Galley Gossip: A flight attendant Christmas story

Heather Poole, flight attendantI graduated from flight attendant training on the 8th of December in 1995. Two weeks later, on Christmas Eve, my roommate and I were called out to work a trip – together. The crew scheduling God’s must have been smiling down on us that day because it’s not often a flight attendant gets to work with their roommate who also happens to be their best friend on reserve. Although we were scheduled to layover in Buffalo, or maybe it was Albany (I can’t remember), we knew we were lucky. By the way, that’s us in the photograph.

What I remember most is glancing out the window and seeing rooftops and – Oh. My. God! – we were seconds from landing and I still had first class meal trays out in the cabin! I ran like crazy to collect everything and lock it up in the galley before we touched ground, barely making it to my jump seat in time. The Captain never made the prepare for landing PA, even though he swore he did when I called him on it later, which is why I had no idea how close we were to landing. As if that weren’t stressful enough for a new-hire, things went from bad to worse (at least in my head it did) real quick.

As we taxied to the gate, I began to make an announcement, you know the one. “Ladies and gentleman, welcome to….to….to -” Oh no…where the heck are we?! For the life of me I could not remember. My brain was shot after having flown to so many cities in just two weeks on the job. With my heart pounding like crazy, I frantically searched my pockets for the flight itinerary.

“Buffalo, we’re in Buffalo!” yelled a passenger. Or maybe he said Albany. I still can’t remember. But wherever we were that Christmas Eve, that’s when everyone on board started to laugh – at me. Mortified, I hung my head.

The following day my roommate and I wound up eating Christmas dinner out of a vending machine located on the second floor of our three-star hotel. The restaurant in the hotel was closed and there was nothing else open nearby. Although we would have been much happier eating turkey and dressing at home with our family and friends, we made the best of it with a couple packets of peanut butter crackers and Diet Coke. To this day, fifteen years later, it’s the most memorable Christmas I’ve ever had.

Four months later my roommate quit. I’ll never forget the day my cab pulled up to the curb outside our crash pad in Queens and I spotted her sitting on the stoop smiling from ear to ear. She couldn’t wait to tell me the big news. I hadn’t seen her look so happy since our first day of flight attendant training. The job is not for everyone, and being away from loved ones during the holidays certainly doesn’t make it any easier.

Today I still work for the same airline, and from time to time I still screw up. But not this Christmas! Seniority is everything at an airline and because I work out of New York, the most junior base in the system, I have the day off. New Years Eve, however, is a different story. So for those of you traveling to North Carolina in a few days, consider yourself warned.

NOTE TO SELF: North Carolina, North Carolina, I’m flying to North Carolina!

A special thanks to all the airline employees who went to work today! It’s because of them that many of you are having a very merry Christmas this year.

Photo courtesy of me! (Heather Poole)

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