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People buy me plane tickets. This happens more often than I’d like to admit. The main reason why I feel such shame surrounding being flown has nothing to do with receiving gifts, as I’m usually transported from one place to another due to work or family obligations. No, the reason why I’m embarrassed is because I am absolutely terrified of flying. And being terrified of gifts that I receive just feels a little bit like I’m being ungrateful.

Let me note that I’m not just exercising my linguistic flair for the dramatic here. I mean to say that I’m the girl whimpering and crying during takeoff and spontaneously praying mid-flight. I jump when the fasten seatbelt sign is lit up. More than once Simon has had to talk me down from a panic attack, lest I freak out my fellow passengers or get taken out by a federal air marshal.

Currently I’m in New York, visiting family and getting stoked for The Rumpus fundraiser*. I’m happy to be here, though it’s currently colder than Elisabeth Hasselbeck’s tits and the forecast is for snow with a one-hundred percent chance for shitty driving. (Oklahomies, I hear y’all got the pregame to this storm.)

When I arrived at the Oklahoma City airport the other morning, it was nearly five o’ clock and empty.  I was bleary-eyed and more confused than usual. A woman in a navy uniform noticed me looking around as though I had come out of a fugue state or a Tom Hanks film. As she checked me in we started talking about how she used to be a flight attendant, but due to her ten year old daughter begging her to stay at home more she recently transferred to working for the airline check-in desk.

I used the opportunity to ask her if I was going to die in a plane crash that day. Most of the time when I tell people I’m afraid of flying they tell me I’m neurotic and crazy, but they’re also not usually flight attendants. This chick’s reaction was similar to what medical students do when you tell them that your glands are a little swollen. She took my ticket and inspected it, checked where the seat was on the plane (“Over the wings, that’s good.”) and said that I’d be fine. Due to the professional manner with which she handled a request that seemed selfish and insane, I felt relieved.

Then I discovered that the plane was the size of a flea’s dick and my seat was the one in the single-seat aisle. Anyway, thanks ex-flight attendant lady. You’re badass, ’cause you had a job that I could never do.

Marie Curie once said, “Nothing in life is to be feared. It is to be understood.” Granted, she studied uranium and her manuscripts themselves are considered too dangerous to touch due to high levels of radiation, but the point is pretty clear.

This led me to wonder what it required to become a flight attendant. (Next post will likely be about bee-keeping, as my other big fear is bees. Bees on a plane would be beyond bloodcurdling, while snakes on a plane is just a little silly.) From my point of view, working as a flight attendant would require heavy recreational drug use, hatred for family and friends, and a low-grade mental disorder. Also, a monk-like lack of fear. In reality, it’s not that hard to break into the white-knuckle world of air travel, but it does require some basic skills.

For one, you need a GED. And, as with many fields, the more education you have the better. One study reported that over half of recent hires had a minimum of one year of college completed, with over a third of newly-hired flight attendants having attained an Associate’s or Bachelor’s degree.  Also, if you’re looking to get some sort of management position, it helps immensely to have a BA or higher. If you travel internationally you’ll need to know more than one language, but that, to me, is just sort of logical.

Well, sure, I have a BFA, but even if I got over my aversion to flying I couldn’t strap on my favorite pair of chunky heels and a smile. There’s a height requirement.  I’m one of those passengers who holds the bag above their head and moans desperately, waiting for the nearest average-height individual to swoop in and place my luggage in its rightful overhead (very, very overhead) compartment.

Relocation obviously isn’t an issue for me, since I’ve lived in New York, Portland, and now Oklahoma all within the span of two years. But I don’t want my job telling me where to live. And, really, if you’re traveling as much as 75 to 85 hours per month there really is no place like home.

If I was more into customer service than misanthropy, and if I dug doing cleaning and inventory, I could go to a flight attendant open house or look on the websites of individual airlines to see who’s hiring. After jumping through the hoops of interviewing and a six to eight week training period, I’d then be put on “reserve status” for up to a year. This means that for anywhere from a year to several years I would be “on call” to the friendly skies. Three AM and the phone rings, is it a crazy ex? No. It’s my airline, telling me that they have a flight for me to chaperone. Time for me to get ready and go. So much for giving Simon a little wood polish.

If you’d like to become a flight attendant, you can check out any of the hyperlinks above, or this one on a career in hospitality aviation. In case you were wondering, the average menial earnings for a flight attendant in 2006 was $53,780, but starting pay is significantly lower. This is a motherfucking shit-ton of money to someone like me who lives with her knuckles touching her teeth. But I can’t quite get over combining my biggest fear with my social ineptitude. Moreover, it would deprive me of the stable, reclusive home-life that I so crave. The only thing I’ve got going for me as a flight attendant is that I’m compulsively early. But other than that, this career is about as suited for me as 50 Cent is for the monastery. No dice. For now I’ll just try to get over my fear by not weeping like a little bitch on the flight home.

Air mail can be sent to AinsleyDrew at gmail dot calm. Thank you to all of you who donate, one day when I scrape enough together I’ll get a prescription to anti-anxiety medication.

If you need some skywriting, hire us.

* And lastly, if you live, work, or happen to be in New York next week, you should attend the Rumpus Raiser on February 5th at 7PM. Details can be gleaned from the site, or you can drop me a line, AinsleyDrew at the gmail one.

Here’s a piece of a list called “You Know You’re A Flight Attendant If

  • You never unpack
  • You look to the ceiling when your doorbell chimes
  • You wish you had a button to press that would announce, “No I don’t have a pen”
  • You are excited to find a can of different soda that is not supposed to be on your airline
  • Your jumpseat partner knows more about you than your spouse or life partner
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