Crashpads are the temporary homes that airline crew members live at when their actual homes and families are not close to their assigned domiciles. Crashpads operate in the same vein as hostels, shared rooms and bathrooms, bunking up like you would at summer camp, minus the fun exuberance of a bunch of giggling nine-year olds.
The crashpad life is a necessity for a large number of cabin crew members as many commute. Commuting doesn’t mean braving the 405, but it describes the scenario of the flight attendants and pilots that live in another city or in a different state than where they are based. This requires them to spend precious moments of their free time, entire days in fact, braving full flights, red-eyes, delays, bad weather, and mechanicals just to make a few dollars. The only promise in return is taxes and the reverse commute after their four-day work trip is complete. Exhausting! And no wonder flight attendants have grumpy days!
Thankfully, I’m one of the lucky ones to live where I am based, so the main headache of my commute is The Employee Shuttle, and trust me, that is all the headache that I need.
While the lifestyle of many flight crews may appear all glamour, most flight attendant’s and pilots make significant “life trades,” most not having any choice of where they are based or when they will fly. The normal is the slam-click of a hotel room door and being gone on all-major holidays and weekends. On top of that, ALL airline crew members start out earning below the poverty line. So, splitting rent with six or ten others is the only way to make living in cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, or Honolulu possible. In addition to mortgages and apartments, a pilot or flight attendant could pay anywhere between $250-$800 a month for a crashpad, a place to stash their stuff and get some shut-eye between trips.
Considering the inevitable debacle of placing too many people in a confined space for any long periods of time, (hence why air travel can be so torturous at times) crashpads are aptly named. It’s unavoidable that an accident will occur. When I began flying, it was only a matter of time before the crashpad that I was living at self-destructed.
There were four of us in a two bedroom, one bath apartment, the alley behind the beach bungalow boasting a Pacific Ocean view. It was adorable and pretty stable, considering the four of us, my co-workers, and at the time, friends, were all on the rental agreement, committed to one full year of roommate bliss.
The honeymoon phase didn’t last long. I quickly learned that it’s not a good idea to live with the same people you see at work every day. In the environment of flying, gossip, stories, and US Weekly are the go-to activities between serving cokes and charging for bottle water. So, with no separation of home and work, the safety of personal life and privacy was naturally skewed.
The pad was somewhat of a revolving door, as we had a pilot renting our couch at one point, a roommate from Germany for a couple of weeks, and a girl I found on Craigslist to share my room for a month. I had a favorite roommate. We would ride our bikes, go on walks, and get coffee together. She didn’t stay long, and I cried so hard when she moved out. Her fiancé at the time was in another state, and Kandi was over the airline lifestyle. She couldn’t make a life for herself when her life was everywhere but in Southern California.
Then there was the bubbly blonde mom that couldn’t be rivaled when taking claim to the title of “life of the party.” She was the reason the place looked like a home, adorably decorated, and at Christmas, we even had a hot pink Christmas tree thanks to her touch. I have some fond memories of a few of the other girls that graced the pad. When all of us were there we would go out in Hermosa or have our friends come over to hangout at the place. Of course, there are stories, but many are probably best left untold, and instead I’ll simply say it was definitely an interesting, challenging, and entertaining year.
Th demise of the pad was inevitable. Hurt feelings and disagreements left broken friendships. I should have moved out much sooner than I did, but avoiding and “sticking it out” proved the stronger, but overall, left me the weaker. I finally moved for a match-made-in-Craigslist which was serenity enclosed by four walls in comparison. The next year’s only drama consisted of the roommate’s smelly cat with stinky kitty litter and having to invest in extra lint rollers (Orange cat hair + navy blue uniforms = annoyance of the day).
My life was peaceful and pleasant for a while, until I got so sick of the cat hair and smell, that I thought it a good idea to move out of the apartment, collect my deposit, and save that month’s rent so that I could travel through Europe. Absolutely the best decision ever, although, upon my return, I was a walking ad for Xanax, anxious to tears because of my homelessness (Being unsettled and “out-of-control” is a struggle for me).
Then, somehow, my world collided with Sybil’s, and since, my life has been enriched by her fantastic sense of humor, her ability to listen, and her sound wisdom and advice. My landlord-roomie has become more of a second mom, and along with the parade of other characters associated with this room rental; Stella The Yellow Lab, Dave The Dog Walker, Rachel, Rueben, Kathy, and Keith, along with a few others, they all, each in their unique way, add color, spark, and interest to my day. I feel like the universe handed me more then I deserve; I feel like I crashed into a home. Which equals best crashpad ever!
Curious. Bubbly. Creative. Curating a life I don't need an escape from and inspiring you to do the same.