Saturday, March 22, 2008

coming home

The last flight puts me into Madison at 1 a.m. Late, but only two hours behind schedule. And who could complain, considering that most flights here had been cancelled.

I sit next to a seasoned Northwest flight attendant. She’s heading home to Milwaukee – her fiancĂ©e is driving down to Madison to pick her up (all flights to Milwaukee were cancelled). She’s tired, having worked the Manila and Tokyo routes. But her make up and clothes are perfect – made to last, not a crease.

She’s not yet ready to drift off into a nap and so we exchange the fleeting comment you throw out when a full paragraph of thoughts seems like too much effort.

I like traveling to Europe best, but a three-day Asia run pays better.
Planes are full. Do you get to work business class a lot?

You bid and seniority puts you where you want to be in the cabin. I prefer coach.
I think of the transatlantic flights, always packed in the sardine class, with tired, edgy travelers…
Yes. In coach, you give them a drink and dinner and that’s it. In business, you are on your feet serving every need – it’s a different job. And the people… She shakes her head.

We’re standing in some part of the Detroit airport, waiting for a thorough deicing (note: on the second day of spring).
The crew should explain what’s going on, she comments, almost to herself. There you have it! A call for a flight attendant! Someone is anxious.

We wait another half hour and finally, we take off for the short flight.
It isn’t as much fun to work the flights these days.
I’m sympathetic. It isn’t as much fun to fly either. To me, fun is measured in terms of leg room. Every inch adds a modicum of fun. As a frequent flyer, I get to pick premium seats – bulk head, exit row. Without that benefit, these multi-leg journeys would be … not fun at all.

Going through bankruptcy was tough. We all took a 40% cut in salary. Now I’m finally earning the same as a dozen years ago.
Again, she’s found a sympathetic ear. When you work for the state, you forget that in some spheres, salaries actually go up and your spending power increases over the years.

The snow is still coming down hard. The city looks as it did in December, January, February. And yet – it’s not so cold. In spite of it all, there’s hope.

The next day I venture out and give a small grin to the trees just out the door. Not for long. You wont look like this next week.

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