So I’m heading home from Denver, plopped in exit row aisle (wondering why it’s okay for that guy to have a bright yellow guitar case as carry on), when the flight attendant starts to do her safety routine. She’s already asked us if we speak English so my exit row mates are all doing their own thing. That’s when I catch her out of the corner of my eye. She’s not showing us how the air masks fall down, how to adjust them, or even how to cling to the underside of our seats. She is swinging the gas mask around and twirling the sample seatbelt in her fingers. “No one’s paying attention anyway, so why do it?” she quips. “Want to know how to keep a secret from the passengers?” she adds. “Announce it over the PA system.”
I like her immediately. She’s chastising me about my bag being not far enough under the seat, but I can tell she doesn’t really care. She takes her spot in the jump seat, complaining about the seat belt – more like a body harness — which hits her in a most unfortunate place. “A man no doubt made it,” I offer (seatmate didn’t seem to like that but we were already well into an arm rest duel so who cares?)
Turns out flight attendant is originally from NJ (accent to prove it) and is now living in Phoenix to avoid the winters here. She has a daughter who is 27 and one year sober. Phoenix rides a Ninja Kawasaki with a “riding buddy” who straddles a Triumph. She showed me pics of both bikes. I had a thing for motorcycles starting in 6th grade and not ending until…well, not ending to be honest. One of my college friends rode a bike (a Honda) and she and I would show up for our Varsity Squash matches on her bike, smoking cigarettes and clad in our too tough leather jackets. (We weren’t very good and we calculated that intimidating our opponents might be the only way to beat them.)
So, once she told me she likes to tell passengers to shut up and sit down, I felt obliged to tell her about my blog. And that she was going to be making an appearance in it. I don’t know if that spooked her or pleased her, but when I went to use the toilet later, the other flight attendants knew me as “the blogger.” I decided to employ their help.
“My seatmate is taking over the arm rest big time! What do I do?” This wasn’t their first rodeo. “Put water on your arm and then rub against him,” offered the first. “Start scratching your arm and mumble about looking for calamine lotion in your bag!” said another. “Ring the call button and ask us if we have any hydrocortisone for your rash.” BRILLIANT.
Phoenix returned to her jump seat for landing and by now I was gaga over an adorable baby a few rows back. “Babies are biohazards!” she cautioned. “Things come out of all ends of them!” Apparently, it’s common for parents to shove babies at flight attendants while they put the stroller away. Phoenix is like, “I’ll put the stroller away!”
Then she just made my day. “How’s that rash? You still bothered by it?” I started scratching the elbow, relishing in my seatmate’s look of horror and (perhaps?) regret. It was, as they say, priceless.
Phoenix was heading back home in about an hour. We said our goodbyes and as I walked down the aisle, I heard her mumble, “I can spot my exit row a mile away!”