Let Me Sleep Among The Clouds

Preface: I have always been a semi-weird sleeper. On the weirdness scale, I’m at about a 4- not to the degree of a total freak who sleepwalks out of the house at 3 am, however apparently I do have some strange sleeping habits. When I was younger, my mom and I used to have a “slumber party” in her room while my dad was away for a few days flying. I remember one time when I was 8, my mom told me that I had talked in my sleep in the middle of the night, saying, “Pringles. Pringlesssss.” Either this is a case of child obesity, or just a little girl who loves chips and also happens to be a sleep talker. Or both? In 5th grade, I had a sleepover at my friend’s house and slapped her in my sleep. I have no recollection of this event. (Or do I…?) ((No. I don’t. ))

Sleeping on an airplane is an interesting concept. Unless you are in business class on a 5+ hour flight with lie-flat seats (refer back to my “London Calling” post if you’re curious), then you are doomed to a 90 degree seat that MAY be able to angle at 96 degrees upon takeoff if you’re lucky.

For decades people have tried all sorts of remedies for airplane insomnia. Neck pillows, traveling with giant blankets, ear plugs, fuzzy socks, noise canceling headphones, etc. Personally, I have no trouble sleeping in the sky because I am forced into the situation so often.

“What’s the secret? What brand of neck pillow do you recommend?” I have never tried a neck pillow, so I am not apt to answer that question.

Honestly, it just depends on the circumstance. If you’re in a window seat, using the window as a makeshift pillow can work. In this situation, you are gifted with a little more leg room on the window side, so you don’t have to worry about your legs hitting the person next to you. Using the side of a plane as a pillow pet is not ideal, however you can’t complain because you have it much better than the aisle guy.

Aisle seats aren’t for sleeping. Let’s face it. When you sit in the aisle, you have the responsibility of getting up to let other passengers out of the row if they need to use the restroom. Plus, in the aisle seat you are overexposed to the prowling flight attendants. One moment you’re off in dreamland and the next you awake with the pang of nerve damage inflicted on you by the drink cart that just hit your foot as it passed by. I mean if you like interrupted sleeping time, then this spot is for YOU!

Middle seats are a gamble. If you happen to be sitting next to someone you know, I say go for it. However, if you’re like me and primarily travel alone, use at your own risk. You can’t let your legs run free, for fear of touching the stranger next to you. And again if you’re me, your head could end up on an unfamiliar shoulder.

Yep. When I sleep sitting up, which I frequently do, my head becomes deadweight and swings back and forth like a tetherball. If I’m lucky, it will land in the realms of my seat space, but more times than I would like to admit I have woken up to find my head either:

a. on a stranger’s shoulder

b. invading the personal space of the passenger next to me

or                    c. halfway into the aisle (if I’m in the aisle seat)

 

I’ll even go as far as saying that last year, when I was flying constantly I remember waking up to find my head on the shoulder of the man next to me (who was wide awake) with a little spot of drool on my chin. I had no clue how long my head had been in the way, because, well, I’m asleep!! How embarrassing.

And sometimes it’s not just my head that causes problems. My arms and legs tend to have a mind of their own. Last week on my way to Atlanta I fell asleep and woke up realizing that my fist was resting on the edge of the seat of the woman next to me. I quickly folded my arms across my chest and shut my eyes before I could catch the woman’s glance.

But despite my weird habits, I can sleep on a plane, so hah!

Here’s the real key to sleeping soundly on a plane. Are you ready?

Ok.

If you’re aircraft has personal TV’s on the seats, hit the “listen” or music button. Go to On Air (the radio) and hit the channel called Sleep Soundly (or channel 5). Plug your headphones in, turn the volume down low, and I promise you, you will be knocked out within 5 minutes. The soothing sounds of the rainforest and symphonies are the perfect way to relax and forget that you are on a plane with at least 150 other people who are just as uncomfortable as you.

I cannot take credit for the above secret. If this advice works for you, thank my mom. She is the one who gifted me with this knowledge a couple months ago. Thanks, mom, for not only helping me, but also helping all of the other people reading this blog.

 

 An Open Letter To and From The Dream Crushers

I think the only thing more uncomfortable than sleeping on a plane is waking someone up to go to the restroom. An airplane is a melting pot of personalities. Sometimes you win the lotto and sit next to nice, friendly people and other times you never speak a word to the person you will sit in close proximity to for the next couple of hours. And if your case is the latter, it makes it even that much more unbearable to wake up the person next to you.

Currently on my way to LA, I am in a window seat and the woman next to me is in the aisle. She is armed with a personal blanket from home AND a neck pillow. You go, girl.

However, she and I have barely spoken. Right when we took off, she pulled out her sleeping weapons, tossing and turning frequently. The signs of an unsuccessful sleep. When the drink cart came around for the first time, we both unlatched our tray tables to get snacks. The flight attendant handed us pretzels and cookies and immediately she put hers on my tray, saying nothing. Was she playing Alpha, thinking she can use my tray table too? Or was she being nice? I couldn’t decide because she’s in her 30’s. I awkwardly glanced over and inquire, “Do you not want these?” She responded with one word, “No.”

After she drank her water she attempted sleep again, this time more successful than the last. Maybe neck pillows do work?

By about halfway through this flight, I needed to use the restroom. This woman had the aisle seat, so it’s her responsibility to let me out if I have to go right? We all know this.

I tried to make it as painless as possible. I even tried to hold it until she stirred, so I could then wake her up when she was only half asleep. But I drank a lot of water: my full glass that the flight attendant handed me, and half of my Nestle 24 oz. water bottle. I couldn’t take it anymore.

I lightly tapped her shoulder. She awoke wide-eyed, looking straight at the ceiling, as if Doctor Frankenstein’s monster was just brought back to life. Her head slowly turned toward me and I squeaked out “Hi. Sorry, I need to use the restroom.”

I expected a groan of some sort and about 30 seconds of fumbling with her things before letting me out.

Nope.

Instead, she closed her tray table and looked at me. She expected me to literally crawl over her to get out. And me being the one who actually needed to go, I did what I had to do.

When I came back she was asleep again, so I grabbed the seat in front of me and pushed myself off the floor, hurling my body into my window seat so as not to stir her sleep. I didn’t.

All this to say, if you are in the aisle, be nice about it. You chose the seat, so you know what you’re getting yourself into. Don’t teenage girls feel terrible about kindly waking you up. Just be courteous.

And maybe don’t pick the aisle next time?

And to someone sitting in the window or middle seat, please be courteous when having to wake someone up. Lightly tap their shoulder and say excuse me, instead of trying to yell in their face or hitting them to wake them up. Also, if you can hold it a little longer, do so and see if the person next to you wakes up in the meantime. Even better, wait until they get up to go to the restroom, and then go. That’s a win-win for both of you! Don’t be that guy who has to get up 15 times in one flight to “stretch his legs”, climbing over everyone in the row.

If that’s you, maybe pick an aisle seat next time?

Sincerely,

The Fly Girl

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Long Distance Made Easy (Or So You Would Think)

I’ve been sitting in my seat on my flight to LAX staring at my laptop for the last 5 minutes trying to come up with a clever way to tell you that I am in a long distance relationship, but I couldn’t come up with anything that would come off as cute about it. So, here you go:

I am in a long distance relationship.

My boyfriend, Parker, lives in Los Angeles. We met in Atlanta four years ago, and have been dating a little over a year and a half. He is also an Actor, and our relationship is filled with understanding and encouragement on both sides.

When he moved to LA last August, I thought it would be daunting to stay together as a long distance couple. Even though I knew I would move to LA in five months time, there were still a lot of unknown factors when it came to maintaining a long distance relationship.

“Oh c’mon, Kelly. Five months? That’s nothing. Plus with all of the enhanced technology these days, you two can see each other over FaceTime every day if you want to. And text. And call. Back in my day, there were no such things as cellphones and we had to do this thing called ‘write a letter’…” said Every Adult Over The Age of 50.

I would stand there, pretending I was intently attune to the conversation, and once the advice (well lecture) was finished trickling out, I would add: “And thankfully, I also have  flight benefits!”

During those four months of our long distance relationship, with the entire country’s expanse between us, Parker and I saw each other at least twice a month. The great thing about his locale was that it was in a city that pertained to both of our careers: THE city for the film industry, Los Angeles. I could fly in for meetings, workshops, and auditions and also get to see Parker! I flew in and out, creating a foundation for myself in LA while getting to spend time with him in between.

I do understand how lucky we are. For one of us to have the ability to fly for free and come as often as needed was such a help to our relationship. Going into it, we both decided that if we became the priority over our careers, a break would be needed. But thankfully, a balance was kept and the groundwork of our LA careers was laid in those four months.

Once I moved to LA in January, we were no longer long distance anymore. I lived at the beach with my sister, he lived in a suburb of Hollywood, and we saw each other almost everyday.

But now I am based out of Atlanta for the summer before returning to LA in the fall, so for the next three months we are long-distance again. This should be easy, right? We have already endured a long distance trial, and I can fly out whenever I want with a B R E E Z E !

Sometimes though, having flight benefits does not make for easy travel.With every benefit in life comes the rules and sets of limitations.

The fact that I fly for free does not mean that I automatically get on any flight I want. I can’t just flick my wand and teleport to a seat like some wizard in Harry Potter.

I am called a Stand-by Passenger. I am a Non-Rev (Non revenue passenger, meaning I do not pay for a seat), which means I am a lower priority to any paying passenger on a plane. If there are seats available on a flight, then I may get lucky and get on the plane. It can be smooth and easy, or extremely stressful. Never in between.

Within the world of Non Revenue passengers, there are different levels of priority that decide the order of the list of passengers awaiting a seat. On a simple day, the list is prioritized based on the number of years the employee in the family has been working for the airline. The traveler whose family member has worked the longest would be the first on the list, etc.

However, every Non-Rev gets six special passes per year called S2. If someone checks in as an S2, using one of the six treasured tokens, then that person moves to the top of the standby list. A Non-Rev who has a 2008 start date of employment could pass another with a 1988 start date if they check in as an S2 on that flight. WHAT?

And sometimes there are people who get to the airport amusingly early who wander around and realize they can take an earlier flight to their desired destination. They then ask the gate agent if they can switch to this flight, and the gate agent tells them that they might be able to get on but will have to wait to see if a seat is available. So what does this mean? This passenger is now also considered a stand-by and is added to our list. However, because this person is a Revenue passenger, meaning they paid for a ticket, just not necessarily on this particular flight, they are put at the top of the Stand-by list. Customers first! Not so amusing anymore.

Things happen. Sometimes mechanical issues can occur, delaying flights or canceling them. That means there are now 150 people at least scrambling to jump on the next flight available to that destination. And since they do not have a seat assigned, they are put on the Stand-by list, ahead of all Non-Rev passengers. Also during holidays, traveling as a Non-Rev is pretty tough. Flights are always booked tight and there is very little room to squeeze on.

And this particular travel day, I encountered both of these scenarios. It is the day after Memorial Weekend, which means vacationers are flooding the airport, sunburnt and exasperated, trying to get back to home to press “play” on their everyday lives. I had checked the flights the previous night and decided to list myself on a flight at 9:45 am that had 3 seats left on it. I checked the Non-Rev list and decided that I would use one of my precious S2 passes to jump ahead of other passengers. Even though my dad has been working for the airline for 26 years and our priority is already high on its own, a lot of Non-Revs had checked in using one of their last S2’s, because they knew it was a holiday weekend and flights would be tight. So, apprehensively, I had to use one of mine to jump the people who had jumped me. Confusing, right?

I get to the gate and the list shows no seats left. None. At all. I guess the numbers had changed by the time I had arrived at the airport. I was listed as number 5, as there were some Revenue passengers ahead of me also crossing their fingers that they would get on this flight.

My mom and dad taught me to never leave a gate until the boarding door is closed. Even if the odds seem stacked against you, you never know what could happen. Sometimes people fail to show up to the flight, and after their name is called twice the gate agent releases their seat and gives it away to a standby passenger.

This time, there were five people who had failed to board the plane, so the gate agent lined up the first five people from the Stand-by list onto the boarding area. My heart pounded with excited nervousness of the possibility that I may get on this plane after all! I was the last in line, as we were lined up in order of priority.

And then, right as the gate agent was about to call our names individually to board, two people nonchalantly came up to the gate. They had been standing there the whole time, picking their noses I guess. At that moment I knew I had lost my shot. In the end, two others showed up and only one Stand-by got on that flight.

My name was then rolled over to the list of the next flight, leaving at 10:53 am. There were more seats available on this plane, so thankfully I got on! I texted Parker saying, “Pick me up at noon?” and whisked myself away in the book I was reading.

About 10 minutes later the captain comes on the intercom and says that right as the flight attendants prepared for departure, one of the boarding doors malfunctioned and the emergency slide was inflated. He had called maintenance, and they would be here soon. For now, hold tight.

In those situations, you do one of two things: whisk yourself away in your book again or completely freak out. I chose the latter. I immediately began a texting war with my mom, going through all of the possible scenarios that could affect me. The maintenance could take a couple of hours to fix the aircraft, at which point I would still have a seat on the plane. Or, a new plane would be brought in, and all passengers transferred to it. (But if this plane were smaller than the one I was on, then there would be no way I would have a seat). Third, everyone would be asked to de-plane and get rebooked on other flights. Which means all remaining flights of the day to LA would be FLOODED with Revenue Stand-by passengers.

Thankfully, I have the power to look up every flight leaving the airport and check the loads to see which plane I could possibly have a chance of getting on. My mom came up with other options, connecting to San Francisco and then arriving in LA, flying to Salt Lake, or maybe even to Tampa to take the last flight of the night.

Meanwhile, time was ticking and I knew there was another flight to LA at 12:15 pm. It was 11:30 now, and all passengers had been asked to de-plane and wait in the gate area for further notice. To me this sounded like my death sentence.

I snuck over the gate of the later flight, which was thankfully only a couple down from the one I had previously been at. I checked the list and there were, surprisingly, 50 seats on the flight. Thankfully, this later flight had changed aircrafts at the last minute, and brought in a bigger plane than anticipated. Which means? More seats for me!!!

I then ran back over to my previous gate where I found out that our plane was being fixed and would be delayed about 2 hours. This meant that most people would not have to be rebooked (unless they were dealing with connections), and that the 12:15 flight, which would now leave earlier than my original one (which was my second flight of the day I had tried), would be wide open. So, I jumped ship. I swapped flights with my S2 priority and jumped everyone, getting a better seat than I had had on my last plane, and now fully stocked with free “Apology” snacks from my last flight.

After about 8 phone calls with my mom, 4 hours of being at the airport and 3 flights tried, I finally made it. I am currently writing from my aisle seat near the front of the plane. I am finally headed to LA after being apart from Parker for three weeks. I also get to experience a cool acting opportunity while in town, so it’s a win-win!

Phew, I know that was long. But I wanted to give you an inside scoop on what it is really like to fly for free. While it is glamorous sometimes, like flying first class to Europe, it can also be extremely stressful, which is the case most of the time.

But it’s thrilling (sometimes). You play travel agent for yourself (or your mom does), and you figure it out. It may not always be a walk in the park, but that’s life.

Yes, my long distance relationship is maintained under very ideal circumstances, but keep in mind, it may not always be easy. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.

*If you think this story sounds stressful, then get excited. Because honestly, today was about a 5 on a stress scale of 1-10. I can’t wait to continue to share these experiences with you! *