From time to time we like to take the spotlight off ourselves and give the glory to the new blood (very rarely, of course!). This is one of those times. We are expanding all sorts of things on our website, kids, and our travel blogger and working flight attendant BOBBY LAURIE is going to keep you in the know on all things travel—because, well, he knows more than we do. Look for his monthly column here amidst all our travel treats at InstinctMagazine.com/travel!
If you were able to catch an episode of the television show Pan Am (that is, if you didn’t blink, because it seems like it was taken off the air just as quickly as it started) you might have walked away from your TV believing that the life of a flight attendant was: Oh-So Glamourous! Exciting! Fabulous! Well…
The show also conveyed that the flight attendants were well paid, considering that the stewardesses (and yes, I have been called by that moniker many, many times despite being a full-fledged male) lived in New York brownstones. Now, I’m not sure what the ‘60s were like (ahem!), but living in a fabulous brownstone is just not an option for me or for any flight attendant I know who is working today.
In today’s reality, you would never find a flight attendant living in a brownstone (yes, I’m jealous!), especially not a new hire like the character Margot Robbie played (you don’t need to know anything about the show to follow the point I’m getting to. Just pay attention, people!) New hires can barely afford Ramen noodles, never mind a glamorous brownstone in the heart of a trendy, artsy enclave.
So, where does a flight attendant to live? A crashpad. The irony of the name shouldn’t escape you—it doesn’t escape me, and that’s not just because I fly for a living. When airline professionals live in a place with the word “crash” in it, it’s kind of weird to say the least, right? Well, don’t worry: it’s referencing another kind of crashing that you likely do like—that place to flop and crash after a night of barhopping, which is fitting since flight attendants do love to drink. (Hey, I can say that: I am one!)
A crashpad is an apartment where eight, 10, or 12 flight attendants all live together to help save on living expenses. New hires are “reserved” or “on-call” by the airline to help in the event someone calls in sick, a flight cancels, someone partied too hard on their layover and overslept, or any situation that would warrant replacing a crew member at a moment’s notice. So, since they only fly when they’re needed, and they’re at the bottom of the pay scale, they’re, well, let’s just say it, poor.
There are two types of crashpads. One is referred to as “hot sheets” where you know there will always be a bed available for you a bed isn’t actually assigned to you, so when you lay down you might be laying onto “hot sheets.” Think of this term with whatever imaginative thoughts you might, but we call it this because someone may have just left this bed—leaving you with wamr sheets—and moved onto another. The home where you have a dedicated and reserved bed has no name set per se, but we flight attendants know the difference.
My first (and only) experience in a crashpad was when I started flying for the airline I’m currently employed with, and I had a reserved bed in the apartment for me. The apartment was located in an old building that smelled of mildew. The master bedroom had three bunk beds, the smaller bedroom two bunk beds, and the den just one bed. Doing the math for you, (in case it’s not your strong suit) that’s eleven roommates me.
Fortunately my best friend Aimee was also living there with me. If it wasn’t for her, I may have gone insane. Like a bad reality TV show, the house was evenly divided. Six of us worked for my airline and another six for a competitor. We were like oil and water: we got along. Between our varied flight schedules it was an extremely rare occasion when all of us were home at the same time, but when we were—watch out, bitches!—there was always drama.
You would think it’d be against some kind of fancy airline protocol to have flight attendants from competing airlines live and room together, but no such rules currently exist. Although, judging by the first time we were all together—we decided to play a card game—maybe there should be. Of course, there was alcohol involved. The drink of choice was vodka minis (which look familiar to anyone who spends their time on a airplane) but, of course, no one said a word. As the drinks kept flowing and the card game pressed on, one of the roommates having popped an Ambien earlier that evening, decided to retire to his bunk. About twenty minutes later, stuck in a drug induced in-between-sleep-and-awake coma, he emerged in a female’s flight attendant uniform. I don’t just mean the skirt, shirt and scarf, the heels too. He proceeded to prance around the apartment as if none of us were there, getting ready for “work.” He was supposedly flying to Australia that evening (which was impressive considering the type of aircraft we fly barely make it to Boston in the winter) and he really didn’t “have time to chat” as he was running late. Luckily, instead of the front door, he went back through the bedroom door and slept. The flight attendant’s whose uniform he was wearing was pissed. Not because he put it on, but because he stretched it out.
Following his departure, literally, a few of the girls (the actual girls) decided to go out to a bar in town. Myself and Aimee were staying behind to drink some more and the others went to bed. I can’t quite remember just how much I had to drink that night, but I do remember waking up, still drunk, on the bathroom floor in my underwear next to Aimee in a flood of water. It seems that Aimee had gotten sick and I had come to her…um, aid. In the process the toilet started overflowing and we both just…fell asleep. I woke her up, put on some clothes and went to bed.
Waking up the next morning. Now, that was interesting.
I climbed down from my top bunk and started to head to the bathroom when I saw one of the other airline’s girls all dressed in uniform wearing rain boots. I kind of laughed at first and jokingly said, “Where do you think you’re going?” and she responded sternly, “The bathroom. Apparently, someone let the apartment flood last night.” And there it was: a one inch tide that was rippling through the apartment each time she took a step in her boots. I claimed I had no idea what had happened but blamed it on someone probably being drunk. This was just the norm.
A few hours later there was a knock at the door. Aimee signed for a delivery of flowers addressed to one of the female flight attendants who had gone out the night before. This particular roommate was notorious for speaking about her “boyfriend,” whom no one ever met nor saw pictures of, that lived in Frankfurt and was the most amazing man ever. We had assumed they were from him. But, the card read “It was amazing meeting you last night. I hope we can do it again soon. — Peter.” We were wrong. Aimee left the flowers and the card on the kitchen table to later be found by the recipient. She was gloating over and over about how handsome this man was, how great he was and how smart he was. Making no mention now of her “boyfriend.” She met a true winner the night before and she couldn’t believe that he was sweet enough to send flowers the very next morning.
I couldn’t believe it either, and rightfully so. She sent the flowers to herself so they arrived with a bill, of course, showing that the flowers were ordered by her and paid for by, well, her.
The stories from that crashpad are endless, vast and varied; but you get the idea. Overflowing toilets, fights with fist holes in the walls, impromptu drag queen-offs, arguments, thievery…the list just goes on and on. Aimee and I were so anxious to leave that late one night/early one morning (at 2 a.m., people) we quietly packed up our stuff, loaded her car, left a note for the landlord and never looked back.
How’s that for glamour?
Read more of Bobby’s observations from high above here at Instinct's Travel Desk and check out his own fabulous and funny blog about his traveling misadventures at upupandagay.com