There haven’t been a whole lot of what I would call “constants” in my reasonably short life
I’m a 40-something white guy and have lived and worked all over this great country. I grew up an “Army brat” so was quite comfortable with not having long-term ties to much of anything – we generally relocated every few years so I never really felt like I had a “hometown”. I look around at the things in my life – thanks to my amazing 11-year (next month) marriage, I have more than a few things that have been with me 10 years at this point… There are a couple that have been here in my life 20 years…and very few things or friends left hanging around from 25 or more years ago. Most of my career I was “airmobile”, generally consulting and/or doing implementation work for large-scale projects that required lots and lots of travel. I’ve bonded with a few areas since reaching adulthood, but in general I prefer seeing new stuff. Change in my life is basically the only “constant” worth mentioning…lol
Back in the “happy times” before 9/11, being a frequent traveler had some pluses and minuses but really wasn’t horrible. I moved to San Diego in 2000 but had mainly lived near the DC beltway for most of the 1990s. I remember leaving my apartment often with less than an hour until my flight, self-parking, and sauntering into First Class on Delta at Washington-Reagan with more than enough time to grab a cocktail or two before we pushed back. For most of that time, I always had a “Discman”, laptop or some other means of isolating myself from the universe while the aluminum toothpaste tube full of humanity hurtled through time and space to somewhere else. I wasn’t much of a conversationalist back in the day, unless your name was Johnny Walker or Jim Beam. Most of the VIPs zipping in and out of DCA preferred to hang out in their little bubbles so there wasn’t a great deal of interaction which was A-OK with isolationist me. Flying Delta out of DCA for me meant a whole lot of flights to DFW back in the day since one couldn’t fly cross-country from National. I knew many of my First Class rowmates from seeing them on the TV Sunday mornings and throughout the week…but at the end of the day, I was going out of my way not to interact with both the Orrin Hatches and Anne Richardses of the world…lol They were worried about public service and weird stuff like that while I was anxiously awaiting a new Slayer album. In my small, closed, immature mind there wasn’t too much we could possibly have in common after all.
Back then, if you flew the same flights somewhat regularly, there was a decent chance you’d recognize a Flight Attendant or two every once in a while. If you flew the exact same last DFW-DCA flight every single Friday night for a few months, you really got to know some amazing, dedicated and hard-working people. While I had no real desire to interact with my fellow passengers (whether they were a VIP I recognized or not), I was a single heterosexual guy back then so it felt somewhat natural that I preferred hanging out with the generally female flight crew members. It was usually the end of a long week for them too, and bitching about VIPs always seemed to be a great icebreaker. By then, I was usually at the same or a higher “Medallion” level (Delta’s VIP program) than the esteemed folks I was sharing a row with so I was getting the exact same level of service (or higher), even though I was the guy sitting there in sweatpants, a Braves or Raiders jersey and my Rolex, humming along with Slayer. Instead of treating these hard working and usually exhausted flight attendants like “just another servant” (as many of my rowmates were unfortunately accustomed to doing), I was there to make friends…lol I got the hairy eyeball more than a few times from VIPs who seemed generally puzzled that I was getting service at or above the level of theirs – if you’re someone who “everyone is supposed to know”, I guess it’s weird to hang out next to a literal nobody who is treated so well.
I had Delta T-shirts and all sorts of other merchandise by this point, so if I wasn’t showcasing Old Glory or wearing a Braves jersey (I grew up outside DC and we didn’t have a team back then, but TBS was always there for me), I was wearing some sort of Delta apparel which lended even more credibility to my activities. I would usually spend most of the flight hanging out in the galley, helping out (if/when possible), expanding my knowledge of flight crew jargon and procedures and deploying my “secret weapons” whenever and wherever possible. Since I’m something of an odd duck – being right on the Myers Briggs line between introvert and extrovert, I am one of those “I love gatherings but am not real fond about people” kinda folks. Just like my “default soundtrack” has always been Slayer’s Reign In Blood album from 1986, my default mode of operation as an outsider looking into whatever group I’m close to is usually “Infiltrate”. The best way to do that is of course to hang out with people and listen, listen, listen – then listen some more. I am blessed to be able to learn stuff sometimes through osmosis…lol. I place myself in close proximity to something and I just subconsciously vacuum up everything I can about it. This may be a similar practice to how actors “learn their roles”, idk. I could “talk the talk” pretty quickly so made a lot of friends…and I was always looking for who was getting that flight’s comment card.
One of the greatest objects for making friends within the FA community was what I always called my “secret weapon”…the Delta Comment Card. This was back before there was ubiquitous wi-fi and an app for everything – the easiest way to get word to Delta Management for someone like me was the infamous “Comment Card”. If someone is on that miserable last flight of the week into DCA and some oddball in First class wearing sweats and drinking Scotch sitting next to Senator XYZ who was just on TV that morning broadcasting from their home state about the outrage du jour asks for a comment card, it always seems to spark some immediate high levels of interest. Of course, I had a stack of them with me anyhow (a wise tactician always maintains reserves) and knew exactly where they were located both in the in-flight magazine, as well as on the aircraft since I filled them out somewhat religiously. I loved filling out comment cards. It’s really one of the few aspects of travelling that I miss. I saw so many interactions between tired, grouchy (or drunk) passengers and these dedicated flight attendants that went completely unnoticed (or so everyone thought). If you looked at me, I was sitting there with the shades and headphones on, Tom Araya from Slayer screaming directly into my brain, just completely and totally somewhere else.
Most of that was true, but I was probably already writing a comment card in my head.
Wow, Reign in Blood just restarted in the background (again). I’ve been allergic to writing for a few days and I sat down to write something about Slayer’s Reign In Blood album, which turns 30 years old today. I saw a story go by somewhere in the trenches of social media and was like “wow, I can write about that today since I can’t seem to write about anything else”. When one has heard this album as many times as I have over the last 30 years, it has that effect I guess…haha. I usually refer to this album as the most definitive 29 minutes within any musical genre. When I say this, I am completely “talking out of my ass”, since I have no qualifications to make that statement as I know very little about music theory, but hey – it sounds good. The only criticism I’ve ever been able to say is worthy of this album is that it’s only 29:05 in its original release format. I wish it had been closer to an hour than it is to a half-hour, but hey – that just means one gets to play it twice.
So, Reign has been out there 30 years now. If you’ve heard it, you’ve heard it. If you haven’t, you may or may not. It’s certainly not everyone’s cup of tea – nor is Slayer. I’m not going to try to talk anyone into listening to it – unless they want to know more about what has shaped me as a person. It’s not every day one finds an album where the first two lyrics are an 8-second scream and “Auschwitz”…and that’s a good thing. This ten-song voyage from point A to point B is made in a seemingly short 29 minutes – but it’s a solid voyage of thrash from the first note to the last. From my perspective, there is just no “filler” whatsoever on Reign – and that’s what has made it timeless to me. Most of my other favorite albums have at least 1 or 2 songs that are on permanent “skip” in my brain…not so with Reign in Blood. It is pure perfection of thrash metal, and I’m so happy to have seen it performed as a single piece of work a few times.
There. This had a point after all…lol Back to rambling…
I would find that one FA who looked like she (or he – I did do some for the guys as well…lol) had an awful day and would just write up an awesomely positive comment card. I’d find the OBFL (on-board flight lead for those not versed in old Delta FA jargon…haha) and make sure he or she had it way before the midpoint of the flight so everyone in the crew could swoon over it since they were inevitably tied into the comment as well in some way. I didn’t write down too many names back in the day, I was never really good at keeping in touch with folks…but it is cool to stumble across an acknowledgement of a comment card from Delta’s home offices in the files from time to time as we’re sorting out old paperwork. I know my boredom relief hopefully put some smiles on a few faces and even more importantly I hope allowed a few folks to excel in their otherwise pretty exhausting careers. After 9/11, I went back to being just another passenger since one can’t loiter near airline galleys anymore…one more reason why I no longer wish to travel for business – it’s just not going to be like it was ever again and that naturally makes me sad.
Wanting to die…
Is a reason to live.
Slayer, Postmortem (Reign in Blood), 1986
My wife and I are getting ready to do some serious traveling – we’re not sure where to or for how long yet which really makes it both exciting and somewhat terrifying. Big Road Trip 2016-2017 should be launching here within the next week or two – we’re heading any direction but North to start, so we should see some folks in the West, Southwest and Southeast very soon! Details of course will be forthcoming here so stay tuned.
Even though I’ve heard I’m going to outgrow “this phase” pretty consistently for 30+ years, you can certainly assume I’ll be listening to more Slayer…and probably Reign In Blood – hopefully for another 30 amazing years, this time all of it with MJ.
Oh yeah, this one is important… – P.S.
As always, you can find me and hit me up via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have a great weekend and stay safe, Eastern Seaboard. This Matthew character seems to be a real prick. And it certainly may come back for a second round…sigh