Diversions, Delays and Destinations

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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.

The Three R’s of real learning…

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I have always been someone that loves to learn.  I read everything in front of me.  As a child, I read voraciously, consuming a book or more a day.  My mother would take us girls to the library often and I would come away with a bag of books every time.  The excitement of a new bag of books with their beautifully illustrated covers and the smell of the library are such fond memories.  I went to so many places in my mind as I read books.  I am a sucker for a good romance, a bit of intrigue and anything with a good story.  I have gone to school a few different times in my life.  I started college the fall immediately after high school graduation.  I went to University of Wisconsin-Lacrosse for one semester.  I did enjoy the experience but honestly my heart was back home as I was in love at the time and I struggled being away from Marty for more than a few days.  I left UW-Lacrosse at semester break and then transferred to University of Wisconsin-Baraboo, Sauk County.  It is really hard to study and do well in school if there is no passion, goal or direction.  I went for a bit but dropped out; I was planning our wedding and consumed with those details at that time.  I had no desire to learn and I had no plan to go back.  I got married to Marty that February and worked at the grocery store as a cashier.  The following summer we got pregnant with Holly and married life and parenting were my plan at the time.  We had Holly in April of 1989 and it was at that pivotal point in my life, I realized I wanted to be a nurse. The care I received during labor & delivery opened my eyes to the possibilities of that career.

That summer I followed through with my plan and went to Southwest Technical College for a certification in nursing assistant.  I loved the class and I had three really great teachers that were thorough in their instruction.  I graduated with my certificate in Nursing Assistant and got a job at Sauk Prairie Memorial Hospital. The hospital was such a great employer. They had a tuition reimbursement program that allowed me to go to school; work 20 hours per pay period.  They would pay me a stipend for full time work and for all of my tuition costs, including books if I committed to working four years after graduating. I ended up working for them for 15 years total; I believe I was probably a good return on their investment!  I loved my nursing studies; getting really good grades and graduating #2 in my class with high academic honors.  I was the last class to write the paper test for my licensure; it took 2 days with sessions in the morning and afternoon.  I passed the test the first time and became a RN.  I worked in our ICU department as a CNA, a student nurse and as a telementry technician.  Once I was a RN; I worked the Medical/Surgical floor for a full year.  I then received a job to work full time in the Labor & Delivery unit; I also taught breastfeeding classes; childbirth classes.  I floated to the emergency room and Med/Surg floors when the OB department was closed.

When I turned 30, I was starting to get bored a bit and went back to school for a year at University of Wisconsin-Richland.  I took a bunch of classes to get my Bachelors; mostly prerequisite general study courses.  I loved studying the humanities; taking a Western Civilizations class, Art History and English Comp.  I wanted to go and get my bachelors in Community Health Education but after the year of school on top of work challenges, I gave up.  I was wanting more time at home with the girls and freedom to right my own schedule more.  I worked 7 years doing home care with special needs children, in their homes.  It was a nice chapter of life because I was given allot more control over my time and schedule.  I was very devoted to my faith walk at this time in my life as well and I studied to get my license & ordination in ministry.  I found a lady that had a group that met in her home every Friday night for a full year.  We studied together and prayed together in a new testament way of mentoring & training.  I read allot about church history; learned the scriptures; studied church leadership and organization.  It was at this point in my life I dreamed one night of owning a photography studio.  I told my husband about the dream many numerous times and after about 6 months, he told me to just do it!  He got tired of hearing about it and said, “If you fail, you fail; but maybe you will succeed!” and so I jumped into having a photography studio.  I worked as a RN for about a year, buying my equipment; camera, lights and a few props.

I opened a store front photography studio with no knowledge of how to run a business; how to set my camera in manual mode or how to use studio lights.  But I love to learn and so I did! Those early years were a challenge.  I literally felt like my brain would explode sometimes; there was so much to learn!  I had some really amazing and patient clients in those early years.  My craft was not the best and I learned from every photo shoot.  I learned by making mistakes and then having to fix the mistakes in Photoshop.  I made financial mistakes, sales mistakes, ordering mistakes and tax mistakes.  Some mistakes in life are more costly than others!  A good friend stopped by one day and put it in perspective for me…some mistakes cost a few dollars in inventory, others cost a whole septic system!  I was very fortunate that my mistakes were never as costly as a whole septic system!  Most of my daily mistakes were in product perfection; I would be disappointed in how a product printed and I would have to print over again.  Or I would scratch something with the framing process and need to reprint.  As I had people work for me; I would have to pay for their mistakes too.  One of my biggest mistakes was not keeping up with the tax man.  I learned dearly from that mistake but I am happy to report that I paid them off the same month I closed my studio.  After about 8 years; I left the photography industry to take a job as a flight attendant.  I really felt I learned the equivalent to a masters’ degree in that life experience!  It was a very stressful, demanding chapter in my life.  But I am thankful for all the lessons I learned and all the people I met.

The experience of becoming a flight attendant was exciting and back in familiar territory for me.  It was very similar to becoming a nurse; mostly safety and emergency procedures.  The education process itself was pretty easy but the evaluation process of becoming a flight attendant can be stressful.  Perfection is demanded and there was always the threat of being sent home from training if your test scores fell short.  We all were one test away from our dream.  The bonding of our class was an unique thing as we were all thrown together for training, basically eating, studying and living together.  I count many of my classmates as friends to this day and I have actually lived with two of them since graduation.  We have recurrent training every year on our anniversary date.  The job can be a bit intimidating because you never know when a line check by the training department will happen or if the FAA inspector will be on your flight as well.  It helps to have a solid routine of tasks, a good work ethic and to review the skills often.

So that brings me to the three R’s of real learning.  Receptivity, Resourcefulness and Resiliency.  I wanted to give a background of my personal learning path to demonstrate how each one of these has been instrumental in my learning over the years.  I will explore each one in my next three blog posts.  I argue that the future of learning has to change.  The traditional methods don’t always work and the costs have gotten very exorbitant!  I believe a combination of these three things are what makes learning possible.

Perspective…a guiding principal

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As I begin this blog, I was trying to figure the best way to start.  A new blog is like a fresh blanket of snow, perfect.  As I begin to make tracks through this blog experience; I just want to get going!  There is so much I want to share and have been consumed with the need to write for the last year.  Often I get “downloaded” into my mind full blog entries while I am showering in the morning.  I will start with an idea or thought; sometimes a scripture will come to mind and soon an illustration or example follows.  But I get stuck when it comes to getting it written down in the computer.  There have been so many barriers to getting this blog written.  The idea of needing design perfection seems to always dog me.  I want it to be pretty and perfect!  But the reality is, I just need to write and stop making excuses.

I am excited about the future!  I have had many various chapters in my life.  You can certainly go to the sections of my blog that give my life’s story.  I have reinvented myself many times with at least 3 distinctly different careers. Right now I feel the direction to do something; to move forward.  I am a flight attendant and about a week ago, I looked out the window when we were traveling 36,000 feet about South Dakota.  There was on one side of the plane a blanket of fresh snow covering the earth.  Yet, when I looked out the other side of the plane, all I saw was brown earth.  It amazed me that there could be such a different perspective from one side of the plane to the other.  So often, I feel I live my life looking out of just one side of the plane.  Do we ever get to see the whole picture?  Thankfully, God can see the whole picture and I am grateful He is the pilot in control of my life.  I want the view He has.  When I am flying at 36,000 feet; life on the ground looks small. He is a big God and that always seems more apparent to me when I look at the vastness of our beautiful country from above.

As I long to see the big picture, I have been asking God where my future flight plan goes and what the next destination is.  I know my eventual home will be in heaven; that I am certain of. But the plan He has for my life intrigues me.  I have taken a step back lately and decided that I want my time to count.  Time has definitely slipped away from me the last year or so.  A blink of an eye and time is gone. I enjoy my job as a flight attendant and I am committed to working this job as long as God sees fit.  My plan is to work until age 55; retire with flight benefits for Marty and I for the rest of our lives.  But God does number our days and I am not promised anything.   I have always wanted to live a life of purpose and lasting impact.  God has planted some new desires in my heart and I am excited to share that journey with you!  While I continue as a flight attendant daily, I need to be more productive with my time.  Facebook just doesn’t fill all my spare time! So I plan to order my steps a little more deliberately.  Hold on tight and keep those seatbelts fastened!