I’m a flight attendant. It takes a certain person to do this type of job… if you want to call it a job per se. Some have asked me what I plan on doing after I’m a flight attendant. It’s low stress, I don’t have a boss breathing down my neck, my schedule is flexible, and I’m allotted twelve days off a month which I can either pick up trips for extra money or I can arrange days to fly basically anywhere either for free, or at a heavily discounted price. Is this a job? Some may disagree. Dealing with people and the safety of everyone around you is a job.
It’s difficult to describe the way I mentally prepare for dealing with hundreds of people on the trip(s) that I fly. I treat everyone that comes on my aircraft equally with the exception for children and the elderly. Everyone else will have a reaction to me when they enter my aircraft and I behave accordingly. I do this because everyone has to get somewhere. They’re from all walks of life. Some are going to their destination on business, on vacation, visiting family and a myriad of other things. If you’re going to be an asshole on the airplane and be rude, I’ll still serve you; you’re on my aircraft for as long as the flight is in session and then you’re off the plane and out of my life. I don’t have to live with you, see you everyday, or deal with you on a daily basis.
I’ve had to the opportunity to meet some great people and make some great business contacts in this line of work. Some passengers stand out. For instance, I was flying from Rochester to Fort Meyers and there happened to be a ninety-five year old gentleman that served as an Army medic under General Douglas Macarthur in WWII (one of my favorite generals behind George S. Patton). Some passengers that board my aircraft stand out and leave an impression on you that’s incredibly poignant. This is where Kelly stepped onto my plane yesterday in Boston. Kelly was most likely in her late twenties and came on my aircraft with tired and teary eyes. I had asked if she was okay. She had told me she was fine. I went and got her some tissues. Was she flying back home from visiting family? A boyfriend? These are questions that go through your mind, then you get over them and go on with your job. The plane had finished boarding and the gate agent pulled me aside and let me know that Kelly is flying to Chicago to attend her boyfriend’s funeral. Traveling to funerals is nothing uncommon to some of the passengers I’ve flown with… even down to making room in the overhead bin for an urn. Kelly seemed different to me, though. She sat at the window in 2D and peered out the window silently and sullenly. I looked up Kelly’s name on the manifest and called her out of her seat before the plane pushed back from the gate. I gave her my condolences to her boyfriend and told her that the gate agent let me know of her sorrow. I set her up in 1A where she could have her own row. She slept most of the flight. It wasn’t until the initial descent into Chicago that I took a seat beside her and asked her how she was doing. She didn’t want to go. I asked her how her boyfriend passed away. He had committed suicide and her boyfriend’s roommate had found him. As tears streamed down her freckled cheeks, there were pangs in my heart. I shared her a story of losing someone dear to me to Leukemia and the story of my very own father’s suicide and how my mother was left with nothing. I shared with her that I still had yet to visit my father’s grave in New Mexico where he ended his life. I told her that his suicide wasn’t her fault and that doing such a deed is stubborn and leaves nothing but pain and emptiness behind. “Does it get better? Please tell me it gets better.” It does get better. You move on. I explained to her as I’ve explained to many other’s before: there is a time to mourn a loss, and there is a time to celebrate the life they lived. I explained to her that letting this dwell will get in the way of the happiness that she will soon recover and that mourning the loss of a loved one is completely natural and actually healthy. She pressed her tear ridden cheeks against mine as I hugged her. My eyes welled up. This poor girl. I took my seat and harnessed myself in for landing. Most people don’t get these types of experiences with most jobs. I was blessed to had shared this experience even though I felt for her. The pressurized cabin doors opened up once we landed. She hugged me before she left that aircraft. Passengers looked on and understood. I didn’t want to let her go. I wanted to her to keep in mind that she’ll be alright. Her voice muffled against my coat, “I’ll never forget you.”