Tag Archives: queer

Straight Guy Lesson #17- Worldwide Good Times

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

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

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

January

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

February

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

March

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

April

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

May

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

June

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

July

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

August

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

September

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

October

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

November

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

December

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

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

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Straight Guy Lesson #15- New York City

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Straight Lesson #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 #6- The Flight Attendant Interview

The Flight Attendant Interview

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

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

Are you gay?

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

What airline do you work for?

What’s your route?

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

Do they put you up at a hotel?

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

Do you hook up with all the stewardesses?

Are you sure you’re not gay?

Can you hook me up with a stewardess?

Can you get her to wear the uniform?

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

How does your schedule work?

Do you have a boy/girl in every city?

How long have you done the job?

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

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

What’s the worst thing that’s happened?

Have you ever had really bad turbulence?

Have you almost crashed and died a gruesome death?

Seriously, you’re not gay?

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

Have you joined the mile high club?

How might I join the mile high club?

Do you have Buddy Passes?

Can I have a Buddy Pass?

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

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

Straight Guy Lesson #5- Hotel Rooms

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Straight Guy Lesson #4-Probation

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

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

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

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

#2  Have your picture taken standing in an engine

#3  Have your picture taken lying inside an overhead bin

#4  Join the Mile High Club

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

#6  Hook up on a layover with local

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

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

#9  Hook up on a layover with another crew member

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

#11 Upgrade someone just for the hell of it

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

Straight Guy Lesson #3- Other Straight Flight Attendants

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

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

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

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

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

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