Thursday, August 16, 2018

It's the Little Things

I was walking the dog the other night.  She was walking down the sidewalk, happily sniffing everything.  All of a sudden she saw something on the other side of the street, and pulled me over with her, with great urgency.  I had no idea why.  Then I saw three people walking on the sidewalk.  That is who my dog wanted to see.  She went directly up to them and sat down in front of them, and they stopped walking and looked down to greet this dog, a stranger to them.  The gentleman in the group said to me "How did she know?" and I waited for what was next.  He said "We really needed the love of a dog tonight."  My nature is to ask questions and know what was going on.  But I let it happen, watching the obvious (and much needed) connection between them.  It was a beautiful thing to see.

That got me to thinking about the small things, the little things, that happen every day.  In a world filled with so much conflict and pain, the little things can make all the difference.  Sometimes they are hard to find on an airplane.  The business of boarding, the stress of passengers getting to their seats and the stress on the crew's part of taking care of a million little problems.   But, if you have a minute, and you take the time, those moments are there.  I've been blessed to have many.  I look for them, to be honest.  They are what keep me going day after day, when I would prefer to be at home watching Netflix.  They include the passenger who thanked me for coming to work on a holiday so she could visit her new grandchild. The little 5 year old boy who asked me for my phone number, and then asked if I could come on his vacation with him.  (My favorite!)  The family who was going to a long postponed family reunion.  The refugees coming to America with little but hope in their heart.  The soldiers coming home from overseas.  Graduations, weddings, funerals.   Every single person on that plane has a reason to be there.  It could be exciting or painful.  But to share that with them, like my dog did that night, is special.

One of my favorite stories is an evening flight back to my home.  I'm always happy to be coming home.   It was a late enough flight that most passengers had no connections, were going to this city, going home after a long week.  A calm and a peace was pervasive.  At the boarding door, a woman in a wheelchair got on the plane. I said "How are you tonight?"and asked her where her seat was.  She was concerned because they had given her a seat in the back of the plane and she said "Well, I am 94 years old and I'm worried that it will will take too long to get to my seat and I will make the plane late."  I immediately announced to the group of passengers sitting right there that I needed someone to switch seats with my new friend who needed to to sit near the front of the plane.  On many flights, that simple request will not be honored.  But that night, it was.  A gentleman stood up and said "What is my new seat?" and that was that.  Until later.  My new friend thanked me for my help, and said "You are a day brightener. You are here to make people's days brighter. "  I was visibly touched.  And I replied "As are you."  A little moment.  But not forgotten.  Not ever.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Happy Mothers Day

I was chatting with the family sitting across from my jumpseat, coming from a holiday cruise. They were telling me about their vacation, and how much fun their 15 year old daughter had, returning home with many new numbers (mostly guys) in her cell phone and sadness at leaving her new friends. The dad (we'll call him Mike) mentioned that his parents were returning from an extended stay in Costa Rica the following Tuesday. "I'm working that flight!" I said. "They are in First Class and they're in their late 80's and their names are -----------------, Mike said. I promised to look them up and went on with my duties. As has become a quite annoying habit lately, I forgot all about this incident until about 15 minutes before landing on the flight Mike's parents were on. I walked up to the front of the airplane and quickly figured out who Mike's parents were. They were sitting quietly holding hands watching the airplane descend through the clouds. I introduced myself and explained that I had met their son and his family on another flight several days prior. "Mom's" face lit up, and as we talked about their vacation, her son's vacation, her grandchildren and I said "I have to tell you something." When Mike and his family boarded the plane and settled in, they noticed an older woman struggling with her baggage. Mike jumped up, and without any prompting, followed this woman to the back of the plane simply to help her stow her luggage. He, of course, got stuck at the back of the plane, and when he finally returned I thanked him over and over for what he had done. He didn't understand why I was making such a big deal about it, until I explained that I see so much bad behavior, that I am really touched when I see good, kind, giving behavior. Mike said, "That's what I was taught growing up by my mother."

So, here's the really cool part of the story. I got to tell Mike's mother, a perfect stranger, something lovely her son had done, and even though he was 55 years old and the lessons she had taught him were a long time ago, her smile turned even bigger and she just shook her head and said "That's Mike. That sounds just like him." And she got tears in her eyes, and I got tears in my eyes, and I knew that I would never forget that moment.

For my boys: You make me proud to be your mother. And you always will.

And for my mother: You left us too soon. I miss you everyday. and I love you, to the moon and back.

Monday, April 9, 2018

She Got Away

One of my favorite reasons for working the long flight to Hawaii, is well, it is Hawaii.  To me, even a short layover of 20 hours in Hawaii is worth it.  Seeing a glimpse of the beach, of the sun, of all the beauty that Hawaii entails can help get me through a long winter.  Another big reason I love these flights is that people are generally happy to be on the plane, often having realized that long awaited, long planned for goal of a family trip to the beautiful islands.  When the flight attendants are happy, and the passengers are happy, it's a really good combination.  Eight or ten hours together and six or seven services is also enough time to really get to talk to people.  I LOVE getting to talk to people.  I love hearing their stories.  I love hearing how they have been planning these trips for many, many years.  I love sharing with them all of my restaurant recommendations and fun things to do on their vacation.  I love sharing my love of Hawaii with them.
A couple of months ago, a flight to my "happy place" became even more special.  A large family of six people all boarded in "Make A Wish" t-shirts.  We all know what that means.  Someone in the group has a very serious illness, and more than likely this trip is their wish come true.  It gives me goosebumps just to think about this, because most often the recipients of these trips are children.  Children that have gone through things that no child should ever have to go through.  Someone once explained it better than I ever could.  Children get to live in a bubble for awhile before they grow up, but for these children, their bubble burst long before it should have.
As the family got settled in their seats, I introduced myself and offered any help I could give.  The family consisted of Mom and Dad, twin sisters and two brothers.  One of the twin sisters was very talkative, and the other was quieter.  The more talkative sister, June, said, "I just had my 8th Birthday. I had cancer. But I'm better now and my hair is growing back and we are going to Hawaii!  We got up this morning at four o'clock and left our house in our pajamas, but I changed in the car, because I can't wear my pajamas to Hawaii!"  I was in love with this child before she finished her sentence.  Not only was she adorable and sweet and a survivor, she was decked out from head to toe in jewels, glitter and all things pink.  Be still my heart.  As the long flight went on and on, and June got tired of her movies and her snacks and her family, she came back to visit me in the galley.  I had her practice sitting on the jump seat like we do for take-off and landing, then showed her around the galley--the ovens, the drinks, the snacks.  Back on the jump seat, she sat on my lap (jump seats are the smallest seats in the whole world) and started to look at all my jewelry, because to be honest, I'm a jewelry freak, too.  I'm usually covered in far more jewels than I am supposed to be wearing while at work.  She would touch my bracelet, and want the story on it  --where it came from, when I got it, why did I like it.  I would do the same to her.  The same with earrings and necklaces.  By this time she had figured out I was a kindred spirit, a girly girl who loved all things well, girly.  But then we got to rings.  June said, "I just painted my nails last night for the trip! I bet you did, too!  Let me see your nails!"  And I remembered I had not taken the time to paint my nails, and not only that, I hadn't even thought about my nails for a while and they looked like it.  I tried to hide my nails, but she wouldn't have it and the look on her face when she saw my "nails" was classic.  "You didn't do your nails for the trip to Hawaii?  Why not?  How could you go to Hawaii and not do your nails?"  I knew telling her I went to Hawaii almost every week wasn't going to be a good enough answer, so I just fessed up and said, "I forgot to do my nails last night and it was too late this morning and I was too rushed," and June looked at me like the teacher used to do in school when I was chatting with my neighbor and said, "Promise me you won't ever do that again, ever."  And I did.  I promised my new friend June that for her, I would always check to make sure that my nails were done before I went to Hawaii, or on any plane.  Every single time.
June went back to her seat and I went back to work.  Every time I passed by June, she looked up and smiled at me like we had a secret.  (We did.)  But in the craziness of getting to Hawaii, people rushing off the plane to get to their long awaited vacations, June disappeared.  Not just June, but her whole family.  I was devastated.  My new girlfriend was gone.  As I deplaned I looked for her everywhere, hoping that she had not gotten away from me.  But she had.  She got away.  I had come up with an idea that we would be pen pals, and that I would send her jewels and postcards from far away destinations, and I would know that she was OK, that she truly had put her cancer battle behind her for good.  But that didn't happen.  She got away.
But part of her will always be with me.  If you see me on a plane working,  please check my nails.  Because I promised June that I would always take the time to paint my nails.  You never know if the lovely Miss June will cross my path again.  But I have to be ready for her if she does.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018


The dreaded word "Boarding" comes over the intercom.  We look at each other and sigh, and wonder if today we'll need our hard hats, our suite of armour, the patience of a saint.  We will.  "Boarding" is almost always the hardest part of any flight.  People line up outside in the gate area, getting into position, staking their claim--sometimes an hour before the flight even leaves. When it is finally time to board, they rush on with arms full of bags, coats, coffee, etc.  Then the battle for the overhead space begins.  Some people know the drill and put the roller bags in wheels first, handle out, leaving more space for others bags.  Others believe that they should stow their bag in the first bin they see, even if that is row 1 and they are sitting in row 45. No. Others believe that the place they get to stow their bag is only right above their head, and get angry if I move it to make more space.  Others take so long to decide where to stow their bags that a very long line forms behind them.  Oblivious to the chaos they are causing, they wonder "Does the white bag fit better here?  Where should my coat go?  Did the Dodgers play today? Wonder if the person sitting next to me is normal?" I watched a man get on and put his bag away, then closed the bin with a big space left in it.  Another passenger came on and opened the bin and started to put his bag in there.  The first passenger stood up and said, "No, you can't use that bin.  I saved a spot for my wife's bag in that bin." I clear my throat.  "Actually, you don't get to save a spot for your wife's bag.  First come, first serve." I say.  Score:  One happy passenger, One really pissed off passenger--make it two, his wife will be pissed off too when she finally gets on. 
Our job, the crew's, is to try to get a handle on all the craziness.  "Miss, someone is already in my seat."  (Sir, that's your boarding pass for your next flight, not this one.)  " "Can I have a glass of water?  I need to take a pill."  "I have a connection in (arrival city)--are we going to be on time?"  (Geez-we haven't even left yet and you are already worried about being late)?  "Is there anywhere to put this painting/lampshade/flower arrangement/parakeet?"  Without a doubt, this is the hardest part of our job, but we don't get paid for this.  I don't know why.  No one has ever given me a good answer for this.  It annoys me to high heaven.  Besides all this, there is a huge push to be on time, to make sure everything is taken care of 10 minutes before we are supposed to leave.  Because on time ratings are very important to our airline, to our reputation.  But, very often, the plane has just landed from another city, taken 20-30 minutes to deplane, needs cleaned and catered, and maybe 20 minutes has been reserved for this.  And then 150 new passengers, bags, and problems come on and we need to make it all "OK" in minutes.  I get really crabby during this process, which is bad because this is my first interaction with the passengers.  Add to this, overhead bins have been reconstructed to fit more bags in the bins.  Now, one bin can hold 120+ pounds.  We have to lift this!  It's really heavy!  I've already had to go to Physical Therapy off and on for 10 years to deal with the effects of these bins. They say I should do stretches to prepare for lifting these bins.  Really?  When?  In the 5 minutes before some passengers get off and more get on?  When I could eat?  Or go to the bathroom?
No thanks.  I think I'll take a minute to myself, check my phone and my lipstick and go head to head with the overhead bin when the time comes. Another day, another physical therapy appointment.   

Monday, April 2, 2018

Emotional Support Animals?

It's been in the news a lot lately.  People can now bring dogs, cats, pigs, even miniature horses on an airplane.  For free.  All you have to do is go on the Internet and basically buy a certificate that states your "animal" is an emotional support animal.  The information I found on the Internet says:  "Any animal can be an emotional support animal.  Federal law does not require these animals to have any training.  You do not have to be disabled to have an Emotional Support Animals.  These animals are for people with mild anxiety or depression. "  Now, I have absolutely no issue with an animal that is on an airplane with a passenger and is necessary to this passenger's well-being. I always (used) to call any animal on board my favorite passenger.  Service animals (definition:  service animals must perform a task for an owner with a disability or medical condition) are amazing.  Not to repeat myself, but they are the best behaved passenger on the airplane. They don't get mad when we run out of space for their bags.  They don't care if we're 2 hours late. They behave.  They do. They are trained to  They can't misbehave if they try.  It's in their DNA.
  Not so with these new, "I bought a certificate for my animal from the Internet to avoid the outrageous airplane fees those thieves want to charge me" types.  In the past year, I've had Emotional Support Animals that bark.  A lot.  Lay on empty seats or onto other's passengers body parts, lay spread out into the aisle so that I've had to step over them every time I walk by. They snarl at everybody.  They whine.  They have diarrhea.  (If you think a baby's soiled diaper is a bad smell in a tight space, times that by 10).  They steal food from the passenger beside them.  They beg for food from the passenger beside them. You get the idea.  So after a flight with 3 very large males (people) and 2 very large dogs and 2 cats (not in cages) all in one very small row with 150 other people, I went to my manager and complained.  She agreed. " This is something that has gotten completely out of hand. Is it likely to stop?"  I ask. "No" she says.  "But I can one up you" she says to me.  "This morning, in our home town, they had to board an emotional support chicken."  A chicken.  Spend some time imagining having your seatmate on your next flight be a chicken.  Support?  No.  Complete and utter nonsense?  Yes. .