23 August 2010

An Open Letter to Gregg Steinhafel

I just printed this letter on a pristine sheet of New Leaf paper and am sending it to Minneapolis today:

23 August 10

Mr. Gregg Steinhafel
Target Corporation
1000 Nicollet Mall
Minneapolis, Minnesota 55403

Dear Mr. Steinhafel,

As I look through many of the articles on the pressroom pages of your website, I see how giving and supportive Target is to many segments of society around the world. I’ve always admired the brand for its good citizenship and what appears to be a genuine concern for the communities that support it. I realize, too, that Target deserves the high marks it receives from the Human Rights Campaign for it’s practices in workplace inclusivity.

Yet, I am writing today to tell you why I haven’t made my weekly trip to Target since the media circus surrounding Target’s donation to MN Forward ensued, and why I’ve crossed Target off of my shopping list altogether.

I have been following this story closely and have been hoping for some sort of correction on Target’s part. Today, I read an August 16 article in The Minnesota Independent where Target informed HRC that it “will take no corrective actions to repair the harm that it caused by contributing $150,000 to an organization supporting a vehemently anti-gay candidate closely associated with a Christian rock band that advocates death and violence to gay people.”

Mr. Steinhafel, in spite of the perceived benefit to business Tom Emmer’s policies might bring to your state, religious dogma — or worse yet hate in the name of religion — has no place in politics. The blood of the first person queer-bashed or killed when some fanatic decides to act on Bradlee Dean’s lunatic statements won’t be on my hands because I’m taking the more than $5,000 I spent at Target last year to other retailers in the future.



17 August 2010

Why I Think Commercial Aircraft Should Have an "EJECT" Button on Every Seat

As the handful of my loyal readers know, my beloved is a veteran flight attendant. And, with Steven Slater being all over the news lately it seems that some are coming up with cutesy names and phrases to describe flight attendants as unstable or crazy. Frankly, I read a piece the other day where the uncooperative bitch that Slater encountered on the plane faces a $25,000 fine for her offense. I say "nail her to the wall."

Of course within days, on yet another JetBlue flight, we learn of another deranged female passenger who had to be restrained to a seat after a screaming rant -- but not before spitting on and physically assalting the flight crew. Care to guess who had to restore the cabin to order? Yep. The very same flight attendants who were assaulted.

It infuriates me to no end when I hear about the latest instance where my partner has been treated with disrespect or lack of basic human decency.

He, too, has been struck in the face with a piece of luggage upon telling a passenger that he couldn't stow his bag in the way he was attempting. Cameron didn't say "F-you," blow a slide, grab some beer and bail. He took it in stride. While I wish, at the very least, he'd have grabbed the bag in question and thrown it on the tarmac or called ahead for the authorities to escort the offending asshole to interrogation -- or both -- he moved on. In some cases, though, he has had extreme offenders hauled off to jail. I like that and wish it happened more often.

While you read this, realize that the flight crew is not only dealing with self-absorbed idiots that have likely "cut in line at the water fountain" all their lives since grade school. They're also dealing with greedy corporate thieves who try squeezing every bit of life from every employee while reducing pay and benefits, increasing flying time while reducing rest, and in at least one case, suggested that they dumpster dive to make up for their 40% pay cuts. Yes, that was the former Northwest management who are now running Delta. Think they don't need a union, now? I digress. That's another can of worms altogether.

I made some minor edits to the following letter I found by following a link on Facebook. The story is still the same.

To the Flying Public: We're Sorry

We're sorry we have no pillows.

We're sorry we're out of blankets.

We're sorry the airplane is too cold.

We're sorry the airplane is too hot.

We're sorry the overhead bins are full.

We're sorry we have no closet space for your oversized bag.

We're sorry that's not the seat you wanted.

We're sorry there's a restless toddler/overweight/offensive smelling passenger seated next to you.

We're sorry the plane is full and there are no other seats available.

We're sorry you didn't get your upgrade.

We're sorry that guy makes you uncomfortable because he "looks like a terrorist."

We're sorry there's a thunderstorm and we can't take off. We're sorry we don't know when it will stop.

We're sorry you're crammed into a space so small that if you were an animal PETA would protest.

We're sorry our plane has no music or video entertainment for your 3 hour flight.

We're sorry we ran out of your favorite soda. We're sorry there are no more sandwiches. We're sorry that Budweiser costs $6.

We're sorry we don't have diapers for your baby. We're sorry we don't have milk for same baby.

We're sorry you can't hang out by the cockpit door waiting to use the bathroom.

We're sorry you can't hang out at the back of the airplane. We're sorry you have to sit down and fasten your seatbelt. We're sorry you have to put your seat up for landing.

We're sorry we don't know when we're going to land. We're sorry we don't know whether your plane to (substitute any city in the world) will be waiting for you when we land. We're sorry we've been diverted because we ran out of gas waiting to land.
We're sorry for these and so many other things that we have absolutely no control over but which we are held accountable for EVERY SINGLE DAY.

Please understand. Flight attendants are not the enemy. We share your space. More than anyone -- we want to have a nice, pleasant travel experience. There is a reason behind everything we ask you to do. It may be a FAA directive. It may be security related. It may be a company procedure.

We don't just make stuff up. We don't spend 8 weeks at training (with two refresher courses and tests every year) learning how to pour a Coke. There are many things that flight attendants are watching for constantly on every flight FOR YOUR SAFETY. It's not because we're bored or so controlling that we just enjoy telling people what to do. I, for one, would like to have one flight where I didn't have to repeatedly tell people to put their seats up for landing. Seriously. Can't you just do what we ask sometimes, without the glares, eye rolling and disdain?

For the record -- putting your seat up for landing may not seem that important to your personal safety. However, it is very important for the person sitting BEHIND YOU. If you have ever tried to get out of a row where someone has their seat reclined you know it can be a challenge. Try grabbing your ankles (emergency brace position) or getting out of that row quickly with smoke in the cabin. Understand a little better now?

Many of the things we ask passengers to comply with are FAA directives, like carry-on bag stowage, exit row requirements, when we can serve drinks (in the air) and when we can't (after the aircraft door is closed or on an active taxi-way). We are only allowed to move about the cabin during taxi out for safety related duties. We can't get you blankets, or hang coats, or get you drinks. It's not because we don't want to. It's because we are held personally responsible if we fail to comply with FAA directives. Meaning that the FAA can fine us personally up to $10,000 if we fail to comply or enforce an FAA Directive. Like no bags at the bulkhead. No children in the exit row. No one moving around the cabin during taxi. Perhaps now you know why flight attendants get a little testy when people move about the cabin when they're not supposed to. It's not the company that gets in trouble for that. It's us.

Personally, I wish the airlines would show worst case scenario safety videos. Like what happens if you walk through the cabin during turbulence. There could be a guy who has just fallen and smacked his face on the metal armrest and now has a bloody, gushing broken nose. Or an elderly lady who now has a broken arm because someone walking to the bathroom fell on her. Maybe a passenger with a broken neck because somebody opened an overhead bin during turbulence and a suitcase fell out and onto the person sitting beneath it. These things can easily happen in a fast moving, unstable air environment.

Please just trust that we are looking out for your best interest and stop fighting with us about everything we ask you to do. It's exhausting.

Finally, please direct your hostility and frustrations in the direction where they will be most effective: The customer service department. They are the ones equipped to handle your complaint and implement procedures for CHANGE.
Think about it.

Complaining to the flight crew about all your negative travel experiences is about the same as complaining to the office janitor because your computer isn't working. It may make you feel better to vent about it -- but it really won't fix anything. More than anybody we are already aware of the lack of amenities, food, service and comfort on the aircraft. Please share your concerns with the people in the cubicles at corporate who need that information to make better decisions for the flying public.

It's frustrating that so many people are in denial about what the travel industry is about now. The glory days of pillows, blankets, magazines and a hot meal for everyone are long gone. Our job is to get you from point A to point B safely and at the cheapest possible cost to you and the company. So be prepared. If you are hungry -- get a sandwich before you get on the plane. If it's a 3 hour flight, anticipate that you may get hungry and bring some snacks. If you are cold natured -- bring a wrap. Think for yourself and think ahead. Otherwise, don't complain when you have to pay $3 for a cookie and are left with a crusty blanket to keep you warm.

We hear often that the service just isn't what is used to be. Well, the service we provide now isn't what it used to be. When I was hired, my job was to serve drinks/meals, ensure that safety requirements were met and tend to in-flight medical issues. Since September 11, 2001 my primary job is to ensure that my airplane will not be compromised by a terrorist. That tragedy may now be a distant memory to many, but be assured that EVERY DAY a flight attendant reports to work he or she is constantly thinking about 9/11. We feel a personal responsibility to ensure that something like that never happens again.

We can never relax. We can never not be suspicious about someone's intentions. It is difficult to be vigilant and gregarious at the same time, especially when most of us are working 12 hour days after layovers that only allow 5-6 hours of sleep. This isn't because we were out partying and having a grand time on the layover -- but because the delays that you experience as a passenger also affect us as a crew. What was a 10 hour layover is now 8 hours which doesn't leave a lot of time to recover from what has become an increasingly stressful occupation.

Despite everything, I still enjoy being a flight attendant. I am writing this letter because I do still care about my profession and about the public perception of flight attendants. In the increasingly challenging travel world it is becoming more imperative than ever that people just treat each other decently.

I can go through an entire day without one person saying anything remotely civil. I will stand at the aircraft door and say hello to everyone who enters. Maybe half will even look at me. Even less will say hello back. I will try to serve someone a meal who can't be bothered to take their headsets off long enough for me to ask them what they want. Most of the time the only conversation a passenger has with me is one in which they are complaining.

Is it any wonder that flight attendants have shut down a bit? After suffering the disdain of hundreds of passengers a day it's difficult sometimes to even smile, much less interact. We are human. We appreciate the same respect and courtesy that passengers do.

The next time you fly, try treating the flight attendants the way you would like to be treated. You may be surprised how friendly your flight crew is when they are treated like people.

-Author Unknown

03 August 2010

An Open Letter to Memphis City Council

Dear Council Members,

I am writing today to express my concern with yet another out-of-town company attempting to come to Memphis and destroy a piece of our history and part of Midtown's beauty. Too many of our historic places have been torn down over the years to provide space for the likes of Arby's, Walgreen's and Starbucks.

When I first moved to Memphis in 1986 I met two sisters who'd lived on Carr Avenue for most of their lives. Norma and Audrey used to tell me stories of a beautiful Union Avenue lined with grand southern mansions, churches and the occasional block of retail space like the one that houses Wiles-Smith Drugstore. More than twenty years later, I still hear laments from native Memphians about wonderful places that used to be as I've watched Midtown's charm eroded bit by bit.

On August 24th, representatives of CVS Pharmacy are expected to stand before you in an attempt to appeal the Land Use Control Board's ruling denying them permission to raze Union Avenue Methodist Church. I am asking that you uphold the board's ruling.

Midtown has more than enough drug stores within reach of that site, particularly with an Ike's/Walgreen's across the street. If CVS is determined to come into the Midtown Memphis market, let's encourage them to choose another location where their architecturally uninteresting, cookie-cutter, big-box eyesore might be a vast improvement.

In the Crosstown area, for instance, North of Poplar on the west side of Cleveland, there are many defunct, vacant, weed-infested spaces that provide no particular interest to the landscape of the city. I believe a CVS could do wonders there. Many other places in Midtown could benefit from the commerce their store might bring. Union at Cooper isn't one of them, especially at the cost of another Memphis landmark.