Dirty Glove’s


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.

The Cantankerous Crossing Guard

This kid is looking for trouble!

This kid is looking for trouble!

As I drove my son to school this morning, we  were chatting.

He was trying to eat a bowl of sugary, frosted flakes without milk and drink a glass of orange juice. Never mind that he has ample time to do this at a table. He seems to like to grab as he goes. It’s a common theme in my house, since I have been a flight attendant for most of my life. And as everyone knows, we can only eat while standing since so much of our time has been devoted to eating in galleys on airplanes.

As I watched him stuffing the dry flakes into  his mouth, I said, “you know I saw a show the other day and they said that a bowl of cereal like that is equivalent to eating about 6 chocolate chip cookies for breakfast.”  “So?” This was his response, “And your point is?” I started to laugh as if it just dawned on me, that I was not conveying this important health fact to a friend of mine, but to an 11-year-old boy. I’m sure he would have much rather had the chocolate chip cookies. They sure would have been a lot easier for him to handle in the car.

Next, I drove a few more blocks and had to sit in the line that attempts to merge together with oncoming traffic. We must make our turns into the school driveway and I have to leave my house  30 minutes early for this, even though I’m 5 minute’s from the school.

“There she is,” I tell my son. “The cantankerous crossing guard. She’s probably going to stop me again, like she did that one morning, to reprimand me, since she had not yet stepped her foot back onto the curb.” Never mind that I have watched countless others doing the same thing. I also thought it humorous that she had to walk a longer distance to me, just to say something, than to get onto the curb. She seemed to single me out as she approached with her Stop sign that day. I told her, “everyone has crossed.” “Yes, but I’m still in the street!” Hmm, now I wait until she’s done and I watch to confirm that indeed, she had it out for me.

“Hey,” I said to my son. “Did I ever tell you about my brush with fame?” “No.” “Well, when I was in elementary school, I was a crossing guard. That’s right, a Lieutenant. My friend Romaine, was the Captain. Of course there were only two of us, but we were powerful. When I put on that orange belt, (Romaine’s was yellow) I commanded attention.

“I caught all kinds of kids trying to walk against the light and sometimes they even tried to jaywalk!” At this my son just started cracking up! All kinds of flakes flying in my car.All I could think of was, that I would have to deal with kids like him every morning. All jacked up on that cereal with the equivalence of 6 cookies, along with their syrupy orange juice. That combined with the rebellious parents that refuse to stay put, even with my stop sign, made me cringe. I’m starting to feel a little bit sorry for this woman. Gee, I hope I can get the WalMart Greeter job, instead of this, I thought.

Of course, this job did offer greater perks. In my day I didn’t get to hold a stop sign,Oh! That would have been the greatest. This must be the updated uniform. But then, the ‘cantankerous crossing guard,’ doesn’t get to wear the belt. Perhaps that is just what she needs to get respect.

Some People Can Always Get What They Want

As Mick Jagger sings, And They Also “get what they need.

I just flew with a guy who was on my crew van and he was furiously trying to get ahold of some restaurant as we got to a hotel. He swore it was the best Italian place in Denver. Well he and I had bantered back and forth on the van for quite a while and by the time we arrived the hotel staff thought we had known each other for a long time.

He had been so gregarious that he asked the girl working the front desk if he could use her car to go pick up the food at the place in lieu of him placing an order for her as well. To this she agreed. I couldn’t believe it myself but she did! The guy was joking around with us as well and he wanted me to go along. He said I would simply love this place and he wanted my company. I realized that I really wasn’t that hungry, but for some reason I really liked this guy as witty as he was, so I said I would go along for the ride.

I told him,  I would be ready in about 10 minutes and he waited downstairs.

Sure enough, there he was, keys in hand and although she asked,”are you sure you’re a safe driver?” He answered, “Of course I am! “Well, what else was he going to say at this point? He wanted his food after all.

We drove about 20 minutes to this place which happened to be an, Italian/Mexican, place, which is a little strange, if you ask me. That’s just plain confusing. I mean they’re on two separate parts of the planet for one thing and they speak two completely different languages. It’s like a pizza and a Tostada. Ok, that’s all I’m going to say about that.

On the way there, he was driving like a maniac. Good thing the girl did not see him. At one point he said, “Hey, something smells, weird. It smells like pot! Do you smell that?? “Oh, that’s great,” I said. I can just see that. We get arrested, cause this girl has pot in her glove compartment!” At this point I look at her glove compartment and notice it has a lock on it. “Hey!” He says, “I still don’t even know your name!” “Oh, I don’t know yours either!” We both start cracking up at this point. “Oh my gosh!” I said, I can see this now. The police pull us over and arrest us. We are thrown in jail and they contact the company. How did we come into possession of this car? The girl denies having knowledge of our having this vehicle because she has pot in her glove compartment, she claims it’s been stolen! We are laughing hysterically at this point. So we are now booked on felony charges for this stupid spaghetti.

At any rate, we go into a grocery store to get some soda before going to the Italian/Mexican restaurant and he comments on the unhealthy salad bar. He then turns around to see some cotton candy and is jumping up and down like a five-year old at a carnival! I had to point out his hypocrisy, which he did not want to hear, and of course, he picked the purple bag, which in my mind would have been the most artificial, but probably the bag was healthier than any of it.

We finally picked up the food. Got gas for the girl’s car. Actually paid cash and had to figure out how to do it. It had been 20 years since either one of us had to use cash. He drove like a bat out of hell on the way back and I closed my eyes half the way back.

The girl was relieved when we walked in, you could tell. As he handed her the food and he told her he filled her tank.I was impressed at how he had managed to manipulate all of us so well. I realized he literally go all of us to do his bidding. Because as I found later, the spaghetti really wasn’t that good.

The next morning, as we left the hotel, I got up extra early. I wanted to wash and blow dry my hair. As fate would have it, my blow dryer was not working. This….BLOWS!!!!! sorry Soooo I hung my head over my air vent. No kidding. That’s what I tried to do. It still was wet.

I was laughing when I saw my friend and we were cracking up on the van. Two hours early for what? A wet head and looking like crap? And he was all stressed out because the van still left late and he was in the same situation I was in when I had my last trip. He was watching all the cars and vans passing us on the freeway and he was sweating .

He said, “I should get on that bus that’s passing us. I can walk faster than this van!Now my friend was so upset, that when we were dropped off, he ran off, never to be seen again. We were so close, almost cell mates, and now, I may never see him again. Such is the life of a flight attendant.

Slip, Sliding Away!

Ahhh, what a fantastic way to say goodbye! Exit the stage in grand fashion and let everyone wonder, “What just happened?”

Yes, Steven Slater, the one who everybody is talking about.  How many times had I dreamt of blowing a slide and just being liberated from the stress of it all?

The lyrics of this song definitely come to mind ;

“Whoah God only knows, God makes his plan
The information’s unavailable to the mortal man
We’re workin’ our jobs, collect our pay
Believe we’re gliding down the highway, when in fact we’re slip sliding away
     Simon and Garfunkel
He sure spoke for all of us, especially fellow colleagues. When the pressure was so intense in my own life, I just decided to take a break from the flying, or I sure would have had that same temptation. It was there. It was palpable. All it would have taken is some lunatic harassing me one more time. I often thought of the movie, Falling Down, with Michael Douglas. This seemed to be my experience, and apparently, Steve Slater’s. He reached the peak, and went for the gusto, in typical Milwaukee fashion, grabbed the beer on the way out. Smart man. I’m toasting him right now. All of my hometown should use him for the poster boy. In fact they should put his picture on the Miller Stadium! Great advertisement and all the future endorsements for this guy. Sure seems like it was a great career move.
Now, he seemed to be pretty peaceful when he was being arrested. Of course, with some alcohol coursing through his veins, he may have had a little liquid courage, but today, he’s being heralded.
Who could have known, that the masses are all, “Mad as hell and not going to take it anymore?” Well, I actually know, since I’ve lived it. But to have an individual take a stand…or a seated slide, well, that’s just what we all needed.
This was the perfect picture of the early out and he sure didn’t stick around to see if he would receive an exit package. He did it his way.
I’ve got one more song that would fit his last act and I sure hope someone uses this song for his story one day.