Thursday, February 28, 2008

Live From Far-Flung Regions

You guys see I have a Tanzanian reader? Wow. Thanks for reading, you. Stop by and say hi, and listen to this story of how I embarrassed myself in front of an African once. I met this guy in college who told me he was from South Africa, and I said, "Really? What country?"
And someone just popped up in New Zealand. You've invited too. And of course I have an embarrassing story about N.Z. as well; I had to ask a friend what that hook-shaped thing off the coast of Australia was. In my defense, she'd lived there. So now that's two Yanks that know where it is. There goes the country.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

I Want To Believe

One of the perks of this job is that famous people fly, and you get to meet them. About three months after we all started, my friends from FA school started rolling out reports of celebrities they'd had in first class. Eva Longoria is always on the Texas flight. Kirstie Alley is always on the Kansas flight. One of the old guard said she'd flown with Betty White and Harrison Ford (not together... that would be just too much). So, of course, I started to feel a little left out that, almost two years in, I hadn't had a single famous person on my plane.
Well, last trip, that all changed.

Funny thing about celebrities... they're like steamrollers. They break through all your preconceived notions about what you'd do if you met one. True story: I was living in Monterey, CA, when the whole OJ thing happened, and on a road trip to LA, we decided to carom through Brentwood to see if we could find his house. The whole way, we spouted oaths like, "He did it. I know he did it. If he's there, I'm gonna spit on him. If I see him, I'm gonna give him the bird." And naturally, right after we passed his house, there he was on a bike. He pedaled by us and said, "Whut up, fellas?" And after a stunned moment of silence, we all hung out the windows and yelled, "YAY OJ! YAY!"
Point is, I'd always thought it would be no big deal if a celebrity flew with me. I thought that, since I'm an actor too, I'd just say hi to a fellow actor if one got on the plane. If we even talked at all, I'd just thank them for bringing a great character to the masses. And then Fox Mulder gets on my plane. He's about nine feet tall, which is something you don't get on TV. He nods hello and sits down. And though I was only a general fan of The X-Files, my brain starts to chant, "Fox Mulder's on your plane. Fox Mulder's on your plane. Fox Mulder's on your plane." It was a really bizarre two hours. Serving drinks, cleaning up the galley, restocking the lav, all with my brain pointedly reminding me that Fox Mulder's still on the damn plane.
I'll go ahead and say this story doesn't have a funny ending. I'm glad about that. He was just like any other passenger, very polite, kinda quiet. Took pictures of the sunset. But it's really bizarre how seeing a person you know from TV will make you throw a rod.
We didn't talk about X-Files. Never let on that I knew him. Figured you enjoy anonymity if you're famous. But heaven help me if Mark Hamill ever gets on the plane. I will come unglued.
Or Gerardo. Damn, 'Rico Suave' was a good song.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

My Guilty Secret

I read OK! Magazine. I also read Star, People, US Weekly, and a host of other celeb-stalking rags. Such is the terror of facing a four hour leg with nothing to read that I rejoice when I see that someone has left one of these magazines in the seat-back pocket. Somehow, and inexplicably, the things in these magazines matter to me. It matters that Zac is dating Vanessa, and that she once took naughty pictures. It matters that Heidi and Lauren are feuding, even though I have no idea who the hell they are. It matters that stars do things just like I do; Cameron Diaz goes for a jog, Eva Longoria (now Longoria-Parker) goes shopping, and Kate Beckinsale listens to an iPod. Tori Spelling tells all, and I don't care, but it matters that she did. It matters who wore it better. Is George Clooney gonna marry Sarah? Will Matthew McConaghey marry Camila? Will Jennifer and Angelina ever meet up and settle things? Is Lindsay on or off the wagon? Will Suri grow up to couch-bounce like her dad?
It's not all fun and games. If I see the phrase 'baby bump' followed by an exclamation point one more time, I'm going to kill the nearest person. If I read about a star noshing on their favorite food one more time, my atoms will involuntarily separate. Nosh? Who noshes? As a writer, I believe no word is useless, but that's as knife-edge close as you can get. Also, if I see that Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel were spotted canoodling, I will achieve the speed of sound in fury. One paparazziwürd I secretly like is frenemy. That one's kinda cool. But really, you guys, isn't Paris done? Aren't we done with her? I mean, really?
I used to be on our side. I didn't care about Britney. But our girl's taken a pounding, no matter how silly she is. Being from the South, where we all have babies one hip and a daquiri in the other hand, sure, I'll stand up for her. I thought the buzz-cut looked cool.
I suppose that I should end this whole thing by affirming that I still like girls. Though I will dedicate this entry to Robert. He'll dig that.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Damn Jetway Drivers!

I think there's probably not a one of you that doesn't know that feeling you get when the plane you've just been on for four hours on pulls up to the gate; get the hell off this plane I've just been on for four hours. And if you don't happen to be one of the first six people in the front of the plane, there's also another feeling; what the HELL is taking so long up there? Well, I'm here to de-mystify the mystery... jetway drivers are, in fact, taking so long.
The jetway is the plastic hall that takes you from the terminal to the plane, and vice versa. Because planes often don't exactly park exactly where they're supposed to, jetways have two gigantic wheels at the outside end, and what's supposed to happen is a jetway driver comes out and drives the thing over to meet the plane door, and everyone gets off. Notice I said supposed to happen. I said that because in my short life here in airplanes, that's a thing I've hardly ever seen.
Thing That Takes So Long #1: No Jetway Driver. An airplane is in the air for at least fifty minutes the way we fly, and can be there for four hours. And when it does land, it looks remarkably like a one-hundred-and-seven-foot airplane, when observed through a jetway driver's office window. So why then, I wonder, is it so hard to have a driver there and ready when the plane pulls up? Only about half the time is someone present to drive the jetway... the other half, I'm stuck standing there, staring at the first class passengers, who are all wondering why they can't get off the damn plane.
Thing That Takes So Long #2: Brain-Dead Jetway Driver. A jetway is such a big piece of machinery that OSHA stuck an annoying schoolbell on it that rings constantly every time it's being controlled (a term I sometimes use in its loosest possible sense). Even when things go right, I usually have to hear someone in the second row scream, "RECESS!" When things don't go well, I want to fling myself screaming into the engine. All you have to do is aim the jetway at the plane and press go. That's all you have to do. What you most often get is someone with whom you wouldn't be comfortable behind the wheel of a go-kart, working the jetway forward and backward with excrutiating slowness, that bell ringing the entire time, trying to get things juuust peerfect. I've had the jetway in contact with the plane, only to have the guy driving start backing it up with an amused and earnest head shake. "Nope, nope, well heavens, bless my stars, a whole micrometer off! I can't let that happen, nope, nope, not on my watch, good heavens!" The record is a New Orleans driver who went back and forth a sense-defying six times. Did I mention that happened at midnight?
Thing That Takes So Long #3: Slow Jetway Driver. There are only three ways a jetway can go: forward/backward, left/right, and up/down. In a society of multi-taskers, surely there is one person who can make at least two of those happen at once. When it's not someone who's driving the thing wrong, it's someone who's driving it right and just hardly at all. Nothing's worse that having eighteen passengers chew on you from behind because they're late for a connection and watching someone in command of the jetway who thinks they have to come back to the home position between every movement. There has never been a jetway driver who played video games. Often you'll get someone who combines the worst features of Things That Take So Long #2 AND #3, and it's then that you realize that you're never getting off the plane.
Thing That Takes So Long #4: Not-Handy-With-The-Adapter Jetway Driver. When you finally do get the jetway mated with the plane, there's this small bridge called an adapter you have to wheel over to cover the gap. In true moron fashion, it's been designed with a height adjuster, but only on one side. Basically it's less of a bridge and more of a thing that accentuates the terrible parking job you've done and makes you go try again. I've seen four drivers all bunched up the jetway door all doing what looked like advanced calculus to try to figure out that they just needed to get the jetway closer to the plane.
Thing That Takes So Long #5: Trainees. Jetway drivers are, so far as I've been able to discern, gate agents that have made the jump to driverdom. Every time we pull up to the jetway, there's a supervisor and a scared-to-death trainee, guaranteeing a half-an-hour purgatory on the plane. Statistically, everyone in America should be trained to drive a jetway by now.
Thing That Takes So Long #6: Jackass Jetway Drivers. My job is to hold passengers on the plane until the driver gives me an actual thumbs-up. Their job is to, after they've brought over the jetway, attach the vinyl curtains to the adapter (presumably to stop passengers from plummeting lemming-like over the sides) and lower the rainguard, which is the big accordion-looking ceiling that leans forward from the jetway. Now I already know that jetway drivers (who are also gate agents) hate flight attendants because we can count. And that's why, after they've accomplished the Herculean task of getting jetway, adapter, and plane to meet, some drivers saunter through these two tasks, eyeing me the whole time as if to say, "You know you're waiting on me, right?" What's painful about this is that the vinyl curtains can be pre-attached (as I've seen done) and the rainguard can be lowered as people are getting off, especially when it's not raining. Also, the rainguards are usually so rusty that they screech Amazing Grace while moving. Today, while we were waiting for passengers to arrive, the jetway driver just started rolling the thing back and forth, ostensibly to while away the time. The world was almost short one driver.
So now you know that there is such a thing as a jetway driver, and that you should get out of a car that one is driving. You might also know that I've become a bitter hag. Pay no attention.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Closer To The Hat

In Calgary this last time, I got to see just how close I've gotten to achieving my lifelong dream of visiting the city of Medicine Hat.

One day.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Bag Salmon

By now, I've gotten pretty good at gauging whether a bag being brought on board by a passenger is going to fit in the overhead bins. Even if a bag is right at the threshold, you can still usually work it in depending on your technique. But some of them are just way too ridiculous, amounting to trying to plug a Scottish caber into an electrical socket. And the passengers with these refrigerator-sized bags always say the same thing: "It's all right, it'll fit."
I explain that no, it totally won't fit.
"It fit on the last plane," they nod knowingly, as if there were absolutely no possibility that there is more than one make of plane out there.
"OK," I say, knowing what's going to happen. "Try it and see." What's going to happen is that they're going to become a Bag Salmon.
I can't explain the transformation process, because I'm always stuck in the front and have never seen it occur. Perhaps if I saw the passenger's facial expressions, I could hazard a guess as to what's going on in their head. I always imagine that they get there, try to stuff the bag in unsuccessfully, then say aloud, "Well, I'll be. I'm wrong as all hell. That incredibly handsome boy with the keen new blazer was right!" Well, whatever happens back there, up where I am, it's always the same... the line of passengers entering the plane slowly grinds to a halt. They begin to shift uncomfortably. One clever wit says, "REVERSE!" And after a few moments of watching the passengers backpedal all over the galley trying to find a space in which to exist, I see the cause; it's the knowing passenger with the refrigerator, clawing his way past and over everyone in the aisle to bring me his bag, right then and there. He has now fully become a Bag Salmon.
"Uh, this bag won't fit," he says, in a tone of voice that suggests we have never spoken before. I try vainly to grab the bag, which is difficult, because both my elbows have been forced together next to my chin by the guy stuffed on top of me. And then he calmly and obliviously marches back to his seat, having no idea that he has just made intimate friends out of between seven and ten total strangers.
Like I said, I'm not sure what happens during the Bag Salmon transformation. I'm not sure what makes someone think that, instead of sitting down and holding on to your oversized bag for three minutes until everyone's on board, it would be better to halt all forward progress and make a spectacle of yourself by plunging against traffic and all common sense to get your individual bag issue taken care of right now. I can only surmise that it's not caused only by bags. There are such things as Trash Salmon, who bludgeon their way forward to announce that there was a cookie wrapper in their seat and would I throw it away for them. There are also Seat Switch Salmon, who need my help to figure out that if there is someone in their seat, and an empty seat in the next row, that they should carpe the diem. And there are also I Forgot My Inconsequential Item Salmon, who throw a monkey into the wrench getting up to me to exclaim that they left their OK! Magazine in the bag they just left outside, and can they go get it.
It's always wonderful to have to opportunity to see how different people behave when they believe they are behaving normally.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Well, It Finally Happened

While I was making the pre-taxi announcement, my friend Josh called, which made my cell phone ring exactly while I was talking about how all cell phones must be turned off.
Josh, you're a bastard.

Sunday, February 03, 2008


My heightened sense of hyperbole usually drives me to insert into every story I tell an opportunity for me to be killed. Do not believe these lies. However, something happened the other day that could have actually killed me. We call this thing cabin overpressurization.
So we land in Salt Lake City, and usually what I do when we do that is open the door. But the pilots (luckily) caught me before I did this, and told me to hold off on the door opening. "Why?" I ask.
"Oh, because we're getting what may be a false reading on the cabin pressure. Just, uh... just don't open the door."
I knew what that meant. In training, they tell you that if the door ever whistles or hisses when you're on the ground, or if it's really hard to get open, to LEAVE IT THE HELL ALONE. Those symptoms indicate that there's more air pressure inside the cabin than outside, and when you open the cabin door in a situation like that, equalization will blow the entire door off the plane, and you go quickly with the door. There are stories of FAs blasting out of the door hatch and breaking their faces off on the ramp. Not just breaking their faces, mind you. Breaking them off. So you can imagine me there in the galley, shrinking away from the door that just a few moments ago seemed innocuous, but now seemed to be lying in wait with a metaphysical evil grin.
"It's OK now," the pilots say. "You can go ahead and crack it."
Well, the fact that the whole situation had been brought about by a false reading didn't instill a lot of confidence in me, but I grabbed ahold of the galley bulkhead, asked myself if I wanted to live forever, and opened the door. Somewhere between cranking the handle and pushing the door open, I decided that yes, I did want to live forever. And unfortunately for those of you who were hoping to a thrilling and gory end to this story, the door plopped open and everyone got off not knowing I could have been exploded into spinning chunks.
You could imagine that did happen, though, if you're disappointed. Just imagine me saying something cool on the way out.