“So what do you do for a living?” asks…oh…whoever it is asking that day, which on this day happened to be a client of my husband, a very important client with a very impressive job.
“I’m a flight attendant,” I say with a smile.
The two second pause, that’s usually the initial response from the person asking the question about my job. During this never ending pause, I always find myself holding my breath, because the pause is always followed by one of two responses, and nine times out of ten it’s not the good response.
- The good response: Is full of excitement and ends with an exclamation mark. It goes something like this; “I’ve always wanted to be a flight attendant!” or “My sister is a flight attendant!” And always leads to a very nice conversation about travel, which then leads to other interesting topics related to travel.
- The bad response: Always starts with the same four words, “On my last flight…” which is then followed by another pause, accompanied with a weird look, which of course leads to a very bad story about the last flight. Needless to say, the conversation usually doesn’t go so well after this. How can it? I’ve now been linked to the worst flight this person has ever had. No matter how well we’d just been getting along.
“Computers,” said a friend, and CEO of a well known watch company that I worked for thirteen years ago. “I always tell people I’m in computers and then they leave me alone. Try it.”
“Oh I hate telling people what I do for a living,” said Mark, a fellow coworker, as we stood in the first class galley of a New York to Los Angeles flight, a flight I wasn’t working. We were talking about the job, and what people tend to think of those of us who do the job, which is the main reason Mark hates talking about the job with those who work on the ground.
Flight attendants aren’t the only ones who dread talking about it. On a flight a few years back, when things weren’t nearly as bad as they are now in the aviation industry, a super 80 co-pilot once confessed, “I never wear my uniform outside the house. I don’t want my neighbors knowing what I do for a living. When I get to the airport I change clothes.”
“Really?” I asked the first officer who, at the time, seemed a little…well…weird. I mean this was a pilot – A PILOT! Something to be proud of.
Now, years later, I often think of that guy when I’m dressed in my uniform and not on the airplane, the guy who may not have been so weird after all. Perhaps somehow he knew something about the future of aviation we could not imagine back then when things were…well…good, even though back then we still didn’t think things were all that great.
Like most flight attendants, I miss the good old days, but I still love my job, even if I’m selling sandwiches down the aisle and constantly apologizing because we don’t have this and we don’t have that to a full flight of miserably cramped passengers. Otherwise I wouldn’t do it. I certainly don’t have to do it. Really, I don’t. I want to do it and I like doing it. Which is why I’m going to tell you something I told my husband five years ago while we were seated across a dimly lit table from each other on our second date. I won’t quit. Ever! Oh yeah, I’ll be one of the ones using the drink cart like a walker forty years from now. Why? Because I love my job, remember? So it’s a shame that talking about the job has become such a sore spot with so many people.
“You’re the new whipping girl,” said Margo Candela, one of my few friends who does not work at 35,000 feet for a living. She said that after I had told her how people usually react when I tell them I’m a flight attendant.
“Whipping girl?” I repeated, because this was news to me. I’d never been called that before. In fact, I’ve been called everything BUT that, so whipping girl sounded nice, for a change, and also kind of exciting. “Whipping girl,” I said again, because I just liked saying it, and couldn’t stop saying it, as I imagined myself, the girl, actually holding the whip, as I stood in the aisle surrounded by passengers. “So what do you mean, exactly, by whipping girl?” I asked Margo, even though I had a pretty good idea what she meant, which I knew wasn’t at all like what I was fantasizing about.
“What I mean,” said Margo, the writer. “Is nowadays the dislike for airlines and ticket prices are the only thing people can agree on. It brings the world together. Trashing airlines, customer service, you name it, is a fairly safe and enthusiastic topic of conversation. For instance, I won’t talk religion or politics with some people, but airline complaints are fair game.”
It was an ah-ha moment. Everything Margo said made sense. And guess what, she actually made me feel better, so much better, in fact, I could go on with my day and face whatever negativity that might come my way with a first class smile on my face.
So go ahead, say what you like about me, my job, my coworkers, it’s okay. Because we’re doing great things with our lives. Yeah, I said it, great things, people! I mean how many of you are actually bringing this crazy mixed up world together by creating a unified hatred not based on religion, race, or political belief, but by working in an industry that’s struggling just to stay afloat? I mean who would have thought that one job could spark so much emotion? From so many people. And from all walks of life!
Now seriously, why can’t we all just get along?
Because we’re all stuck in the flying tube together.