*I Was An Airline Brat

The final TWA logo

Image via Wikipedia

There was a very good article in “The New York Times”

Whatever Happened to First Class?

By JESSE McKINLEY
Published: February 10, 2012

that I really liked and I wanted to share my own memories since I started flying when I was nine months old and stopped abruptly when my free airline tickets, from my dad, who worked for TWA, stopped at my ripe, young age of twenty-one. Or at least not yet twenty-two.

Flying was my dad’s dream, and no, he was not a pilot even though in his heart he thought he was. He worked in offices and volunteered extra shifts if there was an accident and flew to St. Louis to buy fresh milk for my older sister when there was a milk strike in NY. He loved everything about flying and traveling with our mother and when we were children we came along, almost always. A visit to Grandma’s house for us was to fly to Vienna, Austria or Tel-Aviv, Israel. I thought nothing of it as a child, it’s what we did; my older sister and I did have to get dressed up in a matching sweater and skirt sets, identical (except for color and size.) We were not allowed to wear pants, God forbid jeans. We had to dress up formally before each flight, our dad’s rule because we were flying “subject to space” which meant we would try for a flight but since we were “non-revs” (non-revenue passengers) we never knew when we would be able to get  on a particular flight, looking good wasn’t optional in our house. We had no choice. In fact, back then, everyone dressed up for a flight, there were no jeans or sweat pants….they didn’t exist.

If the flight was fully booked our dad would make the shape of a hanger with his hands and shake his head dejectedly. We knew that meant “a cliff-hanger” fully booked, not a great chance of getting on but we would go anyway. There were times we were already seated and buckled in and the door closed when in dreadful embarrassment they called our names over the intercom and we had to unbuckle, get up, gather our bags and belongings and march or rather limp off the plane if paying passengers had arrived. Mortifying.

We may have complained about getting up at four in the morning to go to Phoenix, AZ. but once we were on the flight, our vacation had started. Flying was part of the vacation not like now where it is something to live through with great dread and anticipation. Was there a difference in first-class and economy? Sure, but either was fine. We always went economy (and we could stretch across 3-4 seats back then) until one day I think we begged our dad to try first class, it was a matter of twelve or eight dollars per person. It was hard to go back to economy after that.

First class had luscious, huge seats, especially for young adults, a printed menu with delicacies to choose from. I’m drooling just remembering them. Beef Wellington?Steak? Salmon? Really, really good, gourmet food. I remember one of the desserts, it was the ice-cream sundae cart approaching me. I saw mountains of vanilla ice cream come headed towards me. Near it was a huge silver bowl filled with whipped cream, hot fudge sauce, sprinkles and many other condiments. “Make your own sundae” in the best of times was good, but while flying through clouds? Heavenly.

I’d like to add to Mr. McKinley’s post that my ideal flight was boarding the TWA 747 that had a winding staircase to the lounge upstairs with comfortable soft and wide chairs and private window seats. I remember reading a book up there and feeling like hot, um, bananas!  That same trip, before landing, they served a snack before landing; it was the biggest, hero sandwich, I had ever seen, filled with possibly every kind of meat and cheese that existed. The enormity still bogs my mind. There were drinks or soda, snacks. How could flying NOT be part of the vacation, it was the greatest in relaxation; no one could reach you and why would anyone want to stay in touch on vacation? If you had told people back then that it would be a posdibilityin the future,they would have called security at the very least.

I don’t know when it started but slowly the airline industry disintegrated. There was no more food (gasp) you had to pay separately for everything, even bags and suitcases. People didn’t treat you like royalty anymore. After 9/11 the whole world changed and it will never be the same again. Some people refused to fly after that forever. I wasn’t thrilled with the aspect of flying but I flew many times. It became a horribly, long, painful process. I am personally grateful for the TSA agents that check and recheck but it is hard work for them. Nobody seems to appreciate what they are doing all day long or at night. Not fun for us either but still…

I will probably fly again at some point but it isn’t something that I look forward to doing. The point of relaxation does not begin at the airport but probably a day after you have reached your destination. Is it worth it? I’ve always thought it was but as time goes on I think more about it. I was so very lucky to see so many countries when I was a kid, I know I didn’t appreciate it then. It will never be the same and that is one dreadful loss. I’m glad my dad is no longer on this earth to witness travel the way it is now, he would be horrified, as those of us who remember “the good old days” are.

* a few sentences were used in the comment section for the NYT on Mr. McKinley’s wonderful article.

On Public Speaking

Sweet

Image by dyobmit via Flickr

Mr. Bluestone’s Class, seventh grade

The first time I had to speak publicly was in seventh grade in front of my science teacher, Mr. Bluestone and the class. I remember I did it on the TWA 747 and I practiced for hours and hours, for days, weeks. My dad, who worked at TWA at the time, brought home a 747 model jet for me to use. I practiced my speech on my dad endlessly and he was patient and kind.

I remember being in the class, Mr. Bluestone first asked for volunteers and he said, if no one wanted to volunteer he would just pick randomly. The classroom was absolutely quiet, albeit the sound of us all breathing nervously.

All of a sudden, my hand shot up and I decided to volunteer and “get it over with” basically my philosophy in life now as a grown-up.

I went to the front of the class and to the podium, I had practiced so much that the information was like that of a soothing lullaby sung by a mother to her newborn. I finished my presentation, showed my TWA model and finished speaking. There was silence in the room until Mr. Bluestone stood up and said to the class:” well, well, well.” Now, I was frightened. He continued to say that “by being first I had set the bar really high and that other presentations would be compared to mine.” I got an A plus and it gave me the confidence throughout my life to know I can do it; know your material really, really well, find your confidence and strength and speak. Jump at the chance to go first,  you can do it and you can do it really, really well.

Dedicated to Mr. Stuart or Stewart Bluestone, wherever you are.

Powered by Plinky