The airplane lurches. I sit upright in my jumpseat, adjusting the straps of my shoulder harness. I pick up the intercom and calmly inform people that we will be experiencing some turbulence, and that yes, they should already be sitting down with their seatbelts fastened, their seatbacks and tray tables in the upright and locked positions and all carry-on items stowed.
We will soon be landing into Salt Lake City.
Salt Lake City is a town of almost 200,000 situated in the northeast corner of the Great Basin, a area compromised of desert, lakes, mountains and valleys. Flying into Salt Lake City airport you will feel the raw power of nature as updrafts and downdrafts slide off the mountains surrounding the city and push planes around before landing. It’s normal and I am quite used to it — but my passengers often are gripping their armrests until our plane is safely at the gate.
Upon landing, you will be greeted with the jaw-dropping beauty of Salt Lake City’s backdrop: crisp mountains, snow capped hills and a sky as blue and wide as the eye can see. It’s no wonder why religious settlers decided upon this land 150 years ago — it’s an outdoor temple of sorts, a perfectly designed masterpiece.
I come to Salt Lake City a lot. And sometimes, I’m not always that excited about it. A month of stand-ups and redeyes has sadly left me with a dread of this city — landing here means another busy, choppy flight and a van ride to no sleep.
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It wasn’t always this way. Almost one year ago I was packing up my bags and quizzing myself on airplane lingo in preparation for flight attendant training. My stomach in knots, I remember sitting in the back row of a tiny CRJ-200, landing into Salt Lake City. The plane shook terribly, but I loved it. I stared out the window and smiled at what would become my home for almost five weeks.
And become my home it did. Our training hotel was situated just blocks from the heart of downtown. In the mornings, I would wake up early to sunshine and bright mountains. At lunchtime I would eat my meal on the balcony of our training center, watching the planes take off from Salt Lake City’s airport. The evenings after class provided spectacular sunsets, and at night, the warm Spring air lingered, inviting quiet walks and quick adventures to neighborhood establishments.
My face when I remember that I have to get up at 4:45am. #flightattendantproblems A photo posted by celessa lynn (@theeverydayjumpseater) on
While the rules in training are strict (and yes, even curfews are enforced), our group of just over two dozen found time to catch a few minutes of relaxation. On one of two days off, we shed our business casual ensembles and threw on jeans and hoodies for a night out on the town.
Salt Lake City is not all temples and watered-down beers. Pretty much any scene you can imagine is here, albeit sometimes a bit hidden. My friend Chase had heard about a metal bar, and we went, sipping PBRs and nodding our heads in the back. We asked one of the SLC natives from class for a good dive bar suggestion, and we discovered Jackalope, where we spent an evening shooting pool and enjoying ice cold MGDs from the bottle.
A craving for burritos led us to Alberto’s, where we dined on the best guacamole I have ever tasted. On Cinco De Mayo, a group from our class ended up at Red Iguana, where the fresh margaritas were a delightful reward for getting through three and a half weeks of training. After passing a particularly rough test, some of us found our way over to Tavernacle, a hilariously named bar offering piano karaoke and a welcome distraction from the stress of class.
One Sunday morning, I went on a solo walk and ended up in the sparklingly beautiful gardens of the Salt Lake City Temple Square. I sat on a bench and reflected, thinking of the thousands, maybe millions of people who had made the pilgrimage to this spot. The architecture is soaring, sharp granite and marble cutting into clean sky, easily a complement to the jagged mountains in the background.
My mornings off were few and far between, but my favorite place to go was always The Rose. Built in an old meat processing plant, the high ceilings, exposed brick and dusty sunlight invite you in for an afternoon of creaking wooden chair, Earl Grey tea and toast. There is no wi-fi here and they like it this way. You feel inclined to pick up a good book, strike up a conversation with a regular or chat with the tattooed baristas.
I snap back to the present. My crew is wearily cleaning up after the last of the passengers has deplaned. We gather our bags and limp out to the crew van, exhausted after yet another late night landing into Salt Lake City. We climb aboard and I sink down, browsing my phone listlessly. But then I stop. I put my phone down and look out the window. The sky is inky black, the mountains barely visible. But then I see the skyline of the city. I spot Alberto’s. I notice Squatter’s Pub as we drive by. I see the sparkle of possibility, of intrigue, or discovery.
The next morning I wake up early and walk over to The Rose, a simple paperback book in my hand. I settle into the corner with my earl grey tea, breathe in the dusty early morning light and close my eyes.
Welcome back to Salt Lake City.