02 December 2005

An anniversary for Sarah

Exactly six years ago today - December 2nd, 1999 - Sarah flew her first international flight assignment. Still trying to adjust to the life of a flight attendant - and a woman, she nervously worked Flight 930, which took her from San Francisco to London. This ended up being her first return to London since early childhood, as well.

I picked this particular day and flight for Sarah, because I took that exact same flight, exactly six years ago today, as well, as part of my journey to the Netherlands. It was a rough journey; my BART train caught fire as I headed for San Francisco's airport, and once in London, my Amsterdam connection was cancelled, forcing me to wait it out in Paris until the winds died down at Schiphol Airport. Door-to-door time, from my apartment to my hotel, totalled 27 hours. The rest of the trip was just as rough as well; instead of finding the infamous Dutch tolerance, I only found the Surinamese thugs taunting me at every corner, over my race and gender. Perhaps the Dutch tolerance includes tolerance for Surinamese sexism and homophobia. I returned home a week later, utterly fed up.

Believe it or not, Flight 930 was probably the best part of the whole trip. It wasn't perfect; the air show was dead, preventing me from checking my flight progress. However, for the millennial holiday season, United Airlines had decided to feature Melissa Etheridge in its inflight audio program, as a followup to its extension of benefits to unmarried partners of employees earlier in the year; both developments were fantastic news for a baby dyke like Sarah, and I certainly enjoyed listening to Melissa as well. The quality of service, in general, was very good on this flight. As the flight progressed through the Arctic Circle, I was able to catch the northern lights as well; I've never seen the northern lights before or since. And this was the only leg of my journey to not suffer from delays, cancellations, or mishaps, pulling into Heathrow slightly ahead of schedule.

Of course, I don't remember a tall redhead working this flight. But I don't remember any faces from this flight anymore, save for a Frenchman flight attendant. I took care of this, by putting Sarah in the rear half of the economy cabin, whereas I sat in the front half. I've already written about Sarah's nervousness at having to face all the passengers, her joy at listening to Melissa during her rest period, and her excitement of leaving the US for the first time as a woman; in fact, I have a mini-scene out of this flight, complete with an embarrassing masculine cough, which I wrote for a class back in May. I want to expand this scene into a full story of Sarah's first international foray.

There will also be other scenes I will need to write. For starters, I will need to set up a plausible training schedule for Sarah; I had her do her training in September and October 1999, and I wonder if doing her first international duty in December is too early. I will move the training schedule if I must, but I wish to keep December 2nd as her first international flight date. And since I ended up in Amsterdam, I want Sarah to reach Amsterdam on her later assignments - and be fed up with the experience as well. Too many people still think of Amsterdam as an anything-goes, super-tolerant place, and I know that it is not the truth.

Sarah's French and German proficiency will keep her working internationally, initially on European routes. She will not be sent to Latin America due to the homophobia there, but she will eventually work Asia as well, culminating in one whole chapter taking place in Seoul, which will bring Sarah in touch with her grandfather's Korean War service, and with Kirsten.

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