Dirty Glove’s


Flygurl!

Well, tonight, the long-awaited premier of Pan Am, is on.  I’m a little curious to watch. I have so many Pan Am colleagues, as friends. I am formerly Eastern Airlines. And my saying goes, “In the airline industry, we’re all recycled.”

I believe that I came into my flying career, right at the tail end, (pun intended) of the glamour. I trained with Eastern Airlines, in 1984. We stayed at a little hotel right on NW 36th Street, in Miami Springs. It was right across from the airport. And Pan Am’s training facilities, were literally side-by side, with our own. We used to see them and felt equal in our stature as an airline. Although, to be honest, I was from the Midwest, so United Airlines, was the premier airline, in my part of the country. I had really not heard much about Eastern, at the time, I accepted their offer. But the thought of training in Miami, was the best thing going. To escape the winter blast. I flew down, in the middle of March.

I never intended to move back. I loved the hot weather, and would gladly exchange it for the bitter cold. I missed my friends and family, but they couldn’t even compete with Miami.

I read a few articles about the show. It is a career, which, I believe, may have been planted in my subconscious. I remember someone giving me a copy of, Coffee, Tea, or Me, when I was in middle school. And I read, The Flygirl’s, right after this.

Coffee, Tea Or Me

Of course, these books, were pretty racy, even at this particular time. But hey, it was the 60’s. Besides, I’m thinking they embellished a little, for the readers. At any rate, I can’t really say, that I had a burning desire to become a flight attendant, Or Stewardess. As many claimed, when they spoke at the orientation. I think I just naturally gravitated to this position. I hated office work, and realized early on, that I was happiest with people. And the daily routine of any corporate structure, is what I loathed. The micro-managing, and petty gossip. It all made me weary to think I would spend my days, in such a manner.

I was actually in a bar, with a friend, after work one day. I was in my early 20’s and I was getting bored with retail. A guy that we knew, came in and he was just back from collecting information from Northwest Airlines. He was going to fill out the applications. “He said to me, “You should do this! I think you’d love it.” “I’m not sure,” I said. “Besides, I’d have to move away and I don’t know if I’m ready for that.” This was a reason for my not wanting to work in Lake Geneva, Playboy Club, among other reasons. Come to think of it, that’s another show which previewed, to a not so popular audience. Thankfully, I avoided the stigma. Even though to some, it may have been a privilege.

Well, a few years later, I was sitting at my typewriter, in my office, and I typed up all my resumes to the different airlines.

I heard from Eastern Airlines first. And like a Wisconsin snowstorm, the other airlines, followed. But I had already started training with Eastern, and was quite happy with the fact that I would be based in Miami. Who would have thought that years later, I’d be with my favorite airline.

This is all a big gamble in the airline industry. But it is the flexibility of the job, which attracts most. It had been the glamour as well. But that faded at the first meal service. As I saw a male flight attendant, just throwing dirty trays, into a cart. While he was on his knee’s, sweating. We were flying the Atlanta/Miami, route. He asked me, “Is this the glamour, you were looking for?” I still remember this, as if it was yesterday.

Yes, I had a great time, in the training. We were at the Viscount Hotel. And it was very reminiscent of the stories, I’d read. Especially when we had the training in the swimming pool. I would go running around the park, right by our hotel. And we would all hang out together. We were a tight-knit, group.

We were all sent to Bal Harbor, for a makeup and hair session, with a woman named, Miss Ginny. She was a representative for Elizabeth Arden. I always wore makeup, so I wasn’t intimidated. However, we were all issued, standard, bright red, lipstick. And some had their hair chopped off. I saw a lot of girls crying, as if they’d been traumatized. Nevertheless, we all were expected to have the red lips and nails.

At graduation, Colonel Frank Borman, pinned on our wings. It was very special to all of us. Having a former astronaut, doing the honors. He stood with his sidekick, Ms. Winnie Gilbert. No one really understood her position.

I remembered, years, later, when my ex-husband, had a carpet job for the ivory tower. He called to tell me that there was a safe in Frank Borman’s bathroom. I replied, “Well, that’s where he hides all the money, he’s stealing from us.” I used to say it about Bart Star, and I used the comparison with Frank Borman. “Bart Star was a great quarterback, for the Green Bay Packer’s, but he sucked as a coach, of the team. Just shows you, that you may be very successful at playing the game, but not, steering the ship.” Ahh, some things never change.

Yes, we had the experience of dealing with Frank Lorenzo, and allof his,  low-blow tactics. We were not the airline we used to be. Corporate greed, replaced, the need for glamour. It became the bottom line. and that was us. We did indeed, become, flight attendants, and not, inflight stewards and stewardesses. The mantra, was , “you can be replaced.” This coveted position, is no longer so coveted. And the people in marketing haven’t yet figured this out. The traveling public, still, longs to see an element of aesthetics, in our industry. Especially the business travelers. But this comes at a price, which has been compromised by the desire for profits.  The attendants, were expected to live in poverty, while taking care of the needs, of the public. We were supposed to “sell the dream, while living the nightmare.” Frank Lorenzo’s remarks, were constantly repeated, “That flight attendant’s were not important. And their career’s should only span a few years.” He went on to say that they should only own a record-player (?) and a car.” And a very cheap car, at that. He revealed his own ignorance and disrespect of the job we do. I have worked with many professionals, and highly intelligent people. They have even left lucrative careers, to become a flight attendant.

Then 9/11, happened. It was painfully obvious that, we were expendable. And although, we had sympathy for our position and responsibilities. It didn’t last long.The fun and excitement of our career. The glamour. But it’s also a stark reminder, that flight departed, long ago.

Although, the show was fun to watch. It is a reminder of how far we’ve fallen, at the hands of terrible management. I like the quirky, story-line, which incorporates, a stewardess, operating as an access agent. I wonder how they came up with this. Although to some, it may seem a little cheesy, in my own life, it doesn’t seem too far-fetched. I’m not sure Frank Lorenzo, would approve. He never thought, any of us had the intelligence, to investigate anything. Especially his own, corrupt practices. This was almost his ‘undoing,’ for underestimating his work force.

Smart senior management, in the airline industry today, should realize, as far as ‘The Brand, is concerned; We ARE the Brand. It’s not the coffee, or the tea. It’s me!

So, the final analysis, is this movie, may leave people longing for those days. The glitz, the class. The fun. But there’s a price. And we’ve paid it. The profits, went into the pocket’s of a select few. But what has been lost is immeasurable. I wonder if they would like to interview, those who had lives invested in their career’s to see them crumble. The tragic events, surrounding people, who had been loyal to this iconic, company. After, closer inspection;  those pretty ‘white glove’s,’ reveal the dirt, which was left in the aftermath, of Pan Am’s demise.

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