Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Harmon Keller/Alicia Polawski: The Stewardess's Life

Now that I have been living the life of Alicia Polawski for roughly a month and working at her job for a little more than half that, I can no longer say that every day brings a new indignity in a literal sense; most of them have revealed themselves and it is only a matter of how often they repeat.  That the bleeding will not return for several more weeks makes me grateful, but that it will reoccur at all is maddening.

As much as the physical changes on their own are more than a person should be required to endure - and though Lindsey occasionally reminds me that this event has left me younger and more spry, that seems like a minor compensation for not seeing one's own face in the mirror - it is in some ways the lack of a routine that can be most disruptive.  While Lindsey has a relatively set schedule, Alicia's lack of seniority and the disruption caused by the "leave of absence" means I am left with a schedule that is mostly "on call" days, meaning I can be called upon to fly just about anywhere in the United States almost immediately, with the barest time to prepare myself for presenting the sort of Alicia Polawski the outside world expects to see.

There is, I suppose, a sort of logic to Lindsey's suggestion that I spend the free time I have practicing the feminine arts, as not only is she seldom present when I am must make my self presentable as a young woman in the service industry, but her amusement at situations where she may act maternal toward me is rather difficult to swallow.  There is, I admit, an obvious irony to our situation, but she does occasionally mine it for the very simplest of jokes.

Still, even those are preferable to actually performing Alicia's duties.  It is, firstly, unnerving to have people recognize me as Miss Polawski and strike up conversations that pick up upon some point made months ago.  Though it is in some ways convenient to know that, no matter how differently one may act than the person one might appear to be, there will not come a moment where some other person becomes truly suspicious or distrustful, there must be a constant threat to one's own identity in living another's life.  Should I open up to anybody but Lindsey, I would not be believed, and perhaps that other person would make an argument that my true life is a delusion.  Next to that possibility, the idea that taking birth control and putting on a brassiere every morning might become second nature is almost quaint.

Not that I find it likely that I will be opening up about my situation to anybody aside from Lindsey in the foreseeable future.  The other flight attendants are, I suppose, tolerable enough; though some have occasionally made homes about Alicia finding men no matter where she goes, none seem to have made the connection with her month-long absence.  Most seem to enjoy the work, looking forward to when they can choose their "lines" and trading stories about the place's they visited on their last trips or how great it was to have a whole weekend with their boyfriends (and even the men seem to have boyfriends).  Lindsey would probably get along well with them, but I find myself unable to relate to this group, much less spend time with them on layovers, where I generally stay in my hotel room, trying to keep up to date in my actual field.

This, at least, is better than the actual work, which had its ridiculous moments (honestly, who decides to apply for a new credit card during a plane's descent for the chance to have those miles applied?), but does at least give me some level of respect for the people who do this job that I may not have noticed before.  I have never been afraid of flying, but I do admit to having found myself nervous during takeoff and landing, and there is no room for that in this job.  It's also the case that what little downtime you get us during turbulence, so it is difficult to actually relax.

And the people!  When I can detach myself from the immediate incident, it is interesting how the improper behaviors in first class and economy differ.  The people in economy, I'm finding, generally have issues with each other, and mainly yell at me and the rest of the flight crew for how they perceive I am taking someone else's side.  In some ways, it is fascinating to see how they have mostly been trained to accept a decidedly non-ideal situation and accept whatever someone in authority says, while those in business class, who are far more comfortable, not only complain if service is something less than instantaneous, but are far more likely to find reason to touch me while making their points.  It was a bit of a shock, at first, although I warrant it is to be expected with the uniforms Alicia left for me to wear.  The number of phone numbers and hotel addresses is not exactly shocking, given the same situation.

There certainly have also been a number of people in coach who I suspect wait for me to be walking down an aisle before squeezing past me with an erection on the way to the restroom (and do not get me started on cleaning one of those mid-flight!), and people in the front of the plane who expect me too mediate their ridiculous disputes, but so far, this is how it has worked out.  It is unpleasant enough that I often entertain the fantasy, when a flight takes me toward the East Coast, of boarding a train and heading to Maine, although it would be the mark of a cad to abandon Lindsey in this situation, especially since, if I understand how the "curse" iterates, there would simply be nobody in the identity of Alicia Polawski until the Inn reopens in the spring, and who knows what sort of chaos the true Alicia would cause should that happen?

And I have no doubt she would.  Though other former guests of the Trading Post Inn seem to have formed tight bonds with those with whom they share lives, that has not been the case for me.  The man taking my place seems a decent enough person, willing to make sure that the work I do is forwarded properly, but has already broken several of my long-standing routines and spent more of my salary than is reasonable on hockey tickets and ephemera, and as for the actual Alicia Polawski, she and her mother have become sisters with some sort of hipster cupcake shop in Texas, and she has this far been recalcitrant to give me any details that would let me resolve the sex tape mess.  She even tried to lecture me on not having anything to negotiate with if she gave it up, like I needed some girl barely out of her teens to explain leverage to me!  She apparently still thinks she will get some sort of benefit from this rather than simply antagonizing a potential adversary.

She is also fairly insistent about my maintaining this career, alas, so I must prepare for a trip to Chicago, and from there to Detroit, before making my way back in the other direction. 

-Harmon Keller

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