Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Adventures in Flight: Pamper Me

Story and photo at Osaka airport by Penguin Scott

A week off. I can fly for free. I’ve been working very hard. I needed to be pampered and wanted to go somewhere. My trip to Israel was postponed, so I started to think about places to go. I’m a flight attendant, but my wanderlust was out of control.

Vietnam? Needs a visa, no time to get one.

Moscow? I’d rather go in spring. Oh, and we haven’t started flying there, yet.

Frankfurt? Not bad, light loads. But I’ve been there.

South America. Fun, but I didn’t really feel like having to sit in IAD for a few hours.

Seoul; to see BadKitty? She sort of nixed the idea. Not much time off and her little space would have been difficult. I sort of agreed.

New Zealand to see Annika? A bit far to go for such a short amount of time.

Japan? I’ve not been there in so long, I love it there. Flight’s not too long. OK, Japan. I love Narita, best noodle shop in the world, caters to all the airlines that stay there. The airport there has more 747s than any other airport in the world. I love me some 747s. I once spent a layover hanging out at the airport there. How many flight attendants on layover go back to hang out at the airport? I’m funny that way.

But oh, no, we only fly the 777 to NRT and I want to fly in the new OC. Our new 747OC has been reconfigured for international travel. The seats in business lie flat. The suites in first are upgraded with better audio-visual and even games. It’s really sweet.

Osaka flights are on the OC. So I was listed to KIX. I checked the paperwork. OC to KIX for 3 hours. Then, due to budget constraints, right back on the same plane. I’d be in KIX for only three hours. I had some writing projects to work on. I had some reading I could do. There would be movies on board to enjoy. I was not all worried about spending 19 hours on a plane.

At a party the night before I was to leave, a good friend mentioned how she hates planes and airports. I love planes. I love being on them, taking off, landing; and in first class…what’s not to love? And as I just stated, I love hanging out at airports. One person’s ceiling is another’s floor. One’s junk is another’s treasure.

I got to the airport and went to the gate. I took my seat and waited for my name. I thought they might call it early since the loads were so light; 4 in first, 20 in business and 119 in coach. But they waited until the plane was mostly boarded. As I waited, I heard an announcement for some names, stating there were some seat changes made due to the change in aircraft. Panic struck when I turned to see that the nose number of the jumbo sitting just out the window was different. They had changed the plane to an OB, not the newly configured OC. I thought briefly about ditching the trip and just going home. But I was already there, ready to go, so I might as well just enjoy the meals and pampering.

My seat was 2J. Stowed my things, settled in, drank a cup of champagne and sat in my seat like it was my throne. Oh, I can do first class. I even hid any baggage identifiers that would give me away as being crew. As far as any other passengers knew, I was a full-paying passenger, just as they were. (They were probably standby’s as well, though!)

Take off happened and soon I was reclined with a file of work out. The purser took my meal order, brought me warm nuts and another glass of champagne. It was a Henriot Cuvee des Enchanteleurs 1999. I’m not picky on champagne. I enjoy $3 bottles as much as the $80 bottles. And let me tell you, this was a good bottle.

I continued to work on one of my future novels while eating the warm nuts. I save the cashews for last, since they are my favorites. There were also almonds, pecans and macadamias. I started eating the pecans and realized that I normally pick around them. I sort of felt obligated to eat them, being from Texas and with the pecan tree being the official state tree. I love them in recipes and pies. But normally, I just go for my favorites, the cashews and macadamias.

My work was cut short when the hot towel was delivered, meaning my meal was about to start. I put it aside to be worked on later.

First out was a shrimp, bacon and corn cake with jalapeño shallot crème fraiche. The bacon was a wonderful touch and the sprigs of cilantro really made this dish for me. A bread basket was brought out and I selected the pretzel roll, warmed to perfection and complete with a wonderful pretzel coating.

Next was the soup, artichoke chicken Florentine with wonderful full flavor, great body and quite thick with great chunks of chicken. I could have made a meal out of it, but there was more to come. As I finished the soup, the salad was brought out on the queen cart. Fresh season greens with red bell peppers, yellow teardrop tomatoes and seasoned croutons. I selected the classic Caesar dressing, thank you, and don’t forget the fresh ground pepper.

For the main course I enjoyed rosemary lemon Mediterranean sea bass with tomato and olive ragout. It was sided with a creamy vegetable risotto and green and yellow haricots verts. The fish had a slight fish taste that was not overbearing. I enjoyed my entrée with a glass of white wine. I always have a hard time leaving the champagne, but the Jolivet Shateau du Nozay 2006 Sauvignon blanc made it easy to do. In fact, later in the flight, instead of more champagne, I had more white wine. It was light and fruity without being too sweet.

Finally the plates were removed and the queen cart came by with dessert: a choice of seasonal fruits and cheeses and ice cream sundaes. I had a sundae, chocolate sauce and cookie, hold the whipped cream. It was a bowl of two scoops, one vanilla, the other chocolate. I round it off with a glass of Sandeman’s porto.

I don’t often order chocolate ice cream. It’s not on my list of favorites. But when I do indulge, it reminds me of my grandmother. I spent my summers at her house and she often pulled out ice cream at night for dessert. I think my grandfather was a fan. He always made coke floats with vanilla. But I guess chocolate was a favorite of hers, so when I have it now, I always think of her.

With the meal over, I continued to work on my novel. It’s one that’s been mulling around in my head for about 13 years now. I’m finally working out the details. I worked on the timeline of the main character’s parents, their ages, where they lived, how they met, etc. I had a file folder full of ideas that I’d been putting in there for all these years. It was great to finally be fleshing out some of the details for this book. But with so many projects on deck right now, I doubt I’ll actually start writing it just yet. It’s just nice to have some of this figured out.

After a nap and more wine, we were soon to land in Osaka. Before doing so, there was another meal service. I mean it had been six hours since the last one. This service was much less formal. It came out on one tray, no queen cart. This time it was a beef pastrami sandwich with baby Swiss on rye with oven roasted fingerling potatoes and fresh fruit. It was warmed so the cheese was all gooey and melted. I really liked this and don’t recall ever having served it.

Soon we were touching down and the wonderful service was but a memory; the hot towels, the clean linens, the cold flatware, the butter in shapes of flower petals, fresh ground pepper and attentive flight attendants.

We landed around 4pm local time. I had taken off around 1130. Basically, the sun had only moved the equivalent of about 4 hours. Since I had taken off, the plane barely moved, as more as the earth had moved under me. It made me think, there must be a place on the globe and a speed to fly in which the sun would remain in the same place all the time. The plane would never move, only the earth under it. How fascinating.

Off the plane, through security, back to the gate and back on the same plane home. On board I found that one of the flight attendants serving me would be a woman I had worked with not too long ago. It was good to see her, but now my cover was blown. The previous crew had known I was crew, it’s on the passenger manifest. But soon the word was spread that I was a crew member and that I had just brought this plane in. The purser came to check on me and wondered why I’d be doing such a flight. “I wanted to be pampered and to fly the OC.” She felt badly about the plane change. She did well for the rest of my flight to ensure that I was taken care of.

Going home, I enjoyed more champagne, of course, and more warm nuts. I refused seconds on the nuts, but the champagne flowed freely. The appetizer was a shrimp, scallop and cilantro potsticker with roasted red pepper sauce, creamy curry apple soup, and fresh seasonal greens, this time with blue cheese dressing. Again, I selected a sea bass, this time it was wrapped in rice paper and pan-seared with lemon butter soy sauce with pak choy, carrots and cauliflower. After my meal I watched Ghost Town, which was funny, then fell asleep. I slept for about 5 hours, waking just before the breakfast service. I selected the fruit and yogurt, since the omelette was listed as an onion omelette. Ew.

In all, I was gone for about 25 hours. I was on the ground in Japan for 3 hours. I had 2 really nice meals, nearly 2 bottles of champagne, 4 glasses of white wine, 2 glasses of red, 2 servings of port wine, worked on 2 books and watched a movie. It was nice. And it only cost me the gas to get from my home in Pacifica to the parking garage at work. I do love my job.

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