I got a job in Houston right after college. When I was 22, my job was to travel to Arkansas, New Mexico, and around Texas to promote a product to the company's field offices. I thought it was very glamorous to travel all the time. I had my own office* in downtown Houston, but my boss was in Florida, so there was nobody keeping an eye on my comings and goings. I made all my own travel arrangements, which meant American Airlines for everything because I wanted those frequent flier miles and indeed, they eventually took me to Paris and Australia. I got to stay at hotels, which I thought was super cool.
The romance faded pretty quickly once I got tired of never sleeping in my own bed and being really bored in the evenings. Back then, the work day ended at 5:00. No voicemail. No email. Maybe some paperwork I carried with me in my fancy leather and burlap briefcase that gave me such a professional, I know what I'm doing air (along with my Jos A Banks suits and blouses with the stupid little bow ties, but what did I know? I was 22 and this was how to Dress For Success), but once I was through with it, I was D-O-N-E done. Don't you love how all the productivity advances in the past 25 years have accrued to the benefit of The Man?
I was too insecure to eat out alone, so I would go to the grocery store and buy something extravagant that I could not afford at home, like strawberries. Ah, the joy of post-college life when student loans (whose interest was not tax-deductible at that point, anyone who might be annoyed that I did not pay income tax on the $300 I earned as a cocktail waitress) ate up more than 10% of my pre-tax income. When I was in the office, I took peanut butter sandwiches for lunch. But traveling on expense account. Well. The sky was the limit. Strawberries. Cheese. Meat. Paradise.
Evenings became not so boring once I started meeting men in the other cities. In Little Rock, one of the men I worked with introduced me to a bartender friend of his who asked me out. I said yes and then let him take me back to his house even though I didn't know him from Adam's housecat. Thank goodness he was a good guy or that could have been bad. How dumb was I?
Maybe he just wasn't that interested in me after I descended the stairs of the fancy downtown Little Rock hotel wearing my horribly wrinkled Banana Republic (back when BR was a fun place to shop) chambray dress. Sure, it was great for travel but that didn't mean it didn't need to be ironed. Hmm. Maybe it wasn't great for travel after all. A prudent woman with some fashion sense would have called the front desk to ask for an iron and ironing board after not finding one in her room, but I was not a prudent woman with some fashion sense.
Then there was Brian, the room service waiter in Albuquerque who bemoaned the fact that he was 28 and still in college, but my google stalking** has advised me that he has risen fairly high in hotel management, so he did OK in the end. He took me through the back staircase at the hotel and let me help him serve the rooms, which was a lot of fun. We would go out when I was in Albuquerque. I even stayed over a weekend. He let me have his bed and he slept on the couch. Again, I lucked out because what if he'd been an ax murderer rapist?
But he wasn't. The last time I saw him, we said goodbye at the hotel. When I got to the airport, he was there waiting for me with a rose. He had sped ahead of me on his motorcycle to surprise me.
On to the pilot. I had become a little more accustomed to speaking to men, although they still scared me to death. My college boyfriend of three years and I had broken up a few months before. I called all the men older than 30 or so "Mr" Whatever at work, or at least I did until the VP took me aside one day and gently informed me that at the company, we were on a first-name basis.
What I am getting at here is that older men did not attract me as much as they intimidated me. No way I would have pursued an older man.
One day, as I was waiting for my flight home to Houston, the pilot was sitting across from me. He smiled and nodded and I smiled back. We maybe even exchanged pleasantries. I don't remember.
When I got off the plane, he was waiting at the front, as pilots do. He spoke to me, asked me about the flight, whatever. Somehow, he asked if I wanted to have a drink with him. I felt bold, so told him yes. He, not being from Houston, asked where should we go. I suggested the airport bar, but he told me that he was not allowed to be in the bar while he was in uniform. It makes the passengers nervous, he said, even if he is drinking coke.
OK, fine. We'll drive somewhere. Not like I knew any bars, even though I had lived in Houston for a few months now. My fake ID was for getting into country western dance halls, not for drinking. If I had wanted to drink (I didn't), I would have drunk a lot more cheaply on campus. We got to my car. I started driving and making small talk. "How long have you been flying?" I asked.
"I got my license in 1963," he told me.
"Oh," I said, startled. "The year I was born."
Silence. Then, "I don't suppose you're interested in going out with a man old enough to be your father."
I didn't even have to think about that one. What a disgusting idea.*** "No," I said.
I took him back to the airport. Goodbye forever.
My friend Terri, who was married to a commercial pilot, told me I was crazy. "Do you know how much money those captains make?" she asked.
But he was old. Ick.
* Not a cubicle. I had my own office for every job (except when I was in the Peace Corps and I shared an office with my counterpart and the computer) until my last position at the last company, when my SPINELESS BOSS let someone kick our entire team out of our offices in the company HQ and move us to cubicles in a converted warehouse 13 miles away. But I AM NOT BITTER.
** Of course I google my old boyfriends. Don't you?
*** Note that I overcame that hesitation later when I went out with the plane jumper. He wasn't older than my dad, but he was a year older than my mom.