Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Facebook and Politics

Open Letter:

If you are my friend, we are going to end up talking about politics. This is not something that can be said any other way, realistically. If we don't talk about politics, you aren't actually my friend in the same way that if you had a kid and never talked about it you wouldn't be my friend. If you spent a lot of time looking at X thing, reading about it, keeping abreast of it, thinking about it and you never talked about it to me I would probably assume that I am not your friend. Doesn't matter if that thing is porn or religion, I would assume you weren't my friend.

This is because if I consider you to be a "friend" that would mean at the very least that I care about you, so I care about the things that make you excited. I don't care about baseball in the slightest- I can still tell you how that the Cubs are currently in a 7 game losing streak. I don't care about Aflac insurance in the least but I can still tell you that it was originally set up to be supplementary cancer insurance.

If I am not your friend, we can still be colleagues, coworkers, acquaintances, mutual club-goers, and family. We can not talk about this aspect of my life and we can not know each other at all, but the weather will sure be exhausted (provided we don't mention climate change). Happy Birthday's can be wished, congratulations will be given, and condolences will be offered. But you aren't my friend- you're some person I know (and not that well) and all of our interaction will be superficial.

So, if you're mad that I talk about politics, unfriend me, or block me. But don't pretend we have a relationship we don't.

Sunday, March 27, 2011


Hubby and I have been legally married for three years, one month, and 5 days today. Our actual anniversary past without notice; we're both pretty terrible at remembering the actual day- I had to go dig up the marriage certificate to even remember it precisely- and we both celebrate our anniversary on the day we threw the wedding party*.

I casually mentioned this to a friend the other day, and she asked the question that I always feel uncomfortable when I get it: "How do you guys have such a good relationship?". The only I answer I can give seems to be really unsatisfying to most people, because all I can think of is "Dumb fucking luck". A series of events that had nothing to do with searching for our true love meant we ended up running in the same circle of nerds at UND, and we eventually met. We met during a period where we were both in a position to be dating. That's how we ended up together.

I don't believe in "true love". In a world where you have a population of 6.9 billion people, it is unlikely that there is only one person on the entire planet that has the right combination of personality traits, pheromones, language, and background traits that you could be happy, comfortable, and content with. The sheer number of people who meet their life-partner at: work, school, or through mutual friends means that most "The One" is probably "the one we see a lot". But, even though I believe that there are a number of people I could have happily pursued a life-long relationship with, I do feel like Hubby and I are probably the best of all possible worlds to be together. Everyone says relationships take hard work. Our relationship is the easiest, laziest thing on the planet.

That being said, if I have to impart great wisdom on why our relationship works so well, so people can sift through it and see if there is any advice to be gleaned to make their relationships work/ so they can find a way to find a life-partner, it would be this:

1) Have a life outside of your significant other, or prospective significant other.

When Hubby and I were dating, we were both in college. We both had jobs. We had our own circle of friends, though there was plenty of overlap. We both had hobbies. We both respected that each one liked their alone time. We understood that our friends, ambitions, and family were in fact priorities, and sometimes that meant saying "I'd like to go to the movie with you, but I haven't spent enough time with Grunt for awhile, and I'd like to hang out with him instead." We continue to this day to have aspects of our lives that are separate. This not only means that you won't overdose on one another, but it also means that they are not the only person doing emotional work in your life. That being said:

2) Either have common hobbies and friends, or make the effort to enjoy each other's hobbies and friends.

Hubby and I were easy: not only were we from similar backgrounds**, but we already both enjoyed nerdy pursuits such as reading fantasy/ sci-fi and playing role-playing games. But, when there was an activity that we didn't share, we did our best to bridge it or at least respect it. I've picked up book series that he wanted me to read that I now enjoy fabulously and he has done likewise. We've both watched movies that we wouldn't have watched if not for the other person. This makes it so we never run out of things to talk about: we have shared frames of references for our conversations, and that makes things fun. I'm not saying that everything we've ever done or read for each other led to something we both enjoyed. For instance, I still think Magic: The Gathering is kind of a waste of time, and he still is baffled by the sheer amount of time I spend on political blogs, but we accept each others' loves and past-times and work to be able to at least follow the other person.

Similarly, we lucked out because our circle of friends already had some overlap***, but with the friends we didn't share, we made the effort to be sociable. I'm not saying we were bosom buddies with everyone's friends, but we did get to the point were we could all hang out and not have it be an awkward "My friends in one corner and his friends and another" sort of thing. The sharing of friends has so far required the second most work in the relationship****. The most work in the relationship has been due to number three:

3) Accept each others baggage and shortcomings

Early into Hubby's and my fledgling relationship, I went to the wedding of one of his dearest, closest, longest friend's wedding, whom also just happened to be his ex-girlfriend. There, as I saw him interact with his life-long friends, it struck me that they teased him a lot and made him do a lot of the grunt-work. This was particularly sensitive to me because I had plenty of "friends" in my life that were not friends at all. On the car trip home, he was bouncing and happily reliving the fun night of the wedding with me, and I mentioned, I thought gently, that his friends did not seem very nice to him. He got noticeably colder, and we spent an uncomfortable car trip back to Grand Forks. Unbeknown to me, his last girlfriend had tried to distance him from his friends and he was seriously sensitive to any suggestion that they were not good for each other. After a couple days, I went and asked him if I had did something wrong, and we mutually explained the situation to one another, and everything was fine.

In a parallel fashion, one day my sweet, happy-go-lucky then-boyfriend came home from a day working his terrible customer-service sales job*****. He had experienced an especially terrible day, and his ways of handling stress were all physical and currently unavailable to him. I did not know, at this time, that his major ways of handling stress were physical, just like he did not know, at the time, that I had come from an abusive household. So when he threw a chair across the room, I beat a hasty retreat out of the apartment, and swore never to come back. When he called me, he was instantly apologetic, and promised (and kept his promise) to never do anything like that when I was around.

I can be skitter-y around physical violence, and I'm not great at social interaction. He has a temper, and unique relationships with his friends and family. It is important to note that what YOU think is going to be your biggest flaw******, or the hardest thing to get over, may not be the thing that your possible life-partner finds the hardest thing to work with and get over. But, we both dealt with, and accepted that we weren't perfect, and did our best to be able to understand the other party. Speaking of which, this brings me to:

4) Be direct and honest with the other person. Also, accept that the other person is not always going to communicate perfectly to you.

This is the hardest piece of information to impart, because I think that this is going to be the least useful to people. A lot of people have been trained not to be direct, and being direct can be really tricky because it's easy to step into "so blunt you are rude". Also, people use the "but you didn't SAY anything" to ignore other people's facial expressions and body language, which is a crucial aspect of communication. But I really do think that this is one of the reasons our relationships worked, and continues to work, so well. After I was upfront with Hubby, he felt comfortable enough to be upfront with me, and we accept that direct communication is going to work better than trying to be subtle ever will. When we hit barriers in our relationship, like inadvertently tripping each other's baggage, it has followed a fairly similar pattern: back away until the tripped person feels safe (sometimes, that's a second, sometimes, that's a couple days depending on the situation), the tripper realizes that s/he did something and asks for clarification of the problem, and the tripped person explains why s/he is hurt by previous statement/behavior. Tripper then apologizes, we clarify the problem as much as humanly possible, and go on our merry way.

This is harder than it sounds sometimes. Because sometimes that stuff that is baggage for you is just flipping weird. The "dissing your friends" and "hurling furniture" stories are pretty straightforward, and fairly easy to see who was at fault and which behavior needed to be altered. But there are some things that you are just going to have to eventually own up to, and it'll be awkward. And you'll want to hide it, because, especially in new relationships, you want to come across as normal and well-adjusted, even though what you're trying to find is the person who will like you because of your weird little peccadilloes.

For example, I really hate pasta, but I really like meatballs. So, one time, Hubby was going to treat me to a meal he made his very own self. Unfortunately, when he said he was going to make "Spaghetti and meatballs" and all I heard was "meatballs" so I was super enthusiastic. Then the day arrived, and Hubby had done up his shitty university apartment in the nicest tablecloths the dollar store had to offer, candles, and cleaned until the grime sparkled. The pasta was simmering on the stove top, and the smell of garlic bread and bubbling spaghetti sauce was heavenly. Unfortunately, what there wasn't was meatballs. I didn't want to be mean, so I did my best to suck down spaghetti even though I hated it. He noticed that I wasn't eating, and when I give my standard picky-eater excuse- "I'm just not that hungry"- he interpreted that as "I didn't think you'd be a very good cook so I ate before I came here". Rather than spinning this out in hilarious sitcom fashion, I owned up about not liking spaghetti, much to his consternation. He asked "If you didn't like spaghetti, why did you act so excited to come over?" and I responded "Well, when I said I liked spaghetti and meatballs what I really meant was 'I like meatballs'". This is still an inside joke in our relationship.

Also, sometimes communication can not exactly get the intended point across. For instance, we were once having a lovely school cafeteria dinner of something that was probably food with a couple of friends. Hubby was madly trying to kill the meat for his meal, so not listening to the conversation around him, which, at the time, was talking about the "obesity crisis". After he defeats his meal, he takes that moment to celebrate by poking me in my stomach and going "Hehe, squish. I love you" right as I was saying "BMI measurement is a total joke. By that measurement, I'm obese". This of course led to the temperature going down several degrees as I turned to him and had a look like "Explain yourself immediately or death shall rain down on you" as our friends ducked behind their trays. Upon seeing the confused look on his face, I immediately ratcheted back the haterade, and everyone had a good laugh at the story. I forgave the inadvertent communication that I was obese, and the minimization of the discussion. This to is an inside joke in our relationship.

5) Have inside jokes.

This is terribly important. This is so wickedly important that I don't know if I'd be able to have a relationship with my Hubby unless we had inside jokes. Inside jokes take the sting out of horrible experiences. They help keep a sense of perspective when we're creeping towards the "Minor annoyances are building up to the point where we're going to have a fight due to crankiness". They allow you to bond by being the only two people in a theater laughing when no one else gets the joke. They overcome distance when you are tired and you have to talk to each other on the phone because you want to at least touch base with one another but know that the telephone is not going to be as good as being in the same room. Inside jokes are how we demonstrate love, the comfortable little niche and reminder of happy times past and happy times to come.

6) Be partners in crime

"Crime" in this case does't mean "breaking the law" but it does mean, that whatever you do, do it with each other's support if you don't do it together. When we go to Cons, we commit cos-play together. When we lie to family about reasons why we can't attend the super exciting Easter dinner for more than an hour, we back each other up. When one of us wants to go out for a night of drinking with the friends, we tell each other to have a drink for the one staying in. I'm not my husband's mother, and he isn't my father (eww, relationship dynamics like that freak me the hell out). Ergo, it is not my responsibility to clean up after him, and it is not his responsibility to "protect" me. I'm not his jailer, I'm not his ball-and-chain, he's not my savior, he's not a child.

This isn't just "be mutually respectful" though that is part of it. We perpetrate weirdness and geekiness a lot, and we are totally aiding abetting when we do it. Your life-partner shouldn't just tolerate who you are, shouldn't just accept it, they should full on embrace it. Of course there's going to be aspects that you'll just have to tolerate or accept, but the bulk of it, the whole that makes up what they are should be endorsed. You should be the biggest fan of his/hers and vice versa. You should love them, feel loved, and you should love who you are around them.

7) Be a safe place for them. Be the place that they can go to when things just suck (and things will just suck sometimes).

You should be the person that your life-partner always feels safe talking to. S/he should be the person you always feel like you can go to when things are rough. Now, I want to make it very clear here: your life-partner should not be the ONLY person you can talk to. That level of emotional work is exhausting. But, you should be a safe harbor in the world, and hopefully that's not too cheesy of an analogy. When the other person wants to rant, give him/her space to rant. Yes, it does in fact suck to worry about the fact we are never going to pay off the black hole of debt. Yes, it does suck that my Hubby is gone all the time. Yes, the winter in fact does make thing suck. It sucks, but I'm glad I'm here for him, and he's here for me.

8) Try to focus on the good things as much as possible.

Do not interpret this as "be shiny happy falsely bubbly people all the time, omg!". For one, that contradicts the whole "accept that things will just suck sometimes" and for two, that's cheap, dishonest, and ultimately hurts yourself and your partner. But, as much as you can, focus on the positive. In our case, it's going "Even though we live in a shitty basement apartment with bipolar heat and constantly breaking down crappy things, we have to admit we have decorated this place to represent how awesome we are and we're still doing pretty damn awesome to live in a safe place with electricity and civilization". I don't know if this directly relates to having a good relationship, or if this is just a really good way to feel pretty zen about your life and that translates into having a better relationship, but it seems pretty important in our relationship.

9) Grand gestures are fabulous, but nothing beats day-to-day stuff and small tokens.

There are really only 4 chores that get done in our household with an sort of consistency: dishes, laundry, garbage, and catbox. I do the laundry, Hubby does the dishes, and the garbage and catbox are for whoever notices it needs to be done. Hubby always does the dishes. He doesn't complain about it. He doesn't need me to nag him to do it. He doesn't roll his eyes and act like it's the most Herculean task in the world. He is therefore better than any sitcom I've ever seen and more than half of my roommates.

We also like to send little notes and text messages to each other for no reason. These little touches let each other know we still care. Coming home with a small thing that we saw at the store and thought "I bet s/he'd love this". Turning around and out of the blue saying "I love you, you know that". Snuggle attacks. Hugs. All of those add up to a really fun relationship.

10) You don't have to get married. But if you get married, or if you decide you want to live together, do it with your eyes open.

Hubby and I basically got married for the legal benefits. We stay together out of love, but the decision to join our life together had to do with a lot of really boring things. That's why we went to counselling before we decided to do anything too drastic. I highly, highly recommend making sure that you at least know about these things before you get to be super serious:

A) Religious beliefs: Are you religious? Are your religions compatible? Are you an Easter and Christmas Christian or a three-day a week person (or Hannakah and Yom Kippur Jew or do you require that you keep full Kosher, or whatever religious belief you hold to and how strongly). If you're nonreligious, do your philosophies match up enough?

B) Political beliefs. This strongly relate to religion and philosophy, but you can be surprised. An apathetic Democrat and an apathetic Republican can work pretty well, or if you think politics is just a game and the important thing is who wins, you might be able to swing it (Hi Carville and Matlin!). But I've never seen a fire-breathing conservative and a dyed-in-the-wool progressive have an emotional relationship work. Politics is important- if it's more than just pulling a lever in November it'll color your entire world-view.

C)How do you handle money? Do you think debt is make-believe money, or does the thought of being in debt send you into a cold sweat? Is a new car and investment or a luxury? What are the predictions as far as making money goes? Will you be okay if the other partner makes more money than you? How are you going to split up bank accounts? Are pre-nups just business savy or are they a deep-seated sign of distrust? What debts do you have?

D) What are your sexual preferences? This goes just beyond gay/straight (you should probably have figured that out in the dating period) but what about things like polygamy and monogamy? Bisexual? Is there going to be a safe list of people you can sleep with? Are you going to be able to accept the other's sexual history? Does one think reverse missionary is kinky while the other is pulling out the gimp mask and handcuffs? Does one have a raging libido while the other is a blue moon sort? Are you asexual?

E) Do you intend to have kids? At what point in your life do you want kids? How many kids do you intend to have? What sort of birth control procedures are you going to use to have that happen? What will you do if they fail? Do you want to foster?

F) How are you going to live? City, suburb, exurb, or rural? House or apartment? How many hours a day do you expect your other person to work? How is the housework going to be divided up? To what standards of cleanliness do you expect there to be?

G) Who's going to cook? What are your expectations for kinds of food? Exotic? Vegan? Frozen dinners?

H) Do you intend to travel? Travel together? Is this something you think is important enough to budget, and what do you budget it over?

These are the most boring things you can think to discuss, made all the worse because sometimes in the context of discussing it you realize you never even thought about someone disagreeing with you. But I've found, after observing a number of my friends and families relationships, that we cut off about a billion different arguments because we already knew the answer. The lack of surprise meant that we weren't talking about it when it was happening, while emotions were high, but before it happened and it was theoretical and dispassionate. We have also avoided these fights because we haven't run into some of the problems (no unplanned pregnancies, yay!), but it has helped when ran into a couple of barriers.

I don't know if this is helpful for anyone, or if it's just so blatantly obvious that everyone else is already following it, but there it is. That's how come we work so well together- these ten things and dumb fucking luck.

*International Talk Like a Pirate Day is WAY easier to remember.
**Both raised in a Midwestern cultural tradition, both from "traditional" families with one female mom and one male dad who were married and never divorced, both had a mom in medicine and both dad's had been in the military, both had two siblings and were the oldest, both raised Lutheran~, I could seriously go on for a long while here.
~I was Lutheran until my mother went of the rails and we went from a fairly mainstream church to "Harry Potter book burning/ speaking in tongues crazy" church.
***UND is a school of about 14,000 students. The culture revolves heavily around drinking, sports, and religious-based clubs. If you don't like these things, your separation factor drops from "5" to like "3" at most. Nerds are a small subculture: we were going to have the same friends.
****IE not that much.
*****Aggravated by the fact that Hubby is terrible at customer service jobs. He does not like to be treated disrespectfully, and cannot chew people out at work.
****** I think my biggest flaw is that I can't read minds. I would so be able to effortlessly deal with any and all social situations if I had that ability, not to mention be able to be an awesome superhero with that power instead of one of the most useless human beings on the planet. Hubby thinks my biggest flaw is that I lack esteem in my abilities.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A Glamorous Day in the Glamorous Life of a Flight Attendant

This is a post by my friend, who flies for a regional airline. I was inspired to post this after this thread where people were actually debating whether or not it's okay to treat flight attendants poorly

I woke up at 4:30 this morning, as late as I possibly could to get to work by 5:45am. It's only an 18 minute drive to the airport, but I need to leave 45 minutes to an hour before my report time, so that I can park in the farthest-away terminal and wait for the light rail to take me to the main terminal, then go through security, which includes taking out my computer, taking off my shoes and many layers of clothing (as this is Minnesota in dead winter) and then shoving them all with my bags into the x-ray machine, and then packing them up and re-robing on the other side. I didn't shower or put on my make-up because I wasn't actually expecting to fly (which I will explain in a minute), so I just allowed for the barebones time it takes to convince myself to get out of bed, brush my teeth, take my pills, and pack my overnight bags in my car. I take one suitcase with overnight supplies and one very heavy tote bag with my required Flight Attendant Manual (which takes up most of the room), paperwork, corkscrew, various emergency supplies like a needle and thread and clear nail polish that doesn't really stop a run in nylons, though I keep it in hopes that if I believe hard enough, someday it will. I could make life marginally easier on myself by not toting my enormous laptop with me everywhere, but after getting stuck for 8 hours in Rhinelander, Wisconsin on a maintenance delay with absolutely NOTHING to do, I vowed to never risk wasting my life in total brain-melting boredom again. I do bring books, but I burn through them fairly quickly, and 3 books takes up about as much room as the computer and they don't give you the capability to check your email, or write, or watch the Daily Show in your hotel room later. So the computer is cumbersome, but a lifestyle choice I have chosen to sacrifice a little convenience for.

I brought computer with the intent of using it most of the day today. The beauty of the 5:45am shift this morning is that it rarely requires much work. It was an isolated day of "ready reserve," meaning I show up in the blue monkey suit and wait in the crew room until they call me for a flight. I'm an operational spare, as it were, only called if another flight attendant calls in sick at the last minute, or an aircraft and its crew get stuck somewhere and are not available to fly their next scheduled flight. Much of the time, you can be on ready reserve and not get called at all, or be called for some ridiculous 17 minute flight to St. Cloud and back. Or, as was the case today, be dead-headed out to Watertown, SD, and then just have to work the 42 minute flight back (dead-heading is when you are flown somewhere by the company for work purposes but sitting as a passenger). Many people despise ready reserve; they can't stand being called to work to sit around and wait, but I secretly enjoy it. I love that I am being paid to look nice (most of the time) and read a book. Granted, it's not much pay. Though we have to be at the airport a full 9 hours, we get paid for 3 hours 45 minutes. (A little known fact to the travelling public is how exactly flight attendant [and pilot] pay is calculated. Though it sounds like we make quite a bit if you look at the hourly wage, those "hours" are only flight hours. So in a 14 hour work day [which is legal - up to 15 for "operational necessity" and 16 with your permission], you might only actually be paid for 4 or 5, at the most 7. The typical schedule for a MONTH is 75 to 80 hours. Your typical 40-hour work week job gives you at least twice that in a month. It's kind of a screwy system to not be paid for the hours you are away from home, but no one can quite protest enough to get a change because, well, you could be getting paid almost 4 hours of work for 9 hours of reading - or sleeping.) Possibly the most redeeming quality of the o-dark-thirty reserve day is that you get to spend some of it sleeping, as long as you have your phone on you and don't mind a shrill awakening. (Some people can just put their phones on vibrate and wake up to it, but I am more likely to just fold it into a dream as some very small and passionate cat. So I opt instead for the shrill noise of the ring and just bear the slight shame of waking everyone else in the room up with me).

So I slept a good portion of the morning and was shrilly awakened (of course) by Crew Scheduling calling to let me know I had a flight out at 10:10. I would be on the flight going to Aberdeen, SD which was making a previously unscheduled stop in Watertown to let me and my pilots off so that we could fly a previously broken and fixed airplane back to Minneapolis. Some chaos had erupted in whatever department is in charge of gate agents and gate signs, so there was a group of four of them conferring at the gate, trying to figure out who was supposed to be at what gate, and none of the gates had accurate information on them (this gate said we were going somewhere in Tennessee). I was the first one at the gate, and the gate agent printed my boarding pass (dead-heads need them, too) and scanned it in. Then he did something he technically shouldn't have: he opened the door to let me down to the aircraft. He shouldn't have done this because passengers are not allowed to be on the plane without the legal "minimum crew" (a big, important legal term in the airline industry), aka, the flight attendant working the flight. I blinked a few extra times and opened my eyes wide so he knew I didn't think this was normal, then asked, "Can you do that?" because I didn't know whether there was a flight attendant on the plane or not, and I had thought not. He nodded rather non-commitally and held the door open for me. I could either have refused the gesture and firmly planted my feet, or I could accept his under-the-table goodwill and get out of his hair to let him deal with the chaos more effectively. Jet bridges are not heated, so when I got to the plane and saw no flight attendant inside, I figured the security rule had been broken anyway, so it wasn't going to harm much by getting on the plane where it was warm. But Total Bitch Flight Attendant apparently disagreed. When she got on the plane, I said "hi" so as to minimize her shock at finding someone on what should have been an empty plane. She flipped her lid. I explained that it was really cold in the jet bridge so I didn't want to wait there, and she said, with no attempt to disguise her anger, "And you didn't want to wait by the gate either." Whoa, lady. I'm not some spoiled brat that just can't bear the sight of the public so I coerced the gate agent into sneaking me down. I backed up a bit and told her that the gate agent just wanted to expedite things, to which she fumed in the most passive aggressive trying-for-superior-but-a-little-too-pissed-to-pull-it-off voice, "And you obliged him." As if that was supposed to be some cunningly cutting remark putting me in my place. Well, duh I obliged him, or I wouldn't be sitting there.

I have this awkward habit of going totally silent when someone is blatantly rude to me. I think my parents did such a good job instilling the value of politeness and courtesy in me that I have a very difficult time processing something so completely opposite. I have to take a few seconds to think 1. "Did she really just say that? Because that seemed rude if she did, and people don't say rude things" and 2. "How do I respond to that?" The script of politeness has lines for both sides: please, thank you, I'm sorry, excuse me and so on, and even when the specific words are not written, the actors are at least headed in the same direction. Rudeness is throwing away the script and heading your own direction, leaving the other person to improvise in a show they aren't sure is a comedy or a drama. (I hate improv, by the way. I am so terrible at it that I can't even stand to watch it performed because I have a hyper-active sense of empathy and am putting myself in the actors' shoes, and the thought of it is too nerve-wracking. My stomach twists and I am on the edge of my seat, not with rapt attention, but nail biting fear that they will mess up, say something unfunny, and humiliate themselves). So I was totally silent, dumbstruck by her rudeness, wishing I could have said something satisfyingly petulant like, "Yeah" in a you-wanna-make-something-of-it? tone, but probably just giving her the impression that she had put me in my place and now I felt like the sneaky little dog who'd gotten into the garbage again that she inferred I was. She also threw out some angry sounding remarks about how they weren't supposed to stop in Watertown, and how she hated it when they did this, and that she hoped none of us (the two pilots had gotten on by that point) were offended by swearing, because this is just the kind of thing that brings it out in her. She was worried about offending us with her swearing (which she actually refrained from), but apparently not anything else she had said. Maybe she she is one of those self-righteous "I only speak the truth" types who say that to somehow justify saying mean things. As if the truth is never offensive.

The shrill cry of Crew Scheduling had never sounded more like an angel when they called just then, telling me that we would now be on a later flight at 11:50 (and consequently Total Bitch would get her flight direct to Aberdeen after all). So I trundled with my three bags (the two from before plus large purse) over to the next gate to wait for the flight, which was delayed by a half hour. I actually don't mind delays much, when they are not my last flight going home. It is maybe the one arena of life in which I have learned to employ a zen kind of peace, thinking only about the present and not worrying. I read books or take out my computer or eat food. Today I read Sunshine, by Robin McKinley, which is quite good, and makes me think I might actually be becoming one of those vampire-obsessed people I always thought were a little strange. I read on the flight over and through the planned 45 minute break we were supposed to have. And I continued to read through 4 of the 5 hours we actually had.

No one is a greater optimist than the Crew Scheduler, I have found. Our flight out to Watertown carried not only passengers and crew, but the airplane mechanic who was supposed to fix the plane that we would be taking back to Minneapolis. He was supposed to fix a circuit breaker or some such simple-sounding thing in 45 minutes, then we were to hop on the plane and go home, arriving at around the time my reserve shift would have ended if I hadn't been called. The pilots often roll their eyes when Crew Scheduling quotes a time that they have estimated repairs will be done, and then give their own timeframe like today's, "There's no way we'll be outta here in less than 2 hours." In my memory, the pilots have always been right. More than two hours later, the plane was fixed, but not so fixed that we could take passengers, just fixed enough to get it from the little outstation to Minneapolis, its home with lots of mechanic friends and sophisticated tools. So it was just me, the mechanic, and another crew catching a ride in the back, and the pilots in front. During the pre-flight engine tests, the plane always makes funny noises and the lights go on and off. I am so used to this that I hardly blink and have to remind myself that it might actually be normal to worry when passengers look at me with stricken faces as we are taxiing and they see a propeller suddenly stop and the lights go out. But this time the plane made what I thought was an unusual coffee maker noise (and there is no coffee maker on this plane). It could have been just that I was sitting in the back instead of the front, but then we stopped a few minutes later. The captain catching a ride in the back said, "I don't think I like this," and then we heard the pilot over the intercom with the dreaded words, "Sorry, folks, but...." Though the original problem was fixed, a new one had cropped up in its stead.

It was 4:00, and the last flight out of Watertown left at 4:10, and someone (a gate agent or pilot) had told me it was oversold. The crew dead-heading home saw their chance and nearly catapulted out of the plane to try to get on the flight. Thinking it unlikely (it was oversold!) and knowing that Crew Scheduling hates to separate crews (as in me and the two pilots assigned to this flight together), I didn't jump into action and follow them. They all got on the plane, and just before they shut the door on the plane that was leaving, the captain turned around to me and said, "You probably could have got on, too, did you call crew scheduling?" Helpful. But I didn't think "so much for crew loyalty" would have been helpful either. The airplane needed two pilots to fly it, but it didn't need a flight attendant if there were no passengers. So even though they don't generally break up a crew, they probably would have in this case to let me go home, as it was clear the sick plane wouldn't be flying any passengers until it got properly attended to in Minneapolis. If there was room of course, which I had been led to believe there wasn't.

So I hung out in the plane while we taxied and the pilots and the mechanic looked at blinking lights, listened to engines, and evaluated things. I tried to read my next book, but I hadn't had time to properly grieve for the end of the last one, having finished only an hour or so ago, and I couldn't get into it. I did have free reign over the snack and beverage cart, but unlimited pretzels, cookies, and peanuts kind of lose their excitement after months of them - even the Biscoff cookies. I've had to be creative to keep relying on them for sustenance - it was a great day when I realized I could actually stand the taste of pretzels if I ate them in a handful with the peanuts. It increased my number of snack options from 2 to 3. With only three ingredients, there aren't a lot of recipe options. I've even taken to putting peanuts on top of the Biscoffs (with limited success) just to have something a little different. Occasionally on our biggest plane (the one that has a first class with a meal service), someone won't want their breakfast bagel and there is an extra cream cheese and raspberry jam, which makes a Biscoff cookie almost like cheesecake. It is sad, but that is one of the more exciting things about my job.

The mechanic didn't know what was wrong with the airplane, which means it must be something really wrong. Or at least, something more than a couple of hours to fix. The pilots were going to time out if we didn't leave by 7pm - time out meaning that they wouldn't legally be able to fly because their duty day would have started over 15 hours earlier by the time they got back. So I, being the pro-active sort, called Crew Scheduling while the pilots were still discussing aircraft issues to tell them the news so they can make arrangements for us to stay in a hotel overnight. But Crew Scheduling hadn't heard anything from their official channels (Maintenance), and couldn't do anything until they did. I got the distinct impression she didn't believe me. I often get the impression that Crew Scheduling has a rather dismissive attitude toward flight attendants, and gives much more respect to pilots. I am not the only one who feels this way. I told the pilots I had phoned and added, "I don't think she believed me," and they just nodded as if to say, "You're probably right."

At 5:30, they phoned again and Crew Scheduling still hadn't heard anything. At 5:45, the ground personnel in Watertown noticed that the flight time had been changed, meaning Crew Scheduling officially knew now that something was going on. It was moved to 6:00. They were giving the mechanic 15 minutes to fix the plane. Eternal optimists. The captain called at 6 and explained to them that parts were going to be needed, and there was no way it could get fixed tonight because a plane would have to fly them out (which would take an hour at the least if parts were on a magical platter being delivered to the plane at that moment) and then they'd have to install them, and that would be long after 7pm when it finished. Crew Scheduling said they couldn't actually set up a room for us at the hotel until they had it from The Powers On High that it couldn't be fixed by then. So that meant that either the mechanics who were not yet on their way with parts, driving the 5 hour drive, had to show up and say conclusively through official channels that it couldn't be fixed in a timely fashion, or we had to just sit at the airport and wait until the pilots timed out and THEN they could get rooms for us. But they did change our departure time to 6:30.

Finally at 6:30 some magic must have happened, because the airport folks in Watertown (who were all working way past their shifts to babysit us) told us Crew Scheduling had made hotel arrangements and the van was on its way to pick us up. Too many minutes later, no van arrived. Turned out that Crew Scheduling had made arrangements for a crew in Waterloo, not Watertown. So some puzzled van driver in Iowa had been dispatched to pick up a crew that wouldn't show up. They sorted things out and eventually we got in the van to our hotel in Watertown. Now some places have the not-so-nice areas of town, but I suspect that Watertown may just be not-so-nice. Granted, I was seeing it in the dark, and we may have been coincidentally driving down the one road lined with casinos. But they weren't nice, Mystic Lake, Muckleshoot, fancy, go-there-for-the-buffet kind of casinos. They were dark, one-story longhouses with readerboards. We asked the driver if we could go to a drive-through or anywhere for dinner because we hadn't eaten since before our originally scheduled 10:10am flight (the Watertown airport had a vending machine but no restaurant. It is essentially a long room with benches, a counter, and an x-ray machine). There didn't seem to be anywhere as hip as a drive-through, but there was a Subway. In a gas station. So the driver kindly let us go in (I say this with no irony - they don't have to take us anywhere but the airport and back, and Subway is a "fast" food restaurant that takes a long time when 4 people have sandwiches made to order one by one) and we had gas station Subway for dinner.

All this was independent of the feather-ruffling that occurred as a result of me missing a fancy dessert date with friends, and a birthday party with more friends, and the fact that I will technically be working on my day off to deadhead home. And of course, the irony that this was the first reserve day that I'd had in over a year, and I only got it due a scheduling fluke that happened as a result of calling in sick earlier, and that I'd planned to not get called at all. And that I wasn't even used to flight attend a flight. Those are all unfortunate side effects that sometimes just happen, given the potential for the unplanned in this job.
But the day's narrative is a pretty true portrait of a pretty common day - an oh-so glamorous day in the oh-so-glamorous life of the flight attendant.

Monday, August 31, 2009

A World Without Golda Meir

This is a story start I wrote some time ago. Since I[m not using this blog currently for anything else, thought I'd put this out to the void. Trigger warning for violence.

Three cameras saw them rape her. Two on each side of the North Square, and one on top of the store building. Three cameras saw her little pink hat bobbing on the way back from class, and saw two guys rip off the cute matching windbreaker ($10.99 set from the store she was raped in front of). And the cops responded, 30 minutes later, when the two guys ran into the store to steal from the cash register.

The outcry was deafening. The somnabulant public would accept a lot from the government, but a failure to protect a sweet-looking white girl from a nice family who was just coming back from her class, well that was too much. And didn't we give up privacy, all those cameras in public, for safety? Blood must be had, Something Must Be Done.

In order to appease a restless public, the government's response was swift: two men (whom looked nothing like the lily-white boys in their frat jackets on the video) plead guilty to the rape and were executed. Also, there would be a 10 o'clock curfew for every woman on the streets. Your wives and daughters were now safe. John Q. Public was hushed, and calmed. The pitiful squeak the few women (and even less men) made about it "not being a criminal activity to be female" and "those women with jobs" were ignored or quelled immediately.

I was one of those small voices. Of course, who would care what I thought of the plan; no one asked me when they decided to play the three cameras endlessly looped on network television either, my face and nipples fuzzed out as to not upset anyone's delicate sensibilities. I was the rape-girl; I had to be victimized over and over again, reliving the experience until it just became a fuzzy, white-and-gray mushy image on a screen.

And, then to be told it was my fault- if I would have been at home it wouldn't have happened. Those who didn't say it tacitly agreed with it when they didn't oppose the law. Rape just happens; all we can do is get our women out of the way. And if they have to be restrained...well, it's like seat belt laws. You have to be restrained for your own safety.

But the classes weren't moved; the night shifts stayed the same. You want to get ahead in the world? You have to go to school, you have to have a job.

So here I am; hair cut pixie short, and under a ball cap, dressed in a bulky leather jacket, shapeless pants, walking with the swagger of one who knows he owns the world. I am a criminal violating the law, after some criminals violated me.

Monday, August 24, 2009

It Feels Weird

School is starting up again, I'm told, but not for me. This will be the first year since I was 5 that the end of August does not mean the beginning of another school year. The ebb and flow of school- break- school- summer has been broken for me; more so than taking a summer class or two ever did to break it. And I don't really know how to feel about that.

Currently, I feel adrift in the world. I don't have a career, I don't have any plans for one in the making, and now I don't even have the rituals I've had for my entire life to cling too. In a lot of ways, it feels like losing religion- what am I supposed to do on Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights now? Except, I hated church, and for most of the time, I really loved school.

It makes me a bit curious: if you follow the average college-track, you are in school for 16 years of your life. I wonder if most people, upon receiving their degree, feel odd about joining "the real world". Do they feel jarred when August rolls around, and they're just doing their job instead of gearing up to go to classes? Do they miss searching for books online to get that really great deal? The ritual of looking where your classes are going to be? I wonder.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Moving Day and Porn

I am moving out of Grand Forks, and heading to the big city! Well, no, not really- I'm actually just heading to Minneapolis/ St. Paul. But, bigger city at least :).

Over at Punkassblog, there's a great discussion going on about porn; who looks at it, the type consumed, and what it says for the feminist movement. Now, I'm a pretty sex-positive feminist: I look at porn, and I would never advocate for it to be banned, though I do think that misogynistic porn is still bad (wow, is that a simplistic analysis). But I wasn't always like this.

When packing up, you find weird things. One of the things I found was a planner from my senior year of high school, which I brought to college because I thought I would use the "quick fact sheet" in the front (FYI, I did not. You almost never use that stuff you learn in school, particularly in mathematics, unless that's what you go into.) And, I found in the back of it a conversation that I had with a friend of mine, that just so happened to be about porn.

A- "You wanna go to Minot tonight? Pleasure Palace here we come! You're 18 now, we have to go!"

Me- I have absolutely no desire to go to porno areas. I'll allow, but not participate. Besides, if I wanted to, I could get the real thing.

God, I was a snot. At this time in my life I was full on in my "saving myself for marriage, it's against God's will to pleasure myself", la la la, hypocritical bullshit. This was even more hypocritical when at this time in my life, I didn't believe a single word of it- god was no more real to me than the tooth fairy, but I wanted everyone to believe I was a good person, and the easiest way to do that was to be a "Good Christian Girl" (TM). I might have not masturbated, nor had sex, but my boyfriend and I had done everything but have sex. We would get all hot and heavy, and stop when I really wanted it, then congratulate myself on this restraint.

Possible TMI warning- but that vaunted virginity lasted about one year after this conversation. Guess I wasn't saving myself for marriage- I was saving myself for college.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Guest post

Lisa KS, one of my fellow PABs, would also like to put her story up to the cold, calculating stare of the internet. So, without further ado: The Wall.

Look, said one of Joni's squadmates, elbowing her sharply in the ribs. Look at him! Joni looked, past the pointing finger to the object of its focus. At first she saw nothing out of the ordinary: a recruit, a noob by the looks of his half-mown skull and skeletal frame, standing just inside the mess hall entrance. He did look even sicker than usual—her attention sharpened as she realized what it was about him that gave that impression, and her squadmate hissed into her ear again—Ain't never seen anybody that white!

He was white. He was white as a bleached sheet, white as the moon—Joni watched him sidle over to the food line; he was elbowed aside and stepped back after a moment, then tried again. He was allowed to stay that time, but now that she was paying attention, Joni noticed that he was standing in line with vets. Not noobs. She didn't have to try to remember if she ever did that, fresh out of training; she hadn't. Like everyone else, she had stuck with her own cycle. That first group that had shoved him back out of line—her eyes tracked them farther up and found them—noobs. Probably his noobs.

It happened that way sometimes, that everybody in a cycle took a dislike to one in particular. It wasn't often—it hadn't happened in Joni's cycle, two years ago—and she had only heard of it happening once since, though it might've happened more; she didn't pay much attention to the noob cycles. The one she'd heard of hadn't made it out of training. Accidents happened.

He looked like a corpse shuffling along in a line with the living. Joni tried to concentrate on her food—she had a shift outside coming up—but her attention kept wandering back to him. He didn't sit with any noobs, either—which meant he couldn't sit with anybody, and he ate standing up, next to the disposals. A few other people did too; somebody was always running late or in a hurry for some other reason. She watched him out of the corner of her eye as he finished up, dumped his tray and walked quickly out the door. Then she forgot about him.

* * * * *

Joni stood in formation with the rest of the squad, idly wondering what the day would bring—she was reasonably sure they wouldn't have to go outside again til next week at the earliest, and therefore didn't really care what assignment the squad pulled—when the platoon sergeant came striding into the briefing bay, the white noob of the day before trailing at his heels. Joni stared. The platoon sergeant rarely came to squad briefings. He certainly didn't escort noobs around the barracks. But there he was, and so was the noob.

He didn't leave them in suspense long. "Shut up," he advised, though the entire squad already had as soon as he'd entered, in unison as if slapped in its collective face. "This is Barkley. He's new. Treat him right." The platoon sergeant glanced down at his clipboard. "Johnson. He's yours. You're on garbage patrol. Take him with you, then get him settled down for the night."

He left. The noob walked over and stood gingerly at Joni's left shoulder. An explosive snort of laughter from in front of her woke her up sufficiently to wipe the horrified expression off her face and roughly settle the noob—Barkley—into proper position beside her. She didn't look at his face, but he was compliant enough; his uniform shirt, rough under her palms, felt like anyone else's. She stared straight ahead through the squad sergeant's arrival and assignments and token lecture on behavior, then motioned him to follow her with a jerk of her head. She was aware of the stares directed at her back and hated them, though she made a conscious effort not to hate the noob. It might not be his fault, the way his cycle obviously was about him, even his presence here. She preferred to reserve judgement.

Even if it killed her. She grimly ignored the catcalls and snickers as she marched the noob to her room; she'd known she was going to get a new roommate sooner than later, nobody ever got to keep a single for long.

His gear was strewn across her bed. She took a deep breath, turned, and met the noob's stare head-on. He was staring. She managed not to glare back. "That's the open bed," she said, civilly, and nodded at the unoccupied bunk a few feet away. He gathered up his belongings, neatly enough, and carried them over and began stowing them away. Joni gave up any pretense of doing anything else and just sat cross-legged on her mattress and watched.

He didn't look particularly weak, and at least he wasn't so hesitant now as he tucked his gear in the wall locker beside the bed. His bed. She swallowed a sigh. Best to get everything out in the open up front—"Barkley," she said. He turned, a little too quickly. His eyes were large and hazel-brown. His hair was hazel-brown too; lots of people had that color hair, that color eyes. It was just his skin, that dead white-on-white that drew the eye, that unsettled. "What's your problem?"

"What?" he said. The word was toneless, his face expressionless—not like a deliberate mask, just a shocked-numb one.

"Why are you here?"

He paused, inhaled. "I was assigned here—"

"Don't," said Joni conversationally. "I saw you in the mess hall yesterday." He flinched. "Why are you here?"

Something went out of him, maybe fight, maybe just fear; his shoulders sagged and he sat down heavily on his new bed. His eyes never left her face but the tension around them, and in his mouth, relaxed. "I guess it doesn't matter," he said. "I'm stuck here now. You can do what you want to me."

She didn't want to—it would probably scare him all over again—but she couldn't help quirking her mouth up at him. He was noob-skinny and noob-ignorant; she'd been out on the perimeter for over two years; there was no question who'd come out on top if they got into it—but still—"You're a foot taller than me," she remarked. "It'd look funny."

He clearly couldn't believe she was joking, even a little, so she stopped. He was still a very unknown quantity anyway; it'd be sick if she let her sense of humor get her hurt. "Talk," she said. "Why…are…you…here?"

"They were probably going to kill me," he said. He took a deep breath. "They—figured out I'm different. Not exactly how, but they hate it." Another deep breath. "I don't blame them."

I would, Joni thought. Her eyes narrowed. "Why not?"

Now he did look a little scared, though she thought he was trying not to show it. "I'm not from the inner city," he said finally.

Joni felt stupid. Of course he wasn't. A piece fell into place, one of the ways he had—
that careful way he had of speaking—they all had to speak properly, of course, around sergeants and officers, and Joni had adopted some of it as a matter of course because she didn't care enough to maintain the speech patterns of her birth. But he was being careful not to sound more proper than he had to.

"It isn't just that," Joni said—involuntarily; she had spoken her thoughts more aloud than she'd intended. He was very tense now, and still. "What else?"

"Nobody knows anything else."

Normally, she'd have dropped whatever line of questioning she was engaging in right there. People's business was their own past a certain point. But her self-preservation instincts were fully engaged now; he was her roomie and more, had been assigned to her specifically; they were going to be associated together now in the minds of everyone else, and damned if she was going to end up dead without knowing why. Or, more likely, find herself having to arrange an accident for someone else without knowing why. Instead, she shook her head, and forced her face into a hard, dangerous mask. It wasn't natural to her, but it was effective, she knew. "No," she said. "You'd best tell me." She took a chance. "This is your last stop, isn't it? On the one-way train to hell. This doesn't work out for you, nobody's going to care why."

She'd hit home; that was obvious. He stood up; so did she. He really was unusually tall, but so fine-boned it wasn't obvious without standing right next to him. She was only a few feet away from him now, but she didn't feel threatened. She felt like she could break him in half instead, and the feeling made her nauseous. "Maybe you'll kill me instead," he said.

She jerked back; she couldn't help it. "No," she said. "I won't. Not if whatever it is won't hurt or kill me first." What was wrong with him? A disease? They wouldn't have let him in the militia if he had something communicable—

"I'm not from the inner city," he said again, and then, "I'm not from the outer neighborhoods, either."

Joni stared at him. There was nowhere else to be from and be here.

"—I'm from the towers," he said. His tone was weirdly conversational.

"You're crazy!" It was horrible though, how the idea made sense, how it fit in with everything about him—

"No," he said. "Or yes, for coming here."

* * * * *

They pulled garbage patrol for the next two days, she and Barkley; he was docile and uncomplaining, although she was careful not to give him an unfair share of the work in either direction. Two or three times she had been tempted to push him into doing something really crappy—it was when she believed his astonishing assertion the most that she was seized with those sudden desires to order him to do something she knew he shouldn't be doing. Garbage patrol was one of the easiest jobs there was inside, but there were still a few parts that weren't really safe. Nobody gave noobs those parts; it was pointless cruelty, and for those who weren't adverse to pointless cruelty, it was a waste of future resources that might someday save their own hides. Still, a few times, she had felt like doing it. It took her a long way towards understanding why his cycle hadn't wanted him around. They obviously hadn't figured out his real secret—he really would have been dead already—but they'd sensed enough, smelled enough of it to hate him anyway.

Off-day rolled around and Joni dragged him out of the barracks and into the perimeter town for a break. He hadn't wanted to go, though he never came out and said so; it was just like tugging and cajoling at a reluctant rock. However, Joni had perfected the art of uncomprehending denseness herself years before and wasn't about to be outdone by an amateur. After kicking him into the changing closet with a set of civ clothes that were more boring than the most boring civ clothes she'd ever seen in her life, she changed herself and waited until he tentatively emerged and walked over to stand in front of her.

He looked like a sickly noob in boring civ clothes, and even whiter than usual. She sighed. "C'mon," she said. "Let's go."

"Joni," he said. She stopped moving toward the door, startled. He hadn't addressed her even as Johnson since the day they'd met. He must have overheard somebody else calling her that. "Joni, I don't want to go."

"Yeah, I figured that out." They stared at each other in silence. Finally, she said, "I do want to go out. I need to. I hate this room, sometimes."

Whatever else he was, he wasn't stupid. He had to know she couldn't just leave him there alone, not when they'd just been assigned together. Not if he didn't want to be a target all over again. She tried to read his face, his eyes, but still couldn't. It was enough, though, that he relaxed his stance and when she stepped toward the door again, he followed.

She didn't take him to where the squad usually hung out; she wasn't quite ready for that. There were a lot of places in the perimeter town to go, to drink, to just forget life for a little while—she took him to one of those, barely more than a hole with three walls and only half a roof; fairly packed already but she found an unoccupied corner and dialed up two beers from the tiny table dispenser. The music wasn't much more than a heavy beat with a periodic wail like a feral cat's. Joni liked it; it was ugly and mindless and soothing. Like the beer. She finished her first and ordered a second.

Barkley took small sips of his, steadily. She wasn't sure exactly when they started talking, except that it was sometime into her third beer. She thought he was on number two, though it was hard to tell at the rate he drank. She was a little high; maybe he was too. He was smiling occasionally now, and it made his face entirely different. Beautiful—if he'd been a girl, and not so eerily pale, he really would have been beautiful, with his fine and perfectly symmetrical features, full lips and big hazel eyes. She firmly pushed that observation away. That was trouble of the absolute last kind she needed.

Hours later it was his turn to steer her, back to the barracks. The corridors were mostly deserted, and the few people still in them were far too drunk to care what they looked like. Still, it struck her as extremely funny that their usual roles were reversed; she tried to explain that to him, in-between fits of the giggles, but he either didn't understand her or didn't find it as funny as she did.

Back in the room and sitting on their beds, cross-legged and facing each other—like two Buddhas she had seen once at a bazaar in the inner city. She smiled.

"How old are you?" he asked suddenly. She blinked hard at him, trying to steady her focus. He was blurred at the edges; it made him glow a little, like her initial fancy of him in the mess hall line, the first time she'd seen him.

"What?" she said, then focused on the question. "Oh. I don't know. They give you a birthday after your medical exam. You know." She peered at him across the few feet separating them, then remembered. It sobered her up a little. "I guess you do know yours, huh? They didn't have to give you one?"

Free Thread

If you have anything you want to talk about, here's the place to do it. Meaning of life, god, whatever, let's use this comment thread.