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Prepping for The Amazing Race

imagesIt’s always been a dream of mine to be on The Amazing Race. Out of all the reality shows I think that’s the one I could do the best on, and would enjoy the most. I would do it without the million dollar prize. I really could not care less about the money, I just want the experience.

Unknown-9Survivor would be an epic failure as far as reality shows go. Fear Factor just seems pointless. Big Brother even more so, but at least you have a chance to hook up with someone. Plus no one is watching that show in case you have to do something embarrassing. Actually American Gladiators would be alot of fun, if it were still on.

UnknownI’m a great armchair quarterback when watching The Amazing Race at home and of course I always make all the right decisions. Just like watching Wheel of Fortune at home where it’s always your turn and there are never Bankrupts, you have that same luxury with watching Race. You never get the cabbie who needs to stop for gas or ask for directions. You never get on the flight that has to divert to Botswana.

images-4Even when the less-than-ideal situations arise, I think I’d still do alright. I can cope on the fly pretty well and my experience as a flight attendant would certainly help navigating through airports and running around in weird cities.

I would help my cause beforehand for sure. I would do everything possible from the moment I found out I was on the show until we took off to meet Phil. I’m starting a list of just what those things would be.

Let’s say I get 6 weeks to prep before the race starts. Let’s also say that I don’t have to go through the audition process of picking a partner. I’ve been doing that for years. I have a few people who are potentials. Some of the ones I would perform the best with aren’t necessarily the ones I’d want to be with 24/7 for however long the race lasts.

Unknown-4Some of the ones I know I would love spending every second racing alongside aren’t necessarily the ones I’d succeed with in the competition. It’s a fine line and very few people would satisfy the criteria to make the race both fun and lucrative. Selecting your sweetie can be a brilliant or horrible idea.

Unknown-6Ultimately I would pick a partner based on my weaknesses, mainly eating anything gross or in large quantities. Partner must also speak at least one other language fluently. Not German though, I know enough of that to get by. Partner must also have to be able to tolerate me thinking I always know the right way to go. Partner must also hold their tongue when I’m wrong and we end up in a Turkish prison.

TO-DO List

1)  Clear things up with work so it’s not a situation of me having to quit to be on the show. I think that’ll be easy, my airline has had flight attendants on the show before. They didn’t fare too well, but we were proud of them all the same. Redemption!

images-22)  Start running and getting into as good of shape as possible. Take up yoga. Maybe a dance class as well. If I can’t learn rhythm, learn to fake it.

images-33)  Learn to drive stick. I have only done it once and that was for five minutes in driver’s ed. It was in a straight line in the high school football stadium parking lot. Stalling occurred.

Unknown-34)  Get Rosetta Stone for two languages not known by my partner, one being an Asian language. Have partner get the basics of one or two new languages as well, maybe sign language too. This will mainly be done while on the treadmill or on days when I’m too sore to exercise more.  Multitasking will be the key to my training.

5)  Watch every season of The Amazing Race thus far and take meticulous notes on everything imaginable, including: which legs usually have U-turns, Non-eliminations, etc etc. Note, it’s always a good thing if Phil seems extremely sad if he tells a team they’re the last to check in. Nine times out of ten it means you’re still racing, you’re not really the last team, or it’s a non-elimination. Watching all 20+ seasons can also be done while running on treadmill or stationary exercise equipment.

6)  Memorize passport number. Get global entry for when landing back in the USA.

Unknown-57)  Get into the habit of always having a large backpack with me and get to where I can run short and long distances with it on my back. Also get to where I consider the bag as an extension of myself to where I would never leave it on a funicular, gondola, in a taxi, or on the wing of a plane.

8)  Try to learn to eat new foods. Find hypnotist to help in that. Or maybe take one of those sexy classes where they teach you how to really relax your throat muscles and allow things to go in without gagging. There’s always a bingeing challenge.

9)  Get to where I can swim long distances

Unknown-110) Brush up on rock climbing, scuba diving, and canoeing skills. Maybe get somewhat proficient in synchronized swimming and basic gymnastics.

11) Get to where I can run a mile comfortably in snow, sand, and whilst carrying/dragging heavy, cumbersome objects.

Unknown-712) Learn to communicate with animals, especially notoriously stubborn ones

images-113) Get full physical and tune-up from my doctor. Find the line of legal supplements/illegal steroids and don’t cross it.

Unknown-214) Pick out wardrobe. Be prepared for all climates and possible meteorological phenomenon. Shop around for advertising deals from local stores. Let everyone know I can be bought. My team can look like a Nascar vehicle if necessary. I don’t mind having Coke on one sleeve and Pepsi on the other.

Unknown-815) Last but not least is going to couples therapy with my partner. Even if I go with my mom or childhood friend, it wouldn’t hurt to have some sessions with a professional. Maybe we could learn some tricks of the trade to bypass potential fights.

That’s a pretty good start I think. Six weeks of working on those 15 things and I bet I’d be as ready as possible to take on the race of a lifetime. My passport has been needing some new stamps. It’s feeling neglected. Now I just need to get on the damn show and everything will be perfect in my world.

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Straight Guy Lesson #24- What to do with a Ghost Room

imagesI’m sitting alone (sort of) in room 516 of the Arora Hotel in Manchester, not sure what to do next. It’s that awkward silence between two people you may have experienced when you were in high school and just experienced premature ejaculation. Or if you were in your upper 30s and experienced premature ejaculation. Either way, not good.

I’ve spent most of my layover in this room. This trip is sandwiched between two Caribbean/Central American trips that are and will be again, pretty draining, especially because the crew meets up every night on the trip to drink until at least 3am. Sometimes the night ends falling asleep in sandy beds in Mexico, sometimes with me accidentally entering Jose’s room in Caracas because the front desk guy swears that I don’t know what room I’m in. Sometimes it ends up with me peeing in the bidet because of lack of concentration. Actually those were all in one trip.

So on this layover I decided to take it easy. No jaunting off to Liverpool to visit my friends. No taking a train to Wales just to say I’ve been to Wales. I hooked up my iPad to the tv and have been watching Netflix while playing Words with Friends and watching status updates fly by on Facebook. I was pleasantly surprised with Hostel 3, it wasn’t bad at all. I wish I had someone to discuss it with.

I finally turned off the tv at midnight even though I knew I wasn’t tired at all. I just couldn’t watch another episode of Portlandia or Sunny. I got out a book and threw down all the pillows onto the bed to give myself a comfortable place to read.

Before I even cracked the book open, the television went back on. I instinctively checked to make sure I wasn’t lying on the remote but it was still on the nightstand. It took about seven seconds for me to remember the haunted hotel conversation I had a couple of months ago with my crew leaving this same hotel. I couldn’t remember if this hotel was one of the haunted ones or not, but I’m thinking that maybe it was.

I’m not afraid of ghosts and I’m not entirely sure they exist, but I would never say that they definitely don’t exist. I looked around the room and turned the tv back off. I opened the book and then thought better of it. I looked over at the tv and said aloud, “We can watch television if you want to, just let me know.”

I half expected it to go back on but, of course, it didn’t. I read the introduction to the book, which it seems will be about a travel writer who’s sick and tired about writing about what his publishers want him to write about, so he wrote this book to tell his best tales.

I had to reread almost every sentence though. I couldn’t concentrate. I kept thinking about the television and why a ghost would want to watch it. Is he bored? (I assumed it was a boy ghost but I didn’t degrade him by calling him Casper) Is there something on that he wants me to see? Will this change my life? Will it be for the better? Will this get him out of this weird place between worlds?

I’m usually very aware of weird occurences like this and if I feel like there’s something to discover, I’ll try to figure it out. On the surface weirder things have happened to me and I haven’t batted an eye. It really doesn’t matter what exactly happened, it’s all about the feeling you get that you need to pay attention to. My spidey-sense was tingling and I really felt like the universe was trying to tell me something. But what?

Try as I did to continue reading, something wouldn’t let me let it go. I felt like I had just gone silent in the middle of a conversation with a friend. He wouldn’t be offended if I went quiet but it certainly wasn’t polite or what he wanted.

I put the book away, sat up in bed and said again, “I really don’t mind watching the tv if you want. Pick something.”

Of course nothing happened. I went into the bathroom to brush my teeth. I was planning on trying to sleep.

While I was brushing I heard voices. It didn’t take me long to realize that the bathroom speaker was sending out sounds. I had been listening to music through this speaker earlier in the night when I had my shower. I had it up pretty loud. Whatever is playing on the television can be heard through that speaker in the bathroom. Because my iPad was hooked up to the tv, I was playing my music on my iPad via the tv and through the speaker in the bathroom. I love technology.

My iPad was put away. This was just the tv. It was a US crime drama. It still is a US crime drama. I think Law and Order. DUN DUN!

So this is where I’m at right now. I really do think there’s a ghost in this room and for some reason it wants me/us to watch television. I don’t know what to do at all. I feel like I’m betraying it right now by ignoring the tv and typing away on my iPad that I had to take back out of my backpack.

I’m not as freaked out as I thought I’d be, it just seems really surreal. I just don’t know the etiquette here. Am I supposed to just watch the show? Can I change the channel? Do I need to make comments? When this episode is over can I turn off the tv? Will the ghost turn it off when he’s had his fill? I really don’t want to piss him off but at some point I do need to get some sleep.

I understand that I not once, but twice vocalized that it was ok for us to watch tv so I guess I brought this upon myself. I hope it’s at least refreshing for the ghost to have me be accommodating and not freaking out and screaming like most people would. That would hurt my feelings if I were a ghost. I don’t want to make him angry or depressed. Then again, I don’t want him to think I’m his new BFF and that we can do this every time I’m in Manchester. I hope this is a one-night-stand.

Straight Guy Lesson #21- Sleeping in Airports

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dying in a Plane Crash

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

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

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

Eaten by piranhas

Burned to death

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Starvation

Crucifixion

Falling into a pit of snakes

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

Smoke Monster from Lost

Watching that video from The Ring

Saying “Candyman” three times in the mirror

Anything Freddy Krueger related

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

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

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

July 19, 2011 Madrid, Spain

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Straight Lesson #14- Commuting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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