A friend of mine posted an article about a flight attendant who lost it. You can read the article here. Yeah, go ahead. I always wait for you.
So as some of you know, I was a flight attendant many sizes and many moons ago. It was a soul crushing job. When I read this article, I actually smelled the airplanes again, felt the smooth surface of the overhead bins and yes, felt a huge swell of empathy for poor Steven Slater (the steward who flipped). Been there, done that. Didn't pull the emergency slide out, though.
Doesn't mean I didn't think about it. I remember flying on DC-9's, they're the smaller planes that we'd use for little trips, like from Minneapolis to Chicago. The emergency escape route on those planes was through the end cone of the planes, and I remember some flights where all I could think about was how long it would take me to put on a parachute, climb into the cone and hit the button marked "ESCAPE".
Just like Paul Westerberg in the Replacements crooned all those years ago, when you're a flight attendant you ain't nothing but a waitress in the sky. Trapped. Thousands of miles up in the air, a prisoner in a jail run by cranky, rude, cattle-like people. And I say this in the nicest way possible.
When you first get that wild hair to be a flight attendant, your hopeful little head is filled with mental images of you traipsing around the globe, pulling your wee wheeled suitcase through glamorous airports, flirting with hunky pilots and rubbing elbows with celebrities up in First Class.
It's usually after your first 24 hours of being a flight attendant when you realize that every airport is hot and crowded and at least 100 miles long, your little suitcase doesn't pull through snowy parking lots so well, the "hunky" pilots were almost always married and sometimes "drunky" pilots and the celebrities you did meet sometimes turned out to be gigantic assholes (one of the guys who was in "Robocop". Total dick. Emilio Estevez on the other hand...nice. And flirty!)
You have your ass grabbed, your boobs "accidentally" brushed by the arms of creepy businessmen, people bitching at you over a can of soda (yes my Minnesota friends, I said soda. I made the mistake of once asking a New Yorker if they wanted some pop. Never again.). I had diapers filled with poo, bags of barf, dirty q-tips and all other sorts of hazardous waste materials handed over to me. Had to be the bitch who scolded the little kids for running up and down the aisles while mommy drank contraband gin and daddy snored.
On one of the Geritol flights (the flights from anywhere in the upper Midwest to Florida that were filled to capacity with Jerry Seinfeld's parents) I had the misfortune of walking into a bathroom and seeing someone's grandpa with his trousers down around his ankles. What, no locks on the outhouses back home, Pops?
Then there were the wrestling guys. I can't remember if they were WWF or WWE or WWW or whatever acronyms there are for this group of guys, but there were about 7 or 8 of them. All well over six feet tall, all with necks about as thick as my waist is now. Each one, as if on cue, stood in the aisle, and dropped their carry-on bags. I remember looking at the guy I was flying with that day, a sweet and petite boy named Michael, and raising my eyebrows. "Do you gentlemen want to put those bags in the overhead compartments?" we asked them. One of the hulking missing links grunted, "You put them up there for us. That's your job." As I hoisted and jammed and sweated for the next fifteen minutes I was comforted by the thought that steroids make penises and testicles shrink.
I remember hanging out in the galley with the older, more experienced flight attendants. They were the lucky ones who got in before the airlines went to hell, and actually made a good living. Sure, there was the whole second-hand smoke and thrombosis thing, but every job has it's hazards, right? They gave us newbies advice and information that would help us as we learned the ropes. I clearly remember the day that I learned what "crop dusting" meant.
And it wasn't all awful. I made some kick ass friends, I eventually did see a lot of the world and I was able to live out my dream and be a real life Grace to my very own Will for a wee bit of time in Detroit (yes, I lived in Detroit. But it was with a fabulous gay man, so don't feel too sorry for me, we had a blast.).
Yeah, I know, it wasn't rocket science or brain surgery or even data entry, but it was my first real glimpse at the true character of my fellow humans. And it made me realize that there are a lot of mean people on this planet.
There were two parts of the aforementioned article that I loved the most: the first, when Steve paused before jumping down the inflatable slide, stolen beers clutched to his chest, and said something like "That was a waste of 28 years (the original story has been edited)." and then jumped; and the part where the police say they think he was in the "midst of having sexual relations" when they arrived at his home to arrest him. Steve went home, had a beer and then had some angry sex. Or was it relieved sex? Whichever- good for you, Steve. I lasted a mere one year flying the freaky skies, you did it for over two decades. If I could, I would buy you a drink, sir.
So... the next time you're flying, be nice to your flight attendants. Ok, you can be a tool to the ones who are turds (some of the mean people on this planet were duped into this job, too). But some of them are just nice, hardworking people who want just as badly as you do (probably more) to just get the hell off the plane. When the flight is finally over, and you are off to your vacation or relative's house or your very own home, they are most likely boarding a hotel shuttle-van and will spend the rest of the night in a musty Holiday Inn with crappy cable. It's not their fault that you don't get a meal, that there's a storm in Nashville or that yes, out of all the planes in all the world you were put on the one with a colicky baby and, *gasp*, fat people. They aren't your punching bag or your human comment card.
They are your waitress in the sky. And they don't even get tips.