When you’re that high above Manhattan, the noise of the city is somehow muted into a soft, deep buzz. All the craziness down below seems to merge together into a sort of designed zen exercise I feel impelled to watch. The frenetic movements of the city look calm and organized from up here, the tiny cars independently changing lanes, slowing or speeding up, and turning corners in a disorganized unison. I’ve been looking down from the 46th floor balcony and watching the cabs below, the buses making their stops. It all seems to flow in a cohesive rhythm, wildly separated from what it feels like when I’m down on the street. I chose one black cab to follow with my eyes. It came up 3rd avenue and turned left on 70th, slowly, waiting for a pedestrian in the crosswalk, then drove on, brushing underneath low hanging leafy tree limbs, on to its destination. It made me wonder if anyone has ever followed my cab with their eyes. Likely not. I’m so far removed from the street that their little black car was smaller than the hot wheels models my brother used to collect as a kid, and yet the people inside this car were as real as I was, and I could see them making what I’m sure they would have thought were some very insignificant turns in traffic, all my attention for those brief moments focused solely on them, and they will never know. Simply fascinating.
I was sitting strapped into my jumpseat across from him on takeoff. Curly, messy hair, olive skin, bright blue glasses frames. Nike tennis shoes strapped to his feet, opposite my black uniform heels. The sun over the clouds with us shone in through the tiny circle window on the airplane door, and fell in rainbows on the shadowed seam where his tennis shoes rested on the floor. His feet were literally resting on the tops of rainbows. I don’t think he saw this, but it must have been a sign that wherever he was headed, he was on the right path.
I couldn’t help but be a little bit jealous.
You’d think it would be the best job in the world for someone going through a breakup. A flight attendant can stack all of their trips back to back, and pick up their friends’ trips, and pretty much be flying somewhere different every single day. No need to wallow, just travel and get paid. Right?
But what if the flight attendant is going through a breakup with another flight attendant? Working and traveling can turn into a complete nightmare. Even riding the subway home after landing at the airport — oh no, this is the stop we used to take for his apartment — tears, streaming eyeliner, everywhere.
Many people have said to me, “Oh, honey, I don’t shit where I eat.” Which is the most offensive way possible to say ‘dating a coworker is the worst idea I’ve ever heard of, and I will never do it because I’m not as stupid as you are.’ But the people who say that clearly don’t know what they’re missing out on.
Dating a flight attendant, even for anyone with a normal job, can be incredibly fun. Joining them on layovers in interesting cities is just one of the amazing things you can do together. But imagine two people who are in the same industry. In the same position. For the same company. You can literally work or travel anywhere around the world together. You understand each other’s worlds completely. You have enough downtime between serving passengers and changing planes that you can talk (and text via wifi) almost all day about everything going on. It’s like having a best friend, built in, that you get to go anywhere with. A best friend who’s part of your strange airline-industry-universe. They understand literally everything you go through. And you can have the most fun together doing the wildest (or most contentedly boring) things.
And then imagine losing that.
You’re still in this insular community that can feel very harsh or difficult at times, but this time you have no constant ally, no partner to share in all your experiences. And it’s a loss even greater because you know how amazing the job can be when you’re living it together.
A relationship of such depth can’t be minimized by, “oh, honey, I don’t shit where I eat.” When I hear someone say that, I feel like they haven’t even truly lived the flight attendant life. For me, this job was disposable until he came along. And he has changed it all for me, forever.
And now I have to go on, and figure out how to keep living this job they way it calls out to us to be lived. And I have to manage to do it without constantly smearing my eyeliner.