“Hey Terry, what’s up?”
“I’m not gonna make it to work today. I’m so sick. Been throwing up all morning. There’s no way. Just wanted you to know.”
“Ugh. I’m sorry to hear that. I’ll miss ya, but feel better.”
I would miss Terry. She and I buddy-bid to work the same trips as flight attendants. She never missed a trip. As it turned out, Terry had food poisoning. We had eaten at a fondue restaurant the night before the trip. Lucky for her, it hit early enough to stay home. Mine kicked in mid-flight, on a long leg to Palm Springs from Chicago. For the first, and only time of my 13-year-career, I was lying across three seats in the back of a 727-200, curled up under a blanket, wanting to die. The crew had to cover for me. People stared at me as they waited for the lavatories to open up.
A crewmember had a nice doctor from First Class came back to check on me.
“How you doing?”
“I’ve been better. The constant vomiting is a little annoying. Pretty sure it’s food poisoning because my flying buddy called in sick this morning and we both ate at a fondue restaurant last night.”
“You don’t look too good.”
“I feel pretty bad I can’t work. And these air-sickness bags could be bigger.”
“I can write you a script if that’s okay. It will help.”
“Dear god, please. That would be wonderful. Can you throw in some Valium for good measure?”
“You’ve got a great attitude.”
“Anything for a prescription.”
That night in the hotel, that prescription changed my world. The next week I called the doctor to let him know.
“Dr. Feelgood? It’s Amy. The flight attendant you checked on last week?”
“Of course. I’ve been thinking about you. How are you?”
“Great. I wanted to thank you for helping me out. I was able to work the next day. You are a life-saver. That medicine stopped everything.”
“That’s wonderful. I was happy to help. Since you’re feeling much better, would you like to have dinner with me?”
“Or when you’re back in town again.”
“That’s so sweet, but uhhh, I’m going to say no. You’ve been wonderful and I really appreciate your help. Thank you for the offer and thanks again for saving me.”
“That’s fine. It was a pleasure. Have a nice trip.”
He was well-dressed, and nice looking enough. A total gentleman. A caring man. He was also about 80. I was 24. It was a nice offer. Thoughts of how rich this prominent doctor in Palm Springs was, flitted through my mind. A street had been named after him. But no. Not my thing. I was both flattered and uncomfortable. For a brief moment, I entertained the idea of being worshipped by someone who would be effing GRATEFUL. That’s pretty heady stuff.
It would be refreshing to work a dance in front of a guy and skip my usual inner dialogue…“Just keep going. He doesn’t care about the butt dimples, knee fat, and small boobs. Think about something else, for God’s sake.” Fact: guys like naked dancing. Hell, I’ll watch a hot dance. But being the erotic dancer? The mental baggage and insecurities I have about my body are pretty much always up front and center. I feel awkward, self-conscious, and a little mortified.
Making the leap from a dinner invitation to me dancing naked for the man may seem premature, but an age gap like that brings a person’s thoughts to getting naked at an alarming rate. Nevermind that I could be seeing an unclad Octogenarian’s body, wishing I had some anti-nausea pills left over…if it ever came to this daring display, he would think I was a goddess. In that one moment, I would be the hottest thing in the room.
Younger men have told me I could look good if I worked out, had better posture, longer hair, bigger boobs, etc. A favorite encounter happened in my sister’s dorm at UCLA as she introduced me to a few floormates, pointing out I was visiting because I was a flight attendant and had a layover in L.A. One young man, wearing only a towel around his waist, snidely remarked: “You don’t look like a flight attendant.”
“I hate to break it to you, but this is what a flight attendant looks like.” He looked me over, clearly disappointed his 1960’s fantasy image of a beautiful, buxom, blonde ‘stewardess’ wasn’t standing before him, ready to spread her ‘wings,’ and walked away.
I did not enjoy our brief exchange. Chalk his rude remark up to immaturity, but I was all of 3 years older than this snot-faced college-boy. Forty years later, I would be better equipped to respond. “Of course I don’t look like a flight attendant to you. You’re too short to really see their faces.” (Another fantasy that never came to life.)
So when I say it was awkward that a gentlemanly 80-year-old offered to take me to dinner, what I mean is, awkwardly sweet. He saw me folded up in the last row of coach looking green, and still wanted to get to know me better. He actually chuckled at things I said. That raised his attractability exponentially. So thank you Dr. Feelgood, for that boost. And thank you, Melting Pot, for making me puke my guts out, so I could experience feeling, if only for a mythical moment, like I was the fantasy stewardess cliché real flight attendants have fought so hard to overcome.
Some baggage deserves to get lost.