Friday, November 4, 2016

If Anyone Falls: My 24 Karat Night with Stevie Nicks

What can I say when I’m speechless? I suppose that’s why they call it speechless and why it’s taken so long after the show for me to begin to comprehend what I was going through for the 90 minute-plus Stevie Nicks show at Houston’s Toyota Center on October 29, 2016. As the show began to wrap up and I knew the Goddess of Rock and Roll was about to leave my presence, words did come to mind, but they were not the kind of words I’d want my grandmother to read. If you are sensitive to salty language or are my grandmother, skip the next sentence. “Fuck, shit, dammit, oh my gods!” I’m not sure why these words came to mind, other than the fact that I was simply speechless and overcome by emotion as I once again witnessed the twirly, lace-ridden, husky-voiced poet sing her heart out to the crowd. And I didn’t want it to end. 


At least I had matured. I still recall the times she would take to the stage and I would weep like a girl; and finally understand the reaction of so many youth to the Beatles. Stevie is my Beatles, and so much more. Her songs have inspired me. Her poetry and lyrics are crafted in ways that have really made me think about how songs are written. The way she has managed her desires to be a singer, to be on stage, to be a rock star, and her careful crafting of her image are things many artists and fans look up to.

My fascination for her began in the 80s Mirage era Fleetwood Mac; music videos of her sitting in the desert on a settee in a red dress; her gypsy visage twirling through glitter and in the rain. She had me with her vision, her words and that voice.

Circumstances kept me from seeing her previous two tours, but having seen her live so many times...and honestly, I can’t count them all, having seen her usually more than once for each tour...I’m sure it’s more than twenty was disappointing but not something I couldn’t live through.

It was with this in mind, the fact that I’d not spent money on seeing her in five years, that had me splurge on this tour, buying VIP tickets, seated fifth row center, and receiving some nice gifts in the mail. I splurged on my finery, as well, taking advantage of the show being just days before Halloween. I felt if there was a time to really deck myself out for a show in the conservative city of Houston, this was my chance. I wore my double-breasted waistcoat with tails, bedecked with crowns, ribbons and a photo button of Miss Nicks. And the pièce de ré imperial crown covered in jewels.

There were several reasons behind the imperial look. I felt like it. I’d spent a lot of money on this show, and wanted to look like I had. I worked very hard to clear my schedule to attend, and I wanted to make an impact. I liked the idea of thinking that after the show, Stevie and her band would be discussing the performance and the crowd, and surely, Miss Nicks would posture, “Did anyone see the guy wearing the crown?” Yup. A lot of people did. I was hard to miss, even from up on stage.

Penguin in heaven in his front and center seat

As I neared the arena, I started hearing comments and feeling stares. I was expecting a lot of questions, “Who are you supposed to be? Where are you from? Why are you wearing that?” But instead of negativity, what I got was more along the lines of, “Wow, I love your crown. You look great! Your highness! Hey, King!” I also got a lot of photo requests and was more than happy to oblige, especially for the two young women from Puerto Rico. There were a lot of high fives and when complimented, I was sure to do so in return. If they’re going to lift me up, I’ll bring them along with me.

My favorite comment, heard more than once, was the question of where my queen was. The simple, obvious answer being, “Back stage, getting ready for the show.” It was fun standing out in the crowd and seeing people out of the corner of my eye taking photos of me.

Chrissie Hynde
One of the first things to really hit me about the night, as the lights dimmed for the opening act, was how, in my anticipation to see Stevie in concert, I’d neglected to remember that the opening act was also one of my all-time favorites- The Pretenders. Chissie Hynde’s voice, after all these years, is still phenomenal! She hit the highs as if this were still 1986 and she seemed vibrant and lively. One could tell she was enjoying being on stage with James Wallbourne and the rest of the great band. She played a few songs I was not familiar with, then a bunch of the ones I knew well, so I stood and sang along and danced.

James Walbourne

I could have listened to The Pretenders for much longer than their allowed time on stage, but the real reason for the night was, after all, Stevie Nicks. During the transition on stage, I was able to visit a close friend to pass the time.

The Pretenders

Waddy Wachtel
The hall darkened. The crowd rose and cheered. Old, familiar faces came on stage; her lead guitarist, Waddy, her musical director, Carlos, her singers, Sharon and Marilyn. Then, from the darkness and into the spotlight...Miss Nicks, all smiles, clad in flowing black gowns and glowing blond hair.

She commanded the stage, singing like an angel, chatting the audience up a bit, commenting on the history of the songs she was singing. The band was great and while I went into this thinking I would not bother with any photos, I couldn’t resist taking a few.

 Chrissie joins Stevie for Stop Draggin' My Heart Around

As for being noticed, I could tell that I was. While singing “If Anyone Falls”, the second song in the set, she gave me the ‘I see you’ sign, moving her two fingers from her eyes to mine. I thought I’d drop to my seat, but I just smiled, gave her a wink, and kept singing along. My wild heart beating heavily.

Rhiannon was performed, and when singing, “Rulers make bad lovers, you better put your kingdom up for sale…” she looked right at me and placed her hand above her head to mimic a crown! I nearly died.

I’ve been on stages and I know the light can be blinding and the crowd difficult to see, and this is why it’s great to be so close to the stage when you want to be seen by the artist. She was only about 20 feet away from my seat. I am sure she didn’t, and it’s all in my head, but all evening, it was as if she was watching me as much as I was watching her. It seemed as if she was watching me sing along with her. I just hoped I wouldn’t mess her up, as she’s known for changing words or the cadence of live songs. For much of the show, I felt as if it was just she and I standing in a room singing along together. I focused on her, watching her eyes seemingly look straight back to me, caressing the ribbons on her mic stand and belting out classic after classic.

Between songs, I would cheer and shout things to her. She commented on her song Annabel Lee about taking great poems and putting them to music as a way to get around not being a good song poet. I shouted that she WAS a great poet. She looked back at me and gave me a smile before starting the next song. My heart be still!

As the show progressed, I kept thinking how the set list was one of the best I’ve ever heard her perform. She did so many of her greats and so many of the little gems she loves from her last album, 24 Karat Gold. When she twirled, the crowd went wild. When she sang, the crowd sang along. When the band rocked it, the crowd danced. And there was Penguin, in his crown and impressive jacket, cheering, singing and dancing all night long. It was over too soon!

My escape back home was quick, save for the fellow concert goers asking for photos and commenting on my regalia. I loved the attention. The night was all about Stevie, and my attire showed others the degree to which I had made my night about her. I got to my car quickly and encountered very little traffic, almost as if I had a ghost police escort and my pretend entourage was quickly on the freeway headed back to my home in north Houston. King Penguin’s audience with Stevie Nicks now just a memory pulsating in my head and veins.

“Did she make you cry? Make you break down? Shatter your illusions of love?
Is it over now? Do you know how to pick up the pieces and go home…” (From her song, Rhiannon.)

Yes. Nearly. Not exactly. It is. I am learning...but home is always changing and growing and I’m glad to have grown along with my favorite artist, Stevie Nicks. Please hurry back, Miss Nicks! The evening exceeded my expectations and I could use another dose of that kind of magic!

Stevie rocks it with Sharon and Marilyn

Set List:

Gold and Braid
If Anyone Falls
Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around (with Chrissie Hynde)
Belle Fleur
Outside the Rain
Wild Heart
Bella Donna
Annabel Lee
New Orleans
Moonlight (A Vampires’ Dream)
Stand Back
Crying in the Night
If You Were My Love
Gold Dust Woman
Edge of Seventeen
Leather and Lace

Monday, October 31, 2016

The Bell Rang

Well, that didn’t go quite as planned. It started out fantastic. I was 100% committed. I had fact, started doing so about 9 months ago, before I even purchased this home. But I could see it all quickly going downhill. My plans were not thorough enough. I'd miscalculated.

While not a complete failure, and how could it have been for all the planning, this was not how I wanted my first Halloween to go down in my new neighborhood. My reputation was on the line here. The house had been vacant for over a year before I moved and who knows what kind of people were living here before me? I had to do well!

Penguin on Halloween
The real work began about a month ago. I was the second house in the neighborhood to decorate for Halloween. I would have done so much sooner, but I didn’t want to be ‘that’ guy...the weird fellow who keeps to himself, hardly seen, yet puts out the jack-o’lanterns and orange lights just after the Forth of July. (I would have if I thought I could get away with it.) Once I saw that first house put their decorations out, it was on! Lights in the bushes, skulls, pumpkins, bats and a scary cat.

A week ago, after seeing some awesome party lights at a Halloween event I attended in Portland, OR, I added white dancing spiders and green floating witches that illuminated the front of my house. A few days ago I added a witch’s head, an arm reaching out from the bushes, and skulls on strings. I had a bat hanging from my porch light and 3 skulls on stakes, which lit up. And for the grand night, itself, I added a strobe light just behind the jack-o’lanterns that have kept watch over my yard from the living room windows the past month.

Just inside the hallway I set up a small table on which I put a creepy table cloth, 2 more jack-o’-lanterns, a candelabra covered in spiders and a few creepy grotesque faces with my bowl of treats. This year, I was giving out packages of Danish cookies! I had enough for 50 little ones; the little trick or treaters in their cute costumes, shyly (in only some cases, as it would turn out) pressing forth their plastic pumpkins, back packs or just plain old plastic grocery bags to gather their plunder of tootsie rolls, jolly rogers, dots, sour patch kids and fun-sized snickers to fill their lunch boxes until Christmas break, if they’re lucky! All that and the Danish cookie, I was giving out.

My table and treats

I’ve not done this in over 8 years. I’ve either lived in places inaccessible to kids (I lived in a back yard in-law apartment for six years in Pacifica, CA) or for 7 years I worked at a haunted house every October and was never home for Halloween. I’m out of practice. It’s a new neighborhood. I was not prepared for the amount of garbed little ones, and a few bigger ones in no costume at all. There were so many and they seemed to descend like starved locusts.

The first bell rang later than I was expecting; just after 7PM. It was a ninja and a little princess. Dressed in a black hooded robe, I answered the door, “You rang?” and acted like I had no idea that it was Halloween. Yeah, I always dress like this and I always have a dish of treats at the door! They loved it, though. And the next little dude, all of 7 years of age, dressed in regular clothes but wearing the mask of an old crotchety man (hello, mirror?) complimented my costume 5 times! He was my favorite!

A very young Penguin as Batman

Then came the Batmen and Supermen, an Incredible Hulk and an Elsa. There was a witch and several zombies. Each of the little ones wearing skeleton shirts I told, “You better eat your treats, you’re nothing but skin and bones!” The helicopter parents were there with many of them, keeping them safe, reminding them to say thank you, and in a few cases having to queue them, “Say trick or treat!” I must have been one of their first stops!

My cookies garnered many warm responses, but were dwindling fast. They came in groups. Each time the bell rang, there were 6, 9, or 12 kids. They traveled in packs. Or is it a murder? No, I’m pretty sure that’s only crows. It wasn’t 7:30 yet, and I was headed to the kitchen for the rest of the bag of cookies. Not enough. Soon, the bowl only had 3 cookies left! I began to panic.

What now? I looked through the pantry. I eyed tea sachets and packets of hot sauce. (Well, this IS Texas!) I began to sweat. I could hear more children coming down the street, see the SUVs and large pickup trucks slowly creeping down with them to keep an eye on things. The dark side of me began to think, the character that for so many years pulled the kind of screams from men and women that you normally only hear in horror movies, but this was no movie, it was me, a scary clown, looking at them and screaming back, “What are we screaming for? CLOWNS? I HATE clowns! Hehehehehe!” Being Whispers the Clown, making people scream and in some cases, wet their pants, was so therapeutic. It still is, when I get the chance...

Whispers the Clown, my alter ego

I remembered the kid, Charlie Brown. Everyone loves him. Everyone remembers how he went trick or treating and kept getting rocks. I could make the children’s day, I could send them away to actually say, “I got a rock. That weird guy that no one ever sees, who put out all the creepy things in his yard the day after Valentine’s Day, he gave me a rock.” But the sane part of me took over. I don’t take returns and I know that chances are good that giving a rock would only mean I’d be getting them back...and with shards of glass to have to clean up, as well.

Back to the pantry, the children, getting louder. I couldn’t turn my lights off just yet, it wasn’t even 8. Eureka! There were 3 bags of brownie brittle and 5 single sized bags of kettle corn. The bell rang. The bell rang. Then a knock. Eager little things. A pirate, a police officer, a parrot girl, 2 zombies, a princess and 2 skeletons...they took all I had. I saw more a few houses down. Those packets of hot sauce were starting to sound doable!

Back to the pantry. I had a box of pumpkin-shaped cookies; individually wrapped. I also had a box of chocolate chip granola bars. These were my little treats I travel with for those early morning flights when there isn’t much time for breakfast. Into the treat bowl they went. The pumpkin cookies went first. Then I started handing out the granola bars. I didn’t mention what I was putting in their treat bags. I didn’t want to be known as the guy who ran out of candy too early and started giving away odd items from all over the house (I actually eyed a cat toy for about 1/100th of a second). 

My house lit up at night

The bell rang, a couple of middle school aged boys with really no costume at all were standing before me. I silently threw the granola bars into their bags, hoping they wouldn’t notice until they got home. Damn the luck, as I closed the door, I heard the older boy exclaim, “He gave me a 90 calorie granola bar!” I’d never noticed they were only 90 calories! But there, in the dark, in my front yard, he could determine what I’d thrown into his bag, grabbed it, and the first thing he noticed was 90 calories. That guy’s going far in life, let me tell you!

I went back to the living room and took a seat. My neighbor across the street was entertaining a group I’d seen earlier. She closed the door and the kids, parents in tow, walked down the street. The lights in the house went off. First the porch lights, then the upstairs lights with the dragon in the window, then the inflatable pumpkin that had been puffed up for the past 3 weeks deflated and was now flat on the ground like a cow patty. They were done. I looked at my bowl and saw my last 4 granola bars. The clock chimed. It was 8 o’clock.

I went outside and looked up and down the street. Nothing. I was done. I had made it. I turned off my light show of spiders and witches. I unplugged the orange lights in the bushes and the 3 glowing skulls. I extinguished the jack-o’lanterns and stopped the strobe. Finally, the front porch light went off. 

Witches and spiders on my house

From outside, I could hear a groan and a small symphony of “Aww”s. I looked through the peep hole and saw a couple with a cute little girl in a ballerina outfit and her brother in a SWAT officer costume. I turned the porch light back on, opened my door and heard them exclaim, “Yay, he’s our hero, the best decorated house in all the land. His costume is the most awesome costume. All hail the great one who reveres Halloween and gives out the best treats. Behold the fall gourds carefully carved and still glowing, not from fire within, but from the sheer joy of celebrating the fall seasonal holiday of Halloween. Yay, oh yay!” 

OK, maybe some of that was just in my head, and I apologized that all I had left were a few more granola bars. But, hey, they’re only 90 calories each. I’ll do better next year! I promise.

Pumpkins, bats and the light show

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Adventures in Flight: Crew Rest

Finally, the tie is off, pockets are emptied, and my feet are happy not to bound in shoes walking the aisles. The first service is complete and the plane is at altitude en route to a far away destination. It's time for a crew rest.

On long-haul flights, once the initial service is complete, it's time for crew breaks. Crew breaks are sacred. Services are seemingly done quickly mainly to allow maximum time for crew break; that's what many senior flight attendants would have you to believe. When I get juniored into a position I'm not very familiar with, such as first class galley, I can usually get out of it by saying, “OK, I don't really know this position, so I may be a bit slow and the breaks may be shorter...” Someone always steps up and takes the position from me before I can complete the sentence. Don't mess with crew rest!

Depending on the length of flight and how many breaks there are (two or three), crew can look forward to anywhere from an hour to more than 3, out of view from passengers for a rest. Each plane has a different crew rest set up. The best is the 777 aircraft with the crew rest bunks in the belly of the plane. Situated in the center of the plane, one can enjoy lying flat with limited movement felt in flight. While the crew bunks in the 747 are comfortable, they are located at the tail of the aircraft, above the passenger area, and as you may know, the tail experiences more movement as it gets buffeted by the winds in flight. The least bit of turbulence is exaggerated in these bunks. They do have seat belts, and I have feared actually falling out of an upper bunk during turbulence. Shake, rattle and roll!

View down below
 The worst crew rest is located in the passenger cabin, separated only by a thick curtain. The seats don't lie flat and noise is hardly muffled from the riff raff just outside the curtain. Such is the case on the 767, which I fly most on my trips to South America and the 777 that Mother Airline uses for flights to Hawaii, which don't have the bunks in the belly of the plane.

It's nice to get settled in, turn the air on full-blast because I'm still overheated from the service, just start falling asleep, and then the infant that is always boarded next to us starts to cry. Well, maybe nice isn't the word. Or the passenger behind us decides to open their shade every 5 minutes and the bright light in the dark cabin creeps through the cracks between the curtain and the cabin wall like a tiny sun has formed just behind my head. (I think I could actually hear the light, it was so intense.) Or a nearby passenger has an empty water bottle at their feet and every 10 minutes their foot finds it and makes a crackly-plastic bottle sound that in my sleepy state sounds as if it is right over my head.

When I first started flying international trips out of San Francisco in the early 2000s, I watched what the others did and would do the same thing- ear plugs in the ears, eye mask, strip down to the basic uniform and dive under a blanket with 2 pillows. I never could sleep. Maybe it was the thrill of going to a new foreign destination, which back then, was quite rare for me and my insignificant seniority. Or maybe it's as I learned later on, that I simply can't sleep with earplugs in my ears and an eye mask digging into my head. I don't sleep like that at home, why would I think I could sleep like that in a crew rest bunk shaking like a hula dancer at 35,000 feet?

Night time departure

These days, I feel much more like a pro when it comes to crew rest. I prefer the first break, because it's hard coming off of break and going right into the arrival service. With first break, I can get my rest and then get up, have my crew meal (also sacred) and not be a sleepy-head when the second service begins. I also don't wake up very gracefully.

There is one bunk on the 747 known for being colder than the others; I prefer this one. I prefer to be next to the window when we must rest in the cabin behind the curtain; people are always walking past the curtain and bumping into me.

What's fun and entertaining is how passengers always try to move into the empty crew rest seats. I recently encountered a man quite proud of having acquired one on a full flight, leaving his center seat for a crew seat. I stopped by, said hello, and asked where his seat was. He stated this was his seat. I said that it couldn't be, because this was a crew rest seat and asked again where his seat was, knowing full well... He was quite determined and didn't seem to understand, so I asked, “Are a crew member? Are you working this flight?” He looked at me, the gleam in his eyes obviously dimming, “No.” “Then, I'm sorry, but you'll have to return to your seat, crammed in between two very large men on a 10 hour flight. These seats are reserved for working crew.” Inside voice was asking me if I enjoyed crushing human spirits.

Crew rest is sacred, so if you happen to be on a plane seated next to the crew break area, please be considerate, quiet, keep your window shades closed, your baby in silent mode, and for the love of the gods, do not disturb!
Shadows from the skies

Passenger of the Day: The Next Round is on Me

I was purser on a flight from Los Angeles. The flight wasn't full and it was a late departure. The sun had long ago set over the Pacific Ocean. I didn't get to see this one, but I've seen enough to know how it went down. (Excuse the double meaning.) The purples and pinks in the clouds with the blues in the skies above at altitude are unlike any sunsets on Terra firma.

There was a well dressed man seated in 2F. He had a certain calmness about him. He wasn't rushed, stressed or concerned. He was pleasant, smiled and kept to himself. The seat next to him was vacant, which is rare. He asked for a scotch after takeoff, thanked me and I left him to his reading.

After I had served all of my first class passengers, which was done fairly quickly, he called me over. “I wonder if I could ask you a favor, I'd like to buy everyone on board a drink. Would that be possible?”

I must have stammered a bit. I mean, no one has ever done anything like that. Maybe all of the history of flight! “Everyone? You mean, like all 100 or so passengers in the back?”

“Yes,” he said simply, sort of glancing back at the curtain separating the first class cabin from economy. “I'd like to offer to buy everyone a drink...anyone who would like one. You see, I'm a producer for several television shows, and we just won an Emmy, so to celebrate, I'd love to buy a round of drinks.”

“Well, to make that work, I'd have to make an announcement, otherwise, no one really ever buys a drink on these late flights. Are you sure you'd want me to do that?”

“I am,” he stated simply. Television producer buys a ticket in first class and wants to buy a round for the entire flight? Who am I to say no?

I quickly conferred with the crew, who were just about to come out into the aisle with their beverage cart. They were impressed and liked the idea. So I asked them to keep a tab on all the drinks and to bring it to me when they finished and Mr. Emmy would pay for it on his card. (I sure hoped that card was good!)

When I returned to first class, I let 2F know that we could accommodate his request, and made sure one final time that this is what he wanted before I announced it to the entire cabin. He handed me his credit card. “Oh, that's OK. You can hold onto it until we're done.”

“Ladies and gentlemen, excuse the interruption. Our beverage service is about to begin in the main cabin. A gentleman in first class is celebrating a big win and has offered to buy the first round of drinks. If you would like an adult beverage, please let us know, and if you're under 35, please have your photo ID ready. Thank you.”

The tab wasn't as large as I had expected; it was under $300. For a millionaire television producer, it would be like me buying you a coffee. It made his day, and he didn't ask me to do any advertising; no mention of his name or the television show. He simply wanted to buy some drinks for the flight.

The crew, on the other hand, was less than happy with me. They didn't realize that I was going to be making an announcement and charged me with greatly increasing their work load. I didn't realize handing out drinks to people was a big deal for people who have a job handing out drinks, but who knew? All they had to do was keep a tab of how many drinks they gave out: 8 beers, 18 minis, 9 bottles of wine. Just enter it into the hand held computer and run the card. Very simple, very easy.

Many passengers didn't even take him up on the offer, but everyone appreciated that the offer was announced. Mr. Emmy certainly got his wish and it did not set him back too far. I'm sure had he been on a larger plane that was full and taking off earlier in the day, the number on the hand held machine would have been more than my paycheck, but I have a feeling he still would not have bat an eye. Besides, I'm sure the tab was ultimately paid for by the television company. Thank you CBS! Next time, maybe I can be a passenger so I can enjoy a drink on your dime!

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Friday, August 19, 2016

Adventures in Flight: Threshold for Negativity

Negative of a plane over Chicago

I had just finished the dinner service in first class and was seated on the jumpseat to catch my breath. It was a long service, interrupted by turbulence in the stormy skies over West Texas and Southern New Mexico, compounded by having to feed the hungry pilots as well, and made worse by the fact that of my two ovens, one was inoperative. Dear Mia walked into the galley looking like she'd just run a race. It seems the service in coach was as rough.

We exchanged a few pleasantries after checking in on one another, when she told me that I needed to talk to the woman in 28F. The woman had already spoken to both flight attendants working in economy and was not happy with what either of them had to say. It was something about food being served and how much she spent on her tickets.

I had already dealt with three negative people earlier that day, so when I turned around to see the threshold of my ability to sanely deal with more negativity, I could no longer see it. That threshold was long gone, hurried along by 1A during our boarding process.

He had a bag that was preventing the overhead bin from closing. Neither Mia nor I were able to close the bin. I even turned the bag around to see if that would help. It didn't. I asked who the bag belonged to and found a bunch of faces silently looking at me as if I might break into song. Without a word, 1A gets up, stomps to my location at row 2, turns his bag around and then slams the ever-loving shiitake out of the door. It startled the women in 3A and B and the man in 1B looked terrified. Mia was there, looking at me with her mouth agape and eyes as wide as the Gulf of Mexico.

I followed him back to his seat and asked that he not treat our plane so roughly, or I'd might be forced to send him the bill for the damage. I should have reminded him that had he broken it, we'd have to empty the contents, check the bags and tape the bin closed, as that is what happens with a broken bin. Regardless, he was now on our radar and had best behave himself for the remainder of boarding or he'd find himself on a later flight to San Francisco.
Negative from the flight deck over clouds

I rolled my eyes at Mia, seated next to me on the jumpseat and asked if the woman in 28F had actually asked to speak to me. She had. There was no getting out of this one; I'd have to go back and deal with it.

It's amazing how a smile can disarm negativity. I started, maintained and left with a smile on my face when I got to 28F. I'm not sure where I found that smile, but surely it was just about the last one I had left. Waiting for me was a woman with a quaint British accent seated next to a young man who spoke under the same condition. She seemed a bit surprised that I actually came back to speak with her and she reminded herself that she was upset.

She started by telling me that she was amazed to be told there was no food when the flight attendants reached her row during the service. “We ran out of food?” I asked. “No, there was only food for purchase,” she replied. I told her that we no longer had complimentary food on our flights. When she asked how long this afflicted us, I found myself searching for a condensed version of Mother Airline going into bankruptcy many years ago, and how, to save money, one of the things we lost was free food in coach. But she had just flown in from London and received a meal. Yes, but that's international- this is domestic. This response required my giving her a few definitions, but I was all smiles.

The woman lost steam as we spoke and she became more and more pleasant, telling me she had spent over 2,000 pounds on her flight from London.

“Two thousand pounds? Why that's more than a rhino weighs.”
“Shut up, Inside Voice, this doesn't concern you!”

Soon we were chatting about the places I've lived, what to do in San Francisco for their 10-day holiday, and the lack of anything redeeming about fruit cake. By the time I walked back to the forward galley, my two friends from London in row 28 were all smiles, including the woman listening in behind them who had hoped to hear more tirades, but instead got an earful of pleasantries.

Mia couldn't believe how nice she was to me after giving she and Sue such a hard time over not eating on their 4 hour sit time in Houston and how we didn't have anything free to give her for her 2000 pounds sterling tickets.

As she and the young man left, they both shook my hand as I bade them a fantastic California holiday. She stopped to look in the cockpit and asked if she could thank the captain. “Oh, she just left,” I said. “As now must you!” said Inside Voice. I'm so happy Inside Voice stays inside or I could get in trouble. My new friend in 28F and her companion were nice, but the flight was late and I was ready to get to my hotel. “Buh-bye.”

Landing in SFO

Monday, August 8, 2016

Adventures in Flight: When Men Act Like Children

The woman I was working with was recently hired and was wide-eyed about many things; asking lots of questions and soaking things in like a sponge. She entered the aft galley at the tail end of the boarding process rolling her eyes, and gushed, “There was a fight in first class.” Without needing an explanation, I knew what she was talking about; passengers acting like third graders-- happens all the time. I asked her what it was about this time. Overhead bin space.

Our plane was leaving Denver and would set back down in the Oregon city of Portland. There were something like 30 seats open, and in first class, there were 5 seats open; this is a rarity. Tiffs usually break out on crowded flights. Empty flights are usually a piece of cake, but tonight that cake was fruit cake! No one wants fruit cake!

I had walked into first class and saw that there was a lot of open space in the overhead bins. Why would anyone be fighting in first class over so much space in the bins?

I was told it was much like watching TV's Frazier Crane arguing with Redd Foxx. It seems they both wanted to use the small bin over 1B, which is where Redd, a short, stocky man sat with his wife. Crane, a taller and seemingly more educated fellow, was in 2F next to his wife and never took off his head phones, so to compensate, he was yelling even louder than he probably realized.

The purser tried to ignore the situation, thinking to himself, if he gets involved he'll have to tell the captain. The captain may end up putting someone off of the flight. Getting put off of the flight could land someone on the airline's No Fly List. It involves reports, stress and most likely a delay. Even though he wanted it all to disappear and went into ignore mode, the captain actually could hear the argument ramping up from his seat in the cockpit.

Crane: I got here first!
Redd: This bin is over my seat, it belongs to me!
Crane: You want to have a go at it?
Redd: You gonna get all up in my grill and we'll have a go at it!

See, third graders!

Flight attendants have bags and we store them like passengers the overhead bins. I was working a flight to Asia a few years back and had stowed my bag in an overhead bin as assigned by Mother Airline. Boarding commenced and the first passenger to come to the back of the plane reached his seat just in front of my jump seat. He opened the overhead bin, which I had closed because it now contained the bags of 2 flight attendants, including mine. He looked quite confused and looked at me for a moment.

“Where am I to put my suitcase?” he asked. I was bewildered as I observed all of the empty overhead bins, and replied, “You're the first person here, every bin is available to you. How about right here,” as I pointed out a perfect location for his bag across the aisle. “But this is my seat here...someone has placed their bag in my overhead bin.”

Really? OK, folks, first of all the bins are not assigned like seats are. Many passengers get that, as they place their bags in the space for first class passengers and then head to the back of the plane. I know when I fly, I prefer to have my bag across the aisle so I can keep an eye on it.

I had a flight attendant friend who once had her bag mistakenly taken off by a passenger. She found his number on his bag and called him as he was waiting in baggage claim. She told him to wait right there and she would meet him with his bag to make the exchange. He ignored this and started back to the gate, meaning he had to go through security. All of her liquids were confiscated, because he was not a flight attendant. If you're not a flight attendant, you can't take liquids through security. She was so upset at him; that was expensive perfume! Bags look alike and this happens often.
How about checking your bag for less hassle!

The fight came to a close when Redd's wife stepped in and made her husband behave. Crane took his seat with his obnoxious red head phones and never seemed to look up again. His wife moved to another seat and pretended not to know the man in the silly head phones for the rest of the flight.

My flying partner asked if I see grown men acting like that often; she has only been flying for 3 months. I was reminded of the 2 men fighting over a seat reclining, “You're reclining into my space!” “I bought a seat that reclines so I'm going to lay back.” And then I'm all like, “Boys, do I need to separate you two? Because if you keep this up I'll have to notify the authorities to meet the plane when we land, and you'll both be in detention.” Yeah, it happens from time to time. It's a spin of the wheel and bound to happen. If they're going to act like third graders...!

Letting off some steam

Friday, July 22, 2016

Adventures in Flight: Open with Caution

I was attacked on board my flight from Houston! We were on approach to SFO and I was performing my safety checks. I got to row 10 and there on the floor in front of the two occupants of that row was a large guitar case. As you may know, items must fit under the seat in front of you. This guitar case took up the length of all 3 seats!

I was aghast! "Where did that come from?" I asked. "Was it there for take off?" They nodded yes. My flying partner must have missed it in the darkness. Or, sometimes passengers try to hide things with blankets or coats; they can be quite crafty.

Of course, I now had to find space for a guitar case, and this was a plane without a closet. Thank the gods the loads were light. I started opening overhead bins, praying there was one with room enough for this musical annoyance. Each bin I opened was full of bags, back backs, paper sacks, purses, a CPAP machine., full, full! Then I got to the overhead bin at row 20DEF.

I was running out of time, so the search had sped up. I opened the bin and before I could react, I was attacked! It came at me with great speed. It was close, but missed me and clunked to the floor with a loud thud, most likely heard by the homes we overflew several hundred feet below the aircraft. It got everyone's attention in the plane.

It was a horn! It was a horn that was about 3 feet in length. It was pointy on one end and blunt on the other, so either end would have been painful. With the light loads, no one was seated in the aisle seat underneath it. The dark horn spiraled like the stars would encircle one's head who might be unfortunate enough to have been clonked by it.
Yeah, one of these! *

What kind of horn was this? Who carries a long, pointy, spiral horn? What the hell does one do with an animal horn? What animal is out there cursing the fact that someone took it (and most likely their life to boot!).

It belonged to the man in 20F, who seemed a bit miffed that his precious horn had fallen six feet. Um, you put the horn of death along the edge of the overhead bin, in front of luggage instead of behind it, and you're going to get mad at me for not knowing this? I don't think so. You can take that bad attitude and shove it in a piece of fruit cake! I was nearly maimed! And what are you...a witch doctor? Why is there an ever-loving spiraled horn in the overhead bin flying through the air at me? Why? Where am I, Africa?

I'm asked, “What's the weirdest thing you've seen in an overhead bin?” Until now I may have answered, a cooler of human organs (which gets the plane a priority taxi for takeoff and landing!), funky hats, musical instruments, decorative canes, fancy suit cases, or once, I did find a flight attendant in the overhead bin, but that was staged. Now I can answer with pride, “A death horn!”

I secured the spiraled horn of death back in the overhead much better than it had been to begin with and eventually found an empty bin for the large guitar. The man placed it in and I started to make my way to my jump seat at the rear of the plane, catching the eye of a deadheading flight attendant. She smiled knowingly at me, fully aware of what must be going on in my head at that time. Guitar cases and attack horns. Just another day at Mother Airline.
I'm sure this plane has seen horns on board!

*Photo not property of Penguin Scott