Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Flying with kids.... *gasp*

Flying with children...

dun dun dunnnnnn.

You are going on a vacation, somewhere exciting. Exciting enough to bring your beloved offspring. I know you want to make the plane ride easy and uneventful. We all do. Especially Mr. Grumpy pants sitting in front of you.

Here are some helpful hints:

#1 Do NOT load them up with sugar. I know you think this will appease them and it will, until the sugar rush kicks in. Then you are in for a bumpy ride regardless of turbulence! Their seatbelt won't seem to want to stay on, the tray table now holds some sort of unique fascination. Putting it up, slamming it down, putting it up, slamming it down. Armrests will not go unnoticed. They will also kick the seat and watch in wonder as the man's head in front of them bobbles back and forth as they do all three at the same time. The Skymall magazine will become confetti and their once angelic voice will rise to a decibel that muffles even the loudest airplane engine as they start asking questions. Lots of questions. The book you were hoping to read or the nap you were hoping to take will be a long lost fantasy.
Instead pack healthy food, preferably something that isn't sticky, stinky and doesn't crumble into a thousand tiny pieces. Airlines rarely carry food anymore. No food equals no utensils. Pack smart.
#2 Bring them something to do. Playing cards like Uno and Go Fish, coloring books, books to read, a video game, a dvd player (with the batteries fully charged). Remember to bring headphones, as much as your son loves the sound of Elmo's laugh, it's not amusing to us all.
#3 Bring a carseat. Most of us use car seats on a daily basis and kids have gotten used to them. It's like their little nest. If they are under two, you don't even have to purchase a ticket for them (providing the flight has empty seats), but bring a car seat anyway. Maybe you will get lucky, there will be an empty seat and you will get to use it. Your life will be so much better and they know what to expect. It's like built in bondage for the wee ones.
#4 Monkey see, Monkey do. If you get up when the seatbelt sign is on, they will too. If you make that one last call as the plane is pushing back, Ding! on goes their game boys. Little Susie and Little Johnny are watching you. They are ALWAYS watching you. Be respectful of the rules and so will they.
#5 Clean up your row!
Kids are messy and gross, I know, I have them. From wiping boogers on their bedroom walls to not changing their underwear for days on end... I do not expect any parent to clean up after their kids at home. You can live in total squalor for all I care (I won't be coming over) But on an aircraft, or any public place for that matter, it is your duty! Please don't look sheepish while walking off the plane and apologize for the mess... JUST CLEAN IT. All those crackers, cheerios, banana peels, dirty diapers, snot rags, wet wipes.... get rid of it when the flight attendant comes by one out of the 100 times to collect trash. Don't shrug your shoulders and dismiss the mess like no one will notice. One of these days an edgy flight attendant on her last day will most likely chase you out into the terminal and embarass you in front of everyone announcing what a pig your family is! Mark my words people. Don't let it happen to you.
#6 Be the parent! Do not ask the flight attendant to tell your kid what to do b/c your own child won't listen to you. This is just sad. You are the one in control, act like it. The key is to be consistent. When a parent doesn't want to put a child in their own seat with a seatbelt b/c the child will cry.. I say "who cares?!" You will most likely never see these other passengers again. Your child's safety should be your number one concern.

Airplanes are amazing. The mechanics of it boggles my mind, but let's not forget that unexpected things can happen. Be it clear air turbulence, careening off the runway, hitting a flock of birds or crashing. This is the reason we have so many rules and regulations coming from departments with acronyms like the FAA, TSA, FAMs and the NTSB.

Wow! That got really heavy for a second. Just remember, the flight attendants and the airlines do not make this stuff up as we go along. We are doing it because we have to to keep you and your loved ones safe. That's what we get paid to do.

Just do what we say and nobody gets hurt! *smile*

Sunday, November 22, 2009

A few of my least favorite things...

I was trying to come up with a version of "A Few of My Favorite Things" the flight attendant version, unfortunately these things kept coming up. Like bile.

This is an ode to things I ABHOR....

These are the things of which I abhor,

The wet dog smell in the AM and the ugly decor,
The captain's driving skills making me sore,
Mouths gaping open and people who snore,
Not flushing or closing the bathroom door,
Shaking your ice when you want a cup more,
Shoving and poking and prodding galore,
Newspaper, peanuts and crap all over the floor,
Googley-eyed business men hoping to score,

Now I ask you, what are the things that YOU abhor?

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Little Differences

You know what the funniest thing about Europe is? It's the little differences. I mean they got the same shit over there as they got here, but over there it's just a little different.

Vincent Vega, Pulp Fiction

This is how I feel about flight attendants. Not just those who work for the many various airlines. Not the uniforms, the routes, the inflight service or lack thereof but the stewardess/steward themselves.

First off, when we think of a flight attendant we think of a young, bodacious, 20-something year old, multilingual, single (and by single, I mean easy) woman. WRONG.
Way back in neanderthal times (and maybe in Europe), airlines could get away with hiring only young, attractive, single women with nursing degrees at a weight directly proportionate to their height. That's when we were stereotyped. When they wore pill box hats, white gloves and carved meat at altitude. You couldn't be married or have children. Because at the time one definitely went with the other.
Some of the ladies still flying today on the major carriers came from that era... and LOOK IT! They are making crazy money for working a Paris turn here or there and will most likely die on the airplane before they would ever think of retiring. You'll have to pry their cold dead hands off the beverage cart!

What happened? you may ask yourself. Lawsuits broke the mold.

These days, you can't discriminate for age, gender, ethnicity, weight, sexual orientation, religion etc etc etc etc etc. About the only criteria (from what I've noticed) is to:
1.) be ambulatory.
2.) able to pass Barbie Bootcamp.
3.) fit down the aisle, (turning sideway appears to be okay)
4.) speak english (even if no one can understand you)
5.) show up on time and have a good attitude (at least through the probationary period)

So with that in mind, we are all different. Brown hair, blonde, redhead and variety of each. Long hair, short or bald, Facial hair or not (preferably for men). Size... well anything goes! Age is just a number. Attitude at altitude is everything. For some. Young, old, gay, straight, man, woman, tall, short, thin, not-so-thin, educated or not. We all fly, do the same job, serving drinks and saving lives!

Beyond just looks, gender, religion, ethnicity, moral makeup, marital status and sexual orientation we are all different in what we like about our job. Some flight attendants only like working during the week. Some thrive on weekends. Some like only working AM trips, some would rather die than fly an AM.
We like short hops or long hauls, overseas or domestic. Some like to work in first class, some abhor it. Some make the job fun and roll with every little nuance (or annoyance one might say). Others create drama out of anything and roll their eyes so many times it's as if they're watching clothes in a dryer.
Some want to party and get crazy on their layovers, some want to hole up in their rooms and read. Some think the pilots are sexy and funny, I do not, oops, I mean some do not. Some go the extra mile for the passenger and some lost the race a long time ago. Some are by the book about every little thing and some only open their manuals once a year for training purposes.

The job is what you make it. It can be flexible and fun. There have been times over the years, after having kids, that I dreaded flying off, leaving my babies and going to work. However, as the years pass, I find it easier and easier and have been known to count down the minutes until my escape, er umm trip.

What I'm trying to say is... don't try and pigeon hole us. We're unique and wonderful creatures with a vagabond spirit and a burning desire of a thousand suns to spread cheer and cocktails across the world!


Friday, July 3, 2009

Potty Talk

"Sir, sir, you need to be seated. The fasten seat belt sign is on and the captain has asked the flight attendants to be seated as well"


"Ummm.... no, I mean YES. Yes, I would love to see a grown man wet his pants in public!" Who wouldn't?

Really? I mean really really? I find this hard to believe no matter how many times I've heard it. Now I am not one to scoff at the idea of peeing one's pants because I myself have done it. However, it usually has involved laughing hysterically, being tickled, a powerful sneeze or the dreaded trampoline incident.

People come onto the plane and ask where the bathrooms are because they have to be close. We are on a plane. Depending on what type of aircraft it is, the bathrooms are no more than 100 feet away FROM EACH OTHER. So even if you sit in the middle, cut that distance in half. Now I ask you.... how close does one need to be?

Some other tidbits of information I've had the privilege of hearing are:

"I've had half my bowels removed and I have to go."
"I think I ate something bad, I have diarrhea."
"That coffee went right through me."
"Prostate problems."
"I have an infection."
"I'm taking diuretics."
"You should see how many times I go at night."

No. No I shouldn't.

People, I do not need to know why you need to use the bathroom. I don't want to know what you're doing in there. And please don't give me details. My imagination is active enough without a vivid description of the rash you may or may not have. I will have that visual with me for the remainder of my days. No thank you.

Another thing that boggles my mind is when people can't find the bathroom. They are small, I will grant you that. But do you really think the big doors with the slides attached and the bright orange strap across the tiny, little window (just the fact that it has a window should be a clue) labeled EXIT is one of them? Hmmmm.
The skinny closet door isn't it either. This door is maybe 8 inches across. You would have trouble getting in that even if you were a 6 year old child turning sideways.
Here's a hint... it's the one that says LAVATORY and has a lock on it. By the way, you need to close the door completely for the lock to engage (duh). And no, you do not have to be a magician to open it. Contrary to popular belief the bathroom door isn't spring-loaded either. So when you come out, shut it for me will you? That is our kitchen, our work space. The place where we eat our food and take a breather. And THAT is the last thing we want to breathe in.

Also... 9 times out of 10 that fluid on the floor ISN'T water so WEAR YOUR SHOES FOR PETE'S SAKE! Also, yes you can use the bathroom while on the ground, and no, we do not empty the tank while flying. Gross.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Crash pads!

What happens when you live in one city and you work out of another? You commute. You are a commuter. You make a conscious choice to live in beauty and grandeur surrounded by your friends and family on your days off. You have a nice home, drive nice cars, a wonderful husband, loving children and a fuzzy little dog that greets you at the door. It's utter utopia.

But what happens when you go to work? (See "Commuting Bites"). In addition to flying nonrev to your base, you get the opportunity to pick your own hotel room and pay for it as well.

Now I do have to say, that when the airline picks up the tab while we are working, we are a fickle group of folks. We like certain beds, coffee makers, hair dryers and shower heads. We can't be too close to the elevators or ice machines but not too far away either. The hotel has to be properly situated near something to do. Preferably not by the airport but by nightlife or shopping of some sort. The food in the restaurant needs to be good with a significant discount and van service wherever we want to go, whenever we want to go there. The work out room needs to be top of the line and the towels soft. This is the short list!

Keeping this in mind, commuting can get expensive. Especially if you are a new flight attendant (a.k.a broke) sitting reserve. Scheduling doesn't always need you to work. So a long time ago, to alleviate the financial hardship, some very frugal flight attendants came up with the idea of a crashpad.
Why anyone would name anything "crash" while working in the airline industry is beyond me. However, they serve a purpose. While on reserve, instead of paying for 3 or 4 nights in a hotel a week waiting to see if scheduling uses and abuses you.... you can hook up with many different flight attendants and share a room.

In theory this works and it works well. One person is going while another is coming, ships passing in the night. In reality it goes a little something like this: 20 people pay $250 each for a 10x10 room with two queen size beds in the hopes that 9 people are working, 7 people have the day off and 2 people are on vacation. That leaves one other person to share a room with. No problem.

However, this is rarely ever the case. It's more likely that no one has discussed what schedules they will all bid and since they are all most likely new they are all working reserve on the same days, weekends.
This can build/break great friendships, start romances or end marriages. (Not all flight attendants are female and not all male flight attendants are gay, hell not all female f/a's are straight!) Good times will be had, memories made, cat fights will ensue, rumors started and oh the pranks.....

Now back to the kinds of hotel rooms we purchase for ourselves..... they are the closest ones to the airport, usually in unseemly areas. The beds are hard, the showers tiny, the towels rough and the decor is despicable. There are no amenities, the ice machine is broken, the elevator smells and the bedspreads (yes I said bedspreads) have all seen better days. There are stains on the chairs and the heater/air conditioner may or may not work. But look at the bright side... you get to share stories with the other 19 people in room!

Friday, May 8, 2009

White knucklers

A few of my non-flying friends have told me that they watch the flight attendants throughout the flight to make sure everything is going as planned. If there's turbulence, the first thing they do is look to see what the flight attendant is doing. If I'm up and moving about, it's business as usual. If I'm strapping up in my jumpseat, then they better hold on, they are in for a bumpy ride. This is all true.

Now if, while strapped in, I get out my knitting, rag mag or lunch and proceed to make use of my unscheduled break time on the jumpseat, then not to worry. Bumps are not life threatening. However, don't be a cowboy and get up to use the bathroom or ring the bell for a drink. Even though you may desperately need one at this point my white knuckled friend.

If there is a funky noise mid-cabin and I stop, cock my head, get a puzzled expression on my face and then make a bee-line to call the captain, that's not a good sign.

If my fellow flight attendant gets a call on the interphone, immediately straps up in his/her jumpseat, makes the sign of the cross and starts rocking back and forth.... that's a bad sign as well.

If for some reason, the crew starts claiming all the pillows and blankets, taking down their hard sided luggage, asking people for their belts and ties then head towards the back of the aircraft. You're going to wish you had a parachute.

If you see a flight attendant wearing some sort of space age, oxygen producing, breathing apparatus while running towards smoke with a fire extinguisher in hand... Douse yourself with your water bottle (not your scotch on the rocks) and hold on. This could get interesting.

We are trained to do this all with a smile on our face and a calm, reassuring voice. After a particularly hard landing, we are thinking the same thing you are..."Holy Sh*t!, I almost died!"
Sometimes we say that anytime, could just be a paper cut. Flight attendants tend to have a flair for the dramatic!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Commuting bites...

Commuting is hard work. Commuting adds hours, if not days, to my work week. First, there's lobbying for a seat. A non-rev is the absolute last person to get on board. I fly free yes, but that also means I am the lowest person on the totem pole. Even after that guy that was too drunk to fly the last few flights and has since taken a nap on the floor in the gate area to sleep it off. He smells like stale alcohol, BO and vomit.... I am even after him.

If the gate agent takes pity on me or deems me worthy of a seat, they may give me a boarding pass prior to 30 seconds before they close the door. Even *gasp* 20 minutes ahead of time. While taking the pass from their hand, they hold onto it, clenched fist, staring into your eyes and give you a warning that they could, at any time, for any reason, take this little piece of pleather real estate away from me. So don't get too comfortable. *insert evil laugh here*
This is all on my own airline. Try flying standby on another airline. I'm not only after the smelly alcoholic, but I'm after their own employees, their employee's family members, the gate agent's uncle's friend's brother's car mechanic's ex step-daughter's cousin twice removed. I just keep smiling, I'll get there. Someday.

When I finally do cross over the threshold, into the jetway and from the jetway into the actual airplane, I am dead last. I will get the middle seat in a non-reclining row, next to the bathroom and the one screaming lap child. There isn't any space for my luggage so I had to check it at the door. No problem. I am just -oh-so-thankful I am there.

However, until that entry door closes, I am holding my breath, the voice of the gate agent echoing in my brain.... "anytime, for any reason....." In fact, I never feel completely comfortable until the gear is up and we soaring above 5,000 feet. But never ask for anything. Ever. For any reason. Ever.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Betty is bloody blogging!

I'm new to this whole blogging thing. It's silly really. Writing what I do in a day, what my thoughts are, how I like my martinis and whatnot for the whole world to read, or at least the very bored anyway, is strange.

I've been an airline hostess for my entire adult life. When I thought about being a stewardess it was all about glamour, travel, seeing different countries and having new experiences...... Little did I know it was more about smashing luggage into bins, taking drink orders, nagging people about seatbelts and electronic devices and picking up trash.

Alas, unlike the most flight attendants, I am not here to complain about my job. I am just going to highlight the things I see and maybe even educate a few novice travellers on how to fly smart. I may have a laugh at random experiences at the expense of someone else and possibly, at times, even me.

So sit back, relax and enjoy the ride.