I was knocked off my feet with the sudden firing from my job as an International Flight Attendant travelling the Dallas – Rio de Janeiro route.
I had been a valuable asset to the company in the hiring of Portuguese speaking candidates, had worked with Charlie R., the Head of the Training Department for about six months prior to becoming a Flight Attendant myself. I translated their in-flight announcement videos, such as the evacuation video, and also did the voice-overs in Portuguese. The administration was thrilled with my work, and they were getting hundreds of passenger letters praising my performance on flights once I started flying to Rio.
I was known by almost all the management of the Airline, who at one time or another would be on one of my flights. I worked mostly First Class. I was on the fast track to be promoted, possibly running the Brazilian end of things. As Charlie would say, being a Flight Attendant was just the first part of the process.
So, how could a false accusation by a man who had a habit of threatening new flight attendants and sexually harassing them, lead to a “no questions asked” immediate firing? I had no answers, and my morale was extremely low. The best thing was to get away and take advantage of Mauro’s suggestion about living in Rio. Also, I wanted to see Mauro again. We had barely started our relationship when I was fired from my job and would not be flying to Rio anymore.
Several months later, I was on a Brazilian airline, Varig, flying back to Rio. Mauro was waiting for me at the airport and it was heavenly to see him. He was even more handsome than I remembered. I stayed with Jane, the cousin of a friend of mine from Brazil, who lives in Dallas, until I could find a place within my budget. Jane and I became great friends.
Mauro helped look for apartments, but really wanted me to stay in an apartment that he owned while I was living in Rio, however, it was way above what I could afford. Finally I found a small one bedroom apartment on the sixth floor of a building about 4 blocks from Copacabana Beach. The rent was $200 a month, with maid service twice a week! I signed on the spot.
Mauro wasn’t with me that day, and I didn’t know that he was extremely fearful of heights and elevators. I wanted to show him my new place, and on the way up on the elevator he started shaking and sweating. By the time we got to my apartment he was white as a sheet and could barely breath. I felt terrible for him and soon found out that he had lots of phobias and fears.
The next revelation was that Mauro finally admitted to me that he was married, but officially separated. Because divorce was difficult in Brazil, many couples did this. It’s called a “desquite.” Neither party can re-marry and this arrangement also works well when there are children involved. I hadn’t known that Mauro had a son. Our romance had never gotten far enough for an intimate relationship, so I told him that it was best that we remain “just friends.” I did not want to be his “amante,” lover, or kept woman. This is not what a man wants to hear and we never saw each other again. I heard later that he was having serious health problems and that he had gone back to his wife.
Then I met a guy, who was not married, at Copacabana beach, José Neto, and we started dating. He was a model and therefore did not work all the time, so we had lots of fun together sightseeing, eating out, going to the beach. He was the definition of a “gentleman.” José introduced me to a singer named Paulo Gran Bell, and we started performing at different events and in several night clubs. It was fun and also helped with the cash flow.
One day I was at the Rio Palace and one of the managers told me that a celebrity from Texas was coming to Rio and would be staying there. He wondered if I would accept the job to be her interpreter and guide during her stay. Her name was Iola Johnson and I had watched her newscasts for years! She had recently quit the news station to move on to other things. I was delighted to be asked to do this. We met and right away hit it off. She spent a couple of weeks in Rio, and it was interesting, because American tourists who saw her, instantly recognized her and her famous voice.
She was a beautiful person, both on the outside as well as on the inside. On the back of this picture, she wrote: “Sandi é ótima! You’re the best thing in Rio. I wish you only the very best!” Iola.
Soon after Iola left, one of my flight attendant friends, Dee, called with the news that the airline had shut down the Dallas-Rio route, and no more flights would be coming down to Rio. She needed a favor from me. She asked that I go to the Rio Palace and get her suitcase which she always left there for her layovers. She only wanted her wristwatch and a couple of earrings. She said that I could give away the rest of her things.
Dee had travelled the entire world for years as a Flight Attendant and when she was in Rio, after I was fired, we would go out together. She was a rather eccentric person. She told me to give the “baby powder” to a very special person. I thought this was rather odd, but knowing Dee I didn’t think much about it. So, I sat out in front of the hotel and gave away all her things, including the Johnson Baby Powder.
Later she called to ask who I had given the baby powder to. I inquired about her obsession with baby powder and she said, “you didn’t know? That was pure cocaine.” She said that she and some of the other Flight Attendants did cocaine a lot during trips to stay awake. I was completely flabbergasted because I never suspected a thing during our trips, except for the fact that I wondered how they could go for three days without sleeping hardly at all. I was always exhausted after flying all night and had to sleep for a while. They would change clothes and were off to the beach or somewhere else.
I was very angry about the event, because had the police been around, I could have been arrested! I also was worried that if someone had used the “baby powder” on a baby, what could happen? I asked several doctors and they assured me that it wouldn’t hurt the baby.
After about six months in Rio, I was homesick and decided to go back to Texas. I missed pizza and Mexican food. I never felt completely at home in Rio. I had friends, but didn’t “fit in” since I was single, and was treated by some people like a rich American, which I wasn’t! I was down to my last penny. I felt alone and a bit disillusioned. José was surprised that I was leaving, but I promised I would write.
I boarded the plane and before I knew it, we were landing on American soil, in Texas.
The story does not end here. I sued the airline for sexual harassment, and found out “the rest of the story!” What happened to Roberto? Did he get away with it again and again? Why was he so powerful? There are answers in Part 4 of my story.