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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Alaska Airlines Flight 261

It was the 31st of January 2000 and I was working an easy three-leg turn with LoverBoy and our friend Kelly.  We left on an MD-80 and flew Portland up to Seattle.  Then we changed planes and worked a 737-700 from Seattle to San Francisco.  And then we changed planes again and worked a 737-400 from San Francisco to Portland.  Something like 08:30am-17:00pm.  (Wait, did I start out this paragraph above by saying this was an easy three-leg turn???).  Three legs, three different aircraft, with two different sit times....no, that's not easy....ha!

We had left SFO on the last leg to PDX.  One of our passengers was on the on-board telephones that we had built into the backs of the seats at that time.  The flight is pretty short, maybe 1:25 or so.   We had finished our beverage service and the passenger came to the back galley.  She actually pulled the curtain across the galley opening which I thought odd.  And she said, "I just got off of the phone with my boss and I'm not sure if I should tell you this or not -- but one of your airplanes has gone down in the water off the coast of California."

What?  No way!  What are you talking about!?  Which aircraft?  What flight?  Where?  Who was the crew?  Do we tell the pilots of the current flight that we are working or let them simply find out when we arrive in Portland?  I was the "A" flight attendant working in First Class that day.  We made the decision for me to go into the flight deck and actually tell our two pilots.  We had just started to make our gradual descent into Portland when I entered the flight deck and told them.  I also told a crew that we had deadheading with us that day.  And by then, we were well into our approach and had to prepare for landing.

I opened the front-left side L1 door to the face of my brother-in-law Tom.  Tom was a Customer Service Agent in Portland at that time.  I won't soon forget the look on his face.  In his mind, he was wondering if I knew.  And in my mind, I was wondering if he knew.  The jetway was filled with supervisors and a variety of other atypical people for an arriving flight.  We were told to phone our family and friends immediately to tell them that we were not the crew that had gone down.   We gathered upstairs for an hour or more with a roomful of flight attendants and other staff while we watched the Breaking News together.  It wasn't good.

Alaska Airlines flight 261 was enroute from Puerto Vallarta to San Francisco when it developed rudder stabilization troubles.  It was having a difficult time staying in a proper flying formation.  It was trying to divert to the Los Angeles airport when it nosedived into the blue waters of the Pacific off the California coast near the Point Mugu Naval Air Station.  At least 35 occupants, including 12 employees, were connected to Alaska Airlines or Horizon Air in some manner, leading many airline employees to mourn for those lost in the crash.  Bouquets of flowers started arriving at our headquarters building, gate areas, staff areas, ticket counters, and given by hand to flight crew members in jetways by not only our own management, but the staff of many other airlines....people that we didn't even know.  I remember flying the very same three-leg turn the following day after the crash.   Oh boy, that was a very difficult day to be back in the air.  I remember arriving from the first PDX-SEA leg at gate D5 in Seattle and being handed a single white rose by a flight attendant from United Airlines.  I walked by gate D5 just two days ago -- and pointed out to my friend Mitch about my memories of that day and gate D5.

So today, I clearly remember.  These are the sorts of days that one won't soon forget.  I had worked that particular aircraft several times in the few weeks prior to its demise.  One of the two coffee makers in the forward First Class galley was out of service.....and it had been for a couple of weeks.  And it still was on the day that Alaska Airlines flight 261 met her date with destiny.  I still see my friend Kelly once in a while -- the flight attendant we were working with on that terrible day.  LoverBoy and I will always have a special place in our lives for her.  We will always share that day.  Sadly.  

Links to News Reports 

Audio Recording that Will Break Your Heart

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Shallow! No Diving!

Am I just getting old?  Or are things changing around us?  Have Facebook and Twitter and Tumblr and Pinterest and Scruff and Grindr and Growlr and Loopt all changed the way we do business?  I feel like they are making our lives shallow.  I feel like they have cheapened us.  And like we want nothing more than a quick status update or picture.  And, hey now, that's it.  Nothing beyond that.  30 seconds and I'm done with you. 

I am friends with, shall we say, a lot of people.  Young, old, odd, normal, the whole lot.  What about young people today who are actively engaged in searching out a long-term relationship partner.  Are there any?  I see plenty of status updates, pictures, and chatting but I don't see too many dates with fully engaged intentions of seeking out a relationship.  You know, the kind of relationships that will carry us way out into our 60s, 70s or even 80s.  Dare I go out on a limb here and say that I think we are happy with the way all of the aforementioned websites and apps have allowed us to not have to deal with the actual reality of 10-, 20, 30-plus year relationships.  I'll shoot you a picture but I certainly don't want to have to wake up next to you -- well, more than one or two mornings, anyway.  We don't have to work at anything anymore.  I will simply defriend you if I don't like you.  Well, either that or just "hide" you to avoid an actual, live, in-person conversation or confrontation about an issue. 

I would guess that it is easier to handle the virtual life rather than real life.  It requires little.  It costs me next to nothing.  And I don't have to practice my communication skills.  I can tell you that I'm 40 when I'm actually 50 because the chances of us ever meeting are next to none.  I can say "LOL" or "WTF" because it's fast, easy -- and we all know what they mean nowadays.  I can "like" your status update or make a quick quip or snappy comment about your two sentences.  And leave it at that.  That's it.  The extent of our relations many times now.  Someone said to me a while back that "I'm too scared of real life to actually live it."  Virtual life is much easier. 

What do you think the long-term effect is on our world?  Our families?  Our homes and relationships?  Or work world?  What do you think that the family unit will look like in 50 years?  Or homes?  I think our homes will exist virtually rather than actually.  Humm.  Food for thought. 

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The (Blood) Pressure Within

I have taken a vow of silence.  For this year.  To have less discussion about my health ills.  The last few months of 2012 were crap.  Utter crap.  Things went to hell in a pretty homemade handbasket in mid-October with my diagnosis of Horner's Syndrome and a dissection of my carotid arteries followed by a hospital stay, blood thinners, an ultrasound, three CT scans, injections into my fat pale white belly, and all of the subsequent grisly details of such.  So for this year, things are looking up so far.  And I have a bit less intention of discussing my health.  Except for this one thing that I'm very happy about.  My blood pressure.

My BP was 100% normal up until a year or two ago.  You see, I track everything.  Every number, cholesterol, blood pressure, thyroid, PSA, liver, kidney, everything.  I want to know.  I like to know.  I visited with a cardiologist a year ago and he suggested that I begin a minimal dose of high blood pressure medications.  My BP had began to creep upwards....from the normal 120/80 up into the 130s and even the 140s.  So I started a 5mg dose of Lisinopril a year ago and voila! the BP went right back down to normal.  Perfect.  Easy.  Whew.

Until I ended up in the hospital November with all of the aforementioned ills.  They check your BP every two hours in the hospital you know.  Everything is tracked, charted and plotted.  "Is your blood pressure always this high," they began to ask.  No, it isn't, thank you.  It was in the 130/140s and into the 150/160s sometime.  And even the diastolic (bottom) number was headed up.....90, 100.  Far too high.  So my normal BP had been hijacked....grrrr, just one more thing to have to deal with.   One of the doctor's suggested that I increase my BP meds to counteract it.  But the cardiovascular surgeon suggested that we actually do not increase the medications.  He explained that since I was on blood thinners for the carotid artery dissection, he was actually happy with a slight elevation of the BP for now -- for increased cerebral profusion, as he put it -- to keep good flow to the brain.  I mentioned that perhaps even my BP was on the rise due to the stress and anxiety of the last few months.  So, I've waited.  And waited.  Right up until two weeks ago.......

Two weeks ago, right after the celebratory welcoming of 2013 had been completed, my BP dropped back to what I call normal of 115-125 over 70-80.  Perfect.  And it has stayed there.  I couldn't be happier.  I have no idea why.  It happened so suddenly.  Maybe it's an indication of some sort of healing taking place inside my carotid arteries.  Maybe it is my determination to be in the gym doing something, no matter how insignificant it may seem, while my arteries heal.  But it has happened.  So, I'm tracking it faithfully as I always do.  But for now the pressure that lies within has become, shall we say, less pressurish.  Smile. 

Saturday, January 19, 2013

I Like Cock

This will come as no surprise but there are days when I think I've seen and heard it all.  But I know that I haven't....quite yet.  And today brought yet another humorous round of frivolity in the sky.  Big group of nice looking men traveling home together from a conference.  Old, younger, all types, nice and friendly.  One super nice looking big-armed upper 20s dude plunks his self into an aisle seat.  His older, married, bellied buddy plunks his butt across the aisle.  Young dude falls asleep.  His older traveling companion ends up in the back galley and chats about his low-back pains and such.  And continues on about traveling with such a young kid and how the kid can't focus on any damned thing for more than a minute or two.  "Shiny Object" and the young guy is off and runnin' until there's another momentary diversion.  This appears to be a fairly common way of running one's life nowadays with younger folk. 

So older guy tells us that they were supposed to leave their hotel at 0700 for the airport and that was the understood time of departure.  Older dude wakes up at 0500 and no young guy in the room...he hadn't been in all night long.  Older guy surmises that he has been out with a group of three Dutch women that they had met the night before.  Young kids these days, they just can't remain focused for very long at all.  And they wear themselves out quickly -- staying out all night long.  The young kid is now asleep and older dude has an idea:

He asks us if we have a Magic Marker -- he wants to play a trick on the kid.  He tells us that he wants to write "I Like Cock" across the front of his t-shirt while he is asleep.  Oh lord, this is getting good.  I mention that perhaps he does, in fact, like cock.  Nah, old guy says, he really liked those Dutch women last night.  Kid sleeps away the rest of the flight.  Old guy finds a small little teeny tiny airplane cutout from a magazine and drops it gingerly from the sky above the kid's muscled-out chest.  The airplane lands gently between his nipples.  And he continues to sleep. 

I'm telling you, you just never know what's going to happen next in life.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

I'm Not Compassionate

Did you know that?  I'm not compassionate.  Occasionally I am, given the right set of circumstances and people.  I'm not overly touchy-feely.  Nor wishy-washy.  I don't put up with excuses or delays or blah blah blah.  I call things as I see them, verbally many times.  And on my face and in my emotions other times.

I had an encounter over the transition into the new year -- which I'm calling Lucky '13 by the way.  The encounter was unexpected and completely out of the blue.  I was told that I'm not compassionate and that some people will spend their lives trying to earn my approval.  My approval is hard to come by, just for the record.  I actually don't even consider those sorts of thoughts except on a very rare basis.  But that's the problem, apparently.  I don't consider it.

I'm just me.  Black and white.  Sensible.  Able to see processes and procedures easily and am not enamored with diversions to get where I'm going.  I would say that more than half of the world is in the way of where I want to go.  Not a lot of fluff or patting on the back.  I'm a get things done sort of guy.  If you want a problem solved, you'll come to me.  If you want to simply talk about solving a problem, you won't come to me.  I expect everyone to pull themselves up by the boot straps and stay focused.  I know, I know....a big ethereal sort of nonrealistic vision.  But I'm relatively comfortable right there. 

So I start Lucky '13 with a new set of accusations.  Ones that I've known about for a very long time.  Ones, even, that I think about from time to time.  None of the finger-pointing at me was a surprise.  You see, I have lived with myself for nearly 51 years now.  I know myself quite well.  And I'm nearly completely comfortable there.  But these things do cause a moment for pause and reflection.  And when the new year is still so fresh, reflection is paramount.