You sure you’re ready for the truth?
Still watching “Happy Days” reruns? Or maybe even “Leave it to Beaver” (okay I do, but I already have seen behind the curtain when it comes to Flight Attendants) where June Cleaver vacuums in pearls and heels? If this is you, please click here. Okay, don’t say I didn’t warn you.
First, let’s start with the basics: who IS this person we call Flight Attendant? Where do they come from? Actually, they’re parents and spouses and significant others and sons and daughters. And they come from, well, everywhere.
My friend Melissa and her crew.
The common denominator seems to be the ability to get along with nearly anyone. That, plus the ability to handle children. No, it’s not that they handle children on board in their role as Flight Attendant. Rather, they must deal with a lot of childishness in flight on both sides of the cockpit door. So anyway, many, it seems, have a background in Education: either as a college degree or as a teacher–or both.
My friend Nanci dealing with one of the children on board.
But that’s just what constitutes a significant number, but by no means, the majority. I once dated a Flight Attendant who had previously been a USDA meat inspector (I got rejected as “Not Prime,” although I’d like to consider myself at least “Average Chuck”), I know several with PhDs, I know one guy who flies for my airline who is an M.D.; the bass player in my band (shoutout to Angela!) is a flight attendant; My Darling Bride (MDB) before she became a “stewardess” was an engineer.
Okay, WARNING: don’t EVER call them “stew;” they hate it–even though my own mother, even after 25 years of non-rev travel on my passes still calls me to say, “The stews were so nice.”
But I can use the term myself because MDB doesn’t listen to me any more and in fact, with Flight Attendants you could say anything you want on the aircraft P.A. and they’ll NEVER KNOW. Seriously–the P.A. is a frequency that they can’t hear–kind of like a reverse dog hearing–so I could announce “I slept with your sister!” on the P.A. and she would simply ask, “what time are we landing?” Because she didn’t hear that P.A. either. But I digress.
Let’s just cut to the chase: here’s what you really want to know. In fact, let’s just go over important facts you NEED to know if you’re going to deal with flight attendants (of course you are, in flight), or date a flight attendant (you THINK you are, but that’s in YOUR dream, not theirs and they don’t get much sleep these days anyway), or maybe even you want to BE one (What, you’re finally off suicide watch, now this? Break the Prozac in half). Anyway, learn THIS:
1. Flight attendants will kick your ass. Seriously, they can and they will if they have to–and trust me, I’ll explain later–you want them to.
Okay, Carolyn's actually one of my Facebook friends and she's very nice. Mostly.
I’m not kidding. If you piss them off, you will pay. It might be be something simple like overfilling your coffee cup purposely so you’ll have to spill it (that was one of MDB’s specialties) or even the patented Flight Attendant “eff you” that is given so subtly and sweetly that you don’t even realize till the cart and flight attendant are three rows back before you think it through and realize, “Hmmmm . . . I think I just got told to go eff myself.”
Not that you don’t deserve it: they’ve asked one hundred people before you the same simple question–“What would you like to drink?” And they’ve answered the what do you have question at least as many times, plus they made a P.A. giving you the answers ahead of time. So, when you in row 32 ask again anyway, they have a soothing, pleasant proximate answer that after a few minutes your brain finally deciphers correctly as, you stupid idiot, YOU SHALL HAVE NOTHING. To which I would add, “you douchebag” but Flight Attendants are more skilled and less vulgar than I am. Bottom line: don’t be an idiot.
2. Flight attendants will share their ass–and they are crafty. We’re all crammed into a long, sealed tube, right?
Let’s face it–you’re in a sardine can for hours on end. In the cockpit, I actually have separate zone-controlled (by me) air conditioning and recirculation. Yes, it is good to be captain. And sure, you have some weird ideas about what goes on beyond that cockpit door, don’t you?
Suffice it to say that we pilots get “the royal treatment.” Now let’s move on.
Back to the long metal tube you’re paying a few bucks to be trapped in rather than face the freeway for days on end getting to whatever destination you’ve coughed up your vacation savings for.
The air in the jet is fine, it’s just the people like you who muck it up with your coughing, sneezing and personal exhaust if you know what I mean and I think you do.
Well, the cabin is their workplace, too. As long as they’re trapped and required to endure assorted emissions from both of your ends (sometimes you’d have to think that the ones from your south end are more tolerable than the “what do you have?” stuff coming out topside), they deserve a chance to defend themselves. And when you travel, especially as much as we do on a flightcrew, diet is at best a catch as catch can thing. That end result is bad, eventually.
Wet cleanup on aisle six.
And the best defense in this case as in most others is a good offense.
Hence, “crop dusting.” That’s the diabolical plan by which they spray front to back on board so that by the time you get smacked in the face
"My god--air, please . . . !
. . . they’re already halfway to the aft galley and out of sight. You all will blame each other, but there was, you should know, a secret plan:
From the Flight Attendant Manual: "Always cropdust front to back."
There’s nothing you can do about this, by the way, except take small breaths. Deal with it.
Finally, here’s the last and probably most important thing you should know:
3. Flight attendants will save your ass. And that’s what they’re on board for–not just to tell you what beverages are available, not to entertain you, but actually to save your ass in the worst possible moment of your life.
Notice who isn’t walking away from this crashed aircraft alive and well? It’s the Flight Attendants who helped them off and are still on board helping others. That’s what they do. And that’s why you want them to be able to do item #1 above: they need to be able to throw your ass down an escape slide if you can get out of a burning passenger cabin yourself.
They can handle the 90 pound emergency exit door or the even heavier cabin doors. They know the route by feel and by heart to the nearest emergency exit in a smoke-filled cabin–and they’ll take you there. They are ready with first aid and CPR and a defibrillator and a fire extinguisher and oxygen and anything else you or I might need in flight. Not what we “want” in flight, although they take care of all they can–but most importantly, what you need to make it off the plane alive in any circumstance.
That’s the challenge they’ve undertaken on your behalf. That’s what they’ve trained to do, what they’re tested on and certified annually and rigorously through drills, classes and study.
They’re not leaving without you, even if they have to haul your ass out of a burning plane themselves. To me, that’s amazing.
This they do for minimal pay over long hours with little time for food or sleep and with complete disregard for time zones or body clock, because that’s just the nature of the job. I’ve never known a more selfless group, and there isn’t a more versatile group of professionals on the planet. They can hang with anyone, talk to anyone, and they’ll save the life of anyone, in the air or on the ground.
Do I have to spell this out for you? You should respect and appreciate the unique and giving individuals who are the flight attendants on your flight. Or in my case, I appreciate the one who is my partner for life. Or there’ll be an ass-whuppin’ in short order for you and me alike.
Got it? Good–remember it. Think about the big three flight attendant truths I just shared with you the next time you fly.
And be sure, if nothing else, that you know what you’d like to drink BEFORE the cart gets to you. When it does, “please” and “thank you” are mandatory–especially to the professionals who can both kick your ass and save it, and who will do both as necessary.
And THAT is the truth about Flight Attendants.
Actually never met the guy, but you gotta like the way he thinks.
You hear the name, you see the pilot, but who is this person, “the airline captain” in whom you place your trust?
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