As fate would have it, I received a phone call from scheduling one cold, rainy and rather depressing evening this past week. When you have a few days left on your on-call schedule as a reserve flight attendent, you can guarantee they’ll put you to good use (unless you’re Belle, who sat at home for 3 days and was incredulous). If it’s raining, there will be oodles of flight delays and crews who can’t make it back to Charlotte for the next leg of their trips. I call this duo of phenomenons the flight attendant’s two-way crystal ball.
Anyway, I get this call, and as usual, I’m really excited. They literally could send me to any corner of the world, so I grab my pen and do a little happy dance as I answer my phone. I’m told this is a short lived phase of being a new hire—after awhile getting a call is like a visit from the Grim Reaper. But I refuse to believe this. When I’m on call I don’t make plans to meet friends or do things outside of Charlotte like a lot of people do—I think its setting yourself up for disappointment if you have a job that requires you to keep yourself available and then you make plans. Lerp derp. When I tell people this, I’m often reminded that I’m still the girl who flaps her arms and jumps up and down when a jet flies low overhead. But, hey, what’s wrong with being an optimist?
I digress. They ask if I want to go to San Francisco, stay all day Saturday, and then leave late Sunday morning. I felt like the conversation went like this:
Lady from scheduling: “Do you want to go…”
Lady from scheduling: “….on a 2 day trip….”
Lady from scheduling:” to San Francisco….”
Me: “Holy schnike! Yes! YES! ALL THE YES!”
Lady from scheduling: “…….”
The catch was they needed me there in a hour, and as I mentioned earlier in this post, it was torrentially raining and rush hour. This is known as a quick call. Technically, they’re required to give you 90 minutes from the time you accept the trip, but as the scheduling lady noted, the crew for this trip was trapped in Myrtle Beach, and they needed us sooner so the flight could leave on time. If I didn’t think I could do it, that was fine.
I have my flight bag and rollerboard packed at all times in case something like this happens. I highly recommend all flight attendants on reserve do this—you just can’t be too careful. The difference between being prepared and needing time to pack was being able to spend 35 hours in sunny, beautiful California on the company’s dime or sitting at home watching Netflix with Belle and finishing a scarf I’ve been knitting for Darcy.
Without further ado, I threw on my uniform, and hauled tail to the airport. This was much easier said than done because in the rain, everybody forgot how to drive home from work. I ended up taking my secret back-roads route to the airport rather than get on the interstate. The only problem with this route was its the “long way” to the employee parking lots and I found myself waiting in line for the traffic lights to offer admittance, 50 feet at a time. Ughh. I stayed determined, though, and frantically called scheduling when I reached my gate for check in, with exactly 4 minutes to spare.
Turns out, all the rush wasn’t necessary, because our flight was delayed 2.5 hours. I used this time to eat, call friends, print out the flight details, and pass the information along to my other crew members who showed up over the next hour or so (apparently scheduling hadn’t stressed the need for punctuality as much to them).
When Air Traffic Control was finally able to find a plane for us to replace the one stuck in Myrtle Beach, the passengers were none too pleased. They’re bored, stressed, impatient and tired all rolled into one. Most of the time, they take these undesirable sentiments out on the gate agents, who have absolutely no power to assuage the situation. I had a passenger ask me on the way to CA if I could ask the pilot to ” really step on it”, as if he could decide to go a few hundred miles per hour faster on a whim. In a storm.
I make it a point to be as cheerful, helpful and understanding as possible when I work a flight, but when a passenger really just wants someone to blame for all the chaos in their lives that moment, there’s really nothing you can do. Either their bad attitude will disperse a little after the 3 beers and 2 vodkas they order, or they’ll sit glaring at you impatiently for the rest of the flight.
The flight was 5.5 hours from Charlotte (CLT) to San Fran (SFO) and we didn’t get to our hotel until around 2 A.M. As usual, our airline did us a huge solid—the location was gorgeous and right in the middle of downtown. Our rooms were comfortable and chock full of amenities. I forgot my toothbrush and called the front desk and they sent someone all the way up to my floor to deliver it with a neat little toothpaste and aromatherapy spray.
It’s the moments like this, when I curl up after a bubblebath in my provided terrycloth bathrobe, and lay on my luxurious bed that I truly know I’m in the right line of work, lol!
I awoke bright and early on Saturday, with the hope of enjoying every moment of my “free” day in California. I had never been to the west coast before, and wanted to taste and see everything good. The day itself was a constant 72 degrees, sunny and slightly fish scented. I was in heaven. My good friend, LC, who is pretty much a human travel guide, told me to get some sushi. According to him, there is no sushi like San Fran sushi, and I’d be remiss not to get my tastebuds on some pronto. He told me to go to the Tenderloin neighborhood and get some there. The immediate problem was I am the most directionally challenged person in the world—if there is a way to get lost, I will find it. If there is a way to misinterpret directions, I will do it. I will second-guess which direction is east during a sunrise, it’s so bad.
Armed with my iPhone’s navigation and a jolt of enthusiasm (or maybe that was the caffeine from the triple latte I was sipping), I set off from the hotel in what appeared to be the direction of the Sushi District.
As I started to enjoy the beautiful sights all around, I felt strong pangs of longing for someone to be there enjoying it with me. That’s probably the biggest (and only) drawback to traveling as a flight attendant: unless I have a friend flying with me, it can feel very solitary. The only way I can share my adventures is through pictures and blog posts. In addition, my initial reaction to going out into a brand new place is the fear that the sheer size and new-ness of it will swallow me up, and I’ll never find my way back to where I started. If Darcy was with me, for example, he’d take one look at the map and instantly be self-assured about which direction we were headed. He’d be like “we’ll get on the L train, go three blocks and then transfer to the G train until we get to the wharf. Easy peasy.” and I’d be like ” is that the green one or the blue one?” That’s just who he is. He’s got his sh*t together, and its contagious.
I stopped myself, however, by remembering that this day was about me. I wasn’t here to go see the sights that someone else wanted to see. I wasn’t here to go shopping at the venues my friends wanted to shop at. Being here by myself forces me to do exactly what I want to do, when my natural tendency is to let my far more extroverted friends take the reins. It’s natural to want to make memories with others, but some times you just need to kindle some memories with yourself. Similarly, I’d never get any better at finding my way around a strange city if I never struck out on my own.
After this realization, I took that time to make a list of all the things I wanted to do:
- eat some awesome sushi
- go to the Fisherman’s wharf and check out the ships in the bay
- lay on the beach and chillax
- go to the Fine Arts Museum
- ride on the historic cable cars up and down the very hilly streets of San Fran
- bike across the Golden Gate Bridge
- make friends with complete strangers
- start my secret project (more on this later)
I’m very proud to say that I never got lost in San Francisco, thanks to my iPhone, some very helpful police officers, and a group of Chilean exchange students. This has never happened before. I always get lost. There’s always at least one “where the bleep am I” moment, but this time I made it around like a champ. I attribute this to the aforementioned people/electronic device, and the fact that I wasn’t in a hurry. When you can wander around and get from point A to point Z at a leisurely pace, you’re a lot less likely to panic, and get even more lost. I guess that would be my newbie tip: don’t immerse yourself in unfamiliar territory unless you have time to become familiar with it in a way that your brain is comfortable with.
Without further ado, here are some pics from my trip!:
I went to Hana Zen sushi in San Francisco, and got this. It’s called a Salmon Don bowl, and is basically lined on the bottom with the delicious sushi rice, then a layer of bok choy (cabbage) and then generous slices of fresh sushi fish. It was pretty cheap too considering how much food you get (about $12) and comes with the ginger and wasabi. This place is legit—you know you’re at a good sushi place when the venue is filled with native Japanese people enjoying their meals. I could hardly finish my food there was so much, and the staff was very friendly and attentive.
A cupcake shop I found. Excellent advertising! I totally pigged out, and when I told them I was a flight attendant who blogs about her travels they gave me some free cupcakes! Woot!
streetcars down by the fisherman’s wharf. It’s the coolest feeling riding the hills on a little old school trolley
ancient tugboat down by the fisherman’s wharf. Still going strong!
just hanging out
about to bike across the golden gate bridge. What they tell you at the bike rental places is that you have your own private bike roads, so you don’t have to worry about dodging traffic. What they dont tell you is that you will be riding uphill for miles and a 70 degree day feels about 20 degrees cooler over the bay. Bring a jacket! Furthermore, I was amused at my naivete—I thought it was going to be a short ride, so I only wore my Gap ballet flats. This turned out to be problematic—pedaling hard and keeping slip ons on your feet don’t mix well. Still, those shoes were champs, and they didn’t wear out or give up as I walked and biked all over the city for 8+ hours. While I don’t recommend them for biking, I’d highly suggest buying a pair for everyday use. They match everything and are super comfortable/ (and as I learned that day) durable! Way to go, Gap!
Almost there! I thought my legs were going to fall off. Nothing humbles you more than watching avid bikers zoom past you while you’re huffing and puffing and trying to keep going.
The bridge and beautiful view was absolutely worth it, though. I crossed one of the items off my bucket list of things to do in my travels: the Golden Gate Bridge is even more breathtaking than its pictures, and is a true marvel of engineering/design.
The Fine Arts Museum. It looks like a little corner of paradise just tucked away for you to find.
The perfect way to end the day, with my toes in the sand, lounging in the sun! As a side note, I recommend buying one of these wireless chargers for your iPhone if you go traveling. It gives your tired battery a little pick-me-up when you need it most, and you just plug it in, press a button and it does its job. In the plane (okay, most planes), there is no where to plug your phone and we all know what its like to have searches to make, emails to check and pictures to take when your ever-important cellular device decides to die. This has saved my butt more times than I care to count.
As always, have safe and awesome travels my readers!
Catch me if you can!