Anyone else would be thrilled to go to Anchorage. Anyone else might get to stay in Anchorage for longer than two hours, and they might go in the daytime when they could see Anchorage. No, for this flight attendant of MarkAir, the Alaska flights meant nighttime flying with no layovers, no time to soak in the beauty of Alaska.
I was used to it by now. I tricked myself into thinking it was not Anchorage, it was someplace else cold, dark, desolate, bleak—like the moon. I told myself I wasn’t really missing out on glorious mountains, glaciers, ocean, trees, and eagles soaring above it all. If you couldn’t see it, it wasn’t really there.
But other people knew what Alaska was, people like the passengers. I’d overhear them, giddy with excitement, about the cruise they would be boarding tomorrow morning, or the hiking trip they were going on. Once I walked past the airport gift shop (closed) and stared through the glass at the Alaska souvenirs. The postcards on the metal rounder mocked me with their saccharine beauty: This is what Alaska looks like when you’re not here.
What I remember most about that year in my life, living in Seattle and flying at night, was how bitterly cold it was. We’d arrive in Anchorage and the gate agent would maneuver the jet way to the front airplane door. She’d give the “all clear” knock for me to open the door after she had attached the springy overhead canopy electronically. It never lined up perfectly, and snow would creep through. I wore my uniform blouse and pants, tights underneath, a heavy wool sweater on top, a scarf, a lined full-length regulation overcoat, plus two blankets. No one ever questioned the blankets.
“Goodbye, thanks for flying with us! Have a great day! Thank you!” the other flight attendants and I would chirp at the passengers as they left our 737 and walked into the frigid jet way tunnel. They grunted pleasantries back at us, half asleep. It was, after all two in the morning.
We’d pass out on the floor of the crew lounge for a quick nap before it was time to fly a new group of semi-conscious passengers back to Seattle. It was dark and cold, just like I felt inside.
I didn’t become a flight attendant to sit in an airport and never get to see the place I’m flying to, I’d lament to one of the pilots later. He’s merely shrug. Then he’d say the polite, “I’m sorry. Guess that’s just the job.” All of our pilots had trained for a month in Alaska, they had seen it in the daytime. They could not commiserate with me and the other flight attendants.
“MOV, time to go,” the purser tapped me on the shoulder. “Wake up, get up off the floor. You need to brush your hair, and then we’re going to start boarding in 20 minutes.”
“Okay, okay, Tammy. I’m up now.”
Maybe I’ll get to go to Alaska again some other time.