Here is a book for everyone who flies, on a frequent or occasional basis. Jet Vignettes by Catherine Caldwell gives you an inside look at the life and work of flight attendants, written by a veteran flight attendant with 23 year in the business. It will make my travel more meaningful knowing a lot more about the people who greet and look after me in skies. It also makes me both understand and respect all that goes on to make our travel pleasant and secure, often behind the scenes unknown to the passengers.
The fast paced book bounces back and forth between the benefits of layovers in fabulous locations and the practical aspects of being a flight attendant, between the joys of spending time with close friends in beautiful locations while getting paid for it and the occasional fears when potential threats occur. It is one job that when you leave the “office” you can leave your work behind and go have fun in amazing locations. It is a romantic picture of a job that takes you to exotic places, offers vacations almost anywhere in the world but the book comes without a sugar coating. In this sense it is also recommended reading for anyone planning a career, for however long, as a flight attendant. Many start with only a few years in mind and stay on for decades. That was the case with the author.
There is much about shopping and eating overseas complete with good travel tips. As a flight attendant you can plan a dinner party at home with the best ingredients purchased the night before in Paris. Some of her popular items include Pastis, LeBrilou liquer, Poliane bread, Fleur De Sel Camargue (French sea salt) Mer de Noirmoutier butter, Savora mustard, Amora 4 sauce Tradionale for beef bourguignon, Amore Mayonnaise Dijon, and much more. Each city has its own special shops and flight attendants either discover these places themselves or hear about them from colleagues. Good news travels fast.
There are the joys of taking your eight year old step daughter to Paris for the weekend for her birthday and taking your mother back to her ancestral home in Scotland for the first time since she came to the US.
At the same time there are the difficult passengers which are thankfully a minority, but no less tiresome. After 9/11 a new fear crept in and some flight attendants retired. Others are more watchful which is reassuring for the rest of us.
The two strongest messages that come through are the need to think quickly on your feet, as well as the teamwork and camaraderie that can make these decisions easier to carry out. It can vary from having to stretch 30 meals to cover 45 people to dealing with more dangerous situations like the guy who brought a gun and bullets on board by accident and wondered what to do with it.
This is the ideal airplane book. I went through it on a trip from Boston to Athens with a stop over in London. I could not put it down except to sleep and then I let the flight attendants pass it around. In the morning they vouched for its authenticity. You can order a copy at the Jet Vignettes site.