>>> The Rollercoaster of Drama
By staff writer Simonne Cullen

February 24, 2008

I don’t know about everyone north of the Mason-Dixon Line, but I am fucking sick of this weather. It’s completely menopausal. One moment it’s warm and cozy, and the next moment there’s a deep freeze. Everything is icy and frozen, and we all look like a bunch of overweight polyester rhinos knocking into each other with our massive triple-layered jackets on. You have to hand it to the girls who are so desperate for spring weather that they are still trying to rock the “UGG boots with skirt” look though—then pity them as they are forced to walk their $200 boots through muddy slush because they have no money left to take a cab.

So I know I haven’t been writing recently. It has a lot to do with my new job, a lot to do with my new schedule, and little to do with my new addiction to Scrabulous. The tough thing about my new life as a flight attendant is that it’s hectic; the cool thing is that it sure does provide a lot of material.

When I go through security every morning, one of the security guys always chats with me. He asks me where I’m flying, and I always reply with some destination that is either below freezing or a small city in a flyover state (e.g. Winnipeg or Omaha). We laugh and he wishes me a nice flight and 3 minutes of our lives are better because it was filled with witty banter and not rage that I have to put my stinky work shoes on the conveyor belt and try to blame the stench on the guy in front of me.

“Random trips make me feel that I haven’t quite given in to the corporate world completely.”

Mr. Security is a much older guy, and one day, out of nowhere, right in front of his co-workers, anxious passengers, Jesus, his father The Almighty, and a couple of pilots I was flying with that afternoon, he asked me out to Red Lobster. I, of course, think he is joking and agree as long as he can handle paying for an all-you-can-eat lobsterfest, since I have the ability to store three dead lobster and butter sauce in my stomach, aka NASA’s Black Hole.

Well, he sees my cell phone sitting in the security-issued bin and plugs his number in right there, making me promise to call when I get back from my trip. The passengers in line are smirking, my pilot friends are suppressing their mocking laughter, I am open mouth in horror that he thinks I accepted his advances, and Jesus is unsympathetic to the whole situation as he is pissed that I was prideful in bragging about my lobster-eating abilities. So now I have to get to work extra early to use another security entrance a quarter mile walk from my crew lounge just to avoid him. And I no longer have anyone but myself to blame for the unpleasant smell of my feet.

Let me give those of you who are not seasoned travelers some advice. If at all possible, avoid making connecting flights at O’Hare Airport. Chicago winter weather is atrocious. If it’s not a blizzard, then it’s poor visibility from snow that’s already on the ground being whipped around by a very strong wind. In these kinds of conditions there are passengers who make you begin to doubt that we have evolved to walking upright when they angrily demand I tell the Captain to “remove the snow and gale force winds immediately! I have to make my connecting flight to New York City for a spa treatment by 11!” I smile and say, “I’ll see what I can do,” when what I really want to reply with is “Sure lady, the Captain has Mother Nature on speed dial. He’ll promptly inform her about the injustice her blizzard wrath has created for the bejeweled woman in seat 5B.”

Then there are the passengers who reassure me that the human race is doing just fine, and can unite together in times of hardship. A couple of weeks ago there was another blinding snow storm—the 8,000th of the year. Stuck in Moline, there were several passengers on board (complete strangers to each other) who decided to split a rental car and drive back to Chicago, while others used their iPhones to assist a mother of four in finding a bus schedule. Everyone seemed to find the glass half full—except me. This was supposed to be a day trip, then I was to jump on a plane to Honolulu. There was no rental car or bus schedule in my future; I had to stay with the fuselage. So if you should find yourself delayed by weather conditions, be nice to the crew on the aircraft—chances are they want to get back to Chicago more than you do…and can’t.

I really do love my new job. Random trips and random schedules make me feel that I haven’t quite given in to the corporate world completely, and everyone in the airline industry is usually so extroverted that there’s never a dull moment—even on the three-hour flight to Montana with no in-flight movie to occupy the small children whose shoes I constantly trip over as they decide the cabin is their new dumping ground. But I don’t know of an office job with a view like mine that allows you to play Barbie or Monster Trucks with their clients, and that’s pretty cool in my book.

But because everyone spends their day in four different times zones, there can be tasks that take on some serious confusion. Like, no one knows what time to take their birth control pills. If you take it every day at noon Eastern Standard Time, and you cross into Central and Mountain Time, it’s noon three times in one day. My one friend just sets her watch alarm to go off at 3pm CST and wherever she is she drops what she’s doing to take it. Once, when the landing gear went down and her alarm went off at the same time, there was no time to get a bottle of water, so she just chewed that sucker dry like a Tic-Tac. Which I can only imagine tastes like aspirin, only it’s all chalky chemical hormones. I hope her boyfriend realizes just how lucky he is.

I’m going to wrap this article up with a true story about my friend “Herman” (yes, he picked that name out himself). I fly with Herman constantly because we’re both on reserve and we get the early morning trips that no one wants (like Omaha and Wichita) so we’re like two kindred spirits who only have ridiculous things happen to them at these random places. I call this story “Herman and the Apple Debacle.”

Recently, Herman was on a three-day trip to Charleston. Instead of utilizing his airline-issued lunch bag, he lived off mini-marts and grocery stores. Well eventually he got this craving for apples, because apples are a tasty treat, and decided to hit up a mom and pop grocery store near his hotel. Now try to keep up with the time frame here. He left his hotel 5 minutes to the hour expecting to be back no later than 5 minutes after the hour. His actual time of arrival was one hour and seventeen minutes later.

He arrived at the store and selected two medium-sized granny apples, put them in a bag, and went to the check-out lanes. Only there was no plural. There was only one lane and one cashier and at least fifteen people in line with cartfuls of food and small children who, again, couldn’t seem to keep their shoes on their feet and instead dumped them wherever they fell. You’d think that the customers ahead of Herman would have seen him with his lone apple purchase and allowed him to cut, but no such luck. 45 minutes and 14 grocery carts later, he was next in line to be rung up.

The woman ahead of him looked at his apples, looked at her cartful, and looked back at his apples again. Herman, thinking for sure she’d let him go ahead, was preparing his thank you speech when she started putting her items on the conveyor belt. Herman, about to gouge his eyes out with his Slim Jims (the only pointy object in the checkout lane) kept his building rage intact. 48 items and the endless process of bagging groceries later, the tab for this lady came to $145. So she whipped out her wallet and decided she was going to pay for her groceries with—and I kid you not—a Chick-fil-A gift card.

The cashier tried to explain that they only accept MasterCard or Visa, not a swipe card for a shotty chicken restaurant, but the lady didn’t understand. Nor did she speak English, Spanish, or French, nor was she Asian or Chinese, and eventually Japanese and Korean were ruled out. Herman perhaps thought she was the last woman on earth who spoke Creole because the language barrier was so much that she got frustrated and left the store—without her groceries or her Chick-fil-A gift card. The cashier pocketed the gift card and instead of voiding the entire transaction, proceeded to debag all the groceries and void them out individually. Herman stared at her resentfully with his two apples clung to his chest.

Finally it was Herman’s turn, but she ran out of register tape. Herman, thinking if he didn’t get out now, would surely die a natural death there, whipped out two dollars, slung it at the cashier, and, not feeling hungry by that time, took his apples back to the hotel room with him. He saved his hard-earned green granny apples and arrived the next day in Calgary for a second day layover. He arrived at the customs line and declared that he had two granny smith apples as produce in tow. Sure enough, the customs agent informed him that American apples are not allowed to cross into Canadian territory, and he must dispose of them immediately.

A blood vessel in Herman’s right eye popped. He calmly pulled out his apples and in front of the customs agents, his crew, two bomb detecting German Shepherds, some Canadians, and a Japanese tour group, began to inhale it like it was a corn on the cob eating contest. He then ripped into the second one and only made it halfway through before deciding that perhaps these granny smiths were never meant to be in his belly. He handed the half-eaten apple and the core of the first apple to the customs agent, now staring at him resentfully, and crossed the border without any illegitimate produce.

Like I said, never a full moment in this industry. Ever.