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.