Read: Fly Girl, A Memoir

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I knew about sexism and deregulation but no idea the damage. First off, Ann Hood is a good writer. Fly Girl reads effortlessly.

I caught the very tail end of the sophisticated flying era. Sophisticated might be a bit much but I’m going with it. Civil flying. Professional, semi-exclusive and designed to be treated like something special. After all, we are talking about the Jet Age. I would enter the plane in my best clothes, excited, nervous. The pilot would be standing at the front waiting to pin wings on little people like me. Playing cards, trash taken away on trays, not by flight attendants in gloves with trash bags. This, my friends, was the era before air travel became the “Greyhound of the Skies.”

At one point, before taking off from Laramie, Wyoming, I had a chance to talk to the pilot who gave me a quick tour of the cockpit. Just as he brought the plane up to speed on takeoff, over the loudspeaker came “Hang on Dan, here we go.” Our return flight into Laramie was eventful as well. The pilot having to buzz the runway just off the deck in an attempt to clear the antelope off the tarmac. People dressed up, the food was good, everyone seemed remotely happy. They gave out newspapers and carved meat from silver platters in first class. Airports, not all but some, were designed by world class designers. Planes were painted by world class artists and flight attendants wore suits made my Halston and Ralph Lauren.

Good grief how things have changed.

I read this book because I knew I was only familiar with a sliver of this story. I knew about sexism and deregulation but I had NO IDEA the extent of things. First off, Ann Hood is a good writer. Fly Girl reads effortlessly and her book not only describes her career as a flight attendant but also details the history of flight attendants and their contributions to the industry. Like the jump-seat, thank you Ellen Church. The book also describes the training required for someone to fly for TWA, the premiere airline of the era. Let me just say this. I would not have passed the training. Hood, and the rest of her colleagues, endured insane discrimination and sexism that ran rampant up into the 1990s. Reading some of these episodes was infuriating. But there is a parallel story here, and that story tracks Ann’s career as an author. Her writing career first took flight, well, on flights and buses and trains to planes as she worked when she could, filling notebooks while continuing to serve the customer. This alone is commendable. Get it, read it. (I read it out loud to my wife who loved it.)

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