Galley Gossip: How Being Married To A Flight Attendant Is Great Training For The Job

Photo: Christopher Bailey

Hi Heather, My wife is a flight attendant and for some time now I’ve been looking to make a career change and was thinking of becoming a flight attendant myself. I can see how she enjoys it and has fun with it and I’d like to try it, too. Do you think it would be a good or bad thing to bring up in an interview situation that I am married to a flight attendant or does it matter at all? Obviously being married to one gives me a greater insight and depth of understanding of the job and what it involves compared to many other candidates. I have a degree in Microbiology so I have somewhat of a brain, although my wife might debate that with you. I also co-managed a bar in Ireland before I came to the United States so I know what it’s like to have to deal with difficult and intoxicated customers. I also was an airport screener for a while and I’m a state certified emergency responder. I’d like to think these things would make me a strong candidate. Just curious what you think. Thanks for your time, Brian.

Based on your work experience alone, you sound like the perfect candidate to me! You’re comfortable cutting people off handling intoxicated passengers, you’re familiar with the responsibilities that go along with working at an airport, and you have a pretty good idea of what life is like in the sky. Being a certified emergency trainer will only make you more attractive to the airlines. Your wife, I’m sure, has mentioned that no one ever dies in flight, right? At least not until a doctor can make an official pronouncement. This might be why so many flight attendants have nursing backgrounds. Some are even senior enough to hold a flying schedule that allows them to balance a nursing career at the same time. These are always my favorite flight attendants to work with because when there’s an emergency in flight, they tend to take over. That being said, I truly believe it’s your wife that makes you a standout.

You of all people should know that it takes a special person to be involved with a flight attendant. As you’ve mentioned, you already understand our crazy schedules and what the job entails. Most people don’t realize that being a flight attendant isn’t just a job, it’s a lifestyle, and it affects everything we do – or don’t do, because we can’t get the days off to do it. This explains why so many new flight attendants either quit a few weeks after successfully completing the training program or last a lifetime. It’s that extreme. Many people can’t deal with our long absences, missing holidays, not being able to make long-term plans, and our ever-changing schedules. Just last week I was reassigned not once, but twice before 10 a.m. on day two of a three-day trip, and then on day three, my three-day trip turned into a four-day trip. If there’s one thing that flight attendants have in common it’s that we always have back up plans A, B and C, because when it comes to working in the aviation industry something is bound to go wrong. It’s why being flexible in terms of scheduling is so important. This is exactly what makes you special. You understand all of this already. I say if you’ve got it, flaunt it! Good luck.

A Traveler in the Foreign Service: (Not so) sexy time

Hugh Hefner wouldn’t make a very good Foreign Service Officer (FSO). FSO’s serving overseas need to disclose information about their lovers to the embassy’s Regional Security Officer (RSO), who in turn conduct investigations on foreign-born romantic partners to ensure that they aren’t likely to blackmail or manipulate them. There are no secrets and playboys tend to crash and burn before their careers can take off.

Managing relationships in the Foreign Service can be a travail, even for the monogamous. I was (and still am) happily married during my tenure in the service, but I have second-hand experience with this topic, vis-à-vis single and divorced former colleagues.

The expatriate experience tends to test marriages in a way that everyday life in the U.S. might not, and weak relationships don’t last long. My wife and I arrived at our first post as newlyweds and found that we needed to rely on each other more so than at home. When you arrive in a new country with no friends or relatives to fall back on, you spend an inordinate amount of time with your spouse and don’t have the same support network you would at home. In our case, and for many other couples, the experience brought us close together, cementing our bond. But that is not always the case.

I’ve heard people say that divorce rates in the Foreign Service are high, but I’m not sure they’re any higher than they are in the general population. But in the fishbowl world of the Foreign Service, where the line between one’s personal and work life is often blurred, divorce can take a toll on careers.

A former colleague told me that after he separated from his wife and arrived at a new post single, everyone seemed to already know his story. He said he was “the object of huge curiosity and scrutiny.”But it’s probably even harder for single women trying to pursue relationships in the service. Of the single men I know who joined the service, many found spouses while serving overseas, but most of the single women I know who joined in the last 5-10 years are still single, not all of them by choice. FSO’s typically move every 2-3 years, and many women find it difficult to find men in developing countries who are interested in a career woman whom they’d have to follow around the world. And even if they do find someone of interest, a moment of truth arrives at the end of the tour. When you live in Uganda and are off to Honduras next, what to do?

A single female I know told me that everyone knew who she was sleeping with at most of the overseas posts she’s served at. “You think the walk of shame is bad?” she wrote to me, in response to a question about the difficulty of dating in the Foreign Service. “Try having to call your Sudanese driver in the morning to pick you up in an armored Suburban. Talk about humiliating.” She said the “logistics” of Foreign Service life made it impossible for her to settle down.

At some posts, FSO’s live on a gated compound adjacent to the mission, and if one wants to bring home a lover to spend the time, they have to present an I.D. to an armed guard and pass through metal detectors and submit to being frisked on the way in. Not much of an aphrodisiac to say the least.

Some FSO’s, most commonly men, who might be considered slightly less-than-marketable products on the dating scene at home, do manage to trade up for attractive spouses they find in developing countries. Everyone has a story about a dorky guy with a lovely wife but, in reality, people marry for all kinds of reasons, including for money or status, even in the U.S., so odd relationships certainly aren’t the sole provenance of the expatriate or FSO.

Many a potentially good career in the Foreign Service has been ruined by philandering. Some lose their security clearances for serial cheating, which is thought to make one vulnerable to blackmail; others simply destroy their corridor reputations. The lack of privacy can be daunting, but, in reality, it probably encourages FSO’s to be faithful to their spouses, which is obviously a good thing.

The State Department has made strides of late in helping gay and straight FSO’s who live with unmarried partners, but trying to live overseas with what are called MOH’s (members of household) is also a huge challenge. FSO spouses, considered EFM’s (eligible family members) in the government’s acronym happy parlance, typically enjoy full diplomatic status overseas and can travel to posts at government expense. But MOH’s do not.

All this said, experiencing a new culture with a spouse or a new lover can be an awful lot more exciting than a stay-at-home marriage or trying one’s luck on eHarmony. But if you’re thinking of joining to the Foreign Service because you want to live like Heff, think again.

Read more from A Traveler in the Foreign Service here.

Image via Horrible Giant Jungle Flea on Flickr.

The Museum of Broken Relationships finds permanent home

Way back in 2007 we reported on the Museum of Broken Relationships, a traveling exhibition of mementos from love affairs turned sour. Well, the idea has been gaining steam, and now the museum has opened up a permanent exhibition in Zagreb, Croatia.

The museum is perhaps unique in that all of its collections come from individual donations. They come with a story too. Take this teddy, for example, donated by a woman who wrote, “‘I love you’ – WHAT A LIE! LIES, DAMN LIES! Yes, it’s like that when you are young, naïve and in love. And you don’t realize your boyfriend started dating you just because he wanted to take you to bed! I got this teddy bear for Valentine’s. He survived on top of my closet in a plastic bag, because it wasn’t him who hurt me, but the idiot who left him behind.”

Ouch. Love hurts. The museum contains hundreds of stories like this. There’s the wedding dress from a failed marriage, the artificial leg of a man jilted by a nurse, and a guy’s cell phone he gave to his girlfriend so she couldn’t call him anymore.

Is there anything you’d donate to the Museum of Broken Relationships? Tell us in the comments section! Is there anything I’d donate? Nope, I threw it away years ago.

Ask Gadling: What do you do when you can’t stand your travel companions?

Whether it’s old friends, fellow travelers on the same tour or a bunch of folks you just met in the hostel, some people are bound to get on your nerves when you travel together. This happens to everyone. Some of my personal peeves include:

  • Stick-in-the-muds.
  • Tantrum-throwers/whiners.
  • Bad drinkers.
  • People who ask complicated questions just to make themselves sound smart.
  • Ugly people. (Kidding.)
  • People who lack respect for their fellow man or the place they’re visiting.
  • Rudeness.
View more Ask Gadling: Travel Advice from an Expert or send your question to ask [at] gadling [dot] com.

When you’re in a situation where you feel like you can’t stand your traveling companions for one more minute, it’s usually not the whole group that’s a problem; it’s one or two people poisoning everyone else. The easiest way to deal with these kinds of people is not always to ignore them. For example, if you didn’t stop so-and-so from littering in the Yangtze River, could you forgive yourself? And if whats-his-name is being rude to the guide, ignoring it could affect your guide’s ability to give you what you came for: an awesome tour. And what if the first-rate Goofus also happens to be your fellow countryman? Do you want them representing your country that way? No.

Worst of all, despite whatever barriers you try to put up, people like this can slowly encroach upon your enjoyment of your trip, all but ruining the entire experience. To let them do that would be a crime.

When ignoring the problem clearly isn’t going to cut it, try one of these three strategies to alleviate your (and probably everyone else’s) suffering:1. Kill them with kindness.

Sometimes, the jerkstore in question just needs to feel appreciated and heard. Yes, they should go to therapy, but if you bite the bullet and give them some of the approval they so desperately need, you may be able to salvage your own sanity. Try complimenting them on their good questions, ask them if they need help with whatever they’re complaining about and get them talking about their own life. Stare right between their eyes and just nod your head understandingly if you have to. This tactic can calm down attention-seeking behavior fairly quickly.

2. Turn their comments into group discussions.

This can work if you’re tired of hearing just one person’s voice or if that person is saying inappropriate things. Take control of your group like it’s a classroom for a moment, and ask one of the braver people what they think. Do they agree? Ask the quieter people. The phrase, “That’s an interesting point of view, what does everyone else think?” can go a long way — even if it just ends in laughter.

3. Remember that the problem is probably fear.

Travel can bring up strange, new feelings in people, causing them to behave poorly. The main root of this is fear. Rather than take any hostility or obnoxiousness as being indicative of a “bad person,” try to make it about an “afraid person.” This depersonalizes the situation and helps you to tolerate that person without getting upset yourself. Once you start dealing with them as someone who’s scared, not evil, you may find you know exactly what to say and do to make them shut up. Ask yourself what the person is afraid of, and see if you can say something tactful and subtle to address it, either privately or publicly. For example, a person who’s being infuriatingly outspoken about time and speed may be afraid they’re going to miss something later. Ask them if they have plans for later and listen. Say something understanding, like “I can see why you’re worried about time.” Allowing them to publicly air their mission may calm them down, or talking it through may actually solve their problem. If they’re hoping for something impossible, the conversation will force them to face that. Situation diffused.

If you really think there’s no problem person in the group and that the trouble is that everyone else is just so irritating, take a look at the man in the mirror, Michael. The problem person is probably you.

[Photo by hrlndspnks via Flickr.]

10 ways to deal with a bad travel partner

I tend to make reasonably good travel decisions. I pack appropriately (and always bring a sweater), I consult maps, and I tend not to eat anywhere that includes the phrase “o-rama” (i.e., “Bob’s Fish-o-rama.” So NOT a good idea).

But even those of us who make great (dare we say, flawless?) travel decisions falter now and then. Especially when it comes to picking a travel companion. For some reason, people tend to change dramatically when on a trip. It might be that the oxygen-rich recycled air has gone to their brain. Or that jet lag, combined with one-too-many in-flight drinks, has brought out their inner crazy. Maybe it’s the stress of being somewhere new and strange. Whatever the reason, you may have the misfortune to find that, no matter how great you are at making decisions for your trip, you’ve managed to pick a travel companion who … well, who just plain sucks.

Perhaps they snore incessantly, or chew with their mouth open. Maybe they’ve used your last clean shirt … as a handkerchief. Whatever the reason, you are not getting along. As the trip progresses, you feel tempers running short and a screaming match between the two of you looms on the horizon. But you’re stuck together. You might be thousands of miles away from home. You might have no one else to talk to. You might even be sharing the same bathroom.

First off, take a deep breath. Having a miserable travel companion doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to have a miserable trip. These tips and tricks will ensure that you’ll both get home in one piece, and, with any luck, you’ll still be talking to one another, too.

Kill them … with kindness.

You will notice I said WITH KINDNESS. As ridiculous as it sounds, being excessively polite and kind to your loathsome travel mate will probably help ease tensions (I’m not saying it’s easy, but it will help). Plus, they’ll find it exponentially harder to stiff you on the bill or be an all-around snot to you when you’re acting so darn nice. And in the end, you’ll come across as the good guy — because a travel companion who’s “being too nice” isn’t really something they can complain about.Don’t lose your cool.
You may feel a scream bubbling up in your throat, your hands clenching into fists, and know that a fight is mere moments away. Whatever you do, keep your temper in check. Count to ten, grab a snack, or do something else to get your mind off the situation. Blowing up at your travel mate isn’t going to make you feel any better — it’s actually more likely to make you feel worse. You could end up saying something you regret (“I wish you were never born … MOM!”) making for a very awkward flight home.

Spend some time apart.
Even someone you adore can grow a little tiresome after 6 days/7 nights together. If your travel companion wants to spend the day at by the pool, and you’re dying to explore the museum, why not go your separate ways for a few hours? It will give you both time to relax and cool down, and you might actually start to miss each other. Maybe. Or, at least, hate each other less.

Speak up before something becomes a problem.
If you suddenly find yourself traveling with a morning person, and you’re a night owl, let them know before you’re too sleep deprived to be civil about it. Bringing issues up before they bother you means you’ll be calmer — and less likely to have a vicious, hair-pulling fight about what time to set the wake-up call.

Select activities that involve little interaction.
Sometimes you might not be able to get away from your travel buddy, no matter how hard you try. When you’re absolutely stuck, try activities that don’t require a lot of teamwork. Instead of sharing a canoe, grab individual kayaks. Go see a movie (or if you can’t agree, see different ones!) Avoid ballroom dancing at all costs. It will end badly.

Make new friends.
If your travel partner is turning out to be a dud, why not try befriending some other travelers? You’ll have new people to talk to, and possibly commiserate with! You might meet someone who’s sharing an hotel room with an ex-con — or worse, a lousy tipper. It will make your situation seem like a dream by comparison. Can’t find anyone to talk to? Chat up the bartender. You might even get a free drink out of the deal.

Get some exercise.

Not only will a quick jog or swim give you some much needed alone time, but it will also help burn off all the pent-up anger and stress you’ve been lugging across three timezones. Plus, those endorphins can help calm you down and make you forget all about that fiasco with Homeland Security.

Remember: You aren’t exactly perfect.
Your mom might find your little quirks endearing, but not everyone does. Odds are, your travel partner could be just as fed up with you as you are with them. Keep this in mind, and you may suddenly find a new wealth of patience when it comes to dealing with your travel buddy’s flaws (“Well, she didn’t get angry when I borrowed her sweater, so I guess I’ll forgive her for puking in my suitcase.”).

Avoid contentious topics.
Maybe you’re a Mets fan, and he loves the Yankees. Or perhaps he watches Leno, and you’re with Coco. Whatever the case, try to avoid topics on which you disagree, not matter how tempting. It will only stress you both out, making future altercations more likely. Instead, stick to subjects on which you share an opinion: like how unicorns and cake are awesome.

Think of what a great story it will make later.
So you plan a trip to the Bahamas with an old college friend, only to discover he has a crippling case of eremikophobia (a.k.a., fear of sand. Seriously. Look it up). While seemingly disastrous now (because he doesn’t want a single grain of it in the hotel room) it will make a great tale to tell later. Try to see the humor of a dismal situation.

Rotten travel companions have happened to the best of us. Share your story — and how you lived to tell the tale — in the comments section below!

Read more:
What makes a good travel companion?
Uncommon traits of a good travel companion
Coping with a travel disaster

[Photos: Flickr | Evil Erin; W. Volk; jrodmanjr; StrudelMonkey]