I recently went to work with my husband. Now, when I say I went to work with him you probably pictured me driving in to an office building somewhere, sitting in a corner of a stuffy room while he, decked out in a suit and tie, made phone calls, took meetings and did important things that I didn’t understand. Ummm, no.
Going to work with my husband means packing a bag, making sure I have plenty of books loaded onto my Kindle and a large bottle of Ibuprophen on hand for my sore butt. I’m the wife of an airline pilot.
It’s a very rare event for me to accompany Jeff on one of his trips. I’m a homebody. I like my own space, my own stuff and, most significantly, I like to stay on the ground. Jeff and I are opposites. I like knowing what’s going to happen in my day. I don’t deal well with surprises. I’m a planner. In other words, I’m an uptight bore. Jeff, on the other hand, is one of those people I admire who rolls with whatever is happening, is at home wherever he is, and is ready for whatever the day brings. He’s everything I wish I was. I would hate him if I didn’t love him so much.
The reason I agreed to go on this trip is because, well, he asked me to go, but also because he was scheduled for two long overnights at beach locations. He would have 18 hours in Fort Lauderdale the second day and 18 hours in San Juan, Puerto Rico the third day. 18 hours is an extremely long time for him to remain in one place, so he thought we could have a little mini vacation. After some hemming and hawing and obsessive checking of the airline website to make sure I would have a seat on all the flights, (I am allowed on the flights as long as a paying passenger doesn’t need my seat, then I’m booted off) I agreed to go.
On day one the plan was for me to drive from our house to Albuquerque where I would meet up with him around midnight. Turns out, his first day was cancelled due to his commuter flights from the Durango Airport being delayed and causing him to have to give up his trips for that day. He wound up driving to Albuquerque with me so he could catch up with his trip the next day. Trips to Albuquerque are great because we are able to spend a little time with family. We went to breakfast with my in-laws and one of Jeff’s brothers and had a lovely morning visiting with them.
We left for the airport in plenty of time for me to go through security and for Jeff to leave our car in long-term parking. Even though he dropped me off at the curb to give me a head start, he still beat me to the secured gate area.
An interesting phenomenon happens at this point. My husband undergoes a visible transition from my goofy, fun-loving Jeff to Captain Allison, responsible, dependable, unflappable representative of Southwest Airlines. It’s not just the uniform, although he looks very official and formidable in his pressed white shirt and black pants, patriotic tie and captain’s bars. Looking at him, I am reminded that Jeff has a very serious job, that the lives of his passengers and fellow crew members depend on him making the right decisions and performing his duties skillfully.
I accompany Captain Allison to the gate where he disappears down the jetway to the plane. I board a little later, and he introduces me as his wife to all the flight attendants, lifts my bag into the overhead for me and, after giving me a little kiss, goes back to the front of the plane to prepare for our flight.
We land in Dallas and, after a 3 hour wait while Jeff and his crew do a round trip to Lubbock, we head for Fort Lauderdale. The weather is tricky. Jeff announces to the passengers that we will have to go around a line of thunderstorms, adding about an hour to our flight time and to expect the flight to be pretty bumpy. It was, but the Lord sure did give us a beautiful light show as we looked down on the clouds with the lightning flashing within them.
The next morning we walked out of the hotel and onto the beach. Fort Lauderdale was hot and humid and the beach was packed with people of all ages in bathing suits lying in the sun, playing in the surf and having tons of fun. Jeff and I walked down the beach with our feet getting wet as the waves came in. We stopped for lunch at Bubba Gump’s and ate way too much shrimp, if that’s even possible. I mean, how much shrimp is too much? We dawdled on the way back, taking the route near the docks so we could admire all the boats. Then, it was back to the room to gather up, catch the van to the airport and board another plane, this time bound for Puerto Rico!
We arrived in San Juan around 9:00 pm and were taken by van to the Intercontinental Resort. Wow, what a beautiful place! I’ve already decided we will need to come back when we can spend more time.
In the elevator on the way to our room, Jeff mentioned that we would congregate in the lobby after we freshened up so we could go to the bar. We noticed that the couple sharing the elevator with us was staring at Jeff, who was still in his uniform. Jeff cleared his throat and said, “I mean, we’ll meet in the lobby so we can go to church. We want to be on time for church!” They laughed, and we found out that they were travelling out with us the next day. We changed clothes, met up with Jeff’s flight crew and walked down the beach to a little open-air bar and restaurant that most of the crew were familiar with. It is a charming, unpretentious little place called Alambique where the drinks are served in plastic cups and the menu is heavy on the finger food. The perfect place to relax after a long day.
Our dinner companions, the first officer and flight attendants we had flown with that day, were wonderful company and I sat back, sipped my rum punch and listened while they shared hilarious stories of the trials and perils of working for the airline. The quesadillas I ordered were excellent and I felt it was only right to order a pina colada to wash them down. One of the flight attendants ordered one as well, but changed her mind after it was served, so I drank hers too. Really, what choice did I have? I couldn’t let it go to waste!
When the time came to go back to the resort, it was raining. We walked back in the rain, and said goodnight to the crew, some of whom weren’t ready to call it a night. Jeff and I had had enough, though, and we toddled off to bed.
We woke up to sunshine and dressed quickly. Jeff and I sat near the water, taking in the view while having our morning caffeine. We ate breakfast at the resort and enjoyed a nice chat with our waitress, Ida, who lives on the Island. She told us about how the restoration after the hurricane was going, how there are still so many without power and clean water, but that things are much better than they were.
Because I would have to go through security at the airport, we were advised to show up three hours prior to the flight time. Jeff thought this was crazy, but after consulting with one of the gate agents, decided it was better to be safe than sorry. Of course, it only took about 20 minutes to get through – apparently we beat the cruise ship crowd – but that gave us plenty of time to get a bite to eat. I learned from Jeff that you eat whenever the opportunity presents itself because you never know when the next time will be. Not a problem for me, just say the word food and point me toward it. I learned the wisdom of this philosophy after we landed in Orlando. I stayed on the plane and Jeff got off to get food. When he came back he handed me a sack from McDonalds. I was opening the bag, the fragrance of fries and cheeseburgers permeating the air inside the plane, when a lady seated behind me asked why the airline doesn’t sell food. I explained to her that it is a no-frills airline and peanuts and pretzels are the only food items given out on their flights. She looked so crestfallen that I offered her one of my cheeseburgers. I’m pretty sure we are life-long friends now.
Our day finally ended after 12 hours with three flights totaling 8 ½ hours in the air. I was exhausted and a little (maybe a lot) cranky, but my respect and admiration for Jeff and for the job he and his co-workers perform everyday had grown by leaps and bounds. The beaches were lovely, I met some amazing people and travelled thousands of miles, but it will be awhile before I go to work with him again. Hats off to you, Captain Allison. Now, take me home!