Forty Things I Never Would Have Gotten to Do (Part IV: The Big Finish)

We love fritopies!

Today I turn forty, lying in the loving arms of our favorite Santa Fe spa.  We’re big on Landmark Birthdays around here.  We went to Hawaii for Jared’s 30th last year, and I won sixty nickles (!) in Las Vega$ on my 21st, once upon a time.  Oh, the plans we had for my fortieth: we were going to go to Australia.  To France.  On a cruise!  To Buenos Aires.  On a really glamorous cruise!!  We fly for free, after all; the possibilities were endless.  And yet, free flights were kind of what steered us towards Santa Fe.  Mind you, we’ll go pretty much anywhere to soak in hot water (I’ve gone as far as Iceland and New Zealand for no other reason); we love New Mexican food (stuffed sopapillas!  Frito pie!); and there’s a Trader Joe’s on the way out of town — try finding one of those in Paris.  But Santa Fe became the Official Choice when I realized that what I didn’t want to do with the Longest Day of the Year was spend it sitting around an airport, fingers crossed, hoping to get on an airplane.  Flights are too full, airports are hectic, and, like, I go through a TSA checkpoint every day for work — it’s definitely not my idea of a good time on my days off.  I mean, if one of the hot ones would come over and frisk you, that would at least be something…

So we drove here, in Jared’s little yellow car, and we can do whatever we want on our own schedule and take home all the Trader Joe’s-brand liquids we can cram in the car.  And, as is so often the case, taking a step back from My Airline Life, even if only for a few days, helps me view it through the slightly rose-tinted lens of Appreciation.  An important perspective, you’ll agree, when curating the last ten items to be included in our series,

Forty Things I (probably) Never Would Have Gotten to Do If It Wasn’t For My Airline Job:

10. Run amok in Sydney, a city to which I never worked a trip that I didn’t hope would be my last — every layover a race against the clock to find the situation (read: the Boy) that would entice me to stay forever

9.Upgrade a big fat guy to First Class when the person next to him demanded — loudly, for the benefit of the entire airplane — that I do something about the fact that he had to sit next to a big fat guy

8. Get in honest-to-god trouble (like, there’s a write-up in my file) from another grown man for wearing argyle socks

7. Accost and adore the delightfully chatty and warm Bonnie Raitt after upgrading her to First Class on a flight from London to San Francisco

6. Be tenderized like meat in a Shanghai massage parlor

5. Stock my stationery drawer at the World’s Largest Hundred Yen Store

4. Watch the men play Beach Volleyball (hubba hubba) during the Sydney Olympics

3. Hike to the top of the Great Wall of China in the middle of the night in the pitch black all by myself

2. Be approached by a psychic on an airplane and assured that I could pursue my passion without fear, and thus

1. Write a book inspired, in part, by the people I’ve met, places I’ve been, and things I’ve seen at this wacky gig.  Kiss Me, Straight chronicles the (mis)adventures of a lovelorn flight attendant as he chases a romance with his sexy-but-straight crush around the world, and it’s comin’ at ya from JMS Books later this year.  I never could have written this particular story were it not for this Big Career, and I might be more grateful for that opportunity than for any of the others.  I hope, come November, that it’ll put a few smiles on your face, too.

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Forty Things I Never Would Have Gotten To Do (Part III)

Kia Ora!

If you fly at all, even infrequently, you’ve heard it: “Flight attendants are on board primarily for your safety.”  To most airplane passengers (and even to many of my friends, fifteen years into my career), this announcement translates roughly into, “Yeah, right.”  Without dwelling on the time I saved a guy having a heart attack with a defibrillator or the way some of my friends have pulled people from burning airplanes (or how hot the guys are on the Air New Zealand safety videos), I shall get right to my point: if they could, airlines would LOVE to outfit airplanes with little more than a bathroom and a couple of vending machines and then pack passengers into every remaining inch of space with shoehorns and launch them into space and let Social Darwinism at Forty Thousand Feet take its course.  The main reason we are still on airplanes today is because the FAA requires a certain number of professionals trained in the Art of Airplane Evacuation to be available should those skills be required. (Although one friend suggests they will continue to staff flights with one flight attendant even in the vending machine future days — to make change.)

On all but the longest routes on the poshest airlines, inflight “service” has been reduced to a vague memory.  The geniuses behind Disney’s Phineas and Ferb sum it up in an episode where a stand-up comedian makes a joke about airline food, and one of the teenagers in the audience (my favorite supporting character, the Disco Miniature Golfing Queen Stacy) asks, “What’s airline food?”  When I started flying, which was not all that long ago, we were still carving roasts in the aisle, still serving champagne and caviar in first class on international flights, and still hucking hot breakfast at passengers on hour-long East Coast puddle jumps; nowadays, a full third of the cabin answers the question “Would you like something to drink?” with “How much does it cost?”  Airlines have conditioned passengers to expect nothing, and often manage to deliver even less, for which they then usually charge a fee.

The time-sensitive nature of airplane service, especially on short flights, led to many of the more hilarious moments of my early career, and the process of preparing food, especially in out-of-sight, below-deck galleys, offered many flight attendants many unique, if not wholly family-friendly, opportunities.  Now, unless they are consumed by a passion for Sudoku or come across a People magazine, flight attendants have very little to do on airplanes that are not on fire, and standing around looking at each other provides few (not none, but precious few) opportunities for hilarity.  Which, I suppose, is why I am strolling down memory lane with this little project as forty draws nigh; I’m still glad for the job, and especially for the flexibility it gives me to tend to the things that really matter in my life, but these days, dang, it gives us nothing to talk about!

So cue up your favorite version of “Memories” and please enjoy the latest installment of Forty Things I (probably) Never Would Have Gotten to Do If It Wasn’t For My Airline Job:

20. Discover a deep and abiding love for spaetzle (especially the cheesy kind) in a dingy Frankfurt bar

19. Sample Indian food in like seventeen countries, none of them India

18. Entertain a crowd of spectators just by trying on a shirt in a Chinese market (They gathered ’round, XXL my ass)

17. Weep over the most refreshing piece of watermelon ever hucked off the back of a wagon on the hottest day Seoul has ever seen

16. Poison an airplane full of people by convincing them to change their meal order from chicken to Hawaiian meatloaf (of which I ate two, so I know exactly how sick it made people)

15. Explain to a mother how her infant seat was in fact a piece of luggage, and could indeed be stowed in the overhead compartment, but only if she removed the baby from it first

14. Stand underneath (although, alas, never on) a British Airways Concorde

13. Visit New Zealand, while we’re on the subject — a Spa-tacular voyage on which I learned more about cricket than an American has a right to know, and not nearly enough about a gorgeous Maori guy I met in Rotorua  (also one of the countries mentioned in Item 19 above)

12. Sling beverages (and we were slingin’ ’em) from a tray on seventeen flight segments in three days

11. Espy a dude joining the Mile High club under a blanket.  All by himself

Writing Exercise: Pandora’s Random Box

My writing group met yesterday, and, as we love to do, before we got down to the business of being awesome and motivating each other to set new and challenging goals, we did a few group exercises.  Yesterday’s pen-pusher was an old favorite: using the next song to pop up on Pandora as a prompt, you use its title as the title of your piece, then write whatever falls out of your head while we listen to the song.  Is there nothing Pat Benatar can’t do?

“Shadows of the Night”

I feel like an ass falling offa these platform shoes, but in for a penny… I don’t know whose stupid idea this was, or where this yellow mullet wig came from, but here we are, every one of us taller than 6’2, in leather bustier drag waiting to get into this club.  All very underground, very “now” according to J, which doesn’t explain the 80s throwback motif of the line, most of whom will learn about the 80s in History class and probably think a Golden Girl is some kind of glittery tequila shot. But they’re liking the look of our crowd and threatening to let us in, when really all I want is to climb down offa these shoes and go eat some Thai food.

“Guess Who?”

I know there’s somebody out there, except of course there isn’t.  It’s those cats again.  And that mariachi band up the street that thinks “midnight” is English for “start practicing.”  The funny thing is, there’s always so much shit going on back there that Allen could stalk me and lie in wait if he wanted to.  But he doesn’t have the guts, and whatever we had wasn’t worth all that.