By Sue Murphy
One good thing about my children living on separate coasts is that I have developed a cracker-jack airport ritual – optimum spot in the parking deck, biscuit at Chick-fil-A, tea from Starbucks. I schedule at least two hours for layovers in Atlanta and never, never take a carry-on that has to be hoisted into an overhead bin.
Overhead bin space is available on a first-come-first-served basis, and that means a lot of anxiety for people who are boarding last, but then these soon-to-be flyers are worried about a lot of things. Will they score an aisle or window seat? Will the Wi-Fi be working? Will the person seated next to them want to (shudder) chat?
For all but first-time flyers, the fact that hundreds of people are being loaded into a giant metal tube expected to actually fly goes unnoticed. I’ve read the science behind this miracle but try not to think about it because it makes me woozy. Horrible things can happen on an airplane. Horrible things have, yet very few people pay attention to the safety briefing given by the uni- formed flight attendants.
Flight attendants seem to take it all in stride. Of course, they have a lot on their minds, too. Next time you fly, put down that online solitaire game for a few minutes and watch them. After greeting each person and making several “please sit down so we can take off” announcements, always in a cheerful voice, they bid goodbye to the gate agent and slam the cabin door shut. Now, ladies and gentlemen, everyone is sealed into the metal tube for better or for worse. The pilot locks the door to the cockpit from the inside so everything that goes on with all 250 people who are finally, finally seated is up to the flight attendants.
As soon as the fasten seatbelt light is extinguished, flight attendants rush past the people who completely disregarded that notice to begin work in the galley, their inflight tiny house. From those 6 square feet, they are expected to produce sodas and snacks and Bloody Marys. They pass out peanuts and pretzels and carry credit card zappers for cocktails. First class attendants warm up Chicken Marsala and pour wine (red or white?).
This is all commendable, but consider that these sturdy souls are also in the front lines if an engine goes down or someone has a heart attack or some looney tune tries to attack another passenger or blow up the plane. They deal with crying babies and mean drunks. Those extra life jackets they talk about? They know where they are. They are trained in detaching those detachable slides, and thank goodness. Do you seriously think people seated in the emergency exit rows will turn into super heroes if the plane makes an emergency landing? No. They just wanted the extra legroom.
Flight attendants are asked to smile even if you are being a pain, to answer the call button every time you ring it, whether it’s a credible reason or not. And when the pilot emerges to go to the bathroom, the flight attendants circle the drink carts, forming a flight-saving human shield. Incredible. It’s like the Secret Service being asked to make the president’s lemon drop martinis.
So next time the flight attendant announces, “I’m sorry, ladies and gentlemen, but the Wi-Fi isn’t working,” don’t whine. If you are asked to check your carry-on, do so cheerfully. And when they ask you to take your seat, for heaven sakes, sit down. Quickly.
Oh … and have a nice flight. ❖