Monday

Chuckles From the Cockpit & Other Inappropriate Flight Attendant Tales

As promised, more from my flight attendant days...

Glamorous? Ummm...no.

My dream of being a flight attendant came true in the early 90s.  I couldn't have been happier to have landed this job (no pun intended) right out of travel school.  This airline came to my school and recruited the best of the best (eyeroll - give me a break - getting all A's in travel school is like taking candy from a baby.  If you have half a brain you graduate Summa Chai Latte).  Anyhow - I was one of the top in my class so I scored an interview immediately - here I was, finally getting the glamor job I'd dreamed of for years.

After 6 weeks of training, I earned my wings.  I loved training.  I am a clown of course so I had to goof off most of the time but I did pay attention - I mean, I really did need to know how to activate the slide, the emergency exits, and so many other safety precautions.  But during the training, I did my best to make everyone laugh.  One day, we had to practice how to deal with sexual harassment, because on  a plane, there's no where to go when someone inappropriately makes  a pass at you (and let me tell you - it happens on EVERY flight - no joke).  So there it was, my turn to go up.  All I was supposed to do was bend down, put my hand firmly on the trainer's arm, look him in the eye and say, 'DON'T do that again.'  Instead, I took the opportunity to be a smart ass and said, "look, if you are going to harass me on the plane, at least buy me a drink and ask me to sit first."  The class laughed - the instructor did not.  He kept me after one day and asked me point blank why I thought I had to be funny all the damn time.  I didn't have an answer.  Luckily, he did say that it was a good thing I was excelling at everything during instruction or he'd have to be serious about reprimanding me.  The last straw was when I got up to do my spiel for a 'grade' and I hammed it up.  Instead of saying, "in case a loss of electrical power, the paths to the exits will be illuminated for you.."   I said, "in case of a loss of electrical power, the paths to the exits will be illuminated but this is NOT a floor show, and I am NOT a dancer..."  Again, the place erupted in laughter, and I looked at Mr. Serious and he hung his head and shook it slowly.  "You've GOT to stop this, you never know when you'll have a ghost rider from the company on board and then you'll really have problems."   I tried to heed his advice, but it was so hard to be serious.

"This is NOT a floorshow and I am NOT a dancer.."

Keep in mind, these were PRE 9/11 days.  Things were different.  Passengers had rights, they were confident and full of themselves...at that time they were still 'always right.'  We aimed to please back then.  If we were delayed because of this or that, we got to comp drinks.  Ohhh was that fun.  I loved comping drinks because one in the air is worth two on the ground.  People got drunk faster - which always led to funny stories and what not.  Keep in mind, I was on 34 seat-hoppers so I was the only one working besides the pilots.

"I'm ready to parrrrr-tay!"  Those days, drunks were fun on my airplane.

My pilots rotated in and out of my life.  Some of my faves were "M", who liked to speed up and down the tarmac to get to the gate faster - all so he could get to the hotel room and watch sci-fi like Star Trek and Battlestar Gallactica.  I used to smile and wave at passengers as they looked horrified as they stared out the window at how fast we were taxiing.  I think he later got transferred to ramp agent.  Another one of my least faves was "S"who was a narcolept.  I didn't find this out until one day when he never came back from a layover.  He had fallen asleep one too many times and the co-pilot finally ratted him out - thank God for that. 

I liked to say the wrong destination in my opening spiel just to see people freak out...but I'd use a crazy place like Transylvania instead of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania just to see if people were listening.  Most people were listening back then because no one had cell phones (or laptops for that matter)- except the very wealthy businessmen that had fatboys.  Those would be considered dangerous weapons these days.  How I hated the seat belt spiel. I mean who are these people, preschoolers? Who doesn't know how to put on a damn seatbelt?  Occasionally, I would be brave and goof that one up by saying, "to put your seat belt on, insert the metal tab into the buckle, and pull tight. It's really no different than any other seat belt you've ever worn in your life, and if you don't know how to buckle it, you should probably not be flying at all."  I had to be careful with the safety shit - I never knew when that ghost rider would be on board.  The one time a ghost rider WAS on board was a 5:15 flight out of Bangor in the dead of winter.  My asshole cab driver came and pounded on my apartment door at 2:00 am instead of 3:00 am - scared the hell out of me and I never fell back asleep.  I was completely exhausted and freezing cold since it was easily 15 below zero that day.  As we were headed down the runway for departure, I felt my neck flop onto my chest and I snapped awake.  Falling asleep on duty is, well, frowned upon.  He was the last one off the plane and was actually very kind about it.  He gave me a warning and was on his way.  That was the last time I ever nodded off on a flight.

I miss the days of Fatboys.
Smoking had only just been banned back then so I had to remind travelers twice throughout the trip not to smoke.  Usually I said, "Smoking in the lavatories is prohibited. If I catch anyone smoking in the lavatory you will be asked to leave the plane immediately to go to the smoking wing."   They always loved that one.

Feel free to smoke outside.

The Mile-High club was an urban legend on my flight.  You could really only fit in our planes' bathrooms if you were 5'2", 120 lbs.  Anyone bigger than that would have to be a contortionist..so two people doing anything other than standing like soldiers is impossible.  That's not to say people didn't do repulsive things on my flights.  They did.  Sometimes I would tell them to knock it off - sometimes I'd just ignore it.  Once, I was traveling through the aisle with beverage service when a guy gave me a sick back and asked me to refrigerate his sperm until he got off the plane.  I quickly filled a sick bag full of ice and dropped it into his lap - "here, this should do the trick," I said, and quickly moved on to the next person.  See the thing is, when you are flying, you have to decide how to handle your business.  These days, there's no putting up with anything - you want to tell your Captain someone's being an asshole, you better be prepared to land that plane at the next stop and have someone arrested.  Back then, you fixed the problem before it got out of hand.  That's where humor usually helped.  I have been handed everything from sperm, to poopy diapers, to vomit, to onions.  This is not a glamorous job people!


This is the only Effen served on the plane. Effen Vodka.  Brilliant.


We had a lot of power in those days.  If a pilot was a jerk, we would communicate that to the ramp guys, who swooned over the flight attendants often.  A simple nod and a point to a suitcase would indicate that particular crew bag should go to Montreal instead of Montana.  Hell hath no fury like a flight attendant scorned.

Looking back, one of the funny things, if you haven't read my previous blogs, was going to flight school with Steven Slater - you know the famous flight attendant that told the passengers where to go and then deployed the slide and headed down with a couple of beers.  God I loved that guy.  My hero for sure.  Take this job and shove it has new, personal meaning.


Things have changed, flight travel isn't fun anymore.  You just want to get from Point A to Point B safely and peacefully.  Everyone is a suspect.  Everyone is a victim.  Everyone gets felt up at security.  It's not fun.  But we can't stop traveling, we can't stop living.  Then they win...and we can't let that happen.

How things have changed.

Next time you travel, be extra kind to your flight attendant.  It's a hard job, it gets lonely, and it's thankless so much of the time.

Safe Travels,
~DG

4 comments:

  1. cracking up...hope you can find your flight bags a-hole! and for the record, I love those Biscoffs..highlight of traveling..but now my kids eat mine.

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  2. I am personally scared to death of flying, always have been but I got worse since 9/11. Plus I don't drink so I can't even numb my self. My husband is from Ireland which means trips overseas every couple of years. Thankfully their is Valium but I think if you were on the plane, making me laugh, I would handle it much better

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  3. bah! Love this post so much. I wish I had you on flights with me. I am always kind as I know what waiting tables is like and dealing with people on flights nowadays is a nightmare. If you can't be funny, as you were back in your training, what is the point! Go funny! Go fabulous!

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  4. Growing up, I always thought being a flight attendant would be glamorous. You set me straight.

    I used to love drinking on the plane. The good ol' days.

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