15 April 2011

The Kaiser

Sometimes people in our profession get a little 'colorful' the longer they fly. Maybe it is all that time trapped in a confined space, maybe it is the lack of consistent coworkers who know you well enough to pull your mental kite back to earth, or maybe we just encourage the general nuttiness of others we work with because, frankly, it is fun to watch. I have flown with a pilot who covers himself in linen to protect from radiation, flight attendants who beleive in elves and gnomes ( yes seriously) and people whose imagined past and present could not possibly be accomplished in their years on earth .

I recently flew with one of these colorful types, she was an 'extra' which means she is a random flight attendant working with us who is not based where the bulk of the crew is. When she lumbered into briefing, she looked as if she had been walking 20 miles, or dragged behind a train. This was the start of her day, at a not particularly early hour, even for her time zone. She was, of course the most senior... which meant she worked mostly alone in first class.

Her name was Swedish, and close enough in sound to Kaiser that our purser had named her that before we took off. She ate enough cocktail nuts during boarding that I heard her remark, "Well that saves us offering seconds to the passengers". Translation, she ate a whole metal tin of nuts, the size of a paperback book. Her balloonlike proportions and puffiness began to make sense. She continued to eat whatever was not nailed down, all while the rest of us were racing around hanging coats, offering newspapers and drinks to everyone.

I was sitting on the jumpseat next to her for takeoff, and of course due to the weather the captain asked us to stay seated until he called us. She had a captive audience... Some people in our job have a tendency to overshare far to soon, personal details and secrets with people who really don't want to know or care. Before the captain released me from my captivity I was regaled with how she had sold her home because there was a sinkhole on the property, evicted from her rental condo and was now living with her 30 year old unemployed daughter in the basement of a friend who is alcoholic, weights 350 pounds and had 4 cats, one of which poops everywhere. She felt her explosive diarrhea of the past seven days was related to the poopy cat. Did I mention I was seated a foot from she of the loose bowels?? I would have chewed through the jumpseat harness if I thought I could have escaped.

Later on in the flight she shared how she had formerly flown for Pan Am, and had been based in Honolulu. She felt that was when, by her own admission, she started to become eccentric. The purser remarked she must have been based there a very long time..We also learned she had been the person who qualified the Pan Am crew in Swedish ( gave them the test to assure they were fluent in that language, and could make announcements onboard), was trained as a surgeon, and owned a restaurant that had burned down. Well, her surgical experience was actually medical school, and even that was up for debate.

She mostly flew trips to China and Japan . She told us her layovers in Tokyo consisted of eating carrots, and that she was going to Fukushima to write a paper on the effects of radiation on civilians nearby. Good thing she had that background in surgery...She never made clear why she would only eat carrots there, the answer would have probably not cleared it up in any case.

Her layovers in China were spent shopping an average of 400 dollars per week on 'all sorts of junk' for her kids and friends. She also told us she got her hair done there, at which point the acerbic purser asked if it had been a long time since she had had a Beijing trip? Again the surgery came into play as she mentioned she had a Chinese doctor, who, when she drew a picture of her body and circled what ailed her, he would remove that body part. Yes, surgery real or imagined on the layover. Based on her size, she was not drawing pictures of unwanted jiggly thighs.

She said she had been as skinny as a rail until last year when the cortisone shots have her "all this" ( gestures my lifting up and shaking her belly fat). I am sure the constant eating was just a coincidence.

The Kaiser asked us why her bank was not paying her interest on the part of her savings account she had withdrawn. I really had no idea how to answer that one, but her fiscal sensibility or lack of became obvious when she said she was moving back to Sweden as they had the lowest taxes in the world.

She also shared her relationship past, presumable when she had a better fighting form that she did now. She swore she had dated Bill Cosby, and he could not accept when she broke up with him. That was when she had to flee Hawaii. She them married a stalker, who she is now on friendly terms with.

Kaiser ate any crew meal that had not been grabbed, I think someone missed out on theirs when they stopped in the toilet on their way to the galley, she viewed it as unclaimed merchandise . She ate a pork entree which she said was delicious and well worth the 'sh*ts' is caused. Really??? Oh my God I was going to have to sit on the jumpseat after she ate that meal for landing.

The landing was spent telling me how she was going to live with her son, whose rent she would pay as his girlfriend was unemployed, like her daugher, whose rent she was also paying for a year when she was finally able to evict her from the basement they shared.

When the flight was over, the rest of were in tears laughing all the way to the hotel, sharing our Kaiser stores. Please let me retire before I get this loony. Please...