Thursday, April 29, 2010

Flying High

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Back in the late 80's I had the misfortune of looking for my first job in a college area that boasted the most over-educated wait-staff in the country: the triangle region of North Carolina. However my dismal job prospects brightened when American Airlines opened their Raleigh/Durham hub.

My two year stint with American required me to wear a headset all day in a monitored setting to assist cranky passengers with their airline reservations. Each evening I experienced nightmares involving 727 seating charts. Since in North Carolina it was your civic duty to smoke, I countered the boredom and frustration by smoking two packs of cigarettes a day, thus making my contribution to the smoke cloud that perpetually hung over the reservations center as though it were a dive bar. Despite the fact that American was an innovative employer that encouraged staff input and brand loyalty, dealing on the phone all day with the general public set a low standard against which my current day job compares favorably.

However American offered a perk that no other job could match. I could check flight loads and list myself as standby for any flight. Then after work before my days off, I would go to the ticket machine in the lobby, and for an employee payroll deduction that amounted to less than metro fare to Dupont Circle, generate a boarding pass. I usually traveled each week back to Florida to rendezvous with a long-distance girlfriend I would later characterize as a “piece of work.” Other weeks I would visit my parents in Orlando. I always took the lunch flight back to Raleigh Durham because it was on a 767 and served a really good turkey and cheese sandwich. This was the closest to a jet-set lifestyle an underachiever like me was ever going to aspire to. It was a workplace where the rhetorical “how was your weekend" received responses such as “ I went to Paris” or “I flew to Atlanta to get a haircut”. These heady times ended when my restlessness with provincial North Carolina led me to DC and a slacker job at a record store.

Fast forward 20 years and I still love airports and I still enjoy flights. Sadly, the food is gone along with the thrill of occupying myself with opening small snack packages. But many rituals remain, such as the AAdvantage pitch as the flight ascends to cruising altitude, and the flight attendants' cabin checks.

This weekend I decided to use the frequent flyer miles accumulated via impulsive credit card purchases to make a quick trip to LA. My ex's brother is the musical director for a play for which he ended up using ALP tracks to segue between sex scenes, and given that my music is typically the backdrop for low rent cable shows such as the A and E Biography of Pee Wee Herman I thought it would be fun to see my music in a more artistic, edgy context. The Blue Room did not disappoint! It featured attractive actors, brief nudity, and incredibly artful lighting. The ALP CDs near the concession stand are going fast. Despite the glamor of LA though, DC National, with its view of the illuminated monuments on the mall, is still the most gorgeous airport to return to.

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