Wednesday, September 27, 2006


Found a place.
It's a one bedroom hut in an apartment complex themed after golf, 39 blocks south of the airport. Fifteen minutes away via the freeway. Ridiculous amounts of signing happened, resulting in a seven month lease. Got a trip tomorrow, and some sleeping on the floor to get accomplished between then and now. Details when there is time.

Monday, September 25, 2006


Last night was the first time I officially left the states. With crisp new passport in hand, I stepped onto Vancouver soil and infiltrated Canada. The border guard who let me in asked for the passport, and when I leaned down to get it out of my bag, he laughed, "See, he's bowing! You'll do fine here!"
A wierd thing in the Vancouver airport is that the escalators and walkways slow down when no one is on them. You think they're going ridiculously slow, and then when you get near them, they crank up and scare you half to death.
Ate at a Canadian place. Had my first two Guinesses (more than eight hours before work the next day, for all you FAA agents). Talked to a lady who was not an American. Get this... she had actually seen the commercial I did for Kia of Canada.
Yup, I'm big up here too.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Sir, Come Out Of The Bathroom With Your Hands Up

My first flight happened today, and it started with a bang. I was on a two-flight-attendant flight, and the other one didn't show... I was on my own for my first pre-flight inspection. That's OK, seeing as how I just got out of school and know how to do that, but there's nothing like having two pilots standing over you, saying, "Well, you stewardesses all live together, right? Where is she?" They finally got her on board, rushed and a mess... turns out they forgot to call her. Which makes me wonder if the Gothamites really did need me yesterday. Oh well.
Flew to Los Angeles, and then to Portland, where I witnessed my first violation of federal aviation law (you'll notice that I've very carefully excised every mention of exactly what airline I work for, and I've done that expressly so that when things like this happen, I can tell you about them). It wasn't me did the violating... some senile old man toddled into the lavatory (or the 'lav,' in flight attendant parlance) and wouldn't come out during landing. He wasn't the kindly senile... he was the other kind, where when you tell them something, they dismiss you with an impatient wave and an implied, "You may go." The other attendant banged on the door for a while, and the captain eventually decided to land with him in there, which in FAA terms is a grevious trangression of epic proportions. He tried to come out a few minutes before we hit the runway, but by that time the other attendant had opened her jumpseat, which locks in place right in front of the door, and so he was stuck. And I mean the feds were waiting for this guy when he got off the plane. The lesson to be learned here is, when we tell you to get out of the bathroom, get out now and pull up your pants later.
Somewhere near the Canadian border, the co-pilot had to take 'the walk of shame,' which is what they call heading all the way to the back of the plane to go to the lav, and policy dictates that there shall be two folk in the flight deck at all times, and so yours truly got to sit in the cockpit. You can't imagine the view. It's like all the Christmas trees you've ever seen, writ small across a great and far away black ocean. You guys are really missing it back there in first class.
Ended up in Los Angeles for the night. Found out that big spaceship thing outside of LAX is actually a restaurant. Next time I'm here, I'm going.

Friday, September 22, 2006


...or so it felt. Today I was on reserve for the first time, which means that from four AM to four PM, they coulda called me out to fly. They didn't call, though. And that's an easy thing to say now... a quick thing to say; getting through that twelve hours was not so quick. You wanna talk about every time the phone rang, I knew it was them. But the Gothamites didn't need a rescue. No Bat-Signal. I was the only one of the Unholy Five to last an entire day, and I desperately needed it to find a place to live. And on that front, nothing.
I do have a trip on the schedule for tomorrow though. News from that as it occurs...

Thursday, September 21, 2006

The Hunt For Rent, October

On the ground here in SLC. I was the last of the Unholy Five to arrive, due to unforseen snafus in flying as an employee (you'd think flying for free would be complicated, and you would be right if you thought that). The other four were already here, using their company hotel days, looking for a place to live. When I went out house-hunting with them, I saw that we are a realtor's nightmare:

REALTOR: So, what kind of property are you looking for?
US: Well, a five bedroom, furnished, on a month to month lease for less than two hundred. With no credit check. Oh, and we've only been employed for three weeks. Got anything like that?

The other four have been called out to fly, and that makes me next. We'll be coming back to nothing if we don't hear back from anyone we talked to. There is just now snow on the mountains, and I hope we won't be sleeping outside in it next month...

Saturday, September 16, 2006

The Triumphant And Inevitable Return Of Steve

So I talked to Steve, who had been keeping in touch with me about his return to normalcy, and he told me that things were wonderful for a few days, and then he began to have dreams about the job. "It was calling to me," he said, and soon he couldn't stop thinking about coming back. Steve has been bitten by the flight attendant bug. And so, after his renegotiation with the family, who are all supportive, I am happy to announce that Steve is in the first class starting in October, and will most likely be domiciled in SLC with us. He'll be a short commute away from the family, the sagely veteran of the new class, and a welcome addition to the quint of us who got assigned to Utah.

The Circle Is Now Completer

I am now officially a Flight Attendant.
This morning, after waking up to an eleventh-floor vista that looked as much like Lexington as it did Lincoln, I got onto an airplane wearing the same clothes I was wearing yesterday and took command. Amy sat down and watched, clipboard in hand. Made all the announcements you people never listen to with only a few hitches (I have pioneered a technique wherein, when you forget your place in an announcement, you lean over and pretend to press a button out of view of the passengers, so not only does it look like you didn't forget anything, it looks like you're good at multitasking and just did something important). Solved a seating snafu all by myself. Closed some overhead bins. Checked some seatbelts. Stocked my galley. At the end, I ushered the passengers off my aircraft with grace and style, and then Amy sat me down and said, "Sign here... you're one of us now."
Spent the rest of the day on a plane deadheading (which is where you fly on the clock but off duty), wondering just what the hell I've gotten myself into. But I'll tell you this... my wings feel just a bit more real now.
Now I pack and wait to hear when I'm supposed to relocate. And oh yeah, they found my bag... in Lexington. It's shipping home tomorrow (what a useless word 'home' is these days). That means I'll be able to get through a trip with more than one uniform, ha ha.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Welcome To The Airline Industry, Kid - Part Two

OK, now today was fun.
Took off from Lexington without incident (it was only later, when someone reminded me, that I remembered this was the place where Comair took off from the wrong runway). Landed at ORD, where we discovered that my bag had been lost... yes, it happens to us too, ha ha. Flew to Kansas, back to Chicago, and then to Nebraska, where we amused ourselves for the evening in Lincoln. Being part of a flight crew takes some getting used to, because whereas normal folk think, "Let's go to that restaurant on the other side of town for dinner," we say, "Let's go to that restaurant seven states away for dinner." And the pilots, when they're not wearing their piloty shirts with the black ties, look just like you and me... you could be standing in an elevator next to a person who drives a multi-million dollar aircraft, and you'd never know.
Learned a little more today. Served drinks off the hell-cart. The first three rows of passengers inevitably discovered that I was new, and all gave me the atta-boy when they deplaned.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Welcome To The Airline Industry, Kid - Part One

Took off this morning from Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport, or BTR in airport lingo. Got to ATL (Atlanta), and missed my flight to Chicago, which resulted in my missing the rest of the training flights I was scheduled for that day. That was OK, because my instructor got jammed up in Fargo for just as long. We eventually made contact in Chicago (ORD, which stands for InORDinately Huge Airport), and from there, we began.
I observed Amy in action on the trip to Lexington, Kentucky. She was all the things a flight attendant should be, and a nice person on top of that. Some of the things I remembered from training, and some of the things were completely new, and yes, the first thing she did upon meeting me was dive at me, howling, "PRODUCE YOUR FLASHLIGHT!" By the time I got onto the ground again, I was thoroughly mind-blown.
The four of us (pilot, co-pilot, Amy and I) checked into the hotel and went searching for a place called Tolly-Ho's on the recommendation of two stoners loitering outside the hotel. Four hours later, we found it, and as it turns out, the burgers there were all named according to the theme... there was the Regular Ho, The Cheesy Ho, the Big Fat Ho, and the Meaty Ho. The three of us menfolk commenced a puerile match of Who Can Make The Worst Ho Joke while Amy put her head in her hands and wept for our plummeting IQs.
Apparently this is my new life, and it is amusing.

Monday, September 11, 2006

The Force Is With Me...

... but I am not a flight attendant yet.
Now that I'm out of the classroom, there is one phase left, and that's the on the job training phase. They assign you an instructor and you tag along on a trip with them, and as you go, you assume more and more of the job until, on the last leg of the trip, they sit with the passengers and you run the show. Tomorrow, I head out for Chicago in my shiny new uniform to meet the instructor and get this thing moving.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

The Location Of The Rebel Base...

... is Salt Lake City, Utah. We found out our domiciles amidst the graduation chaos.
I will become a Utahn.
Of course, anything I say about that right now will be moot in a few months when I actually know what I'm talking about, but I'm optimistic so far. Six-lane streets, very clean, and all the Mormons I can eat. Plus, a lot of fires... during the late night cram sessions at the hotel, we had all heard fire trucks blast by us once or twice a night, and we just figured SLC was a pyromaniac town. But one of the locals explained that lightning strikes in the mountains ignite the dry grass out there and there's your fires.
So that's why they're so militant here about the lawn sprinklers.

The Circle Is Now Complete

I am now a graduate.
It was a subtle but neat ceremony. They held it in the first room we assembled in, oh those many three weeks ago. Parents and spouses sat in back taking pictures, and one by one they called us up and pinned on our wings. That part was almost terrible... about fifteen minutes before the whole thing started, they told us that the company that made the wings had hiccupped and that we would either be graduating wingless, or be awarded wings on which were inscribed the names of the people that didn't make it from the last class. But at the last moment, things worked out... oh yeah, except for the pants. We had ordered uniforms a few days after we arrived in SLC, and the two things of note about that are that a) none of the guys' pants were hemmed (which is kinda the way they do that) and b) none of the chicks got any pants. I like this airline. So today, all of the female-types wore the closest thing to navy blue they had, and all of us guys (the four of us that are left) were constantly checking our hems to see if the duct tape had come off. Funny thing about duct tape is that it sticks to everything except what you want it to stick to.

After the ceremony was fairly brutal. Most of the class was flying out about an hour later, and the hotel shuttles just pulled up and took large chunks of us away forever. No chance to party, and hardly any time for goodbyes. Suppose that's the way things work now in this new life of mine.
There are three of us left here, and as strange of a thing as this is to say, the hotel is a lonely place now without all these people who were complete strangers 24 days ago.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Exam Day

Took the test. Surprisingly easy. Not sure if it was actually that easy or if I was that well prepared, but I missed only three out of 100. I'm OK with that. There's a girl here who has been consistently making perfect scores, and she missed one on the test, and it was because she had the right answer but hit the wrong key. Merciless teasing ensued. I have no such defense... my three albatrosses (albatrii?) were ones I was completely clueless about.
The announcement test was not all that exciting either. I was lucky that the instructors selected us to test in reverse alphabetical order and so didn't have to wait too long (all those years of getting picked near last in grade school paid off today) to test. Just said words in order, all there was to it.
The rest of the day was waiting, something I do fairly well. All told, three of us have to retest, and one of those three is not me. And the three know what they have to work on, so I think we're all gonna make it.
Graduation tomorrow. But right now, something I haven't done in nearly a month... I'm going to sit in the hot tub and not think.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Hell Week - Part Two

It's actually Hell Day. Final exam is tomorrow. Time to regurgitate everything we've crammed in here for the last however long we've been here. Aircraft configuration. Emergency Procedure. First Aid. Evacuation. Announcements. Security. That stupid cart. This are the things that stand between us and our wings, and they stand there starting tomorrow at nine AM sharp. Tonight, we gird our loins for battle.
The actual written test, we've been told, is on a computer. There are those of us who are worried about that part. And the announcement test is fairly simple... we stand and deliver all six main announcements (each about a page long) to a fearsome and ravenous instructor, and then spout three more, chosen at random by said instructor, from a bank of about twenty. There are those who are worried about that part.
Me? I'm not worried about either. Then again, it's been said that my calm demeanor springs from my not being smart enough to understand the fix I'm in. There's a grace in that somewhere, I'm sure.
More tomorrow, as it happens.

P.S. Gird is a word. Look it up.

Monday, September 04, 2006

A La Cart

I had never thought about this, but there's a kitchen on planes. It's called the galley, and first off, let me tell you, I think it's really cool to work on a thing that has a 'galley,' because it makes it sound like your office is a pirate ship. Having said that, the galley is a nightmare. Imagine your kitchen. Now imagine it crammed inside the back seat of a Chevy Nova. Now imagine all the cabinets are stainless steel, shaped exactly the same, and bear cryptic numbers like 205, 209, and 236. And then imagine that if you open any three in a row (that's if you can figure out how to undo the latching mechanism), you may find peanuts, safety equipment, and the onboard wheelchair. Welcome to the random un-user-friendliness that is the galley.
And the cart. Oh, the cart. It doesn't go where you want, because it weighs more than you do. It has a brake, because it actually likes to go, but just not where you want it to. And because of this propensity for going, you're not allowed to be more than three seats from it at any time. The captains know this, and so they have the co-pilot watch you through the flight deck door to see when you're on the other end of the aircraft, and then call you on the phone and laugh while you drag the unholy thing all the way up to where the phone is.
Yeah, this is going to be a fun job.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

I Knew Him, Horatio...

My roommate, Steve, is going home.
The good news is that he made it this far, and that he's going home of his own volition. One of the first things I found out about him when I met him, aside from that he's an upright citizen and an all around guy, was that he was happily married. I wondered how that would play out against a backdrop of living in a randomly chosen distant city and never being around. Well, apparently, he and the wife have been in talks about this, and he's decided to be a family man and eschew the romance of cleaning dirty diapers out of seatback pockets. I'm glad to see the look of relief on him because he knows he's definitely doing the right thing, but on the other hand, he worked really hard to make it to this point, probably harder than any of us, and he knows that too. But it's like that guy said, all's well that turns out OK.
So in my book, he's an honorary flight attendant. I'd be proud to have him in charge of my burning plane any day, and I'll raise a beer to that. Or a Shirley Temple, actually, because he's Mormon.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Shhh... You Smell Something?

The folks in charge here really want you to be able to see things from the viewpoint of the passenger. And so you'll know what it's like to evacuate an airplane when it's a fiery ball of flame, they do an exercise called Smoke Filled Cabin. In this aptly-titled exercise, they put you on a plane and smoke it up with a fog machine for ten minutes, and then turn out all the lights and laugh while you and the rest of the class clamber out. There were several of us taking pictures inside the cabin, and it kinda looked like a dance club. And I know everyone always says, "Wow! You couldn't see your hand in front of your face!" about things like this, but I was there and I really couldn't see my hand in front of my face. I have proof:

OK, so you can see stuff. This was slightly before things got solid in there. The picture that does not have my hand in it is really boring.
The one of us who got tapped to be the pretend flight attendant that evacuated us chucked all the previous days' training and bolted directly off the aircraft as soon as he opened the door. Later, he said it was because he was wearing nice shoes and didn't want anyone to step on them.

Ready... Aim...

So sometimes there's a fire onboard. There's not supposed to be, but with all the fire extinguishers on board, I gathered that sometimes someone's barbequeing and it gets out of hand. Ergo, the HAZMAT course. This one teaches you all about the dangers of chemicals on an airplane and why your first thought when discovering a baggie full of white powder shouldn't be, "SNORT IT." It was somewhat relieving to find out that most of the horrible biological agents they like to talk about on TV actually take days to kill you, and so any bad guys on a plane would most likely not use them, and instead hit you with a coffee pot instead.
Oh yeah, the fire. They lined us up in front of a fire pit and had us don the fabled Protective Breathing Equipment, or PBE. PBE was one of the acronyms we had to learn before reporting to class, and we all thought it was going to be some specialized automatic Darth Vader-type breathing apparatus. As you can see from the picture, no. It's a knock-off Gucci handbag that you put on your head, with little oxygen cannisters to extend your breathing and embarrassment time. And so we each got to kill a fire while wearing a bad astronaut Halloween costume, wahoo.
Here, Steve knocks out a fire with vim and style.