Sunday, September 25, 2011

One day, my head will come down out of the clouds...

Sometimes I forget. Sometimes I can go an entire day without remembering the things I've done or the places I've been. Sometimes all it takes is a scent to carry me back to 10 hour flights and foreign tongues. Sometimes it's even just a silly show.

I've hinted in different places that once upon a time I was a Flight Attendant. It's a hard story for me to tell, because just like most everything else I've done, I simply fell into it. Eight years ago I was living in Naples, Florida with some friends. I'd moved down there under the impression that I was following my heart. My best friend at the time sang his siren song and I was sold. I drove a little over nine hours thinking I would be at the beach every weekend side by side with my partner in crime. Instead I worked 10 hour days for Blockbuster Video arguing with the nearly dead that "No, as a matter of fact your DVD will not work in your VHS player because VHS players are practically extinct MUCH LIKE YOU." My one saving grace was the Frappucino truck in the parking lot, basically advertising the new Starbucks going in next door (and giving my roommate and I free Frappucino's every shift.) I only kind of miss those days. And then one day I took advantage of a Delta buddy pass and flew home for a haircut. Please understand, privileged I was definitely not. Blessed with friends and family who worked for Delta? Yes. I was probably the most broke person on that flight. I was probably also the only person on that flight with 1,000+ beer bottle caps as well. That? Is another story. I will say though, that it took YEARS to get the beer smell out of that bag.

My Hair Dresser is a family friend who while cutting my hair on my short little three day trip back home, told me all about how she'd become a Flight Attendant for a small regional airline out of Wisconsin. They had branched out their service stations and had opened one up in Atlanta. Judging by my intrigue, she asked if I'd be interested. Based on my lack of education, I laughed at her and said sure, WHY NOT at this point. I went back to my Mother's house and called my on again off again boyfriend/fiance/WTFEVERHEWAS at the moment and told jokingly that one day I just might grow up and be a Flight Attendant. He laughed too. And then shortly after flying back to Florida I got the e-mail. I met the qualifications and my first interview was in less than a month. What. The. Fuck. First of all, I never put in an application. Second of all, what would it hurt to go forward with these shenanigans? Surely they wouldn't hire ME, that girl who's worked at Blockbuster her ENTIRE life. And yet... next thing I knew I had an e-mail with flight information sending me to Denver and instructions on how to get my passport expedited. Passport? Nobody warned me about a passport. The day I left, I'd only lived in Naples for 3 exact months. I drove down on the 16th of July and drove home on the 16th of October. I can't really sum up how it felt to leave my Naples family. Specifically my Roommate and her Husband and two beautiful daughters. I just can't. I miss them so much I can barely stand it at times. 

I slept on my Mom's couch for a few weeks when I got home... and then she drove me to the airport 24 hours before my actual flight. This experience was written about on THAT OTHER BLOG THAT SHALL NOT BE NAMED. But here's how THAT went down.
I once convinced the entire Hartsfield Jackson Atlanta Airport to let me board a plane to Denver. Later that morning as I walked through the Denver International Airport I passed a gate and saw the date on the departures screen. I was 24 hours early.
I dropped everything I'd brought with me for my 9 weeks of training and whipped my business itinerary out, unfolded it and lo and behold there it was in black and white. For WEEKS I had told everyone, and even managed to convince myself, that my flight left on a Saturday when in fact it was a Sunday flight. Sobbing at the hotel/taxi pick-up, I called the hotel I was supposed to live at for the next 9 weeks and attempted to convince them as well. Go figure that a sobbing 21 year old girl wouldn't convince them... at all. They were kind enough, however, to come pick me up in hopes we could figure something out in the meantime.
I can still smell, of all things, my life at 21. I can remember the brand new luggage I received, the food I survived on (I'm cheap, HELLO bagged oranges and cans of tuna!), and the insane amount of jet fumes I inhaled throughout the duration of my training. I only just recently donated (SHOULD have trashed) the banana yellow snow jacket stained by "plane dust" just from that training alone. No amount of cleaning could get the black out of my sleeves... I just told people years later that I was well ripened when really I looked as if I'd been rolling around on the highway.
I loved that jacket.
I spent nearly a year with that Airline until an unfortunate botched dye-job turned my hair a brilliant shade of purple just a few weeks shy of the end of my probationary period with the company. In my defense, it was only purple in direct sunlight.

Again, sobbing in my defeat, I drove home from Hartsfield to probably the most overpriced loft apartment complex possible in my area of town. Seriously people, ridiculously overpriced lofts so you TOO can have an address in the ghetto! Ghetto aside, I loved my apartment. LOVED. I even loved the fat little laborers (who probably were NOT legal) that lived across the parking lot. Their catcalls are still fresh in my mind. On the day I came home, basically jobless with the exception of a few shifts at a local Starbucks I managed to pick up on off days, I had barely shucked myself of my uniform before my present day Husband knocked on my door. Needing a place to stay. And he had a JOB. Can you say sold? The rest of "Our Story" can be saved for another time, if I haven't already put it out here.

We struggled for months to keep the lights on in what was now OUR place, borrowing money from family and working as many jobs as possible just for freaking lights. We even accepted his Brother into the tiny one bedroom (meaning 1 wall) loft in hopes we'd be able to keep from being evicted before my lease was up. No such luck, amigos. Not even a week after his Brother moved in we woke up to his Brother standing over us saying his cell phone charger beeped... meaning it had lost power... meaning WE had lost power. Even after his Brother left, we managed to live without electricity for nearly a month before we had to throw our hands up in the air and admit defeat. That month, even in the middle of a Georgia summer, we survived on cold showers, cold beer (thanks to bags of ice and a big ass kitchen sink) and $5 pizzas from Little Caesers. And then I started looking back into flying. There were a lot of interviews that didn't pan out. Too fat. Too short. Too soon after the purple incident. And then I got the interview with an International Charter.

The (not yet) Husband and I were living in a glorified trucker hotel right off the interstate, surviving on boiled peanuts and bladder busting sodas every night. The place had a shower that I wouldn't even go into with my flip flops on... and everything we took out of there during our exodus back into normal life reeked of curry for months. MONTHS. When I found out I got the Flight Attendant position and was headed back into the sky, my Mother finally allowed my (not yet) Husband to stay in her home while I did another 9 weeks of training in (Viva) Las Vegas. I vaguely remember my initial flight to Frankfurt (Germany... NOT KENTUCKY). I remember being shuttled from our plane to the airport and being in total disbelief that I was not on our continent anymore. The three years that followed were unfathomable to even me at times. Because we were a Charter, we worked mainly with the DOD doing R&R missions. Sometimes we did Hospitality Charters for Travel Companies and Cruiselines, but mainly it was the men in camouflage that filled our seats. I went places most American carriers don't go. I saw things most people don't see in a lifetime.

I know most of you who DO read my blog are probably thinking to yourselves, WHEN WILL THIS BLOG POST EVER END? Um, soon? After Uncle Bob shows you his vacation slideshow. Don't worry... he shouldn't take too long with descriptions of each shot.

 
Bingen, Germany
Everything about Germany "grabbed" me. I loved the vineyards barely clinging to the sides of mountains. I loved the fact that I walked everywhere and the thought never crossed my mind to hail a cab or borrow a bike. I loved the Donner Kebab stands on every corner. I loved the freaking chocolate like nobody's business. 

 Costa Rica.
I was too insanely drunk to have any idea where in Costa Rica I actually was. All I knew was that we had arrived 26 hours before our next flight and via FAA regulations I had 2 hours to slam down as much alcohol at the pool bar in the ALL INCLUSIVE RESORT the airline paid for. I remembered my Spanish VERY QUICKLY, because HELLO (tapping regulatory watch) not much time left to get my drink on, Jose!!! It was a very VERY long walk back up to my hotel room that night. Specifically when the walk up from the pool bar was about 90 degrees straight up. Where were the little men on golf carts at 2 in the morning? I mean, SERIOUSLY?

 Costa Rica (the hangover edition.)
How is it even humanly possible for me to look THAT put together when I was all but swimming in toilet water trying not to lose my liver barely 12 hours before? It's just not right.

 Larnaca, Cyprus
I wish I'd had the pleasure of staying here longer. I cried when we passed the Starbucks on the way back to the airport. More because I needed to get out of the BUS OF DEATH and off the HIGHWAY DROPPING INTO THE OCEAN than my need for caffeine. See exhibit A above. Shoulder schmoulder. You save money when you don't bother to put up guard rails on the OCEAN SIDE of the road.

 Djibouti, Africa
Don't do Khat, y'all. There's nothing more terrifying than an African Air Traffic Controller stoned out of his ever loving mind with Khat juice dripping down his chin and a KHAT Public Freaking AWARENESS poster directly behind him. Funny, I was looking for a public awareness poster and found this amazing article instead. YOU'RE WELCOME. Be glad me and my unborn baby made it home in one piece. Oh, and by the way, I was totally pregnant at this point.

 Djibouti, Africa... take 2. Via the window seat.
And then there are moments when I am reminded of just how lucky we truly are. I can't fathom the despair of this country, and selfishly I don't want to know. If I don't think of the poverty, does it really exist? I don't bother giving my children the "there are starving children in Africa," bit at dinner because to be honest, if they don't eat it the dog will. I can't ship that shit across the ocean. If I could help and I knew without a doubt my pennies were feeding a child, they could have everything we had left at the end of the day.

Kuwait City, Kuwait
Oddly enough, THIS, was my home away from home. Every room was literally a condominium with one to three bedrooms and some sort of kitchen. I loved this hotel more than I loved my own apartment at home. I didn't have to risk walking in the desert heat for more than a minute to get to Starbucks. I could go next door to the neighboring hotel to brush up on the area's history (it had been bombed during the gulf war.) I could lay poolside and wonder who was visiting the Al Hashemi. We were always told to put our cameras away when caught aiming our lenses towards that enormous dhow.

I was lucky. I'm still lucky. Just a different kind of luck this go round. I quit flying right before I hit my third trimester, more though because I got a ridiculous bout of food poisoning in Kuwait halfway through my pregnancy and FUCK THAT NO NEVER AGAIN.

But sometimes I forget that former life. Sometimes I can go an entire day without remembering the things I've done or the places I've been. Sometimes all it takes is a scent to carry me back to 10 hour flights and foreign tongues. Sometimes it's even just a silly show.

3 comments:

  1. I write long posts too. This is quite a story. I think the flight attendant job would be really hard.

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  2. You have a knack for telling a story -
    It's amazing how a scent can totally take us back, isn't it?
    stopping by from Mama Kat's

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  3. I'm not normally a "novelist" I swear!!! Thanks for the props, if I can ever find a minute to sit for more than 5 minutes this week, I will be checking out the other bloggers! Thanks again for stopping by. :)

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