Galley Gossip: Improve your travel with Bruce Lee

The following quotes are from the book Striking Thoughts: Bruce Lee’s Wisdom for Daily Living by John Little.

1. Something for nothing “There is only something for something, never something for nothing.”

Think about that next time you feel nickel and dimed by an airline. Ticket prices are less than they were twenty years ago, so in the end you’re still paying the same price you were in 1992, maybe even less. Keep in mind the Barbie Glam Vacation Jet costs $119.99 at ToysRus. That’s more than most one way tickets.

2. Emptiness is the starting point “In order to taste my cup of water you must first empty your cup. Drop all your preconceived fixed ideas and be neutral. Do you know why this cup is so useful? Because it is empty!”

Don’t let what happened on your last flight affect your next flight. Often passengers will board and immediately want to rehash the details of what went wrong on another trip. Things don’t usually go so well from here. How could it? I’ve just been linked to the worst flight ever!

3. “Is” vs. “Should” “What IS is more important than WHAT SHOULD BE. Too many people are looking at “what is” from a position of thinking “what should be.”

To become a flight attendant one must be flexible. Being able to quickly adapt to change is essential on the job. If there’s one thing we can count on in the aviation industry, it’s something is bound to go wrong. This is why we always have back up plans A, B, C, and D. So next time something doesn’t seem to be going right, do what a flight attendant would do and instead of getting upset about what should be happening, focus on what is happening, and start making alternative plans – QUICKLY! Before all the hotel rooms are booked and the rental agencies run out of cars.

4. Anxiety Anxiety is the gap between the NOW and the THEN. So if you are in the now, you can’t be anxious, because your excitement flows immediately into ongoing spontaneous activity.

I can spot a fearful flier a mile away. If they’re not asking about the weather, they’re clutching the armrest and sweating profusely. A little unknown fact is more people die falling off donkeys than they do in plane crashes. Remember that next time you start to feel anxious. Focus on the fact that you’re sitting in a somewhat uncomfortable seat and drinking the beverage of your choice. There’s probably even a very nice person sitting beside you. If that doesn’t work, tell a flight attendant what’s going on and we’ll do what we can to help. We’re trained professionals. That’s what we’re there for.

5. Not to think, but to do Our grand business is not to see what lies dimly at a distance, but to do what lies clearly at hand.

You know the saying, life is the journey, not the destination? Well it’s true. Your trip starts as soon as you throw your bags into the trunk of your car. We only get one chance at this life, so why not make the most of it, even if you’re on an airplane or stuck in the terminal after a breach in security at Newark Airport.

6. Life is the effect of feelings Life is simply what our feelings do to us.

This is the one I have to remind myself of when I start to feel guilty about charging passengers for food, drinks and headsets. Hey, that’s my job. And I love my job! I also have to remember this when I start getting all worked up over a passenger who was rude to me when there are 150 other really nice ones on board.

7. In solitude you are least alone – Loneliness is only an opportunity to cut adrift and find yourself. In solitude you are least alone. Make good use of it.

Passengers get all bent out of shape over the electronic device policy more than anything else these days. On a flight from Chicago to Oklahoma City I had to ask 16 passengers to turn off their cell phones after having told them three times already! Once the aircraft reaches its cruising altitude, passengers are free to turn most electronic devices back on. Until then why not relax or try meditating – while it’s still free of charge to do so.

8. Anger should be expressed Any anger that is not coming out, flowing freely, will turn into sadism, power drive, stammering, and other means of torture.

There’s a difference between expressing yourself and throwing a hissy fit that results in getting escorted off a flight because you’ve been bottling things up for so long, you’re no longer rational and freak out over little things like a passenger reclining their seat or a kid who accidentally bangs the tray table. And you wonder why some flight attendants are no longer smiling. And why others become folklore heroes who’s stories last longer than their careers. Does JetBlue’s Stephen Slater ring a bell?

9. Happiness requires action Everybody is capable of obtaining happiness, but the matter of going on, or taking action to obtain it, is in question.

There are two kinds of people; those who love to travel and those who hate to travel. Sadly there are more and more complainers in the world these days. Yes, travel is stressful, but it doesn’t have to be! For starters try arriving to the airport early so the stress of finding yourself in a long line at security doesn’t snowball into something worse, like a missed flight.

10. The importance of adaption The inability to adapt brings destruction.

Flying today is like being on an episode of Survivor. Only the fittest – er, most prepared – will survive. If you pack light, bring lunch, buy water, have reading material handy, and wear shoes that are easy to slip on and off, how bad can it really be?

(Read more about Bruce Lee on his website.)

Galley Gossip: How do flight attendants survive on such a small salary?

I’ve been offered a position as a flight attendant. Training hasn’t started yet, but I’m freaking out a little. Should I back out? It seems like a fun and exciting job, but the pay is $20/hour with only a 79-hour guarantee of work per month. The first year I would have to be on reserve and would need to live within 20 minutes of the airport. A one bedroom/studio within 30 minutes of the airport averages $1400-$1800 per month! We were told that during our six weeks of training we will be paid $1400, which will be prorated. Huh? How do flight attendants afford to pay for rent and living expenses? I am trying to calculate it and there is no way to make ends meet…even with a roommate! What do you suggest to those of us who have not started? Should we turn around and run for the hills? – Cold Feet

Dear Cold Feet,

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, no one becomes a flight attendant for the money! This is why the majority of new flight attendants are either right out of college or looking to make a career change after the kids are grown and out of the house. While $20 an hour may look good on paper, the reality is it doesn’t add up to much, not when we’re only paid for flight hours. That’s strictly time spent in the air. And with so many FAA regulations limiting us to the number of hours and days in a row we can work, most of us average between 80-90 hours a month. Keep in mind flight time does not include boarding, deplaning, delays, scheduled sit time between flights and layovers away from home, even though we’re on company time. However we are paid a per diem from sign-in to the time we arrive back to base. It’s less than two-dollars an hour.

You’ve been offered $20 an hour with a 79 hour guarantee. That’s roughly $18,000 a year. It’s more than most first year flight attendants get paid. The average flight attendant makes between $14,000-$18,000 the first year on the job. Each year we’re offered a standard raise. Flight attendants who work international routes, speak a second language, work high time (over 100 hours) and have seniority with a major carrier have the potential to earn up to $80,000 a year, if not more, but this is rare. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Median annual wages of flight attendants were $35,930 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $28,420 and $49,910. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $20,580, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $65,350.”

So how do we do it? Enter the crash pad.

A crash pad is where flight attendants literally crash between trips. My first crash pad was a house with five bedrooms that may have had 60 flight attendants living in it for all I know. There were so many people coming and going it was impossible to keep up. Six of us shared a room that had bunk beds lining the walls. Most crash pad dwellers are commuters. Because we were on probation and travel benefits at my airline wouldn’t kick in for six months, we were all new-hires living full time in a crash pad meant for commuters. It wasn’t pretty. It’s no wonder we were all so eager to work – er, fly away! Because at the end of a long work day there was always a layover hotel with a room that had a bed with no one else sleeping near it. And a tub that was clean that didn’t require one to sign up to use it. This might explain how I managed to actually save $2,000 my first year on the job, even after the airline deducted $800 to cover the cost of the uniform from my paycheck.

There’s a reason why so many flight attendants quit within the first few months of flying – and why the rest of us last a lifetime! It’s that extreme. Being a flight attendant is not just a job, it’s a lifestyle. My advice to you, Cold Feet, is to go for it. You can always quit if you don’t like it. Just remember it won’t be easy in the beginning, but stick with it and make sure to give it at least six months before throwing in the towel. When your travel benefits kick in, you’ll be glad you did. You might also want to consider praying your airline continues hiring flight attendants because a life off reserve makes a world of difference.

Photo courtesy of byronv2

Galley Gossip: Flight attendant haunted layover hotel ghost stories (and a haunted plane!)

In the spirit of Halloween, I’d like to share a few layover hotel ghost stories from flight attendants I know…

At a hotel in San Francisco the water kept turning itself on during the night. After the 3rd or 4th time, instead of getting up and turning it off, I had a little talk with the ghost. I was thinking I must have lost my mind. Water went off automatically. Never came on again! – Vicki Howell

At our current Paris hotel, I had an apparition appear at the foot of my bed. At first I didn’t think it was anything until I felt somebody sit on my bed. I turned on the light near the bed and of course there was nothing there. – John Gonzales

On a layover in Miami, I felt someone/something pull the covers off of my shoulder and breathe cold air onto the back of my neck. I jumped out of bed, ran for the door, turned on the light… and no one was there. On the next trip another flight attendant couldn’t get into that same room with her key. Security couldn’t get in either. They had to change her room. Gives me the chills even talking about it. – Penni Reynolds Piskor

At a Sheraton in New Jersey in 1989, I kept thinking there was someone in my room. Woke up several times convinced. Searched the room. Nothing was there. Found out later the hotel was reputedly haunted, and one of the elevators was known to run all night, stopping at each floor even though nobody called it – Julie Meyer

I always clip my curtains closed so the light will not shine through and wake me up. In the middle of the night it was like someone used their hands to push both curtains back forcefully. I was lying there freaking out! Another time I woke up to find the decorative bed quilt folded neatly in the corner of the room. I don’t fold at home nor am I good at it, so I know I didn’t do it in my sleep. The third time we did a seance. We asked for a sign and all the elevators opened simultaneously. We jumped up and ran! – Lynne Smith

In Mexico a friend had similar experience as John did above. A guy sat on the edge of his bed in the middle of the night, but when he turned on the lights, no one was there. He mentioned something to the front desk and they sheepishly asked if he was gay. When he said yes, they said that Jorge always visited gay guys in their rooms (I was never visited!) I don’t believe in haunting and have waited for them every time! – Gordon Valentine

Lights, faucet and bathtub all turned on during my sleep at the layover hotel in New Orleans. Just asked the naughty perpetrator to behave themselves because I needed the sleep before an early roll out. – Alx Stellyes

It was an old hotel in Boston, next to an historic graveyard. I was having a crazy dream about a Nun. My room was in a corner and I woke up in the middle of the night to repeated pounding. Turned the lights on, it stopped. Asked the driver the next day what the deal was with the hotel. (Didn’t tell him about my dream) He said a certain floor was haunted ( mine, of course!) by a NUN. – Lori Polka

In Manchester England we used to stay at a hotel with huge vaults and all were opened except one where someone locked themselves in it hundreds of years ago. The skeleton key is still in the lock, from the inside, but nobody can get it opened. Then you go into the bedrooms and they are all different themes. Mine was very opulent. She (the ghost) Kept turning on the sink faucet. After getting up 2 times to turn it off I was getting pissed. The third time I just screamed “turn that effing water off! And it did. Never picked up another Manchester trip. – Daniel Koukes

At Tower Air there was an aircraft (604) we ferried a lot. A spirit would walk up and down the aisles and wake us up. It also would unlatch everything in the galley and open all the carts and bins. You would close them and tell her to stop. A little later you’d hear it happening again. – Lynne Smith

The hotel Jakarta is known for having all sorts of ghost stories, especially amongst female, Chinese, Japanese and Korean crew. They tend to sleep 2-3 in a room instead of alone in that hotel! – Sodwee.

There was an Eastern Airlines airplane that went into the Everglades. It was Flight 401. The airline finally had it dismantled and used parts in other aircraft – Vicki Howell

Eastern Airlines L-1011 #318 was a haunted plane. It had ovens taken from the airplane that crashed in the Everglades in the early ’70’s. So many sightings and occurrences were reported that the a/c # had to be changed. Who knows where it is now – Julie Meyer

I remember reading the book of Eastern flight 401 and all the happenings from that incident. Came to be they had to remove all the extra parts from the plane and any carts that were used on other flights had to be grounded as they were all linked to Flight 401 – Gordon Valentine

Photo courtesy of dantc and roeyahram

Galley Gossip: Pilot sexually harassed by a passenger!

Dear Heather, I have to share this with you. I’m a pilot and I was sexually harassed last night. While jump-seating home, the lead flight attendant calls the cockpit and says a passenger thinks one of the flaps is out of position. The captain sends me back to check the wings. I squeeze into the fully occupied exit row to peer out the window. While looking out the window, a female passenger sitting in the middle seat puts her hands on my butt. Her friend then shouts, “Woo, get some!” Passengers nearby all start laughing. Anyway, turns out what the initial passenger saw and thought was a problem were the outboard ailerons on the wings of the Super 80. One was up and the other was down. This is normal while on the ground. Anyway, I returned to the cockpit and told the pilots what just happened and we all had a good laugh. I should mention the Captain was female! Thought you’d find it funny! – Bob (the singing pilot)

My first thought when I read Bob’s letter was, wow! What kind of person places their hands on a pilot’s you-know-what and yells out something like that.

Just to be fair, I later on found myself yelling out the exact same phrase several times throughout the course of my day. I couldn’t help it! And each time my voice become lower and before I knew it I had developed this southern accent, kind of like that famous redneck comedian I can’t remember the name of. Next thing I knew I was visualizing it, the whole exit row groping, only it was I who slapped the pilots and a few lucky passengers as I passed them in the terminal. Mmm hmm, get it girl!

NOTE: I would NEVER do something like that in real life!

Now back to Bob.

The woman who slapped him was somewhat attractive, at least that’s what Bob said. He only told me this because I asked. I asked because I wanted to know what she looked like so I – er, we! – could visualize this better. Not that any of this matters, because what matters, really matters, is how the woman made Bob feel. Not good.

“I was flattered and a little embarrassed. And humored. Cause it was funny. I mean my butt was kind of in her personal space. She had the shot……she took it. So let’s just say I was ‘Flambumored.'”

At least Bob now kinda-sorta knows what it’s like to be a flight attendant, if only for a few seconds, and for just one squeeze.

When I asked Bob to explain EXACTLY how it all went down so we could learn from his experience, he said, “I told the passengers in the exit row I needed to get in there to check the wings and that they could either get up or let me crawl over them. They all opted for the latter.”

And there’s the red flag.

Let this be a lesson to all pilots. Do not, I repeat, do not climb over passengers! Do what a flight attendant would do and let them step out of their row and into the aisle instead of wedging yourself on top of them.

All kidding aside, please do not poke, prod, pull or slap the crew. Trust me – there are quite a few touchy feely passengers who will live a whole lot longer if certain flight attendants (and pilots!) are left alone.

[Photo courtesy of TheZipper]

Galley Gossip: Elbow attacks and armrest wars (the battle continues)

Recently a friend shared a story about a woman who accused him of being an “elbow assaulter” on a flight from San Francisco to Dallas. To make a long story short, my friend is 6′ 2″ and 230 pounds. The woman who sat beside him was, in his words, not petite. During the flight he made various maneuvers in his seat to try and flatten himself against the wall to give her as much room as possible while still being able to type on his computer. Unfortunately his attempt at making himself smaller failed because the woman became upset when his right elbow accidentally made contact with her left shoulder – not once, not twice, but three (possibly four) times! God forbid.

In his blog post detailing the incident, Brian Cuban (AKA the elbow assaulter) wrote, “This was coach. Space is tight. Baby’s are going to cry. There are going to be unwelcome smells. People are going to recline their seat into your groin. Shoulders are going to occasionally touch.”

I have to agree with Brian. An airplane is public transportation. Unfortunately there is very little personal space on board and therefore anything in the armrest area is fare game for accidental contact.

Sixteen years ago when I first started flying, my roommate who was also new got called out to cover a trip as the lead flight attendant on a 767. As she got ready for the trip, we discussed all the things that could possibly go wrong in flight with her in command of the crew; oven fires, faulty hydraulics, decompressions, medical emergencies, and worse. Not once did it occur to us that an armrest could cause two passengers to come to blows! Which is what would have happened if my roommate hadn’t stepped in and assigned the armrest to one passenger for the first three hours of flight and the same armrest to the other passenger for the last half of the flight. Afterwards we laughed at how ridiculous it was that two grown men couldn’t work it out amongst themselves. Little did we know just how often we’d be summoned to settle disputes over reclined seats and claimed armrests.That said it shouldn’t come as a surprise to learn that a flight attendant had to step in and sort things out with Brian and his seatmate. The victim of the “elbow assault” was made aware that it is not a capital offense to accidentally knock into someone, even on an airplane. The FBI and Homeland Security were not called to meet the flight. And Brian was not given a parachute or ejected from the plane. When the victim realized that Brian was not going to move to another seat, a middle seat in coach (because the flight was full), she grudgingly did so herself, but not without first telling Brian off with an evil glare.

Do we all need to go back to Kindergarten and learn how to play nice?

Here’s a tip. Don’t jump to conclusions. Most people aren’t aware of what they’re doing. Take for instance the guy with the enormous backpack who keeps knocking into everyone on his way down the aisle. Let him know what’s going on and I bet he’ll be pretty apologetic – and embarrassed. It also helps to get to know the person a little better before tweeting or facebooking to the world that they’re an idiot. When asked politely, you might be surprised to find they have no problem scooting over, putting their seat back up, or stopping their kid from kicking the back of your seat. Keep in mind it’s always easier to make a request when you’ve had a friendly conversation first. This is why I try to make small talk with passengers during boarding. For the record, an evil glare is not the best form of communication. Nor is kicking back or telling someone you’re going to punch their lights out if they do it one more time. It might help to imagine you’re speaking to a long lost relative on your mother’s side of the family, not an A-hole you’ll never see again, when you find yourself in an uncomfortable situation. Most importantly, give each other the benefit of the doubt. It makes life a whole lot less stressful.

Photo courtesy of DavityDave