Tag Archives: pilots

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

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.

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 #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.

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.