Monday, June 27, 2016

Vacation on the Florida Gulf Coast

Toward the end of June, as our scheduled vacation grows closer, phone calls between me and my life long friend revolve around our week when she invites me to spend time with her. 
Since 1988, we've enjoyed relaxing together in the sun, swimming in the Jacuzzi, and catching up with each other's lives during a care-free seven days on the beach. Over the years, much in our lives has changed, but that time remains consistent.
The routine is the same year after year. I fly in from Dallas and she picks me up at the airport. We drive to her house to get the dogs ready for the kennel then we wait for Saturday afternoon when we can check in at the resort. She wisely invested in a one-bedroom timeshare years ago, and every year, come rain or shine, she has something to look forward to. What I've learned about vacations from her is that if you don't plan one, it won't happen.
Howard Frankland Bridge by By Miscelena 1
We drive across the Howard Frankland Bridge connecting Tampa Bay mainland to the west coast, stopping at Publix to pick up a supply of groceries for the week: steaks, baking potatoes, lettuce, tomatoes, hot dogs, and hamburger, veggies and an assortment of bread, cereal, milk, sodas, chips and snacks.
We travel light, our suitcases filled with shorts, tank tops, swim suits, flip flops and a good hat to protect our skin from the blazing sun. No fancy attire is required even when we eat out at beach side restaurants. Casual attire is king in Florida.
Next, we detour to the package store to pick up a gallon of burgundy and brandy for an endless pitcher of home made Sangria to share with our neighbors. Once we settle in to our room we visit the nearby shops to stock up on sunscreen and touristy things like T-shirts emblazoned with palm trees, sea oats and pelicans.

We're assigned the same room year after year, so we know exactly what to expect when we arrive. Each year, when we pick up the keys to her balcony apartment overlooking the sparkling pool and check in, it's like a step back into time. 
The keys are attached to green plastic tags with the room number. 
The kitchen has a full-size refrigerator, a range and oven, microwave, coffee pot and even a dishwasher. The unit is equipped with pots and pans, real dishes and silverware.

The kitchen is small but equipped with everything we need.
There's cable TV, although it holds less interest than usual for the week while we bask under umbrellas reading our paperback novels.
The couch makes into a hide-a-bed, and there's a queen sized-bed, comfortably allowing for four guests in this unit.

Our days are spent swimming in the pool, soaking in the Jacuzzi spa, grilling out on gas barbecue grills, and searching for shells. We alternate between dips in the pool and the Gulf  listening to the squawk of seagulls scrabbling over scraps of food.

Rhythmic waves pound against the glistening beach shore providing a relaxing and soothing reassurance that the ocean is eternal. We doze off in our lounge chairs, heads nodding while the warmth of the sun performs its magic, baking away our cares as we sit in the shade of the umbrellas and watch the waves roll out. (Sitting on the Dock of the Bay - Otis Redding)

Over the years improvements have been made at the resort. The balcony railings, formerly made of dark stained wood, have been replaced with practical white plastic rails. 

The uneven concrete walkway has been upgraded with beautiful patio stones that surround the pool and travel along the path leading to the outdoor shower. A locking storage unit has replaced the open lean-to which once housed the bright blue lounge chair mats.
Beach loungers are available at the resort
A crew of young college students perform routine maintenance vacuuming the sparkling pool and cleaning the swim spa jacuzzi. It always looks fresh and inviting for our week of vacation.
Perhaps the best part of the week is the quiet appreciation of nature in the evenings. The residents tend to gather under the umbrellas near time for sundown each night to enjoy that gift of serenity and beauty, a momentary splash of every color imaginable before the sun dunks into the ocean one more time.
As evening draws near, a contingent of beach goers gather at the shoreline in anticipation of the evening's spectacular view. Taking photos at sunset is a standard part of the week's ritual. And once that lightning fast week is over, sharing the photos brings back the joy of the week for years to come.

1 Photo of Howard Frankland Bridge, By Miscelena ( [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Working as a Flight Attendant - Pros and Cons

From my scrapbook 
"Once the requisition is open for hire, it's not uncommon to receive more than 100,000 applications I am told it's harder to get invited to the Delta Flight Attendant training center than to get into Harvard University." Danny Elkins, a 35-year veteran FA. 1

It's been decades since I applied with the airlines, but it's still easy to remember the day I interviewed for a job as a flight attendant. 2 That's not something you soon forget. Of all the jobs I've held since that time, it still remains among my top favorites.

Sure, my tenure was short-lived, something I always regretted. I should have resisted the urge to lift that guy's brick-laden carry-on bag to stow it in the galley. But I didn't. In our quest for on-time performance of take offs and arrivals, we had no time to spare. I grabbed the bag, half dragged it to the empty area where prepared meal trays usually filled the storage cabinet and shoved it inside.

Later, during the flight, I began to experience lower back pain. I chalked it up to wearing heels as we prepared to start beverage service with the plane rising in its lift pattern. As the flight wore on, the pain got worse. At the hotel that evening, I took a couple of OTC pain relievers and joined some of the crew who wanted to see the Grand Ole Opry. We were on a layover in Nashville. Of course, I wouldn't have missed that for the world.

During the performance, I began to have difficulty getting off my seat to give the performer on stage an ovation. By the end of the night, I was nearly immobile. We shared a taxi back to the hotel and the senior FA made sure I was comfortably settled in my room for the night. The rest of the crew had an early flight scheduled the next morning. Mine was not until later in the afternoon with a different crew.

Working a flight prevented me from taking any strong medicine. I managed to finish the series of commuter flights and make it to my next layover in Wichita. Fortunately, the hotel was one of the nicer ones and there was a hot spa next to the swimming pool. I alternated between the hot and cold water for a couple of hours before retiring. Sometime in the middle of the night, I woke up screaming in pain as I reached for my travel clock to check the time. My assigned roommate gave me a pain pill from her personal supply and I went back to sleep.
The next day, as the pain grew worse, I continued to work the flight. As a reserve, I was assigned by the senior to work coach, which meant running meal trays and serving beverages to over a hundred passengers each leg of the journey. My crew mates let me work the galley so I wouldn't have so much walking, only some bending and standing, which I could manage.

I was thrilled when we finished the final leg of the multiple destination puddle jumper flights Braniff was known to offer - BNA to MEM to LIT to FSM to MCI. When I arrived at my home base in Dallas and called scheduling to check in, they assigned me another flight - a short one-hour flight to Houston and back. At that point, it was clear I needed medical attention and I refused the trip, heading instead for the medical center at the airport for an examination by our company doctor.

He grounded me for three days and prescribed some strong pain killers. During my recuperation, I stayed in the apartment and never left my bed. When the break-of-dawn phone call came from scheduling assigning me a new trip, I headed out again, destined for another long day. (to be continued)

1 What it's Really like to be a Flight Attendant, Rachel Gillett, 9-12-2015
2 My Former Life as a Flight Attendant, Peg Cole, 11-11-2009