Test flight #2, the Dominican Republic

It had been about a week before Kelly called with our 2nd training trip. We were to fly to the Dominican Republic and drop clients off for the weekend, but instead of going all the way back, they booked us into an all-inclusive hotel in order to wait it out. Really? This was my job, I couldn’t believe it, first Vin Diesel and now this! What was even better was that Kelly and I were like best friends right from the start, she was super fun to be around and I could tell she liked me too. After settling into our rooms, the 2 pilots, Kelly and I all met up for dinner and then hit the bar after. The next day we were lounging by the biggest pool I had ever seen and to top it off, it had a swim up bar. If you’ve never experienced one of these, you are missing out.

Just to make this perfectly clear, what I did next was not smart, but if you remember from my previous stories, I was new to smoking bud, well; new as in I didn’t start when I was 13 like most people I knew, I was 27. When I lived in Tampa there were a group of people I hung with that liked to party so for 2 years I indulged a bit on the dark side. It was a running joke that I had never even tried it until my late twenties and it wasn’t something that I did every day.

Well on that particular day, at the swim up bar there was a rather large man sitting at one of the poolside bar stools with a strange-looking cigarette in his hand. He noticed me staring so he asked if I wanted a hit? ‘HERE, I exclaimed?’ ‘Sure, why not, he answered?’ ‘Because it’s illegal!!!’ As I said this, the bartender pulled out a lighter and fired it up. Well I figured if the staff was ok with it, then why not? So I took a couple of hits, thanked him and just as I went to excuse myself, Kelly swam up right up behind me.

There was no doubt in my head that I was busted! Even if she didn’t see me smoke it, I was sure to smell like it. So thinking quickly, I dropped down under the water to wash out my mouth out and then popped up like nothing happened. We chilled by the pool for a bit chatting away and thank goodness she was in the mood to talk because that stuff made me paranoid so speaking was not a good idea. To my knowledge, she never knew but there was a big lesson to be learned that day, which I obviously didn’t grasp because this won’t be the last time you read about me doing something dumb abroad.

I passed with flying colors and was made the number 1 Attendant to call if Kelly wasn’t available. Apparently flight attendants were fired a lot at that company, often without any type of explanation and Kelly was the always the one who had to deliver the bad news. She made it clear that I was her best girl so far and warned me that one little screw up could get me canned but she would do whatever she could to protect me.

My new job was going great but I was still lonely, Sue had moved back to Seattle and other than having dinner with the pilots on the road, I was by myself, desperate to make some friends. The few times that I was brave enough to go out alone, I met some pretty awful, materialistic women. A friend of mine from High School back in Indiana happen to live a few miles away so he offered up his wife to hang with, which was great because we got along right away, but they had a young son, so she wasn’t always available.

Since spring break was big in south Florida so I thought it would be fun to fly my 13-year-old niece in. I would finally have some company and it would be a great experience. A few days before her arrival I was outside washing my car, pulling weeds and getting the house ready when I saw a good-looking guy across the street throwing out his garbage. So over I went to introduce myself. His name was Kevin and he was kind of a good ole boy, my age and super sweet. He had 4 wheelers in his living room, tools all over his coffee table, hunting rifles hanging on the wall and a refrigerator full of beer, perfect. We clicked right away so he invited me to have dinner with him at his neighbors across the canal. I was so excited to meet everyone and they were the coolest people, all super nice to me and they loved to BBQ. Even better, they had kids my niece’s age which meant she would have people to play with.

It was now time to meet some boys so I headed out by myself to an expensive restaurant with a great bar. Apparently this was the spot, especially if your looking for handsome, successful men. Keep in mind I was from Indiana, we didn’t really have rich men running around, even in Tampa that wasn’t common or at least I wasn’t hanging out at the right places, but in Fort Lauderdale, they were everywhere!

There I was, sitting alone at the bar when handsome Dan sat down. He was tall with dark hair and tanned skin, very fit, with a pressed Oxford on, nice slacks and some pretty fancy looking shoes. I had learned from the gold diggers that I was supposed to pay attention to things like expensive watches and what kind of car they drove. He checked off all the boxes but this one guy was different, sweet. Dan spoke very softly as we sat for hours getting to know each other while drinking wine and heavily flirting. At the end of the night, he gave me the sweetest kiss, grabbed my number and said he would be in touch. The butterflies in my stomach were working overtime that night but it was hard to tell if it was him I liked or just the attention, either way, I wanted to see him again.

He contacted me first thing the next morning and we ended up spending 4 days in a row together. The way he spent money on dinner and drinks reminded me of one other man I dated briefly back in Tampa, Herbie. We met at work the Thanksgiving before I moved to Lauderdale. Him and his buddies would come in 2 or 3 times a week, sit in my section and order 6 to 8, $125 bottles of champagne a night. There was never any interest on my end other than to make sure my guests had fun but with Herbie, it was different, there was this heat between us. Every time we stood next to one another I felt like I needed to be closer to him and I didn’t understand because he wasn’t my type. Smoked cigarettes, dominated the conversation, acted like he owned the room, was Cuban and at least 15 years older than me but boy did he know how to charm a girl. One night I was let off early with no plans so him and his crew invited me out. We had so much fun, he could salsa dance and was a great dance instructor plus Herbie loved live music, which is one of my favorite things to do. Over the next few dates he kind of grew on me as we proceeded to have a whirlwind, 2 month romance! I’ll tell you what, with out getting too personal, that man and I had some crazy passion!!! It was never about him when we were together which I had really never experienced before…all I’m saying…Top 3!!!

Unfortunately his passion was the only positive because not only did I discover that his money came from being a huge drug lord but he was also super jealous, so I ended it. At this point I had been pretty much single my whole life with a few long term boyriends, but never engaged and no children, which brings me back to Dan…


First test flight with the boss and it’s with Vin Diesel…

The next week the main flight attendant, Kelly, who had been with the company for years called and said that she would be going with me on my next flight to make sure I was doing everything correctly and then would decide if I was right for the position. In the mean time, I had taken Travis to a doggie daycare facility where he tested with the other dogs and passed with flying colors. It was $40 a night for him to stay there and he loved it! Then I met the neighbors. Our yards were separated by a chain link fence which Travis somehow wiggled his way through and into their doggie door. All of a sudden, he was sitting in their front window and they had no idea where he came from. It could not have been more perfect. My neighbors had 2 dogs that loved to play and thought I was crazy for wanting to pay $40 a day, so they offered to keep an eye on him when I was gone! Everything was lining up perfectly, now I just had to impress the boss on our test flight…and I was in.

Boss lady called me the night before to let me know that Vin Diesel had booked for the next day and we were to fly to Daytona to pick him up from the race. Now Vinnie baby had just released Triple X and was the hot ticket in Hollywood, so after she told me that, my jaw dropped to the floor. OMG, he was hot and I was single, was the first thing that came to mind. She must have sensed that too because her next words were very clear. ‘Carrie, you cannot be star struck, you don’t chat it up with the client, quick yes or no answers and then you make an excuse to go back to the galley, do not flirt or try to pass out your phone number.’ Now I’m not sure if those were her exact words, but I got the picture. She had flown with heaps of celebrities so this was no big deal for her, no matter how hot he was, I had to keep it professional.

We arrived at the executive airport in Daytona where there was a huge tent with free food, TV’s, music and all kinds of things to keep the crew happy while they waited for our clients. As the time passed, the skies started to get a bit grey and the dark clouds were rolling in. It was starting to looking pretty scary outside but no one seemed to be concerned so I just figured it was no big deal. Boss lady and I had our fill of food and were waiting it out on the Gulfstream in order to avoid getting caught in the rain when his limo pulled up. She greeted him at the top of the stairs and I was standing inside, just past the galley, in front of the seating area.

Mr. Diesel looked pretty hot already in the movies, but in person, he was even hotter and wore a tight white t-shirt and jeans….OMG!!! I was so star struck and somehow had to hide it. She seemed cool as a cucumber and thought it was best that I take the lead to see how I do. As he shook my hand, we made eye contact, introduced ourselves and kind of gazed at each other until he sat down. This could have been my imagination or him just wondering why his flight attendant was staring at him like a piece of chocolate cake. The weather outside had gone from a rainstorm to what seemed like a Cat 1 hurricane, if that was a commercial jet, we would have never left the tarmac, but because it was private, we took off anyway.

His buddies immediately went to sleep which left him with nothing to do but talk to me and he did, over and over. I managed to whisper that I’m on a training flight and talking to the clients for too long is strictly forbidden, his response, ‘well I paid for the plane and I want to talk to you.’ During all of this, my boss and I are being thrown around the plane from the storm when we should have been strapped in our seats for safety, but instead we stood in the doorway of the galley, giggling and chatting away with the hottie. At one point, I asked him if anyone ever called him Vinnie unleaded by accident, ha, took him a minute, but he got a chuckle from that one.

As I was clearing away his dinner plate, he asked if he could get my number because he was looking into buying his own jet and would need a flight attendant. Wow, of course I was going to give him my phone number and I just happen to have business cards handy, the hard part was getting it to him without her seeing. So being a clever single girl, I put it under his dessert plate, placed it in front of him and quietly said, it’s under your plate, please be discreet about picking it up. Did I mention how suave he was, even the way he sat in his chair exuded sex, this man was fine and he knew it.

We made it safely to the ground; he shook my hand again and left the plane. To this day I’ll never know if he called, because about a month later I switched from my cell from a Tampa number to a Fort Lauderdale one which was probably for the best. Apparently I did a great job of hiding my flirting because Kelly called the next day and said she is going to conduct one more test flight with me so be packed and ready. You would think since I got away with exactly what she told me not to do on my first training flight that I would be on my best behavior for the next one, but being young and dumb, I did something stupid again….

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old biz card

With $50 left to my name, it was time to suck it up and get a real job…

It was February, 2003, 3 weeks since I decided to pack everything up and leave Tampa after 5 years of living there. Sue our flight attendant on the private jet to Vegas made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. Take over the lease in the house she rented in Oakland Park, which was a suburb of Fort Lauderdale and be her replacement at the jet company. I had looked the city up before heading down and according to the internet; it was an area with a high crime rate. I was a bit worried about what kind of neighborhood I would be living in where the rent was only $500. Not that I wasn’t used to living in shady places. In Augusta, after my college boyfriend moved away, I rented a place for $250 a month, with broken door locks and daily gunshots, so how bad could this place be?

Tampa was great and I never thought I would leave, but who was I kidding? It wasn’t in my nature to stay somewhere for too long, at least up to this point in my life. I had exactly $1400 in my pocket from picking up every shift I could, some furniture, a car and my poor doggie Mr. Travis. I didn’t deserve him, he had put up with a lot, I wasn’t the best dog owner at this point, but was getting better. Not only was I worried about my new living conditions, but there was no guarantee that I would get the job. Sue was going back to Seattle to reconcile with her husband and thought I would be a great replacement for her on the jets, but that didn’t mean I was hired, she wasn’t the boss. There was always bartending and waitressing if things didn’t work out and even though I was great at hospitality, working in restaurants was depressing. At this point though, I had nothing to lose.

When we pulled into the cul-de-sac, I was pleasantly surprised. The houses were cute, the lawns were kept up tidy and the streets were clean, so far so good. But my place, wow, never would I have thought it was would be so awesome. Sue greeted us outside and was eager to show me around. The house was huge, 2 living rooms, a giant open kitchen, 3 bedrooms, big laundry room, fenced in yard with a doggie door, on a canal and with an avocado and grapefruit tree in the backyard! Apparently the lady who owned it couldn’t charge full rent because she would come to Florida from time to time and stay in one of the bedrooms, so Sue was more like a house sitter and I was the luckiest girl in the world.

Sue was amazing, not only as a human being, but she gave me a couple of suit jackets to wear on the plane, told me all the inside tips on how to handle the job, showed me how to pack properly for long trips and introduced me to the owner of the company. Her husband wasn’t coming for a few weeks so her and I would sit around, drink wine and gossip as if we had known each other our whole lives.

It’s crazy how things work out. If I hadn’t had that casual conversation with one of the other servers in Tampa while polishing silverware about working on private jets, he wouldn’t have given my name to the jet company where I met Froggie, the client. If I hadn’t of done a great job with him on the plane then he wouldn’t have called me 2 months later to hire me for Vegas. And if Sue happened to be off that day, we would’ve never met and I’d still be miserable and probably homeless in Tampa.

It had now been about 3 weeks since my move and still no jet job, I was losing hope and running out of cash. Reality had set in, besides jobs like this don’t just land in your lap. Plus my background did not contain five-star service and I had only experienced one flight previous to this. It was time to go back to what I knew best, so I had set up an interview at a local restaurant and then Sue’s phone rang. It was 2 in the afternoon and I was taking a nap when she busted through the door and said, get up, you’re on!!! They needed someone for 7 days at $300 a day and when she told them she was done, they asked for me. Sue wasn’t leaving town for a few weeks so she said she would keep an eye on my dog until I returned, but if this all worked out, I would need to figure out how to take care of my little man.

The house I was renting was less than 10 minutes drive from the executive airport and this last-minute trip was leaving right away. I had no time to think about how things would go on my first flight with this new company. I was so nervous, almost sick as I drove to the airport. Here I was, about to be up close and personal on a private jet with the very elite and responsible for providing exceptional service. My one and only trip back in Tampa was easy, the client was young and not really concerned with how many forks were on the table, but I had no idea what these people would be like. If I did a bad job, that was it, my whole move to Fort Lauderdale wouldn’t so much be a regret, but if I failed, it was back to making minimum wage or waiting tables again. At 30 years old, I had never been married, had no kids and my only skills were either clerical or in a restaurant. This was my one shot and I was not going to blow it!

In all honestly, I don’t remember the specifics of the trip, just that it kept extending and when we were about to land back in Laudy, the office phoned the plane with a last-minute flight to the Bahamas. As the door opened and I was about to greet the guests, you’ll never believe who was standing on the tarmac????

Froggie, my very first client, I couldn’t believe it! He was with a group of friends heading to Atlantis for the weekend and while we were on the flight, he asked if I wanted to stay and hang with them. I could share a room with his body guard and fly back on the jet Sunday. My boss said ok since I had been working nonstop for about 2 weeks straight. So here I am, my first time in the Bahamas except I’m flying there on a private jet and with a free hotel room waiting for me. His friend was having a huge party on a Lyford Cay with a steel drum band, tiki huts, tons of food and some amazing fireworks. I remember looking through the 3d glasses we were given to watch the show, just smiling; not believing any of it was real. But it was, this was my life now and I prayed that I didn’t do something stupid to mess it up.

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