Tag Archives: flight attendant

Why this Thanksgiving is going to be Wonderful

From my journal- the day after Thankgiving last year.

“I feel like I was just in the sequel of Plains, Trains, and Automobiles– only the after-hours version and with a Hispanic cast.

We didn’t land in San Antonio until after 2am thanks to a wheel issue at JFK that delayed our departure. The Purser said he was going to make a PA seeing if anyone was driving the eighty-two miles up to Austin but must have forgotten.  I didn’t care, I felt weird about asking strangers for a ride so far in distance.

When I got down to the Ground Transportation area I weighed my options again.  I gave up with the rental car idea.  It was going to cost too much.  I had to decide between waiting until 6am and flying to DFW then to AUS and landing at 9:30am or catching the 3:40am Greyhound bus.  When I did the math I realized that if I did the bus, I’d be home right when that first flight was taking off.  I figured it’d cost about $60 to take a cab to the bus station, buy a ticket, and pay for another cab to the AUS airport to where my car was patiently waiting.

I went outside and caught the one and only cab at the airport.  She was an older lady and slightly bizarre.  I asked her if she knew where the bus station was and she said she was very familiar with it.  I felt good about my decision.  At least I was still moving, still making progress.

I get to the downtown bus station at around 2:45am and took in the reality of my surroundings.  I was in a San Antonio bus station at 3am on Thanksgiving night.  If I ever needed to be reminded of my blessings, I didn’t after seeing that scene.  It was seedy as hell.  I was the only white person in there, which I didn’t mind at all, though people were looking at me like they did mind.  I didn’t like, however, that I was wearing my business casual attire from the plane.  I looked too good for the bus station, which of course I felt too good for as well.

I bought my $24 ticket and went over to the all night cafe.  I tried to special order a grilled cheese sandwich but the old Mexican lady wouldn’t let me order off the menu.  I had crinkly fries and a Mr. Pibb instead.  I didn’t want to ruffle any feathers by explaining all the elements for a grilled cheese sandwich were right there in front of her. I mean, I could see them! I accidentally spilled some of my soda on the ground, making a sticky floor even stickier.

While I was eating a Border Patrol agent strolled through and checked everyone out.  He even went into the kitchen and closets to see if illegal aliens were hiding out.  Even the Border Patrol guy was Mexican.  I wonder if they see him as a sell out. I kinda did.

I texted a little but not much.  I didn’t want to show off my fancy Android in front of some of these people who looked homeless and desperate. When buses came and went the announcements were in Spanish first and then English, as an after thought or maybe just to humor me.  The bus going to Austin, Dallas, and then onwards came from Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, straight up I-35.

As bizarre as the people in the bus station were (all men), the ones already on the bus coming from Mexico were even more so.  Even the bus driver was shady.  I thought he was just the kid helping with the baggage.  He took my suitcase and put it under the bus.  He smirked at me without a single tooth in his mouth.  I was shocked and horrified when he got behind the wheel and took us out of the station.  He honestly looked 15.

I then had the monumental task of picking a seat.  I thought I’d want to stay near the driver for safety but after seeing him, maybe I should get as far away from him as possible.  I headed to the back and it looked like some had been on that bus for weeks.  Little tents had been made out of towels and blankets in the seats.  It looked like a shanty town.  Amazingly it smelled ok.  The very back of the bus was taken up by a tweaked up looking couple, guarding the bathroom.  I stayed in the middle of the bus, right behind an older Mexican lady who I thought might be a whore.  I wondered if whores worked on buses and it wouldn’t shock me if they do.

After a few minutes I realized that she’s with the big fat Mexican with all the scars on his head sitting in the row in front of her.   She turned around and smiled at me, but I just stared out the window.  Most people had a row to themselves, two seats, so they were sprawled and asleep.  I wished to God that I could take pictures of all of this.  I wanted to do that as soon as I got to the bus station, and even more so when I got onto the bus.  It reminded me slightly of the bus ride scene in Trainspotting, only much seedier.

The lady in front of me with the tight jeans and dyed red hair got phone calls all the way to Austin.  I heard her at one time talking about how she was pissed that we didn’t have alcohol on the bus.  I slept on and off but the ride was only an hour and a half.  I woke up and opened the curtain to see downtown Austin passing by and then the Capitol.  It would just be another couple of miles before we exited.  I used to live near the bus station but have only been there once, in college, when I had to pick up a crazy Oklahoma girl from the station when she ran away from home to live with me, uninvited and unwanted.  Of course I didn’t know that she’d run away when I picked her up, I just thought she was coming down for a long weekend and would be heading home Monday morning. Not a good weekend.

I didn’t really want to get off the bus.  I wanted to just keep going.  I was tired and I didn’t really mind being on the Twin Peaks bus.  I felt like I was on an adventure and it was so surreal.  I’d love to just sleep for hours and see where I woke up.  I also didn’t want to think about trying to get a cab at 5am, going all the way back down to the airport and then driving to my northern suburb of Round Rock.

I heard the next stop was going to be Round Rock so I thought about just staying on and forgetting about my car for the time being.  I didn’t though.  I got off with the older Mexican hooker and got a look at the young guy in a pick-up who picked her up at the station. He acted like he didn’t know her.

It was still pitch black outside and very cold.  I had no idea what to do next.  I thought maybe cabs would be out hanging out.  Ones were outside the San Antonio bus station.  After five minutes of standing in the cold I thought about my options.  I could walk across the highway and get to the Ramada hotel.  From there I could call a cab.  I got out my phone and did a google search for Austin cabs.  I found a website and was just about to call the number when I looked up and saw a cab from the very same company passing by.

I waved frantically at him and within a minute I was warm and on my way to the airport.  I had the same random conversation with this older man as I did with the older woman in San Antonio, mainly revolving around Thanksgiving dinner and how not many people are needing cabs tonight.  Of course not, it’s the most family oriented night of the year.  It was depressing that neither really got that.  I tried not to dwell on that fact. It was depressing.

The streets were dead and empty, still pitch black.  I was exhausted and tried not to chit-chat but the guy was bored and lonely so he kept asking me questions about how I got to Austin from New York at such a weird hour.  I think I answered him but I’m really not sure.  I was so fucking tired.

He drops me off at the terminal and I start walking. I walked through the covered parking garage where the rich people park, out through short-term parking lot, and into long-term parking.  I look around and check for Parking Lot D.  According to the text I sent myself two-week ago, I’m parked in D13. My car was there, safe and sound.

I drive the thirty-minute drive home, in darkness still. I don’t see another car going my direction the entire time.  I listen to a mix of Joy Division, MGMT, The Normals, The Smiths, Radiohead, Pavement, and The Postal Service. This was not at all how I envisioned spending this Thanksgiving or any Thanksgiving, but it’ll make me appreciate every single one for the rest of my life. It was a good reality check.”

Random side note- look at the photo of the Austin skyline again. Notice anything weird? Where is the moon’s reflection? Photoshop=lame!

Straight Guy Lesson #20- Seat Back Pockets

For as long as there’s been air travel, passengers, flight attendants, and cleaning crews alike have been fascinated by the contents of the seat back pockets.

They always remind me of that game on The Price is Right when the contestant had to blindly stick their hand in the big bag and pull out a chip. Sometimes the chip would help them win a wonderful prize. Sometimes the chip would get them closer to the booby prize. Sometimes the chip would be a strike and they were one step closer to leaving the show with only whatever shitty thing they had won to get them out of Contestants’ Row and on to the stage.

Almost everyone I talk to has a story of leaving something behind on the plane, usually in the seat back pocket. I myself left my little Canon digital camera in seat 19C on JetStar flight 912 from Sydney to Townsville on Saturday February 21, 2004, not that I really remember or am incredibly bitter. No, it’s not like I had the entire Australian/New Zealand holiday on that camera or anything! Grrrr! Seriously, let me know if you come across it people! You can have the camera, I just want the memory card! But I digress…

Every flight attendant I know has a story of finding a wedding ring, iPod, or wallet in there. They say they get returned to the rightful owner but I’m really not sure. This never happens to me in any case. I only find chewed-up gum and wet tissues.

Still though, we all think that there’s something magical in there, like there is in the cartoons when someone sticks their hand into a kangaroo’s pouch. You can’t just go in with your guns blazing, though, there could be a million things in there and only 5 are good: iPod, iPad, camera, PSP, or wallet. You need to treat that seat back pocket with the utmost respect and with a poet’s tenderness. Pretend the entire thing is a Faberge egg. I know someone who got stuck by a needle! Off they go for a series of tests.

Other than the unknown surprises, there are some things you know will be in the seat back pocket: the inflight magazine, online shopping catalogue, and that staple of the ages, the barf bag. Yes they’re still there and yes people still use them often. Which reminds me, be careful when you handle yours, sometimes people like to use them and just put them back in the seat back pocket. Neither the flight attendants nor the aircraft cleaners will notice this so it will remain in there, stewing, festering, and morphing into something quite alien.

My dear friend and fellow blogger Sara (pictured above) was asking me about barf bags just the other day and that’s what got me thinking about them and about the seat back pockets in general. We decided to both write about the subject.  Here is what she had to say…

“On my flight home from St. Louis I was bored, tired, restless, and probably still a little bit drunk from the night before. (see picture above for what I think Sara meant by that). I began exploring the seat back pocket in front of me. I thumbed through the Sky Mall magazine, the American Airlines magazine, the Spanish language magazine, and some new magazine that they are now wasting money on publishing. I was looking for one thing…. the barf bag.

I was really curious to see just how deep the airline cost-cutting had gone. Did they still provide barf bags to all passengers? In 31 years of flying, I do not recall ever having partaken usage of a barf bag. I also do not recall ever having seen a fellow passenger utilize this resource. It seems like people don’t really get air sick anymore? I would LOVE to know the annual cost of barf bag purchases by American Airlines. And…. success. They do still provide barf bags. They even now spend more money by printing messages on them!

After reading this article about all the crap people dump in seat back pockets, I can see the benefit of providing these and suggesting that they be used for diaper disposal. ew”

Well Sara, let me tell you what I’ve noticed about the barf bags. They do indeed get used, and sometimes even for vomiting into! Unfortunately they’re small and often times the sick person isn’t just throwing up once. That little baggie gets filled up pretty quickly and then we have a problem. They can either go to bag #2 or make a run for the bathroom. I try to stay away from bag #1.

Personally when I hear that someone is getting sick, I fetch one of the large “market bags” we use to collect rubbish. Those things are massive and don’t leak. An entire row could use it as a regurgitation trough and there’d still be plenty of room for more.

Surprisingly enough, we do use those barf bags for other purposes, really useful things. Sometimes passengers have medications that need to be kept cold so we’ll fill the bags with ice and put their meds on top, then return everything to the passenger. Sometimes people get injured or feel feverish so we can turn the bags into little ice packs (always checking to make sure they’re clean inside first, of course.)

Whenever we have a super cool and/or smoking hot passenger that the crew wants to bestow a gift to, those little bags are the perfect size to stash a handful of vodka minis. It’s kinda like we’re packing their lunch for them as they run out the door and off to school, except they’re running out of the plane and off to have a smoke.

Side note: I bet the airlines make money off all the publications in the seat back from the advertising. Just a guess though.

You’ll want to read what Sara has to say about running with the bulls in Pamplona.  SAngRiA Smiles 🙂 is the name of her blog.

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.

 

Best. Airport. Bar. Ever

I actually planned a five-hour layover in London Stansted airport on my way to Austria for the sole purpose of going to the famous bar at the Radisson SAS Hotel right outside the airport. I was going to have to go through some airport in some city in some country in order to get to Graz, but when I looked at all my options, Stansted was the obvious choice.

The tiny, low-fare carrier-dominated airport which is way too north of London to realistically be called a “London” airport had one thing none of the other airports had, a thirteen-meter tall wine tower.

You expect to see stylish, gimmicky features such as that in flashy places like Vegas or New York, but not in some random regional airport that even some Londoners can’t point out on a map.

I heard about it though and I went straight over after I got off my flight from JFK. I was worried that the “airport” hotel wasn’t really that close to the airport, just maybe in the vicinity. Some JFK airport hotels are a ten minute van ride away. This wasn’t like that though. I walked outside the terminal that was about the same size as my high school gymnasium and walked maybe 40 meters. Then I was there.

The ultra modern hotel’s lobby did not disappoint and in the center of everything was the fabled wine tower with one its angels doing her thing, flipping and climbing her way to the very top of the tower. I later learned what a treat it is to see the angel fly so high, the cheapest bottles are at the bottom and the most expensive are at the very top. That is just brilliant planning on their part. I was planning on ordering a random bottle near the top, not caring if it was red or white or blue or French or Chilean or from some hick’s little slice of bayou in Louisiana. When I heard the prices I realized that my budget caused the angel to actually bend down to retrieve the bottle, while standing firmly on the ground that is. So I was thankful there were some Chinese businessmen in the house that had a corporate credit card. That saved me some precious poundage.

I had over three hours to kill and I had the best time all by myself just watching the show. Not only was the acrobatic girl fun to watch, the patrons were as well. Everyone was taking photos and videos and you really felt like that was THE place to be in England that Monday afternoon. Even the stuffy ol’ businessmen watched liked starry-eyed children at the circus.

It was so surreal. If I drove just two minutes in any direction I’d see rolling green hills with little bushy sheep but not in the oasis of the Radisson.

I just sat and watched the scene. I wrote in my journal and got more than a little bit drunk before I continued my journey to where my holiday was supposed to start. If anyone has to pass through England to get to a European destination, for God’s sake, forget the bland insanity of Heathrow and go through Stansted instead.

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.

Dying in a Plane Crash

I get asked about Plane Crashes more than anything else when I tell people I’m a flight attendant…by FAR!  It’s not even close between that topic and all the rest (unruly passengers and the mile high club)

People are fascinated by it.  I’m guessing because there are very few things in this world that are more visually impressive than a plane crash.  Not impressive in a good way, but it certainly creates a lasting image doesn’t it?  Think of how people rubberneck to see a fender bender; what if you were creeping by a wrecked 747? Of course you would look and remember every detail of what you saw.

Honestly though, I don’t think about it that often.  I mean would you if you were flying half a million miles every year? If it does happen though, and I’ve already told my mom this, don’t feel like that’s the worst way a person could go. Here are worse ways to die in my opinion (in no particular order)

Eaten by piranhas

Burned to death

Buried alive (in either cold snow or hot sand or anything in between)

Dipped into boiling tar- who really cares if feathers are later added?

Locked-in syndrome-usually follows a stroke, very drawn out and painful

Eaten alive by fire ants, or any kind of ants.  In fact it’d suck just as much to be eaten alive by lady bugs

Wood Chipper (it was horrible enough watching Steve Buscemi in one in Fargo, and he was already dead!)

Tossed into the ocean with concrete blocks on your feet.  Most of the traditional mob deaths would be worse than a plane crash, though Joe Pesci’s death in Goodfellas might be alright.

Lost in the middle of the ocean.  That may just be my personal worst way to die. I don’t like to even think about it.

Being on the Titanic, nearly as bad as above but at least you’re not alone and hopefully you had some decent food and entertainment before the iceberg- maybe you even had the chance to draw a rich girl naked!

Starvation

Crucifixion

Falling into a pit of snakes

Falling into a cave, breaking a leg, and never being able to get help

Smoke Monster from Lost

Watching that video from The Ring

Saying “Candyman” three times in the mirror

Anything Freddy Krueger related

Any of the ways you learn about when you go to the Torture Museum in Amsterdam http://www.torturemuseum.com/

I’m sure in those few seconds when you realize your plane is going down you’re going to experience terror like no other, but luckily it doesn’t last for very long and death itself is very quick and painless.  I’m not saying that’s how I want to go, but at least it’s quick.  And as far as the conversation in Clerks about masturbating one last time before you die in a plane crash… could you really get an erection in that moment?

So those are my thoughts on plane crashes, now please never ask me about them if I meet you in a bar or especially if we meet on a plane.  Next blog will be much more upbeat I promise. This was probably the wrong thing to post just hours before I have to fly for thirteen days in a row.

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.

Down Time

I haven’t been writing a lot in my blog because I only feel inspired to write about airline stuff when I’m actually flying.  When I’m off for a while, the airlines and the job are the last thing on my mind.  A few people have given me shit about that so this entry is about how much I love not flying.

And this is why I haven’t been flying.  In April and May I held a schedule that went to Tokyo Haneda.  Most of my trips in April cancelled due to the radiation and in May they cancelled due to the extremely light flight loads.  June was an on-call month so July is the first time since March that I’m really having to fly.  I’m not going to lie, it’s been wonderful.  True, I had to sacrifice my vacation for 2012 to get paid for all the cancelled trips this Spring, but it was worth it to live like a desperate housewife for two months.

I’ve discovered in these last few weeks that I can very easily spend days at a time in my house all by myself.  I’ll get into a habit of editing photos, printing photos, framing photos, working on my book, playing video games, chatting with people worldwide on the internet.  For awhile I’d only go outside to lay out in the backyard for an hour and then come right back in.  I wouldn’t even put on a bathing suit, just boxer briefs.  No one seemed to mind.  I don’t really shower or shave during this time but no one is around to complain. All this month people have commented on how tan and healthy I look.  The secret?  Being a creepy recluse.

So I figure I got a little glimpse of what it’ll be like when I finally win the lottery.  I thought I’d get bored without a job but I found out that’s not true at all.  I can keep myself busy with all my projects and Call of Duty fills in the gaps. I think that’s why I want to win the lottery so badly, not for the riches, but just for the leisure time it’d offer.

Now I’m back to a normal routine though.  I get to come home twice a month for five or six days each time.  The first day is usually spent doing nothing.  After sleeping in hotel rooms on layovers and then in a bunk bed at the crash pad in New York, it’s so nice to just lounge around in a big house, all by myself… finally. Sleeping in a king sized bed is a treat you cannot fully appreciate until you spend the majority of your nights in the top bunk of a bunk bed with several other people in the room, or in a hotel bed that you just know hasn’t been cleaned as well as you’d like.

After a day or two of being anti-social I’ll usually find out what my friends are up to and the rest of the evenings will be spent with them.  I’ll never go to bed before 3am and never wake up before noon. I’ll always make sure I do something with my Mom as well, last night was Olive Garden.

Today seven friends and I are heading down to the Guadalupe River for a weekend of decadence.  We have a rent house on the water and enough food, drink, and accessories to last us a full week, even though we’ll just be there two nights.  Two of the people going I went to Kindergarten with. These people are very important to me and I always make sure I see them every time I come home. Pals.

The party will end Monday morning and I’ll have to immediately head back to the airport and catch a flight to New York JFK.  I’ll sleep for a couple of hours in the Quiet Room and then sign in for my trip to Zurich that evening and just like that, it’s back to reality!  Twelve days in a row of flying and then I get another little Austin vacation July 24-29. That’s how it goes, you cram as much as you can into your time at home, including doing nothing time.  You cram as much as you can into your layovers abroad. In between work trips I usually have about twenty hours in NYC so I’ll make sure I see my friends there for dinner, a movie, or drinks.  It just never stops.  Ever. I’m not sure it ever will, until I win the lottery.

Then you try to think of a way to actually enjoy your flying benefits, maybe plan a trip to Egypt like I’m trying to do right now. Friends and family in other cities want you to come visit and don’t understand when you say it’s hard to find the time.  Yeah, we may only work 15-18 days out of the month but when you take into consideration all the commuting time and alone time you need to decompress, you really don’t have that much time to fly somewhere else, especially when you just want to be at home in your house that you’re spending a lot of money on.

Besides, on your days off being at an airport is the last place you want to be. Being on an airplane sounds like torture.

I still haven’t figured out a way to date anyone living like this.  I’m not in Austin enough to date anyone here.  I’m not in New York enough to date anyone there. Even if all my trips were to one city, I wouldn’t be there enough to see someone there either.  I get why stewardesses have a guy/girl in every city.  I don’t have that, but I can see the benefits.

My last girlfriend was a flight attendant and that’s as good as it gets unless your partner has money and you don’t have to fly a full schedule. You can reasonably date someone if you’re lucky enough to live in the city where you’re based, but if you’re a commuting flight attendant, forget about it, you’re doing to die alone. You aren’t even around enough to get a cat.

Straight Guy Lesson #18- Plane Crash Dreams

When you think about how your life is going to change when you get a flight attendant job you think of the normal adjustments.  You know you’ll be more nomadic, always in transit, living out of a suitcase. You’ll travel more on your days off and develop friendships with people in many different cities/countries. You’ll learn a whole new vocabulary full of airline jargon. You’ll forget the days of the week and only know dates.  The term “weekend” will lose all meaning. You’ll be able to read military time as quickly as normal time and layovers will be in terms of hours, not days.  Even if your layover is exactly two days, you’ll say “forty-eight hours” and not “two days.”

I knew all of those things would happen.  I was ready for it. What I was not expecting or even warned about was all the plane crash dreams I’d have and they start almost immediately.  I think my first one came during the first week of flight attendant training.  When all you hear all day and all night for seven weeks is about mechanicals, crashes, evacuations, medical emergencies, emergency equipment locations, terrorists, hijackers, and general airplane safety, it really is no wonder your brain keeps it going even while you slumber.

I had several dreams a week during training and I prayed once I was on the line and had a life again, it’d calm down.  I thought getting out of the airline bubble and exposing myself to non-airline things would do me a world of good. The frequency of the dreams did calm down, but never went away.  For my first few years of flying I’d still have plane crash dreams once a week.  Then it slowed to once a month.  Thirteen years ago today I was in flight attendant training and I can say that now I still have these dreams once a month, at least once a month.  I have more dreams about planes crashing than about sex, which is a damn shame.  Can we at least mix the two?  Please?

It took me awhile to mention this to my other classmates during training but once the topic was on the table, we were all in agreement.  I wasn’t the only one suffering from this nocturnal hell. My classmates and I even noticed several prominent, repeating themes in these dreams.  One was this recurring thing where we’d be flying over water at a very low altitude, so low that the tops of waves would lick the bottom of the plane.  Eventually a big wave would come over and just drag the plane down into the murky depths.

Another universal theme was flying under things like power lines or bridges, sometimes through tunnels as well.  I’d say at least half of my plane crash dreams have to do with power lines or bridges.  We usually make it under but our wings clip something and we go down.

I wasn’t really that shocked when I learned that other flight attendants had plane crash dreams but I was fascinated by the fact that skimming the ocean and flying under things was something shared by most of my colleagues.  Even some flight attendants from airlines in other continents have said the same thing. I’d really like someone to explain that one to me!  Thoughts people?

I think the strangest part of these dreams is that I always survive. Sometimes we all do, but usually I’m the only one.  I think when it happens for real I won’t even panic.  I’ve seen it played out hundreds of times before and I know what to expect. I’ve kinda known from the day I started this job that I’m going to die in a plane crash. I’m not pessimistic or scared, it’s just a feeling I have.

On May 22, 2008 I had an interesting twist on the usual  ho-hum plane crash dream.   This is my journal entry from that day…

I had the most disturbing dream today.  It was a plane crash dream- which I’ve kinda gotten used to.  When I first wake up they disturb me just as much as ever but the staying power doesn’t last that long anymore, just a moment of terror then right back to sleep. 

Today though, for the very first time, I had one of these dreams while I was sleeping on the plane inflight. 

In my dream we had just taken off from LGA and after a couple of minutes the Captain made a frantic announcement as the plane started struggling and flying erratically.  Unfortunately the PA system was really bad and I couldn’t understand a word he said, it sounded like on the subway, or Charlie Brown’s teacher, or Kenny from South Park. 

I could tell we were going down but also turning around, trying to make it back to LGA.  I didn’t care.  I didn’t even look out the window to see what was going on; I just knew it wasn’t going to end well.  People were screaming and we kept going down and turning sharply.  I just stared forward and tried to go to sleep. 

Eventually I looked out the window right when we were about ten feet from the water, though we were also right by land.  You could tell the pilot was trying to go down in the water but close enough where you wouldn’t have to swim very far to get to shore.  That made a lot of sense to me.  He did a great job with the dying aircraft and splashed it down with minimal damage on the edge of the bay.  The top of the aircraft was blown off but that only made it easier to get out. 

When the plane settled, no one moved.  I didn’t understand why so I jumped up from my seat, climbed out the gaping hole, ran down the wing toward the shore, and jumped out into the shallow water.  I knew we weren’t supposed to bring anything with us but I also knew no one was going to run me down and stop me so I grabbed all my stuff. 

When I finally got off the plane and to safety, I looked back and saw that the wreck was actually worse than I thought.  There was a very good chance the people in the front may have been badly hurt or killed.  My photojournalism training kicked in and I started taking pictures of this “spot news.”  Funny how my need to help the other people didn’t really enter into it.

I woke up right about then, right when our plane started it’s descent for landing at LGA.  I woke up in a fright, I mean it really fucked with me.  Was it just one of those things or was this some kind of premonition?  I can’t explain how different it was having a plane crash dream while flying, but it definitely added an extra layer of terror.  I guess because the best part of a nightmare is that you wake up and realize you’re safe at home and so far removed from whatever you were experiencing, but this time I woke up and I was in the exact situation as in my nightmare.

Short Layover, Bad Insomnia

In room 413, on the 4th floor, near the ice machine.  Flight attendant rooms are always by the ice machine and/or the elevator.

Insomnia, In-somnia, Insom-ni-a…
staring at the textured white ceiling with my journal on my chest, bits of dreams fade in from the night before…my plane crashed on take off, my old asshole roommate had dreadlocks, and a fold out train in Sweden.  That’s all I can remember.  I don’t know what it all means.
Maybe it’s my underwear, maybe it’s these down pillows; maybe it’s bad Hamlet inspired films involving a brewery.  I just want to go to sleep.  I need to fall asleep an hour ago.  Tomorrow is going to be miserable and knowing that I need to fall asleep only makes it harder.  It’s too late for a sleeping pill.

I do have a big bed though; I can roll three times and still be on the mattress. I can make a starfish. The cozy nylon naked-blanket was a nice touch, and in my favorite color.
The radio stations come in clear and the lotion is not cheap hotel brand, it’s BathNBody juniper, unfortunately, so is the shampoo, but I brought my Pantene from a different hotel.  

This pen seems to write well, not like the Double Tree pens, but good enough.  The fitted sheets are coming undone and the curtains are translucent so too many San Jose lights are shining in.  

The air conditioner is fickle, but has a soothing sound.  

My East Coast body in this West Coast bed really should be asleep by now.  

The shower is absolutely amazing: sliding glass-type doors, five shower head settings, one of which will knock you down and leave a red mark on your chest.  I chose the waterfall, but forgot to bring the Pantene in with me, I had to use their shampoo and conditioner, which worked out surprisingly well.  

We’ll give slumber another go now.  If I fall asleep in the next five minutes I’ll get four hours.  I’ve been here before.  In thirty minutes I’m going to give in and turn on the television.

Straight Guy Lesson #17- Worldwide Good Times

If you’re a new hire flight attendant you’re going to have to work all major holidays.  Even if you’ve been flying for several years, you’re going to have to work on them. Just get used to that fact right now. Tell your family to schedule Christmas a few days before or after.

Sometimes it’s not that bad though.  Some hotels really go all out to give crew members a good time on important days.  The New Year’s Eve party at our layover hotel in London has become legendary.  July 4th is a pretty big deal there as well and they don’t even celebrate the damn holiday.  In fact they’re helping us celebrate the fact that we don’t belong to them anymore.  Hmmm, maybe they’re happy about that?

I don’t mind working some holidays because I know I’m going to have a good time.  That got me thinking about certain dates I like to be in other foreign cities throughout the year.  Here is a list of events and festivals to shoot for in all twelve months.  I threw a few American ones in there too for good measure.

January

  1. Chinese New Year in any city in China though a watered down version can be experienced in many large cities world-wide.
  2. Australia Day in any major city in Australia.  As if the Aussies needed an excuse to go crazy and drink a lot of beer. Lots of great beach parties.
  3. Republic Day in India.  Why not?
  4. Big Day Out music festivals in Adelaide, Sydney, Perth, Gold Coast, and Melbourne
  5. The featured weekend of Camel Wrestling in Selcuk, Turkey.  Haven’t done it/seen it, but apparently the best matches are in January.

February

  1. Mardi Gras or Carnival parties in New Orleans, Trinidad, Rio, or Venice.  Try them all!
  2. The Naked Festival in Saidai-Ji, Japan though it’s more loin clothes than naked people
  3. Tango Festival in Buenos Aires.  Nearly 100 free shows and concerts and the perfect place to be in late February/early March
  4. Late February- early March is the ten-day Rondy celebration of Alaskan life in Anchorage.  Dog-sled races, human-sled races, elk hot dogs, frost bite foot races, snow ball fights, mobile outhouse races, and more fur than you can possibly imagine.  PETA hasn’t heard about this one yet I guess.  Just check out the website athttp://www.furrondy.net/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=207:lets-rondy1&catid=80:rondy-rokfeature

March

  1. St. Patrick’s Day in Dublin.  do it.  DO IT!!!
  2. SXSW Music or Film Festivals in Austin, Texas.  Lots of free events and the atmosphere spreads over the entire city.
  3. March Madness in Las Vegas.  Gambling at its finest and most tragic.
  4. Holi or Doul Jatra Hindu celebrations of color in India, Nepal, and Sri Lanka. You get bonfires as well adults throwing colored powder and water all over each other.

April

  1. Queens Day in Amsterdam.  must see.  Must See.  MUST SEE!  Come early, be loud, stay late, wear orange.
  2. Hana Matsuri (flower festival) in Toei, Japan .  The highlight is the Dance of the Demon
  3. Cherry Blossoms in Japan.  If you can’t go to Japan, check out the Brooklyn Botanical gardens.
  4. Coachella Music Festival in southern California, still obscure enough to be respected, but go soon.

May

  1. Indianapolis 500 weekend in Indy.  Very underrated place to spend Memorial Day.
  2. Life Fest in Dublin.  Techno heaven and rated one of the Top Ten festivals in all of Europe.
  3. Cinco de Mayo in Mexico or anywhere with Mexicans.
  4. The International Clown Festival. Every year clowns from throughout the world congregate in Denmark for Svendborg’s International Clown Festival. I’ve got to see this before I die!
  5. Kentucky Derby.  Go all out, get yourself an outrageous hat and enjoy those mint juleps.

June

  1. Gotta see Wimbledon in London.  For cheap tickets wait in the long queue and get the afternoon pass.  Have some strawberries and cream.
  2. Portugal Day celebrations all over the country.  Off the hizzy.
  3. Bonaroo music festival in Tennessee.  There’s something there for everyone.
  4. Cheese rolling in Gloucestershire, England.  Again, why not?

July

  1. Get in Paris for the last leg of the Tour de France. I’ve never done it but I’ve been trying for years.
  2. Bastille Day- anywhere in France.  Especially fun right after the French win the World Cup but that probably won’t happen again in our lifetime.
  3. Roskilde Music Festival in Denmark.  there aren’t many times when it’s pleasant to be outside in Denmark, but this is surely one of them.
  4. Running of the Bulls AND Running of the Nudes in Pamplona, Spain.  Yeah, PETA has a protest that involves naked Spaniards.
  5. And of course any layover in the USA will be fun for July 4th

August

  1. Reading or Leeds music festival in England, though it’ll make you feel old
  2. Pukkelpop music festival in Belgium.  see note above about Reading/Leeds
  3. Fringe Arts Festival in Edinburgh.  Often duplicated, never replicated
  4. La Tomatina tomato festival in Bunol, Spain.  You’ve seen videos from this I promise. It’s kinda like a wet t-shirt contest but with tomatoes instead of buckets of water, and it’s co-ed.
  5. The Highland Games in Argyle, Scotland.  Where men are men.

September

  1. Burning Man in northern Nevada.  It now costs you over $200 to get in, but worth every penny.
  2. Oktoberfest in Bavaria, Germany.  The grandaddy of them all. Try to squeeze in the festival celebrating the onion in Griesheim as well.

October

  1. Anniversary of the “No!”  Greeks commemorate Prime Minister Metaxas’ rejection of the ultimatum made by Italian dictator Mussolini.  Celebrations all over Greece.
  2. Though not solely an American holiday, it may as well be.  Halloween in any city, town, village in the United States is a great night out.  The warmer the weather, the skimpier the costumes!

November

  1. El Dia de los Muertos, Day of the Dead in Mexico.  Grab your sugar skulls and Catrina dolls and suddenly realize Tim Burton isn’t as creative as you once thought.
  2. Monkey Worshipping Festival in Thailand.  I tried to have an NYC event in the Bronx Zoo for those who couldn’t make it all the way to Thailand but it wasn’t the same.

December

  1. Dickensian Christmas in Rochester, England.  Get your Oliver Twist on.
  2. These aren’t just in December but my list for this month was short so I’ll mention the Full Moon Parties in Thailand here.

Being able to work trips to different parts of the world and experience events like these and get paid at the same time is what it’s all about.  Seeing Japanese men in diapers might not be the best way to spend your day but it’s a pretty fun thing to do on the clock.  Think of what you’re usually doing during the work day, isn’t watching men roll wheels of cheese down a hill sound like more fun?

Straight Guy Lesson #16- How to Dine on Layovers

Thank You to DinnersFromHell.com for featuring this entry on your website.

It was my first Paris layover and since I don’t speak a lick of French I decided to stick with my crew.  Usually I like to venture out on my own in a new city, but I knew dinner was going to be a massive problem if left to my own devises.

In addition to being a vegetarian, I’m by far the pickiest eater I know and I could see myself accidentally ordering all kinds of horrible things without outside guidance.  Even the most popular items on the menu could be something disgusting and I wouldn’t even realize it.

For some reason I’m incredibly shy about trying to order food in strange countries.  I’ve heard horror stories about Parisians giving major attitude and scorn to Americans who don’t at least try to speak the language.  I’d love to try but I just can’t.  I really don’t know the language whatsoever.  That bluff would be a miserable fail.

The pilots and five of the other flight attendants (including our French speaker from the flight) agree to meet under the Eiffel Tower at 8pm.  I spend most of the day running around with my camera, trying to capture as much as of the city as I could on film in the hours given.  I made sure I was at the Eiffel Tower at 8pm though.  In fact, I was there at 7:00, just in time to get yelled at in French for stepping on some grass where apparently there’s a “Keep Off Grass” sign.

We find an Italian place in a not-so-touristy area just across the Seine.  If I’d been smart enough to think of Italian food I wouldn’t need to be with the crew, I can read the names of Italian dishes no problem.  Oh well, I’m here now so let’s roll with it.

I’m a pretty light eater and I like to save money when I go out.  I think it’s ridiculous to spend 12 Euro on a single glass of wine, especially if you’re just going to have the one glass and not catch a buzz.  What’s the point?  I don’t do appetizers or salad unless that’s going to be my entire meal.  I never take dessert or an after-dinner drink.  All of that is just a waste of money for me.  I can have some drinks at a bar before dinner for much cheaper.  I can eat an ice cream from a street vendor after we leave the restaurant at a fraction of the cost.

So the crew orders and I watch it happen.  A couple of people want this appetizer and a couple more want this other one.  It’s decided that the table will order three apps and everyone will just share them.  I don’t object.  I let it happen.

I’m drinking soda but everyone else gets wine with sparkling water on the side.  Again, it’s decided that three bottles of each is good for everyone to share.  I think that’s a smart decision on their part and fail to recognize how and why I’m being a complete idiot.

I have one basic pasta dish while everyone else gets some soup, salad, antipasti, and second course.  I marvel at the appetites these people have, even the skinny girls and waif thin gay boys I’m flying with.  The wine runs dry and the flight attendants order more.  I wonder if I’m getting paid the same amount as they are, the tab is really adding up in a hurry!

If I knew the pilots were going to be paying for the meal I might partake in some of the extras but I know that’s not going to happen.  There are two gay boys with us and the pilots very rarely treat guys to dinner, especially the gay ones.  I’m not willing to bank on that possibility that my dinner will be free.  I order sensibly and thriftily.

Everyone finishes and they ask us if we want desserts, cordials, or coffee.  All three are ordered.  I think about it but look at the prices and decide against it.  I can get a latte for a third that price at the coffee shop just around the corner from the hotel.  Again, I think I’m being so responsible and smart.  I’m about to see the error of my ways.

That moment arrives soon enough when the bill comes.  It never occurred to me that paying for what you ordered wouldn’t be an option.  My crew, now wasted on wine and Sambuca, insist that if we just divide by eight then we’ll be set.  Everyone is okay with that.  It’s at that point that I realize why the flight attendants were ordering more than the pilots.

They knew this was going to happen.  If the pilots are going to order all these extras and then make the crew split the bill, the only way to come out ahead is to top them and order more yourself.  Well played flight attendants, well played.

There’s nothing I could do but pull out sixty Euros and think about the fifteen Euros worth of Coke and penne alla arrabiata I had.  I grab the last bottle of wine still standing and empty it into my pristine, virginal glass.  If I’m paying for this I may as well get as much out of it as I can.  I grab a fork and shovel the rest of the Tiramisu into my mouth.  Lesson learned, but at a price.

Now I avoid eating with the crews as much as I can, at least in that large of a group.  Smaller groups will let you get away with paying for what you order but never a group of eight.  Never after that much alcohol.  The only way to “win” is to order the appetizer, and the soup, and the salad, and the wine, and the third bottle, and the fifth bottle, and the dessert with Cognac, and anything else you could possible want.  Hell, get a souvenir shirt and hat thrown on the tab too while you’re at it! As long as you’re eating and drinking more than everyone else, you come out ahead since the bill is getting split evenly.  If you don’t play the game like that, it’s going to be a dinner from hell.

Straight Guy Lesson #15- New York City

My inexpensive, off-the-beaten-path, Must-See spots for food, drink, and entertainment for visitors to New York City.  You know the big landmarks and sites, so here are twenty-one things you should do after you cross those staples off your list.

1)  Museum of the Moving Image- Astoria Queens.  Interactive museum with a ton of movie and television memorabilia and props including Freddy Krueger’s glove and some Huxtable sweaters (the show was filmed next door.) There’s even a room that traces the history of video games, and you get to play with everything from Pong to Dance Dance Revolution!

2)  The major sporting events are obvious and all fantastic but US Open tennis shouldn’t be missed. Staten Island and Coney Island offer great minor league baseball experiences as well.  Catching basketball games at Rucker Park in Harlem is a one of a kind experience.  Before they went to the NBA, guys like Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain, Vince Carter, Dr. J, Stephon Marbury, Lamar Odom, and Ron Artest played picked up games at Rucker.  Some even come back to play at the height of their careers as NBA all-stars like Allen Iverson and Kobe Bryant.

3) Rock-n-Roll Karaoke at Arlene’s Grocery.  Lower East Side.  They certainly have their favorites so it’s hard to get on, but it’s still fun to be there.  Karaoke with a full band to back you up and a very energetic audience. You can live our your dream of being a God Rock for five minutes.  Celebs are seen there often.

4)  High Bar rooftop bar- great midtown views.  I usually nurse one drink for as long as I can and then head to somewhere cheaper.  Great for photos.  Also good rooftops- Hudson Terrace and Gramercy Park Hotel.

5)  Vazac’s Horseshoe Bar (7B)- indie dive bar in Alphabet City with a great jukebox and film/tv history (Godfather 2 and Sex and the City scenes.)  If the photo booth in the back is working, that’s must, if you can get past the hipsters playing Big Buck Hunter.

6)  Grimaldi’s Pizzeria-  It’s not just the pizza that’s fantastic.  Enjoy it after a nice walk/bike over the Brooklyn Bridge.  You can tell your friends that you left the city and you’ll seem edgy.

7)  The Frying Pan- outside on the water at Chelsea Piers.  Great place for drinks, first dates, meeting hundreds of young people, sunsets, and views of Manhattan. Oh yeah, you’re on a huge ship and the drinks are very reasonable.

8 )  Hudson RiverFlicks-  Forget Bryant Park.  Real New Yorkers know the best place to go for outdoor movies in the summer.  At Pier 54 they play better movies and have chairs. Show up on 14th Street before the sun goes down on  the Hudson River.

9)  Barcade- yes, just like it sounds.  It’s a bar and it’s an arcade with classic 80s games.  And yes, it is right where you thought it’d be, right in the middle of Williamsburg.

10) McSorley’s- Abe Lincoln and John Lennon had a beer here so you think you’re better than them?!?  Drinks come in pairs (both filled half way) in either light or dark but don’t hesitate when ordering, they run an efficient operation and don’t have time for questions or delays.  Get the cheese and crackers but breathe through your mouth in the bathroom.

11) White Horse Tavern- 11th Street and Hudson.  Famous in the 1950s and 60s for writers and musicians.  Dylan Thomas famously drank himself to death here and Jack Kerouac spent many alcoholic nights here as well. Other notable patrons: Bob Dylan, Hunter S. Thompson, Norman Mailer, Jim Morrison, and Allen Ginsberg (who once got thrown out for circling the room and chanting Hare Krishna.)

12) Tom’s Diner on 112th Street and Broadway near Columbia University.  First popular in Suzanne Vega’s song “Tom’s Diner” then immortalized as the facade for Monk’s Diner in Seinfeld.  The interior looks completely different from that used in the show so don’t get your hopes up.  Still though, you’ll be surprised how excited you get when you turn the corner and see that familiar neon sign. It’s a good random thing to check out and very close to the amazing cathedral of St. John the Divine.

13) If you’re a Led Zeppelin fan check out the Physical Graffiti buildings on 96 and 98 St. Marks Place near First Avenue.  It’s the facade they used for that album’s cover.  Even if you’re not a fan of the band you’ll recognized the building, there’s a second-hand clothing store called Physical Graffiti on the ground floor.  The song “Stairway to Heaven” was supposedly written about the apartment on the top floor, where their heroin dealer lived.  I’m not sure if that’s true but it makes sense.  Have a kick ass outdoor brunch across the street at Yaffa’s, but expect to be judged by your uber-cool, 22-year-old Israeli hipster waiter.

14) Astoria’s Bohemian Hall Beer Garden.  Traditional Bavarian beer garden just over the bridge in Queens, very near La Guardia.  It only seats 800 so get there early on a warm weekend afternoon.  If you’re still too scared to leave Manhattan then just go to Zum Schneider on Avenue C for a watered-down, indoor experience.

15) Fourth of July, spend the afternoon eating hot dogs and watching the freak show at Coney Island (if it’s still open) and then get yourself to a rooftop in the city for the fireworks.  Now they’re shot off on the West side of Manhattan so kiss up to your Chelsea and Hell’s Kitchen friends to get that party invite. Warning: every other firework experience the rest of your life will seem somewhat lame after a rooftop party in NYC.

16) Art galleries in Chelsea. Yes, of course the Straight Guy loves Chelsea!  This is an obscenely cheap way to kill an afternoon and see some great art in every medium imaginable.  Often times the stuff you see in the cluster of galleries between 20th-27th Streets/10th-12th Avenue is better than what they have in the museums.  Try to go when the new cycle of exhibits are opening all over the neighborhood, lots of free drinks and food.  En route walk the High Line and stop by the Chelsea Hotel and try to figure out where exactly Sid killed Nancy.

17) The Bronx Zoo.  It’s a cliché and everyone knows about it but no one ever goes, same with the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens. Hit the gardens in April when the cherry blossoms are out. Yes, flowers and trees really do grow and thrive in NYC.

18) Shakespeare in the Parking Lot.  Lower East Side.  The most culture you can get on asphalt.  Admission is free.  Intermissions occur when someone needs to get their car out.  Only in New York.

19) Steinway and Sons Tour.  Astoria.  The manufacturer of arguably the best modern pianos in the world, offers a tour of its headquarters and factory, showing how the treasured instruments are made. Tours take place on Tuesdays from 9 a.m. to noon from September through June. I actually haven’t done this one yet, but it sounds really cool.

20) East River Park- Lower East Side.  Fifty-seven acres along the East River for biking, soccer, tennis, jogging, baseball, football, barbecues, picnics, and general laziness.  The tennis courts are right on the water, in the shadow of the Williamsburg Bridge. Live music is performed at the amphitheater. The crowds go to Central Park for unnatural nature, you can come here and watch the dead bodies float by.

21) Marathon Day.  Don’t run it, it’s much more fun to attend a marathon party hosted by someone who lives on the race route.  Popular spots include balconies and fire escapes in the Upper East Side along First Avenue, though there are many options in Queens and Brooklyn as well.  If you’re banking on a photo finish get to Central Park and wait patiently.  I lived on Mile 19 for a while so I didn’t have to get up early to see all the action.  If you’re an early riser, get up and watch the start on the Verrazano Bridge, it’s amazing.

Straight Lesson #14- Commuting

Whether you like it or not, if you’re based in NYC like 99% of all new hires are based, eventually you’re going to be a commuter. This is true for almost all major airlines.  New York is almost always the junior base.  I just read that over 70% of all New York City flight attendants are commuters.

I never heard the term “Commuter” growing up in Texas.  I may have seen a movie where some guy in Westchester was “commuting” on a train into Manhattan every day but I didn’t really get it, nor did i care.  Once I got this job and got sent to New York City though, I had my crash course on what this commuting thing is all about.

There is only so much you can take of New York City and then you want out. Sometimes it’s your age that causes the exodus, sometimes it’s just getting sick of the weather, or the people, or the expensive, yet claustrophobic rentals.  It may be the filth, or the rodents, or the fact that you are no longer shocked when you see someone masturbating on the A train during rush hour.

Some people reach this breaking point within days.  They just never give New York a chance and I feel sorry for those people.  Others give it a chance and go with it as long as possible. Eventually you’ll hit that tipping point and want out.  I loved being in New York in my 20s, I had the time of my life.  By the time I was 30 though, I’d been in New York for 7 years and it was already too long.  It took another three years to pull the trigger but I knew I was done with it.

It’s such a wonderful feeling living in the city you’re based.  It’s so easy.  When those silly commuters are rushing to catch a flight and stabbing each other in the back to be the first one on the list for the jumpseat, you’re on the subway and within an hour you’ll be on your sofa watching your DVR-ed shows with a cocktail in your hand.  Commuting sucks, in theory and in practice.

Eventually your priorities will change and the cons of living in New York will outweigh the pros and you move away and start the life of a Commuter.  Since you fly for free it’s not really a matter of money that makes it such a pain in the ass.  It’s a waste of time and can be incredibly stressful. When you get off a plane the last thing you want to do is deal with airports and more planes.

Airline people can be very creative when it comes to getting home.  You wouldn’t think that flying from New York to Nashville to Dallas back up to Chicago is the best way to get home, but sometimes that’s the only way to get home, so you do it.  I’ve flown from Dallas to Los Angeles in order to get to New York.  I know some people who will fly to London from NYC just to get to Texas.  To successfully be a commuter you need to think outside the box.  This also includes Amtrak, Greyhound, and selling your body for a ride to a random airport where there just might be an open seat.

Some commuters like to stay at home as long as possible and will pick flights to get them back to NYC just minutes before they need to sign in for the trips they need to be working.  That’s cutting it close and there’s absolutely no margin for error.  Other people are Chicken Littles and come up a day early to make sure they’re at base in plenty of time.

When you become a commuter all of a sudden you can’t fly half the trips available.  They either sign in way too early to fly up in time or they get back to New York way too late to fly home.  The trips that leave in the evening and get back in the morning are the most wanted trips for commuters. You don’t even think about that when you live in the city you’re based.  That’s so nice.

Some commuters go home after every trip, even if they only have one night at home.  Others like to back up their trips so they only have to commute up once or twice a month.  Personally I like to have a week off, then work three trips in a row (usually nine days), go home for another week, and then work another three trips.  That’s what I’ll do until I win the lottery.

The backstabbing that goes on between crew members trying to commute is simply vicious.  It’s really entertaining when you’re not involved but sucks when you’re one of the horses in the race.  It’s hilarious when two people who have just worked together for the last five days are fighting for the one jumpseat on the same flight. They’ll play nice working together but it’s always present, hanging over their heads, the elephant in the room.

They know the second they land back in New York it’s a race to get listed for that flight.  Technically you’re not supposed to check in for your commuter flight until you get to the gate but no one ever waits that long.  Most people call and list as soon as the wheels touch the ground.  It’s understood amongst crew members that this is proper protocol.  What’s not kosher, however, is having a spouse or friend check you in for the flight before you actually land in New York.  That’s a huge no-no and people get in a lot of trouble for that.  Not only will you be a social pariah, you can get your flight benefits taken away from you by the company.

As soon as you touch down, the race is on and the fun begins.

St. Patrick’s Day 2011 Tokyo

We’re about three hours away from landing at Tokyo Haneda, not too shabby. We’re flying right along the International Date Line.  I have no idea which side we’re on.  I have no idea what day it is.  I slept during my entire three-hour break.  It was fantastic.  My one and only passenger is still asleep.  I haven’t had to do anything for the entire flight.

There are three meal services to do up here in First Class between New York and Tokyo but I didn’t have to do a thing or cook a single meal other than the needy cockpit.  Well 3/4ths of them were needy, one was really nice and low maintenance. I just move the carts around in preparation for maybe working, but it never came to that. This is easy money.  Not only am I not having to do shit, we’re understaffed by two people so that will be an extra $270 in my pocket. Because of the earthquake and subsequent tsunami and subsequent nuclear power plant explosions, all the people who were supposed to work this trip didn’t show up.  They had to scramble to find minimum crew.  I didn’t care, I needed the hours.  What’s a little extra radiation? If I can’t be tan I may as well be green.

Now I have the last meal service ready to go along with the chocolate chip cookies which I baked to perfection.  Too bad no one will know anything about them because no one will eat them, not even I.  Unfortunately the strange blind man in 1J is coming back with us to New York the morning after tomorrow.  He only booked this flight to rack up some miles.  I guess he needs a few more long flights to retain his status of Executive Prick.

I liked him when he first got on, how could I not with him being the one and only First Class passenger? Me being overly nice was my eventual downfall.  When offering him the newspapers before take off I elaborated on each and every paper we had.  Usually I just say, “Paper today?”

No, I was going to make a point of providing excellent customer service so I did just that and said more about the papers we had than what was printed in the papers themselves.  I felt pretty good about how I presented them but the guy just glares in my general direction and says, “I’m blind!”  Oops.  I had no idea.  It looked like he had a lazy eye but it also looked like the other one was okay.  I apologized and he said it was fine but things would never be the same between he and I.  The worst part was while he was eating his meal (from coach), I was sitting in the empty seat/pod in front of him working on my bids.  I was facing backwards so that I could keep an eye on my cabin.  The man calls the Pursor over and complains that I’m staring at him while he’s eating and it makes him feel uncomfortable.  So I give up, is he blind or not?  I guess only when convenient.

The sun was down when we took off and has been down ever since.  It’ll never come up on this thirteen-hour flight.  It’s nearly 7pm in Tokyo and so the sun has set there as well.  I love it.  The other straight male flight attendant was bitching about it being dark the entire flight but I couldn’t be happier.  A sleeping passenger is a happy passenger.

One hour away.  My passenger is still sleeping though I’m not sure if he’s still blind or not.  I caught him reading his menu earlier.  We’re right above Sapporo and took a turn so that we’re now going straight south.  I’m looking forward to seeing a new hotel.  That’s always fun, especially in Japan where they usually have random things.  I’m also excited about being in a new city.  Tokyo and Narita are not the same thing at all.  That’s like saying Yonkers is the same as Manhattan. I already told my crew that my room is open for nightcaps when we get in.  One guy and one girl have already given me their RSVP.

NEXT DAY-  I’m trying to decide if I want to try to figure out the subway and go into downtown Tokyo.  I know I do but I’m really dragging my feet here.  Some of it is getting over a hangover from my room party last night.  It wasn’t a party so much as just having Kylie and Max over for drinks, music, and Uno.  At 4am we were all wasted and falling asleep on the floor.  I blame the physical exhaustion rather than the vodka.  We called it a night and everyone stumbled back to their rooms.

When I woke up at 9:30am I was still drunk.  When I woke up at 3pm I was still drunk.  The room is still spinning and it’s 5pm.  There could be an earthquake and I’ll probably not even realize it because I’ve been feeling the floor move all day.  WOW, while I was typing that sentence we really did have an earthquake.  The blinds started moving as if the window was open and a breeze was coming in.  Everything else just kinda shifted and slided for about 10 seconds.  A quick check with the USGS website confirmed the quake.  Ok, I may need to get out of here. I don’t want to be found in my underwear in rubble.

Back from my excursion into downtown Tokyo.  It was a little dicey for a while but I made it.   It had nothing to do with natural elements, it was all my own stupidity.  I’m glad I went out today.  Just the subway ride alone was worth it.  The people watching was out of this world.

It’s incredibly easy getting to downtown from here in Yokohama, even though it takes a long time if you’re on a local train.  I only had 600 yen and 440 of it was used to buy my ticket into town.  I figured I could find an ATM or charge my return ticket.  I wasn’t worried.

I got off at the lost stop- Shibuya, that famous place where they have the massive intersection where hundreds of people cross the street every single time the Walk sign comes on.  The first thing I do is cross with the masses and it feels electric.  This is already way better than that boring ol’ Narita layover.  Tokyo is pretty stimulating.

After I cross the street I try to figure out the best way to take a picture of the insanity.  I see there’s an enclosed walking bridge connecting the train station to another building across the street.  It has large glass windows and is three floors above ground.  That should work.  I go up there and get my photo along with thirty outtakes.  From there I just wander around the streets.  I go down little side streets and I go down busy boulevards with huge buildings and big colorful signs.

Everything is photo worthy.  Anything written in Japanese looks like it needs its picture taken. I got pictures of some restaurants, strip clubs, internet/karaoke combo stores, and then a series of a group of firefighters surrounding a building looking intense.  There were at least twenty of them and five fire trucks but no one ever saw smoke or fire, though we were all staring at the same building for half an hour.

I realized it’s St. Patrick’s Day but I’m not sure if it’s appropriate to pinch people in Japan. I’m not even sure if they know to wear green today. A see a few kids wearing green jeans but I think they wear those any day of the week. I doubt it’s a celebration of Irish Pride. Should I educate them on the phenomenon? I think I’d be cute to see more teens wearing, “Kiss Me I’m Irish” pins. None of the firemen are wearing green but they look like they’d get mad if I pinched them.

Along the way I looked for currency exchange places and ATMs.  I found no exchange places but many ATMs.  Most ATMs weren’t in English and the ones that were, didn’t seem to like my cards.  Uh-oh!

Eventually I realized that I wasn’t going to be able to get out any money.  There’s just no way.  That’s when the search for loose yen began.  I looked on the ground, I looked around over fifty vending machines, I even looked for some kind of fountain where people might throw in coins for luck.  I saw a band playing for change outside a train station and thought about just borrowing a little from them.  I’m sure they wouldn’t have minded if I left them a twenty-dollar bill. It almost came to that.

I had a few yen, enough for a kids ticket or a very short ride, like maybe to the next station.  At least I could buy a ticket to get into the station and get on a train. You can’t get onto a train without some sort of ticket to put into the machine. I decided to just do that and then I’d figure it out when I got back to my stop.  I went to the self-serve machine and put in the rest of my coins.  I got a ticket that would only let me exit a stop or two down the line, but that’s alright, I’ll just keep going even though I know I’ll have major problems later.  At least I’d be near the hotel before someone confronts me on this.  I couldn’t decide if it’d be better to claim out-of-town ignorance or say that I lost my ticket.  I practiced both scenes.

I spend most of the time on the train worrying about this and taking photos of all the Japanese men and women in their little white masks.  Looks like I accidentally got on a train car that’s supposed to be just for women.  It’s all pink and says “women only” but I’m not the only guy on here so I don’t worry about it.

When I get to my station I see that I’m the only one to get off the train.  It’s at a big mall and conference center so after it closes for the night, the area is a ghost town.  That’s a good thing.  I see an exit turnstile and it’s wide open.  There are a couple random people standing around but I don’t think they’re cops or Metro employees.  I take a deep breath and just walk through quickly, but not suspiciously fast.  The once-opened doors start to close on me but I slide through them.  Some kind of bad beeping and red light flashing occur so I just keep going and look confused in case anyone is looking.

There are several exits for the station but I take the very first one I come to.  I run up the escalator and don’t look back until I’m above ground and out of the station.  Thank God.  That could have been a nasty situation, especially if no one spoke English.  I had a feeling it’d be ok but at the same time, it could’ve ended badly and I knew that.  I was very thankful that my exit was a relative non-event.  Next time, bring yen and lot’s of it.  Now I have six hours to kill before my 4:40am pick up.  Thank God for free internet and March Madness.

Straight Lesson #12- The Total Body Work Out

I was non-revving from New York City back home to Austin on a full flight.  I was lucky to get on as a stand-by.  I had a window seat but a girl was sitting next to me, reading a fitness magazine.  She read that thing for over four hours.  I  had no idea there was that much to actually read in a fitness magazine but apparently there is.  I read over her shoulder some of the time and I hoped that she could tell that I was reading over her shoulder and not looking down her blouse.  I hope her dad across the aisle just didn’t see anything at all.  One article was about a basic work out cycle for the week:

Day 1- Upper body

Day 2- Lower body

Day 3- Day of Rest

Day 4- Upper body

Day 5- Lower body

Day 6- Cardio

Day 7- Cardio

I’d love to be in better shape and maybe drop a few pounds but I just can’t get myself to join a gym or go out and play sports, mainly because no one will play with me.  I literally have a trunk full of sports gear that never gets used.  It’s always too hot or too cold or too this or too that or their kid needs to go to the frickin’ Emergency Room because their fever won’t break.  It’s always SOMETHING!

So I decided to come up with a workout routine that any flight attendant can follow.  On the days you’re supposed to work out your upper body, those are the days you work the galley.  You move heavy racks of food from the carts to the ovens.  You open a dozen of bottles of wine.  You carry inserts full of soda to the middle of the cabin and leave them there for use inflight.  You break the massive brick of melted and then re-frozen ice catering gives you into normal sized cubes.

Then you can just move things around for the fun of it.  You don’t really have to move all the other inserts of soda from the Supplement Cart to the cubbies in the galley but you can in the name of health.  During boarding, you can get out there and actually help the passengers with their heavy bags.  We’re not supposed to lift anything that’s not ours, but we’re going for a look here people, so it’s worth the risk of injuring your back and being out for a month, uncovered by insurance because we were doing things we aren’t supposed to.  When everyone is asleep you can do dips using the jumpseat to work your triceps.  In the hotel room we can do some push ups and sit ups to further the cause.  If you’re not ready for proper push ups, start by doing some 45 degree angle ones in the bathroom against the sink.  It’s a start.

On the Lower Body days we’re going to be in the aisle.  We’re going to pull those carts up and down the aisle all by ourselves.  If someone asks to help, we’re going to say “Get Away”, we’re working our calves!  To really feel the burn we’re going to pull the carts up right after take off, while the plane is still climbing at a steep incline.  Make sure you’re capable of this though, if you accidentally let go of the cart, someone will get a knee shattered when the cart hits them.

We’ll also help out with closing all the overhead bins right after boarding.   We’re going to step on the seat and concentrate on working our legs.  Often times that’s the only way for short people to close the middle overhead bins, to elevate on the aisle seat.  Most people recruit a tall man to get up and close the middle overhead bins but we’re working on our Adonis body so we’ll do it ourselves, up and down on every single row until all the bins are closed.

Once we get to the hotel we can take the stairs instead of the elevator.  We can go balls-out and do the stairs with our luggage in tow but that’s not recommended for beginners.  Word of advice:  don’t take the stairs too quickly, you can make yourself dizzy and nauseous going around in circles like that.

For the cardio days we can start by actually answering some of those call lights and doing our fifteen minute walk-arounds that we’re supposed to do.  If you answer every call light that goes off, right when it goes off, you’ll find that you’re up and moving around the entire flight.  So instead of rolling your eyes when the chime goes off and thinking, “I’m sure they meant to turn on their overhead light,” get out there and check it out!  Go the long way if you have to.  If the call light is right by you at 43J, go all the way up the A/B side to the front of the cabin then back down the H/J side until you get to the seat in need, whatever gets the heart pumping.  If you’re on a spacious plane you can do a variety of calisthenics in the coach galley.  There’s room for several people to run in place, do jumping jacks, or throw down some yoga mats.  On the layover you can take long walks or better yet, jog.  if you’re in a nice neighborhood, take a run and check out your beautiful surroundings.  If you’re in the hood, just pretend that someone’s chasing you.

The most obvious solution to getting a killer body without joining a gym is to go to the hotel gym whenever available.  Barring that, these everyday exercises on and off the plane can get you in shape and healthier without doing anything out of your normal work routine.  Of course having a healthy sex life never hurt anyone either.

Straight Lesson #11- Foreign Taxis

The absolute worst part of any vacation abroad is getting out of the airport when you land, provided that they don’t have a decent public transit system. Thank you Amsterdam for taking care of that in epic fashion! Sometimes worse things happen to you during your trip, but those things are unexpected.  On every trip you take you’re going to have to deal with exiting the airport, unless you’re some kind of weirdo that just likes visiting airports.

You will be hustled and get the run-around and there isn’t anything you can do about it.  You think going to an official taxi stand is the way to go, well not always.  You think taking a ride from someone dressed really well is a smart move, well not always.  Last time I was somewhere dodgy was last week when I was in Buenos Aires.  I checked out the ride situation.  There were several people trying to get me into their cars but I didn’t commit at first.  I noticed that well over half of the cars out there were black and yellow Radio Taxis.  I figured they were probably the most honest ones out there, so I took them.  They probably were the most honest but they still ripped me off shamelessly.  The lesson I learned from them: always have small denominations to avoid relying on them to give you change.  They never have change.  Even if you see the exact change in their hand, they’ll lie and tell you that’s not really money, it’s lottery tickets or Kleenex or some shit like that.

Don’t be fooled by any driver with a crucifix or rosary beads hanging from the rear view mirror.  It’s doesn’t mean they won’t financially rape you.  Don’t buy it if there’s a plastic Jesus or Virgin Mary on the dashboard.  Those Saint cards that look like baseball cards on the visor doesn’t mean that the driver is a Christian and won’t break any of the Ten Commandments just to get a few extra Pesos out of you.  There is no God in a Third World taxi.

First and foremost when getting into a cab in a country where you don’t speak the language is to not let the cabbie know that you don’t know the language or where you’re trying to get to.  Know the destination of where you want to go and how to pronounce it correctly.  Even if you don’t know any other words in that language, know how to say, “take me to so-and-so please.”  The first time I went to Australia I told the driver I needed to get to Clovelly beach.  I pronounced it “Claw Velly” instead of “Cloe Velly” and forty minutes later I was where I needed to go.  It wasn’t until days later when I took a cab back to the airport that I realized how close those two places are to each other and how horribly the driver had ripped me off by taking the most scenic route possible.  I think we were somewhere near Ayers Rock for a while.  So say the destination correctly and hopefully your bluff will work.  A good follow-up step is to take out your cell phone and pretend like you’re talking to someone the entire time you’re in the cab.  That keeps the driver from asking you questions and accidentally discovering that you’re completely full of crap.  If you don’t want to keep up that charade then put headphones on and ignore the driver if he tries to talk to you.

If there are tolls to pay en route pay them yourself as you go through them.  Often times the driver will tell you that he’ll take care of it and you can just add it to the fare at the end.  “Wow, that’s was nice of him” you’ll think!  Bullshit!  Keep your eye on the sign on what they charge.  You will be charged at least ten times that when it comes time to pay the guy.  He’ll explain it by making up some crazy excuse like the “Driving an Aries on a Thursday following a New Moon” surcharge.

When you finally get to your destination he’ll try to get you one last time, or take it upon himself to tip himself.  Put up some resistance to keep at least some of your money but don’t create a bad scene that could turn dangerous.  The old trick of showing him your empty wallet works.  Turn those pockets inside out and translate the phrase, “You can’t get blood from a stone.”  It’s frustrating and infuriating, and you’ll feel completely useless/helpless but at least you’re where you need to be and  the nightmare is over.

When getting back to the airport you can play it just right and not be screwed over too badly.  You want to tell the driver that you’re in a hurry but not too much of a hurry.  If he think you have plenty of time then he’ll go down random streets and purposely get stuck in traffic, or worse, fill up with gas while the meter runs.  That’s when all of a sudden all four tires need to be filled with air and the oil needs to be changed.  He’ll drag that drive out as long as possible and take you for as much as he can.  If you tell him that you’re in a big hurry however, he’ll try to charge you for some sort of expediting fee that doesn’t exist at all.  He’ll say he can get you to the airport in time for your flight but he’ll need extra money because he’ll be breaking all sorts of speeding and traffic laws.  It’s a fine line and you need to know how to walk it.  To avoid the gas station detour, check his tank before you get in, that way you know and he knows that you’re not a complete schmuck.  Go ahead and take out your air pressure gauge and check the tire pressure as well.

If you must talk to the driver, tell him that his city is your favorite city you’ve ever been to.  Tell him the food is wonderful, their local sports team is the best, and the girls are beautiful.  This might make him happy but it won’t stop him from doing that thing he can do to the meter to make it charge faster.  I thought that was an urban legend until I saw a guy do it, again in Argentina.  He did something weird with some wires under the hood and I didn’t think anything of it.  By the time we got to the airport it read 340 Pesos on the meter when it was only 150 going the other direction from the same spot.  Only 8 of those 340 Pesos were wasted at the gas station as he let the gas slowly drip into the tank.  Some cabbies rig their meters so that they flip for an eighth of a mile every time they perform a certain operation, like a turn signal or flashing their brights.  I know, pretty brilliant!  Now I know why my guy kept running the windshield wipers!

Forget all about the NYC Taxi Customer Bill of Rights.  Those don’t exist anywhere but New York.  And don’t get your hopes up of stumbling into Cash Cab Bogotá, it doesn’t exist.  Ben Bailey won’t be giving you money as you get taken around town.  There will be no Red Light Challenge.  Street Shout Outs would probably be a bad idea anyways.

So 99% of the cab drivers you come across, especially in poorer countries will try to take you for all that you have.  It’s going to happen so just don’t let it ruin your holiday.  It’s inevitable.  It will suck and even though you know it’ll suck, you’ll still complain while it’s happening exactly how you knew it was going to happen.  Just suck it up, get through it, and get on with your holiday.  It’s smooth sailing after that, until the cab ride back to the airport.

Straight Lesson #10- Crash Pad

Once you get sick of living in the huge city where you’re based (in my case New York City), you’re going to move away and have to commute.  That also means getting a place to stay for when you’re in NYC.  You don’t really live there, you just stay there a couple of nights out of the months before or after a trip.  You don’t want to throw a lot of money to a place you’re never at so you get together with several of your friends, rent an apartment in between LGA and JFK, buy as many bunk beds as you can possibly squeeze into it, and call it your Crash Pad.

It’s takes a little while to get over the fact that you’re an adult and living in a bunk bed.  I made it all the way to college before I had to share a room with someone and even then I had my own bed.  It took until the age of 33 before I had to sleep in my first bunk bed.  Yeah, you’re regressing.  It doesn’t feel right but you get used to it, sort of.

Crash pads come in all shapes and sizes.  Some have dedicated beds for everyone who lives there.  No matter where you are in the world, you know that your bed is there with your sheets on it, waiting for you.  It isn’t being used by anyone else but you.  No one is drooling, farting, or having sex in your bed.  My crash pad in Kew Gardens, Queens is like that (also known as Stew Gardens). It’s good peace of mind knowing my bed is my bed.  We have three bedrooms for fourteen of us. There are three bunk beds in one room, two in another, and one more plus a twin bed in mine.  I have the top bunk but I’m patiently waiting for the guy below me or the girl in the twin to move out so I can upgrade.  It’s serious business.  I’ve almost planted drugs in their luggage then called the cops just to get them fired and free up a better bed.  That’s right Larry and Mara, I’m coming for you!

Some crash pads have what’s called “hot beds”.  That means you don’t have your own bed.  Theoretically there should be a bed somewhere in the apartment for you but you have to poke around the apartment with a flashlight, find a naked mattress, and throw your sheets on it.  It’s like musical chairs.  Usually there are only a couple of people at the crash pad each night, which is good since hot-bed crash pads are overbooked and if every single person is there, someone might be on the sofa or futon, or worse.  Any time there are more than four people in on the same night, it gets incredibly claustrophobic and fights break out over what to watch on television. Nothing is more uncomfortable than a full crash pad, which often happens between Christmas and New Years.  Everyone just sits in one place and tries not to move around because there isn’t any room to move.

In every crash pad there’s one person that’s been there longer than the rest.  For some reason that person feels a sense of entitlement or achievement because of this, like that’s something to be proud of.  They might have a little more cabinet space in the communal kitchen or at least the best shelves, never those annoying, hard-to-reach ones at the top.  They might also have more stuff there than anyone else.  After a few years their area looks less like a meager place to crash a few times a month and more like a homeless person’s space, one of those privileged, well-to-do bums who has like three heaping shopping carts full of treasures.

Both pilots and flight attendants utilize crash pads.  The turnover rate is high. The best part about the crash pad concept is that you may have five different airlines represented under one roof.  You get to hear all about the drama your competitors face as well as all the ins and out of how they do things. After getting all this intel, most crash pads could probably run an airline better than any CEO.  We could take all the best aspects from each company and make a super airline.  No one airline is perfect.

I like staying in a crash pad where I’m the only representative from my airline.  I don’t want to work with those people.  I like being able to listen to them bitch and complain about their company (and each other) and feel completely detached. It’s entertaining.

People often ask about the food situation since there are so many people there and only one fridge with very limited shelf space.  The ideal situation is to have communal food since leftovers are impossible.  If you can’t finish a meal you need to just throw it away because you won’t be back to the crash pad for a couple of weeks and the food will spoil by then.  Plus it just takes up valuable space.  The space is worth more than your half eaten taco.

At the start everyone agrees with this communal system but slowly over time you stray and get possessive.  One person will buy fancy cheese rather than the Kraft, so they’ll put their name on it with a note that says “Do Not Touch!”  Then someone will buy a brand name cereal rather than Tasty Os and so they’ll put their name on it.  Before long everything in the apartment has a name on it, even a tiny sample bottle of Lawry’s seasoned salt.  It’s ridiculous.  Currently we have four different ketchup bottles in the fridge with people’s names on them.  Not four different kinds mind you, they’re all Heinz, not to mention about 100 little ketchup packets from fast food places that are packed into the place where the butter belongs in the fridge.

We have more individual condiments than the places we stole them from have; there are HUNDREDS.  We got your ketchup, Tabasco, mustard, mayo, vinegar from the UK, and soy sauce from Asia.  We have little salt and peppers from McDonalds to go with the regular salt and pepper shakers and then a huge 1 lb. container of Morton’s iodized salt.  Our kitchen is indicative of the US Government, lots of unnecessary waste.

Every person in the crash pad has a little cubby to keep their dry goods in, but that doesn’t mean that your roommates will respect your cubby.  If someone is hungry and it’s cold outside then first they’ll go through the roommates cubbies, then maybe through the take out menus.  There’s always a reason not to leave the living room.  You say you’ll replace the stolen items tomorrow but they never get replaced, EVER!

So that’s a crash pad in a nutshell.  It has its drama but it’s better than sleeping in a chair at the airport or springing for an airport hotel every time you need to stay at base.  The temptation is to join one of the party crash pads but that’s just a horrible idea in the long run.  The only time you’re there is to sleep so you want to be able to sleep.  It should be a sanctuary.

Straight Guy Lesson #8- Flight Attendant Interview Gone Wrong

What could be worse than the Flight Attendant Interview?  Well, what’s worse than dealing with those questions we’ve all heard a million times is sitting on a bus in between two people when one is giving the other the Flight Attendant Interview.

I knew from the second I sat down that the young blonde was a flight attendant, I saw a bidsheet sticking out of her bag.  There was only one empty seat on the M60 bus leaving La Guardia and it was right between this girl and this older guy.  He was probably thirty-something but still a lot older than this girl.  I guess they were already talking before I got on, so immediately I was right in the middle of their conversation.  I tried to ignore it but that was just impossible since they were both leaning in towards each other, right in my lap. I wanted to pass the time talking on the phone but it was in my front pocket and I couldn’t get to it because the guy was all up in my bidness.

They chatted for ten minutes about where they were from and where they’ve lived and finally, inevitably, it came out that for the last five glorious months she’s been a flight attendant for Delta Airlines.  Then the questions came like an avalanche.  What is your route?  How long do you get to stay at the city you fly to?  Do they put you up at a hotel?  Do you get to fly for free?  Have you almost ever crashed?  Do you see many people trying to join the mile high club?  blah blah blah.  I’ve heard it all before and can seriously answer the questions in my sleep even before the person asks them.

I really felt for the girl.  It pains me to hear someone go through that but the terrible part was that she was so new, young, and cheery that she actually enjoyed answering all these questions.  I was horrified!  I give one word answers but she was expanding on hers.  The whole interview should have taken seven minutes and forty-three seconds if she did it right.

To make it even worse, she didn’t even answer the questions correctly!  She’d give an answer that was glorious or horrible about the job and it wouldn’t even be true.  It might be randomly true one time but if you’ve been flying for more than five months, you’d know that it’s completely, totally untrue over the course of a career.

I wanted to jump in and correct her on certain things but I knew it wasn’t any of my business.  Actually that isn’t really what stopped me.  I have no problem butting into that conversation.  What stopped me was that I could tell the guy was really into the girl by the way he nervously and uncomfortably tried to ask more and more questions to keep the conversation going.  He seemed like a nice guy and me butting in might disrupt the little thing they had going.  She was obviously into their exchange so why do I need to get involved?  He might see me jumping in as some kind of cock-blocking and I don’t want to do that.  She, being a sweet as pie girl from South Carolina, probably would’ve started including me in the conversation and might even start asking me a bunch of questions and ignoring him.

No, I did the right thing by not saying anything but I would’ve given anything for an IPod to suddenly materialize on my head.  The more interest he showed, the more cocky she got.  I thought she was getting kinda boastful when she talked about how cool it was to have a morning macchiato at the Trevi Fountain and then dinner on a rooftop in Manhattan in the same day.  Of course it is!  Everyone in the world knows that would be brilliant, but you don’t need to sound so proud of yourself.  I’ve been guilty of thinking how bad ass it is to see a soccer game in Milan and the very next day catching US Open tennis in New York.  I catch myself in these thoughts but would never in a million years say them out loud.  I don’t want to be that guy.

Still though, he was totally into everything she was saying and completely validating her superiorness.  What annoyed me the most, even more than the airline lies, was when she started dissing New York City because it’s not acceptable to go out in scrubby clothes like it is in Charleston.  I can’t believe I was able to hold me tongue!  She thought it was just the coolest thing in the world that you can go to the beach all day and then go to a bar in your flip-flops and no one would say a word.  She didn’t understand why New York wasn’t like that and that everyone spends at least four hours getting ready for a night out, even to the local bar, dressed to the nines.  Where the fuck is this girl hanging out?  Has she never set foot downtown?  Or in Brooklyn?  I defy you to find someone at Max Fish who doesn’t look like they woke up in a gutter and then dragged themselves up to the bar.

Yeah she’s new to New York but I think after Week 2 I’d found some low-key, hometown dives.  You can walk into a bar in flip-flops and a ratty t-shirt in every single US city I can think of.  That’s not exclusive to Charleston, South Carolina.  The guy (who was born in Jersey, moved to Pennsylvania, then Arizona, and now New York) kept his mouth shut and didn’t even challenge this notion at all.  I was sweating and squirming in my seat.  He must have really wanted to screw her.  Even if I really REALLY wanted to win over a hot young stewardess on a bus, I still would’ve corrected her on this outlandish misconception.  Enough is enough!

I mean just by throwing out the names of a couple of neighborhoods or bars that are slack like that, he might have bought himself several dates with this girl.

“Oh, you need to go down to the East Village, Lower East SIde, or even out to Brooklyn then.  I could show you a ton of amazing places where the people are real and down to earth, and wearing flip-flops with unwashed hair.  My favorite place is (insert specific bar here, preferably somewhere obscure that she can’t find on her own and will need you as an escort)”

“Oh wow, that would be awesome!  I’d love to check out some places like that.  Places like in Charleston, South Carolina.”

Boom!  Just like that they have plans and you know she’ll be excited about it.  It doesn’t even have to come off like a date, just a local showing a nice transplant where to have a good time.  I really hope that all went down after I got off the bus.  I seriously doubt it by the way he just kept letting her talk and talk and talk but who knows, maybe he grew a pair and popped the question.

Straight Guy Lesson #6- The Flight Attendant Interview

The Flight Attendant Interview

Every non-airline person has always wanted to know certain things about the flight attendant job and lifestyle.  This can work for you in some rare cases, but usually it’ll lead to annoyance.  When meeting someone for the first time and the subject of employment comes up, pray that you’re not the first flight attendant they’ve ever met. If you are, they’ll take their big opportunity to ask all the questions they’ve ever wanted to know and they’ll shoot them off at you like an AK47.

The script goes something like this… Stranger in bar asks you, the aloof drunk muttering to himself, your name.  They don’t understand what you say, they just nod and smile followed by, “What do you do for a living?”  You cringe and mumble, “flight attendant”.  Their ears perk up.  At this point you know you’re either going to hear them bitch about how their last flight went horribly wrong, or you’re getting the dreaded Flight Attendant Interview.  You pray for a lost luggage story.  The stranger’s eyes widen and without a moment’s hesitation, out comes:

Are you gay?

Do you get to fly all over the world for free?

What airline do you work for?

What’s your route?

How long do you get to stay at the city you fly to?

Do they put you up at a hotel?

Do they pay for your meals when you’re away?

Do you hook up with all the stewardesses?

Are you sure you’re not gay?

Can you hook me up with a stewardess?

Can you get her to wear the uniform?

Do you like to be called a steward or a flight attendant or what?

How does your schedule work?

Do you have a boy/girl in every city?

How long have you done the job?

Where are you stationed? (yeah right, it’s like the military)

Did you have to do some kind of training or schooling?

What’s the worst thing that’s happened?

Have you ever had really bad turbulence?

Have you almost crashed and died a gruesome death?

Seriously, you’re not gay?

Do you see many people trying to join the mile high club?

Have you joined the mile high club?

How might I join the mile high club?

Do you have Buddy Passes?

Can I have a Buddy Pass?

What was your Major before you failed out of community college?

After going through that song and dance a few times you’ll just stop asking people what they do because you don’t want the question returned.  When someone asks you, just say you’re unemployed, it’s easier for everyone.  Better yet, buy a voice recorder and keep all the answers to the Flight Attendant Interview recorded and ready to go.  If someone you don’t care about starts in with the interview, just push play on the recorder, go to the bar to get yourself another drink while they listen to all the answers.  By the time you’re back they’ll know everything they ever wanted to know and you can then talk about something less painful.

Straight Guy Lesson #5- Hotel Rooms

Hotel rooms- your home away from home and little slice of space just for you.

If you’re a full-time flyer then you may spend between 60-100 nights a year in a hotel room, depending on the type of trip you fly.  If you have seven two-days trips each month then that ends up being around 84 nights at a hotel each year.  If you only do five three-day Europe trips then you’ll start at the 60 mark.  That’s before you pick up a single trip, and everyone starting out picks up at least one extra trip a month.  So roughly a fourth of your year/life will be spent in hotel rooms. Learn to love them.

The airlines have promised you certain things when it comes to accommodation on the job.  You’re not supposed to be on the bottom floor for safety reasons.  The hotel should have food available 24/7, or at least very near food.  You’re always given the option of a non-smoking room, which however, may be a floor that allows smoking.  Those rooms are annoying, like the smoke knows to stop at your door and not go in.  That’s about it as far as the hotel’s responsibility to you.  As long as the hotel meets those criterium then they’re an option for the Hotel Board to decide on.  The range of hotels in staggering.  For the most part it’s an inverse relationship.  The nicer the country, the more meager the hotel.  The shittier the country, the more luxurious the hotel.  London is a closet.  Port Au Prince is a palace.

You’ll find that some of your crew members are way too particular when they request their room.  It’s ridiculous and it’s embarrassing.  I feel so sorry for anyone that has to deal with pilots and flight attendants, mostly van drivers and hotel staff.  You must really be a masochist to voluntarily put up with that hell.  I don’t feel as bad for airport security, we give them a hard time but they usually deserve it.  Some crew members don’t want to be on a floor too high up because there’s no water pressure.  The low floors have too much street noise.  The rooms near ice machines and elevators are too noisy.  The rooms near the microwave room are also too noisy.  In fact they don’t want to even be on the floor that has the microwave because it all smells like weird food, especially if Asian airlines stay at the hotel.  It’s like they have a particular room in mind and won’t quit until they get it. Airline people get a little too comfortable and start taking things for granted.  It’s the unbearable lightness of being.

Even though all rooms are different you’ll try to keep a basic set-up and routine.  We crave structure and are all creatures of habit.  You’ll keep your suitcase in same place in every single room.  Some people utilize the closet and the drawers.  I don’t bother with the drawers, it’s just too much work to unpack and then repack a few hours later. It’s easier living out of the suitcase.  When we get in we all set up the bathroom how we want it.  We have the toiletries laid out just so and our uniform hung neatly in the closet.  Some people have a cleaning ritual that includes putting on their own sheets and pillowcases brought from home.  The hotel sheets get washed so I’m ok with those but the comforters or duvets are ignored so those are pretty nasty and my naked body will never touch them.

Ignorance really is bliss.  Don’t think too deeply on what may or may not be in your room or look too closely to the refilled body wash/shampoo bottles.  At least the little bottle of mouthwash is factory sealed.  Ignore that undercover news report you saw online about how the glasses get cleaned in hotel rooms, sometimes with the same rag that was just used to wipe off the toilet.  Never look under the bed!  Some people use the shower cap as a condom for the remote control and phone receiver.  To test for bed bugs put the bar soap on the bed and check back with it later.  Apparently bed bugs head right for that.  I’m not sure if that’s true, it may be one of those tricks you use to fool yourself into thinking everything is just fine. One of my favorite layover games is to check for the one maid hair that’s found in every shower.  It’s like playing Where’s Waldo.  It may take you half an hour but that hair is always in there somewhere, sometimes on the ceiling.  A word to the wise, some people use the coffee makers to clean their panty hose.  Gross.  I sometimes use it to reheat food or warm a can of soup.  I’ve also found that if your room has one of those fancy pant-pressers you can use that to make a pseudo grilled cheese sandwich.

You’ll do all your dirty stuff in a hotel room, the messy things you don’t want to do at home, like dying your hair or having period sex.  I used to try to keep the room as clean as possible, as a favor to the maid.  I try to be a team player.  I put a liner in the trash can which I’m sure helps a lot.  I tried to leave the room cleaner than I found it but then I heard that rooms left like that don’t really get cleaned that well by the maids.  Now I’ll trash their room on purpose just so it HAS to be cleaned.

You usually get a little fridge in your room but if you’re staying somewhere cold you can use the ledge outside the window as a fridge extension.  It really frees up some space, especially if your fridge is crammed full of useless minibar items that cost way too much.  In some places, like Caracas, you can sometimes get free porn if you clip your ID to the cable going into the TV.  Most hotels are onto that one because some idiot flight attendant left his ID behind when he checked out and then had to call the hotel for someone to get it.  How do you explain why your ID is clipped to the back of a TV unless something is up?  Every now and then your porn channel will come in unscrambled.  If that happens then watch it for as long as you can because once you turn the channel, it’s gone forever.  If you turn back then it’ll be scrambled again and the free porn will be nothing but a distant memory.  Some hotels have secret hiding places that crew members will use to leave goodies for each other.  The Los Angeles Bonaventure was famous for that.  The hotel is circular and the far wall of the hotel rooms is curved, the one made entirely of windows.  Because the ceiling doesn’t exactly fit flush to the curved wall, there are little gaps where you can reach up if you stand on the desk.  People leave all sorts of things up there: porn, minis of liquor, wine, People magazine.

You’ll find that spending so much time in hotels will eliminate certain chores you have to do at home, like shopping for toilet paper, shampoo, hand lotion, towels, and shower curtains.  If you tell the maid that your significant other LOVES the way you smell in their lotion, she likely to hook you up with dozens of bottles.  Score!

The worst feeling is checking out of the hotel and realizing you left food in the fridge (or on the ledge outside the window.)  That precious food has probably been all around the world with you and you were so looking forward to having that on the flight back home.  You might need to leave a post-it note on the door to remind yourself.

So make your room your own and learn to love living out of a suitcase.  It may be one of the few things you really have control over when you’re on the job.  Try to see a layover as a much-needed break from reality rather than being stuck away from all that are near and dear to you.

Straight Guy Lesson #4-Probation

Every major airline has a probationary period that starts after you complete your training when you get “on the line.”  During this hellish time (usually a few months) you can be fired for absolutely anything without an explanation or apology.  One day you’ll be working, the next day you’ll be back wherever you came from.  During Probation you will be scared shitless anytime anything goes remotely wrong, no matter how ridiculous or insignificant.  Any time you have to tell a passenger that you’ve run out of their first meal choice or that they won’t make their connecting flight is told with such unspeakable dread.  Any disagreement with a fellow crew member is reason to toss and turn all night long.  You hold your tongue no matter what people say to you or how horribly they treat you.  Like a slave, you just turn the other cheek and take whatever is thrown at you. Thank you Sir may I have another?!  You’ll feel like you have no soul or backbone.  In your mind you have all your witty comebacks and how exactly you’re going to tell the passengers off, but just file those away for a while.  You’ll have plenty of time to be a jerk right back to the passengers later on, but for now, you have to play ball.

You may find yourself allowing three hours travel time to get to the airport when it normally takes forty-five minutes.  You cannot be too careful.  That day when you get off of probation is circled in red on your calendar. Your life will change that day, especially if you work for an airline that has a union.  Once the union covers you then it’s damn near impossible to get fired, no matter how hard you try.  Feel free to use all the witty retorts and give all the attitude you wish after you make it off of probation.

Just in case you think you may get fired though, here are some Must Dos that you need to accomplish ASAP. Once you’ve completed this list then you’ve pretty much done the best things you can do as a flight attendant and you can hold your head up high as you’re being fired for gross incompetence or whatever they say you did or did not do.  You’ll also have the staple photographs and scars that prove that you were at one time a flight attendant.

#1  Have your picture taken sitting in the Captain’s seat

#2  Have your picture taken standing in an engine

#3  Have your picture taken lying inside an overhead bin

#4  Join the Mile High Club

#5  Stay out all night on a layover and show up for pick up without sleep or shower

#6  Hook up on a layover with local

#7  Show up to the airport on your days off and just fly somewhere random, just because you can

#8  Sit in the cockpit for either take-off or landing

#9  Hook up on a layover with another crew member

#10  When you ferry a flight (no passengers, just crew) sit on a plastic tray at the front of the aircraft in the aisle and “aisle surf” during take off.  Hopefully you’ll be on a wide body aircraft with two aisles and you can race a friend.  Gambling will occur, not only on who wins the race but also on who bleeds the most.  Fun times for everyone.

#11 Upgrade someone just for the hell of it

#12 Get an oven rack burn/scar.  No one will believe you were a flight attendant until you have scar lines on your forearms.  In fact, burn off all your fingerprints as well, just like a real flight attendant.

Straight Guy Lesson #3- Other Straight Flight Attendants

The dynamics of your relationships with other straight male flight attendants are very complicated as well.  It’s a fascinating case study.  We are a small fraternity of brothers and it seems every year you’re losing members to the other side, sometimes members you’d never think that would fall to the dark side.  Sometimes our most successful members put in a trade request.  Ultimately, everyone gets their trade request, no matter how much their parents, best friends, or ex-lovers object.  For the most part all the straight guys get along really well.  It’s welcoming to have another dude around you can talk to about straight guy stuff for a couple of days.

If you’re at a base long enough you’re going to hear about every other straight guy at the base and people will be shocked that you don’t all know each other.  “What?!  Of course you know Kevin!  He’s straight too, slept with half the base.  Really funny guy.  Yeah, you have to know him.”  Of course that’s as silly as asking a black guy if he knows this other guy Ty that also lives in Atlanta.  “Oh I’m sure you know him, he’s black too.”

Some flight attendant bases are massive and you can go years without meeting everyone.  After 12 years I still meet people for the first time when I get on a plane to work a trip.  You sure hear about the other straight guys though, especially if they’re single and active.  It’s always funny at that moment when you finally meet another Straight for the first time.  You know so much about him.  You’ve been hearing about him for years and you know about all the other flight attendants he’s slept with and you probably have a couple in common.  That’s usually a good bonding point and will be discussed later in the bar over some whiskey drinks and Sportscenter.  Of course whoever got there first will have bragging rights for all time.  A word of advice though, when you start laughing about a girl you had a fun layover with and you know that he had also been with her, make sure she was just a fling and not a serious girlfriend.  Nothing is more awkward than making comments about a girl and then finding out that your new straight friend used to be engaged to her but she broke it off at the last minute.  Trust me.

I love meeting the other straight ones.  It’s like meeting a long-lost sibling or a unicorn.  There may be a little competition on the plane or at the bar to win a girl’s favor but after you’ve been flying for a few years you really don’t care if you win or not.  It’s just fun being a guy with other guys and talking about guy stuff.

There’s another faction out there though, but thank god they’re becoming extinct.  I haven’t seen them in years but they’re out there for sure.  They are the straight homophobes that wear the Superman pin on their uniform.  I noticed this once when I was brand new and asked the guy if he was a Superman fan.  He looked at me with an intense seriousness and dragged me into the galley so he could tell me about his secret organization, much like the Masons or Stone Cutters.  He said that the S Superman pin meant something much more important than liking some silly comic book character.  The S meant that he was a Straight and that was how he let the world know that he wasn’t just another “faggot flight attendant.”  I was shocked.  I figured most people could tell by talking to a person for a few minutes if they were a Straight or a Gay but I guess he needs a shiny blue and red pin to help them out.  He said us Straights need to stick together and that he’d put a Superman pin in my mailbox at the airport so I could join the club (cult).  I think he was planning a revolution or something because this was all done very hush-hush with constant checks around us to make sure no one was listening in.  I guess we can’t let the Gays catch wind of this!

I’m not sure how he thought everyone would instinctively know that the S pin meant that he was straight though.  I didn’t get that part.  I was apparently being groomed for fast entry into the club and I didn’t even know what it meant.  What chance would anyone else have?  Lots of flight attendants wear pins on their jackets or aprons during the service and no one bats an eye.  So watch out for those guys.  They are the Scientologists of the airline industry and completely whacked out.  I think most of them have quit the job once they realized they just weren’t going to eliminate the Gays from the flight attendant profession.  There are still a few stragglers though, I hear stories from the underground.  They usually hang out with the pilots on layovers.

And so it begins…OKC 7:38am

When I saw an overloaded business guy running OJ-style through the Oklahoma City airport with all his carry-ons dangling from every limb, my first reaction was to laugh at the idiot who overslept.  I know he didn’t get stuck in traffic, it’s 7:30am on a Sunday morning and there wasn’t a car on the road when we came here.  I saw more tumbleweeds than cars on the road.  He had no one to blame but himself so therefore he gets pointed and laughed at.  Then, with a sudden chill in a moment of clarity, I realized that maybe he’s trying to catch the flight to DFW before mine.  If he didn’t catch it then he’d be put on my flight and it’s pretty full already so an extra body might mean that I won’t get on.  He could make all the difference.  He might be the Tipping Point.  If I don’t get on then I won’t make the one and only flight from Dallas to JFK.  If I miss that then I won’t make the flight I have to work to Zurich at 6pm.  If I miss that trip then I can say goodbye to $800.  All of a sudden I wasn’t laughing at the poor schmuck, I was helping him out.  I had an insane urge to run along side him and motivate him, giving him cups of water, encouraging him, or putting him down like a drill sergeant ala Full Metal Jacket, whatever it took to get him to move faster.  I didn’t do that but I picked up my pace and followed closely, sending out nothing but good vibes and little prayers.  My airline’s gates are the very last ones in the terminal and it seemed that’s just where he was heading.  Luckily he turned off at another airline just before mine and promptly got into a fight with the agent because the door was closed yet the plane was still sitting there at the gate.  I don’t sympathize with the passengers very often but I really don’t get why they don’t just run down, crack the door, let the straggler on, and go about their business.  Forget delays or tower permission, no one has to know anything.  I know how long it takes to disarm the forward entry door, open it, let a person on, close it, and then arm it again.  It actually takes less time than it took for me to type all of that out.  It seems like such a little thing that would save a lot of trouble for everyone involved.  Nothing is more frustrating than being told you missed a flight that’s still just sitting there with the jet bridge attached.  Nothing is more exhilarating than thinking you missed a flight and then somehow finding your way into a seat.  Sure enough the agent told him that he was just put on the next flight to wherever, and that was that.  Hopefully there isn’t a nonrev crewmember getting screwed over by that little scene I just witnessed.  Drama so early on a Sunday morning!  That is just obstacle one of many obstacles commuting flight attendants deal with trying to get to work.  I survived this potential roadblock but there are several more to come before I’m finally at the right gate at the right airport in the right city at the right time.  And you wonder why most of us aren’t in better moods?

The Modern Businessman

Two things that I learned right away, but was unaware of at the time of my hiring are this: 1) my airline caters to the business traveler and 2) the business traveler is a strange creature.

I did not know this when I signed up for this gig; I had never even met a businessman before.  Now I see the same cookie cutter middle-aged businessman a hundred times a day.  They have the same drab suit, same iPhone phone with a Blackberry chaser, same Jimmy Johnson haircut and Jimmy Johnson hair color.  They have the same tubby stomach that they rest their identical laptop computers on.  They drink the same single malt scotch, tell the same jokes, and read the same magazines.

As worthless as these guys are to me in my existence, they aren’t that bad as passengers.  Businessmen travel all the time and know what to expect on the plane as far as the service is concerned, which limits my ability to cut corners.  They know what we will and will not do for them.  Since I’m male they aren’t that nice to me, but at the same time I don’t have to deal with them hitting on me relentlessly.  They pretty much leave me alone and I’m ok with that.

The people who travel every five years are the worst; they want everything under the sun and expect the flight attendants to do everything for them, like we did in the 1970s.  They don’t understand you have 124 other people to serve and it’s not our job to provide their baby with a diaper or stow their overstuffed suitcases in the overhead bins.

Whenever I do see a young person, early twenties to early thirties, I leech onto them like white on rice.  It is so rare a passenger is my age and traveling alone.  They must talk to me whether they’d like to or not.  Most don’t want to chat too long to the hired help though; we cater to stuck-up, self-important brats along with the older businessman.  One is the larval stage of the other: the caterpillar to the butterfly, but in a less beautiful way.