Category Archives: Grinds my Gears

My First Uber Trick

images     I’m always looking for ways to supplement my income so that I don’t have to be away from home so much. I freelance photography jobs. I wrote a book. I made an app. I’ve even been a substitute teacher, but only for the tiny kids that are still afraid of adults and don’t know how to talk back.
When Uber became a thing, I was interested straight away. It sounded perfect until I read that drivers must have a four-door car and it must be newer than 2010. My crappy little Civic was two-door and a 2005. There went that idea. Plus I heard that Austin Uber drivers were getting busted by undercover cops posing as riders because technically Uber driving is illegal.
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They must have sorted that out with the taxi contingent because I started hearing about people using Uber all over the Austin area and no one had heard about drivers getting in trouble anymore. Sweet.

When I had enough money saved I got a new car, my first brand new car ever. I made sure it had four doors. I bought a fancy edition Toyota Rav 4 with all the bells and whistles. This is the first time in my life that I’ve owned a car where you can open and close the windows by pushing a button rather than cranking a crank.
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I started all the paperwork and background checks and within a week I was cleared to go. I watched a 20 minute long instructional video on how it works from the drivers’ perspective and I thought I had it down. Still though, I had already decided that my first fare would be my girlfriend since she’s an expert on the Uber thing from the riders’ side of it. I figure I could take her out to a nice dinner, pay for everything, then she could “hire” me to take her home. That way I can figure out the Uber app and get a perfect rating to my name in the process. It was a fool-proof plan.

Last night we put it into action. We weren’t really feeling a fancy dinner so we did Olive Garden instead. We got seated in a booth in the bar area by four screaming meth addicts, one of which was very pregnant. I wondered if any of them knew who the father was. The table on the other side of them demanded to be moved because of how rowdy they were. My girlfriend nearly went off on them but I begged her not too because one of the guys was showing the others how you can turn two Olive Garden steak knives and a breadstick into a makeshift double-edged sword. I found him to be the most normal of the four.
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That group finally finishes up and leaves in a Tasmanian devil whirl. The waiters apologize profusely about their behavior. Never in a million years would I think that those toothless rednecks would fail to be the weirdest thing about our night. I hit the button on the Uber app that says, “GO ONLINE.”

My girlfriend logs on and checks out the Uber car situation from her phone. There isn’t alot of activity in far North Austin at 11pm on a Tuesday night so we put the plan into action. She presses the button to request a ride and immediately my phone buzzes. I see the request and quickly accept the job. Pretty easy.

We walk out to the car and when we get in I try to tell the app that I’ve picked up my fare. It’s not giving me that option though. She checks her phone and notices that somehow my name isn’t listed as her driver, it’s someone else, and they’re one minute away. She quickly cancels the request as the poor soul pulls up.

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We quickly back out and leave the parking lot, trying to figure out how our plan fell apart. She requested a ride, my phone buzzed, I accepted the fare, and then what the hell? Obviously someone else accepted her request, but how could I as well? As we were heading home we realize that my phone is still saying I have a customer and that they’re seven minutes away, now eight.

Is it really possible that the second she requests a ride a stranger accepts at the exact moment a second person requests a ride and I accept? Well, yeah, I guess it is. That’s what we’re dealing with here. My instinct is to just cancel and go home because I need to be up at 6am but my girlfriend says I should probably go ahead and do it so I don’t get yelled at by the Uber people. So where is this joker anyways?

I turn on the GPS and start following the directions. It looks like we’re going to a part of town that’s nothing but warehouses. It says I’m a minute away and there isn’t a soul around. I’m hoping it’s all a big mistake, a glitch in the Matrix. Right on cue, I make the final turn and a well-lit building appears with a disheveled business guy sitting in the grass, waving me down. Welcome to Perfect Tens Strip Club.

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Before I even get to a stop he stands up and starts walking over. I guess this is the guy. He opens the door and climbs in. I ask him where we’re going and he says I should already know. Right, I guess I need to do something with the app. I tell it that I made the pick up and that we’re now en route to his house, which is 40 minutes away. The robotic lady starts giving us directions and immediately the guy tells me to ignore her because we need to go to Whataburger first.

I have no idea where the nearest Whataburger is so he gives me turn by turn directions, all the while playing on his phone with a bluetooth ear piece still in his ear. I wonder if he had that thing on during his lap dances. Probably so.
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I figured he’d want to just go through the drive-thru but he insisted on ordering from the counter. We park and he staggers toward the doors. I notice that when he gets his order it’s not in a brown paper bag, it’s a tray full of food, enough to feed a family. He sits down and starts unwrapping his burger as if he were defusing a bomb. Are you kidding me right now?
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It looks like he’s eating in slow motion. I’ve never seen a drunken meal go down so slowly. Things got worse when two high school girls in short shorts came in and ordered food as well. It took him ten minutes to remember that he had a burger in his hands and that he needed to be biting and chewing. In all fairness he did ask us if we wanted anything before he went in. If I had known he was going to take 32 minutes to eat, I would’ve taken him up on his offer. My midnight bedtime was never going to be achieved.

He finally finishes his feast, wipes his greasy fingers on his slacks, and heads back to the car, thanking us for waiting, but not before checking back on the high school girls one last time. I guess if he looked back and they were eyeing him then he’d ditch us and go with them. Since they had no idea he was ever there in the first place, much less left them, he climbed back into the back seat, looking a bit defeated. We notice he smells much better than before. The girlfriend thinks he put on cologne to impress the under-aged girls, but I think he put it on to cover up stripper sweat and other things on his lap before he gets home to his wife. We may never know.

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I’m not sure what the etiquette is here. Am I supposed to entertain him or just leave him alone? When I’m in a cab I just like to sit there in the backseat and do my own thing. But this isn’t a smelly cab, I’m letting this guy into my car, it’s personal and therefore a little more familiar. The obvious first question would be how is day is going but considering he’s drunk and I picked him up on the front lawn of a ghetto-ass strip club in the middle of nowhere, I already know the answer to that one.

The only time I’ve ever been in a Uber car as a passenger, I was sitting between two friends who were in the middle of a fight and they were screaming and cursing at each other like  Bobby and Whitney. That went on for 40 minutes. I spent the time making apologetic looks to the driver in the rear view mirror. That’s what I know about what goes on during an Uber ride.
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I decide not to say anything to him. Or to my girlfriend. I didn’t want him to feel like he was intruding on our evening, which he certainly was. We follow the directions down south and of course there’s road construction everywhere and his exit doesn’t exist. This first ride could not be going any worse.

He directs me to another road and the GPS Navigator takes it from there. We go way south and then start heading west into the hills. After 20 minutes we’re in the middle of nowhere, heading to either the fancy houses overlooking the lake, or to a kill room he has hidden in the woods. I thought fancy house, but the look on my girlfriend’s face said she thought the latter. At least we’d be dying together. She began sending out a myriad of texts to friends and family to let them know what was going on in case this was our death cab. She would later say that she had seen it all in her mind and begged him to kill her first so she wouldn’t have to watch me die. That’s sweet.
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We head up massive hills, make sharp turns, all the while avoiding deer and armadillos that seem to come out of nowhere. It just keeps getting darker and darker. I’m trying to follow the directions on my phone which I’m illegally holding in my hand because I don’t have a holder. He tells me to forget about the route map and just keep going straight until it comes to an end. I think too deeply on the existential interpretation of that statement. Gulp.

While we were stopped at Whataburger I tried to find an XM radio station that matched his personality. I guess the Pearl Jam one, but now I’m thinking I should have picked something a little more Patrick Bateman. I can’t help but think this is what hookers must feel like when they have to pleasure clients they’d rather not even look at. I just want this to end. It’s so incredibly uncomfortable.
images-12     The road keeps getting more and more narrow, but we start to see a few mailboxes so we may just get out of this yet. He tells us to pull over onto a side road that immediately dead ends into an iron gate. Just like that, he says we’re at his house which I can’t even see from the front gate. He walks over to a keypad and presses in some sort of code. We don’t even wait to see if it works, we just back out and head out ASAP.
images-13       After we calmed ourselves after fits of laughter, we go over our thoughts during the entire ordeal. We had to reaffirm that he really was as creepy as we’d made him out to be. We went over the evidence at every turn and built up quite a case against him. At the end, we were lucky we got out of it unscathed.

We drive the 45 minutes back home and only when I pull into our neighborhood do I notice that I never told the app that we delivered the goods. I quickly hit END TRIP and that officially closes the ride, and stops the meter. Yeah, I may have accidentally doubled his fare, but I think I deserve it. We had the lengthy unscheduled Whataburger stop and is he really going to complain to Uber about what happened on his trip home from the strip club? He’s wise to just keep quiet about the whole thing and chalk it up to a crazy night. I’m sure he spent five times as much money on strippers anyways.

Well my latest way of supplementing my income didn’t get off to the easy start I thought it would, but at least I foresee adventure in this endeavor. Next day off I have at home after I fly my Rome trip tomorrow will be spent trying it again. I’ll set aside four hours and just answer ride requests. I’ll figure out what exactly I can expect in a day’s work and if it really is something worth doing on my time off. I may want to do it during the daytime though, not at 11pm. I’ll learn.

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Stuck in Slough for another 24 Hours

imagesI was supposed to wake up at 4am this morning here in England to fly back to America and last night I had planned accordingly. When we got the call late last night that our flight had cancelled and our new pick up was 36 hours away, it didn’t really change things. I was still tired and ready for bed at 9pm and not having the early wake up call anymore didn’t change my desire for sleep.

So of course I go to bed early and even though I tried to sleep in, I was up at 5am, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. I fought it for an hour and stayed in bed with the lights and tv off, but it was no use. I eventually accepted my reality and got up. I went downstairs for the free coffee and pastries. Never pass up free food in a country where the exchange rate screws you.

images-2At 6:15am I was back in my room, completely wired. I don’t drink coffee often so it hits me harder than crack. Next thing I know I’m looking up the nearest geocaches from my Slough hotel. Turns out there’s one hidden in a playground near by, maybe a ten minute walk away. Perfect!

images-1For those who don’t know what geocaching is, it’s something mainly old people (and children) do to pass the time before they die and “get exercise.” It’s a world-wide treasure hunt for nothing. Here is a video explaining further. It’s actually pretty fun and addicting. I was going to be in search of my 76th geocache with finds in such places as Texas, Sweden, Spain, and Australia. It’s probably the nerdiest thing I do.

I thought finding the geocache sounded like a wholesome thing to do. It was between doing that or going to the gym. In over 15 years of having layovers, I’ve never set foot into any hotel gym so I kinda knew that wasn’t going to happen. Yes, finding that geocache is the most G rated thing I could be doing outside of planting posies so I go for it, though I’m not sure what my obsession is with being well-behaved today.

images-9The park was massive, but very hard to get to. I knew vaguely where it was but there was no obvious way to enter it. It was surrounded by houses and a perimeter fence. Eventually I wind my way through little neighborhood streets and footpaths and get to the gate. The park itself is probably the size of five football fields, side by side, but it’s completely gated off except for the one entrance that a Mazda Miata couldn’t fit through. Very strange park for sure. There was a big playground for little kids, a large grassy area and then a basketball goal. There was also a circular track around the play area for dirt bikes.

UnknownI thought it’d be a quick task. I read the description and it seemed like an easy thing to find. The online clue said something about the hidey spot being “BMX-related,” so when I saw a series of three little plastic bike jumps, I knew it had to be there, probably right under the ramp of the jump. Very easy indeed. In and out.

images-6I was the only the person in the park, I thought, but then I noticed a park employee on a riding lawnmower coming through the entrance. For some reason that really freaked me out. If I had been in a park you could just stroll through on your way to wherever you needed to go, that’d be one thing. But this park was self-contained and if you were inside the park, it was obvious that was your intended destination.

images-4Standing alone in the middle of the see-saw, slide, and merry-go-round just seemed so wrong and my uncomfortableness was not unnoticed by the worker. If I had any kind of accessory, things would’ve been much better: friend, dog, or child.

Instinctively I pulled out my phone and acted like I was texting or playing a game. I’m not sure if I thought that’d make me seem more or less creepy, but at least I had something to focus on while I thought about what to do next. I’m sure the kid wouldn’t have batted an eye if I started poking around the bike jumps for the little fist-sized geocache, but I didn’t want to risk an interrogation in case he had no idea what I was doing. I was still high on coffee and couldn’t maintain. I knew I wouldn’t be able to properly explain myself.

images-10He was mowing the area pretty quickly, but the park was huge so it was going to take at least 20 minutes for him to finish. I didn’t think I could wait it out. I’d go crazy. I figured I looked nervous and definitely looked suspicious. If I were him I’d be positive that I was a pedophile. Who comes to a park alone and just stands around amongst the toys for 4 year olds? New York City has signs in parks like these forbidding adults from being there without a child. It was just wrong, all wrong, but I had a decision to make.

images-8I could either walk away, blowing off the sole reason for leaving my hotel room, and admit defeat, or I could find a way to find the thing. I start slowly walking over to the jumps. My plan was to casually stroll over, sit on one of the knee-high launch ramps and very nonchalantly examine the area for the geocache. Seeing a 38-year-old man sitting on a ramp in a park seemed less creepy than one standing around by the playscape. Why on earth do they not have benches? There wasn’t one in the entire park.

before-chatJust as I’m starting to walk over, a couple of middle-aged guys walk past me and go to the same area. At first I was happy because I wasn’t alone anymore. Then I noticed that they looked homeless and were carrying a case of beer. This was at like 7am and the sun was barely out. They had no problem plopping down in the middle of the little kids’ park though. Before I could adjust my plan, they were sitting right in the middle of the three jumps, facing the playground equipment like it was some sort of stage, and started drinking their beer.

images-3Great, I was worried about being mistaken for a pedo and now I’m sharing a playground with two guys who probably really are diddlers. There’s no way in hell I’m going to go near them and poke around for the geocache now, so there’s nothing left to do but get out and go back to the room. I get out fast, before they invite me to join them. Now I’m back safe and sound in my hotel room. At least the mis-adventure killed about an hour. I just have 22 more to go before I can get out of here.

images-7My crew is all meeting downstairs in the lobby at 2pm to take the shuttle over to Windsor. I’ve been there many times, but it’s honestly the only option of something to do if you’re not going to hang out in the Kiddie-Diddler park, which I am NOT going to be doing again. I don’t want to see what those guys were waiting so excitedly for. They were set up in front of that playground like Phantom was about to start. At least there are food options in Windsor, and a big castle.

The Prodigal Son Returns February 29, 2012

After 82 days of being off of work, I finally got the call to come back. Medical said I was good to go, healthy as an ox. Well, they said to come up to New York and then maybe in a day or so they’d put me back in the mix. Of course none of the departments know what the other one is doing so for the past five days Scheduling has thought I’ve been back and has put me in the pool of flight attendants subject to receiving top-secret orders to God knows where.

Luckily they never assigned me anything on those days when I was still at home. That would’ve been a problem, especially if they would’ve called last night when my friends were throwing me an impromptu Goodbye Party at a seedy strip club in North Central Austin. I would’ve been excused from the missed assignment, but them not calling saved me even more annoying paper work and calls to my Supervisor.

She’s been my Supervisor for over 8 years now and until December, I never knew what she looked like, or what her first name was. She didn’t know me from Adam and we liked it that way. I didn’t bother her and she didn’t bother me. Now I have her on speed dial and know everything about her. I’m pretty sure I have her menstrual cycle down at this point.

I was hoping I’d come back to work with a spring in my step and a fresh sense of willingness to please, or at least not to be so quick to get annoyed with people. Whenever I catch myself getting annoyed by absolutely everyone I come into contact with, I know it’s time to take a few days off and get back to Neutral. After a week I’m recharged and ready for anything. After 82 days, I figured it’d be weeks before I roll my eyes or snap at a stranger. That’s what I was praying for at least.

The first test was passed with much ease. I made it through the Austin airport with no problem, most likely because I was still asleep and I don’t remember even being there. It wasn’t until we pushed back that the sun even came up. That was 11 hours ago. I honestly cannot remember a single detail of my hour I spent at the airport other than looking into Earl Campbell’s restaurant and wanting the signed Oilers jersey on the wall.

The flight was jam-packed, but that didn’t bother me, at least I got on the plane. I love flying for free. I slept through the entire flight. I love having the window seat. I couldn’t pick out the lady who sat next to me if you paid me a million dollars. I was in my own little world. So far so good. I love floating through non revving.

When we landed, I patiently waited for all the other passengers to get off the plane. I didn’t stand and stare at the front of the line while huffing or puffing. I sat there with my seat beat buckled and stared out the window at the bundled up baggage handlers doing their thing in the freezing rain.

Once the coast was clear and all the other non-revs were helping the crew clean the cabin, I snuck out and headed down to collect the bag I checked. Again, I was a little Fonzie, even when the bratty little kids kept riding the baggage carousel and kicking me as they went by.

Things started to fall apart a little bit when I was walking to the Air Train. An Indian man was racing to get to that terminal’s station which was about 1000 meters away. On moving sidewalk 4 in a series of 6, he decided to look for his wife, who was somewhere behind him. When he turned and saw that I was right on his heels and his wife was nowhere to be found, that was somehow my fault. He glared and of course I took it personally and went into defensive mode.

I thought he was going to say something to me and I was ready to reply, “Who runs off and leaves their wife and doesn’t turn around to check on her every minute or so? Prick!”

He never said anything to me, but I had already played out the entire fight in my mind and lived through all the emotions.  It was exhausting. I wasn’t in a good place. It was just as detrimental as if I had actually had the fight with the man.

On the Air Train a young, dirty Spanish couple annoyed me because they got on the train, plopped down their massive backpacks, and blocked the entrance from anyone else to get on. I was on and had a seat already, so it shouldn’t have concerned me, but I felt the aggravation of everyone else trying to get on the train. I took their ire upon my own shoulders, even though they didn’t seem to be bothered that much at all. They simply stepped over the obstacle and kept on with their lives.

I was feeling myself getting into the red and I was only on that train for three minutes before I got off at my terminal. I didn’t like where this was going. All of that time in Texas decompressing and within an hour in New York and we’re back in the dark place.

It was unbelievable, but I made it through security with no fuss at all. If anything, I was the one who slowed the process down. I perfectly fine being the weakest link and I’m very quick to apologize to everyone waiting on my ass. Getting past that potentially hellish encounter got me feeling optimistic again.

The last test of the kinder/gentler Brian was going through the Flight Attendant Operations area. Once I get to Ops I’m officially back into the world of working flight attendants. I usually try to walk through there with my blinders on and ears off. I don’t want to hear any of the inane babble the flight attendants are usually engaged in or hear their fights about whose stuff is on “my chair.”

Shockingly, it went very well too. No one was fighting over what to watch on the television and the dinosaurs who just transferred into New York from other cities weren’t complaining about what they held and how they thought they’d be able to fly better trips. No, make that they weren’t complaining about how they have all “paid their dues” and DESERVE to be flying better schedules. I honestly want to kill those people.

I guess what I’m saying is that the jury is still out on whether or not I’m going to be nice to the passengers and my coworkers. I didn’t miss the job at all during the last three months, but as far as jobs go, I have a very good one. I still know that. At the same time though, on the way to the crash pad I stopped by the bodega to buy a lottery ticket. The Mega Millions is now over 100 million. Let’s make that happen.

Straight Guy Lesson #21- Sleeping in Airports

Sometimes I sleep in airports, not very often, but sometimes I have to. Sometimes I try to sleep in airports but can’t, like when I was in Amman. Remember that?

When I’m in a city that happens to be a crew base for my airline, I get to leave the terminal area cluttered with the riff-raff and enjoy the VIP area which is Flight Attendant Operations. Its “Quiet Room” isn’t that nice, but at least there are semi-comfortable places to sleep. In New York we get big comfy reclining chairs. In some other airports there are little cots.

When I walk through airports where something dramatic has happened, like a massive snow storm that caused cancellations, I always feel sorry for all the people just stuck in the airport with nowhere to go. They find any and every place they can to sleep: benches, the conveyor belt by where you check in, the shoeshine man’s chair, or even on top of their own luggage. Pretty much anywhere you won’t get stepped on is a good enough spot in an airport.

Those people have to deal with a lot of crap out there, too. There’s always some guy on a phone ranting, raving, whining, and moaning about the situation, making a bad situation even worse. They also have to deal with the cleaning crew and their loud machines. Then there’s the worry that someone will steal your shit or that you might sleep through your rescheduled flight. It’s not a peaceful night is what I’m saying.

So when I tell my friends that I had to spend the night at JFK, they really feel sorry for me because that’s what they imagine. Then I tell them that I’m not out in the terminal with the commoners, I’m in a secure area that’s dark and reasonably quiet. When they hear about the Quiet Room they quit feeling sorry for me and think I have the best set-up possible. It sounds lovely to them. I let them think that.

This is what I never tell my friends though, there are a myriad of other issues in that sixteen-recliner Quiet Room in Flight Attendant Operations that make the experience a living hell. For one, there are mice in there. That is probably my smallest complaint out of all the ones I’m about to mention, but others would disagree.

First of all, you have to find a seat. You’re not supposed to save seats for yourself or your friends but people do it anyways. Some people will lay out their blanket on a chair at 9am, work a turn-around trip that returns at 10pm the same day, and then take their seat. This sucks for the people who commute into JFK at around noon and have to work a flight that departs in the evening. Having a little cat nap really recharges you, but all the seats might be taken by people who aren’t even there. And you can’t just move someone’s stuff if you think they’re not really there, flight attendants are very possessive of their stuff and if you incorrectly guess that they’re on a trip and they’re not, there WILL be a major fight.

Last time I was in the Quiet Room a fist fight nearly broke out. A guy had his backpack on a seat, but elected to hang out outside the room while he made some phone calls. That was the right thing for him to do. Another guy comes into the Quiet Room at around 2am and looks for a recliner. They’re all taken except for the one that has the backpack on it. The guy moves the bag to the floor and climbs into the chair. He reclines it back to its optimal, horizontal position and falls asleep. Half an hour later the guy comes in for his seat and sees that this other guy moved his stuff and stole his chair, the last chair.

Of course he wakes the guy up and that guy gets pissed off. They argue about whose seat it was until everyone in the room is awake and grumbling. Neither guy budges and they start to get rough with each other, or so it sounds, the rest of us aren’t watching, just listening. After a couple minutes, an innocent lady just trying to get some sleep comes up to them and quietly asks them to have their conversation outside so we can sleep. You’d think they’d understand and oblige, but the chair stealer starts going off on her as well, telling her “to get her damn hands off of him.” He sounded kinda like George McFly when he was saving Loraine from Biff, except he was talking to an old lady about his own body. Pathetic.

Up until that point we were just listening from under our covers, but when it sounded like a lady was going to be hit, we all sprung up and told the chair-stealer guy to Get the Fuck Out! This happens more often than you’d think.

Even if there aren’t fights breaking out over saved seats and you have the best case scenario where everyone else is soundly asleep, you’re still not in a good place. At any given time there will be five snorers and at least three farters. The last time I was in there we had a guy who talked in his sleep, but he was yelling at his Supervisor. I thought it was hilarious, but it did cost me half an hour of precious sleep.

Then there are the Ambien zombies. You really don’t know what to expect from them. One girl started masturbating in her chair and was really loud about it. Another guy got up to piss but never made it out of the Quiet Room, he just went against the wall next to a girl. The room had to be evacuated and shut down for a day while a special bio-cleaning team sterilized the room. One guy decided to go from recliner to recliner to try to snuggle up with whatever person happened to be asleep in there. He didn’t get very far and the authorities were involved. This one colleague took off all her clothes and slept on top of her blanket. I guess she got hot.

There is always one person who forgets to turn off the ringer to their phone and another who decides to play Angry Birds with the sound on under their blanket when they have insomnia. That one also makes me laugh for a second, but then I get annoyed.

The first flights in the morning depart around 5:30am so some people are waking up at 4am to get ready. Alarms will go off every ten minutes from 4am until around noon and you can’t wear ear plugs because then you’ll miss your own alarm when it needs to go off. I tried the vibration route one time, but my phone fell out of my pocket and in between the seat cushions. Luckily I missed a flight to visit a friend, not one that I was supposed to be working.

I don’t think I’ve ever slept more than four hours in there, but I know I couldn’t have done any better out in the terminal area with the other refugees. My lesson here today isn’t how to make it work when you have to spend the night at an airport. The lesson is: Don’t be Cheap, Get a Damn Hotel Room. No matter what the cost.

Straight Guy Lesson #19- Duty Free

Duty Free shopping is a wonderful thing when you’re traveling abroad. You can find deals on everything from perfume to alcohol to local food specialties. Part of the fun of international travel is seeing what goods they have at the airport’s Duty Free Shop.

Duty Free shopping inflight, however, is a pointless pain in the ass, at least for the flight attendants. It’s a miniscule part for what you do as an international flight attendant but I’ll give you the rundown anyways.

It’s a two-man operation and usually selling Duty Free just means you make a quick lap of the cabin with a heavy cart and say things like “Duty Free purchases?”, “Duty Free today?” “Do me free?” “We have the same crap on the way back.” “You can get this stuff at the airport when you land.” “Duty Free?” “Cigarettes, alcohol, jewelry, fragrances?” “Something for your loved ones meeting you at the airport who will be expecting a gift?” Some of those we say louder than others.

No one really buys anything, though sometimes they’ll stop us and look at the merchandise for half an hour, trying on all the watches and sniffing all the fragrances. This is annoying because as soon as Duty Free is done, we can start our breaks and take a nap. When we get too impatient we’ll leave them with the catalogue and tell them that if they decide on something just to find one of us and we’ll make the sale, knowing full well that by the time they get back to us the Duty Free carts will be locked and sealed.

Flight Attendants hate selling Duty Free and the person in charge of it is always the most junior member of the crew. I don’t understand why we even do it inflight. The passengers could’ve bought the stuff in the airport before we left and in most cases, at the airport when we get in.

When you arrive in airports like London Heathrow, you can’t even exit the airport without going through a massive Duty Free store first. When you leave an airport like Rome Fiumicino, you can’t even get to your gate without going through Duty Free first.

We rarely sell anything inflight and if we do, it’s the cheapest crap imaginable, like the cartons of Benson and Hedges cigarettes, Tolberone chocolates, or an eye mask. The sales hardly make up for the cost of the fuel needed to carry the extra weight of the two heavy Duty Free carts. The airlines must get paid a lot of money to put the carts on the plane because we always have them onboard.

The only practical use of the Duty Free process is having access to electronic chargers. I can charge my phone and iPod on the plane without having to make much of an effort or lug around cords and chargers all over the world. When the cart is opened I can take out the necessary equipment, plug them into a seat power port, go about my business, and then a couple of hours later put the chargers back in the box for resale on a later flight.

There’s also a hangover remedy that we sell that some pilots swear by. I haven’t tried that one yet. I just stick to the oxygen in the cockpit for those fragile days.

There’s no incentive for us to try to sell the Duty Free crap. We get something like 3% of what we sell and they send us a check every few months. The largest check I ever received was for $24 and that was when I was flying Main Cabin a ton right around Christmas.

Sometimes flight attendants will try to market the items we have by placing them on top of the cart for all to see. Sounds like a good idea, but they always put the cheapest stuff on top, the stuff geared for the kids like jelly beans and a little teddy bear wearing a Captain’s hat. Even if they sold everything they had displayed, the money earned wouldn’t buy you a cup of coffee. They should at least promote the expensive jewelry, electronics, or watches. That makes sense to me.

Oh, another fun thing about Duty Free is watching the gentlemen check out each and every ladies’ watch and fragrance we have, and we have A LOT! The time and money he spends on Duty Free is a great gauge to how bad he fucked up on his business trip away from his wife and family.

Some female flight attendants are great at flirting with the men and talking the saps into buying them something expensive or good smelling. I’ve seen it happen time and time again.

The entire Duty Free process on the plane usually takes half an hour. We go through the plane, sell the goods, count the money, inventory the cart, fill out the paperwork, and then lock up the carts with seals and padlocks. Easy, but annoying.

On my last trip it took well over an hour just to finish selling the shit and collect the money because the lady I was working with was trying to sell everything in Euros, convert them into dollars out of her pocket so she’d have Euros for the layover in Rome, and then make all the numbers add up correctly.

By the time I counted everything and finished the rest of the work, we were nearly at the two-hour mark. Somehow all the numbers added up but I’m pretty sure I lost money out of my pocket trying to make change for all these people paying with $100 bills.  The lady insisted on letting them pay with them and I have no idea why.  I usually say “correct change or credit card only.”  We don’t get paid enough to deal with all that shit.

Theoretically, one way you can get ahead in life via the Duty Free cart is to take cash from the people purchasing things. We get a 15% employment discount on everything we buy as crew members. So if a passenger buys a $300 watch and gives you cash for it, you can just secretly claim the purchase as your own, use your card which will only be charged $255, and walk away with a $45 profit. It’s win-win since the passenger isn’t getting ripped off in the slightest, just the company. I don’t know anyone who’s actually tried this but I’m sure it’s just a matter of time.

 

August 12, 2011 GIG-JFK

Bored… Bored… Bored… I am so bored!

On the plane between Rio and New York, heading North.  I’m not sure where we are exactly but it’s about 3am NYC time.  About an hour ago we were over Venezuela.  I could tell by all the oil rigs.  We have about three hours left.  All my passengers are dead asleep.

I slept like a rock on my break, which was good because I’m not sure when my next good sleep will be.  It won’t be tonight because that’s now and we land at 6:30am.  I’ll sleep for a few hours during the day and then go out with Cindy, Diggy, Buffy, and Sport in the East Village.  Diggy and his DJ buddies are throwing a party on Houston and Orchard.  I’m sure that will be a late night.  I’m positive of that.  So that will be very little sleep because the next day I gotta get up at 10am to watch the Liverpool game on TV and then head straight over to Newark to stand by for the SAS flight to Stockholm.  So that night will be spent on a plane and not much sleeping will happen then I’m sure.

Once I get to Sweden I reckon I’ll be out partying all five nights.  I can only hope we sleep in during the day, but I’ll be way too excited to do that.  I’ll be up early and wanting to wander around and check out Stockholm with my camera and journal.  I think my best bet is to take a sleeping pill on the plane to Stockholm and sleep all the way there.  At least I’ll be hitting the ground fully rested.  I won’t be at my house again until the night of the 23rd.  I left it on July 29th so that’s nearly a month.  I’m glad I don’t have any pets.  My plants will be lucky to be alive.

I got the lowest maintenance plants known to man.  My mom once threw one away and six months later it was still alive.  That’s the perfect plant for me.  I like my friendships that are like that.  They can remain dormant yet preserved thru months of neglect.

It’s really like I don’t even have a house.  I’m not sure why I got one.  Obama’s $8000 First Time Home Buyers tax credit was too good to pass up.  I love being home more than anything, but I’m also perfectly happy staying in New York and running around with my friends there on my days off.  I also love to travel and could do that forever.  I always thought it was a good thing to be that adaptable, being able to live anywhere, but now I think it says something about my personality, and maybe that’s not necessarily a good thing.  Maybe that’s why I’m still single.

I’m getting even more bored.  This flight is dragging.  I’m eating Brazilian cheese balls by the handful and drinking vegetable broth just out of boredom.  I’ve also noticed that I’ve been staring at the ice cream for the last ten minutes. It’s as good as in my stomach.

I’m so damn bored that I’m now racing glasses of juice.  I had set out ten little glasses of OJ and apple juice in case someone woke up and wanted one.  They’re sitting on the counter and the vibration from the plane is causing them to very slowly move down the countertop.  At first I thought the lady I’m flying with kept moving them but then I noticed it happened again when she was in the back of the plane.  They don’t go very fast.  It takes several minutes to travel a few inches.  They’re moving at glacier speed.

That’s when I decided to race two of them.  I picked an orange and an apple and made sure they held the same exact amount of juice.  I moved them back ten inches and let them go.  It’s been about five minutes now and Apple has moved 3cm and Orange 1cm.  It’s like watching turtles race.  I decided it’s more fun if I don’t watch them and just check back every few minutes to see how they’re going.

All the other glasses of juice are lined up in the back, cheering them on.  There are seven orange juices and just one apple so I’m rooting for Apple.  He’s a loner, Dottie, a rebel.  Some of the OJ spectators aren’t staying where they’re supposed to on the sidelines.  They’re slowly vibrating their way on to the track.

Fuck it, I’m starting the ovens early.  It won’t get us into NYC any earlier but it makes me think that we are.  The next step in all the steps that need to happen to end this flight is to serve First Class breakfast.  That should be happening in an hour but I think I’ll do it now instead, even if it means just two of us serving the entire cabin while the other two First Class stews are still on break.  Then we can move on to the next step.  Let’s get these steps done as quickly as possible, no matter how sloppy and rushed.  I’d make a horrible twelve-stepper.

July 19, 2011 Madrid, Spain

Just got back from the obligatory outing for food.  I was out of my hotel room for only half an hour, then right back in and I don’t feel bad about that.  I need to rest.  I need to recover.  I’m on Day 8 of 12 in a row of flying and I was very sick on Day 1.  I blame the Charlie Sheen/Amy Winehouse weekend we had on the Guadalupe as to why I was sick to begin with.  I’m not a teenager anymore and I really need days to recover from things like that, not working a stretch of 12 days starting the very next day.  It was the absolute worst time to be sick but there was nothing to do about it.  I need money.

I could’ve taken it easy on the layovers but I had plans for three of the four and they were set in stone.  This Madrid one is the only one I had free for R and R.  I have it highlighted on my calendar with a big smiley face and exclamation marks.

The first trip was to London the same night that I left Austin. That was when I was really hurting.  I ached all over with a fever and sore throat.  But I had a date to go to Ghost the Musical in the West End with two lovely co-workers followed by an after party with the cast and crew.  That day included way too much champagne before, during, and after the performance and not enough food, but it was fun talking with the actor that played Willy Lopez, the thug-life killer.

I don’t even remember what I did when I got back to New York but the night probably started and ended with NyQuil, again with no food. I can’t remember if I’m supposed to be starving or feeding this damn thing!

Next day was Paris and I was surprised to find that I was starting to feel a little better. I really thought the London layover would take its toll and send me back to Square One. We were a bit delayed getting to the hotel because of a flight attendant and an asshole passenger getting into a fight and having the police meet us at the gate, but I still got a decent nap in before meeting my Aussie friend and her mom at their hotel just off the Champs Elysees.

I blame the stew just as much as the passenger for that whole mess. The drunk girls in the row behind the PAX didn’t help matters at all.  Everyone even the least bit involved made it so much worse. I didn’t think it was worth it to get the police involved; nothing was going to happen to the guy. Sure enough, they scared him a bit and then let him go on his way like nothing ever happened.

I got to the Hotel Powers just after 2pm and at around 8pm we finally left the room, but only to go back to the liquor store because our three bottles of wine were gone. This time we got champagne and some random drink called Desperado that infused beer and tequila and red.  I think red may have been the healthiest thing in there. It’s the sort of purchase you make only after drinking three bottles of wine without any food.  We did think about food when we were getting reinforcements but it was all for show, God knew it didn’t matter at that point if I ate or not.  By the time I left the hotel after midnight I had only eaten 7 little pickles and about 30 crackers with hummus on it.

Again, I was hoping to finally get some rest but plans get in the way.  My Swedish friend is getting kicked out of our country in two weeks so I’m making sure I hang out with her and her boyfriend as much as possible when I’m in New York.  I got in from Paris, watched the World Cup final, and then headed straight out to the Brooklyn Bridge to meet my friends.  We walked across the bridge, took some pictures, stood in line at Grimaldi’s for an hour, ate a ton of pizza, and then called it a night. I resisted the urge to stay out and watch a movie.  I knew I needed the rest. I promised we could have a big night very soon, just not that night. I was proud of making the right decisions regarding my health.

So now I’m in Madrid and the weather is beautiful out there.  People are having amazing, memorable days in Spain and I could not care less.  I don’t feel bad at all about not doing anything.  I have a stack of Netflix I’ve been carrying around for three weeks and now more than ever I need to be good about getting those things watched and back to whence they came.  I think I’m going to cancel my membership.

An hour or so ago I washed the jeans I’ve been wearing everyday for the last week in the sink with shampoo. They needed it, though I’m not sure they’ll be dry by the time I need to leave in nine hours.  I didn’t think of that.

Tomorrow night in New York there are more plans to hang out with my soon to be Departed Friends and I’m hoping we can keep it substance free.  The big night out I promised will NOT be happening tomorrow night if I can help it.

My final trip of this ungodly stretch is back to London and there are more plans with my favorite people there. Even though I intend to sleep before going out, it doesn’t really happen there for some reason, too many distractions.  Then finally, FINALLY when I get back to New York from that London trip I can head over to Blue Jet and take the last flight out of New York back to Austin.  Just thinking about being in my own bed sounds heavenly.

The pillows here in Madrid are horrible, as they were in Paris.  I don’t get why they’d make pillows like that, all long and skinny and hard. In Paris they’re just way too fluffy.  When they sit on the bed they look so big and full but when you put your head on them they deflate so that your head is practically touching the mattress, no support at all. They look like tortillas when you microwave them.

I can sleep really well in the beds in London, when I’m given the time to sleep.

When I went out for food I forgot which city I was in until I saw a juggler in the middle of the intersection, working for tips from the people stopped at the red light.  I saw some very pretty girls with horrible bangs and ugly frames around their glasses, then it was obvious that I was in Spain. I think I’m going to see if the pant presser can do anything about drying these jeans.