As many of you know, I have been a flight attendant for over a year and a half. This is one my “story” blog entries. I have pondered much since the beginning of the year. Mostly, I have taken inventory of how I have changed. One thing I have definitely learned as a flight attendant is “to let it go”. Control is such an illusion. In the past, I had a real problem with losing control in a situation. Not that I would have a problem with anger and throw things but I would internally just get so frustrated. I would let it bottle up and fester. My job has taught me patience and trust that it will all work out. I have very little control; my attitude in frustrating situations; such as delays, is what really affects my eventual outcome.
More than anything; my life is not my own anymore. I have 10 days a month that are under my scheduling control but the airline has me for the other 21 days. Living in a suitcase; I have learned to have very few possessions. I have learned to survive on free hotel breakfast food and scrounge for packets of peanut butter. I never walk by a hotel fresh fruit bowl without grabbing an apple or banana! I have had plenty in my wallet but I have also done a four day trip with under $10 cash. My schedule is at the whim of my company. They dictate when I can sleep; when I must rise, when I will work hard and when I will sit for long hours in airports. I certainly cannot control my co-workers. Some are really great people; cleaning up and leaving me a plane that is ready to go. But more often than not; the prior flight attendant leaves me with a messy galley, melted ice and garbage spilling out everywhere. I can’t control the pilots; some are really cool people, with interesting lives but some are just jaded & grumpy; complaining about everything and bitter about our employer.
But oh the control I have with my attitude! I can make a plane full of 50 passengers get in a good mood with my sense of humor, my attitude and a smile. Of course, there are some passengers you will never make happy. I have learned to move on and let them wallow in their negativity. I can also change the dynamics of working with my pilots by my sense of humor and energy I bring. I do have one captain that after four days I could never improve his attitude and he is on my “do not fly” list. Yes, we keep lists sometimes; pilots we don’t care for, flight attendants that leave messy galleys and we just write them up. I have cities I don’t like to fly too–like Topeka, KS–sorry, there is just nothing good to say about Topeka. There are flights we don’t like to pick up ; like working White Plains, NY to Chicago O’Hare. White Plains is one of the richest counties in the united states and they can be a challenging group of passengers to work with. But when you work with a great crew and get to have a good overnight in a nice hotel–the job is wonderful.
In the last day, I endured a delayed and eventually canceled flight. We sat on the tarmac in Denver for over 3 hours. We returned to the gate at midnight. This situation is a normal occurrence but what made it really frustrating was I had no phone and no purse with me. Let me explain. On Tuesday night, I was getting ready to do a flight to Fayetteville. We boarded the plane quickly because the plane we were using came into the gate late. So everyone was in a hurry to get the flight out. I took my bags, put them in the crew closet. I grabbed my purse and quickly stuffed it up in my galley cupboard. I went to the back of my plane and quickly did my safety checks. I came back up to the front and the maintenance guys were on the plane. They said they were grounding the plane because something needed to be replaced and they needed about an hour to do it. So we were quickly swapped over to a new plane and new gate. I quickly grabbed our bags out of the crew closet; loaded up and we hustled over to the next plane. I completely forgot my purse. I did not realize it until I was at the end of my flight to Fayetteville. I try really hard to never use my phone while working. It irritates me to see people on their cell phones while working; so my phone is usually stays in my purse. So, honestly I didn’t even miss it at first. Then I looked in the crew closet and saw that it was not there. When we landed the crew tracker (scheduling employee in Chicago) called my captain and explained that someone found it, she had it and would try to get it to me the next day in Denver.
Wow! cell phones are such a big part of everyday life! I had no idea how much I have come to depend on having a cell phone. We called the crew tracking office the next day but the crew tracking supervisor did not want responsibility for my purse so he sent it over to my inflight supervisor. My pilots were great and let me use their phones to stay in contact with Marty.
This brings me to thursday night. So, I am sitting on the canceled dead head flight to Chicago. My pilots have gone their way home and I am alone with no phone. I was supposed to fly to Chicago and get it from my supervisor’s office. It’s midnight and the Denver airport is almost abandoned. I went to our crew room at the other end of the terminal and logged onto the internet and sent a quick message to Marty and asked crew scheduling for a hotel room. Normally, I call crew scheduling directly and I can talk to someone to get the hotel room. I tried using the phone in the crew room and no matter what combination of numbers I used; I could not get an outside line. So, I sent a message to the scheduling department and waited, and waited. An hour later, they rebooked my flight to Chicago for the next day. But I had no hotel information. Usually, when stuff like this happens, the crew is all together–2 pilots and myself–the captain deals with a lot of it. But I was alone; with no phone, incredibly slow communication with my scheduling department. Finally, I get a message indicating they were working on getting a hotel room but most of the hotels were booked full. About 2 hours after arriving in the crew room I get a message indicating that I was staying at a Hilton inside the city and I should take a taxi; at the number 5 taxi stand on the west side.
Jeesh! I barely know my way around Denver airport. I have only been to Denver a handful of times and I have only stayed overnight in Denver 2 times. So, I followed the signs to ground transportation and finally found the taxi stand. There was a line of people waiting with a lady directing traffic; all dressed up in heavy winter pants/coat/gator on her face so all you saw was a bit of her face. She was interesting to watch; telling people where to stand; telling taxi cab drivers who they could take; telling taxi cab drivers where to go (in more ways than one!) Finally she says to me; “crew, where are you going?” I give her the hotel destination and the yellow cab company I am supposed to take according to my company. I saw 3 taxi cabs from the company I was supposed to take but I waited until she indicated it was my turn. She brusquely corrected a few people who went the wrong direction. I was definitely waiting for her direction because she was in charge!
I got the best taxi driver! Such a pleasant young man, going to college to be a pharmacist. We had a great conversation on that 45′ drive. He asked about payment and I indicated that my company would pay him once we got to the hotel. It is my company’s responsibility to pay. We would have to call our travel agency for a credit card number. Inwardly, I was worried how that was going to go. In the past, I had seen captains have to pay for the taxi cabs with their own credit cards because our travel agency isn’t always easy to contact. I had no purse; no wallet; no credit card, cash or phone to call. But we continued to engage in a conversation and we pulled up to hotel at about 0300. God does provide because when we arrive at the hotel, there was another yellow cab with another crew from my company standing outside it. When I got out of my cab, I walked over to the first officer and asked him if he was on the phone with our travel agency. He was and he indicated he was on hold. I asked him if my cabbie could get the credit card number from them as well when they came back on. My cabbie told me to go inside and stay warm. My cabbie came inside a few moments later; told me he got payment and I was off the hook for the $73 dollar bill. The First officer was still outside fighting with their cabbie. Their cabbie was refusing to directly bill our travel agency and demanding the pilots to pay. It was a confusing mess because the cabbie barely spoke English. I was so blessed to have taken the cab I got!
I was inside with the female captain at the hotel registration desk. She was registering her crew and the hotel added my name to their roster. It took a few minutes for our travel agency to fax the payment approval over and finally I was headed to my room. The first officer was still in the lobby arguing with the cabbie. What a long night.
I always seem to have just enough. The day before I was doing a flight to Minot ND. I had a young man in my first seat (1A). He worked for the oil companies and was heading back to the oil fields to work. He loved to talk and we engaged in a nice conversation about the weather, his work and where I was going next. He was not flirtatious but just talked about everything. He had 5 drinks in my 1 hour and 45′ flight. He was big boy and seemed to handle the beers just fine (normally I don’t serve that much, that quickly) but he was happy. He went to tip me and of course I said, “I can’t take” this but he insisted and said, “it’s just nice to talk to a women like yourself. I get to go back to working long days in a truck all day in the cold” It was $30! I have gotten tips before but just a few dollars here and there. I get lot’s of compliments and people like being on my flights but tipping flight attendants is just not very common. Most of my flights are short and I don’t seem to serve very much alcohol unless I am going to New Orleans or Wisconsin/Dakota States. I used that money for food thursday afternoon and friday because my lunch bag was pretty much depleted at this point. As a side note; my Marty tips flight attendants all the time. He often flies without me, catching up to me wherever I am at. He knows the pitiful income of most flight attendants. I believe God was honoring Marty’s giving nature by blessing me.
So friday, as I headed to the Denver airport again for my flight to Chicago, my company provided a limo service instead of a taxi. When they have time to schedule the transportation, they will schedule with a limo type service. I had the most delightful ride with a young middle eastern man who loved to talk. We talked about the travel industry, customer service jobs and different cities. He lived in Queens, NY, Chicago and now Denver. We talked about traveling and enjoying life. My husband has taught me that some of the best conversations are with taxi/limo drivers (provided that they can speak english). I only had $10 left of my $30 tip and I wanted to tip him but needed to eat. I offered to tip him and he said, “no, no, your company is taking good care of me.” I offered to write a commendation to his supervisor and he said, “no, no, I enjoyed our conversation, it was my delight.”
Wow, I think people are just longing for good conversation, friendliness and appreciation. I know I enjoy talking to my passengers too and engaging in meaningful conversation. When you work in customer service, it is moments where you can truly be of service that are most rewarding. When you can change the opinion or attitude of a passenger. It’s really nice to be appreciated. I will admit, sometimes I am tired and go thru the motions. I think customer service can be one of the most exhasperating occupations. Some people are just plain hard to work with. I try to love them like a good christian but there are some that are really hard to love. This job really has developed my walk with Christ as I feel like I endure some things in this career that I would never endure in other careers. I have been doing this job for almost 2 years and it has given me tougher skin and unfortunately, a potty mouth. But I also don’t live a life controlled by circumstances. I have much more self confidence and I like who I have become. I have learned that it is all about my attitude on the way to the destination. How are delays, disappointments and diversions treating you in life? Take some time today to ponder what they teach you. Attitude is everything.