For some obscure reason, I am suddenly fascinated by my parent’s history. Maybe it is not so obscure; I have written about my years in Australia, and my years with Pan Am on this blog, and I guess once you open the floodgates, it’s hard to stop the flow. I’ve also been digging out photos from the boxes where I keep them, and seeing them with fresh eyes. My mom, a self-taught figure skater, is so gorgeous, holding that Braniff airplane model. Why didn’t I realize before how pretty she was? And my dad, the fighter pilot, in his classic aviator photo, with the white scarf, leather bomber jacket, headphones, and airman’s hat. He’s devastating!
A Pan Am 747 was big, no doubt about it. The doors of the 747 are pretty far from the ground. They are perhaps two stories high; I can’t find the exact number of feet from the ground the door sills are. For anyone who has seen movies like the second ‘Die Hard’ can glean some idea of the height of a fall someone may endure, should they be so unfortunate as to open that door and take a step outside into the abyss.
When I was flying, I often looked down at the tarmac and felt that clutch in the gut I always get when I look down at the ground from a great height. I used to climb mountains all the time; climbing up is no problem, getting down was practically impossible for me. I’d freeze like a rabbit in headlights. Had I been Heidi, I never would have made it to the little handicapped girl. I’d still be on the mountain.
There is a group of former Pan Am flight attendants, and this probably applies to other airlines’ retired personnel also, to whom the past is sacred. I don’t subscribe to the poisonous pedagogy of burying the truth. If it happened, it happened. That elephant in the room can sit down with me and have a cup of coffee, while we discuss its presence there, and why its destroying my living room. I see no profit in hypocrisy, or changing the past.
In September of 2011, a show on ABC aired titled, “Pan Am”. It centered on the flight crews of Pan Am Airlines, mainly the female flight attendant of the sixties.
There is an upsurge of interest in the 1960s, perhaps due to the popularity of the show ‘Mad Men’, a show depicting advertising men of the ’60s, their wives, and sexy secretaries. All the hoopla over the Pan Am Airlines show engendered much fantasizing by the younger male demographic about the ‘good old days’ of the gorgeous flight attendant, and the supposed opportunities businessmen and pilots had with the sexy ‘geisha’ girls of the skies, both during and after a flight, while they got away from the ‘little woman’ for a few days. Flight attendants were fondly imagined to be solely dedicated to the pleasure and comfort of their male passengers.
When I was very young and lived by the sea, a group of young adults once told me to go pull the blanket off two people who were lying on the sand when I was playing at the beach one day. They must have looked at me and have seen the selective gullibility that I have been cursed with my entire life. Don’t ask me what selective gullibility is; that would be giving too much away. The couple I was sent to bust was completely covered by that blanket, and my younger self was assured by these con artists that the people would like it; it was just a joke. I did it, and voila! There were two adults under that blanket, in flagrante delicto, roosting in their love nest by the shore.
It was New Year’s Day, over twenty years ago. I was Los Angeles based, and reporting for a Pan Am Airlines flight to New York. I was actually senior on this trip, because most really senior people didn’t have to work New Year’s Day. I chose to work up front, and missed much of the action in back that would make this a memorable flight.
On the thirteenth anniversary of 9/11 there are many memorials around the country featured on television and radio which commemorate the ‘first responders’, the firefighters, and the police. On social networking sites, there are prayers and short memorials for a largely overlooked segment of people who were on duty too, the flight attendants and cockpit crews of the aircraft that crashed into the towers and the ground.
If there was one thing Pan Am flight attendants knew how to do, that was shop. I’ve heard that there is a master’s degree offered for this. People can learn how to shop for the incredibly wealthy: cars, furnishings, art, clothing. I wonder if any former Pan Am flight attendants have looked into this degree. Why, I’ve seen the rumor of a sale bring a fainting, ill, flight attendant right back from the brink of darkness!
It was Christmas season, and we were in India, and it may have been a manifestation of a miracle of some kind, but it was some powerful medicine. We had all congregated in a crew member’s hotel room, and a flight attendant was feeling very punk. She was dizzy and pale. Another flight attendant entered the room and mentioned a sale taking place in the lobby. The dizzy flight attendant was brought back to immediate and rosy health.
When I was hired by Pan Am I was a perfect size 12. I must have had some fat on me somewhere, but it was probably in strategic areas where I may have needed it, and where it was occasionally admired by passing strangers. I had no quarrel with that except in Rome. Rome is a city where men do not recognize any personal boundaries between themselves and the female flesh of a passing woman.
After I arrived at training in Honolulu, I was weighed, and found wanting. I had to lose something like fifteen pounds by the end of training. And so began the odyssey of my cheekbones; in and out, chubby-cheeked, or a la Sophia Loren. I have to say, I preferred the hollow-cheeked look, like a hungry supermodel, to the rosiness of a cherub. I didn’t want to have ’heroin chic’, (or cheek) but neither did I want to look like I was straight out of a Michelangelo painting on the Sistine Chapel. Continue reading
To most young people, to dress for less means a trip to Forever 21, or Target. Saving for, and buying, quality clothing that lasts, is an alien concept. The clothing they buy today won’t outlast the years, or even months of wearing, when it could be handed down to a younger sibling, or donated to a thrift store.
What is really funny is that most kids, and many adults, hate the idea of wearing a uniform, and yet that is exactly what they are doing. They all wear basically the same thing, with only small differences. Granted, I couldn’t wear hand-me-downs because I was bigger than my sister, and taller than my mother. That’s why I borrowed my dad’s shirts and sweaters. They had longer sleeves and torsos.