Friday's Fabulous Flyer
I'm not waiting until Friday to post Clay's story. Friday will be dedicated to the continuation of this story. Today is to introduce a man who has found himself fighting for justice.
I have met some extraordinary Flight Attendants throughout my career and have flown with some that became pilots. To have a fireman, nurse, pilot, bodybuilder, or police officer on my plane as a Flight Attendant always added comfort in the event of an emergency. Everyone has a story, and Clay's could be a novel. Enjoy the little snippet of the first few chapters of his life, as what happens next will leave you dumbfounded.
Clay told me his father was a New York City detective for 20 years whose career advice was to “Be A Cop.” Instead, in 1981 Clay graduated from the University of South Florida with a BA in Public Relations and Journalism. Yet timing in life is often everything.
"Just my luck, 1981 began the Great Recession and most jobs dried up. I took a job as an assistant manager with Showbiz Pizza Place with an additional responsibility as the regional marketing director in Jacksonville. Florida. After two years the company began to have its sales drop dramatically so I left and moved back home with my mother in North Miami Beach, Florida. While waiting for something to pop up I became a server for TGI Fridays in the Aventura Mall."
My friend was a waiter with Carnival Cruise Lines (CCL). The cruise line seemed like a nice job, but not as a waiter, as an officer. I put on a suit and tie and brought my resume to their headquarters and asked to see the operations manager. The receptionist asked if I had an appointment and of course I did not. I told her that I would wait. Two hours later she told me that Mr. Horton would see me now.We got along great and talked for about thirty minutes. I told him that I was interested in the purser position, left my resume and said goodbye. This was in 1985, just as CCL was dramatically expanding."
A few months later Clay's phone rang and Mr. Horton from CCL called to tell him he was hired as a purser. He flew to Los Angeles the following week at his own expense and started his new job.
"Viola, I was an officer on the MS Tropicale, the newest cruise ship in the world. It was a great year of cruising and life experiences."
Despite the many adventures and
hobnobbing with famous people,
he left after a year.
"Wanting to leave south Florida, I settled in the beautiful beach town of Melbourne. I wanted to use my abilities as a public relations professional, so I put on a suit and tie and walked into the PR firm of Baumbach and Fisher. I talked with Dick Baumback for about thirty minutes and viola, he hired me on the spot.
Clay was an account executive, for about a year, handling public relations for aerospace and high-tech companies.
"I had a knack for this and did very well. The constant brain strain of creating new PR plans and implementing them was fun for a while but quickly waned. I had my eye on a fledgling restaurant/bar directly on the beach in Indialantic, just over the Melbourne Causeway bridge in the seaside town of Indialantic.
One day I walked into the construction area where they were rebuilding the restaurant/bar and introduced myself. We talked for about 30 minutes and viola, I was the new manager and bartender. The Owner, Joe Foley, had a restaurant/bar on Duval Street in Key West, right across the street from the famous Sloppy Joe’s. He also had a 50’ sailboat docked a few hundred yards from the restaurant called Foley Square.
Clay lived on Joe’s sailboat and managed the bar for about six months until he returned to Indialantic to run the newly remodeled Beach Club. Burned out, he began looking for something different and left for Israel, and ended up staying for four months.
"I had family there and my friend’s father had a business breaking boulders on the side of rock mountains in the town of Shaarei Tikva in the West Bank. I borrowed a car from my friend’s dad and travelled throughout Israel and stayed at my cousin’s Kibbutz named Ein HaMifrats, just north of Haifa. For three weeks I was a fish farmer. We were the tough guys of the Kibbutz. We started work before the sun rose and the six of us would drag large nets through the freezing water and gather the fish, squeeze out and collect the eggs from their gills and send the fish to market."
"While I was in Israel in 1988, the celebration of Israel’s 40th anniversary, the Palestinian uprising was occurring, the intifada. I had many close calls while driving through Arab areas. Jews had green license plates and Arabs had blue license plates. I became keenly aware when the color of the license plates went from green to blue. While getting this car inspected, I drove this car to the Arab town of Nablus with my green license plate, all by myself. As I left to get back to Shaarei Tikva, rocks were thrown at me as I drove. I ran all red lights and stop signs and got out safely. Now I had a legal car to explore with."
"I also studied with a friend at the Yeshiva Ohr Somayach, a college of study of the Torah in Jerusalem. I was raised an Orthodox Jew but not currently practicing. I did find meeting with the rabbis and fellow students very interesting. Mostly, they used the teachings of the Torah as tools to explain life. After spending about a week at the seaside resort area of Eilat, it was time to go home."
"I decided to visit my friends in Melbourne, Florida. I stopped by Indialantic beach and saw a guy from the gym I worked out with a few times, wearing a Palm Bay, Fl, firefighter tee shirt. We began talking about his firefighter job. He told me that he worked 24 hours on and 48 hours off and it was the greatest job ever. He explained that I needed to get my EMT certification and go through a firefighting course called Minimum Standards. The next week I was enrolled in the fire academy in the north Florida town of Middleburg."
"I knew nothing about firefighting. I remember asking how the water gets from the fire hydrant to the fire. The class laughed at me. By the end of the five month course I was as sharp as anyone. I passed the state exam and moved to Orlando to take my EMT course while shucking oysters at a Calico Jacks restaurant. CJ’s gave firefighters 50% off all food and alcohol, thus I got to know many Orange County firefighters. Once I graduated from my EMT classes the firefighters guided me through the process of getting hired. In February of 1990 I was an Orange County firefighter."
Clay also became a father and raised a beautiful and successful daughter. He was the public information officer for three years, and became a paramedic and a lieutenant.
"Meeting a friend one night at an Orlando Ale House, at the end of my firefighting career, about 50 years old now, I met several girls at the bar. They told me they were instructors at JBU, Jetblue University, and thought I would be a great flight attendant and they like to hire firefighters. About a year later I retired from the fire department and applied to JetBlue Airways for the flight attendant position. I was not hired."
Clay began a Vlog, a video blog about his travels. This was before YouTube. He called it the “FAN Club” FAN standing for Fitness Adventure Nutrition.
"I bought a kayak and fastened it to the roof of my Aztek sport utility vehicle, put a bed where the backseats were, a mountain bike, in a new town, on my bike rack and took off up the east coast of the USA for an adventure. I posted photos and videos of my travels while writing a story about it every morning at a coffee house, in a new town, with internet. Then I would do it all over again. I had business cards made up and would pass them out to people to follow me on Facebook and to access my Vlog. It was quite a success."
Once he returned home to Orlando, he received an email from Jetblue which stated that he could re-apply, so he did. This time he got an interview and was hired. In his words, "I was so excited." But as many of you know being a new employee, pilot or flight attendant, the pay was nothing and the challenges were many.
"Being on reserve in Boston, living out of my car until I could find an apartment was a challenge. Jetblue gave us no assistance with finding a place to sleep. I contacted Captain Joey in Gloucester, MA. I met him during my Vlog days. He has a daily blog called Good Morning Gloucester. I had featured him in my Vlog and he featured me in his blog. He knew someone in Gloucester that had a room for rent. I wrote them a check for $1,600.00 on the spot and had a home for the next two months."
As Clay said, the job as a reserve flight attendant had many challenges. But nothing that he could not handle. I suspect this was due to his initiative, attitude, and experience. Experience is an interesting thing. It provides abilities you would not otherwise have, but it also provides perspective and confidence. Being a flight attendant was not what he expected, but he tried to make it as enjoyable as possible. He also was not afraid to speak out to management.
"I became an initial inflight instructor at JBU and found my time there to be in an abusive setting. I was mostly an errand boy and was not accepted by the staff there. None of my medical or firefighting training was utilized. They were abusive to the recruits with multiple students breaking down and crying every day. The pay was terrible and most mornings at 3:00 am that cell phone would ring and I was off on an adventure."
"What a great job!"
"Once I got a ‘Line” after three years, the job changed dramatically. I was living at my house, based in Orlando, and got to have layovers in exotic and wondrous places. I fell in love with Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic and Bogota, Colombia. The beaches of San Juan were wonderful. New York City, Long Beach, Downtown Boston, Portland Maine and Oregon were also my favorites."
During an Emergency
"I loved being able to use my paramedic skills to assist customers that were experiencing medical emergencies. I saved a few lives with simple maneuvers like opening an airway or giving juice to a low blood sugar diabetic, or diagnosing chest pains as not a cardia problem but anxiety. The pilots liked having me on their planes because they told me they could relax knowing I was there."
Then the unexpected happened
Not to leave you hanging... but I am. Friday April 30th, you can return to learn the details of Clay's termination. Appalling in every sense of the word. A lawsuit has been filed. While I am not an attorney (yet), I have learned a great deal about our legal system. A few things I know to be true:
It's not about Truth, Honesty, and Justice,
It's what you can prove in court.
If you're lucky, you can prove injustice.
Second, if you take the time to read legal cases and associated appeals, you will learn that Airlines often are not defending their illegal actions, but instead they are looking for legal loopholes to get away with what they did. I do not believe Jet Blue will get away with this. But you can decide. I invite you to return on Friday and learn why Jet Blue terminated Clay Kallman.
Enjoy the Journey!