Thursday we resumed the banana trial for Zac, and it went so well I decided I could go to work over the weekend.
I found a trip to work on Saturday that was quick and “easy”, but worth a decent amount of money.
I thought I’d share with you how the weekend went for us, as this weekend is one of those weekends that makes me wonder how I’ve endured being a Flight Attendant as long as I have!
5:30 p.m. (CST)
I saw that my flight to Newark (the flight I needed to take to commute to work) was listed as “on schedule”…but the aircraft operating the flight still hadn’t left from Chicago!
This is when things get tricky: if the aircraft isn’t there, yet, obviously the flight can’t be “on schedule”. If they haven’t updated the flight information yet, that means that there is a 50/50 chance that the flight will go delayed, or be cancelled.
So I held off on picking up the trip on Saturday, because the last thing I wanted was to have to call in sick for a trip I picked up special because my commuting flight to get there cancelled at the last second!
I decided to go to the airport in time for the regular departure time, anyway, just in case they managed to do an equipment swap. Kissed the babies, kissed the hubs, and off I went.
The gate agents made an announcement: the airplane had left Chicago, and our flight would now be leaving at about 9:30p.m.
So I picked up the assignment for Saturday and sat in the airport to pay bills while I waited.
We boarded the plane, and were in the air very quickly. I settled in to try and sleep.
Apparently my body has changed, and no longer am I able to fall asleep the second I sit down on a plane. I managed to get about an hour long nap with frequent wake-ups on the flight.
1:30 a.m. (EST)
We landed in Newark.
Everyone zombie-walked off the plane, and I chatted with a fellow Flight Attendant who lives in my area and works as a German speaker. We approached the Airlink train to take us over to Terminal C, and saw the area was gated off.
The Airlink was broken. We could wait for a bus, or we could walk.
Even though it’s almost a mile, we decided to walk.
2:15 a.m. (EST)
I said good-bye to my new friend, headed through the security checkpoint, and slowly made my way to the opposite end of the terminal to our crew room.
3:30 a.m. (EST)
After pumping, taking care of my food, and changing clothes, I wandered around the crew room until I finally found a single unoccupied chair I could sleep in.
Working in the dark, as quietly as I could so as to not disturb the other sleeping crew members, I got settled in to sleep. It took me a while to get comfortable enough to sleep. I finally drifted off a little after 4:00 a.m.
6:00 a.m. (EST)
My alarms went off. As tired as I was, I snoozed for a bit, but was up and going at 6:20 a.m. I gave myself a spit-bath in the sink in the bathroom, pumped, did my hair and makeup, and dressed for work.
Then I went to the microwaves and heated up my breakfast. I ate as much as I could before I had to head off to my plane.
8:05 a.m. (EST)
At the plane, waiting to board. Our aircraft came in from an international destination, so we had to sit and wait for it to clear customs. About ten minutes later we got the all-clear and boarded. We took the time to get to know each other; this was the first time I’d met any of my crew members.
We did our pre-flight checks and boarded the passengers. Amazingly enough, the door closed on time and we were on our way.
It was a lovely flight to Los Angeles. I only pumped once on the way, though, so by the time we landed I was in definite need of a pumping!
12:15 p.m. (PST)
Landed in LA. Realized Felicity Huffman had been on our flight when I told her “Goodbye”.
12:45 p.m. (PST)
Arrived at the hotel room. I called Darrel and chatted for a bit. Blessedly pumped to relieve pressure.
Darrel had a photo shoot scheduled for that afternoon, so he was about to take the boys to my parents house. We got off the phone so he could pack and load the car, and I watched a little HGTV and finished eating the food I’d heated up on the plane and taken with me to the hotel.
Turns out Darrel’s model bailed on him at the last minute. So his photo shoot cancelled and Mom and Dad graciously said they would keep the boys overnight so Darrel could have an evening of peace, quiet, and maybe some decent sleep.
Talked to Mom on the phone. Even though a small cold snap had moved through and it was too cold for swimming, both boys had already managed to climb into the pool while fully clothed and refused to go inside.
Chuckling over her predicament, I said goodnight to everyone, gave myself a quick pump and headed to sleep.
I fell asleep.
Wakeup calls and alarms went off. A few short minutes later, I got a phone call from Mom. When I answered, it was Jed on the phone, telling me some convoluted story that I didn’t really understand.
Finally Mom got on the phone and translated: Jed didn’t want to stay at her house, he wanted to go home to HIS house, and he wanted me to tell Grandma to give him a flashlight so he could walk home alone.
Because apparently, he could walk the 45 minute drive all by himself, at night, as long as he had a flashlight! (Kids crack me up!)
Then he excitedly told me about “taking off the green ring”, but that he couldn’t take off the orange ring because he didn’t have it with him. I guess the Travel Chain really works!
It dawned on me suddenly and I asked, “Why is he still awake? It’s after ten at night!” and that’s when Mom said he was just fighting going to sleep, and that’s what the flashlight thing was all about. So I told him he would have to stay there, and would not be getting a flashlight, that I loved him and would see him the next afternoon, and to GO TO SLEEP.
We hung up, I started heating up some food, and pumped.
A quick boat shower, new makeup, pack up the bags, and headed downstairs.
On the van to the airport.
At the airport. We went through security and had to then wait, as our aircraft was late arriving from Dulles. We were supposed to be on board at 10:25p.m., but weren’t able to board until almost 10:40p.m.
After cleaning and catering had finished their jobs, we boarded the flight. Unfortunately, because of the late arriving aircraft, we weren’t able to close the door on time. Still, it was a pretty good turnaround considering our time limitations.
Closed the aircraft door and pushed off the gate.
We took off.
The pilots called us. One of our engines was overheating, so we were returning to LA. Prepare the cabin for landing.
Really, this is no big deal. Things break, right? But landing an aircraft fully loaded with enough fuel for a trans-continental flight is more…tricky…than landing after you’ve burned off that fuel (basic physics, here, based on weight), so while we weren’t preparing for an emergency, the Flight Attendants knew we had to be “on the ball” and be mentally ready for anything that might happen.
Immediately the questions started: “What’s going to happen to my connecting flight?”. “Are we going to crash?”. “Can I get off the plane when we land?”. etc.
We had no answers for any of these questions. We didn’t know anything more than what we’d told the passengers! Most were fairly understanding that once we arrived at the gate, maintenance would look at the engine and tell us what was going to happen next, and we would tell them when we knew, though, so it wasn’t too bad.
Arrived back at the gate in LA.
Maintenance came on board, talked to the pilots, checked out the engine, and the rest of us sat in the airplane and waited.
For me, I started to feel a bit anxious. I’d last pumped almost 4 hours ago. I’d planned on being able to pump RIGHT ABOUT NOW during the flight, and obviously that wasn’t going to happen. With everyone awake and milling about, there was no where I could go to pump, and the boobies felt like they were about to explode!
1:15 a.m. (PST)
Maintenance made the call: the aircraft was toast. They’d be able to fix it, but it would take all night. Everyone get off the plane.
The gate agents scrambled; the last thing they needed was a full 200+ passengers stranded because of a broken airplane. Thanks to the wildfires in California, there were NO hotel rooms available, and because this was an “airline fault” problem, they would have to find accommodations for these passengers.
They were heavily invested in finding us another aircraft in the middle of the night.
And they succeeded!
We were told to gather our belongings and head over to another gate. Our new airplane would be arriving in about twenty minutes.
I took that opportunity to grab a ground supervisor and ask if there was a family bathroom somewhere in the airport I could go do a quick pump before boarding the next flight.
There wasn’t; at least not one open to the public. But they had a private bathroom for unaccompanied minors that he could let me use.
So as the last passenger headed off the plane, the ground supervisor led me in the opposite direction of my crew where he unlocked the special bathroom for me.
I did the “World’s Fastest Pump”, cleaned up, re-loaded things back into my suitcase, and literally RAN through the airport to the new gate, just certain that they would be waiting for me in order to board the plane.
Instead, I arrived at the gate area to see everyone – including the crew – just sitting around, playing on their phones and computers.
It was twenty minutes later, but there was no plane yet.
So I sat down and got out MY computer. Obviously, we weren’t going to be on time arriving in Newark, and I needed to see what the flight options were for me to be able to fly home the next day.
While I was looking at my flight options, the pilots quietly shared some info with the Flight Attendants. They were in danger of “timing out”. That simply means that if we didn’t get into the air soon, they would be unable to take off because taking off would mean they would fly longer than the FAA allows pilots to be on duty for.
And there was still no airplane at the gate.
The passengers didn’t know it, but the race was on.
A ground agent came over the Flight Attendants, yelling at us because the plane was there and WHY WEREN’T WE ON BOARD?
Um, maybe because no one TOLD us the plane was here? Chill out, dude!
So we went to the plane…and had to wait before we could board since the cleaners and catering were blocking the doorway.
Finally, we boarded the plane, did our work in record time and started boarding the passengers – again.
We were still racing to take off before the pilots timed out, and we hadn’t seen them board the plane. The Flight Attendants were all getting a little nervous.
I was getting more nervous! Aside from the unpleasantness of being on a plane surrounded by over 200 people seriously ticked off that their flight had been cancelled, there was the “food” factor.
IF this flight cancelled, they would send us back to the hotel. We would probably either deadhead or work a flight later in the day to get back to Newark. Depending on how late that new flight arrived in Newark, I may not be able to go home until Monday morning.
And I only had enough food with me to last until mid-day on Sunday.
What would I eat if they cancelled this flight?
Just as my anxiety reached its apex, the pilots came on the plane.
We still weren’t in the clear; if we didn’t get “wheels up” by 3:10a.m., they’d have to return to the gate and cancel the flight.
We closed the cabin door.
That’s when we saw the video system on the new plane was broken. So we did a manual safety demo (the one where the Flight Attendants actually put on the life vest and such).
We were taxiing to take off, but still waiting for a flight plan from ATC.
Y’all, the Flight Attendants were on pins and needles – especially me!
We took off.
We made the cut-off for pilot time-out by FOUR minutes. Whew!
We landed in Newark. Having pilots who were tired and about to time out, working an already seriously delayed flight, means they kicked some tires and lit some fires and shaved off over half an hour of our flight time!
Arrived at the gate. Waited. A few minutes later we got a message from the tower: our jetway was broken. We had to go to a new gate.
We got to a new gate, opened the door, and said good-bye to the folks we’d just spent the last ten hours with. One nice thing about these sorts of situations is that when the crew does their job properly and keeps everyone informed and takes good care of them, that when people leave the plane they’re very friendly. After all, look what we’ve all been through together! It’s like a whole plane-load of new friends.
One of my crew members was scheduled to work at 5:00 p.m. that night, and she’d been pay protected and removed from that trip. Another one was supposed to work the flight back to LA that night, and she’d been moved to a later flight and would travel as a dead-head Flight Attendant (meaning she’d just sit in a seat instead of working, but would be paid as if she were working). So for two of us, this worked out really well!
I still didn’t know when or how I would get home, though.
I said good-bye to my crew and headed off to find a computer. A quick search later, and I saw the best option for me was to head off through Chicago.
There was a flight at 1:00p.m. (EST) to Chicago, but it showed no open seats. With any luck, some unfortunate folks wouldn’t make the flight and I’d get a seat.
I listed for the flight, pumped, and headed to the gate.
Turns out, TEN unfortunate folks didn’t make the flight and ten of us non-revs got seats!
I settled in, called Darrel and Mom, and tried to sleep on the plane. Again, I couldn’t. I got about a 45 minute nap.
We landed in Chicago. I pumped again, then meandered over to my next flight, stopping at a bookstore along the way and picking up a cheap little “early reader” book as a gift for Jed.
We boarded the flight home. Again, I tried to sleep, but couldn’t. I got about a 5 minute nap right before we landed.
I walked off the plane into my home airport, absolutely, utterly exhausted.
49 hours after I’d left the house, I walked back in the front door. Jed had fallen asleep in the car on the way home from Grandma’s house and was passed out on the couch. Zac was in the kitchen, and when he saw me, he didn’t show much reaction at first.
Fifteen minutes after I’d gotten home, though, it was all about Mommy.
He spent most of the next three hours attached to my boobies; sometimes nursing, sometimes just being happy I was home.
Every time I sat down, I started to fall asleep. I had to take a shower before I crawled into bed, though, because I reeked of airplane funk.
After I washed the weekend off of me, I crawled in to bed and slept until 8:00a.m. this morning.
By 11:00am. today, I was so tired I couldn’t think straight, and fell asleep putting Zac down for a nap.
I slept so hard, both boys got up and made huge messes before I woke and realized what they were doing!
And that, my friends, is how our weekend went. My weekend was just full of flying fun. Sadly, this experience is relatively normal for a Flight Attendant. Sure, most flights go off without a hitch, but when you spend as much time traveling as we do, you increase your odds of being in scenarios that don’t go as planned.
It’s just a part of my job, but it is exhausting.
And you want to know the best part? We were still only paid for the times when the aircraft door was closed! So all that sitting around, waiting, in the airport, or sitting on the plane with the door open, waiting, was done completely for free from the Flight Crew’s point of view.
Oy. So sad.
Darrel didn’t get his photo shoot, which was disappointing, but he did get some decent, uninterrupted sleep and cleaned up the house quite a bit.
The boys had a great time at Grandma and PopPop’s, and fought coming home. Zac’s doing well on the banana, but we’re still giving it a few days before we declare it a pass thanks to some random allergy rings he’s gotten off and on since we started the banana trial.
If you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading this long, convoluted story. If I were more rested and thinking more clearly, I probably could have made this a lot more interesting to read.
But it was so interesting to experience, it was the only thing I could think of to share with you!
My life is certainly not boring, I’ll give it that.
And now I know I need to bring at least an extra full days worth of food with me when I go to work. I never want to be in that position again!
Oh, but in sad news, our next shipment of bananas won’t arrive until Thursday…and we only have enough for one more serving for Zac.
I have a feeling some tantrums are heading our way Tuesday and Wednesday!
How was your weekend?