Sunday, October 17, 2010

Endings....and Beginnings....

One of the best things about this job is that every single day is different. Even if you do the same flight over and over, the group of people that is gathered together that day is new, the crew is different, etc. That's good for those of us who get bored easily, or those of us (me) who are always interested in meeting new and different people. Last week, my longtime girlfriend did her last trip, as she is retiring after 31 years of flying. It is bittersweet, to leave this job that becomes a lifestyle. We celebrated in style, with flowers, dinner and wine in Paris and friends meeting us at the end of the flight. There were tears, hugs and many good wishes for the future without this job; with no more jet lag, no more crabby passengers, no more layovers. On this same flight, during boarding, an obviously ebullient passenger walked by with a huge smile, saying "Hello!" I replied "Hello, how are you?" He said: "Fabulous! I surprised my girlfriend in Paris and asked her to marry me!" Me: "She apparently said yes by the looks of your smile?" "Yes, she did" he said. "She's right behind me." As I got to know them and their story, their short courtship, how they both knew by the end of their first date that each other was "the one", their plans for their future, I felt extremely lucky to be a part of this special moment for the two of them. The rest of the crew and I showered them with champagne, chocolates and attention, and by the end of the flight, insisted on keeping in touch so that we would know the end of the story. With this job, you see many beginnings, many middles, but not so many ends. Passengers come on the flights, connections are made, then everyone goes their own way. But in this case, Krista and Blake, please let us know how this beautiful love story turns out. Because we all fell in love with you two, with your promise and youth and pure happiness. And your beginning.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

No to Kindles in Airplane Lavs

As I've written about before, there are lots of rules on airplanes. There has to be. It's a tiny space, crammed with people who don' t know each other, aren't familiar with the procedures, are ready to blow at any moment. But this weekend, several new P.A. announcements came to mind. "Ladies and Gentleman: As there are 257 of you, and 6 lavatories, it is never a good idea to settle into the lav with a KINDLE. There will be a line up of people, angry people, who, when you finally open the door with said kindle in hand, 20 minutes later, will want to choke you. You are not in your bathroom at home, which 1) doesn't have blue fluid in the lav, and 2) is usually bigger than a closet (and smells way better, let's hope). "

Announcement number 2) "Ladies and Gentlemen: Although I just spent the last five minutes going over our service and all the products available during this flight to eat and/or drink, I will gladly repeat them at every row, and even every person if necessary. But, when I do repeat that whole, REALLY long list, please listen to it. After I go through that list for the 100th time that flight, please don't then say "do you have buttermilk?" Really? Have you been to a restaurant, or frankly, anywhere, lately, that has buttermilk? Do they even make it even more? Isn't it awfully bad for you? Hasn't it been outlawed in most states?

So, in conclusion, please, no kindles in the airplane lavs. And, no buttermilk has ever been served on an airplane. Ever. And hopefully, never will be.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Labor Day

While Stephen Slater brought a lot of attention to our career, today is a good day to thank all those who labor on holidays to get us where we want to go, who give up time with their families to serve us. Working with the public is an incredibly demanding profession. I've always thought it should be a requirement for graduation from high school. I think kids would learn more from one shift at McDonalds then three months of Calculus. Remember, the person serving you in a restaurant, airplane, shop, etc. is a real person with real problems and concerns. Please treat them kindly, respectfully, like you would want to be treated. No snapping, poking, pulling or yelling. Right after 9-11 someone pulled on my jacket to get my attention, and I thought I'd go through the roof. I turned around and practically decked the guy, and all he wanted was a beer.
A friend of mine tripped and fell down face first in the aisle when a passenger had a carry on sticking out too far. Luckily, there was a man right behind her to help her up. Or not. He leaned down and said "Can I get a Coke?" We also have a lot of people walk on our airplanes and say "Smile." OK. Let me put a frozen, fake smile on for 8-10 hours. I feel better already.

Some passengers bring us chocolate, and one particularly lovely woman one Christmas brought us homemade chocolate chip cookies and a card. You don't have to go that far, of course. If you really want to make someone's day, today or any day, all it takes is a smile and a "thank you for your service." It makes all the difference.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

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Friday, July 23, 2010

Men Behaving Badly

On a plane at any one given time, someone is behaving badly. You might think that would be the unaccompanied minor, sad to leave one parent, anxious to see the other parent, etc. Or it could be the High School Band, who has been fundraising for 6 months to afford their trip to play in the Disneyland parade, delirious with excitement. Or the children, of all ages, stuck in a seat for hours on end. But no. This week, it was the men.

It started with the argument over the definition of an aisle. Me: "Sir, your bag needs to go in the overhead bin because it is blocking the aisle." 6B: "This isn't an aisle." Me: "What do you mean?" 6B: "This is an aisle" (pointing to the center aisle). "This is not an aisle" (pointing to the aisle in front of his feet). Me: "Well, I think the gentleman at the window would disagree, because if he needed to exit the airplane in an emergency, this would be his aisle." 6B: "I would lift the bag out of his way." Me: "OK. Enough. I'm not going to argue the definition of an aisle at this point. Put the bag in the bin, or it gets checked." I sigh, and walk away. 6B is full of delight at his keen observations about aisles.

During the ascent to 10,000 feet, a call light rings. Is it an emergency, or a mistake? I make the upward walk, legs aching, holding on to every seat, to 33A. "Does this flight have food?" Again, a middle aged man. 'Yes, but let's chat more about that when I can actually walk, and the lead will make an announcement and let you know what is available to eat." 33A: "But, I need to know when I can get food. And a beer." Me: "Again, that information will come. I need to sit down before I am part of the ceiling."

On to the meal service. Believe it or not, some flights actually have meals!! (only very.............long flights. Don't get too excited.) While serving the meal, I ran out of the choice of chicken or pasta. 44E threw his lunch on the table when I said I had run out of chicken and only had pasta left. He went on to list all the wrongs that had been done to him by my airline, and my crew in particular. When we offered him miles, drinks, etc. for one of his legitimate concerns, he said no to everything, and pouted and gave us dirty looks every time we walked by.

At landing, thinking we had seen all the bad behavior we needed for the moment, the flight attendant sat down on her jumpseat. Her newspaper was stuck in her jumpseat because that's one spot where no one will steal it. As she sat on her jumpseat and thus her newspaper, she pulled the paper out from under her. The MAN across from her blithely noted: "I thought you were going to read that out of your ass."

Now, I know, the tide will turn and next week it will be someone else behaving badly. But this week, if you don't try to give me an english lesson, and don't pout or stomp your feet, and are 7 years old-for real - you will be my favorite passenger.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Time Zone Trot

If you see me this week and I seem 'out of kilter' (well, ok, more than normal), here's why: I had no Thursday but two Friday's, no Sunday morning but two Tuesday's, and Saturday was pretty much a wash. This is the life of an international flight attendant flying transcontinental flights (what she can remember of them). Even as I write this it makes no sense. During the course of a week (due to fatigue) I lost (and found) my ID badge, my camera, several pair of readers and my ipod. I couldn't remember how old my son was. I didn't know why I was hungry for breakfast at four o'clock in the afternoon. When a passenger asks me what my route is, I think "I don't even know where I am now?" and when deciding when to eat, sleep, etc. I decide to follow the Buddhist saying: "Eat when you're hungry. Drink when you're thirsty. Sleep when you're tired." So, two days past the time zone trot, at three o'clock in the afternoon, I'm hitting the sack. It's bedtime somewhere.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Following the rules

There was an article in yesterday's USA Today that compared Flight Attendants to "Dominatrix". I'm guessing the author is referring to our constant commands: "Fasten your seat belt. Put your seat up. Put your table up. Turn your Electronic Device off. Now. No, not after you finish your text. Now. Yes, IPOD's count as electronic devices. Yes, video games count as electronic devices. Turn them off, now. Stow your bag under the seat in front of you. No, all the way. No, I can't get you a glass of wine during the safety demonstration. No, that bag won't fit in the overhead bin. How do I know? Only 30 years of experience watching people try to fit that bag in the overhead bin. Some passengers seem to think we want to correct everything they do. We don't. We would like you to follow the much announced rules and policies on your own. I notice more and more passengers wanting to tell me the rules. When I told 24B my airline only collects credit cards for purchase, he said that was "illegal", that we HAD to accept cash. He's a lawyer, and I'm not, so I don't know, he might be right. 18C questioned why I was throwing a plastic bottle in the trash, when we had announced we were recycling. When I tried to explain our policies, she put her fingers in her ears and said "I'm contacting the newspaper when I get home. You are not recycling." Oh, great, another bad letter to the company that I have to spend my time off defending.

So, a Dominatrix? No way. A kindergarten teacher, now you're talking. 18C, please take your fingers out of your ears.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Flying is stressful

It's no secret that flying is stressful these days. I've often said that getting to the airport, parking, and mostly getting through security is the worst part of the trip. Flying as a "real" passenger this weekend really reinforced this feeling. I put my liquids in the little bottles, which I put in the little baggie, which I put in the side pocket of my suitcase for easy acess when it came time to take it out for security. I wear slip off shoes, the better to take on and off for the trip through the metal detector.

I make sure my phone and other metal is all out of my pockets . (I once was behind a woman in security who made the detector buzz three times until they discovered it was the 3 single serve containers of peanut butter, with a FOIL cover, that were in her pocket (?) that made the alarm go off.

So, peanut butter container out of pocket. Check. Phone out. Check. Computer out. Check. Shoes off. Check.

Ready for security. But, of course, the family ahead of me is not. They have apparently slept through 9-11 and all the changes that have happened since. They are also late for their flight. I know this because the husband screams this to his wife on 6 occasions in the 15 minutes we share together. Even though the TSA worker is repeating in a monotone "take off your shoes, remove metal from your pockets, take computers out your bags, etc.", they are doing none of this. The impatient husband is throwing his bags on the belt and shoving his way past other people to the walk though detector. This causes the alarm to go off, and the TSA says "Sir, please go back and wait your turn." I know this will illicit a bad reaction, and it does. Said "sir" turns around to wife (and two small children) and yells, "put your ffff...ign bags up here before we miss our flight" and as she does, small child no. 1 collapses in a heap on the floor and plays dead. ( I would too if he were my father.) Father is even more incensed and picks up the child who is now screaming at the top of his lungs and tries a second run through the detector, dragging his child by the arms. (At this point I notice the cigarette behind his ear, a comfort I guess, since he won't be able to smoke for at least the next couple of hours, or maybe sooner if they take him to jail where he belongs). Now, the TSA says, "Sir, ONE person at a time through the detector, and you have to wait until I tell you to come through." His voice is loud, and angry. The man (I have to stop calling him husband or father, because at this moment he is not worthy of either of these titles) turns his venom on his wife, with language that is truly too offensive to even repeat here, and then he adds "you're hopeless and you never do anything right." But, she does! The woman looks him right in the face and says "I've had it with you, I'm not going anywhere with you" and takes the two kids and her bags and walks away. I look at the other passengers and I can tell we all want to cheer, to hug her, but we don't. We continue on our own solitary journey through security.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Private habits in public places

Have you noticed that people don't necessarily keep their private grooming habits private anymore? In the past couple of weeks, I've seen people 1) flossing their teeth 2) picking their nose 3) brushing their teeth (and yes, spitting, as well) on my airplanes. It used to be that clipping toe nails and applying nail polish and make up was as bad as it got. (Well, there was the time I had to tell someone to put their shoes back on, because the smell of their (ok, his) feet had permeated the whole front section of the plane.) While I'm on the subject of feet, please don't put your feet, (often without shoes) up on the bulkhead, or on the person's seat in front of you. I don't care if you've recently had a pedicure and have pretty pink flowers painted on your toenails. No one wants someone else's feet in the tiny little space they are allowed. We once arrested a woman (for interfering with a flight crew instructions) who would not remove her feet from the seat in front of her for 8 hours because she didn't want the person to put their seat back and go into HER space. She steadfastly kept her legs locked and her knees up against the seat the whole flight, even after we removed the other passenger and put her in a very large, comfortable first class seat. She couldn't walk as she was led off the plane to the European police, and she was banned from flying our airline again, but, she had proved her point, right?

And, what makes people think it's ok to walk around an airplane and ESPECIALLY into a bathroom with bare feet? And, let your children do it? What do you think that liquid on the floor of a bathroom is? Think turbulence, someone off balance trying to hit the toilet--yep, you guessed it. That's not water.

Then there was the time a passenger asked me to "ask whoever it is that is having so much gas to stop having so much gas." When I asked her to repeat that, she did, an octave higher, which effectively took care of the situation. I had a whole team of wrestlers on once, and wow, did they have a lot of gas. Something about their restrictive diets to keep them in their weight classes. They even knew each other's gas smells and patterns, and joked about it at landing. "wow, nelson, you really went at it today, etc....." Not cool, not cool.

I've had to ask passengers to quit snoring, listening to music so loud, watching a video with the sound on, making out, move into their own space when they are flowing over into others with their seat back, arms out, head out in the aisle...and they are never happy with me. In fact, I've noticed that whenever you ask people to stop doing something they already shouldn't be doing, they get very crabby. And that should be outlawed, as well. We are all together, crammed in this metal tube, for whatever length of time it is. Suck it up! You chose this mode of transportation. There are other options: cars, trains, automobiles...that take TEN times as long to get to your destination! And, if you are alone, you can pass gas all you want.

Really, if you are in a car, an airplane, a bus, etc........people are watching! (and smelling!) When you are about to engage in a private habit in a public place, just don't do it. Enter a bathroom, (alone--more on that later) with your shoes on, and keep your private habits PRIVATE.