Saturday, April 18, 2020

Why being a Flight Attendant is a (little) bit like being Dr. Fauci

In the midst of the Coronavirus 19 quarantine, I have listened to Dr. Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, talk to the American people every day.  Stay home, practice social distancing, the need for more testing, let's flatten the curve, the need for more PPE, stay home, etc..........   I empathize with him for many reasons, but the one that comes to mind especially is trying to tell/advise/suggest what a country of around 330,280,000 million people should do to protect themselves, but more importantly, protect others.  It occurred to me that as flight attendants, we see people behaving in ways that are not only harmful to themselves, but dangerous to others.  When we say, "Ladies and Gentlemen, the Captain has advised us that there is "rough air" ahead.  We are suspending our service and will be sitting down, and service will resume when it is safe.  Please check the security of your seatbelt and remain seated while the Seat Belt Sign is on, for your safety and the safety of those around you." It never fails, the minute we are belted in ourselves, a call light goes off.  Is it an emergency?  Is someone having a heart attack or sick in some other way?  I can't take the chance that this call light is a mistake.  I trudge up the aisle, bouncing around the whole time, running into legs and arms and people, and finally reach the row.  "Can I just get a glass of water?  I have to take a pill."  I explain that will have to wait until the "rough air" clears up, and then I will get that glass of water.  As I wobble back to my jumpsuit, a very strongly waving arm stops me.  "I really have to go the bathroom.  Can I go? "Me: "You should wait if you can."  Passenger:  "I can't." 'If you can't, wait, be really careful."  Inevitably, that passenger is in a middle or window seat, so the whole row of passengers has to stand up to let them out.  All of them are now out in the aisle being tossed around and endangering those around them.  On landing, an announcement is made "Please stay seated until the seat belt sign is turned off, and leave your baggage stowed."  Inevitably,  many don't wait.  They have a connection.  Only a 20 minute connection.  They need to get to the front of the line to get out first. They need a new seat near the front of the plane.  They have to go to the bathroom because you wouldn't let them go before.  I had a gentlemen open his overboard bin before we came to "our complete and final stop."  He pulled his large, heavy suitcase out and it fell on the head of the woman sitting under the bin. She screamed It was utter mayhem, as I tried to see if the injured passenger was ok, but the man, the passenger who caused this, was gone.  He had a tight connection, and that was more important than seeing if someone was hurt by his actions.  Another day I had a passenger with an "emotional support" dog.  She was in the first row of the plane.  Her dog had diarrhea as we landed, but instead of staying, she got up as soon as we stopped and dragged the (still having diarrhea) poor dog behind her, thus leaving a trail of diarrhea for every other passenger to walk through.  I get no joy in repeating these stories.  As I have often said in this blog, I have seen wonderful acts of kindness, every day, performed by strangers.  I have also seen really "shitty" behavior.  (Sorry, I couldn't help it).
How does this relate to the quarantine?  An airplane is a group of strangers put together by happenstance for one hour, 5 hours, 10 hours.  Our job as flight attendants is to enforce the rules (that are there for a reason) so that each person is safe and cared for.  To take care of each person, each passenger, in whatever way that may be for that person.  In a crowd of what can be hundreds, making sure that each passenger feels taken care of if they are ill, or frightened, or grieving, or trying to parent unruly children.  This is what Dr. Fauci is trying to do.  Take care of each one of us, and our front line workers.  Because he knows that sometimes people won't follow the rules, because they feel the rules don't apply to them.  Or the rules are silly, and their needs overtake others needs.  Or maybe they are smarter than the rest of us, and know better than we do.
But now, in this unpredictable and scary time, can we all just follow the advice of the medical community?  They are the experts in this situation.  They are telling us how to survive.  Much like when you get on a plane, go to school, go to a baseball game, go to school, live your life.  Listen to those who work in these places every day.  They know best.  Trust in them. Trust in your grocery store stocker, when they tell you they are out of toilet paper (there's none hiding in the back room).  Trust your waiter when they say "I wouldn't order the salmon today" or your doctor when she says "Wear a hat when you are out in the sun."  Trust that people know what they are experts in  And, please, if your emotional support dog has an accident, don't walk away! Clean it up!  

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