Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Adventures in Flight: The Blue Room

Fifteen years ago I became a flight attendant and began a new career in the skies of the world. I have always loved flying and have had a fascination with aviation since I was a small boy. My eyes always turn upwards when I hear the roar of a jet airplane overhead. The thrill I felt was obvious and in those early days of internet, I would write my friends and family about my new adventures flying hither and yon around the world, so blue.

At one point, I asked if anyone had any questions for the new flight attendant in their life. I always interrogated pilots I met about how things worked and what their work life was like. I just assume everyone is as excited about flying as I am. I think I had only one question, from a very good friend of mine who had recently moved to Chicago. She asked me about the lavatory.

Also known as the blue room, a reference to the royal blue color of the water that flushes the toilet, the lav is a unique place on an airplane. It's only a step above a porta-potty and I try to avoid using it as the oval office at any cost- only in emergencies. Many flight attendants carry their own air freshener to combat the assortment of odors that emanate from within one. And here is a tip for those times you just have to have a seat: use the seat covers to line the bowl to prevent anything untoward (poo) from sticking and not washing down. There's nothing worse than going in and finding claw marks from the person ahead of you.

My friend, Sue, wanted to know when flight attendants used the lavatory, as she apparently had never seen one do so. Silly girl. When we receive our wings, we become gods. Using the lavatory is no longer a necessity. I wish! I do refer to those who don't have a career in the skies as mortals, but we certainly do use the lavatory on airplanes. Elsewhere, too.

It's funny, but to this day, some 15 years later, I still think of this question whenever I slip into one. The things our mind holds onto. (Don't tell her I think of her every time I'm in there!)

After takeoff
The short answer is that we get up out of our jump seats before the seat belt sign is turned off. One of the reasons, besides getting ready for the service, is to jump in the lavs before the line forms, going up the cramped aisle. Some of the women also need to change their shoes; off with the heels and on with the work flats. Some of us wear smocks. So this is the time, when the mortals are still required to remain seated, for us to get in there and get situated before we get inundated with the passengers. It's why you may hear a stern warning if you're up before the sign goes off, “Um, hello, the seat belt sign is on, see the little seat belt symbol all illuminated? Yes, so turn around and go back to your seat and wait for us to use it first!” 

The same goes for landing. The seat belt sign comes on for several reasons. Yes, as we pass through cloud layers into in the arrival city to which is our destination, we tend to encounter more turbulence. But we also need to have access to the aisles to conduct our safety checks, run paperwork to the purser in first class, and have a moment to use the lavs once more before landing. No one wants to encounter the rare emergency landing with a full bladder! Imagine the horror of being on the nightly news after having evacuated an aircraft with a huge wet stain on your pants.

“Yes, Steve, as you can see, we have another case of fearless flight attendants who were just doing their job, evacuating everyone safely, with no injuries to report. Here is one such brave flight attendant, who seems have to wet herself in the process. Well, back to you in the studio.”

Approach into EWR
So do as your parents taught you, use that time before the boarding process begins, and use the rest room before you board the aircraft and give us a chance to do our thing before you have to do yours. And be careful about you ask a flight attendant. You may ruin a good memory of yourself! (Just kidding, Sue!)

Friday, August 14, 2015

Passenger of the Day: Mary or Caesar; What's in a Name?

Catering on an aircraft can always be spotty. I've yet to tour the kitchens and catering facilities, but I know from watching them board the aircraft that it must be quite a performance to stage everything, load it into our serving carts, strap them into the back of the lift trucks and transport them to the plane.

After boarding, one of the first things a flight attendant will do besides safety checks is to begin checking the carts and ovens for catering items. Of utmost importance are the crew meals; certainly for us, but also for the pilots. There are certain people I know, and I won't name any names, but you know who you are, who get a little grumpy when hungry. Neither we nor our passengers like a grumpy pilot!

The catering truck arrives.
Often we are missing items. Some, we can make due without. Others, we have to call for, such as missing meals, which is why we have to check our catering items first. It's the times we get items out of the ordinary that make the day more exciting.

It's not uncommon to see wine glasses from other airlines, and from time to time, I've even found glasses from rail service! I've seen napkins from other carriers, as well. More common, yet, are sodas from other countries. Coke Lite from China? Sure, why not.

Recently, I was in Canada on a nice layover. We started our day checking our catering in the aft galley. Everything was there and things were going fine. We performed our first service, picked up the cabin and had a few minutes to enjoy our crew meal and relax before setting things up for our second service.

My flying partner set up the cart and noticed an odd can in one of the bins from the back of the supply cart. Rob pulled it out and read it aloud, “Clamato.”
“Huh?” I asked.
“They gave us Clamato juice. Two cans. The Canadians love Clamato. This must be from Air Canadianland. It's made with clam juice. I'm going to show Seela.” Seela was our purser, working up in first class. Rob went up and returned a few minutes later with the can. I finished my meal and as I put the tray in the trash cart, he opened the can to give it a try. He made a sour face, waited a minute while looking towards the ceiling, and took another sip. “Nah, I don't like it,” he reported.

I grabbed a cup and also gave it a try. It was very salty, but not bad. It certainly wasn't something I'd drink on it's own. “It'd be great in a bloody Mary,” I told him.

We continued setting up the cart and I found another can of Clamato in my bin, as well as a can of regular tomato juice I'd never seen before. We served our passengers the drink of their choice, and as we neared the last few rows, I heard a woman ask Rob for Clamato. As he was pouring it, the lady next to me says, “I would like a Clamato.” I'm thinking, good grief, what's with all the Clamato?

“See?” said Rob, “They love it.”

Catering knocks and checks for visual confirmation of a disarmed door.
As I poured the lady's Clamato juice, I informed her that we normally don't have it and that I've never seen it before. In fact, I had only just tried it. She said that she had seen Rob carrying it, so assumed we were serving it. She asked if I'd had a Caesar before. “Well, I know who Caesar is...a very smart talking ape,” I told her.
“What?” My Planet of the Apes reference went over her head.
“Never mind. Are we talking about a drink?” I asked.
“Yes, it's a great drink, I love them.”

I asked her to tell me more about this... Caesar. “You salt a rim, use Clamato juice, vodka, celery salt and...” I interrupted her.
“A bloody Mary?” I asked.
She had never heard of a bloody Mary. I told her how much I loved them with pickled okra. Rob interjected at this point his dislike of okra...too slimy. 
“I never liked Rob,” I joked to her. We all laughed.

Rob showed her a can of spicy tomato juice- the one we normally serve. She was intrigued, so he opened it to give her a taste. She liked it, but not as much as her Clamato. He wound up buying her a vodka, so that she could contrast and compare, making a bloody Mary and a Caesar. I brought her a packet of pepper, saying, normally I like mine spicy with a dash of hot sauce, but this should help. She liked that even more. I also informed her that if she wanted, she could use tequila instead, but that's called a bloody Maria. She thought that was cute.

In the end, we had made her day with a simple can of Clamato and a chance to try a bloody Mary. Thanks to a little catering mistake and receiving a few cans meant for another airline, I made a new friend on our flight from Canada.
Planes at SFO

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Passenger of the Day: A Good Little Boy Scout

A plane flies over Chicago

The plane started to bounce a bit in the middle of the sky. I looked out the window to see only a few scattered white clouds in the distance, then I returned to my reading. The purser passed by, heading back to first class. He stopped for a moment at my row, not to talk to me, but to the man seated in the aisle across from me.

“Excuse, me, sir,” he said to the man in a white shirt and gray hair, who looked a bit like Barney Frank, the Massachusetts congressman. He looked up at the purser over the rims of his black glasses, surprised someone was talking to him, “for safety, we need to have your arm rest down.” The purser gently pushed the arm rest back into position and continued on his way. The man looked over at me briefly, and then went back to his Sudoku puzzle. It was a completely forgettable experience.

After three minutes, my neighbor fidgeted, put down his puzzle and pen, looked around and then reached up to press the flight attendant call light. I wondered what he was up to. We were seated at the exit row, so we were closer to the front galley, and sure enough, the purser returned. He was short, stocky, had graying brown hair and smiled as he approached. He turned off the call light illuminated over the man's head, bent down and asked how he could assist.

The Barney Frank lookalike asked the flight attendant if he could see the manual where it states that his arm rest must be down. This is what he was fidgeting about? He wants to see the manual? I couldn't wait to see how the purser would handle this guy. I knew right then that I was seated across the aisle from my passenger of the day!

Narrow aisles
“I'm sorry, sir, but we're not allowed to share our manuals with passengers,” he told him. “But if it helps, they need to be down to keep passengers from falling out of their seats when the plane encounters turbulence, and I feel that right now the plane is at risk since it's been bumpy. It's also more difficult for passengers to move up and down the aisle if a bunch of arm rests are up, as it gives a few inches less clearance.”

Spot-on, Mr. Purser! I was afraid he might actually acquiesce and show this man the manual.

The man across the aisle returned, “Well, can I know the page number where it states this? I'm a good little boy scout and I like to follow rules, but I just want to see it for myself.”

A good little boyscout? Likes to follow rules? Really? A good little boyscout would have just said yes, sir, and that would have ended it right there.

The purser replied, “Well, you can write to Mother Airline. My name is Jeff, with two 'Fs' and you can mention that I'm the purser on this flight. They can discuss with you the various FAR's.”

I do the same thing; 'make sure you get my name right so they know I'm doing my job'.

The boy scout picked up his pen and wrote down Jeff's name and “FAR”, asking what that was (Federal Aviation Regulation). He then told Jeff that this was the first time he'd ever been told this and he always flies with the arm rest up. Jeff told him, “Well, I may be a bit more into safety than most. They are only supposed to be up for egress of passengers.”

“Egress?” Mr. Boy Scout asked.

“Yes, if a passenger is immobile, it's to assist in getting in and out of the aisle seat. That's why the button is hidden in the back of the arm rest instead of being in plain view.” Mr. Boy Scout then wrote down the word 'egress'.

If you could hear my eyes roll, he surely would have.

Jeff excused himself to return to the first class cabin and Mr. Boy Scout continued writing notes. In light of things going on in the news of late, why did I have a feeling I'd be reading about this? “Flight attendant calls man disabled and won't allow the use of the moveable arm rest, more at eleven.” But the thought circling my head was more about how he seemed to have a hard time being told what to do by the authority of the cabin. The purser is the lead flight attendant of the flight, after all, and every rule is there for a distinct reason. He's made a request for safety and Mr. Boy Scout had to grill him, even taking notes, when having that reason explained.

He returned to his Suduko puzzle for a moment, and then stood and wrestled around in the overhead bin. He pulled out a small camera, knelt down and took a few photos of the seat and the arm rest. I was simply amazed. One of the flight attendants from the back saw this and asked him what he was doing. “I just need a photo of my seat.”
Inside an A320

He was a nice man and had been making small talk with yet another flight attendant on board, sharing information about cologne, which I also thought very odd. Men don't normally ask other men who they don't know about their cologne and then offer a napkin with a sample sprayed on it, as Mr. Boy Scout did. Was he hitting on the male flight attendant?

Mr. Boy Scout never said another word to the purser, even when Jeff later came through the cabin to pick up trash. The man seemed cold to Jeff, but jovial to the rest of the crew. He obviously had a problem with authority and didn't like Jeff telling him what to do. Falling out of your seat is bad, and could hurt others, as well. But the skies can be full of selfish passengers who are only concerned for themselves and their own needs. I can only hope Mr. Boy Scout isn't as selfish as appearances can lead one to suspect, and I'm happy he kept the arm rest down for the rest of the flight.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Passenger of the Day: All in the Family

I've been very lucky in the arena of medical incidents in my career. The first one I had was within my first few months of flying. It's one of those you things you never forget, like your first kiss, your first speeding ticket or the first time you realized you hate fruit cake.

I was working on a 727 and we were taxiing for takeoff from Chicago. There was a commotion a few rows from the back of the plane; a man was having a seizure and the passengers around him began to go crazy. I heard someone yell for a spoon to put in his mouth, something you never want to do. If anything, too many people already have silver spoons, but never place anything in the mouth of someone in the throes of a fit.

He recovered quickly and was taken care of by medical professionals, who were able to enter the plane via the air stairs in the tail of the aircraft. What a wonderful feature to have, as it saved us from taxiing all the way back to the gate.

On another flight bound for Ontario, CA, we had to divert to Las Vegas for a woman who had the worst panic attack I've ever seen. We were only 90 minutes late to Ontario, and could have arrived sooner, except that we came in so fast, we had to wait for the brakes to cool down.

My favorite experience (if you can call it that) was on a flight where I was the purser and a man had fallen ill on our way to Washington, DC. I called for medical assistance and a doctor came forward, as well as a nurse. They tended to the patient and the flight attendants working in the back took over as I returned to first class and continued to communicate with the captain. The captain asked me if it was serious enough to divert. The doctor, upon my asking this question, suddenly went from saying this was serious and the guy needed medical help right away, to saying, no, I think he will be fine to get to DC. Obviously, this doc had an important engagement he didn't want to miss. It was too late for a good tee time, so who knows...

Mostly, I encounter people who simply need a bit of oxygen. We ask for medical help, and I don't think I've ever been on a flight where there was no one available. The key is to ask for anyone with medical training. If you ask for a 'doctor on board', you may miss someone who could be a vital help, as even a veterinarian has the basic skills to assist where no one else does.

The worst we get is the occasional vomit on the floor, which we must clean up. I had one so bad, I worked for half an hour with a beautiful plastic apron and mask on my face, sprinkling lemon scented powder all over the mess, scooping it up with a flimsy scooper and finally placing down a large blanket to cover the mess.

Keeping my skills current, I was recently on a flight home from Lima, Peru. I was working the aft galley and a woman looking a bit pale entered. She didn't speak English, but we had 2 language qualified flight attendants in the galley. She was not feeling well and clutched the walls. She went down and someone shouted for oxygen, which I obtained. I knelt down, turned it on and began to place the mask on her. She shooed it away and rolled to her side. Someone said she was going to be ill and asked for a bag. I moved back, praying it wasn't going to be of the projectile variety.

She recovered and I got the oxygen on her and a call went out for medical assistance. Shortly, we had an RN and a doctor, who seemed very comfortable taking her pulse, comforting her, moving her purse out of the way. I had taken gloves from the AED to hand to him and thought it very odd that he refused them. No one refuses gloves when dealing with bodily fluids! Turns out, the doctor was the woman's husband. He spoke to the language flight attendants and mentioned that she was also a doctor.

Soon, another woman, young, attractive, straight black hair, was hovering nearby, offering her medical assistance as well. I told her that with the doctor and the RN, I felt we had it covered. But this was not just another soul offering medical assistance, it was the couple's daughter. It was then that I noticed the doctors very nice gold watch and the patient's leather Gucci purse. I wanted to ask if the daughter was single! Was everyone in their family in the medical field?

In the end, our patient recovered quickly, which was a good thing, as the bag that was delivered for her to be sick in was clear and I could see that, like me, she had the chicken for dinner. The sooner we got that out of the way, the better we'd all be! She soon was on her feet headed back to her seat. Another happy passenger taken care of by a team of well-trained flight attendants who were happy to assist and to do what we do best...take care of passengers.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Passenger of the Day: The Lovers

International pre-departure can be as fun as your 5th fruit cake of the holiday season- trying to maneuver the aisles during the busy boarding period to ask first class passengers for drink orders, taking and hanging coats, passing out amenity kits and menus and answering questions. All that and while not getting paid; the money starts flowing when the brakes of the plane are released, not when we start sweating for the needs of first class passengers, the neediest of whom seem to be upgrades from economy.

I approached the couple in 4K and L during the boarding process. She was attractive with dark features, straight black hair pulled back, a striped blouse under a black sweater and a cheery disposition. He was equally handsome with a full beard and wore a tee shirt and gray sweatpants. Very classy for first class, and quite comfortable, which apparently wins the contest. He was more into the young woman seated next to him than anything else.

Ignoring their attire, I smiled and asked if I could bring them anything to drink. My tray was already full of sparkling wine, orange juice and water; should they ask for these popular selections, it would save me a trip back up the aisle full of people headed to coach. Swimming up stream with a tray of drinks always brings the fear of bathing someone in a concoction of sparkling wine, orange juice and water. My poor heart.

He smiled back and said no, thanks. I looked to the young woman, who turned to the man attached to her right hand, and whispered to him. He looked into her eyes and then looked back to me to say that they would indeed like some sparkling wine. I smiled again and placed their drinks down, moving to the next row of seats.

Several passengers seemed very excited about their travel. Santiago, Chile was our destination, a new route for Mother Airline. Actually, we had the route many years ago. Santiago was always the city that got away from me. After the events of 9-11, I was furloughed, but spent time away from work taking advantage of my flight benefits. I made one big trip a month and had gone to such places as Hong Kong, Milan, Brussels and Taiwan. Santiago was the next destination on my list when Mother Airline called me back to work, so I didn't get to make the trip; and then we stopped flying there. Since starting again, a lot of passengers are taking advantage of the renewed route.

During the initial beverage service, I asked to take the lover's drink order. He declined my offer. Again, the young woman, now with her feet on the seat and her knees up to her chest, turned to whisper to him. She looked back to me like she had won a prize and he spoke up that they would like another glass of sparkling wine. “Oh,” she added, “and a glass of water for both of us.” “So, she does speak,” said my inner voice.

This is how it went every time I offered anything to them. He would say no, like a polite guest in a stranger's home, too timid to actually take up any offers of hospitality. She would lean into him, whisper in his ear, change his mind and he would then accept the offer. She seemed to have the power over him to accept any of my offers. Would you like dessert? Would you like a cheese plate and port wine? Would you like to smell this rotten fruit? Would you like to chew on this piece of glass. Would you like a fruit cake?

The Lover's, as we all started calling them, continued to hold hands and look longingly into each others eyes. They sighed and laughed. They did everything the same; like twins. What he ordered, she ordered. What he watched, she watched. She would get up to use the lav, then he would. It was the purser who pointed out that sweatpants on a man in love don't do enough to hide his passion.

We looked on in awe, the three of us working in first class, all agreeing that we wished we had someone to steal kisses from on a vacation flight to a foreign country. The others from the back all came up to steal a peek at our lovers- giggling, smiling and in a world that only they occupied at 37,000 feet.

Passenger of the Day: Mr. Ebola

Health scares come and go and I've never understood them, nor have I fallen for them. I remember in the months after 9-11, the media going berserk about a few cases of possible ricin; a poisonous white powder found in packages sent to a few of our leaders and possibly left in aircraft lavatories. To watch the news, one would think a ricin apocalypse were on the brink of breaking out and if we didn't heed the warnings of the talking heads, we'd all parish to bequeath the planet to the cockroaches. But I don't recall anyone dying from it in the US (and I am unable to find reports of deaths on line in writing this).

When SARS broke out, I lost my job for a few months because people stopped flying. When first reported, again, one paying attention to the news reports would think the world were about to end. A report issued in the early months advised those paying attention that a common disease like influenza kills 20,000 people every year; 200 times as many people who had died of SARS.

But new health scares are what sells. Bird flu, penguin pox, fox news syndrome, hokey-pokey disease and most recently it was Ebola getting people's attention. There were 18 cases of Ebola in Europe and the US. But to hear the chatter from friends and even some of my flying partners, you'd think there were a few zeros behind those 2 digits. I spoke to a friend who told me he'd kissed someone who had just been to Africa, and he was waiting for the incubation period to end to see if he had contracted the disease. Dr. Penguin assured him that, while he may have contracted something, a deadly African disease was not on the short list!

During the scare, friends asked me what procedures and training we have undergone at Mother Airline in the wake of this new threat to our way of life. In return, I tell them I no longer pay attention to the news reports!

Our training is already in place for dealing with health issues, and since this latest one, named after an Italian bowling score (ebola a perfect game-a) is only spread via direct contact with bodily fluids, and not an airborne contagion, I'm not all that concerned. Our universal precautions and frequent hand washing do the trick.

This isn't to say that I totally ignore what is going on around me. I have the information I need, I have the tools and smarts to deal with the risks, and I have the knowledge that I have a greater risk of dying in a car wreck, from a tragic incident involving a mule or being hit by a fruit cake. Contracting the Ebola virus is extremely unlikely, but unlike with a mule, the potential threat is serious.

On a trip, to Oahu, Hawaii, I was in the aisle with the beverage cart during our initial service after taking off from Houston, when the girl I was working with came up to me with a bit of a frantic look on her face. “Why did they board the duty free catalogs and remove the Sky Mall magazines? We don't sell duty free going to Hawaii. This gentleman in the hat asked to buy some cologne and I told him we don't sell it. Then he told me he was disappointed to hear that, since he left his back at home in...” wait for it... “NIGERIA!” (Cue the music of impending doom.)

I looked over to see a very healthy looking man about my age, dark, black skin, nice shirt and a silly trucker-style ball cap, looking through a magazine. Yeah, he's a killer, and he's my passenger of the day; Mr. Ebola.

We advised the other crew members of the man on board who was transiting from a region of the world known to have a contagious disease, as we are trained to do. What didn't help things along was that a woman in 3A got sick in the first class lavatory after asking for an air sickness bag, and the flight attendant came to ask me if I thought we should lock it off. I asked if she had made a mess in there, but the flight attendant was too scared to open the door to take a look. She wanted to ask if the woman had come from Africa, but was too frightened. To quell her fears, I went to the woman and first comforted her, “I hear you're not feeling well, is there anything I can get for you?”

“Oh, no, I'm feeling much better,” she said, and she looked quite chipper and was smiling. She assured me that she had just had too much chai in the airport; 2 cups, back to back, in fact, and now that she got it all out of her system, things were feeling normal again.

“That's great, and you do look very well. By the way, have you been traveling to any place that would be of concern to us?”

She smiled, knowingly and I got the answer I suspected, a 'no'. I informed the nervous flight attendant, who seemed to have a large weight taken from her shoulders, and she thanked me profusely for dealing with the situation for her.

Later in the flight, I was told the story of when Mr. Ebola walked to the aft galley to purchase some food. In handing over his credit card, he first licked his finger, as if he were thumbing through the pages of a book. Ebola or not, that was sort of gross. I asked if surely she didn't handle the saliva-soaked credit card after his doing so. No, she turned around and got a paper towel from the dispenser, took the credit card in the paper towel, never touching it, and returned it to him in the same fashion. Nice.

I'm very sensitive to the manner in which I pick up trash from passengers. Five years ago, I contracted a virus, most likely from flying, that nearly took me from this mortal plane. I always use a bag for picking up trash and always wash my hands afterwords. I'm cautious, but not paranoid.

After we landed, a group of us went to dinner, and while the Giants played Kansas City on the TV, I asked, “Well, now that we all have Ebola, who's buying dinner?” Nervous looks were thrown around the table for a second, and upon discovering that none of us had bought into the fear, we all had a good laugh. Penguin 1—Ebola 0.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Adventures in Flight: Made in America

Houston Courthouse 
The first piece of furniture I ever bought was a queen-sized bed. I'd moved off campus into an apartment and needed a bed. If you lived in Houston in the 90's, you know there was one place to shop for a mattress - “Mattress Mack's” Gallery Furniture. He did his own commercials, jumping up with a wad of cash and a goofy smile exclaiming, “We'll save you...MONEY!” To this day when I see the exit sign off the interstate, I remember him also saying, “I-45 North, between Tidwell and Parker.” Effective advertising.

With mixed emotions, I recently performed my civic responsibility by serving Jury Duty. Driving to the courthouse downtown, I passed Parker and remembered, “I-45 North between Tidwell and Parker.” Twenty-seven years after buying my bed, he's still there. So, on the way home, after not being used, (it would have been a boring DUI case, anyway; I'm sure the guy was guilty) I stopped in.

What used to be a small, somewhat dumpy metal building with furniture outside under a large shade structure, is now one of the largest furniture stores in the country; quite grandiose, with large statues, water fountains with live tropical birds, a huge rotunda and even a display of live monkeys. Being Houston royalty, as it were, it wasn't too surprising to see several areas devoted to his ego, with plaques and photos and displays of Jim McIngvale alongside other Houston royalty, presidents, and sports legends.

What got me most were the numerous US flags and the continuously running infomercial on the many TV screens throughout the show room with an annoyingly twangy country song going on about god and country, images of Old Glory waving, of a Marine and his bride on the steps of a church, of families and children eating hot dogs, and there was a much older, but still sort of goofy looking, Mattress Mack declaring how his furniture store now leans toward items made in America. Red, white and blue. God. American proud. Sappy music sung by a nasally challenged man. 'Murca!' (the term a certain inept president recently made famous).

Chilean friends being silly
Earlier this year, I had my first trip to Santiago, Chile. I'd never been to South America until transferring to our Houston base, and it's been great getting to know the culture of our neighbors to the south. Upon meeting some friends of a friend, I was asked how I liked Santiago. I told them how much I loved the huge Andes Mountains and hadn't expected the city to be so much like America, with Denny's, P.F. Chang's, Fuddruckers, and all the standard fast food restaurants, of course. They looked at me like I had two heads, “Well,” they said, “you ARE in America.” South America.

Of course, I was.

I'd fallen into that trap that so many from the US fall into; thinking America is all there is. People in South America see themselves as American's too. Made in America, technically, means it could be
made in Canada, or Chile, or Argentina. We seem to forget that we are not the only Americans.

One of Mack's monkeys
Ever since my new friends in Chile reminded me that we are all American's, I've tried to be more aware of how I use “American”. It's impressive how people can stand so tall and proud for their homeland. I wish as Earthlings, we could stand a little more in unison of the fact that we are all on this rock together and try to get along a bit more comfortably.

I'm fortunate to have the kind of job that really opens one's eyes to new concepts, as well as the chance to explore new cultures. I once heard that after being a flight attendant for a while, you learn enough to earn a college degree, and this situation reminded me of that. I love seeking knowledge and exploring new worlds and learning new insights. The world to me has gotten so much smaller with this job. And so much better understood. I wish more 'Murcan's could do the same.