Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Memoirs - Part 3 - The First Trip

Diane's flight was earlier in the day than mine was..we were both flying into New York and laying over, a simple 45 minute flight.  I drove to the airport, a mess of jitters and excitement.  And then even more excitement on top of excitement at being excited about going to work.  Can you imagine such a thing? 

Being only 3 days after 9/11, even though passengers were stranded around the country, they found other means of getting to where they needed to go.  My first flight had less than 10 passengers on it.  The flight was quiet and completely calmed my jitters - I can do this!  Our flight plan took us right over downtown Manhattan, and I don't think anyone expected that.  All eyes were frozen at the gaping hole that was the World Trade Center, not a soul moved, some cried as they saw their city's new skyline for the first time.

Walking through the airport, the other crew members marveled at how empty LaGuardia airport was.  Normally a jam-packed, hustle and bustle, mass of humanity, and now eerily quiet.  The only people in sight were military men, in uniform, carrying massive weapons.  I didn't know the difference - yet.  Obviously it was not normal but I didn't understand the chaos that was normally LaGuardia.  Feeling ever the new girl, I followed everyone outside and waited for the hotel van.

Still not knowing what to expect, I was given the key to my hotel room in New York, and did a little happy dance when I realized we all got our own hotel rooms!  Yee-haa!  I went in the room and jumped on the bed for a good 5 minutes before gathering myself, throwing on some real clothes (as opposed to uniform clothes) and running to find Diane.....who had already gotten started at the hotel bar with a couple of pilots and another flight attendant.  Altogether, there were 4 of us from the same graduating class on our first layover there.  We were excited and ready for whatever flight attendants do on layovers.

Everyone but me decided it would be a great idea to jump on a subway and head to Manhattan.  But not wanting to miss out on my first adventure, I went along with the group.  When we arrived, it was late, and immediately the pungent smell attacked my senses.  A rescue worker passed us at that moment - If you're here to sightsee you can turn around and leave right now, he told us.  I immediately turned to get back on the train, the whole feeling of being so close weighed me down, it was overwhelming.  As I was about to get back on the train I realized I was alone - the others were walking on.  Now I'm in a strange city, I have no choice but to stay with the group, so I ran to catch up with them. 

Long story short, that night changed me forever, I will never forget the sights, the smell, the sadness, finally ditching the group because I couldn't take it anymore, walking forever to find a subway, taking hours to get back and not caring as long as I got away from there. 

The next day a classmate, Jay, and I continued on the same crew.  As we all piled out of the hotel van to gather our luggage at the airport, Jay and I looked at each other dumbfounded as the crew all held out their dollar bills to the van driver.  We have to tip?  Oops!  Note to self: bring lots of singles on long trips.  We had to check in at the airport, security opened our bags to look through them.  I laughed at Jay when I looked over and his bag was filled with hotel soaps, shampoo, and towels.  He just shrugged - whatcha gonna do - Busted!

The second day of our trip ultimately took us to Los Angeles, for a 24 hour glorious layover.  We stayed at the Hilton, a beautiful hotel I'd never be able to afford on my own.  After my ritualistic jumping of the bed, I met the crew at the bar.  After spending several hours there - now it's about 2am our time, we headed to the hot tub.  Now why didn't I think to bring a swimsuit?  Note to self: always pack swimsuit!  I ended up borrowing someone's shorts and jumped in with everyone else.

Is this what you always do on layovers?  I asked another flight attendant.  Probably a dumb, novice question, he looked at me like are you for real, shrugged, I guess, he said.  I watched as a pilot and flight attendant grew increasingly closer, and eventually excused themselves.  The rest of us stayed out late, or should I say early, and drank the night away.  A 24 hour layover gives plenty of time to drink.  We planned to wake up early and head to Venice Beach.  The next morning, hungover and bleary eyed, we set forth on another adventure, a world apart from the first.

This is the life!!!  I came back from that trip completely exhausted, happy, and excited at my new career. 

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