<![CDATA[JENN GRAHAMS - Blog]]>Thu, 22 Feb 2018 10:43:09 -0500Weebly<![CDATA[How to File a Claim Against TSA]]>Sat, 07 Nov 2015 20:54:52 GMThttp://jenngrahams.com/1/post/2015/11/how-to-file-a-claim-against-tsa.html In a time where everyone has something terrible to say about the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), I am usually the “black sheep” who will stand up and defend this government organization.  Perhaps I am slightly biased because one of my best friends works for them or perhaps I am simply naive in thinking TSA's presence at airports DOES act as a deterrent to further acts of terrorism on planes.  Regardless, although this is not a TSA-bashing article (as so many are), I will say TSA is an organization comprised of imperfect human beings and because of this, someone at TSA messed up earlier this year while I was traveling.  The end result of this error was that my personal property was damaged.

When I first discovered my property was damaged, I knew immediately the culprit could be none other than someone from TSA.  In the following step-by-step guide, I will lay out the process for making a claim against TSA.  In my case, justice was served.  After a lot of patience, I was granted the full amount needed to replace the damaged item and I am completely satisfied with the end result.

No one is perfect and I’m a forgiving person.  At the same time, when the government screws up, it’s nice to know they will at least reimburse you for the damages.

Safe flying!
Jenn Grahams

Step 1: Determine the Appropriate Action

Your stuff was damaged during transit within the United States and you are rightfully upset about it, but who should you blame? 

A few questions you should ask yourself are:

  • Did the damage to your property happen within your sight? 
  • Is it possible the damage occurred during the packing process or while you were traveling to or from the airport? 
  • Was the property within a checked bag and perhaps the fault of an airline, not TSA?

For the purposes of this Step-By-Step guide, I will be discussing damage rendered to checked baggageIn most cases, lost or damaged baggage will be the fault of the airline on which you were traveling.  For these claims, it is important to contact the airline directly via their website or Customer Service phone number to begin the claim process with them.

You should only file a claim against TSA (instead of the airline) if you have a strong reason and supporting evidence to support your claim.

Making a false claim against TSA and/or using fraudulent evidence in a TSA-related claim could result in a personal fine upwards of $5,000 and possibly even land in you jail for up to 5 years!

In my case, it was perfectly clear TSA was the appropriate authority to which I should submit my claim because the evidence pointed to negligence from a TSA employee, NOT an airline employee.

If / when you decide that making a claim against TSA is appropriate, you have 2 years from the date of incident to make your claim, but don't be a slacker!  Act quickly while you still have the evidence you need to make a claim!

Step 2: Gather Information and Evidence for Your Claim

Per the Transportation Security Administration's claims website:
"Provide as much detail as possible including receipts, appraisals and flight information to avoid delays [in processing your claim]."

Here is a list the data I needed in my claim for damages made to my checked baggage:
  • Personal Contact Information (Name, Address, Phone Number, Email, Marital Status, Birth Date)
  • Date of Incident
  • Time of Incident
  • Travel Itinerary Information (Airline Names, Flight Numbers, Flight Times)
  • Description of Damaged Item
  • Value of Damaged Item (Include original purchase receipt or appraisal if at all possible!)
  • Description of the Damage
  • Cost of Replacing / Repairing Damaged Item (Research it! Provide Quotes!)
  • Checked Baggage Tag Number / Tracking Sticker Used By Airlines
  • Witness / Travel Companion Information
  • "Basis of Claim" (More Info Provided Step 3!)
Here is a list of the photographic evidence I used for my claim:
  • Photo of Baggage Tag Number
  • Photo of Damages to Property
  • Photo to the Item's Packaging / Bag Used to Transport Item (including TSA inspection notices)

Step 3: Writing Your Claim

Download a copy of the PDF titled "Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Claims Management Branch Tort Claim Package".

At the time of this article, it could be found HERE on the TSA Claims webpage.

Using the information you gathered above, filling out the form should be painless and easy.  Simply insert your information into the appropriate boxes.

When you've finished with the easy portions, take some serious time to address the following sections:
PAGE 2, SECTION 25. -- Why do you believe that TSA was Responsible?

These sections are probably the most important determining factor on whether your claim will be accepted or denied.  It's important that you include concise and clear descriptions for both!  Use facts, not emotions when writing.  Describe, do not rant.  You are probably upset about the damages, but the bureaucrat reading this form doesn't care.  Think of this as a court case.  You are your own lawyer so be level-headed and stick to writing as objectively as possible.

In the BASIS OF CLAIM, describe exactly what happened.  Describe when you last inspected your property before travel.  Mention who else (if anyone) also came in contact with the property.  Indicate how you packaged your item for travel.  Include when and where your property came in contact with TSA employees.  Indicate when you first noticed your property was damaged. (You can describe HOW it was damaged in a different section.)  Describe what steps, if any, you took to contact the airlines about the problem.  When filling this form out on the computer, this section is restricted to 1,100 characters including spaces!

Here is a small sample of what I included in my claim:
"On [DATE], the night prior to travel, I packed a brand new Lori Greiner Tabletop Spinning Mirrored Jewelry Safekeeper into a large suitcase.  The jewelry box was removed from its original packaging and a few soft items were packed inside of it.  At this time the jewelry box appeared to be in factory condition; the blue tape across the mirrors was not removed.  The jewelry box was then reinserted into its ORIGINAL packaging (a cardboard box with custom-fitted Styrofoam inserts).  I packed three more boxes around the jewelry box’s packaging so that its cardboard box would not jostle during transport.  I added another layer of Styrofoam on top (see photo).  On [DATE] I checked my bag with [AIRLINE] at the [CITY] Airport.  On [DATE], I unpacked my bag at home.  Upon opening the bag, everything appeared to be intact.  The exterior packaging showed no sign of jostling, denting, or damage; however, the jewelry box itself had a crack in the mirror which was not there when it was packed. 
I found TSA Notice of Baggage Inspection Forms both OUTSIDE and INSIDE the jewelry box (see photos)."

Your BASIS OF CLAIM will be stronger if you can support it with photos.  Here are a few of the photos I included in my claim.  (I was fortunate I noticed the problem immediately after unpacking and was able to photograph how my item was packaged in the checked bag!)

In SECTION 25, you are asked to answer the question, "Why do you believe that TSA was Responsible?" In this section you are allowed (at last!) to give your own opinion concerning the incident.  Try to remain civil in your accusations, but it is appropriate to finally reveal your opinion on how you think someone at TSA really screwed you over.

Here is what I wrote for this section:
As per my BASIS OF CLAIM description, the jewelry box’s mirror was undamaged at the time of packing.  Upon unpacking the checked bag, there was no sign of baggage jostling or “rough handling” of the bag’s contents as everything including the layer of Styrofoam was still in place.  Inside the cardboard box, however, the jewelry box was somehow damaged. A TSA Notice of Baggage Inspection Form was INSIDE the jewelry box, indicating that the item had been removed from its original packaging and handled by TSA.  It my belief that during the TSA inspection, something hit or bumped the jewelry box’s exterior mirror, resulting in the half-moon crack on the mirror’s surface."

Step 4: Send Your Claim and Get Ready to Wait

There are 3 methods to deliver your completed Tort Claim Package to the TSA's Claims Management Office.  Your choices are:
  • E-mail
  • Fax
  • Snail Mail

Please check the TSA's website or look at the bottom of the PDF Tort Claim Package to find the most updated addresses and fax numbers for your claim!

At the time I made my claim, the E-MAIL option was not available and there was a longer wait for snail mail so I went to my local library and used their fax machine to send in my paperwork.  Today, email will certainly be the fastest way to process these claims.  Nevertheless, prepare for a wait!  It can take up to 6 months to complete the claim process!  Once you've received a status claim number in the mail, you can track your claim's process by clicking the "Check Claim Status" on TSA's website.

For me, the long process was worth the wait.  After several months of patiently waiting, I received this letter in the mail, indicating my claim would be made in full.

Step 5: Getting Your Payment

The Last Step:
At the time I made my claim, there was ONE ADDITIONAL STEP to the claims process.  I had to sign a letter saying that I wished to collect my reimbursement funds and indicate how I wanted the funds to be delivered.  If I had not responded, I would not have received my reimbursement!

Although TSA has recently updated its claims process, I am fairly certain this last step still applies.  You will be required to provide the TSA with information regarding how you wish to be paid.  Thus, it's important to pay close attention to any follow-up information you receive from TSA and make sure to respond in a timely manner so that your efforts do not go to waste!

I hope you found this helpful!  Have a question?  Write me in the comments below and I will try my best to help!  Good luck and safe flying from your favorite flight attendant, Jenn Grahams.

<![CDATA[The Mouse Hunt]]>Tue, 03 Nov 2015 01:39:33 GMThttp://jenngrahams.com/1/post/2015/11/the-mouse-hunt.htmlAutumn is fast approaching.  We've had a few frosty mornings in my hometown and as a result, a little mouse was devious enough to break into our home in search of warmth and food!  Late one night when we were about to put the chinchillas to bed, my husband glimpsed something scurrying across the carpet and into the pantry.  I'm sure the chinchillas would have loved having a fellow rodent as a playmate (and I wonder if perhaps if the mouse had made nightly visits before!), but we needed to catch the little guy and get him out of our home!  Doing so proved quite the challenge.  Here is a video of the exciting mouse hunt!

~Jenn Grahams
<![CDATA[10 Photos of American Images in German Products]]>Mon, 21 Sep 2015 13:24:50 GMThttp://jenngrahams.com/1/post/2015/09/10-photos-of-american-images-in-german-products.htmlOktoberfest is here, but Americans won't start celebrating until next month because no one can understand why a holiday named Oktoberfest would start in September!  (This article explains the reason and the History of Oktoberfest!)

Sometimes I feel sorry for ze' Germans.  Oktoberfest reinforces the American prejudice that all Germans must be beer-guzzling lederhosen-clad or dirndl-wearing party-goers when in fact, the German culture is so much more!  However, before I can feel TOO SORRY for Germany, I remember ALL the crazy American stereotypes I saw while living abroad!!!  It was amazing/funny/a tad annoying how the "American image" was used in marketing everything from cheese to carnival games!

Here are a few of the examples I found of U.S.-American imagery used in German products.  What do you think?  Leave me a comment!

Happy travels and safe flying!

I don't know about you, but I've never seen BBQ-Curry flavored fries in the United States.
I think someone thinks Toast means Cheese! This product is from Austria, but I found it in a German supermarket!
"The Giant Hamburger" food stand at a festival in Stuttgart.
American Style Nails!
American Pancakes for less than 1 Euro!
Want to win a stuffed Snappi doll? Try out this Super Bowl carnival game!
Nothing symbolizes freedom better than Lady Liberty holding the pieces of a Skee Ball game!
This really IS the bread that most Americans buy. I miss my German bakeries and freshly baked loaves of Pumpernickel!
(Upper Left) Uncle Sam wants YOU to watch the live boxing.
Not just any jeans....these are red, white, and blue! They must be American!
I will send out another bimonthly newsletter soon!  Click here to sign up: tinyurl.com/jenngrahams
<![CDATA[The Difficulty in Being Brave - A Flight Attendant's 9/11 Reflection]]>Fri, 11 Sep 2015 02:37:08 GMThttp://jenngrahams.com/1/post/2015/09/the-difficulty-in-being-brave-a-flight-attendants-911-reflection.html
I took this photo in May 2002 at the 9/11 site. The wall was filled with tokens of support from around the world.
We will never forget.

I grew up in Nebraska.  We were thousands of miles away from New York when it happened, but September 11th was still an attack on our country and it impacted our lives greatly.  My parents felt it was important for me to see it with my own eyes and so in May 2002 we made a somber visit to the former site of the Twin Towers.  It was a pit filled with a mess of steel that was being sorted out by construction workers.  My parents wanted me to know it was real.  It was a very real, very horrible tragedy in which the lives of so many innocent people were lost.

I tried to go back years later.  I tried and failed.  This is a short story I wrote to cope with my feelings afterwards:

The Difficulty in Being Brave by Jenn Grahams

“Be brave,” I commanded myself while riding the subway downtown.

I had whispered those encouraging words under my breath a lot since having moved to New York City four months ago.  I was the girl who needed to keep being brave.  Starting a new job had been scary enough, but when my new career as a flight attendant had also required that I move to the Big Apple, the task had been almost unthinkable.  I was the girl who had grown up in a state that had more cows than people.  For me, New York City was a faraway, mythical land; a place as foreign to me as China.  Fortunately, with the support of many family members and co-workers, I had made the move and was thriving in my new home.  Certainly there had been days of getting lost and hours spent figuring out the local transit system, but ultimately, I had grown as a person and adjusted to the strange, urban environment.  I knew I could be brave, but when facing a gravesite, I felt my bravery would truly be tested.

There were only two more metro stops to go before reaching the World Trade Center subway station and so internally I reviewed my mission.  I was finally going to visit the 9/11 Memorial.  I was finally going to pay my respects to the men and women who lost their lives on that tragic day in 2001. 

“Be brave,” I told myself again, but a mounting sense of dread loomed over me like a dark cloud.

As a flight attendant, I held a deep connection to the plane crashes that brought down the Twin Towers.  Although I was just a teenager when it happened, the significance of the horrific events that had played out on the news was not lost on me.  My father was a pilot for a commercial airliner and (Praise be to God!) he had just flown out of New York City the morning of September 11th, hours before it happened. 

As a pilot’s daughter, I had flown abundantly throughout my childhood and until 9/11, had never seen flying as unsafe.  It was a terrifying moment to suddenly think that your father’s life, just like the lives of the people on United Airlines Flight #175 and American Airlines Flight #11, could end in an instant.  Perhaps surprisingly, this revelation did not deter me from eventually seeking a job in the airline industry.  If anything, 9/11 fueled a deep desire for me to emulate the acts of bravery that abounded that day.  I was inspired by the countless number of heroes that put themselves in harm’s way to save lives including firefighters, police officers, emergency responders, courageous New York citizens on the scene, and the individuals on United Airlines Flight #93 that crashed in rural Pennsylvania. 

My musings on these tremendous acts of heroism faltered, however, as the subway train pulled to a jerky stop.  I exited the car and shuffled up a stairwell with a swarm of bustling people.  When the crowd dispersed, I was left alone at the intersection of Barkley and Church Street standing in the shadow of the recently completed One World Trade Center building.  I craned my neck back and caught my breath as I gazed at the enormously tall fixture of glass and steel which had replaced the fallen towers. 

I knew that a few blocks away I would find the 9/11 Memorial.  I had seen pictures online of the two square-shaped reflection pools that mark the former location of the Twin Towers.  Water pours across the two empty holes which are paved in concrete brick.  There is a banister bordering the uppermost level that is lined with sleek, gray panels in which the names of the dead - their lives unjustly stolen - are inscribed.  I squeezed my eyes shut and envision myself standing there in the photograph and the moment I did, the tears came.

“I can’t.  I can’t do it.”

The thought of defeat repeated over and over in my mind.  I wanted to see the memorial.  I wanted to pay tribute to those brave and heroic people, but that important visit did not happen.  Instead, I turned and fled back into the subway to make the hour ride return to my place in Queens and to save the journey for another time. 

Although my visit to the graveside was unfulfilled, I am left with a small bit of hope that bravery is not instantaneous.  Bravery, I hope, is a mindset, a trait, a determination that we must seek to find within ourselves and once found, something we can cultivate so that it can someday be used for the good of others.
<![CDATA[10 Photos from the Best Show in Las Vegas]]>Tue, 25 Aug 2015 12:43:15 GMThttp://jenngrahams.com/1/post/2015/08/10-photos-from-the-best-show-in-las-vegas.htmlPictureLe Reve performs at the Wynn Theater.
LE RÊVE, French for "the dream", is the perfect name for the water and acrobatic performance featured at the Wynn hotel and casino in Las Vegas!  The show's plot is simple: A young woman must decide her answer to a marriage proposal.  She falls asleep and as she dreams her thoughts take her to a colorful world filled with mythical creatures, stunning sights, and passionate emotions - all of which reveal her inner struggle.

LE RÊVE is distinctly different from other Vegas shows because the actors (or should I say, athletes?!) perform on a moving stage in a pool of water.  The technical side of the show is absolutely mind-boggling.  A team of scuba divers are under the stage directing traffic, helping the actors, and sending up props.  Actors all have diving experience and must breathe through regulators sometimes when waiting underwater for their cues.  You can learn more about the show's technical side here:
LE RÊVE is a show you could watch a hundred times and still find something new and interesting you didn't notice before!  There is so much happening all at once!  You want to keep your eyes on the endearing water sprite character, but then your eyes dart over to catch someone's backflip and then you're entranced by a flock of angels that just dropped from the ceiling!  I sat in shocked silence. I laughed. I cried. I almost fainted at one point because of a dangerous stunt!  It truly is the best show in Las Vegas and it is well worth the ticket price.  Go see it!

Photography (without flash) is allowed during the performance.  Below you'll find some photos my husband took during the show we saw on January 16, 2015.  Which one do you like best?  Are there other Vegas shows you recommend?  Write me a comment in the space below!

Safe travels and happy flying!
~Jenn Grahams

Fire dancing on the water!
Will you marry me? = The show's driving question.
We were so close to the stage! The theater is circular so every seat is a good seat!
I want those red shoes!
These suit-clad gentlemen were the "clowns" of the show and they were hilarious!
It was easy to forget you were sitting in a crowded theater because the lights would hide audience.
The timing has to be perfect or he could sit another swimmer.
You can't tell, but this globe is twirling around and there is NO safety net, just water below.
See diver? See water? I wasn't sure if this stunt was going to work, but he made it!
<![CDATA[The Gate Keeper, The Punk, & The Flight Attendant - A True Crime Story]]>Mon, 17 Aug 2015 16:45:18 GMThttp://jenngrahams.com/1/post/2015/08/the-gate-keeper-the-punk-the-flight-attendant-a-true-crime-story.html
Photo Credit - Adrian Snood
I noticed him right away.  He sat in an airport wheelchair, the overly wide kind with my airline’s logo stamped on the back.  He was hunched over, the shoulder blades beneath his shirt pushed high into the air like a kid portraying Quasimodo in a school play, but his “costume” of neon orange sunglasses and a lopsided beanie hat made him look less like the hunchback bellringer and more like a certified beach bum.

“Punk,” I thought, as I crossed the airport lobby, disgusted.  A thousand people were crisscrossing the area, scurrying and panicked, getting checked in for their flights out of Los Angeles.  Most didn’t notice him, but I did.  Even though I wasn’t in flight attendant uniform, just being in the LAX airport awoke my instinctive need to plaster a smile on my face while simultaneously putting my brain on high alert, looking for suspicious activity.  That is my job after all and despite being on vacation, I couldn’t just set aside my training and NOT notice this punk kid sitting in that wheelchair, pathetically pretending to be an old man just so he could have a comfy seat next to the one and only wall outlet in the lobby!  I couldn’t help but peer closer and see his fingers poking away at the cell phone tucked between his legs.

Part of me could empathize with him. There’s never enough seating in airports.  I too was hoping to sit down and the airport lobby was like a barren desert when it came to seating.  Fortunately, the hubby and I found a place to rest; a ledge near the escalator that led upstairs to security.  At its base was a young lady, probably only in her early twenties.  She stood at her full-height, chin held high, and eyes fierce as she demanded the tickets of everyone who approached her. 

“The Gate Keeper,” I observed.  A very young woman, entrusted with much authority.  I didn’t envy her position.  A minimum wage job, probably.  A job with plenty of confrontation, certainly.  As the Gate Keeper, she was in charge of turning away passengers who had oversized bags.  She was in charge of telling them to “make it fit in the bag sizer” or go back to the ticket counter and pay hundreds of dollars. 

“She’s just a kid, really,” I decided, feeling that early twenties still warranted a “kid” title.  Behind the bag sizer I saw a fabric sling purse, something I would have owned back in high school.  It was colorful and bright and probably what the Gate Keeper would wear after work.  I could just imagine it.  She would sling the cute purse with its stripped blue and white print over her left shoulder and trot down a California beach with her friends, looking like a completely different person once she had changed out of her black slacks and hideously maroon airport vest.  She would be smiling and happy and certainly not resemble the type of person who could stop you from going up an escalator.

I tried not to stare too long, but I found it fascinating to watch her and think about her life, to imagine me being one of her friends and how we would hang out at the beach together later.  It was probably during one of these musings that the punk came over.  I glanced at him warily.  He was just a few feet away from me now, dragging behind him a rollaboard suitcase as if it were Linus’s filthy blue blanket.

“What are you up to?” I wondered silently.  “Trying to find a way to sneak past this girl?  Trying to find a way to get up the escalator without her knowing?”

It was strange.  He was just standing by the bag sizer and looking at her.  Waiting.   

“Oh, no. Please don’t make a run for it when her back’s turned.”  I groaned inwardly.  I didn’t want to get involved, but it was too late now that I was conscious of the pending situation.  What would I do if he tried to sneak past her?  As an airline employee, heck, just as a concerned citizen, I felt obligated to stop this guy. 

I tried to shake off my paranoia, but then during a break in the passenger traffic, the Gate Keeper turned her back.  In two giant steps, which to me were the size of football fields, she walked away from her post even and then to my horror, turned her gaze around the corner and starting addressing another airport employee!  That’s when the punk moved.  I caught my breath. He stepped forward and completely surprised me.  Instead of making a run for it, he stepped forward and then simply bent down, picked up his rolling bag, hugged it to his chest like a teddy bear, and walked away.

“That’s right.  Keep walking,” I growled at him, narrowing my gaze and feeling quite certain that somehow my powerful mind had deterred the punk from doing something terrible.  Of course, after ten minutes had passed without incident, the punk now completely out of sight, my earlier judgement seemed silly.  I had been completely overacting.  In fact, I ought to feel a bit sorry for the guy.  Here I was, calling him a punk and completely judging his appearance because –

“My bag!” I looked up. The Gate Keeper was looking straight at me, the fierceness from her eyes replaced by a wide-eyed look of distraught.

“Did you see my bag?” the Gate Keeper asked me and for a moment, I was completely thrown off guard.  I had been watching her from a distance almost as if she were on a television screen and so, for a brief second, I had forgotten she could see me too.

“Your bag…” I repeated, as the invisible wall between us faded.  Then, it all became clear.  The bag, her cute fabric sling purse that had been discretely hidden behind the bag sizer, was gone.

The girl lost her wallet, a phone, and car keys.  She was devastated.  We talked with the police.  We rattled off the details as if we had rehearsed it, like actors in a skit.

“Caucasian man.”

“Probably late twenties. He was wearing, um..”

“Neon colored sunglasses!”

“Yes! That’s right.  They were orange.”

“Bright orange!  Neon!  And he was sitting in a wheelchair earlier…”

“Yes! The ladies over there had to kick him out of it.  He was a real jerk about it.”

We had paid attention.  We had done our jobs.  We had both noticed the most suspicious person in that airport lobby, but in the end, he got away with it. 

This time, I failed.  Next time, I won’t dismiss my instincts. 

The type of crime I witnessed is known as Slider-Theft.  Learn more HERE.

Stay safe out there!
Jenn Grahams

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<![CDATA[5 Ways Flying Can Ruin Your Electronics]]>Wed, 05 Aug 2015 15:19:59 GMThttp://jenngrahams.com/1/post/2015/08/5-ways-flying-can-ruin-your-electronics.html Cell phones, laptops, tablets, music players, and eReaders are quite commonplace in the United States and they are items which make flying more enjoyable! Thanks to the FAA’s new regulation passed in October 2013, many (but not all) of these electronic devices are now approved for use during ALL phases of flight, giving passengers more time to play games, watch movies, or work on their devices. As a rough estimate, I would guess that over 60% of the passengers on the domestic flights I work within the United States I see using some type of electronic device during flight. If you are one of those Candy Crush players, web surfers, or ebook readers, I would recommend considering the danger that flying poses to your personal property.

Unfortunately, flying poses some risk to your personal electronic devices, a fact which most passengers never even consider! As a flight attendant, I’ve seen and heard it all so let me share some insight into the world of flying with electronics. Listed below are my top five horror stories concerning electronic devices being stolen or damaged during airline travel.

#5  The Seatback Crusher

Leg room is getting smaller and smaller on commercial flights. When the person in front of you leans their seat back fully, you almost feel it's polite to make a formal introduction! (“Hello. My name is Jenn and you’ll be resting your head in my lap on this flight!”) 

A passenger told me how the lack of clearance between seats directly resulted in the death of his laptop. My frequent flier friend was going about his usual day, pulling out his laptop after 10,0000 feet and preparing to get some work done. He pulled down his tray table, moved his laptop to the tray table's back edge, and began typing up an important email. Moments later, he was taken by complete surprise as the person in front of him forcefully dropped his seat into the most reclined position. SNAP! The screen of the laptop caught under the seatback and literally snapped in half as the passenger’s chair came flying backwards. 

“That’s horrible!” I gasped, as the man recounted this story to me. “What could you do? Did you confront the person in front of you?”

The business traveler said his laptop was completely broken. There was no way to fix it and because it was an innocent mistake of the person sitting in front of him, there was no way for him to collect any sort of compensation for the broken device.

Lesson: Be cautious of placing your laptop on the tray table’s back edge. Your computer could get crushed!

#4 Liquid Drop Zone

On your next long flight to L.A., you might hope to get an aisle seat. That gives you a little more legroom and a chance to get up without inconveniencing others, right? Well, little did you know that the aisle seat comes at a cost. The aisle seat puts you, the passenger, directly inside the Liquid Drop Zone.

Sadly, this next story comes from personal experience. I was working in Main Cabin. I remember feeling rushed. Perhaps we were running late with our service or maybe the captain had reported choppy weather on the horizon. For whatever reason, my co-worker and I were working as quickly as possible to finish our drink service. I served a woman tea with milk and sugar. For the milk, we use a small carton, the individual serving size you might have received on a lunch tray in elementary school. I found out a second later that when dumped, that little individual serving size of milk looks like a tidal wave. As soon as I set the milk back down on the cart, my co-worker unknowingly bumped the carton with his hand as he reached for something and I watched in shocked silence as the milk carton plummeted upside down and flopped down onto the keyboard of a man’s laptop. It was one of the most embarrassing moments of my career.

I wish I could say that flight attendants accidentally spilling liquids was as infrequent as a solar eclipse, but unfortunately, I’ve witnessed other spills and often, those happen on top of the aisle seat passenger’s body or property.

Lesson: Consider hiding your electronic devices under the tray table while flight attendants pass out drinks! We’re kinda clumsy sometimes.

#3 - Liquid Drop Zone, Part 2

Flight attendants are not the only ones guilty of accidentally spilling. Unfortunately, travelers also need to be wary of their seatmates! The person sitting next to you might just turn out to be a complete klutz! On more than one occasion when answering a call light, I have arrived on the scene to find a very upset passenger pulling his or her tablet or cell phone out of a pool of Diet Coke that was spilled by someone else.

Of course, extra precaution is needed with children. Adorable and cute, yes, but coordinated enough to last a three hour flight without spilling? Not usually. Add a little turbulence to the mix and something is bound to go flying!

Lesson: Keep an eye on your neighbor’s drink and be prepared to react quickly if someone’s coffee does tip over.

#2 - Thieves In Flight

PictureKeep an eye on your cell phone...
Airline travel is open to everyone, including soul-less jerks who have no moral compass. Yes, sadly, many expensive pieces of technology get stolen during flights. I have met numerous flight attendants who had their phones or tablets stolen because a passenger went rifling through their purse or bag when it was left unattended in the back galley or even in an overhead bin. I have also heard of a passenger getting up to use the lavatory and coming back to find their headphones or iPod missing. Obviously, the flight crew will do their best to help a passenger if the person suspects their item was stolen during the flight, but this can sometimes be difficult.

A fellow co-worker and her crew worked hard to retrieve a stolen item. Frankly, I am a little surprised this story didn’t make the news! A passenger seated in the last row of First Class reported that he couldn’t find his new laptop. Believing it had slid under his seat during take-off, he and the flight attendants looked everywhere, but the missing laptop was no where to be found! A little later, a passenger who sat in the first row of Main Cabin, approached my flight attendant friend in the back galley. The passenger reported that he saw the woman sitting next to him bend down after take-off, grab something from under the First Class seat, and shove it into her oversized bag-purse. 

The flight attendants questioned the woman and asked if she had found the missing laptop. She held her purse firmly in her lap and said no. The flight attendants asked if it was possible to check her purse to make sure the tablet “hadn’t accidentally slid into the bag during take-off”. The woman clutched her purse more firmly and said no, that would not be possible. After discussing the situation with the Captain, it was decided that authorities would meet the plane upon landing and question the suspected woman. Shortly before landing, the flight attendants explained to the woman what was going to happen and that she would need to remain seated so the police could talk with her upon arrival. As the flight attendant left to take her jumpseat, the woman headed straight to the bathroom, bringing her purse with her. As soon as she exited the lavatory, another flight attendant went inside, checked the trash can, and found the laptop buried inside under a mound of paper towels. Crazy, right? The woman should have been in the World’s Dumbest Criminals book. 

Lesson: While this lady wasn’t too clever in her attempted robbery, beware of your electronics because a more clever thief might be sitting near you.

#1 - Dip in the Blue Lagoon

The number one way to totally embarrass yourself and completely wreck your electronic device is to bring it to the plane’s bathroom. That’s right. Some passengers bring their cell phones to the toilet and sometimes they accidentally drop their precious electronic devices right into the murky blue belly of the crapper. Not only will your phone be completely GROSS after this, it may be impossible to retrieve. If this happens during flight, you can count on the crew giving you dirty looks and possibly making an in-flight announcement to explain WHY over one-hundred or more passengers are going to be stuck using one less bathroom for the rest of the flight!

I heard a story of how one gal dropped her cell into the toilet and how she then had the audacity to ask the flight attendant to retrieve it for her. Guess what? That’s not part of our job description! (The flight attendant made sure to inform her of this.) If you drop your new iPhone 6 into the pit, we’ll give you a pair of gloves and you are welcome to go after it yourself, but we're not sticking our hands into sewage and you probably should just consider buying a new mobile.

Lesson: When it comes to bringing your electronics in the lavatory ...umm, don’t. Please, that is so gross.

Have you or someone you know had an electronic device stolen or damaged while in-flight? Have some extra tips on how to protect your property while flying? Write me in the comments below!

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Happy Flying!

<![CDATA[Trying to Understand Modern Art in Washington D.C.]]>Sun, 31 May 2015 23:52:25 GMThttp://jenngrahams.com/1/post/2015/05/trying-to-understand-modern-art-in-washington-dc.html Speak the words modern art and my brain immediately conjures up the image of a canvas with enough primary colors splattered across it to resemble any preschooler’s first take-home painting.  Better yet, I’ll imagine a mishmash of broken items (maybe a doll’s head, an umbrella, scattered playing cards, and a wooden chair) stacked into a Jenga-like tower and glued together.  "How is THAT art?" I’ve often asked museum curators.  (That’s a lie.  I’ve never had the audacity to ask aloud, but I’ve sent this question out telepathically several times to no avail.)  It wasn’t until a recent visit to the Smithsonian in Washington D.C. that my opinion of modern art completely changed.

I hadn’t planned to visit the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden.  I needed a reprieve from the sun’s skin-frying rays and the strange donut-like building not only intrigued me, but offered an air-conditioned haven from the outdoors.  Inside I found myself transported into a strange environment of sight and sound, light and shadow, and a dimension of imagination.  It was something straight out of the Twilight Zone! 

Now, many of exhibits still left me shaking my head and wondering what con artist managed to fool someone into thinking it was worth money.  At the risk of offending those people, here are a few examples of pieces I personally thought were complete rubbish (Andy Warhol fans, be warned):
Someone was throwing out their old Eater decorations, I guess.
The Display Stand with Madonnas is supposed to be "familiar and fantastical" instead of tacky and boring.
This is really just an anagram for the message: "NOT ART, SON. HEHE! -W"
Art, however, is subjective.  It was interesting to notice how museum visitors reacted to the pieces.  I would pass right by one display while someone else would stand there marveling at it.  Likewise, a few pieces I found incredibly deep and thought-provoking whereas other visitors breezed right past them without a second glance.  The art I loved the most included:
Stand before it and stare into an abyss. Stand before it and you get a visual representation of infinity.
A fun light project. I liked being in the room of cool blue for awhile. :)
For me, a glimpse at social dynamics and human cruelty.

The next time you’re in Washington D.C., I hope you’ll consider visiting this Smithsonian museum.  Unlike the other museums, it isn’t swamped by school children.  For me, it was a wonderful escape, an opportunity for introspection, and a chance to appreciate modern art.

Happy flying.
~Jenn Grahams

<![CDATA[The REAL Job of Flight Attendants]]>Tue, 26 May 2015 18:41:46 GMThttp://jenngrahams.com/1/post/2015/05/the-real-job-of-flight-attendants.htmlPictureJenn at Crew Member Self Defense Training
Sometimes it’s hard to feel my work is important. 

I was walking through the aisle picking up trash when it happened.  The middle-aged man with eyes completely glued to the movie on his iPad floated his hand in a trance-like motion toward the outstretched garbage bag I held firmly stretched between my two hands.  Instead of dropping the half-full cup of orange juice into the trash bag, the distracted man planted it upside down against my thigh and a second later I felt the sticky, sweet juice dribble down my right leg and pool into my right shoe, thus ending the unwanted leg-bath of Vitamin C.  The fact that it took the man a five full seconds to pry his eyes away from his movie and then mutter a barely-intelligible apology before turning away again was infuriating, making me want to smack the silly piece of technology right of his tray table and give a mother-worthy reprimand of, Look at me when you say you’re sorry, young man!

It’s hard to be taken seriously when people think you’re just a sky waitress.  Some people seem to think that once I’ve served them a Diet Coke, I’ve fulfilled my role on the flight.  My job is finished, right?  The times have changed and long gone is the era of the stewardess.  Today, being a flight attendant is all about safety.  We are paid to be there in case something bad happens.  We are not paid to cater to the every whim of passengers.  Nope.  We are there for safety first and if possible, comfort second.  We are trained to take charge during medical emergencies, evacuations, and other life-threatening scenarios.  Fortunately, such situations are quite rare and so most of what we train for is never used.  In two years, I’ve only had one serious medical scare and it was resolved without needing to divert the flight.  Nevertheless, emergencies do happen and they have happened to co-workers I know. 

Of course, when it comes to keeping people safe, the scariest risk is terrorism.  When I signed up to be a flight attendant, I signed up to be the last line of defense between lunatics and the flight deck door.  It’s a huge responsibility and I think about it every day.  Here in the United States, we will never allow something like 9/11 happen again.  Period.  When I signed up for my job, I knew I had signed up to put up a fight and sacrifice myself for others should that type of situation arise.  Perhaps not all flight attendants take their duties seriously, but I do.  If the time should come, I will be ready to save lives and if necessary, put the lives of my passengers ahead of my own – including the life of Mr. Orange Juice Dropper.  

<![CDATA[How to Write A Synopsis with Frozen]]>Thu, 07 May 2015 23:40:29 GMThttp://jenngrahams.com/1/post/2015/05/how-to-write-a-synopsis-with-frozen.htmlAs a new writer trying to pitch my first novel, I am required to write a synopsis of my book.  The agents who will receive my synopsis are short on time and frankly, probably more interested signing with an established writer instead of me.  That's why it's so important that my synopsis is concise and attention-getting.  One pitching expert recommends limiting a synopsis to 500 words!  I've written a book that is 78,000 words and I'm supposed to explain it in a chunk of text that could fit on the back of a cereal box?!  That's insane!
I was procrastinating doing this dreadful writing task when a pair of good friends came into town with their adorable munchkin known by the nickname Baby Cakes.  My experience with children is pretty limited and I knew my friends were on a mission to break my fear of child-raising, making sure I had plenty of one-on-one time playing with their sweet girl.

Baby Cakes had lots of toys and books and when we were playing...viola!  Clarity hit me like a good whack to the head.  I suddenly realized that Baby's Disney Frozen board book was a synopsis!  

Some poor writer at Disney had to come up with a FOUR SENTENCE synopsis for the movie Frozen.  Somehow, I found that very encouraging!  It's all about cutting out the fat and getting to the meat of the story! (Sorry, vegetarians.)

Check out the Frozen synopsis in the pictures below.  You can purchase the book HERE on Amazon

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