Year Three. Month Six. #SEA.
|That reserve life.|
It's that feeling of deja vu.
It's the sense that you've done this before, felt all of these feelings, worked past all of the obstacles and emerged victorious.
But right now, you're sitting reserve.
All over again.
|You're the C to my B. Mario was my aft cabin buddy on my first real flight!|
After six weeks of intense training, one week of IOE, graduation and base orientation, I picked up my first trip as an Alaska Airlines flight attendant. And it was wonderful, perfect, everything that I needed and will forever remember.
Sometimes you get to do that "first flight" twice, and they're equally special and unforgettable both times.
After my first trip at my new airline, I picked up a second trip: twenty-four hours in New Orleans with the most amazing crew: Joe, the oldest flight attendant in the company at seventy-seven years young; Sherri, a lovely native Alaskan full of deep insight and hilarious jokes; and Karrie, a spunky Midwestern gal with a heart for service. The four of us wandered the French Quarter, we went dancing, we saw a show, we talked late into the night, we discussed life over brunch at the casino, we laughed over beignets in the afternoon and I loved every moment of the trip.
|THIS is how you do MSY layovers. <3|
I returned home and couldn't wait for my reserve life to begin: a five day block and endless possibilities of where I would be sent.
September 1: I woke up, packed the car and put on my uniform. No call from Crew Scheduling yet, but I was absolutely sure my call to go to Maui or San Francisco or New York was just around the corner.
I arrived at the airport just after noon. And then I got the call. I answered the phone, breathless, ready to be sent anywhere.
"Hello, Celessa? This is Crew Scheduling. We need you to sit airport standby from 1900 until midnight tonight."
And so my Maui (or San Fran or New York) became the crew lounge. I kept a smile going but my heart had sunk somewhere deep into my stomach. I chatted with other flight attendants, including a half dozen of my classmates who were also sitting airport reserve. I watched as their phones rang and they answered them, their faces lighting up as they were assigned Maui and San Francisco and Cabo. I saw them rush off to their gates, I cheered them on with "you got this!" and "send me updates!"
|THIS is how you do airport standby. ;)|
And I sat. And waited.
Reserve is a game of chance. It's a game that has to be played for weeks and months and sometimes years (or decades.) It's a game that I only had to play briefly when I was at regionals. I was hired at a time where over a dozen classes followed behind me in the span of ten months, and my seniority was pushed into the lineholder range before I was even off probation.
But now I have my dream job with my dream airline. I know I need to put in my time with the airline; I know that I need to pay my dues. It's just tough.
By ten at night there were only three of us left in the crew lounge. I checked my schedule and noticed something for the following day. I hurriedly clicked on the box for my assignment.
|Oh, more airport standby with these fine folks? Okay!|
Airport Standby Duty (APSB): 1900-2359.
You've got to be kidding me.
I stayed in town with my wonderful roommate from training, and we sat up late debriefing over our first day of "reserve." While almost everyone in our class had been assigned a trip, Jenna and I had only been assigned two days of APSB.
The next day Jenna and I drove to the airport and sat. And we chatted with people coming in and out of the crew lounge. We watched each other's phones for calls (there were none) and we waited.
Late into the evening, a flight attendant came into the lounge and sat with us. We got to chatting, and we both discovered that we had previously both been employed by a regional airline and based in Minneapolis for a time. We started sharing "war" stories and laughing our heads off over tiny town layovers, the always-broken CRJ 200, pilots, passengers and how rough life was at regionals.
|The CRJ jumpseat, or my home for 2.5 years.|
And then it hit me. I have it good here. I have this lovely crew lounge with a view of flights coming and going (no more tiny windowless closet for 400 crewmembers to share!), I have 5-year, 10-year and even 45-year senior flight attendants to share their wisdom and hilarious stories, I have an entire support staff of supervisors and managers who e-mail me daily to check in (Hi, Tom!), I have a union to back me up if things get mixed up, I have a steady, good income and a healthy per diem to pay my bills and splurge on coffees, I have friends in my class of seventy-three folks (Hi, Class 2016-03!) who are all going through the same things as me, I have an awesome roommate from class who lets me crash on her couch and always does my makeup when I'm feeling like a hot mess (Hi, Jenna!) and I'm based at home. In Seattle. I'm working for my dream airline.
So what if I have to sit a couple of airport standbys?!?
In that moment, I realized that life is good. Really good.
|Waiting on this beautiful bird to fly in from PVR.|
I went home that evening and crashed into bed. I woke up the next day to find that I had been assigned to a deadhead to San Francisco. I got ready and drove down to the airport and boarded my flight. My flight crew was so excited that it was my first real "working" trip that they asked the gate agent to put me in First Class, which was such a treat.
In San Francisco I sat in the airport and waited. I had been sent here to work a delayed flight back to Seattle, but the airplane had still not left Mexico. I didn't mind, though, and spent the evening wandering the International terminal, spritzing myself with fancy perfume from Duty Free and helping passengers find the restrooms (I'm really good at pointing out bathrooms for people!). Around one in the morning, the delayed aircraft arrived and I got to work my first real reserve flight.
My first flight was full of a lovely crew, big smiles and warm hearts. We only had forty-eight passengers and they were sleepy. We served the lone seven people who were awake and made sure we were available in case anyone woke up, but the majority of the flight was spent eating cookies and drinking coffee in the galley. I told the crew about my first three days on reserve and they smiled.
It will get better, they said.
Oh, it's already wonderful, I replied.
Sunday morning, September 4: I was released from duty at three in the morning and went to catch a nap in the crew lounge. I was too tired to drive and the quiet room was calling my name. After a solid nap, I woke up and checked my schedule. A trip had been posted!
1825 Report: FAI turn. All-nighter. Redeye.
I smiled and wondered how much coffee I could drink in twenty-four hours.
I spent the day napping and resting. That evening, I headed back to the airport to work my first all-nighter.
Quiet cabin, dim lights, warm and toasty. We gently wheeled the carts through the aisle as to not wake anyone. I sat down with a couple celebrating their fiftieth wedding anniversary and asked them the secret to a happiness. Just keep going, they said, don't ever give up. And they turned to each other and he squeezed her hand and my heart just melted.
|Sunsets from the sky are just better.|
In Fairbanks, I deplaned to look around the tiny airport. First time in Fairbanks, I told the CSA. They smiled and told me it wouldn't be the last, they were sure of that.
Taking off from Fairbanks I noticed murmurs from the cabin. As soon as it was safe to do so, I unbuckled my jumpseat harness and walked up the aisle.
All eyes were glued to the windows on aircraft left. I walked up to the front galley and peered out the window on the L1 door.
Glowing green ribbons, dancing, feathered dark purple on the fringes and stars, all intertwined: the northern lights. Hello, The Aurora Borealis whispered, I'm so glad you stopped by.
Me too. I'm so glad I'm here.
|Keep your chin up, kid. It's gonna be just fine. <3|
Happy reserve flying!