New(est) Beginnings

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My travel blog is movin’ on up in the world! With great excitement I announce that my blog is now going to be self hosted over at:

www.WingedWayfarer.com

Same travel posts you love, same author, but now better than ever. If you are one of the delightful people who has followed my blog so far, please update your links and join my new mailing list  (the box to enter your email is prominently featured on the front page). I will no longer be posting here on wordpress, and next week will have this URL forwarding to my new site location.

Thanks so much for keeping up with me so far. I cant wait to see where this next part of the adventure takes us!

Until next time, catch me if you can!

—Carmen

Human Tofu

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When you become a flight attendant, you’re told you need to be flexible in order to do well in this line of work. What they don’t tell you is you’ll need flexibility outside of the aircraft just as much as (if not more than) inside it. In fact, I would argue that being a limber-minded individual has very little to do with the actual job, and everything to do with attitude.

For example, a major fork in the road appeared for me and Belle here in Charlotte recently;  Jasmine and Aurora will no longer be our roommates. I won’t disclose too many of the details, especially since we’re still in the thick of it, but when push comes to shove, Jasmine didn’t manage her money well and can’t afford her spot on the lease, and Aurora wants to split off and find a place of her own— a much easier undertaking since she was our “crasher” and has never been on the lease. In the mean time, we’re looking at a replacement for Jasmine, and possibly another crasher.

My initial reaction was “are you f*cking kidding me?!” We’re 3 months into the lease, and I was irked that Jasmine thought you could just leave, especially with a week’s notice. As someone who has had experience living on her own for the last 7 years, I find it very irresponsible not to plan ahead and live within one’s means. The mere concept of leaving my roommate’s cheese out in the wind as a direct result of my inability to budget gets me very riled up (can you tell?)
As an accounting major, I’m big on constant financial vigilance and careful planning. This hasn’t always been the case—in my younger years I was a frivolous spender, mainly because I didn’t see the value of planning for a rainy day, but even then I didn’t spend more than I had. In those days I had never experienced “the pinch”, so to speak.  Having monthly bills, a credit card and student loans will sober you up quick.

What I have to realize (in more areas than just financial) is that everybody isn’t like me. Everybody doesn’t think like me— even if I’m right. 😉 As Belle kindly reminds me every so often, this too shall pass. We’ve just got to take the right steps to cover our butts and make sure we dot all our i’s and cross all our t’s with bills in this transitory phase.

At the end of the day, the lesson is simple. Flexibility is absolutely essential to survive when you move in with people you’ve known for a month, in a city you’re completely unfamiliar with. Of course gears are going to get warped in the crazy hurdy-gurdy we call flight attendant life. The key is to be what I whimsically call human tofu— blend in with your surroundings, and learn to adapt quickly. Control the factors you can, and don’t give yourself an aneurism over the ones you can’t.

Sky Snippets: Romancing the Stewardess

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So, sometimes something funny, random or just plain crazy happens in flight and if I don’t write it down I forget about it before I can put it in a longer blog. Creating a “sky snippets” post is the perfect solution! Think of it like a text message from the sky from me to you.

Working first class is a treat for most flight attendants. You only have 12-16 people to look after, you get paid more to be “lead”, and you get first dibs on leftover hot meals (the people who opt not to eat their food completely befuddle me). However, sometimes a passenger misinterprets your cheery customer service demeanor as a venue to initiate romantic interest.

Case in point: a gentleman by the name of Nick sat in the very front of first class. Younger dude, maybe 28-30. Dressed to the nines. Hair filled with an alarming amount of product. Suit freshly pressed with a pastel pink dress shirt underneath.

“Excuse me, Miss. May I have a white wine and a water with a splash of lemon?” he says in a singsong voice.

Gay, I say to myself. Gayer than a spring daisy.

I proceed to serve drinks and bring Nick repeat glasses of wine.

After glass 4, he uproots himself from his seat and joins me in the galley, talking animatedly about my job, his job, the weather….anything.

At this point I’m a little confused, because the galley of a 737 is rather cramped, and having someone (albeit friendly) standing there trying to keep my attention is very counterproductive.

Then he does something even more unexpected. He hands me his card, and says he’d love to buy me dinner some time.

My jaw hits the floor. Not only do I have my fake wedding rings on, but how on earth is this man straight? He previously had spent several minutes explaining that my uniform is actually lapis not navy. If I’d had the slightest suspicion he preferred the ladies, I would’ve made up some story of impending tubulence or something and asked him to return to his seat. Or something.

Here’s a picture of the card and what he wrote on it. Hilarious.

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As a side note, if I wasn’t as committed as I am to Darcy, I could probably score myself some friggin expensive designer purses. He better know how much I love him. 😉

 

Dancing, Donuts, Design and Delays (Providence, RI)

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Warning: this post has an obnoxious amount of photos, so if any of my relatives are still running their Commodore 64’s, be advised of a potential crash. I took so many pictures because there was so much that captivated my imagination this week, and it gives me the jollies to get to share it with you all!

I had a wonderful week. Tiring, but wonderful. It started out on a high—an event I’ve been looking forward to for months. One of my best friends, Jessica, married her long time sweetheart, Erik, on a farm in my home state. Both have very large families, and a group of very intimate friends who traveled far and wide to see the happy day. I was so enthralled when I was able to bid for my schedule and got the days off I wanted. As a reserve, you sometimes have to eat your humble pie and take what days off you can get, but so far I’ve been very lucky with scheduling. It’s all an encouraging testament to my steadily rising seniority as more and more new hires keep pouring in.
The wedding was absolutely worth the wait; my friends love each other and so it was more than just about the marriage, it was about the lot of us banding together in support of each other’s happiness. There’s no such thing as a dull time with my chums.

There’s a saying that you can tell how good a wedding is by how long everybody dances afterwards. Well, we danced the night away, ate delicious food (sorry, I was too busy stuffing my face to take pictures, although I wish I had) and later snacked on donuts and espresso which the bride had catered from Monkey Town Donuts. They’re made hot and fresh while you watch, and the coffee keeps you buzzin’ all night long. If you ever get a chance to try some, do it. You’ll be glad you did.

Among the other highlights of the event:

Downwind was macking on a cute girl, and I was happy to coyly be his wing-woman.

There were more adults than children at the crayon/coloring book table.

Darcy was swarmed by children, and was actually quite good with them. I was impressed, and fell in love with him a little more when he read one of Jess’s youngest sisters a storybook.

We sent the lovely couple off with the biggest sparklers I’ve ever seen! And of course, being the adults that we are, we ran around and waved them like magic wands shouting “Wingardium leviosa” and “expecto patronum

Suffice it to say, good times were had by all.

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One of my best friends, Jessica, got married at Hullender Farms in Apison TN. It was a gorgeous venue, and a perfect day for a wedding

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The venue had a very rustic chic feel to it, and we all were bustling with excitement for the festivities to begin

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the ceremony itself was held outside on the lawn. The simple yet classic taste reflected my friend Jessica perfectly.

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you could tell Jessica and her family put a lot of time and effort into the decorations of the little cottage where the reception was held

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getting in our places

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The groom, Erik, and my dear friend Hunter, who officiated.

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Darcy and I felt like we were melting into our chairs, it was so hot. 90+ degrees, but it was so worth it!

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The father of the bride walking Jessica down to her husband to be!

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They met up with the mother of the bride, and they all walked down together. It was very meaningful to the bride for both her parents to give her away

Personal vows they wrote for each other. You can tell they're best friends who happened to fall in love

Personal vows they wrote for each other. You can tell they’re best friends who happened to fall in love

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Darcy and I getting goofy while we nibbled hors d’oeuvres and waited on the bridal party

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We started to get a little bored. Fortunately, Darcy thought ahead and snuck in some “party favors”

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My lovely friend Jessica; the most beautiful (and laid back) bride I’ve ever seen!

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Jess, me and Downwind photobombing us in the back! This is *so* us.

On to Providence! We weren’t supposed to even go to Rhode Island—our first overnight was in New York City. Then the delays happened. It’s a pretty typical thing for summer weather to be temperamental on the east coast. However, it wreaks havoc on the airline industry, because with all the diversions and ground holds, its nigh impossible for jets to get where they need to be, when they need to be. This also results in a musical-chairs-in-the-sky kind of rigamarole for flight attendants—one flight crew may be taken off their scheduled trip to be sent off on another plane in order to make sure they board on time while their actual crew is either still sitting on the tarmac or at a different airport. I’d hate to work in logistics or customer service for my airline during these grueling delays!

It’s not so much a bother to me, other than a mite confusing when you don’t know where you’re going to sleep that night, because our job is to be flexible. All I need is a (soft) place to lay my head, a toilet to do the obvious, a chair to lay my stuff and a shower to get clean in.

Boy, did my airline ever deliver!

If you haven’t heard of NYLO hotels before, look them up, because they’re the neatest thing sliced bread. The best way to describe the deco design would be urban neo-modern. Everything is polished stainless steel, crisp lines, and stacked brick against concrete. My room in itself was a work of art.

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my shower. The back glass panel was transparent, and you could see into it from the bed. Excellent incentive to wake up if you had someone sexy staying with you. 😉

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the living room area

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You get your own keurig machine in your room. This hotel knows where its at

The lobby was, in a word, phenomenal. If I hadn’t taken pictures, you wouldn’t believe that I sat in a giant hanging modular chair reading books from the in-house library while a sipped a hand-made espresso, or that I sat out on the 3,000- square-foot mahogany terrace overhanging the Pawtuxet River and ate breakfast.

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I can haz in my room? Plz?

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A library and an iMac. Its like I died and went to hipster heaven.

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*drool*

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the most perfect reading spot ever designed

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I just had to try it out for myself. Result: more fun than a barrel of monkeys.

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the dining room. Totally digging those antler lamps.

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All you can eat breakfast buffet for $5 if you’re crew! As a good American, I did my patriotic duty and stuffed my gullet until I was full as a tick!

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The scenic patio at NYLO

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This is where I ate breakfast. u jelly? 😉

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NYLO is located in a renovated Hanes underwear factory from the days of yore. This made my entire life. I can now cross “sleep in an unmentionables mill” off my bucket list!

I went on a quick jaunt to the Warwick Mall, which was across the street. It was a nice excuse to get around town and see the local venues, as well as to get some fresh air. I’ve never appreciated nature so much as when I spent an entire day in enclosed in a galley!

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May or may not have taken a spin 😉

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the first store I saw in Providence’s Warwick Mall had bongs. LOL! Priorities people!

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It seems the world has nothing better to talk about this week. Good thing I never buy these (and use the pages from the ones left over on the plane for cleaning the coffee grounds out from under crevices in the galley).

The other hotel we stayed in the next night, in Chicago, paled in comparison to NYLO. In fact, I was abruptly awoken early in the morning to the sound of my door opening. Nobody knocked, nobody yelled out the obligatory warning. Before I knew it I was face to face with the Russian cleaning lady, who dropped all her supplies out of shock and muttered apologies as I desperately covered up my birthday suit (it was horribly hot, and the AC wasn’t working , so no pajamas for me!)

Can you say awkward?

Last but not least, I had the most amazing crew this time around. All were senior flight attendants, but we bonded very strongly over the 3 day trip. After you go through hours of wrangling baggage, boarding and deplaning, safety demos, and galley gossip, you forge a strong affinity for good camaraderie. The three of us (and the pilots) got on splendidly, and it showed in our attitudes. Nobody was bossy, or a negative nancy, or a control freak. At the very end, one of the ladies gave me a coveted “crew” luggage tag, which I had been admiring the entire trip . I shall treasure it for always, and remember my sojourn to Providence fondly.

When You Don’t Really Get Along With Someone You Fly With

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99% of the time I get along with everyone I fly with. But every so often you meet Crazy.

Crazy is usually very easy to spot, because the first thing out of his or her mouth lets you know they were either born that way, or long ago had a lobotomy to remove the part of the brain that handles social skills.

The A flight attendant had only been working a month longer than me but she was overbearing, controlling and very bossy. The first thing out of her mouth was “you’re 32 seconds late.” I was like, oh dear. This is gonna be interesting.
For 4 days and 3 nights we had to sit together in the front of the plane on a bench jumpseat. What was even worse was how she could go from being a tolerable human being to a complete headache in the same hour. Everything about her personality rubbed against the grain, and it was really difficult to relax throughout the trip as a result.

The B flight attendant was pretty senior (I think she was hired the year I was born) and she was a bit of a Negative Nancy. Things that are only mildly annoying to me, such as someone’s legs or shoulder hanging out into the aisle when we’re trying to get the beverage cart by are huge ordeals for her. I don’t mind doing the courtesy “‘scuse me, ‘scuse me, coming through, pardon me. Thank you, sir.”  But she would sigh exasperatedly and ask out loud how we were expected to do our jobs when people were so unruly.
She was also one of those  “I have my own system of doing things” in the back galley. No helping allowed. Most people would be like, great, I can just sit down and read the entire time, but not me. I like to feel productive at least some of the time. Plus, sitting on the 20+ year old jumpseat cushions on a 737 aren’t exactly a treat. Good thing they’re about to retire the entire fleet! On a side note, Boeings are fantastic planes. They fly great, they’re reliable and they’re American made. (Mericuh!) But, they’re also extremely loud, kinda cramped and uncomfortable. I digress.

The thing about working with people who you don’t really get along with in an airline is proximity. Its easy enough to ignore someone when they’re 7 cubicles away, but when you’re in an aluminum tube with them for 3+ hours, there’s not much you can do. Basically I spent the duration of the flights after the drink service making trash collection runs and thats it. If I sat by fussy-face in the front I’d have to listen to a lecture about the only right way to serve a snack basket. If I sat in the back with Nancy, I had better be sure to bring something to read while she puttered around and cleaned the coffee maker rather than make an attempt at conversation.

The good part of the trip was I got to spend 3 overnights in Florida at a nice hotel near the beach. They weren’t long overnights, but I was dead set on getting some sand between my toes and some ocean in my hair. I begged the shuttle driver to take me the 10 minute drive to the beach early in the morning before we left at 4 PM. Technically, a hotel is not obligated to take you anywhere except a grocery store or pharmacy, etc. But I begged, and did the puppy eyes (and offered monetary incentive) and one of the drivers took pity on me. We exchanged cell phones, and I spent some much needed time in the sun. Honestly, the entire trip was worth it for that one day.

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In the early morning the water is cooooolllld

 

 

 

 

10 Items Every Flight Attendant Needs On A Trip

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Over the last several months, I’ve learned a thing or two about what a flight attendant needs on a long (or short) trip. It’s a slow process, sprinkled with moments of foresight and countless incidents of “oh, I wish I’d remembered to bring…..

After awhile, your suitcase starts to see “the regulars”—items of accouterment or personal flair which you cannot live without, as opposed to the items of frivolity which you merely thought you’d need. I mean, when did you think you were going to use that aromatherapy bubblebath? In the hotel tub? No. No. and no.

a humble snapshot of my packed rollerboard, which comes with me all around the world

a humble snapshot of my packed rollerboard, which comes with me all around the world

Assuming comfy lounging/walking about clothes, a bag of toiletries, your phone, your uniform, food, flight bag (manual, announcement book, service guide etc) are standard items, here is my extremely short list of things I always pack in my bag on a trip.

  1. A trusty multi-function charger. Mine is also retractable so its very easy to pack. So if you have an android phone and an iPad, you can charge both.  Or, in my case, I charge my iphone and my Kindle. Nifty, yes?
  2.  A tablet of some sort. Hauling even the extra 3 pounds of my Macbook Pro around takes a toll on my ease mobility.
  3. Business cards with your name/email address. You never know who you might meet and who you may want to stay in touch with. It’s so much easier to just hand out a card with contact info instead of writing it down or doing the  awkward cell phone dance. I ordered some promoting this blog very inexpensively here.
  4. . A pair of prescription glasses. Nothing is worse than realizing you forgot your contact lense solution, and believe me, it will happen. Or you lose a lense. Or it rips. Whatever. Bring some glasses, because being able to see helps you do your job considerably. 😉
  5. . An extra pair of stockings. “No run” stockings? Doesn’t exist. It’s an urban myth spread by nylon companies. I hate stockings, for one thing. Especially in the summer. As Jessica Simpson said, no one wants “swamp @ss” (when certain unmentionable areas get sweaty). However, they are a mandatory part of the uniform when you wear skirts, so get used to it. I prefer to buy thigh highs and keep them hoisted with a garter belt. Allows for a cool breeze in the general area that you will be very grateful for in the blaze of summer.
  6. . Stain remover pen/wrinkle releaser spray. This is pretty much a no-brainer. You will all the time occasionally spill things on yourself, and you will definitely get wrinkles, no matter how carefully you pack your uniform.
  7. .Make-up removal towelettes. Its an unglamorous fact, but some times the water in a given city you’re staying in is rather gross. In Phoenix, for example, it was kind of salty and mineral-y. I didn’t want to wash my face with stuff I couldn’t stand to drink. So, bring some makeup remover towelettes with you. These can be kind of pricey, but don’t fall for all the hype over the big-name brands. All you need is a good generic, and it’ll get the job done. Plus your skin will feel so nice and smoothe.
  8. .Starbucks via instant coffee packets. These are lifesavers when you’re too lazy  too broke pressed for time and need some caffeine in a jiffy. They taste just as good as a brewed cup, and are plenty strong. I pack these in my purse every. single. time. Just grab some hot water, mix the powder in and go.
  9. . Dry shampoo. Sounds kind of like an oxymoron doesn’t it? Well, it’s not. Every woman should have some in here toiletry bag. On those days where you wake up late or just cant find the time for a wash, you spray your roots with this stuff, and it sucks up oil. It also gives your hair some extra body on days where it might be laying flat. Presto change-o!
  10. . Backup alarm clock. You can schedule all the hotel wake-up calls you want, but I’ve had several times where the only thing that rang on time was Old Faithful (my iPhone alarm). So, I started bringing a sports watch with an alarm function. It doesn’t have a snooze button, and I hide it under the bed so I actually have to get my sleepy butt up out of bed and find it.
  11. BONUS! (just thought of this one) A pair of slippers. You don’t want to walk around hotel carpets barefooted. Trust me. It’s gross in ways I can’t possibly describe without gagging. All I can say is if you walk around a hotel carpet long enough, the soles of your feet will be covered in grime.

What can’t you leave home without? Do you have any priceless tips/products you always bring?

To Commute or Not to Commute? {A Flight Attendant’s Question}

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Sometimes one must travel far to discover what is near.”—Uri Shulevitz

I remember the first time I was in Charlotte, NC. It was in December 2010, and I was on my way to visit my friends Andy and Jonathan up in New York along with my good friend Alanna. Incidentally, it was also a flight on the airline I currently work for. Coincidence?!
We were in Charlotte for about another hour as we waited to catch the flight to LaGuardia airport. Charlotte is a major hub (the 2nd largest hub in the South. Atlanta being first) so smaller cities like Chattanooga often have to go through Charlotte to get to the mainline flights.

It was one of the first times (since I was really little, which shouldn’t count) that I was on a big jet (I had only flown in little Cessnas before) and all the sights and sounds were foreign to me. Fast forward to now and I could tell you absolutely everything about that aircraft. It was an Airbus A320, and I know every button, every knob, every door, every window, every seat and precisely what every chime, whirr and beep means.
While on the flight, I passed the time by reading and snapping this priceless photo of Alanna, who had fallen asleep in the row behind me. She later threatened to kill me when she saw I had posted it on Facebook. Bless her heart. 😉

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Me, utterly bored. Waiting to deplane in Charlotte for the first time

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lerp derp.

Looking back at my first time in Charlotte, I can remember its significance. Before I became a flight attendant, I almost never traveled out of Tennessee. So when I finally did successfully maneuver myself around Charlotte Airport, I felt this huge sense of accomplishment. That isn’t to say I didn’t  also feel completely overwhelmed. Poor Alanna diligently strode behind me as I Lewis n’ Clark’d it through the terminal, pretending not to be hopelessly enraptured by the concept of a moving sidewalk. Everything was so big and busy and loud. Little did I know I would one day be working there, and consider Charlotte Douglas International Airport my “office.”

I use that word office very meaningfully. Charlotte is a beautiful city; I’m still discovering more and more that I like about it every day. It’s much bigger than Chattanooga and there’s so much to do and see. I’m so glad that I chose to move here, because I had lived in the same town for 25 years and was itching to see more of the world. Still, if I’d really wanted a drastic change, I would’ve picked Philly or DC. In the end, I couldn’t leave the South. It’s so hilarious how you realize who you really are and what you really want when you give yourself the option of drastic change. Some people embrace the 180 degree turns—and I have—but others still like to go back to what is familiar in the end.

I like Southern manners, and Southern food and the Southern leisurely but loyal way of getting things done. I don’t  (as much) like the brusque, dirty, industrial feel of the Northern cities I’ve visited. Everybody is always in a hurry and they think you’re being sarcastic when you say something genuine and polite. Now I realize this isn’t true across the board; it’s just been my experience so far. Everybody is different, and variety is a good thing.

When I come home to this (see below), my heart just finally exhales.

on the walking bridge at Chattanooga TN one beautiful summer morning last week
on the walking bridge at Chattanooga TN one beautiful summer morning last week

Chattanooga will always be my home. I realize that now. When I say “my home is in Charlotte” it doesn’t feel right. For one, I’m only at my apartment for probably about 5 or less days of the month—I’m always away on trips! On the days I have off, I pretty much have gone back to Chattanooga. I miss my friends, I miss my family, and I miss Darcy. So much.

The other day, he was weeding and trimming our garden while I was mowing the lawn (I had never done this before, so I was quite proud to learn). To him, it was a unromantic but necessary responsibility/duty to perform. To me, it was the crowning glory of couple hood—of working hard on the house and being active outside together. I looked over at him, with a little bit of leaf stuck to his face, intent on cleaning out the hedges, and I knew this was where I belonged. Forever. This was my home. With him, in this city, and the ability to come and go as I please, I am happier than I’ve ever known to be possible. I have the key on my keyring and an indelible keyhole in my heart that only Chattanooga can unlock.

That’s not to say that I don’t want to keep traveling. I love my job, and can foresee myself doing this indefinitely. The beauty of it is I can call anywhere my home. I only have to be on base when I’m on call. Once I get a line, I’ll know my entire schedule in advance, and I can choose to work a minimum of 40 hours per month.
Now, currently, that wouldn’t make sense to do. I have student loans to pay and places to go. But, I could see myself…say…5 years from now, being at home 5 days a week and going off for a weekend trip as a way to enjoy some “me” time. I’ve never been able to imagine giving up working and bringing something to the table financially once I get married and/or have kids. I’m just far too independent to rely on someone else wholly for my quality of life. But fortunately, even if I was making a great deal less money than I am now, Darcy has a really good stable job and it wouldn’t be a problem. So, suffice it to say from all my rambling here that this would be the ultimate ideal situation for me.

According to my fellow resserve flight attendant compadres, it is possible to commute while on reserve. It’s very difficult, but it can be done. As I mentioned earlier, I spend so little time at my apartment that it’s almost a joke in retrospect that I have a lease. Sure, it’s a place to keep my stuff and sleep and see my roommates. But, my friend the Politician (see picture below on far left) still commutes from his home in Harrisburg PA and basically stays either on peoples’ couches or gets super awesome discounts on hotels when he needs to be here in the Queen City. I honestly don’t mind living out of a suitcase when I’m not in Chattanooga. It’s kind of exciting, really. This seems to be the biggest disadvantage about commuting as a reserve (according to what I’ve heard). When I’m on call, I have to be in Charlotte, but as a commuter, I’ll get called for trips which start the next day—so I can just hop on a flight in Chattanooga and fly 40 minutes back to CLT.

The more Darcy and I talk about our future, the more clear it becomes to me that I’ll probably commute when my lease is up next year. It saves money, if not time, and allows us to be together more often. When I think about it, I really have the better end of the deal. I left for training, and he had to stay behind. It was hard for me to go somewhere completely new and put my nose to the grindstone, but he had to be willing to let me go and wait for me to come back. Commuting may be considered more “inconvenient” for me, but its a small price to pay to make a real life together. While I’m gone, Darcy has been spending quality time with my family on his own—an absolute first in a significant other for me. I can’t believe how incredibly lucky I am in love!

Anyway, I guess this post has ended but being less “if” I should commute, but why I want to. I have friends who have told me I could stay on their couch or spare bedroom anytime, so there’s not many loose ends to tie up.

Commuting (especially while on reserve) is certainly not for everybody. I certainly envy those lucky few whose spouses or significant others live here in Charlotte! But I can tell, both logically and emotionally, that this is the right choice for me someday in the not-too-distant future. And I’m so excited to rise to the challenge.