Walking is Better

Once upon a time in a world long ago flying was a pleasure. From the moment you got to the airport to when you put your tush in your seat you were treated with respect and hospitality.

I was on my way to becoming a flight attendant for PanAm when all of a sudden it went belly-up. I wanted to see the world while hosting travelers on their planes. To this day there’s nothing I’d rather do than travel, that is until I get to security. Then it’s all out war. I refuse to go into the scanners. I’m convinced they’re a health hazard. New York TSA agents are the worse. They’re bullies. Well, I bully back, which throws them off their game. That’s when they threaten me with harsh pat downs. “Bring them on,” I say standing my ground and glowering back.

It seems to me airline travel is a burden to the airlines. I think they’d rather be transporting chickens than humans. At least chickens wouldn’t be a threat on board or try to commandeer a plane into mass destruction.  You’d just have to clean up a lot of feathers after every trip, but then you could diversify and go into making pillows.photo (90)

Flight attendants are tired and irritated with the long hours of the work day. Pilots no longer just fly the planes, they also do cabin clean-up in between stops. There’s no time for lunch. I’ve seen crews grab granola bars and wilted salads at the airports. They’re probably dehydrated, which explains their impatience with the public.  And the hours of cabin pressure I’m sure is stressing out their hearts and lungs. No wonder they’re angry. Nobody is taking care of anybody and it trickles down to the traveler who only wants a beer, a movie and a smooth trip home.

None of this, however excuses United from the abominable treatment of its passenger on the flight out of Chicago. I noticed that neither pilots or crew were involved in the incident, which was good otherwise if I had been on board I would have bolted off the flight, realizing I was in a horror movie. And then the airline would have had its empty seat.

Calvin says, “The friendly skies look troubled these days. Stick to walking.”  beagle

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Third Time

After driving to Tulsa and leaving off my friend there, I flew back to California. It was on the flight from Dallas that I got the adventure I didn’t get on the road trip.

We were late in pushing back from the gate because there was a technical glitch in the cockpit that needed investigating and fixing.

We finally got clearance for take-off. We were strapped in and ready. The engines were revved up and we flew down the runway, but then the pilot slammed on the brakes. He revved up again, we gathered speed, and he slammed on the brakes again.

At that point I was going to raise my hand and say I wanted off the flight. taking off

The captain aborted the flight and we taxied back to the gate where we sat for another half hour as a tech worked on the indicator light that insisted on blinking its beady little head.

I was grateful our captain wasn’t taking any chances with the flight, so that calmed me down.

The third attempt at take-off was successful since I’m writing this. The flight itself was uneventful and the landing was smooth without any hard bounces.

I thanked the captain as I got off for another day of life. He was madly writing notes on a clipboard.

Calvin says, “Woa. If I had been under the seat I’d had bayed my head off.”

World Classifieds

My computer is old so today I’ve had the services of an expert who has interrupted my work flow all day as he cleans, updates, and fixes all the glitches I’ve been accustomed to work around for years. Now nothing looks or works the same. I have to type in my username and password on everything again and nothing gets remembered anymore. I suppose that’s the price you pay for security. So much for technology. I’m not sure what it buys us except an industry that has given the entire world much of its employment to a people who probably wouldn’t have made it as car salesmen. I guess that’s saying something.

The last time I IMG_4160checked for an industry that spanned the world was aviation. Remember Pan Am? I think in those days it was the only world carrier at the time.

Then came the pharmaceutical companies, most of which have labs in places like China and India.

And let’s not forget Hollywood, except L.A. still dominates as the hub for celebrities recognized and worshiped the world over. I can’t see Taylor Swift hanging out in Istanbul.

The world has become more fluid, with borders being ignored every day. Even the Monarch butterflies defy all boundaries and fly into Pacific Grove all the way from Mexico.

Calvin says, “You forgot the worldwide dog trade. Puppies come from all over the place, some kosher, others not so much. Those you slip into your pocket.” beagle

The Cost of Mastery

Malcom Gladwell in his book, Outliers, wrote that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to achieve mastery in a field.

Gladwell used well-known figures as his examples like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, the Beatles and J. Robert Oppenheimer, to name a few. However, most of us are not the Gates and popular musicians of the world.

We’re ordinary.

Which got me thinking. suffering

I wonder if 10,000 hours is true for airline pilots, surgeons, and clergy.

After all, these types are responsible for people’s lives, much more so than the examples in Gladwell’s book.

I wonder if pilots, surgeons and clergy realize how serious their jobs are.

Probably not, especially if they’re young.

Years ago I needed a surgeon and the man was pompous and verbose. He knew he was good. He was a young guru with magical hands.

Then I needed him again ten years later. I barely recognized him. He was overweight, still talkative, but this time he was humble. He told me he had slaved at the altar of success only to bring his marriage to the brink of divorce, that he had lost more patients than saved them, and that there was more to life than the surgery room.

I wonder if that’s true for pilots. After all, a jet is a jet, the controls are the same, and the view out the cockpit window at 30,000 feet pretty much looks the same everywhere. A flight attendant friend tells me that pilots are usually found at the hotel bar at the end of a shift. Most are divorced or living with unhappy wives. That’s scary.

And clergy? Just think of the problems they hear – the agonies, the failures, and the disappointments of their parishioners. The lapses in church attendance. The struggles with their own marriages and children. The need to preach relevant messages every week to congregations that don’t listen anyway.

Ten thousand hours for mastery? Is that all? I say you need a lifetime to be an expert in being human.

Calvin says, “Well, I’ve mastered being a beagle except you haven’t noticed lately.” beagle

 

 

The Friendly Skies Are Cheap

Flight attendants these days are not a happy bunch.

I noticed on a recent flight on the hipster airline with the purple cabin lights that the 20-something flight attendants were less than overjoyed to be serving us.  cropped-photo7.jpg

Not once did we get a smile with our no-frills cups of water and no peanuts.

They served one round of drinks and went to their jump seats for the rest of the flight to read their e-books. I suppose they would have paid a little more attention to us if the weather had turned turbulent or a bagpiper had walked down the aisle blowing his pipes.

I noticed the same behavior on the flight back home.

And this from an airline that prides itself in innovation and creativity.

I noticed another thing. This airline flies Airbuses and they all need oiling. Every plane I’ve been on squeaks and moans and makes swirling noises like a giant cake mixer. This is especially true at take-off. Landings aren’t any quieter. The landing gear comes down with a thump. First time I heard the racket I wanted off. Now I’m used to it. What is it about European aircraft that they make so much noise?

A flight attendant friend says it’s the low pay that demoralizes everyone.

That may be true. One flight attendant on another carrier makes so little money that she is forced to live in a flop house with 26 other attendants.  Others can’t even find flop houses because they’re all full and sleep in airline lounges, except they’re not allowed to, so they sleep on the floor in the gate areas.

That’s just not right.

If McDonald’s pays $15 an hour, why not the hipster airline? Oh wait. That is the base pay. You get a raise when you turn 102.

Calvin says, “Kennel workers make more than that. That’s why I don’t fly. I like hangin’ with the ground squirrels.” beagle

 

 

 

 

Digging in with My Bare Heels

I made up my mind that I wasn’t going to submit to the full body scanners at the airport.

I’m convinced all that radiation is bad for my health no matter what reassurances we have been given.

So I waited my turn in line, barefooted, beltless and breathless. I moved closer to the dreaded machine.

When it was my turn, I said, “No!” with conviction.

“No?” said the TSA agent. cropped-rubbed-my-tummy.jpg

“Yes, I mean no,” I said.

“It’s the law,” the agent said glaring at me.

“It’s not the law for my health,” I said.

“Very well. That means a pat down,” he said.

“Fine,” I said.

The agent stretched out both arms barring me from moving away and held me there. He called out, “Female agent. Pat down here.”

The other passengers in line were getting free entertainment even before boarding.

I didn’t care.

A female agent appeared. She put  on a pair of latex gloves with a fanfare and gave a little snap at the end. It was clear I had interrupted her coffee time.

“This way,” she said and motioned for me to follow her.

“Do you want to do this in a private room or here?” she asked.

“Here,” I said and smiled. I wanted witnesses.

“Very well. First, I have to tell you what I’ll be doing,” she said.

“Skip that. Just do it,” I said. I smiled again.

“I can’t. It’s the law.” Then she slanted her head upwards to show me a camera that was recording everything.

Witnesses! I loved it. I smiled even more.

She asked me to stand with legs apart and arms outstretched.

I complied.

I smiled at my audience in front and above me.

The agent ran her hands all over me, from head to toe, in a professional manner.

“You’re free to go,” she said when she finished and removed her gloves with another snap.

After reading so many horror stories in the media about pat-downs, I was prepared for the worst. Instead I was shocked at how decent an experience it was.

Calvin says, “If that had been me, I would slobbered all over her face.” beagle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Private Showing

This weekend was Fleet Week in San Francisco. It was also the Final of the America’s Cup World Series.

While skippers navigated the Pacific waters, Madonna rehearsed her tunes for her evening performance in San Jose, and heart-throb Justin Bieber practiced giving teen girls liver shivers for his show at the Oracle Arena in Oakland. The Giants played their first game as division champs, the 49ers had a game as well, and there was even a Bluegrass Festival in Golden Gate Park.

San Francisco was hopping!

But nothing tops the Blue Angels show.  

I missed seeing the Delta formation, the diamond roll, the Fleur de Lis and the many other heart-in-your-throat maneuvers, but I’m happy anyway. I had my private showing at Baker Beach while I organized a picnic. While grilling salmon and keeping the tablecloths from blowing away in the wind, I was serenaded with supersonic booms from those blue and yellow F/A-18 Hornets. They were so low I could see the pilots screaming their way across the Pacific, over the Golden Gate Bridge, and then disappear into a fog bank only to return a few minutes later and do it all over again.

They practiced right in front of me. I waved. I clapped. I ran after them. “Take me with you!” I yelled.

The tablecloths took flight. The salmon got charred. The nude sunbathers flipped over.

Another roar and soar across the ocean.

This time was the last, and the gulls returned to the beach.

I came back to tablecloths wrapped around tree trunks, crispy salmon, and potato salad with a new crunch from the sand.

Calvin says, “You hate heights. You’d white knuckle it with your eyes closed. Now me, I would bay my way across the city and fog up the windshield.”