For some reason, an old letter I once received popped into my mind just now. The letter was from my former employer, informing me of the amount of cosmic radiation I had been exposed to during the past year. I had been working as a flight attendant and I knew that the airline was obliged to inform its employees of the exposure numbers each year.
Even so, I had to read the letter twice, since it sounded quite unreal – they were words I’d never thought I’d see printed on the same paper as my name.
The radiation amount, of course, was minimal and harmless. But it was real enough that roster planners checked the amounts before the end of each year to ensure annual limits wouldn’t be exceeded.
While I was flying around the planet, absorbing cosmic radiation, my favorite thing was to look out the window. I could never get enough of the scenery. The best part was when I started to recognize some of the places I saw or when I could tell that we were about to get turbulence because it would always happen at a certain spot (often near mountains).
This is a photo of what a patch of Norway looked like as seen from above, many years ago:
I’ve been to Norway twice: once as a kid with my family by car via Sweden, and once when I was working for an airline in an office job – the airline just decided to give us tickets so we could spend a workday in Oslo. First, we were given a short tour at the Gardermoen airport, then we had the rest of the day off and we were free to go into town and do what we wanted. That was back in the good old days before efficiency and reductions took over the corporate world. Back then, it was important that employees were happy at their jobs. I’m glad I got to experience some of those days.
Later on, in my crew life, I also had several layovers at Gardermoen but I don’t count those as visiting the country.
We crew members often traveled as passengers in regular clothes (or sometimes in uniform). Some airlines seated us in business class. They needed us to start our work day in another country and so they flew us there. Sometimes, we would fly on positioning flights. In other words, we’d fly an empty plane somewhere to pick up passengers – or fly an empty plane back after delivering passengers. This would normally happen during the beginning or the end of high season at package tourism destinations.
There’s a flight that I remember, sitting in a huge passenger plane which was empty except for us crew members. We wore comfy outfits and woollen socks, a staple garment for Finns. Stretched out across several seat rows, some of us were chatting away about nothing important, and some were watching movies on their laptops (iPads weren’t that common yet). We were drinking mini cans of soft drinks and snacking on Swedish candy and chocolates from one of the trolleys which we had the company’s permission to raid. The fact that the candy was Swedish made it seem more special, since the brands were different than the ones we had at home.
Little things like this stay with you, small moments with blurry details. They stay like cosmic radiation, documented in my memory rather than on a letter.