Tag Archives: interview

Interview with a New Hire

Unknown-4Time will tell if it’s a good or bad thing if people out there in the real world listen to my words and use them to help make life altering decisions. One of my young readers, Jaysen, tells me that I helped him make up his mind to pursue a job in the airlines. I’m not sure if he’s stroking my ego or being sincere, but nonetheless, he got hired as a flight attendant and as luck would have it, he now works for my airline!

I haven’t had the honor of flying with him just yet but I have introduced him around the JFK base and also to some of my friends back home in Austin when he had a long layover there a couple of months ago. He just completed his required 6-month probationary period and now he’s officially a stewardess like me, but younger with fewer laugh lines and more hair. Here is what an ordinary guy has to say about the flight attendant position/lifestyle after six months on the job… 

imagesHow old are you and why did this profession appeal to you in the first place? I doubt a high school guidance counselor suggested it to you, right?

I’m twenty-eight years old and a musician. That’s what has put money in the bank some way or another up to this point. One day I was doing some stock trading (a hobby) and came across a news article that said our airline was hiring. I love to travel and was in between music gigs at the time, so I thought, “Why not?” I applied for the job on a whim, never thinking it would actually happen.

I got a notification that I was selected for a phone interview and then after the phone interview was chosen to go to headquarters to interview in person. That went extremely well, but I still wasn’t sure if the job really fit with my music career. I got online and started doing more research about the job and that’s when I came across your blog. The blog led me to buy your book and after reading it, I knew that this was something I had to try. It’s such a flexible job that I’m able to work on my music just as much as before, and now I have great travel and health benefits.

I’m curious to see how you use this job in your music career. There are many possibilities for you.

To be honest, when I started this blog and wrote the book, I never dreamed that a stranger would be interested in what I had to say. I really thought I was just doing something to make my friends laugh. God bless the internets. Which of the clichés about passengers, pilots, flight attendants have stood up?

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Passengers – It seems that anytime anything goes wrong, most of the passengers assume that we have much more control over the situation than we actually do.

“They made me check my bag before I came through security.”

“I didn’t book my ticket a month ago to sit here with mechanical problems.”

“This weather isn’t that bad. Can’t we get out of here before the really bad stuff hits?”

It’s funny that sometimes when we have delays, some of the passengers get notified on their smartphones before the crew even finds out. That being said, there really is very little we can do in most of these situations besides lend a listening ear and agree that the situation is less than ideal. As you say in your book, nothing defuses a bad situation faster than agreeing with the person. (Nice plug, thanks)

It’s frequent that I have people complaining to me as they are boarding, saying that someone along the way was “extremely rude to them.” I always look them in the eye, smile, and say, “I am so sorry that you were treated that way. But now you’re with me, and I’ll be kind to you!” That usually gets some sort of smile out of them and gets the flight started on the right foot.

Pilots – Ego.

Flight attendants – I would have to say the gossip. There’s an old saying about spreading information: “Tel-e-phone, tell a flight attendant.” And it really is so true. Something small happens before you leave on a trip — say someone has a small fender bender in the airport parking lot. By the time you return three days later, the whole base knows about it and “some guy drove his car through the side of the airport and three people were killed.” And since flight attendants are constantly traveling, you’ll even start to hear the blown up story at other bases as well!

UnknownVery true about the gossip mill and our propensity for exaggeration. We’re a dramatic bunch for sure. I’m not sure if Ego is a bad thing for pilots, but it’s definitely true. What was the most surprising thing you’ve encountered on the job?

It’s astonishing how many passengers play Candy Crush! We’re talking like 1 in every 5 people is busting chocolate bars at some point during the flight (this sometimes includes flight attendants). This goes for just about any trend out there. The plane is an amazing place to see what is trending and what trends are fading out.

Also, I’ve been surprised at what makes people applaud after we land. There have been flights where everyone is laughing and happy and some great interactions have taken place between the crew and the passengers inflight but it is dead silent when we land. On other flights, people are mad and complaining about the temperature, we run out of the most popular drink options, the plane comes down hard and bumpy on the landing, and people start cheering! Am I missing something here?

images-3I love the Dominican passengers for that reason. Things can get heated and voices raised, but it’s still all good at the end of the day. Love me the DR flights. And yeah, you always know the hippest new games and books because you’ll see them all over the place. What is your least favorite part of being a flight attendant? 

Honestly, my least favorite part of the job is having to see people at their worst. I like to think of the plane as a magical, giant tube that shows peoples’ true colors. Some people manage to be so incredibly gracious and kind, even when we have delays or things go wrong. One day we had two mechanical delays on the same flight and a couple missed their flight to South Korea AND their wedding the next day! Yet, they were the two kindest and most understanding people on the plane. Others, though, fall apart over the smallest things and lash out — sometimes for seemingly no reason at all. One first class passenger flipped out on us once, because there was a bag in the overhead bin above her seat. Mind you there was still plenty of room for her luggage — the issue was that there was any bag other than hers in the 6 foot long overhead bin. I don’t know what it is about being on the plane that drives people to that sort of behavior. Maybe it’s the music that plays during boarding that sounds like a Japanese funeral. Or maybe they are on their way to a funeral themselves. I try to take a step back when people are rude or hateful and give them the benefit of the doubt. Many will come around when you treat them with kindness. Others don’t, but at least I’ve tried.

Wow. Those people missing the wedding deserve sainthood. That’s amazing. I find people on domestic flights seem to get more bent out of shape about stupid things than international passengers. Not sure why. What were you not prepared for when you started this profession?

I didn’t realize how hard flying is on your body! One or two flights won’t do much, but when you spend 80-120 hours in the sky a month, it’s very easy to get dehydrated and fatigued. Once you get dehydrated, being on the plane is miserable! I honestly think that staying hydrated is honestly the hardest part of the job. That being the case, I drink 1-2 liters of coconut water between trips and several liters of water a day on the plane. Even that sometimes is not enough.

images-4Also, it’s a very physical job. They told us this in training, but I think several of us were thinking, “Yeah, yeah, yeah…what’s so physical about serving people drinks?” Boy, did I ever have a shock when I got “on the line” and started pushing the 300 pound drink cart up the incline of the aisle!

True. And being a nice guy I’m sure you help weak and elderly people with their overhead bin items, even though you’re not supposed to. I do that all the time, it’s really the only exercise I get. It’s also surprising how much walking you do during a flight. It doesn’t seem like you do that much but I know some people who have worn pedometers and it was shocking. Do you think you’ll be doing this in a year? 5 years? 20 years?

In a year? Definitely.

5 years? Probably.

20 years? Never say never.

I think I would’ve said “Probably not” when I first started and thought about the 5-year mark. Twenty years would be a resounding “Hell NO” but I guess I should rethink that since I’m in year 16 now. What in my book was dead wrong or dead right?

“Straight Guy in the Queer Skies” is pure literary gold! So much so that I think it should replace our in-flight manual that the FAA requires us to carry. Everything in the book is dead-on (and no, Brian is not paying me to say this)! There are a couple of things that have really resonated, though.

First of all, nobody tells you how they want their coffee!

They just say, “Coffee.”

And then you say, “How do you take your coffee?”

And they say, “Regular.”

And you say, “What does regular mean?”

And they say, “You know, regular!”

And you say, “Do you like milk and sugar?”

And they say, “Milk, no sugar.”

And you make the coffee and hand it to the person and they say, “Where’s the sugar?”

Unknown-1This sort of interaction takes place multiple times each flight.

Another point that consistently rings true is how each route you fly has its own unique set of passengers that come with their standard sets of preferences and behaviors. This is true to the extent that on most routes one can predict which drinks and food items will be the most popular before the people even board the plane. Most flights touching Dallas will have some Dr. Pepper drinkers, whereas on flights going to New York, you get several people asking for “seltzah.” It becomes predictable and even funny after awhile. Besides, Miami. If flights were Uno cards, the route between New York and Miami would be the wild card. Anything can happen on those flights. Anything!

images-5Case-in-point: One evening, I had a family board a Miami flight and sit in first class. There was a mother, a father, and two young girls. I noticed during boarding that one of the girls didn’t look like she was feeling well. Her dad said that her stomach had been bothering her, so I got her some cool ginger ale to try and help settle her queasiness. (Spoiler Alert: she had the stomach flu.) We take off and are about 10 minutes into the flight when the other little girl begins projectile vomiting EVERYWHERE — onto her seat, her mom’s seat, the back of the seat in front of her, and all over the floor around them. It was honestly fascinating that such a small girl could have so much vomit stored in her body! (Spoiler Alert: she had the stomach flu, also.) We were still ascending, so the vomit began running under the girl’s seat right into one of our highest priority passengers’ brand new Coach hand bag. While I’m down on my hands and knees wearing vomit-covered gloves, cleaning up the mess, one of the other first class passengers taps me on the shoulder and demands to know why he has not been served his dinner yet! That’s the sort of behavior that’s typical of those flights.

Oh yeah, not just Wild but Wild Draw Four on Miami-NYC flights. Strangely enough I have not had a projectile vomiter on a flight yet (knocking wood.) Was there a time in your probationary period when you wanted to go off on a passenger or coworker but didn’t because you could get fired? And thanks again for the unsolicited plug- Straight Guy in the Queer Skies can be purchased here.

In the grand scheme of things, difficult passengers have been easy to handle because if they throw hate your way, you never have to see them again. That being the case, it’s not that hard to be diplomatic and “kill em’ with kindness.” It’s the occasional “difficult” flight attendant that can be challenging, because you might have to work with the person for several days. You just have to take a deep breath and keep on keepin’ on.

Unknown-2On one particular flight, I walked up to my gate to get on the plane and was quickly greeted by another flight attendant on my crew. The first words out of her mouth were “Hi, I’m (insert name) and you must be Jaysen. I see that you’re new and that being the case, you probably haven’t ever worked this position before so there are two options: I can switch positions with you and you can work in the back (I was working first class), or I can come up and work on the other side of the meal cart with you and teach you how to do it. I had been working for several months already and had done this position before, so I remember thinking, “Or option three: You can do your job and I can do mine.” Maybe this lady was really trying to be helpful, but my gut said that she was unhappy with her position and really just wanted to switch. But I’m always up for learning something new, so I told her that I had worked the position before, but if she liked, she could come up and work the meal cart with me and maybe give me some pointers along the way since she had been doing it quite awhile longer than I. Long story short, this translated into us working the meal cart together while she loudly criticized my serving techniques in front of the passengers. And it was all trivial things that she criticized that didn’t affect the service one bit. It got to the point that customers were concerned and were asking me quietly later if that harsh lady was my supervisor. I don’t know if people felt sorry for me or if the contrast in customer service techniques worked in my favor, but I had multiple customers that day ask for my name and say that they wanted to write a good letter to the company about me. That was also the day I realized how much sitcom potential this job has.

images-6Yeah, it’s rare that a coworker will selflessly offer to help you by changing positions. Nine times out of ten they want to have your position and are masking their intentions under the guise of helping you out. Good for you for standing your ground. I’ve seen more bullying on the plane than I did in Junior High School. I’m also shocked that an intelligent show hasn’t been created about the flight attendant lifestyle or even about a crash pad in itself. Someone needs to get on that. Vince Gilligan? I’m looking in your direction! How has the job affected your relationship with your girlfriend?

images-7Being based 2,000 miles away with a random schedule has not been easy, but being able to see each other for pennies on the dollar helps a lot. She has been very supportive of me taking this job, even though it means we don’t get to see each other as much as we would like to. Our company allows employees to register one person as a flying companion that has the same travel benefits that we do. I registered her, but kept it a secret for awhile. She’s working toward a pHD and recently graduated with her Master’s degree. As her graduation gift, I surprised her with the news that she was registered as my travel companion. Now I can go see her when I’m off and she has the ability to come see me or meet me someplace when she’s got down time. Win-win.

It’s totally do-able to sustain a long distance relationship in this biz, the biggest obstacle is trust I think. Do your coworkers believe you when you tell them you’re straight? Do any of them think that in a years time you won’t be? I still have a few friends that think year 16 is the one when I come out.

Unknown-1Most of my coworkers seem to believe that I’m straight — at least to my face. I’ve only had one lady say that she assumed I was gay until I told her otherwise, but she said she assumes that about every guy she works with (nice save). I usually make some comment about my girlfriend during the trip and most of the old timers’ ears perk up at that and start asking me questions about my relationship. Some of them even ask for relationship advice. Most of the senior male flight attendants I’ve flown with have been gay, but I’ve been shocked by the number of straight new hires I’ve come across — some that even have wives and kids and like to talk football! Either I’ve come across a good amount of the rare exceptions in the past six months or quite a few straight guys are starting to figure out what a hidden gem this job is.

Yeah that’s going to continue. Six days ago a lady said the same thing to me about assuming I was gay because of the uniform. It’s fun to mess with people. When she asked if I was gay, I said, “Only on layovers.” That confused her and delighted my Purser. Does your dad admit that he has a son that’s a flight attendant?

You know, it’s awesome how supportive my dad has been of this whole choice. I think at the end of the day, he’s just glad that I am doing something I enjoy. He’s always concerned that I’m not making enough money as a new hire to support myself in New York, so he checks up on me from time to time  to make sure I’m doing alright. When I graduated from flight attendant training, my parents drove in to celebrate with me. My dad picked me up from my hotel to take me to the ceremony and when I walked out in my uniform, he got this big smile on his face. He told me how proud of me he was and said he didn’t really care what kind of uniform I wore — it was just really cool to see me in a uniform. Given my dad’s military background, that meant a great deal to me.

images-8Since they have amazing flight benefits too, you should take them somewhere. Paris or Rome or Tokyo maybe. Have you taken advantage of your flight benefits yet?

I’ve used them some, but I was cautious of doing much traveling on probation, because if for some reason I hadn’t been able to get on the flight back to work in time, I could have been fired. I have used my benefits to commute home quite a few times, though, and my girlfriend and I flew to London for a week last summer. Now that I’m off probation, watch out world — here I come!

Where are the best and lamest places you’ve had a layover in?

My best layovers have been in San Francisco and Austin. My lamest…any layover where we’ve stayed a few feet from the airport.

When you get old like me you’ll sometimes cherish those boring layovers where you’re forced to stay in and relax. SOMEtimes. Have you witnessed any cheating wives or husbands? 

Unknown-3Yes, but not so much flight attendants / pilots, as passengers. There have been a few times when I’ve seen passengers “with a ring on it” getting a bit too friendly with the person sitting next to them. You know it’s not the person’s spouse because you have a front row seat to the whole show — the “let me help you lift your bag”, the introduction of names and what each person does, and then the hours of jovial conversation that follow. The worst case of this I’ve seen was on a transcon flight to LA awhile back. This guy and lady end up seated next to each other in business class, both wearing wedding rings. The quality of their conversation was growing friendlier in direct correlation to the number of drinks they were consuming, and we noticed they were beginning to get a bit touchy/feely with each other. Long story short, another passenger comes up to the purser of the flight saying that he has just witnessed two people sneak into the lavatory together. The purser banged on the door, telling them she knew they were in there and that they needed to come out. The door slowly opened, the “couple” quietly slinked back to their seats, and we didn’t hear much from them the rest of the flight.

images-9Someone recorded their shame on their smart phone right? Is it on YouTube? Classy. Have you had any medical situations or emergency landings?

Since I started the job, things have been pretty low-key in the emergency department (knock on something — there’s not much wood inside an airplane). However, in training we’re required to assist on some flights to get a feel for the job, before we’re on the plane working the positions by ourselves. Around the time I did my first assistance trip, the movie “Flight” had just come out, with Denzel Washington playing an inebriated pilot. That day, a passenger told one of the flight attendants during boarding that she suspected she smelled alcohol on the Captain’s breath when she talked to him in the terminal. The flight attendant had to call in the report and the flight was delayed for an hour while management came down to the plane and breathalyzed the pilot in question. Luckily, it was a good natured Captain who passed with flying colors and laughed it off. In fact, he kept calling back jokingly, asking if we could get him something to drink. After we finally took off and got up to cruising altitude, a passenger stood up and passed out in the aisle. Once she had regained consciousness and we had helped her be seated again, we hit some pretty turbulent air and the majority of the last pick-up service was collecting used sick bags. Welcome to the glamorous world of flying!

Gross. You deal with much more puking than I do, thank God. Do you like the general public more or less after these six months as a flight attendant? 

My view of the general public hasn’t really changed. I guess if anything it’s just been more reinforced. I gave up hope in humanity as a whole, a long time ago. But I still hold out hope for people at an individual level and I think anyone can affect change around them. For example: A few months ago, I was working a flight that started as the flight from hell. There had been weather that day, so many flights were delayed or cancelled. As people were filtering onto the plane, everyone was mad and complaining about their connection situations and how late we were. One group of nine people were absolutely livid because they were connecting from an international flight and two people in their group didn’t clear customs in time to make it on our flight. The other flight attendant and I made up our minds from the get-go to just smile and have fun. One by one, we talked to people, smiling, laughing and joking, and one person at a time, the lightheartedness began to spread (a few comped drinks to those most inconvenienced didn’t hurt, either). We were genuinely kind to people, but then I sat back and watched as the people we were kind to started being kind to the people around them, and then those people were kind to the people around them. It was a chain reaction from the front of the plane to the back. By the end of the flight, passengers were mingling with people sitting in rows other than their own, and one could periodically hear outbursts of laughter all throughout the cabin. When we landed, the entire plane applauded. It took very little effort to turn that flight around — once we started it, the people did it on their own. Anyone can do that anywhere — the issue is that most people don’t take the time to try.

So what happens on the plane should be implemented into society to save all of mankind? You might be on to something. What is the best part of the job? 

They say that this job is not just a job, but a lifestyle, and it is so true. For some new hires, that is a deterrent, but honestly, it’s my favorite part of the job. If you’re resourceful with the travel benefits and scheduling flexibility, this job allows you to live in a way that would be nearly impossible otherwise. There are flight attendants that live all over the world, doing incredible things. They commute into their base when it’s time for work, and after they’re finished, they commute back to wherever it was they came from. It’s such a flexible job that for the most part, it allows you to be where you want to be, when you want to be there, doing whatever it is you want to be doing.

Very true. For me it’s a very easy means to a fantastic end. Have you had to sell out even a little bit for your airline job? 

images-10There have been some tradeoffs for sure. I’m most comfortable barefoot, in a t-shirt and cut-offs, doing something outdoors. Now I have a job in which I wear a suit and tie everyday inside a giant metal container. Also, I’m a big supporter of local economy and small businesses, and most airlines are obviously large corporations. I work for “the man,” but it truly is one of the coolest jobs I ever could have asked for.

We most certainly work for a big heartless corporation. We, like most flight attendants, are nothing more than employee numbers and very replaceable  Some people hate feeling so insignificant but I kinda like it. There are advantages of being a part of a massive operation and being able to fly namelessly under the radar. The travel and health benefits are fantastic for starters. Do the senior flight attendants treat you well or are they annoyed at how new and inexperienced you are?

98% of the senior flight attendants I’ve flown with have treated me with nothing but kindness and respect and have been more than helpful in teaching me the ropes of my new job. The other 2%…well, maybe they were just having an off day.

Those 2% have off days every day. They’re just called “days” after awhile. We all have a mental list of coworkers we never want to work in the same cabin in. Are your new hire friends more professional or the seasoned veterans? 

images-11I’ve seen the good, the bad, and the ugly on both sides of the coin. The new hires are fresh out of several weeks of intense training, so most of them are pretty by-the-book and they do a great job with the people. It’s just that we’re still learning and a bit unsure about how to handle some of the irregular situations that come up from time to time. Some new hires handle this uncertainty with cockiness which doesn’t get them very far. Others handle it with humility and respect for the senior flight attendants, and they are well accepted and very effective.

A great deal of the veterans are very professional, and while not always by the book or adhering to uniform regulation, they have amazing experiences over the years that have taught them how to give the passengers what they want and deal with the crazy situations that crop up sometimes. This job can be strenuous and it seems like it’s easy to get burnt out being on the go so much. Also, since 9/11, things have gotten far less glamorous for travelers and flight attendants alike. That being said, I have a high respect for the senior flight attendants that still do their job well after so many years of flying. The ones who are burnt out and don’t want to be there crop up from time to time, but I’ve come across far more senior flight attendants who do a fantastic job than those who don’t.

imagesFor me, the new people have been very VERY strong when it comes to looking the part. You guys are put together and look immaculate. The rest of us are shabby and more comfortable. However when dealing with the passengers I think there’s only so much you can teach people in a classroom. The new hires seem very robotic when dealing with passengers’ concerns. They do the right thing but don’t always sound sincere. They may also use 1000 words to address a concern but a seasoned veteran will deal with the same problem, getting a better result, in 50 words. I guess it just comes from seeing it all and dealing with it many times over. Some of the new hires tend to freak out about little things. I had one the other day that wasted fifteen minutes running around the plane looking for a Coke when we all knew we only had Pepsi left. When the search ended in predicted vain, the girl put on her “devastated” face and apologized for not being able to give the guy a Coke. She tearfully asked if Pepsi would be ok and prepared to get slapped across the face. He said “Of course it’s ok” and that was that, not a problem at all. So rather than nip it in the bud and fess up about the lack of Coke and ask if Pepsi was alright, she ran around, bothered every cabin, and made her cart partner work much harder. Being scared to death of giving a passenger any kind of bad news is definitely a new hire thing. I was like that 16 years ago.

I guess that’s it for now. I really hope Jaysen enjoys his career at our airline. It seems like he is so far. I will feel slightly responsible if he ends up hating the job and wasting the best years of his life. If you have any questions for Jaysen that we didn’t address, send me an email and we’ll answer them post haste.  easley.brian@gmail.com

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Reading Festival 2012 aka Day-Glo and Camel Toe

Every year at the three-day Reading music festival in England the world gets a glimpse of where fashion is at for the young people. Whatever random trends are going on will be magnified by a million as 87,000 concert goers try to out-do each other in a huge field in the middle of nowhere. Unfortunately, or fortunately, the fads that take root here spread all over the world in just weeks. Be ready.

2012 was no exception, of course. First of all I was very happy to see that the kids have started to abandon the Pete Doherty look. There were still a few Amy Winehouse hair-dos and make up jobs but not enough to annoy me. Thank Christ the Bat for Lashes fantasy fairy unicorn look with mystical hair bands has been completely left behind. It made me feel too old and creepy.

This year we were still onboard with neon face paint. The guys mostly had random smears under their eyes but the girls had elaborate crop circle patterns all over their faces. This was going on last year and I couldn’t notice if this was still warming up or cooling off. Even some of the older patrons would sport a random pink dot on their cheek or forehead.

Of course we had an assortment of band and past-festival shirts. No one dared wear the headliner’s shirt they sold at the official store though quite a few people had the official Reading shirts which included the list of performers on all the stages. Those shirts were very helpful keeping you on track to which bands were playing on the various stages.

Along with music related shirts there were many plain white tees with homemade messages scrawled on the fronts. The best was a mockery of the cliché Spring Break shirt “The Man The Legend” where The Man writing is pointing up to the guy’s head and The Legend is pointing to his junk. I’ve yet to meet a girl who’s been impressed by that shirt, but you still see them all over the place, usually in Cancun on fifteen year old boys. This ginger haired teen with a mohawk had his own take on that infamous shirt. It said The Man with the arrow pointing up at his face but the punchline read The Huge Disappointment. I guarantee that guy got laid. He deserved to at least. I thought it was brilliant.

As always there were many costumes and animal heads. The Mario and Luigi with an extra Luigi team was just lazy. They probably got those outfits off of the clearance rack. Superheroes were aplenty and equally as brainless but the popularity of The Big Bang Theory seemed to legitimize their efforts somewhat.

The more innovated kids were a giant set of crayons, a streak of tigers, a tribe of Indians, the Church lady, and my favorite, a hairy dude that shaved his chest so that it looked like he was wearing a tie. I think I liked him because he actually had enough hair to pull it off. He wasn’t a teenager and that made me feel more at ease.

Lisa and I dressed for the weather rather than to impress. We were about 20 years older than the average festival goer anyways, we didn’t want to draw attention to ourselves any more than we already were. There were some other people our age but they were either super weird or there with their kids. I had on a long sleeve western shirt, jeans, and a gray fleece. We had rain ponchos just in case, we got into those just as The Vaccines were half way through their set.

Most of the fashion we experienced was pretty standard. We saw alot of the 80s reincarnated with a modern twist. What I was not expecting was the new obsession with short shorts that show off the ass but go way up the stomach. High-rise shorts are somewhat in right now but these things just looked wrong, especially if they stepped over you as you were sitting on the ground. A random girl walking by with camel toe is humorous but a fleet of underaged ones jumping over you for hours on end is terrifying.

Maybe it was the acid washing, maybe it was that the girls with the wrong body type were wearing them. It was the most unflattering thing I could think of and the most disproportionate girls were trying to pull it off. They failed miserably. The girls that could pull it off were not partaking in this trend.

It will certainly be one of those defining moments in the kids’ lives when they look back at the photos from this weekend in 2012 and realize that they would indeed wear ANYTHING if their friends would as well.

Lisa and I had the ability to see into the future and could see how it’d all play out for them. If I’d asked them yesterday what they thought about their outfits they would swear up and down that they look amazing but in twenty years they’ll be yelling at their parents for allowing them to leave the house like that.

Lastly, as always, were the Wellies. Every color and pattern known to man were represented. I haven’t owned  rainboots since I was four years old but after the deluge we suffered last night, I think I may invest in a pair. My little canvas shoes were no match for the cold puddles and since the sun had gone down, there was zero chance of them getting dry or even warm. Even though the boots will take up half the space in my suitcase, it will be worth it.

My shoes didn’t dry overnight in my hotel and were still damp when I unpacked my suitcase tonight in New York. Now they’re in my locker at the airport stinking up the place. The mud is flaking and infecting everything else in there. It’s madness all around.

The best part about the huge music festivals besides getting to see a shit ton of bands all at once, is the people watching. It’s like Jane Goodall out there. These kids are away from supervision for an entire weekend and they take full advantage. Their actions speak of this just as much as their clothing. It’s like a PG-13 rated Hedonism.

Some of the bold statements will catch on and some will be laughed at as the massive failures that they are. The stuff that does gather steam can go on to influence the world. Things Lisa and I saw these silly kids wearing four years ago is still mainstream in the second-tier cities in the world. It’s amazing.

Next year I’m going to make this a photo blog entry and interview the most innovative and insane culprits. I’m kicking myself that I didn’t think of doing that this year until we were halfway through the Kasabian show at the end of the night. I can’t wait.

You can order my book by clicking here on this link. If I make enough for a decent camera, next year we’ll have video footage of all the craziness!

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 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.