Every once in awhile, I read a travel related book. I review most of the books I read. The travel books get reviewed on my travel blog. The music books get reviewed on my music blog and everything else ends up on my original blog. Since I’m alone this week, I anticipate doing a lot of reading.
I just finished Patricia Reid’s book, Flying with the Rich and Famous: True Stories from the Flight Attendant Who Flew with them. Reid is a very experienced corporate flight attendant. A corporate flight attendant works for charter airlines and on private planes. Though I have never experienced flying that way, I gather that it’s a totally different experience than your usual flight on a regular mass market airline. Reid was responsible for making sure her passengers and the pilots were safe and comfortable. According to Reid’s book, sometimes, that proved to be a formidable job.
I generally enjoy books about what it’s like to work in certain unusual occupations. Having done my share of service oriented jobs, I can definitely appreciate tell all anecdotes, even if it could be argued that they’re in poor taste. Patricia Reid’s book is, at times, entertaining enough. The writing is mostly passable, though somewhat amateur. However, I didn’t find Reid to be a particularly likable narrator. For one thing, she comes across as a bit of a braggart. At the very beginning of the book, she basically tells her readers that her job is very rare and implies that it’s “special”. She may be right about that. The fact that she blatantly states it is more than a little off putting.
For another thing, Reid’s tone is rather gushy, which makes her seem vapid and shallow. Sometimes her writing reminded me of something I’d read from a lovesick teenaged girl. At times, Reid comes across as immature and starstruck rather than professional. I was left thinking that she totally lucked into her job and didn’t get it because she has superior skills in the friendly skies.
Most of Reid’s stories about celebrities are very brief and somewhat generic. A lot of the stars she writes about are also long dead, which makes me think she’s been in the business for a lot longer than 25 years. She writes about serving Dean Martin, Johnny Carson, Michael Landon, Esther Williams, and Elizabeth Taylor, among other very famous people who haven’t drawn a breath in decades. With all of those years of experience, you’d think she’d explain exactly when she got in the business, but I got the sense that she didn’t want to come off as old as she very likely is. It’s not that I think she should be hiding her age; on the contrary, I enjoy reading about how air travel has changed. Someone who has been in the business as long as Reid has would be able to offer a great perspective on that. Unfortunately, she doesn’t really delve into that aspect of aviation.
For someone in the service industry, Reid seems very fake, self-centered, and immature. Granted, having worked in the service industry myself, I know that it’s not unusual for service industry professionals to be fake toward the more difficult people and smile at them when they feel more like wringing their necks. Sometimes, being fake is a survival mechanism. However, flight attendants are not just servers in the sky; they are responsible for their passengers’ safety. For that reason, it’s a little concerning that the author seemed so insincere and unpleasant. I’m not sure I’d voluntarily trust her with my life.
I see that a lot of reviewers on Amazon.com gave this book a single star. I would probably be a little more generous. To me, a one star book would be barely readable or extremely offensive. I don’t think Flying with the Rich and Famous is barely readable or extremely offensive. To me, the author simply comes across as narcissistic and lacking in empathy. That doesn’t mean she can’t write a book, but it does make the book less compelling and interesting, at least in my opinion. Reading this book was kind of like having a conversation with someone I find unlikable. I just wanted to get through it and put it in the past.
I think I would award Flying with the Rich and Famous two-and-a-half stars. Some of the stories are somewhat interesting and, perhaps with some editing, this book could have even been pretty good. However, I do think Reid could have used the services of an editor and maybe an honest friend who would tell her how her boasting comes across to the masses. Patricia Reid may very well be great at her job as well as a genuinely nice person, but I sure didn’t get that impression when I read her book.