the new normal?

The weekend before last, I was mulling over whether or not I wanted to turn my last four-day trip into a blog post, whether or not it would be cheating to insert photos from my last two Austin layovers and if these “things to do when you have x hours in City” travelblog posts were passĂ© and would forever just be pale, toothless imitations of Tony Bourdain’s The Layover, with all the casual swearing but none of the coke-encrusted weary wisdom or disdain for well-worn tourist traps.

Then last weekend happened, and, well, I figured I’d better go with a different approach.

I have the relatively unique position of being a flight attendant in a period of time when, though flying is not yet explicitly banned, nobody wants to fly; a period like which hasn’t happened since 2001, when I was a college student blowing off my afternoon lectures to discuss Harry Potter over deep dish with friends. I am still working, because not working means not getting paid, and because I have no savings, having directed any extra income toward the consumer debt I incurred over five years earning slave wages for the state of Arizona. I cannot “socially distance” myself from anyone when the very nature of my job involves consistently breaching the American-socially-accepted three feet of personal space, which is way less than the COVID-19-recommended SIX feet of personal space.

The Barbie Jet this morning before all of 22 passengers got on

As I type this I am in Dallas, decompressing after an exceedingly long day full of flights that felt longer because there were so few passengers to wait on. While the Boeing 717, a coveted out-of-production short-range petite plane we refer to as the “Barbie Jet”, is my favorite for its small size and ease of loading, we didn’t have a single one today loaded to capacity. Slightly over half capacity, at most. Our gate agents greeting us in Dallas were surprised at how quickly we deplaned, then told us they’d been experiencing canceled flights all day.

Earlier today I was stuck in Detroit for two hours longer than anticipated. Instead of keeping our plane all day as we were supposed to, my crew and I were hustled off and made to wait for a different aircraft–ostensibly because some flight somewhere had been canceled, and the pieces on the board needed to be shuffled.

As of right now, my schedule for tomorrow is still intact, but that could change at any moment. The nature of this job is that your rotation (scheduled trip) is always subject to change, but the majority of the time, barring thunderstorms or blizzards or mechanical failures, you can expect it to remain intact. But this is an act of nature we weren’t adequately prepared to deal with, and so now becomes a day-by-day process of dealing with the fallout and learning to adapt. There’s nothing else we can do except smile at our customers, exercise our Diet-Coke-pouring patience, and wait for what’s next.