waves. I wave back and we laugh.

   It’s been a long day and it’ll be a short night. Time for bed; tomorrow comes too soon so often in this job. I’ll fly to Denver before eventually reaching SFO. I’m good for 2 more days when I get home and I know I’ll be used for them. I’ll get home; too tired to do the domestic projects that most of you get to enjoy doing when ‘you’ get home from work. I’ll put them off for another day. Before I know it, that bill I thought I’d pay when I next get home, doesn’t get paid until my next day off, in 3 or 4 days. But at least I will have 4 days off; one day to recover and 3 to do get things done. It’s never a dull moment in the life of a flight attendant!

747 in air by PenguinScott