Fifteen Years and I’m Still Serving Time

The Great and Powerful Pearl Bailey’s hilarious song (please listen and enjoy above) is about marriage, of course, but I’ve always had kind of a bad-boyfriend relationship with my airline.  Yesterday, April 4th, marked my fifteenth anniversary of flying, and, except for the part about us having kids together (god forbid), this song is me and my job in a nutshell.

Nobody panic: this is not yet another post about how good things used to be compared to how crappy they are now.  It is a different job than the one I interviewed for, and certainly than the one I envisioned when I started fifteen years ago.  I never thought we’d still be on reserve; I certainly never thought I’d be flying straight domestic; and I actively vowed for the first several years of my career that, come what may, the one certainty in the Universe was that I would never — ever, do you hear me? — be based in Denver.  Like a budget airline, Life takes us to unexpected places.

And — like many a budget vacation, once you get settled around the pool with your all-inclusive cocktail — I love it here.  Especially now as I embrace the shift from Flight Attendant who writes to Writer who flies, I’m expansively grateful for this gig and all it’s afforded me.  The places it’s taken me — of course Australia and the Great Wall of China and my beloved 100 yen store in Nagoya, but also the thrift stores in Billings and the drinking chocolate emporium in Portland and Fong’s Pizza in Des Moines.  The people it’s introduced me to — and not just Bonnie Raitt and Whitney Houston, but also the little old Japanese lady who spent her flight folding origami cranes to give to me and my “girlfriend” (one blue, one pink, bless her) because she wanted to share her hobby, and the little deaf girl who thanked me for “helping” her mom with her two severely disabled young siblings and taught me a lesson about gratitude that I won’t soon forget.  This job gives me all the time in the world to write, a bottomless font of shit to write about, and it was even a passenger who gave me the last push (and the permission, which I apparently needed from a stranger) to shift my priorities and actually clack away at a key or two once in a while.

Because the two careers are closely linked and complementary, it gives me great pleasure to celebrate my anniversary with the  announcement of the September release of my next book, Crazy Like Fox.  Long before I actually sat and wrote Kiss Me, Straight, I knew this job was good for at least one book; turns out it’s good for two.  Although when Fox McHardy’s airline goes bankrupt on him overnight and leaves him stranded in Miami, the unceremonious end of his flying career is only the beginning of his problems.

Like all of them, my own airline has certainly had its ups and downs, and Fox’s fate reminds us that, especially in this volatile industry, tomorrow is promised to no employee.  There is life after flying, and there is certainly a huge wide world outside of the airline industry, if one that is harder and more expensive to get to if you don’t have travel benefits.  When I was brand new, I flew with a somewhat grizzled veteran from the old Pan Am days, and she said to me, “You’re a lifer, I can tell.”  There are days when I can’t be sure if her declaration was a compliment or a curse, but fifteen years in, it looks like she was right.  And if it turns out that I’m not in it for an excessively long haul, well, at least I’m in it until they get me home from this layover, which puts me a couple of steps ahead of your new friend Fox.

Stay tuned for more info about Crazy Like Fox, coming at you in September from JMS Books!  In the meantime, Happy Anniversary to me — at least until, as Pearl suggests, I can scrape up the dough for bail.

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4 thoughts on “Fifteen Years and I’m Still Serving Time

  1. Michael, I love you and I love your writing. Not only because we are friends and because I understand most references, if not by personal experience, then by industry chatter. I laugh and want to read more. “You’re a Lifer.” I love that.

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