“Glamour” Ain’t Nothing but a Magazine

It’s a cliché among flight attendants, but the first time I heard it, it still cracked me up: stepping into the back of a 767, I came upon a flight attendant on her hands and knees on the sticky, knobby galley floor, up to her shoulders in a cart of dirty meal trays.  By way of an offer to help her, I asked, “What are you looking for?”  She backed out of the cart long enough to look up at me, regulation up-do askew, and crack, “The Glamour.”  She did eventually find the pen or the reading glasses or whatever it was that a passenger had left on his meal tray, but these days you can ransack an airplane with glamour-sniffing dogs and still turn up empty. Continue reading

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Eleven Years On

I don’t expect that I shall ever forget being jarred awake with the news that my workplace had been flown through the side of someone else’s, resulting, naturally, in the fiery destruction of both.  In the ensuing worldwide panic, fear, and sorrow, the airplanes (and, lest we forget, the people on them) were quickly reduced to little more than the visually arresting catalysts of a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day, but to airline employees, and to air crews in particular, September 11th is an especially sacred day of remembrance and reflection.  In a way that the media rarely does, we remember our co-workers and the sacrifices they were called upon to make.  Pilots and flight attendants who lost their lives in the line of duty in ways that we had never previously been called upon to imagine (murdered point-blank with box cutters, used as components of flying Molotov cocktails, disintegrated in a Pennsylvania field helping to fight for positive control of an airplane-turned-missile in a world gone mad) and that since we are forced to confront every day.  We empty our pockets and take off our shoes and isolate our laptops and publicly submit to an elaborate security screening ritual, knowing that box cutters are permitted in passengers’ carry-on luggage, an unfathomably boneheaded First Step in allowing the entire horrifying process to one day repeat.

It is my intention each year on September 11th to remember the sacrifice and honor the lives of the 25 flight attendants who were killed.  I knew none of them, and if I’m completely honest, my professional respect for each of them and my sincere sympathy for their friends and families is tempered still by a profound gratitude that flooded me as I stood at a payphone in a Big Island laundromat eleven years ago, weak in the knee and weeping with relief that I recognized none of their names.  I honor them as colleagues and ache at the idea of a fear that I can’t fully conceptualize and hope never to glimpse, but true grief for them belongs to others, and is mine neither to appropriate nor to define. Continue reading

City Code Snapshot: MCO

It is my personal experience that Orlando has little to offer the traveler who is not 8 and counting the seconds to Disney World.  Not that I wouldn’t have a ball at Disney World — the minute my youngest nephew is old enough to walk the entire park without need for a stroller, we’re there, budgeted to load up on churros and Phineas and Ferb souvenirs.  But if you’re not on a theme park mission, or on a quest to eat every meal for the rest of your life at Chili’s, Orlando can be kind of a dud destination.  When we used to layover at the hotel that seemed to host every college football team that came through town, entertainment was no farther away than your pool-facing balcony, but we haven’t stayed there in ages, and now there’s little to which to look forward.

Except for ZaZa, the Cuban coffee oasis ensconced in the back of a stereo store at the Orlando airport (note the complete absence of anything even vaguely cafe-ish in the photo).  While the prospect of an 18-hour layover at our airport-adjacent hotel holds little appeal, I thrill at the opportunity, such as I had yesterday, to pass through Orlando en route from Point A(re we there yet?) to Point B(e serious — we’re still not there?).  Like so many of Life’s Pleasures (ahem!), the coffee is hot and dark, strong and sweet.  Almost inky — much like my favorite guy behind the counter, who wears a neoprene sleeve under his t-shirt to cover a tattoo that I am dying to see.  I always smirk inwardly at the company policy that no doubt requires him to cover in this manner, drawing, as it does, ten times more attention to the fact that he’s got a giant tattoo than the tattoo itself probably would in this day and age.  And so I wonder, is it especially “offensive?”  Has it been deemed inappropriate for kids (with which this particular airport, obviously, is infested)?  Is it overly sexual or violent in nature?  He’s the nicest guy — a little bit cheeky (he always calls me Papi) but ever-ready to be of service, and he always remembers my order, even if it’s been months between visits — and so I wonder How bad could it be?  Would it shock me with its theme?  Amaze me with its artistry?  Its lack thereof?  Is his manager being overly officious, or is it really some kind of Big Deal?

Maybe he’s become the draw.  As much as my afternoon is improved when punctuated with a swirling shot of cane-sweetened oil slicky goodness (with a shot of milk, just because it’s fun to order a cortadito), here in the Town That Disney Built, where every place that isn’t a tragically predictable chain restaurant sells Tinkerbell t-shirts Ten-for-Ten-Dollars!, it’s well worth the three bucks to be served a cup of coffee — or anything, really — with a dollop of mystery.