Going Out of Business, Going Crazy Like Fox

HootersAirB757200Most airline stories (except for the ones I tell, obviously) are best taken with a grain of salt.  Any tale  that opens with “I flew with a girl whose roommate from training once flew with a guy…” is as likely to be an airline urban legend as any kind of True.  Did a flight attendant really ever stand in the aisle and loudly spank what a frequent flyer complained was a “bad potato?”  Or tell the guy who threw a fit about not getting his meal choice, “Sir, I said we’re out of chicken, not fuel.”?  Or tell the snooty lady who claimed to be a Princess, “Yeah, well, in my country I’m considered a Queen, so I outrank you.”? Maybe, maybe not, but I’ve been hearing all of these stories since I started flying, so it probably didn’t happen on the flight your girlfriend worked last week.  (Naturally, as previously discussed, different standards apply if the story turns out to be about you.)

I came to the airline industry after much of the more famous post-deregulation upheaval.  Bankruptcy and greed had already leveled Pan Am, a strike had brought down Eastern, and start-up airlines like PeoplExpress and Hooters Air were coming and going faster than airport sign hangers could keep up with.  As much as I love to wax nostalgic about The Good Old Days of Flying (that I never saw), I have few regrets about missing out on these seismic events, some of the more spectacular of which are reputed to even have led to employee suicides.  But I’ve heard some stories.  When some of these airlines went out of business, they did so quite suddenly, stranding crews and passengers wherever they happened to wake up to the news that they would need to find their own way home. I flew with a girl (see what I mean?) who recounts charging tickets on a Chinese airline for her entire crew to her husband’s credit card, and another whose Honolulu-based crew ended up sailing home from the Philippines two-to-a-bunk on a cargo ship.

True or not, these stories were certainly gripping and colorful, and they eventually inspired me to trap a handsome man far from home and see if and how he would extract himself from a similar jam.  In the pages of my next short novel, I obviously mean.

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Fox McHardy leads a charmed life. Puget Sound penthouse, gorgeous boyfriend, jet-setting job—everything he’s ever wanted, he’s gotten, including the heck out of the small Iowa town he grew up in.  Even the trip he takes to Miami to surprise his boyfriend Jeremy is something of a long-shot wish fulfilled.  Until he arrives in South Florida.  Once things start to unravel, they do so with alarming speed, and he finds himself riding shotgun in a rented convertible with his new worst enemy faster than you can say “I want my old life back.”

For all that he’s self-centered and something of a slow learner, Fox is one of my favorite protagonists.  Crazy Like Fox is the story of his long journey Home, which he finds in the one place he was sure he hadn’t left it.  Like my Author Page on Facebook to RSVP for the online release party, which will include fabulous giveaways, and get the eBook on August 25th for only $5.99 from JMS Books!  It’s funny, it’s sexy, and, like all good airline stories… inspired by stuff that really happened, but totally made up.

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Get Thee To An Airport: Summer’s Here!

Short final in St Maarten

Short final in St Maarten

This post was originally published in the Glendale – Cherry Creek Chronicle in July of 2009.  I have just arrived home from a four-day trip replete with mechanical delays, duty-time legality issues, and Orlando, that seems to have officially rung in this year’s summer travel season.  After a couple glasses of wine and a good night’s sleep, I am moved to repost.

I have about twenty different renditions of the song on my iPod, sung by everyone from Sarah Vaughan to Angelique Kidjo: “Summertime, and the living is easy.”  Yeah, well, this is my sixteenth summer as a flight attendant for a major airline, and I am pretty sure those lyrics didn’t come to George Gershwin on an airplane. For nine months a year, airplanes are filled with seasoned travelers and million-mile frequent fliers who more or less “know the drill,” and flight attendants pretty much know what to expect.  The off-season traveler means business: he’ll get on the airplane balancing an open laptop and talking on his cell phone, clog up the aisle while he fills up an entire overhead bin with his oversized carry-on bags, and then sit and make comments to the flight attendants about how people need to hang up their cell phones and travel with smaller bags and the boarding process will go more smoothly for everyone.  These passengers breeze through security with slip-on shoes and TSA-approved toiletries, know exactly what they want to drink and how much it will cost, and can be counted on to have the laptop fired up from way before we tell them it’s OK until way after we tell them to turn it off, some of them hard at work, most of them watching Family Guy on DVD.  They don’t bother us, we don’t bother them (certainly not with “service,” not these days), and everybody’s happy.  I’ve got an Us magazine to read, after all. Continue reading

Stuffed Shirt Steps Up

Like many flight attendants, I have a tendency to lump airplane passengers into one of three distinct categories: The Frequent Flyers, The Hot Guys, and the mass of faceless walking F.A.R. violations we’ll call Everybody Else.  Very occasionally these will overlap, as in the case of the rare and exotic Hot Frequent Flyer Guy, and sometimes they will collide, such as the time that a Frequent Flyer made a crack to me about the low-riding basketball shorts on a spectacularly round-rumped Hot Guy and I shrugged and told him, “I’d hit that,” but for the most part, the passengers in each category settle onto the airplane with varying degrees of overhead bin drama and hew to a time-honored code of Expected Behavior.

I have a definite love/hate relationship with the Frequent Flyer.  On the one hand, they know the drill and bring few surprises.  They know where their suitcase fits and where it doesn’t, they often hang their own coats, and most of them understand Airplane Sign Language — I can raise an eyebrow at their phone and have it turned off, and when I jerk my chin at their empty wine glass, they hold their hand to where I should fill it or, if they have finished, they hand it back to me.  On the whole, the Frequent Flyer is a flight attendant’s favorite kind of passenger: Easy.

But I’m not gonna lie: it is also the Frequent Flyer that usually sets my eyes to rolling.  I have a tendency to look out into the First Class cabin and see Chicago in Winter: a blustery snow storm of white male windbags jockeying to assert their status and get the recognition they’ve got coming to them by hook or by crook; guys who can barely condescend to mutter their drink order, refuse to remove their headphones but become irate when they can’t hear you, and complain about the meal offerings for sport.  (One guy told me he wished he’d known that I was going to run out of the chicken entree selection before he’d gotten on the airplane, and I asked him why.  “Were you going to go up and down the terminal looking for a chicken breast to bring with you?”  He wanted badly to be affronted by my cheek, but eventually laughed and conceded that the pasta would be fine.)  It is easy for me, if I give my attitude free reign, to write off the Frequent Flyers as a surly bunch of social-climbing fusspots and to treat them, as a result, with a certain degree of professionally questionable disdain. Continue reading