She made me an offer I couldn’t refuse…

uhaul to fort lauderdale

Tampa was the 4th city I had lived in since leaving Indiana for Georgia in 1994 and I loved it. Never thought I would actually leave but it was about a week after New Years in 2003, my lease was up at the end of the month, I had no money and hated my job. The home I had created for myself was now a dead end. I worked from 4 pm until midnight, would go home and drink a bottle of Blackstone, pass out around 3 am and sleep until noon before doing it all over again. Once realizing my dream of becoming a high paid flight attendant on private jets was squashed, depression had set in and I had no idea what I was going to do. Then the phone rang!

‘Froggie’ needed 2 girls to come and help him in Vegas for a big convention and was hoping me and friend could go. The pay was $300 a day for 7 days. We were staying in a suite at the Venetian Hotel and taking a private jet to get there. As soon as we hung up, I cried. That was a lot of money, money I needed to move into a more affordable place and VEGAS, really??????? At 30 years old, besides the European adventure I just experienced, I had only been to maybe 5 other places other than Indiana my whole life. My shifts were covered at work, one of my closest friends agreed to come and 3 days later, we were in my car on our way to his mansion in Fort Lauderdale.

The drive there was so much fun! Typically it takes about 4 hours to drive from Tampa to Fort Lauderdale but somehow, it took us 8. After walking down the extremely long hallway to the other wing of his home, he handed us each a zanax and told us to sit tight until he returned. We were like 2 kids whose parents had left them alone for the first time. The room was huge and beautifully decorated with a giant bathroom and a bed we kept jumping up and down on while sipping wine and blasting music.

Around 8 am the next day we made our way to the kitchen to find some breakfast and didn’t see him until around 11, he was not an early riser. This was crazy, 2 months ago I had no idea private jets even existed before I worked on one and now here I am, as a guest. Our flight attendant was tall, around 50 and really friendly. Her and I bonded on the 5 hour flight which I thought was cool, but never imagined it would amount to anything. She mentioned how she was giving up her job to get back with her husband and move to Seattle after which I told her my story of how I ended up as a passenger on that jet. As we departed the plane, she waved goodbye and said we’ll see you in 7 days!!!!

Our suite had cathedral ceilings, a gym, giant living room, 10 person dining table and 2, very big bedrooms. The job was simple, we attended the conference during the day with him, taking notes, running errands, setting up meetings, easy stuff and we never began the day before 10 or 11 am. To be honest, after a few days, it was hard to tell what time it was. The Venetian hotel painted a good portion of their ceilings with blue skies and white, fluffy clouds so you would swear it was always day time. There were so many restaurants, bars and shops to choose from, you never had to leave. It was an Italian themed hotel equipped with real Gondolas that sailed through the Grand Canal floating beneath bridges, past cafes and under balconies as your gondolier serenaded you.

One night Froggie needed the suite to himself so he loaned us one of his body guards, a limo and gave us $1000 cash to disappear. We left the hotel, had dinner and drinks, saw a topless cabaret and still had a few hundred bucks leftover once we returned to the hotel so each of us took a bill and gambled. I was at the craps table, wasted, happy as a clam and yelling ‘mama needs a new pair of shoes’ as I tossed the dice across the table. That last part was a bit fuzzy, but I do remember losing every penny and not caring at all. In this trip and so mant others there are so many crazy things that happened, but I’ll save the good stuff for when I actually get paid to write.

On the flight home, everyone decided to sleep it off but not me, I had so much energy flowing that I was like a chatty cathy with our flight attendant. She and I sat in the back of the plane, sipping wine and talking the whole way back to Florida and just as we were about to land, she gave me an offer I couldn’t refuse.

The jet company she worked for in Fort Laudeedale needed to hire someone to replace her and if I was interested, she would put in a good word for me and see what happened. Plus, the giant house she rented on a canal had 3 bedrooms and really cheap rent so I could just take over her lease as well. Now, I lived in Tampa, the job was in Fort Lauderdale which meant I would need to move across the state on a whim hoping they would give me a shot and what if I was terrible at it and got fired? Then I would be stuck in Fort Lauderdale without a job and alone. I could always waitress and bartend again, not ideal, but it paid the bills. Besides, this wasn’t the first time I packed up and moved on a moment’s notice. There was nothing left for me in Tampa professionally; it had been 5 great years and I made some amazing friends who I’m still in touch with today, but it was time for a change, so I said OK!

I picked up every shift I could at the restaurant and started saying my goodbyes. With my friends it was easy, I knew they would visit, but there were 2 special people in my life I knew I would never see again, Ronnie the bum who lived in a shed behind the restaurant and Rose, my elderly neighbor and friend who I took care of.

Rose was ok with it; she was elderly and had lost many people close to her in life. Ronnie on the other hand was devastated. He was such a kind man who liked being a bum. He would work odd jobs sweeping parking lots or cleaning up trash for the local establishments. I would bring him leftover food after work and we would just sit and talk for hours. His shed was nice too, the owners of the business didn’t use it so as long as he was out of site during working hours, he could stay there for free. I drove the moving van with my dog in the front seat and my car hitched to the back over to his place to say goodbye. As I drove away, he held on to the door chasing after me begging me not to go, I almost took him with me but thought better of it.

It broke my heart to leave him; I cried the entire 2.5 hours drive to Alligator Alley. My poor puppy, once again we were on the move and mom was a mess. As I neared the end of the alley and started to see the bright lights of my new city slowly appear, I looked into my rear view mirror as if to take one last look and at that very moment, heard a large sound, like a door slamming shut on my past! To this day, that noise, whatever it was, made everything ok and then all of a sudden; I couldn’t wait for the next chapter.


I broke all the rules in Amsterdam….

Before I tell you about all the badness that happened in Amsterdam, it’s important for you to know that although I completely ignored the pilot’s repetitive order “NOT TO HANG OUT WITH THE CLIENTS”, this is not something that happens with my clients often, if at all. This was my first and maybe only time in Europe and I was taking full advantage! There was a chance they could find out and probably never hire me again, but I had to go for it and I’m so glad I did. You’ll find out why later, this won’t be the last time you hear about Froggie.

After he slipped me the note with the invite, I couldn’t get off that plane fast enough. One of the many great things about being crew on private jets is the airport service. Once the passengers exit, my job is to clean the interior, deflate the airbeds if needed, donate leftover food to the airport staff and take inventory for provisioning, among other things. While that’s going on, the rental car is pulled right up to the baggage exit door, our bags are nicely placed into the trunk with keys happily waiting in the ignition.

But this time our hotel was located near everything so the FBO called us a taxi, no rental needed. Our cabbie pulled up, stuffed the 3 of us in the backseat and drove off like a mad man. I wasn’t sure we were going to make it out of that vehicle alive. It’s been 15 ½ years since that day, but I will never forget the fear when he drove off the main road and onto the train tracks, like he was being chased by the law. The pilots were big guys so we were packed in the back like sardines, which for me was great; they were like two padded cushions to soften the blow if one of those trains hit us. It may have only lasted about 45 seconds, but it seemed like minutes as the 3 of us kept quiet, but held on. I’m sure the guy was laughing as he looked in the rear view to see the whites of our eyes light up the inside of the car. Then all of a sudden, we were at our hotel, apparently that was completely normal. The drivers know the train schedules so they take shortcuts on the tracks when they can.

I’m not going to lie, I was super excited about hanging out with them, but I was even more excited that I was about to sit in a smoke shop and legally burn. It had been a while since my sleepless ‘party’ weekends and I partook here and there when she was around, but only because I was too scared to buy it for myself. I sped down the hall, threw my bags in the room, found the Concierge and was quickly sent on my way to the nearest ‘Green House Lounge’.

It was so freeing, (I think that’s the emotion I’m looking for), to be allowed to just enjoy yourself without being judged. I had about an hour to chill before it was time to head back and get ready when a local struck up a conversation. He asked me why I was in Amsterdam and as I told my story….it hit me, like a ton of imaginary bricks.

This was all really happening and to me! A week ago I was struggling to afford gas and now I’m making $300 a day while traveling Europe, I started to cry, tears of joy mostly but also because it was very overwhelming. The 2 of us sat under a mural of Bob Marley, sipping coffee and exchanging stories. I learned that you are allowed to purchase some to go but you are only allowed to smoke at home, in a hotel and smoke shops, anywhere else, like outdoors, is considered rude. So up to the counter I went to buy myself a little stash before skipping back to my room to get dressed.

As I entered the cab in front of my hotel, the driver assured me that no train track driving would be necessary, my destination was just up the road. This ride was great and slow so I was able to get a good look at the architecture, the local’s sense of style, how different the street lights were, all of it. What really stood out to me though was how it was the first week of November and the streets were filled with people in winter coats, all riding bicycles. It seemed like every single person in town was outside, just living…..The streets were packed and you couldn’t help but notice them politely kiss each other 3 times on the cheeks to say hello, one more than the French.

It was around 9 pm when I arrived and the party had been well underway. There was a drink in my hand before I could blink an eye and of course a nice selection of Amsterdam’s finest. The atmosphere in the room was contagious as we all chatted away while dancing on the balcony which overlooked the city. Once the smoke filled room cleared and the mini bar was empty, it was time to head towards our first destination, ‘A live sex show’, ”excuse me, a what?” Let’s just say I giggled through the entire thing as the couple tried to put on an erotic performance while their red velvet, round bed kept spinning in circles. Seriously though, it was funny, but by no means did I think anyone would have been turned on by it, but you never know.

Our next stop was the Red Light District, now this place I had heard of and it was pretty cool. Ladies safely marketed themselves in small rooms with a tall glass window so you can see them from head to toe. Many of girls wore different outfits with themes like cowgirl or bad teacher, it was all very professional. If she was unavailable, her curtain would be closed and reopened when ready. If any of the suitors were out of hand, there was a panic button to push for safety. We didn’t stay long, just took a slow stroll along the street filled with red street lights, kind of felt like window shopping, but different!

After that he treated us to a very late dinner at a fancy restaurant. There were bottomless bottles of red wine magically poured into our giant glasses, plates of appetizers were passed around, by the time my steak arrived, there was no room for more, but I ate every last bite anyway. That was back before I quit meat cold turkey for 4 years and when I was a ball of energy, naturally, all the time, so my metabolism would burn it off.

It had to have been 4 am when I hit the bed and with nothing to do the next day, I slept in a bit. After fully recovering it was time to rent a bike and ride like the locals, no matter how cold it was. Then after an early dinner at an outdoor café sipping tea and people watching, it was time for bed. We had a long flight back to Miami the next morning and I needed my rest. The flight home was a success with all of us acting as if we hadn’t seen each other the entire time and to my knowledge, the pilots never caught on.

2 days after landing, reality set in as I put my waitress uniform back on and headed to my dead end job. The restaurant was corporate so we were only allowed 4 tables a shift, which made it hard to build up tips. Even though waiting tables and making terrible money wasn’t where I had imaged my life at 30, I was good at it and could easily handle 8 tables with my eyes closed. The thought of finding a better job though and having to memorize new menus and start from the bottom again was worse than just staying where I was.

As my regulars drilled me on the details, I bragged about how well I did and that they would be calling any day now to hire me again. That was in early November, by mid January, my high hopes had sunk. Maybe the pilots did know about me hanging out with the clients, maybe the client called and said bad things about me, what was it, why weren’t they calling?????? It was driving me crazy!!!! My lease was up the end of February, my apartment was too expensive and I hadn’t even begun looking for a new place.

Then I received the call of a lifetime, the one that changed everything and you’ll never guess who was on the other line……ribbett?????

(the pictures above are me in Nice first the morning after the big go kart fiasco and the other 2 are Amsterdam, one with me and the bicycle I rented) (oh and used my cell camera to take a photo of those photos, lol, so quality is actually spot on, the photos are old)

Drunk Go Kartng in Cannes France…

The very thought of what was about to happen would only be one you would read about in a book or see in a movie, but it happened and it was the first of so many more, all over the world…..for years!
In my mind, I didn’t comprehend any of it! Rushing your passport so you can take the wealthy across the ocean on a private jet and now waiting for your car to arrive, with a driver….in Nice France, who does that? I was 30, it was 2002 and I had never been out of the Country before and maybe had visited 5 states

in the US.

My driver was amazing. He was French, had a full head of silver grayish hair, a thin scarf and a suit. It was obvious that I hadn’t had many drivers so he thought it would be nice for us to take the scenic route. Our conversation was incredible and he would chime in from time to time to make sure that I saw this historical building or that famous monument, it was a dream.

When he asked me about my schooling, I was a bit embarrassed. I had to drop out of college my senior year, move home and attend Indiana University NW, which was an extension near my hometown. But then I decided to follow my college sweetheart to Georgia and then to chase another boyfriend to Orlando, so I never quite finished. Once I started heading south though, I was in and out of colleges trying to somehow earn enough credits to one day graduate.

For whatever reason I blurted all of that out! Laurent pulled over, turned around, paused for a moment and said, “You’re in the School of Life now, those credits mean nothing here”. He winked, turned the corner and in we went to a real live Boulangerie to have a café and a French pastry with his long time friend who owned the bakery.

As we hugged goodbye, I jokingly said “I promise to write about you in my book one day”, I teared up a bit and I think he did too.

The wonder and awe of the drive quickly faded as I turned around to see masses of people getting into giant luxury busses and I was supposed to meet the client in all if that, with no cell phone, or as they say in Europe, ‘mobile’.

Panic set in as I can hear Mom in my head worried because I was in a strange country where I didn’t speak the language and had no phone….. I’m tough right, or at least I told myself that as I cruised past the people heading towards the entrance and then there he was, easy peasy. Froggie handed me a T-shirt to wear with company information on it while explaining to me why I was there as we boarded one of the busses. Turns out he sponsored the whole event for hundreds of people and we were headed to the best part of the day.

I couldn’t believe my eyes. He rented a huge indoor go kart track where the food and endless bottles of wine were all chilling on huge beds of ice decorated with shellfish, sushi, appetizers, the works. Wait, so why am I hear again….to help he said and while you’re doing that, eat and drink as much as you like while riding super fast go karts all night for free! Now I practically grew up in an arcade walking distance where I grew up in Merrillville Indiana and we never played anything for free, I was in heaven.

When I say super fast, I mean those babies could fly and everyone was ramming into each other. He t-boned my kart hard on a curve and I swear my neck snapped. I was mad and although I wasn’t the fighting drunk anymore, I was competitive and he would pay for that. 3 glasses of wine later and I was Richard Petty on a mission, I got him too, swear I heard his neck snap.

It had to be about midnight and there were a handful of us left cleaning up and saying good night, including the boss. The establishment owner called us a cab and then insisted we wait outside as he needed to close up for the night. The first car showed up which seemed like hours later and only had room for everyone but him and I so the driver called in another for us. We were cool with that, Froggie was just telling me a story about his young daughter anyway.

When the van pulled up full of people, I was devastated. We were drunk, tired and had now been waiting a good hour for a ride and the one that showed up, had no room. Within a blink of an eye, my guide, the man who was supposed to be looking out for me, opened the door, squeezed into the back seat, threw me a $100 bill and yelled, “Call another taxi”. Call another taxi???? And go where????? I was staying in Nice, a good 40 minute drive and a $100 bill was not going to cut it, I was in Cannes France, it’s expensive there!!!!!!!!

Oh wait, there’s more!!! I had no phone, it was dark, I was alone and there were no cars to be seen ANYWHERE!! WTF?????? And then I remembered that the Captain had written down his hotel information just in case I needed it. They screamed back over the loud music that they would send another cab as I watched their taillights slowly fade down the hill. It wasn’t long before my ride came and good thing because I was fuming mad and couldn’t wait to get a hold of him.

Anyone within an ear shot of that hotel had to of heard me beat on his door while yelling his name. This went on for a good 2 minutes while his assistant, who had the adjoining room tried to brush me off through the door saying to go home. That wasn’t happening and they knew it so in I went! There were a million things I wanted to say but I was representing this jet company and really wanted them to call me again so thank goodness something grabbed a hold of me and shook me back to my senses.

He was standing as far from the door in the room as possible kind of laughing but also trying to be serious because he knew he was wrong and I was really upset. I went nose to nose and just said, “What if that was your daughter left there?” After that we sat up for hours drinking wine and getting to know each other and both promised to keep all of this from the pilots.

The next day everyone boarded the plane as we head to our 3rd stop, Amsterdam. The pilots and I greet the guests at the top of the stairs so it was crucial for me to keep it professional in order for them not to suspect a thing. Froggie kept trying to break my zone as I strolled up and down the aisle serving drinks and dinner, but I maintained. As we landed, he slyly handed me a piece of paper with his hotel address on it with a note that said, ‘party with us tonight, be there at 8…’

In one week I was paid $2100 to travel from the US, to Germany, Nice and Amsterdam!

I couldn’t believe my ears when my co worker first told me about being a Flight Attendant on private jets. Say that again, you take care of the famous and wealthy while getting paid ridiculous money flying all around the world on jets???? His girlfriend was the receptionists at the private airport in Tampa and they constantly asked her to fill in when they couldn’t find a regular Flight Attendant. They were always looking for girls with hospitality experience and he wanted to know if I was interested???? Um, YES!!!! So he gave the main pilot my number and within 2 days I was interviewed and hired. 2 problems; One, I already had a job and two, the jet was leaving for Europe 2 days before Halloween, which was about 10 days away and I didn’t have a passport.

If you’ve been reading from the beginning, you would know that I was always broke and had never been out of the US so why would I have a passport? It was 2002, I was 30 years old and I’m sure most people had a passport by then so he was a bit surprised when I revealed the news. But he was good and helped me to get one expedited for like 300 and some dollars, which l’m not lying when I tell you, was all the money I had in the bank.

This was the most exciting thing that had ever happened to me and once all of the anticipation had settled down, it dawned on me that I had no idea what I was doing! The pilot made it sound so easy, just serve food and drinks, not hard right….? I was in for a big surprise. It was the night before the big flight, my shifts at the restaurant were covered and of course I couldn’t sleep! What did I know about taking care of the uber wealthy…nothing that’s what.

Food for the jets was ordered in advance from catering companies who specifically handled the jet industry and they basically took care of whatever you needed, for a price of course. It could be 3 am, 6 hours before a flight and if you needed stone crab, they would make it happen. Meat would be partially cooked so that when the attendants re-heated it in the microwave, yes, the microwave! The galley on a G4 heavy jet, well at least in 2002, is small. There is very limited counter space and minimal storage. If you have 12 guests and everyone ordered a protein with 2 sides, we had to miraculously have all 12 meals out at relatively the same time and hot using a pint sized microwave to plate and heat. I could go all day on this subject, but let’s get back to my trip.

The plan was to take 4 passengers to Germany, Amsterdam and Nice all for 2 nights each. The Captain didn’t have much advice for how to handle the meals and sleeping arrangements but he was adamant about not hanging out with the clients. We are to keep the conversations short and to the point, take good care of them, keep the plane neat and tidy and did I mention, not under any circumstances do we hang out with the clients! No problem Captain, you can count on me to keep it professional.

There was the main principal, his assistant and 2 male associates, who to me, looked like body guards. All 4 of them were under 45 years old, good looking and right from the get go, ready to party. And to be honest a great first flight for me because they were all super chill and didn’t make me feel as if they were better than me or that they needed to be treated like royalty.

The first day in Germany the pilots and I walked around a bit then ate in the hotel which consisted of many types of sausages in all shapes and colors. After dinner, we hit a karaoke bar for some German beer drinking and singing embarrassment. I’m not going to lie when I tell you that Geography and international culture were not my strong suits. So imagine my surprise when I see a group of teenagers sitting at a table with beers in their hands. Drunk Carrie goes running over to ask how in the world they were allowed to be there. Turns out there wasn’t an age limit in Germany and since the kids don’t have to sneak, they don’t take advantage. This would be the first of many things I would learn about how different America is from other parts of the world.

As we were landing in Nice, the main principle, we will call him Froggie, asked for my phone number. What???? OMG, the number one rule was not to hang out with the clients and lucky for me, I didn’t have an international phone so that one was easy to get out of until he asked which hotel we were staying in. Being the professional that I was, I simply told him that we were not allowed to fraternize with the guests so have a great trip and we will see you in 2 days.

As I settled into my awesome hotel room in Nice France while trying not to overheat with excitement, the hotel phone rings. It was my Captain who proceeded to tell me that Froggie had called to ask him if he could borrow me for the evening to help out with a corporate party he was throwing in Cannes. There would be a car arriving in an hour to take me on my 45 minute journey and then returning me back to my hotel that night. Like clockwork, he repeated over and over that this is work, there will be no drinking and no hanging out with him, I was just there to assist and then go home. ‘You have my word Captain and thank you for the opportunity.’

After I hung up there was probably about 5 minutes of me jumping up and down while doing the happy dance in my room. How cool was I, a car would be arriving soon, with my own driver to take me to the place that I’d only seen on TV for the film festival and all the super yachts!!!!!

What happened that night and the next 2 nights in Amsterdam would change the course of my life and I had no idea yet how much…oh and the ‘no hanging out rule’, hah….what no hanging out rule??????

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