This week, the writer Ann Hood has been keeping me company. I’ve been listening to the audiobook of her just-published memoir, Fly Girl. It’s a memoir of the author’s time as a flight attendant for TWA, starting in the late ’70s, as the glamor of air travel started to fade, due to deregulation and other economic and social changes.
Fly Girl is a wonderfully entertaining mix of insider storytelling (if you’ve never heard the words “cat” and ”breastfeeding” in the same sentence, buckle your seatbelt). A twist on the salacious legend of the Mile High Club had me hitting the pause button and going, “WHAT!”
The wide-eyed Ann Hood saw it all, or saw plenty, while doing a physically, mentally, and emotionally demanding job, and wearing heels, makeup, and a snappy Ralph Lauren uniform. And it’s not all “Coffee Tea or Me?” There’s also the story of commercial aviation, and the experience of women in aviation and in America. I’m learning cool things. (Here’s where I confess that I have never looked at a Boeing 747 and thought “how beautiful,” and I have no idea what a Lockheed L-1011 even is. Ann Hood has me googling for images!)
My own first flight, in 1977, was on good old Icelandic Airlines, with a copy of Let’s Go Europe zipped into my hot pink carry-on bag, a Samsonite of the pre-rollerboard era (you just lugged it, like in an old movie). I’m sure it was nothing like TWA first class, where Ann Hood toiled on transatlantic and transcontinental flights. Although no chateaubriand was carved on my first flight—or any flight since then—the rich detail in Fly Girl chimes with my own memories. It’s fun, and at times uncomfortable, to be reliving that era through the eyes of another woman of my generation. I’ve left out of my own narrative many of the belittling things we had to ignore, or tolerate with a smile.
I’m at the halfway point, soaring through the chapters, which are read by the author, whose voice is warm and clear. It often sounds like she’s on the verge of laughter, or she’s raising her eyebrow. It’s good fun. I can’t wait to hear what happens next, and how this chapter of her life drew to a close as her writing career took off.
Superfluous fact: Ann Hood is a knitter! Many MDK readers will know her 2008 novel, The Knitting Circle. I won’t spoil that one for those who don’t yet know it, but it’s based on a true story of unbearable grief and a Rhode Island yarn shop. Ann Hood is an excellent writer, unflinching and ultimately hopeful. I’m pleased to know her a little, and tickled that she’s currently knitting a temperature blanket!
Recommendation: Give Fly Girl a listen, or a read.