Friday, December 12, 2008

Another day in the life of

I open my eyes to the dulcet tones of my alarm going off at 2.30am on a Sunday morning.
I reluctantly drag my sorry ass out of bed and shuffle zombie like towards the kitchen, to make myself a cup of coffee. 2 spoons of coffee this morning,
I think.
The distant sounds of Saturday night revellers echo throughout the streets outside my window. Lucky Bastards.
I struggle to make myself Vegemite toast, wondering why the knife is rebelliously refusing to spread the butter smoothly today.

Sitting on the couch, I take the first sip of coffee, feeling it's warmth slowly spread throughout my body like a gentle energising wave. It's a mild improvement.
I draw back on my first cigarette, it's comfort reminiscent of my recently deserted bed.
A quick glance at the clock tells me I have an hour to get ready. Unable to muster even the minutest amount of panic over the short time frame to pack and groom, I have one more cigarette and lurch towards the bathroom.

I stare at the haggard face reflected in the mirror, and I can't help but wonder, is this really the glamorous life or am i too, contributing to the lie that all Flight Attendants perpetuate?

The soft droplets of water of the shower slowly wash away the shroud of sleep, even as my mind conjures all kinds of excuses not to go into work today. Sighing, I resign myself to the fact I have no choice but to go. I briefly muse at the fact that when I finish work today, I'll be half way around the world.

Bags packed, I call the taxi at 3.45am.
As I leave through the front door, I bump into my neighbours coming home. We smile at each other. They at me, with a sympathetic pity, and me at them, with an envy, knowing they are about to go to a nice warm bed, and I'm beginning what will be a 24 hour no sleep day.
The blast of cold hitting my face seems distant, as though its not really happening to me. Perhaps after all I'm dreaming, still in bed. Chance would be a fine thing!

4am. Standing at the bus station waiting for my bus to Gatwick Airport. The streets are filled with drunken party goers looking fr the next venue, or the nearest kebab shop. sounds of fun and merriment surround me tauntingly. What wouldn't I give to be throwing off the uniform and joining the party, rather than be flying to Barbados. Its then that it hits me. Have I become so inured and cynical towards my job already? With all these exotic destinations I go to, I cant help but wonder, Is heaven overrated?

I can hear the voices incredulously chiding me. Am I mad not to want a night in tropical Barbados, and a chance to defrost from the bitter cold of winter? Seriously, the thought of spending 9 hours in a crowded Boeing 747 is not exciting at this hour of the morning.

4.30am. all hopes of sleeping on the bus are gone, as my energy drink kicks in, leaving me hanging in the null space somewhere between the fully waking world and a dozing state. So i get out my Ipod. Too early for club music, but i scan for something uplifting. My eyes settle on Bananarama. I select it, even though every fibre of my being screams in protest against the stereotype this brands me as. Somehow the mindnumbing lyrics and upbeat tempo seems to lift my spirits, just in time for the bus to pull into gatwick.

I trudge up the aisle...the door to the outside world drawing ever closer. Going live in 5...4...3... ... ... I step onto the airport world that is my stage, smiling and looking happy and confident. Holding within, all the frustrations of inept and inconsiderate travellers that meander in front of me, aimlessly wandering with luggage carts overflowing, to cut in front, to stop in the middle of the path, without nary a care who is behind them, as i continue to serenely keep a placid, genial visage.

Finally i make it to the crew room, where a bunch of crew sit awaiting their briefing call. all sitting there, groomed and made up. Tonnes of foundation and smiles covering the fact they are all just as knackered and longing for a warm bed as I am. But we keep on smiling, even if we're out of bloody mary mix.

Who's going to Barbados, the flight manager calls from the doorway of the briefing room. In response, 16 strangers converge on the small briefing room. as i sit there, looking around at those that will now be my new temporary best friends over the next 3 days, i search for anyone I might have flown with before. Nope. I conduct a secondary scan, wondering who I am going to get along with, who is going to annoy me, and wonder, who i will be working closely with on a cart, or sharing a galley with. Funnily enough, you can never tell, and often you come back from a trip surprised at the ones you really gelled with.

Time to commence the briefing. the flight manager is talking. Whatever is being said is being lost in the world of nerves that comes before the almighty safety question. That one question that if answered correctly means youre going, and if answered incorrectly could mean being offloaed from the flight and sent back to training. UGH!
Time to get the brain in working order and up to full speed. It complains all the way and i can almost hear the gears screeching in protest. Suddenly my name is called. Shit! What was the question? My mind races to recover the last few seconds and I somehow manage to answer the question that was asked. It wasnt that I didnt know the answer, it was more that I almost missed the question.

Question time over, I can relax, and take in all that is being said by the service supervisors for the flight, and before we know it, we are shuffling out the door, grabbing cases and headed for security.
Do we really need to take our shoes off? I moan to myself. The floor is freezing. We grin and bear it, as my besocked and tighted colleagues pass one by one through the scanner.
Sitting on the airside bus that takes us to the aircraft, we all commence our preflight ritual. Out come the mobile phones, sending that last, I love you text, in the unlikely event of an emergency. I wonder if other airlines crew have this ritual too.

Before I know it, we are onboard the massive 747 and running around doing our checks and prepping the cabin. All too soon, passengers are boarding, and the everlast smiles are spread across our faces, as we prepare to hurtle ourselves into the wide blue yonder. Sigh, here we go again.


Richard said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Richard said...

Hi Dan,

Well done! I love the moment where you bump into your neighbors coming home after a night out and seeing the party goers looking for the next spot, maybe wishing you were in their shoes while knowing you are on your way to tropical Barbados! Torture!

Sometimes I think the most glamorous part of flying is while you are on the ground (at home talking about it with friends and family, or at destination enjoying the layover). Actually working a flight...not so much!

There is always that connection to "life on earth" that adds a dynamic to flying that is hard to explain, but you've captured it quite nicely in your post.

The last "I love you" message...we all do it! Before a flight, on a layover, in the quiet few moments during an emergency.

Thanks for the post, and Happy New Year to you and yours!

Have fun,