It happened right after the woman wearing black yelled at me because she had to wait in line to use the lavatory in coach, and that happened shortly after I noticed she, the woman wearing nothing but black, was eyeing the bathroom in business class, which is officially designated as the business class bathroom, which explains why there were three business class passengers stretching in line as they patiently waited their turn.
I pointed to the rear of the aircraft. “There are two other bathrooms in the back and I only see one person waiting in line.”
The woman in black looked at me as if I had two heads and snapped, “I fly international all the time and we always travel in business class.” I smiled and did not point out the obvious, that today she sat in coach. She glared at me and added, “I’ve never been so uncomfortable in my life!” Then she went on to use the phrase cattle car three or four times in three or four different sentences, giving me a piece of her mind. All this because she didn’t want to wait in line to use the bathroom like everyone else. Thankfully we only had thirty minutes left in flight.
“Is there anything I can do to make this flight better for you?” I asked. It’s true, I really did ask that. Of course she had no suggestions – none, zero, zilch. But she did call me honey and used the word cattle car one more time before stomping off to the back.
This is when it happened. This is when I took a deep breath, turned, and the young woman who had complained about feeling sick before we even took off out of Los Angeles, the one I had tried to talk into not flying because she felt sick, the same one who may or may not have thrown up in the bathroom (depending on who you asked), which in turn may or may not have been the reason why the sink was now overflowing with what may or may not have been water, brown water, and why the bathroom had been locked off, looked at me angrily and said, “I haven’t asked for much on this flight!”
This passenger had asked for more than any other passenger in my fourteen years of flying! But I did not tell her that. Instead I kept my mouth shut and got down on one knee, like I had several times before on the flight, looked her in the red eyes, and listened as she not so very nicely added, “And I’ve been pretty nice on this flight, considering the circumstances…”
The circumstances? I just nodded and waited for what I knew would be an insane request, because all she had done the entire flight was make odd requests. Oh she did not disappoint when she demanded to be the first one off the airplane when we landed.
That was not going to happen. She sat in coach. There were at least 40 passengers ahead of her in first class and business class combined.
“The only way you’re going to get off this airplane before anyone else does is if we call the paramedics to meet the flight,” I told her very sternly. “Do you want me to tell the Captain you’re sick so he can radio the ground?” It was not the first time I had asked, nor was it the first time she had declined.
How it all went down…
During boarding – There I stood between business class and coach greeting passengers and hanging coats when she who looked to be in her early twenties pulled me aside and told me she felt ill, that she’d been sick all day, that she had a fever, and then she looked me earnestly in the eye and asked, “Is there a first class seat available?”
Immediately the bells began to ring in my head – alert, alert – scammer, drama queen! I told her no, because there were no seats available. And even if there had been an open seat she still would not have sat there, considering she paid for coach, not first. Then I suggested she deplane, talk to the agent, and take another flight when she felt better. I didn’t want our passengers to get sick and I definitely didn’t want to bring whatever she may or may not have had back home to my two year-old son. Of course she waved me away and told me she’d be fine.
During the beverage service – Because her seat was beside the business class galley and because I happened to be working in business class that day, she rang her call light and looked directly at me. I held a linen lined tray in one hand, four drinks balancing on top – diet coke, water, ginger ale, and Chardonnay, when she said, “I don’t feel very good. Can I have a cup of tea. But not in a Styrofoam cup. Can I get it in a mug, a real mug.”
I forced a smile and nodded.
“Oh do you have herbal tea?”
During the meal service – As my partner and I picked up thirty meal trays and shoved them into a dirty cart, I heard her say it once again, that she was ill, which was quickly followed by, “Can I get something to eat?”
“Of course.” I told her the buy-on-board food options in coach, but she just shook her head and said, “I can’t eat that. I have a special diet. Do you have any cooked vegetables?”
“Cooked vegetables,” I repeated, wondering why she didn’t bring her own cooked vegetables on board with her since she had such a special diet. Please note that I normally never – ever – offer business class food to coach passengers, but she did look a little pale and I did not want to divert. “All we have left in business class are rolls and cheese and crackers.”
Turns out she couldn’t eat rolls. She couldn’t eat cheese. She couldn’t eat crackers. She couldn’t eat salad. She couldn’t eat nuts. She couldn’t even eat chocolate – chocolate! Nor could she eat the delicious homemade combination fried rice the passenger sitting directly in front her had kindly offered. (So I did. It was amazing. Thank you Mr. Exit Row Passenger!) The only thing she could eat were cooked veggies, so I went up to first class to see what was left over after the service and not only did I find uncooked peas from the salad cart, the lead flight attendant actually allowed me to take the first class peas to a coach passenger.
I handed the young woman a silver spoon and a silver bowl of peas. No thank you. No nothing. She took two bites, made a face, and handed it back to me.
During the dessert service – We were just about to pull the carts to the front of business class and start the dessert service when she rang the call light. I didn’t have to walk far to turn the light off. The unfortunate passenger sitting beside her rolled his eyes as she said, “I’m violently ill and I need your help to get to the bathroom.”
“Okay.” The bathroom was four steps away from her seat. “Give me a second.”
In the galley I told my colleagues the dessert service was now on hold so I could assist a sick passenger to the lavatory. But when I went to help her stand, grabbing her elbow to help her up, she got to her feet and walked to the bathroom like there was nothing wrong. I handed her a barf bag, shut the door, told her I’d return to check on her later, and then went back to my dessert cart.
After the service – “I’m not going to make it,” I barely heard her mumble as I passed her seat on my way to the galley in coach.
Quickly I spun around. “What do you mean you’re not going to make it? Do I need to page for a doctor?”
“No no no, I just need…potatoes. Do you have any potatoes?” she asked, and when she asked this it sounded as if it took all her energy just to get the words out.
I took a deep breath and sighed. “We do not have potatoes on board our flight today. Just potato chips. Which you said you can’t eat. Are you sure you don’t want club soda or a roll because that will make you feel better.”
“Yes, I’m sure. Are you sure there aren’t any potatoes?”
It was during the potato request that the lady wearing black appeared. Remember her? The one who didn’t want to wait in line to use the lavatory? So when the one in black tartly called me honey and then stormed off to the back right before the sick one in need of potatoes said that she hadn’t asked for much, it took all my might not to remind her all that she had, in fact, asked for – a first class seat, a business class mug, cooked vegetables, help to the bathroom, potatoes, and to deplane first. That’s it. Nothing more.
Photos courtesy of (occupied) travelin librarian, (coach) carrib, (barf bag) ben howes – flicker.com