Years ago, when I was a young flight attendant for Delta Air Lines travel by plane was quite different than what became the future of the airline industry. We had to work in cigarette smoke! I remember the first 11 years of my flying career as a time when I hoped I would get lucky enough to work in the front sections of the tourist class, or in first class where the smoke wasn’t drowning my lungs and nasal passages in toxic fumes. I had always wanted to be a flight attendant, but the smoking part I did not like. Our uniforms smelled like smoke, we always felt dirty because we were serving hundreds of passengers who blew smoke right into our faces as flight attendants. Eventually, the regulations brought forth through a lot of hard work gave us smoke-free cabins. No longer did we have smoking and non-smoking sections. Second-hand smoke was real and did cause damage to anyone who inhaled it. This was proven through science and many studies. The tobacco industry was powerful but we eventually won the right to work in a clean and safe environment. Those constant lung infections I had miraculously disappeared along with the stench of cigarette smoke that would follow me to my hotel room when I would hang up my uniform.
Back in the late ’70s and early 80’s we didn’t have to go through security as we do to this day. Airport security was lax as flight crews we would show our company ID and pass by. Then many hijackings and other incidents happened, as an example, the historic day of 9/11 then everyone had to go through security. We all had to start taking our shoes off after the thwarted attempt of a would-be hijacker, and now we go through body scan machines. All of these regulations are to protect us from the people who want to harm us and cause death and destruction.
Those of us who are older remember not wearing seatbelts while driving or having car seats for infants, people could drive drunk, smoke anywhere they wanted and the list goes on. Rules were put into place for safety. We now bring our own shopping bags to the grocery store to help preserve our planet. Many have solar energy in their homes and use much less electricity, there are electric cars now. The New World Order is a progression brought forth by technology and science. Imagine a world without antibiotics, or without the wonderful doctors who have found cures for diseases that once were incurable, or those doctors that devote their lives for the vaccines that have eliminated many diseases that once were part of the human race. As an older woman, I have seen a lot in my lifetime, but I have never seen a Pandemic, nor did I think I would.
I like to think of myself as intelligent. I enjoy reading I am a great believer in science and technology. I remember when we did not have cell phones! I would get my messages on an answering machine, I would listen to music on tapes, and I even remember the 8-track tapes. When email first came out on our home computer’s life changed. We stopped using the postal mail to send out invitations in the last decade. MySpace came along, then Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Linkedin, blogging, you name it we can find it now. All of this is progress. Social media connections have taken dark turns in the past years. I was thinking of leaving Facebook I reconsidered because I have too many friendships that I cherish. However, I have unfollowed many who spread conspiracy theories and lies. I try to make my social media postings friendly, informative, and to bring the beauty of nature to those that might not know about living in another country immersed in natural surroundings. My daily life is one surprise after another which you can see in this video I took yesterday of a resting hummingbird.
Surprise can be a good thing, it can be a bad thing. I think all of us were surprised by the Coronavirus Pandemic. The cover photo of me as a twenty year old looking surprised is a memory of a lovely time in my life. Young people have so much to navigate. My time was a simpler time. There was no social media, nor competition with online social media. Raise your hand if you think what is happening is like a movie on Netflix that you never thought could happen? I am still processing what has happened to my business. I can’t imagine how you feel like a young family, a twenty-something who wants to explore and travel, a young person looking for love, a person employed in the airline industry, or if you have lost your business in the blink of an eye. What about having to homeschool your children now? I couldn’t do it when I was raising mine. Progress continues even in schooling. Everything changes, even in teaching methods from generation to generation. My business is on “hold” as all is up in the air for every person in the world. We are all so confused as the days of the week become intertwined while we become more despondent. Colombia’s Coronavirus cases continue to go up. We have borders with Brazil, Peru, and Venezuela, Panama, and Ecuador. The Amazon department Leticia near Brazil is overwhelmed.
So we need to be patient. I have found patience while living in Colombia. I don’t see that happening in the United States. I see terrible behavior by others. Please go back and read my above paragraphs about the progression of history in the world throughout different decades in this condensed blog form. Stop being selfish. Put on a mask and social distance. Young people, I get how you have no life at all right now. You are becoming infected also. As a real party animal from the 80’s I understand your frustration. My lungs have scars from working in the smoke during my first eleven years as a flight attendant. I am at risk if I contract the Coronavirus. You are too. I see the statistics that are showing younger people contracting this disease. Put on the damn masks and social distance. I would have done whatever it took to save other’s lives and my health. Stop spreading lies on social media. Some people believe them. Be a warrior for your children and future generations. Stop political rhetoric that has nothing to do with this virus. You cannot outrun a virus. It will kill you or someone in your family.
I am looking for a roommate during these uncertain times. If you are interested please contact me at my email. The cost is so reasonable and you can obtain great health insurance also.
This is a short excerpt of the book that I am writing about my life and adventures. My book will include using my skills as a flight attendant to open an Ecolodge in the Andes Mountains of Colombia. I have never thought of myself as an entrepreneur. I worked for Delta since I was 20 years old until I retired in August of 2008. I was given the best training to open and own a business in the tourist industry. I will expand on the stories and memories I have shared with many more tales in my upcoming book which I am actively working on. I am still working on a title of my book. However, I often think of calling it “Two Empty Seats” because I have been to hell and back since my daughter was murdered in 2010.
At no time would I think I would find pieces of my past in Colombia. They are in a Museo Aereo Fenix . I visited this museum and saw silverware, cards, uniforms and more from Delta Air Lines. This museum left such a lasting impression on me, along with my 30 plus years as a flight attendant for Delta Air Lines, I decided on a name for my book after visiting and spending hours checking out the museum. I realized I have had a very interesting life, which will include my time as a flight attendant for the best airline in the world, Delta. I grew up with Delta. I am sharing a blog that I wrote as a guest writer for another blogger below. I hope you will enjoy. It will only be one chapter in a book that will include more than just my time as a flight attendant.
Flight Attendant Living
As a retired flight attendant I look back on memories of my life as a hostess in the sky with fondness. I was hired at the age of 19, by Delta Air Lines, then I started training when I was 20 years old. The year was 1978, and air travel was still elegant and the job was considered glamorous. I had always wanted to be a flight attendant since I read the book, “Coffee, Tea, or Me,”when I was quite young. I took a trip to Europe with my elementary school and I was quite fascinated with the stewardesses who were all so pretty and elegant. I remember the plane ride like it was yesterday. I really wanted to travel the world like they did.
In 1978, the interviews were held at the corporate offices of Delta in Atlanta, Georgia. I was sent a ticket to Atlanta and really had no idea what the dress code was nor what was expected of me. I was very fortunate to get an interview and it is still very difficult to get hired by Delta Air Lines. I arrived at the interview with a dress I found to be quite pretty. It was brown, with a Chinese style jacket, and a delicate embroidery. I had on 5 inch heels that matched my dress. I walked into the waiting area and 40 other people (mostly women in those days) turned and looked at me with surprise. They all had on the same clothing style: a plain navy suit, including the men. I was a little intimidated by that. I have always been my own person, so I felt I could do well by standing out as a unique individual. I met with the first interviewer and she immediately brought up my outfit! I explained I was a disco dancer and this is how we dressed when dancing. That was the only style I knew. I was hired and my nickname in training was “Disco.”
After graduation from training, a group of us were put in the Atlanta base, although we did have a base in Miami. We all rented in the same place that was close to the airport and we waited to be called for work since we were on reserve.
We carried a “beeper” when we were not near a phone. We had to always have a bag packed for trips and be ready at all times for our job. It definitely took getting use to. I remember my first flights as hectic, but I have always been a quick learner. I worked very hard to do my best.
I became proficient quickly, and even was made flight leader rapidly. I received a base transfer to Miami and was again living with a group of flight attendants who rented at the same apartment complex in Kendall, Florida. One of those flight attendants was in the famous crash of the Air Florida Flight 90 that hit a bridge during a snow storm leaving Washington National Airport. Her name is Kelly Duncan and we were friends, her father was a captain at Delta. Kelly survived, and I will always remember watching her on television being lifted out of that icy water still in her flight service smock. We were all so young and didn’t look at our job as scary. This changed all of us at our apartment complex. We realized we were not just in this job for fun and travel, we were there for safety more than anything else.
I was the youngest in my class and at my base in Miami; however, I acquired seniority quickly. Many hired after me would stay on reserve for years, but I held a “line”as it was called back then in my 6th month of flying. I held really awful routes, but I knew my schedule. I always ended up with New York City layovers, and I was the A line quite often, which id what the flight leader was called in 1978. One time I was on the DC ‘stretch 8’ as the A line flying home to Miami from La Guardia airport and the engines caught fire as we started taking off. The was aborted immediately. I was only 21 years old. I did as I had been taught for emergencies and spoke with the Captain immediately. He said have everyone remain seated. I walked back through the cabin and looked out the windows and saw we were surrounded by fire trucks. Then we were towed back to the airport. The passengers were taking photos, and they didn’t panic. However, they did complain a lot about the delay. We changed airplanes and made it back to Miami that night. I think when this happened, I really grew up and into my job. To this day, I don’t panic when there is a situation that requires attention or there is an emergency.
Many people think of flight attendants as waitresses in the skies, but nothing could be further from the truth. As I continued on with my life as a flight attendant, I remained based in Miami and Delta had opened a base in Ft. Lauderdale. I moved to Ft. Lauderdale because this where I grew up and I had many friends. We often buddy bid together, and swapped trips to fly with each other, or to change our schedules. Then the unthinkable happened. Flight 191 from Ft. Lauderdale to Dallas, crashed with all of my friends working that flight. This crash resulted in the longest aviation trial in history and many movies, documentaries, news articles were written about this horrific crash. To this day, I am friends with many of the same people and we always recognize this anniversary on social media. The friends we lost impacted all of us greatly. We were all changed forever by the loss of our friends. Three of our co-workers survived. I am friends with one of them. A lovely courageous soul who wasn’t injured, but had to watch fireballs flying by and see others dying. She was one of the last to leave the tail section that had broken away from the other part of the Lockheed L-1011 aircraft. She had to get help to get another survivor from he plane. We all had done this trip before. They should have ended up in Los Angeles International Airport, a favorite layover spot for all of us at the time. I was in Dallas on a layover when this crash happened. I remember taking off and flying over the debris of the crash. It was there for a long time. When I arrived home I had a voice message on my voice recorder from Diane Johnson, a flight attendant killed in the crash. It haunts me to this day.
Many wonder what life is like for a flight attendant. What we do on layovers, how hard is the job, do we mind going away from our families, what is it like for boarding and deplaning, our work rules and more. As I continued with my career, times changed and so did my job. I was able to hold nice layovers, and as usual, I flew with my fiends. The job is not easy. We have to board and set up the plane before the passengers enter and wait until the last passenger leaves before we either go on to another flight or a layover. I flew domestic for most of my career and LAX layovers were always the best to have. We would always have celebrities on our flights back in those days. I had so many bands, singers, politicians, sports-players announcers, actors, a prince and even a President. Richard Nixon flew on my plane, and I have an autographed personal card from him. Prince Albert of Monaco was another guest in first class. He did like to flirt and he did with me when I served him. Most celebrities are really nice, but I had Coretta Scott King on my flight and she would not even speak with me or order her own food or beverages, but her bodyguard gave me an autographed pamphlet. Huey Lewis is one of my favorites and he spent most of his flight in the galley chatting with us flight attendants. I had Bill Gates and he was super humble and nice also. You just never knew who would be showing up on any flight, but as progress took over , we would get manifests that would show who the first class passengers were and we would know beforehand sometimes. Joan Rivers was a hoot, and she was so tiny. I remember her eyes watered the entire flight like she had just had surgery on them. Sometimes a famous person would give us tickets to shows or invite us out.
What do we do on layovers? If it is short, we sleep. If it is long, we go out and have fun. I flew International during my final years and we had to set an alarm when we would arrive because we flew all night. Two hours was the limit we would sleep and then we would meet and do fun things, I have seen a lot of the world. Rome is a favorite, any layover in South America is always fun. I have ended up living in Colombia as an expat because I enjoyed my time spent in Guatemala, Buenos Aires, Chile, and Peru. Because of my training customer service, I have opened an Ecolodge in Colombia for those who enjoy nature and adventure. Paris is a lovely city that I never tire of, so is Dublin, Ireland. Ireland just opened an embassy in Colombia! Who could get tired of traveling to other countries? I enjoyed many fun layovers in Germany also. My favorite domestic layovers were California, Arizona, NYC, Boston, Seattle,and Savannah, GA. However, there were always fun things to do everywhere, if we had enough time. I loved my San Diego layovers, many times I would go with fellow flight attendants to visit Tijuana, Mexico. One time we rented horses and rode on the beach in California. The only problem was our horses were untrained and went crazy on us. They took off riding in the direction of Mexico. Picture this, people sunbathing and seeing 4 horses out of control running on the beach, all the people were running away, or entering the water! I was holding on with my hands, thinking I am going to fall off! I had ridden horses since I was really young, this was something I have never experienced since. I will never forget the loudspeaker “GO BACK YOU ARE ENTERING MEXICO!” and all of the people running into the ocean just like a real movie scene. I still can’t believe we weren’t arrested. I finally got control of my horse and we all turned back and entered United States soil again. But the horses were sweating and horribly upset. One horse escaped. So we had three horses and 4 of us. We tried to get two of us on the same horse but that didn’t work. Slowly we started back, and all of a sudden an all terrain vehicle came up and took our friend with them. We returned all the horses, the one that escaped was already back and we drove our rental car to the hotel. Just one adventure of many in my 30 years of flying. A memorable one for sure.
As I grew older, I found my patience was thin for the demanding passengers that seemed to feel that with their tickets they bought the airplane and the crew. Cellphones and computers were always on even when people were told to turn them off. People wouldn’t follow instructions when there was turbulence, and the days became longer. Delta could keep us on duty for over 16 hours if they called irregular operations. This is a part of the job passengers have no idea. There were many times all I had to eat were the snacks offered to the passengers. I did take a bag of food with me all the time, and it isn’t easy to pack an entire food bag for a 3 day trip. When the terror attack of 9/11 happened, everything changed. The fun camaraderie enjoyed by flight crews of all bases ended. We became like soldiers in the sky. We were often told in our yearly training classes for updated security and safety, to look for the danger that now is a part of our job experience. It was still fun to get together with others on layovers, but the job was one of intense briefings before flights, and many flight attendants took it too far. I can say I have lost friends over their actions on the plane towards their co-workers. People who fly often don’t realize we are not paid during boarding. We are paid when the door closes, and the pay stops when the boarding door opens. The boarding process is the most stressful part of our job. They became mini dictators, and I didn’t like it. As flight attendants, we are the boss of ourselves in the air. The flight leader gave the briefings, but many became different. Mini drill sergeants with ridiculous expectations. The fun for me left. I was offered a buyout at the age of 50. I had always been young for my seniority and I retired with 30 years and 4 months. I can never describe what my job as a flight attendant gave me, except to say, I am doing well operating a hotel in another country. I have even learned to speak Spanish. I thin a person who takes on the job as a flight attendant has a special part of their soul seeking adventure. I am certain that describes my outlook on life completely. Adventure is the world for all flight attendants.
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I know I react well in emergencies, I trained for over thirty years to do just that. It is something the flying public does not take seriously, although they should. We flight attendants know a lot about safety, first aid, terrorism, hijacking, disagreements between passengers, complaining, and most of all being nice to even the worse of the worst. Everyone should read this post, share it and take it seriously if you fly for travel or business. I might be retired but I can still act quickly if I need to. When I fly now I am a passenger, but I am an aware passenger that takes in everything around me. I am ready to help in an emergency. I thank my training every year for thirty years for that! Flight attendants are not on the plane to serve drinks and food, they are there for safety. Over the span of my thirty years of flying I had to prepare for an emergency a few times, luckily we always landed safely. Not to mention the medical emergencies I encountered many times. These emergencies are more common and your flight attendant knows CPR, how to check symptoms, they have at their fingertips difibulators, also emergency supplies for most illnesses. We even have the ability to call a medical person to talk us through all situations that could arise.
I read so much stuff about the airlines all the time, but the one thing I never read enough of is how we the flight attendants are the FIRST to respond in any given situation. We are the ones who alert the pilots. We are the ones on the frontline while providing vital information to the cockpit. We are the ones who look for passengers that might be able to help and we are the ones trained to safely seat you in an emergency landing. We also serve you and act professional while doing so. Next time you get on a plane that has been delayed for whatever reason, remember when you are taking your frustration out on these savvy stews, they are NOT there to stow your luggage, or to re-book your flight. They are there to make sure you can exit the plane in an emergency. They are there to help you if you have a heart attack or any medical emergency, they are there to get you safely from point A to point B. They give the flying public good customer service, and this is part of the job description, but the sole reason you have a trained professional and not just a person off the street who can make a cocktail is for one reason only. We can save your life if we need to.