Galley Gossip: Snacks on the plane

“Diet Coke,” says the passenger after I ask him what he’d like to drink. While I’m filling a plastic glass full of ice, he asks the question I hoped he wouldn’t ask, “Can I get a sandwich?”

“Oh…ummm…I’m sorry.” I make a face, the I’m-sorry face, because I am sorry. Really, I am. I’m sorry I have to say I’m sorry all day long. “We ran out,” I continue, and before I can tell him that we actually ran out of anything and everything edible on the airplane, he asks “What else do you have?”

I take a deep breath, because I really don’t want to tell this guy we have nothing, not one thing, so I make the face again, the I’m-sorry face, and decide to make light of the situation. “Diet Coke. Sprite. Diet Sprite. Pepsi. Diet Pepsi. Orange juice. Apple Juice.” He’s looking at me like I’m crazy, so I make the face again, oh you know the one, and say, “I’m sorry, but we ran out of everything. There’s no more food.”

“What do you mean there’s no more food!”

“We ran out of food,” I say again, as I oh so gently place a can of Diet Coke and a glass of ice on his tray table. What I don’t say is that we ran out of food hours ago, due to the fact the passengers were starving because of the hour and a half weather delay we took on the ground. What this passenger and I do not know, and will not know for another hour, is we’re going to have another hour and a half delay in flight because the airport in New York is closed due to more bad weather . “Sorry,” I say again, and I am, sorry I’m forced to say sorry all day long.

“This is ridiculous!”

I agree, it is ridiculus, but that’s the way it is.

Last week Iva Skoch wrote about Passengers Revolting on a flight out of Beijing that was canceled due to weather. Fifty-two pasengers refused to leave the aircraft, so they slept on the plane for over twelve hours. “The biggest irony,” Iva wrote, “And something I can’t see happening on America’s cash-strapped airlines, the flight attendants kept serving food and drinks to the protesters.”

Well there are two reasons you won’t see flight attendants in America serving drinks and food to “protesters” onboard a canceled flight throughout the night until the wee hours of the morning, when the airline is finally able to get people onboard another aircraft.

  1. No food. At least there’s not enough to serve to everybody onboard. Sorry. These days flights aren’t catered full. Why? Don’t ask me. I’m just the messenger. But I’m sure it has something to do with those silly fuel prices. But who wants to eat airplane food that’s been sitting on an airplane for hours anyway? We’re talking astronaut food, people! We’re talking there’s a reason the fruit in first class doesn’t turn brown by the end of the flight.
  2. No money. Flight attendants aren’t making a dime until the aircraft door has been shut and the airplane has backed away from the gate. Now keep in mind we’ve already worked the first hour of our day for free, which is by far the most chaotic part of flight – boarding. And you’re right, we did agree to work that first hour for free when we took the job, but there’s no way, no freakin way, we’ll work one hour more. Would you?

Which brings me to the point of this post (there is one, I promise) – snacks. I’m talking food. You should bring some the next time you travel. At least something. Anything! An apple, a cereal bar, instant oatmeal, whatever.

I know exactly what you’re thinking. Why should you have to bring your own food when you paid for a ticket? Because you paid for a seat. That’s it. And as soon as you realize that, the better your flying experience will be. I’m sorry (always sorry) but that’s the reality of the situation. Unfortunately traveling today is like a real life episode of Survivor. You never know what’s going to happen next and you never know when you’re going to eat again.

Oh I know it’s inconvenient to pack food. Trust me, I’m right there with you, carrying a white plastic grocery bag full of Jiffy peanut butter to-go, a brown banana, two slices of multi-grain bread, and an old package of instant oatmeal, as I undress my way through security and make my way through the terminal – Just in case! Forget the clothes, the books, the DVD – pack the food! Mechanicals, weather delays, and cancellations do happen, and they happen often.

Take my five hour flight yesterday that turned into seven and a half hours of starvation for the people onboard who didn’t bring food, or purchase food when they had the chance. Me, I had a chorizo and egg breakfast burrito from La Salsa at the San Diego airport early that morning and I was STILL starving by the end of that flight! I actually got down on my hands and knees and dug through a dirty first class cart looking for something, anything, to get me through the last hour. But there was nothing – not one thing to be had. Which is why most flight attendants I know always – ALWAYS – bring their own from home.

Oh hold on a sec, my cell is ringing… “Hello?”

“Flight Attendant Poole?” asks the stern voice on the other end.

Oh no. The company. What now? “Yes, this is flight attendant Poole.”

“Your flight to San Francisco tonight has been delayed.”

Galley Gossip: Sandvich Girl

I’ve been called many things in my life – good and bad (mostly good) – but the other day I was called something that made me stop dead in my scuffed up Mary Janes on the nappy blue carpet, something that made me, for a split second, take a step back and wonder, what the heck have I done with my life? And then I quickly shook myself out of it, because my life, to put it quite simply, is pretty darn great, and so I continued down the aisle.

What was it that actually made me examine my life at 35,000 feet? It wasn’t much. Just two little words. That’s it. But they were two oh so innocent, yet very shocking, little words.

I mean there I was, rolling down the aisle behind the snack cart. It was a nice day. My crew was good and the passengers were great. What more could a flight attendant ask for? I think we were probably somewhere over Illinois when I asked, over and over and over, “Would you care to purchase a snack?” That’s when I heard a scratchy voice located somewhere not too far behind me say something I could not believe.

“Sandvich girl! Oh sandvich girl!”

At first I laughed, and then I turned around. That’s when I realized it was me that the petite frail one wearing black wrap around glasses had called sandvich girl. ME! I was sandvich girl. Dear god, I remember thinking, how did this happen? As I handed the woman a turkey and cheese sandwich and collected a five dollar bill.

“Thanks,” I mumbled, and quickly moved the cart.

Like most flight attendants, I have a college degree. I’ve done the whole nine to five thing. Guess what, I really did not enjoy waking up every morning at the same time and going to the same job where I worked with the same people every single day. Oh no, that was just not for me. Even though I had the kind of job many people would kill for: I designed clothes. (Okay, so they were western clothes, so what! They were clothes nonetheless, and I designed them.) Then I designed watches for a well known watch company. I probably designed a watch you even wore. (Thirteen years ago.) The jobs were great, but I had this strange feeling that something was missing in my life, and that something wasn’t a new car or a new outfit or whatever the money I made could purchase. It was something more. What, I did not know. Not at the time. So I got up at eight in the morning each and every day, jumped into the Ford Probe, drove fifteen minutes to the building where I sat at the same cubicle and worked on, basically, the same thing, until I ate lunch at the same places with the same people, and so on, until it was time to go home. I did this until one fateful day, and that was the day I did not receive the raise I thought I deserved. Of course at the time it felt like the worst thing in the world. Little did I know that not getting that raise turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to me. What did I do? I quit. And then a few days later I answered an ad in the newspaper. A no frills airline was looking for flight attendants. Why not, I remember thinking.

“I’ll do it for a few months, just for fun, until I find another job,” I remember telling my friends .

At the time I was determined not to jump into just any job. I wanted to take my time and find a good job. One that paid well. And while I went on several interviews looking for that perfect job, I served blueberry muffins and chocolate chip cookies back and forth between Ft Lauderdale, Newark, Long Beach, and Dallas for just $99 a flight at night. Life was good.

Well one month turned into two, and two turned into three, and after I realized I wasn’t going anywhere, that this was it, I applied to another airline, a major carrier, where before I knew it one year had somehow turned into thirteen. And I still love the job. Actually, what I love, is the lifestyle. The flexibility. The freedom. The excitement of not knowing what the day will bring. And leaving that day behind when I step off the airplane. I love knowing I can go anywhere anytime as long as there’s an airport nearby. Believe it or not, I even like wearing the flammable polyester navy blue uniform. (Please don’t tell anyone.) Oh sure, I wish things were different in the airline industry. Who doesn’t? I mean who doesn’t wish things were just better in the world in general? Hey, that’s life. And my life, I have to say, is good, real good. Even if I am sandvich girl.