31 January 2008

Overheard in Business Class

Passenger: Miss, this wine is corked.
Stupid New Hire: Sir, All our wines are corked!!

Honey, having a cork ( versus screw top) does not mean corked. I just shook my head and gave the passenger a sympathetic look as I replaced his glass with something from a new bottle.

26 January 2008

Vintage Travel Posters

These old airline travel posters somehow make places seem more special. Current airline posters do not create that sense of wonder and longing to see new destinations as these ones did.
This reminds you that travel was once a time when women wore gloves and men wore suits to vacation destinations. Ladies carried vanity cases and there were no rollaboards, only large valises. No one had to pass through security or worry about terrorism.
All images are courtesy of flickr.

24 January 2008

Style In The Aisle

A new exhibit at the Museum of Flight in Seattle, Washington is dedicated to the style in the aisle of flight attendants through the years. From the 'nurse togs of the 30s through the fab fashions of the 60s and 70s' many a uniform will be on display. The 60s and 70s are particularly noteworthy in that those years were when real designers did the uniforms and they were changed regularly. In addition to uniforms, there are airline artifacts and photos. If you know any aviation freaks, take them along at the Museum Of Flight has over 150 historically significant air and spacecraft on display. Details on admission times and prices ad well as directions are here.

On the other hand, if you are not in the Seattle area, or are merely lazy, please check out the website Uniform Freak. This collection of literally hundreds of uniforms from cabin crews throughout the world is massive. One KLM purser, Cliff Muskiet has collected all these gems. Where does he have the closet space???

Sometimes when I look at my ploy-wool blend uniform, I really wish I had flown in the era my mother did. Gloves, hats, glamour.....

Jumpseat Reading

I was sitting on the jump seat reading the International Herald Tribune today,when I saw a blurb that Mexico City has started women's only buses, complete with pink signs, on 2 popular routes. At first I thought this was stupid, went back to my crossword puzzle and sucked down my 34th Diet Coke of the flight. Then I remembered my layover in Tijuana and it all began to make sense.

Years ago, when I was a skinny little new hire, I had a layover in San Diego that was particularly long. I was flying with a girl named Windy. Not Wendy, but Windy.I have no idea why that is important, but it is odd what minutiae you remember after a decade. We decided to go south of the border for our layover, we heard they had knockoff bags and pharmacies that would give you anything. I wore a miniskirt, so you can see where this story is going.

No sooner than I had set my first foot into Mexico that I was pinched. Pinched again. And again. I felt like large Mexican mosquitoes were attacking me throughout the day. The men were incorrigible. I am not sure if it is because I was young, stupid, or obviously non Mexican. Maybe all 3. The only thing that mesmerized them more than my behind was my pale skin. Think Dita von Teese ( also actually a Heather) skin tone. They asked me where I was from. Surely Canada they said? Or maybe Norway?? Because you had to be from up north to be so pale was their reasoning. I didn't have the heart to tell them I was raised in Hawaii, I just didn't hold a tan.

After asking the question they would pinch me as I fled. I had expected Windy would have got all the attention, with breasts as large as melons, but I guess the menfolk of Mexico are ass men. So remembering that made the ladies bus all make sense to me. I wonder where Windy is and what she is doing. I also want to know a hasenpfeffer is so I can finish that damn puzzle.

21 January 2008

20 January 2008

More Clever Colleagues

Coby, The lovely jewelery maker is not the only one of my fellow stews that is arty. The clever boys at Crewtag make the funniest cards, bag tags, tshirts and wrapping paper ever. There are seasonal holiday bazaars at our some of our larger bases inflight lounges and these guys always have a busy booth. Not only are they clever, they are good to those less fortunate. A former crew member was terminated last year while fighting a fatal disease on a respirator, leaving her without health insurance. The boys at Crewtag donated a percentage of sales at that time to Jo. crafty and charitable, please pay them a visit!!

18 January 2008

Ooooh the Glamour

If anyone imagines that life as a flight attendant is all champagne wishes and caviar dreams.....let my last flight be a reality check. Super smooth flight, lovely passengers, all was quiet on the business class front until 90 minutes before landing. A passenger asks me if it is normal that the sink in the lav should fill with water from below. Um.....no.....crap......

As the rest of the crew make like cockroaches when a light is switched on, I got to investigate. The sinks in both business class lave were filling with water that had been poured down the drain sometime before. Filling quickly. Gloves on, grab plastic glasses and start bailing. Brown murky water that curiously smelled like peach iced tea ( I have to smell everything which can sometimes be a fatal flaw). Bail one sink, cover sink with a tray filled with moistened hand towels, post a 'do not use sink' sign ( ignored) then repeat process in other lav. Repeat. Repeat.

The cockpit says the drain lines must be frozen. I, not so cleverly, decide pouring hot water might ,melt the blockage. Bad idea. Now water is gushing onto the floor.Lock off lavs and put newspaper down to absorb the geyser that is the sink. Yuck... The wierdest part is when the water came into the sink clear then began to turn red as red liquid entered as well. Very special effect, me turning water into wine.

I might complain, well, more than I am here but then there is the crew that had to evacuate a 777 landing in LHR. I'll take the bailing, but only just. Of course they rerouted landing runways so we could not see/photograph the aviation carnage that is a destroyed plane. Thank God no one was hurt. Had to laugh when reading the article on the captain in the Daily Mail,a neighbour described the captain as handsome (okay, maybe...if you like that type) but then went on to say he was handsome like all airline pilots were.......I am cutting this article up, highlighting that quote and putting it in the crew lounge. If you have ever seen a random cockpit crew with cheap haircuts, short trousers and 'sensible' shoes you will see the utter comedy in that quote.

17 January 2008

A Rainy Day of Culture

Sometimes you can be a tourist without a passport stamp. I had a few days off and headed west to Wiltshire to visit my friend Cindy. We had a plan for a jam packed day of culture, as she is moving to Germany in the summer. We had pencilled in Avebury, Salisbury(repeat visit) and Winchester. Due to sleeping late, general laziness, rain and endless cups of tea, we 'streamlined' the trip to just Winchester.

If the phrase "Winchester Cathedral" rings a bell to you, it is probably due to the worlds worst song with that title. I refuse to embed a link to it, but you can youtube it. My parents actually had the record, which makes me wonder about their drug consumption in the 60s. A song sung through a cheerleaders megaphone type horn. Bad.....

Luckily the cathedral is not bad at all. I actually prefer it to Salisbury Cathedral. The incredibly rainy day and late start means there is no photos here of the glorious stained glass . The crypt, pictured above, actually looked incredible arty due to the flooding which caused the reflections of the statue. Modern statue ( cast of the sculptors physique) plus flooding = cool photo.
The wall behind the altar ( help me with the real name of this, o religious people!) is pretty magnificent. The sculptures are not the originals, most were removed during the reformation. Queen Victoria is depicted in there. What you cannot see are the 6 trunks of former rulers bones, 3 perched on wither side of this wall. The only name the guide could remember was King Canute, she was rather old so I cut her lots of slack!
The wood carvings here are where the monks used to sit and pray. Every knob seemed to have a person on it, each nook and cranny an allegory of some sort. How can you not like a monkey?? The cleaning crew was in the cathedral when we were there. During gale force winds you really get places to yourself tourist wise..... But we did have to hop around cherry pickers,brass polishers and dusters.
Luckily these cleaners did show us the secret light to illuminate the small chapel shown here. it is from the Norman part of the church and was covered over by other plaster, only discovered when restoring the covering.

If you have read 'the Constant Princess' or seen Elizabeth, then you will recognize the names of a couple married here, Mary Tudor and Phillip of Spain. Jane Austin was one of the last people buried here.

The town itself is incredible charming, filled with little places to have the required cup of tea or coffee and wait out the rain. Well worth the drive/train trip, no passport required.

12 January 2008

Throw Out The Old Red Logbooks

When I started flying my Dad got me a little red logbook that I could record my flights in. There were places to note origin and destination, aircraft, flight time , equipment and layover. Sorry Dad, that logbook lasted no more than a year. The computer printouts given to us for tax reasons at the end of the year are all I have to 'remember' flights flown.

Now there is a new free website that can record flight info for crew and passengers. You can log all the info my little red book did, but it will calculate miles flown and create a map to visualize your crazy schedule. Flight Memory is that site, and so far it appears pretty cool for aviation nerds like us. (Count yourself as an aviation nerd if you are reading this, but remember I am a bigger nerd for writing it)!

Hopefully this will last longer than those little red logbooks, which are probably hiding either in a box in my Dads basement or under some bed.

11 January 2008

An Open Letter To The Fashion Faux Pas In Economy

Dear Sir,

Thank you for travelling XXX Airlines, we certainly appreciate your business. You were well behaved and reasonably polite, according to the crew that worked your side of the cabin. In spite of this, ALL of the crew have a request for you. Please NEVER EVER wear swim trunks as onboard attire again.

As you can see in the photo I thoughtfully enclosed, some people do look good in these trunks, you had on a nearly identical pair. That is where the similarity ended for sir, you are no Daniel Craig. Even Daniel Craig could not wear these as outerwear on the plane. Well.....maybe HE could, but no one else. But even Mr. Craig would know better.

In addition to the eyesore your out of shape body caused everyone who saw you, there is the climate to think of. You were travelling in January from London to San Francisco. If we were flying to some balmy destination in the Caribbean I would MAYBE give you a pass. Well, with your figure I wouldn't but I could at least see why you might think of wearing this. Most people would opt for sensible trousers, jeans, maybe a woolly sweater as we all know the cabins get cold. Not you.

Please, think of the children. Next time, cover your oversize self.

Thank you,


10 January 2008

A Passage From India

It would only be half a story to tell about getting to the hotel in DEL without detailing the return trip. The flights themselves could be its own blog, so ridiculous were the things that happened on the flights. Those weird stories that are things that could only be true because no one could dream them up, are left for another time.

The hotels in India for layovers were like no other. You were treated like kings and queens ( possibly mostly queens depending on the crew)! Our pickup from the hotel was after 1am, so they hotels called you 1 hour before your pickup to make sure you were awake. They would also call you 10 minutes later to make sure you had not hung up the phone and rolled back to bed. Sort of like when you were a child and your mother was waking you up for school.

Most of us emerged into the lobby with either shiny faces or hair ( or both) having sprung for a facial or head massage in the hotel that afternoon. Our bellies were filled with a gorgeous Indian dinner from hours before. This layover was rare in that at pickup, we were all generally well fed, rested and no one was hung over. At least half the crew had HUGE bags they did not come with, filled with curtains ( tailored to measure), pashminas, 'leather' (lambskin) jeans made off a pair of their own jeans, furniture or God knows what.

We would file outside into the darkness,people loading our bags into the back of the bus that we climbed up into. Plop back into the seats for the hour + long ride to the hotel. The tooting of the trucks did not bother you, you were going home. Purchases were showed off to those that did not hit the stores/stalls with you. Prices, colors and shore locations were all vigorously compared and defended. Everyone had their preferred purveyor . Most of the pilots had not left the hotel and prided themselves on not eating anything 'Indian' on their trip. They would make exception for Cobra beer though. Their loss, even if you did not care to shop, DEL is full of colorful, interesting and SAFE things to see.

We would make it to the airport where the brass merchants would meet us with out things. We would tease their sons for staying up so late to bring these to us. The front of Indira Gandhi airport was a MASS of humanity. That is because ( wisely) only ticketed travellers were allowed into the airport itself. As a result the 17 people that had met the visitor when he arrived also accompanied him to the airport and watched through the glass as he/she checked in and disappeared into the throngs. You had to work your way through this sea of people to get to the door,where IDs were checked and you were allowed in.

Crew with the large bags checked them in while the rest of us ran to the pharmacy where you could get Retin-A for a dollar and Valium for pennies, no prescription required. (It is always interesting to see what you can get in foreign pharmacies.....) Drugs stuffed into our bags, we headed to the immigration area. You were meticulously logged by hand into the crew log book as having left the country. You were also not supposed to leave with over a certain amount of rupees on your person. Not a problem as we had spent it all!!

After clearing immigration procedures, people with children would hit the toy store where Barbies from all areas of India were sold. Rajasthani Barbie had HUGE hoop earrings that would do any ghetto girl proud. They also sold the must have purchase, Stewardess barbie was 3 USD. Then the crew would stop at the Nescafe pushcart where some 'generous' crew member would but a round of coffee for the princely sum of 2 USD.

Next stop, duty free. Cigs for the smokers and booze for the drinkers were at ROCK BOTTOM prices. Prices that were so ridiculously cheap that it made you forget that you did not drink sambuca, Pernod, creme de cacao or whatever was on offer for 6 dollars!!

Finally you made your way to the gate which always resembled what you imagined a holding cell in eastern Europe would be like ( not that I think about that much).... Throngs of people that had either been travelling for half a day to get there or were just beaten down by being awake at this ungodly hour sat there quietly. Some were in the throes of Delhi belly, some were sad to leave home, some excited to get the heck out of dodge.

You boarded the aircraft where you would see the cleaners finishing up their jobs. in spits of using pioneer level technology ( brooms and dustpans) they got the plane cleaner than any cleaning crew in the US. You stowed your bags, did your safety checks, hit the 'BREW' button on the coffee and tea makers and dove into the crew meals.

Shortly boarding began and you were on your way home. Until the next trip.....

08 January 2008

Memories of Delhi Airport

I used to fly trips to Delhi, India. Back in the day. While half of me is very sad that we stopped flying there after September 11th, the other half is thankful . The layover was fabulous/horrendous/crazy/cheap , but the process of getting from the aircraft to the hotel and back was something else. I will leave the MANY crazy DEL flight stories for a time when I have writers block, but the Delhi airport was mentioned at a union meeting today which made me look back with a nervous tic.

When you landed in DEL, you were thankful that the aircraft door opened so you might escape being confined any longer with the huge families, 90 year olds traveling solo who only spoke an Indian dialect that 7 other people spoke, people looking to 'find themselves' etc.

As the passengers were filing off the aircraft, the cleaners who were equipped with straw brooms and wearing slippers ( if any shoes at all) shuffled on the aircraft as you were collecting your luggage. The cleaner supervisors would actually beat the backs of the cleaners they felt weren't working up to speed,it was really like Charles Dickens, India style.

The smell of DEL airport was what first greeted you. It was one part dirt/dust, one part spices and one part heat. (If you have been to India, you will know exactly what the heat smell is). The wall of heat was almost 3 dimensional,you almost physically jerked back when you got hit with it. Not a pleasant smell at 2am after a 9 hour flight.

The crew would proceed to immigration, where you would have to fill out various entry books by hand, your passport inspected by multiple people, and you were on your way. To customs. The customs form makes you list how much money is on you, how much jewelry and what type. This was always in triplicate to hand to each customs official. It was always fun to see which pilots listed a 'gold band' or 'wedding band' on the form, yet had bare fingers. (I could name names here, but I won't).

After 30 minutes of them dickering around because we wouldn't give them a bribe, they would usually give up and let us in India. This is where the fun began. When you left customs you entered a sea of humanity, all wide awake to wait for Granny Sapna, Uncle Subhash or their future husband or wife they had not met yet. Each person on your flight is met by no less than 17 family members who have traveled twice as many hours to greet them. Push, shove, get outside.

You wade past the taxi drivers to head to the crew bus. One of the various 3 legged dogs that we apparently feed show up. No fools, they recognize that our bags are filled with sick bags filled with leftover meat for them. For a moment you feel guilty when you notice actually poor and hungry people staring longingly at the food but, we can only feed so many. Tripod the beige dog ( named by the pilots) is out adopted child. We panic is he or his other 3 legged sidekick does not meet us .

We are also met by the vendors of brass .They will make us name tags, bag tags, house numbers, anything in metal to be ordered tonight and delivered as we get back to the airport tomorrow. They have designs for each airline, we know all the salesmen and their sons, who show up on school breaks.

After piling in the bus, we settle back, some opting for a purloined bottle of champagne and orange juice for the long ride to the hotel. In spite of being in the middle of the night, the roads are always filled with trucks. Their driving skills make you usually opt to close the red velvety curtains and fall asleep. Their tooting horns ( all of which toot various songs, like mobile phones) keep you from falling asleep. You laugh about the flight and the assorted weirdos on it and make plans for your layover. Some plan to party in the crew room, some plan to shop and some gamely try to plan both ( never successful). You are usually tapped on the shoulder by the tip envelope and you slide in rupees if you have been there recently, dollars or pounds if you have not.

The bus pulls up to the hotel where men that are gloriously dressed in Indian finery help you off the bus. Their huge turbans and curly slippers seem out of a movie. The luggage is quickly removed from the bus and you enter the fragrant lobby of your hotel. Home for a night, the craziness of the flight falls away, to be forgotten until the next night.

I never thought I would say this, I wanna go back to India.....

06 January 2008

10 Countries I Would Like To Visit

Today I am going to lift a page from 10 on Tuesdays blog and list 10 countries I would like to visit. As I am so late in posting this list I really do not think it matters that today is not actually Tuesday............

  1. China- My airline does fly there, but I have been to lazy to actually get the visa and go there. Part of me wants to enjoy the culture I have read about in book like Wild Swans and Mao, the other wants to take advantage of the fabulous shopping and beauty bargains there. An ideal trip would combine a half day of culture, soaking in the architecture and people and cuisine, the other getting cheap laser hair removal and clothes tailored for a song.
  2. Bhutan- Such an insular country with such unique and well preserves values and culture would be a memorable holiday. The costs associated with this trip makes it one for a few years from now......
  3. Ecuador/Galapagos Islands- I really enjoy the languid pace of life in so many South American countries, my Dad raved about Ecuador and it is rare to get a seasoned traveler like him to rave about anywhere. I have never been on a safari or other animal geared holiday so I would think the Galapagos would be really special.
  4. Iceland- So close and yet so far. I have been here to drop off passengers having a medical emergency, but would love to see more of Iceland than the tarmac at Keflavik. The blue lagoon alone would make the trip worthwhile...They say the men are ugly and the women are beautiful,which is the sadder part of the equation?
  5. Vietnam- I have traveled to Laos and Thailand, this would round out the Indochina area. I would love to see such a youthful country and how it has repaired and recovered from the devastating war there.
  6. Syria- Ancient ruins baby. Lots of them. I found the antiquities of Lebanon,Jordan, Israel and Egypt magical, I would love to take a peek inside the mystery that is Syria.
  7. Mexico-I have been on layovers there but I would really like to explore the innards of a country that is so close geographically to my home country yet so far culturally. I have not much interest in the beaches but would prefer the natural beauty of Copper Canyon and the ancient beauty of the Aztec ruins.
  8. Morocco- The Atlas mountains are begging to be hiked in and the souks shopped in. I know this will entail sore legs and extensive haggling but it will be worth it. I will have to use my bargaining skills from India and my hiking legs from New Zealand but I am up for it.
  9. Slovenia- I have heard this is like a Disneyland version of Europe. I would like to see for myself. Biking tours and skiing aplenty there, this place beckons anytime of year.
  10. Russia- I have been there several times before but each visit makes be want to return all the faster. I have been no further east than Moscow and LONG for a ride on the Trans-Siberian Railways. I studied Russian history in college and each visit adds another piece of the puzzle together for me.

Feel free to add your own top 10 countries wish list!!! I am always up for ideas/suggestions of places to travel and read about.

05 January 2008

04 January 2008

Where in the World is Rapa Nui???

Yes, I know that is the other name for Easter Island, but can you accurately place it on a small map?? And with precision?? This challenge was recently extended to me in email form. A friend sent me the link to test my traveler IQ.

This test is offered on the travelpod website, where you can also take challenge yourself on your knowledge of UNESCO sites,flags of the world and world capitols.

I will say that I was able to place all sites in the UK ( and curiously Israel as well) within a 70 km radius of the actual site. It is a fun way to pass a little time, and makes you realize that as much as you may know, you need to learn more.

I was over 1000 km off on placing Rapa Nui, and do not even ask about Lesotho!!

03 January 2008

A Crafty Stew Indeed

Amongst the ranks of flight attendants are many that have outside jobs, some very creative. One of these is a flight attendant for my company named Coby. Coby is one amazing jewelry maker. I have received 2 of her rings as gifts and let me tell you, those rings get more compliments than the few 'high end' pieces of jewelry that I own. Passengers always compliment me on the rings she has made, some even recognize them as her work, if they have met her on a flight. Coby has no idea I am writing this, this is not a 'paid' plug. Many girls at work create fabulous beaded rings but she is the only one to take the time to create a website to refer passengers and friends to. She makes it to your size and color specs , after seeing rings for sale for outrageous prices at the Holiday Fair in Washington Dc, I finally realized what a bargain her work is. If you have a bare finger that needs a little embellishment or know someone that would appreciate a crafty gift, please check out her website . We need to support our crafty colleagues after all!!

01 January 2008

A Little Culture

Most long haul crew layovers are filled with copious amounts of shopping, eating and drinking.Depending on the destination you might add sunbathing/swimming or even skiing but the first three ingredients are common to nearly all crews and destinations. In the spirit of fiscal responsibility I have decided to swap shopping for culture on at least half my layovers. (Baby steps, people)!Recently I journeyed to the national Cathedral in Washington D.C., spurning all the after Christmas sales.

Their website advertises several tours, varied from general to stained glass and gargoyle only. My timetable decided I was to take the general tour, with a 3 dollar suggested donation.
The cathedral smelled heavenly with the scent of Christmas trees and decorations mixed in with the waxy scent of church candles.(Is it the type of candle that gives off the distinctive smell or the amount of candles??) I was really happy to see the traditional type of votive candle there, I refuse to donate at churches where you put in a coin and a 'candle' lights up electrically for a few minutes!
The tour was actually quite amazing, over 2 hours in length,with the guide happy to answer any questions although he freely admitted he often made up answers!!
The cathedral is absolutely filled with amazing stained glass windows representing not only things biblical but also all things Americana. This window is probably the most well known of the secular windows, the window of science and technology. In it lies a rock from the moon donated by Neil Armstrong and Michael Collins.
There is a permanent exhibit set up to the founders and creators of the cathedral. It depicted the thousands of hours of work done in trades, like stone masonry, that are almost dying. People came out of retirement and trained others to style the gargoyles and statues found throughout the grounds. In the spirit of equality, women also donated thousands of hours needlepoint the creating the kneelers (kneepads?) for the seats in the smaller sections of the church. One area had kneelers devoted to Americans of note, including Willa Cather the author, Soujourner Truth, various presidents and 'celebrities ' of the past. While I do not imagine them designing a Lindsay Lohan kneeler, it would be interesting to see which current people of note would make the cut. Stephen King? Jimmy Carter? Oprah Winfrey?
If you are in the Georgetown area of Washington D.C., the cathedral is worth a peek. It is not near a metro stop but is easily accessible by bus. It is a bit south if tenley town and there are loads of great ethnic restaurants and shops to fortify you afterwards!!

Goodbye 2007

P1000069, originally uploaded by another passport stamp.

As the sun sets on 2007, happy new year to all. I hope for a year filled with health, travel to new places and love for all. Thank you Santa (Dad) for the camera that allowed me to take this and view it the same day. The miracles of technology have finally entered my photographic world. I am dizzy with excitement. Or maybe it was champagne.