Me and Flightblogger in the lavatory of a Gulfstream GIV that used to be owned by Oprah.
One of the great things about social media are all the cool and interesting people you get to “meet.” One of my favorite Twitter followers is Heather Poole, a flight attendant for a major airline and the writer of the fun — and informative — Galley Gossip blog over at Gadling. She started this “thing” called the Laviators — where people take completely innocent photos of themselves in aircraft lavatories. It has become the thing to do, so I had a chat with Heather about Laviators.
Aunt Benet: How did you coin the term “laviator?”
Heather Poole: I didn’t; the great Annie “Danger” Scott Riley did. I knew I had found something great, and it deserved a great name, so I asked my fellow Gadling writers if they could come up with something. Annie won. I can’t remember what I almost named it, but it was funny too.
AB: How did you come up with the idea to create the laviator blog?
HP: It’s not actually a blog, but a club/group that people can join by submitting photos to a Flickr website. I’ll choose some of the photos from time to time to feature on my blog. It all began when I was working on a blog post for my Galley Gossip column on Gadling about trusting your fear (in flight). I needed a photograph of an airplane toilet to go along with a story I was sharing about a man who kept going to the lavatory with a McDonald’s bag.
I went to Flickr.com to look for a photo, typed the words, “airplane toilet” into the search engine/tool bar, and VOILA! Hundreds of “laviators” popped up. I couldn’t believe how many photos there were of people posing in the bathroom mirror. Right then and there I KNEW I was on to something. What I loved most about those photos was everyone looked so happy! It was like…they weren’t even on a plane! LOL. And everyone was so different! Young, old, short, tall, and from all over the world. It’s an international phenomenon, I guess. The great thing about air travel is no matter how different we are, we all pretty much have the same experiences – in airplane toilets. HA! It’s why travel is such a great topic of conversation.
AB: When was the blog launched?
HP: The first laviator post appeared on Gadling March 23, 2009! Wow, the club is almost 3 years old! After I posted the story, a funny thing happened. Strangers started emailing me their photos! So I wrote about it again so I could feature these photos. Soon after that someone named George from Romania created a laviator video (Auntie appears at around 2:23) featuring all the photos. I love that video. And then it just took off! National Geographic even wrote about it! Photos came pouring in. And I would post each one in the Gadling Laviator photo gallery.
AB: How do you get the word out to have folks post their pictures?
HP: Sometimes I’ll share a laviator photo on my blog or on Twitter and the next thing you know someone wants to know where to submit a photo.
AB: How many pictures have been submitted since the blog’s launch?
HP: I have no idea. A LOT! In the beginning it was crazy because people were submitting all the time. I would feature each photo on my blog with a description of who they were, where they were going, the aircraft type, whatever they wanted to share really, and I’d TRY to add something witty to go along with it. It was fun. But I can’t tell you how much time that took up. I’m a wife, mother, flight attendant, and blogger, so it’s not easy finding a lot of spare time.
Then when Harper Collins asked me to write a book for them that really slowed things down. Recently I started a Flickr group where people can submit there photos. From time to time I’ll feature one on my blog. The last one I dubbed “007 Laviator”
AB: What are some of the more unusual photos submitted?
HP: My favorite ones are posted on my blog under LAVIATORS. There’s one of Johnny Jet wearing an eye mask over his nose and mouth. A guy wearing a bow tie that he created using a maxi pad. A man with a little post it note stuck to the mirror that reads Laviators Unite! An opera singer holding a black & white headshot over her face. A mom who looks like she’s screaming while holding two kids in her arms. A third is crawling around the sink. A flight crew of 8 somehow managed to squeeze in a lav!
And let’s not forget the one you took – on Oprah’s old plane (with Flightblogger Jon Ostrower)! HELLO! That was awesome. If only a celebrity would officially join the club. That would be fun.
AB: What are your 3 favorite pictures?
HP: I love them all. What’s not to love about people having fun.