Tag Archives: travel

Allegiance – the European edition

I’m sitting here, nestled between the mountains of central Europe, wondering, ‘wha de rasss I doin hay??’ (Sorry mom, but really – that’s what went through my head and I’m just trying to be honest with the people.) I’m now on the tail-end of what has been a life-changing month of traveling in Europe. The original intent was to attend a Drama Education workshop, plant a flower on the patch of Paddington where Dad’s navel-string is buried,  knock around good old London for a bit, visit a friend in Paris, and come home with the glow of newness, re-energized for life and ready to take on Crop-Over. The actual experience, though, has transcended intent and revealed another dimension to life entirely. Whilst an open mind is a solid foundation for happy travels, some amazing things happen when you travel with an open heart…

  1. You make friends. Real ones.
    It’s not always easy being a creative person – in thought, expression and perspective – especially in a conservative community.Barbados is my paradise home but it doesn’t always ‘get’ me. Bajans are beautiful people but I’ve learned to accept that even as a beautiful Bajan myself, I’m different from a lot of them. I love to reach out and connect with people, but we don’t always speak the same language. It gets tiring sometimes to have to constantly ‘translate’ and I long for moments of understanding, true and common understanding. On this trip, I found that. I made human connections that defied age, race, ethnicity, language, background, class, status, experience and culture. I renewed one golden friendship and made a couple new ones – the kind of friendships that you instinctively know will last always, in one way or another.
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  2. You find affirmation.

    I’m crazy. I’m spontaneous. I’m too ‘spur of the moment’. I’m irresponsible. I’m different. I’m bold. I’m mad. I’m weird. I’m quirky. All these things I’ve been told. As fun as it can be to be me, I sometimes wonder if I’m really going to turn out alright. Kind of ironic that most of the time on this trip, I’ve been the ‘other’, yet it’s affirmed many things about myself that are sometimes problematic. A lot of the time, I’ve been the only West Indian, the only black person, I’ve been the youngest, I’ve been the only English-speaker, the only musician. Perhaps it’s the contrast effect – you know how blue is bluest next to orange? I’m reminded that it’s not just ‘ok’ to be me – it’s a cause for celebration.*
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  3. You find out where your heart is.
    “Home is where the heart is,” it’s said. They also say that “you can never go home again.” I suppose I’ve found that both are true at various times. It’s certainly true that ‘home’ for anyone is defined much more by what is inside you than by what is around you. When you step outside for a moment – outside of your country, outside of your usual mindset, outside of your comfort zone – and the only comforts lay inside you, your core is suddenly and surprisingly distinguishable from all the externals, the people and perspectives that have the most influence on you. The crowd noises are too far away to be heard and your own whispers become shouts and screams. The desires you sacrifice to maintain ‘balance’ are no longer ignorable. The restraints others and you yourself impose aren’t there anymore – you begin to think and act as you truly feel and believe. It can be scary, it often feels unsafe, yet there is no doubt that you are at your freest when your heart is truest ;-).
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  4. You discover that the only bridge between ‘ordinary’ and ‘extraordinary’ is courage.
    Many things are new and you start to exercise your bravery, more out of necessity than anything else. There’s no macaroni pie on the menu, so sure – I’ll have the Erdäpfell-spinat-schafkäseroulade. What do you know – turns out I love sheep cheese. And quiche with goat-cheese. And mountains, and swimming in fresh-water lakes, and dancing to Francophone techno, and a host of other things which required suspension of expectations and activation of courage. After a few days of exercising your courage muscles in everything, down to meals even, you start to become courageous in thought. You think about situations, relationships, dreams and goals, and anxieties. You think about them in ways you never have before. New alley-ways of perspective are suddenly open – you didn’t even realize that fear had rendered them inaccessible. When I get back home, when the familiar is the default, I’m going to challenge myself to choose the option labeled ‘courage required’ a little more often, whether that option is apparent or not. Heck, I’ll invent it when necessary. Extraordinary is well within reach.
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  5. Wine is fabulous.I’m serious.If ever there was a doubt, Alcaeus is verified – in vino veritas. The Europeans are really onto something. I’ve always liked wine, and Bajans bust it out at the special occasions – the artsy-fartsy events, recitals, parties, proper dinners. Some like to have a glass while everyone else is having rum, to distinguish themselves as ‘cultured’ or whatever. In my house, the standard liquid requirement is mauby. Ya caan not got mauby in de cubburd. When tings tight, might not got nuh soft-drinks nor nuh Tampico nor even nuh pine-hill juice tuh offuh, but if you come at me ya know ya cud at least get lil sweet an dandy. And that’s how these folks are about wine. Any and every day, any and every occasion – from sun-bathing on the lake to lazing in the hotel room, dinner, dancing, driving, whatever. You share a glass or two (or bottle or two…) and you’re so relaxed – the guard is down and all company is free to communicate honestly and simply. And honesty and simplicity are key.*
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About 36 hours left ‘til I leave Europe, and I can’t wait to keep living. With these new lessons in the bag, I’m certain that life will be spectacular.


I don’t have to take this!! I’m going home!!!

“To the f—–g a–hole who told me to f–k off, it’s been a good 28 years,” Slater, 38, purred, cops said. “I’ve had it. That’s it,” he added, a passenger said.

The mad-as-hell steward grabbed a couple of brewskis and popped one open before activating the emergency exit, witnesses told airport employees.

– Read more from the NY Daily News http://bit.ly/9O9LFG

In happier times

By now we have heard about Steven Slater, a 38 year-old fight attendant of Jetblue Airlines who threw up the deuces minus the index finger in more ways than one to passengers on his flight on Monday. After activating the emergency chute he walked through the airport, got into his car, drove home and got into bed… allegedly.

When I first caught wind of this I have to tell you, I was almost brought to tears I was laughing so hard. I’m sure I was not alone in my initial reaction. In retrospect, though it was not my proudest moment finding comedy in another’s pain, I am human. Beyond that, there are some very serious issues that this incident highlights. As a member of a service-oriented industry and as a fairly frequent flyer I can’t help but have mixed emotions about this incident.

The issues are identifiable, but far from exclusive or self-sufficient. Being in the business of serving others directly, which differs greatly from having employment in a service industry, is a task. Most of the time you are trained to people please, appease the customer because he/she is always right, and cater to the customers’ needs because their business and loyalty are invaluable. And as well we should because “humans” are the greatest commodity. But often times even the presence of blatant customer error, employees are forced to operate by the standards of practice of the company to placate the customer and furthermore, to stay employed. Let’s face it you may not love your job but you sure as hell like having one to pay these bills.

Slater was allegedly hit in the head, either with a bag or the door of the overhead compartment, by a rude and belligerent female flyer who refused to adhere to Slater’s repeated requests to do what airlines want passengers to do before taking off. He flipped, the words as quoted from NY Daily news were spewed from the depths of his embittered soul, and he left… Like Steve Urkel, he decided he didn’t have to take it anymore and … he went home. If you have ever worked in retail or any other type of customer service, especially offering a product to customers who think their shit smells like Chanel No.5 (and it probably does cause they have the money to make that happen from the inside out), you have encountered your fair share of people who believe they are above the law, or above the “silly little musings of a poor little servant girl”. But like you were droided trained to do, you smile and serve. Do this for 20 years, lose your dad to disease in recent years and travel back and forth to take care of your mother who is terminally ill with cancer (deep breath in) and you might find yourself saying what a courageous man he was, not for snapping, but for activating the chute before jumping off the plane.

On the other side of the fence, you have already been terrorized so much by the process that it is not strange to find yourself in combat mode by the time you are seated on your flight nowadays. Flying has become the tunnel at the end of the light (#HIGO): hidden fees, long lines, bag checks, pay per bag, pay per pound, over zealous TSA agents, lackadaisical TSA agents, kleptomaniac passengers, delayed flights, delayed flights on the runway, delayed flights on the runway for hours, NO FOOD ON DELAYED FLIGHTS ON THE RUNWAY FOR HOURS, no leg room, the guy sitting behind you that won’t take his knee out of your back, turbulence, $7 sandwiches, $5 for 8 mini pretzels… I think you get the idea. Add to that all the stress that’s already going on in your life and, yeah! I could see how turning into Lara Croft/the Incredible Hulk is absolutely possible.

I think we can all agree that there is something inherently wrong and getting exponentially worse with the airline industry, that is, as passengers. But now Flight attendants the world over are hailing Slater as a hero, showing us that the problem goes deeper than we think/know.

It is difficult, extremely difficult, to strike any kind of balance between customer satisfaction and employee satisfaction on a regular day. In a tough economy where loyalty is a dominant currency in business this is even more complicated to achieve. Regardless of the complexity of the issue, in service, customers and employees in direct contact with customers are equally important. Loyalty then, like real currency, becomes subject/victim to the dynamic relationships under pressure.  The boss, the server and the customer all expect loyalty or some form of respect from the others in different levels and capacities. The man in charge suffers , but he suffers differently and is compensated far more adequately for current and future suffering. The customer has recourse in complaints, word of mouth discrediting of the service and taking their loyalty else where. The server has quitting or disciplinary action. (insert blank stare)

It’s unfortunate what happened on that Jetblue flight on Monday, but it proves that human equals humane NOT ! (Borat voice of course). My advice is the next time you find yourself in a position where you could possibly end up going to jail, costing someone his/her livelihood, or costing someone his/her life… take a second to count to 10. Hopefully before you get to 10 you will realize that as shitty as your day has been, there is that possibility that this person’s life may be inceredibly worse. Not that you should take joy in that, because you shouldn’t but it should have one of those transcendent, we-are-the-world, empathetic feels about it. And if empathy isn’t your thing maybe pity from the thought that their life is so much more depressing than yours will give you cause to pause before you act. Something has got to give!