But Then How Will We Know We’ve Arrived?

In general, I think the comings and goings boards in airports and train stations invite reverie, be it wistful (“Ah, Paris…”), wishful (“Someday, Bombay…”), or wondering (“Where the hell is Show Low?”). But I gotta hand it to whoever programs the Departures monitors at the Miami International Airport for this bit of handiwork.

Unknown FliFO

Who boards a flight when the airline doesn’t know where it’s going? What does that person pack? How into their long and engrossing book do they let themselves get? Should we be concerned that a flight to “Unknown” is departing from an airport whose three-letter IATA code is M.I.A.?

Who works such a flight? Does the crew know where they’re going? Surely the pilot, at least? If they don’t know where they’re going, how do they pace their service?

Who walks up to the Departures monitor looking for this flight? ” I just want to see if Auntie McGee got off on time.” “Where was she going?” “I don’t know.” “OK, let’s look under ‘Unknown’… There it is!”

And still it managed to depart late. You don’t know where you’re going, but you know you’re late leaving to get there? Who are you, Eeyore? You probably  also assume it’s going to be raining when you arrive and all the good-looking men will be married or straight. You might wanna read up on Positive Mental Attitude before you plan your next mystery vacation.

We were looking for our own departure gate when my flying partner brought this to my attention, and my imagination instantly bounced out in a thousand directions at once. The incompetence! The hilarity! The What the Hell?! So much of the magic has been sucked out of travel for me these days. For most of History, the Journey has been as big an adventure as the Destination itself. And flying certainly used to be, but now it’s a blaring, billboard-saturated, TSA-monitored hassle. Most days. Every once in a while — and it helps if you’re in an airport with good cuban coffee — I’m reminded that the main reason I was drawn to travel was to explore. This day I eventually winged off to Houston, or Chicago, or another who-remembers-where that I’ve been to a million times, but my wheels had been set a-turn. Yeah, I’ve ben to hundred of cities in dozens of countries, but it’s still true: an immeasurable majority of the world’s art, food, architecture, waterfalls, smells, and smiles — not to mention the entirety of Show Low, Arizona — are yet Unknown. If you’re gonna bother to put your camera, your notebook, and a clean pair of underwear in a bag and set out, what better place to go?

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You Go, Grandma

wheres the beefI had two pretty boring grandmas.  As far as I know, anyway; it’s not like I ever made much of an effort to get to know them as anything other than a great fan of the bargain basement and the Lawrence Welk Show (my dad’s mom) and the chain-smokingest, best meatball maker ever to come out of Potter, Nebraska (my mom’s). They both lived through the Depression and watched their husbands march off to war and raised reasonably well-adjusted families (we’ll say, for the sake of keeping this post moving…); my dad has four brothers and four sisters — maybe that was quite enough excitement for my Grandma Mil.

rosie-riveter-woman-1944

But, try as we might, we never unearthed much in the way of a secret past for either one of them.  Mil wasn’t a riveter or a welder or a test pilot during World War II; Edie didn’t spy on Hitler or seduce Picasso or play professional baseball.  They were housewives in sensible shoes (Edie did sport the occasional spectator pump in her day, but Mil was Keds all the way) who cracked the very occasional joke and day-to-day did the best they could, and who wants to watch a movie about that? Continue reading

Twelve Years, One Hundred Words, and a Sea Turtle

flying honu

I work on the airplane, but this is better than flying.  Especially today.  I slip between the waves and the very atmosphere, now thick and green, lifts me up.  I hover above the turtles, roll among them, dive.  Under the dancing shadows of the great round shells, I look up; the sun behind them sparkles impossibly close, riding the waves just like the blondies on their longboards up the beach. I hear wet, the occasional wave, but little else.  No cacophony, certainly no cries, here where there are no skyscrapers, and, in any case, no airplanes to fly through them.

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. Continue reading

You Should Write a Book

One thing I like about my job (and you knew there had to be something): it’s a big hit at parties.  You tell people you’re a writer, and they look at you like, Yeah, right.  “I’ve never heard of you,” they seem to say, “and you’re obviously not a millionaire, so you must not be a very good one.  I have to… turn this way now.”  In other words, as Geena Davis said of Lori Petty in A League of Their Own, go pull someone else’s leg; mine are long enough already.  But people perk right up when they get a hold of a flight attendant in a social situation.  Some people say, “Oh, I always wanted to do that,” and others say, “Yikes, I could never do that.”  But everybody’s got an idea about what this job is like — some more realistic than others — and everybody’s got an opinion.

The first order of business (alas) is usually to hold the flight attendant personally accountable for one’s last airline-related travel debacle.  (I especially love when people carry on about the absurdity of their latest mechanical delay.  Cuz they’d presumably rather fly on an airline that doesn’t fix their airplanes when they break?)  And then come the questions: “Why are flight attendants so old?”  (Cuz they’ve been doing it a long time.)  “Why are flight attendants so cranky?”  (Probably cuz people are always asking them “Why are you so old?”.)  “What’s the craziest thing that’s ever happened to you on a flight?”  And that’s the fun one.  Partly because the answer is always refreshing itself.  Only one thing?  How do I choose?  Continue reading