Sunday, March 27, 2016


The Brazilian "Wall Street", Paulista Avenue, was closed to vehicular traffic today. I stood in the median to film this video which I shared with my family in Georgia while we had lunch "together" via FaceTime. 

You can hear a musician singing in the background. On my return to the hotel, I noticed that he was quadriplegic and his accompaniment was a karaoke boombox. What caught my attention was his song selection:  I BELIEVE I CAN FLY. 

Initially, it seemed ironic to the point of ridiculous. But something told me to linger and listen. What this being lacked in vocal talent, he made up for in enthusiasm. To believe that one can do the unlikely, the impossible, the unimaginable, like sharing Easter lunch with family on another continent, is the challenge that life sets before us. 

I declare that I have no belief in "the impossible". It's a lesson I learned in an unlikely place from an unlikely fellow on a day where circumstances could have easily defeated me. 

I BELIEVE I CAN FLY. And I know I'm not alone in that belief.

I BELIEVE I CAN FLY  (Click the link for video.)

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

The Human Factor

The new CEO of my airline-employer personally contacted crewmembers laying over in Brussels today to check on their welfare and to lend moral support in these vexing times. By so doing, he distinguished himself in the eyes of those who matter most. His caring actions are aligned with his rhetoric. 

Even now, at the twilight of my own career, what a comfort it is to know that the "human factor" is back in play. 

The investments we make in each other are the ones that truly matter most.

Friday, March 11, 2016

On the day he died

Just because...

No matter how strong physically, emotionally, psychologically we may appear, we are essentially among the fragilest of creations.  Our life is like the tenuous flame at the tip of a paper match.  Poof, we burn brightly and with ferocity.

Poof, and gone.

On the drive to our layover hotel in São Paulo this morning, our driver pointed out the body of a middle-aged man lying in the median of the road, not five feet from where the traffic signal had stopped us.  Dead.

He was drowned by dramatic flash-flooding which occurred here in recent days, suddenly overwhelmed by the waters of the rapidly rising stream which runs alongside the roadway, normally just a brook.  He'd left his car, a very late-model VW with its door open perhaps 50 feet away in a bid to escape the flood. Sudden.  Unexpected.  Death.


The leg and bare foot which protruded from underneath a hastily-employed black plastic shroud revealed youth and vitality.  It also revealed lividity and the essentially ephemeral nature of our being.

As we made our u-turn at the intersection for the final jog of our hotel ride, a fair-haired, middle-aged woman arrived at the scene; obviously someone close to the fallen man.  Her reaction when the black plastic as moved to confirm his identity was chillingly visceral:  she withered in place like the ash on a lit cigarette butt in an ashtray.  Her world changed in an instant.

I will never forget the scene.  I will never forget the brutal reality of it for however long my "never" might be.

May he rest in peace, our fallen brother.  Peace be with all who knew and loved him but especially with the woman to whom he was so dear.  On the day he died, the heavens provided the most beautiful shroud...

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Timing. It's Everything.

Well, we survived another major news day for our airline family.  What does it all mean?

The answer to that question is as varied as the opinion and background of the person you ask it.  But the evidence is clear:  we have an astoundingly energetic, enthused, tenacious leader at the helm.  By all accounts, Mr. Munoz acquitted himself, not just well, but in spectacular fashion at BOTH of his 2 hour meet-and-greet sessions in IAH yesterday.  Firsthand accounts are still being posted.  I saw video in another venue of a one-on-one that was dauntingly frank, yet also open, candid, friendly and confidence-building.

I say all of this in the context of the day's news.  How difficult his task must have been standing on its own.  When coupled with breaking headlines that two of our institutional investors were making an "end run" on the boardroom at the same time, it must have been overwhelming to our man.  Yet, his poise never wavered.  He answered the call with an appropriately confident and confidence-boosting communication to the people who matter most:  you and me.  Put ALL OF THAT in the context of heart transplant surgery not even 90 days ago and frankly, I don't know of a word that sufficiently characterizes the circumstances.  Amazing?  Remarkable?  Inspiring?  Resilient?

I was not among those in attendance yesterday, though I was there in spirit.  It's no secret that I am a huge fan of this man, as are many of us.  We've wandered around in the darkness long enough.

As much as anyone, I love and embrace my past for what it was and what it has meant in my life.  But the past is done.  Those friendships will endure.  The resolve with which we meet the realities of today will steel us for our future.

The new UNITED has its leader.  The UNITED family has its patriarch.  It seems a really good time for us to release our pasts and move forward, together.

It's time for UNITED to be united, to quote a friend.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Where Angels Tread

Last night, I had a lovely chat with a beautiful friend and recently retired colleague, someone whose patience, quiet charm, restraint and love have taught me so much about being a better Flight Attendant, about being a better friend and about being a better human being. This leg of her journey with us is nearly complete, a fact which she accepts with characteristic dignity and grace.

We talked about silly things that don't matter. We talked about the things that matter most: life, love, friendship. She left me with a gift and a promise: "I'm happy. See you Thursday."

We honor those we owe by acknowledging our debt. Repayment isn't a possibility. We can only pay it forward.

There's no need to look far for the examples we need. Angels walk among us.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Good-bye, old friend...

Final flight of N7001U

(Click the link above for video)

At Continental Airlines, the 727-100 had 10 First Class and 95 Economy Class seats, if I recall correctly. The only galley was at midships and everything, First Class and Economy Class, was hand-run from that galley.

We used the aircraft extensively on the Houston/Mexico City route because of its performance capabilities ("hot and high", referring to climate and altitude). Since I started my life as a Spanish-speaker, this airplane was my home for the first year or so (along with the DC10-10 PUB which flew the Mexico City overnight trips). After First Class meal carriers were repositioned by the main cabin door next to the cockpit, the galley Flight Attendant would pull out the fore and aft galley service trays at the galley entrance and invert a meal tray to close the gap between them. Then, s/he would stack meal trays like cordwood, back and forth, for the 1 or 2 aisle Flight Attendants to deliver by hand. 

Turbulence = disaster!

Some of these aircraft had closing overhead bins. Some did not. It was quite a challenge, especially at Christmastime, to tell a planefull of folks bringing gifts home to their families in Mexico that they could not stow their portable space heater overhead in the open rack!

Good-bye, old friend! By comparison to today's aircraft, you seem positively Medieval! But, at the time, you were a dream fulfilled.