Picture it. Feb. 1, 1968 the sun is shining brightly, the tarmac is hot, the stairs lowered and waiting for all to board. I’m standing in the Phoenix airport with a grin as wide as my face could hold. I’ve never been on an airplane before and now I will be flying the friendly skies as my career. I’m heading to Miami, Fla. for flight attendant training. Back then we were called “stewardesses.” I soon learned there were other names we were also called; “glorified waitress” was the most common and probably the nicest. But what did I know?
Walking down the aisle I take a seat next to the window. We’re headed for Chicago and then on to Miami. It turned out to be a very long day but in my excitement I had the flight attendants laughing and showing great patience with me. I kept stopping them to show them what was out my window, as though they hadn’t seen it a million times or more, and asking a million questions. My enthusiasm bubbled over and when finally landing in Miami one of the flight attendants hugged me and said, “I hope you still have this excitement five years from now.” She must have known something I didn’t!
Ohhh to wear that uniform! (this isn’t me but the uniform is the first style I wore.)
Up, up, and away I go.
Of course the pilots soon learn it’s my first flight as well as the cabin crew. Standing in the flight deck doorway after the passengers have boarded, which of course I have enthusiastically greeted each and every one of them, I’m waiting for the next step in this new adventure. The captain turns to me and says, “Move, you’re blocking my rear view mirror.” Of course I jumped right out of the way apologizing profusely only to hear robust laughter as a tug pushes us back from the gate.
I’ve been placed in a position where I am the head flight attendant. That means that I can exact the initiation pranks on new hires that will work with me. My initiations were not as gentle as that captain so many years ago. “You need to clean up the barf in the aisle, be sure to save me the big chunks!” The poor girl flies off holding her hand over her mouth with cheeks looking like a chipmunk’s.
“The toilet is stopped up, go find the plunger and unstop it” sends the new hire searching for a plunger that doesn’t exist. It was all done in fun and made memories for all of us, especially the new hire. Like when me and a new hire was walking through the terminal to our departure gate. One of the solid rubber wheels on my luggage cart was making a noise. I stopped and said, “Oh crap. I have a flat tire!”
My new hire threw her hand up to her mouth with huge eyes and frantically stated, “Where are we going to find someone to change it before our flight leaves?”
Right now the memories are flowing as I laugh and my pen writes. For many years the friendly skies were just that, fun and friendly but not always.
Yesterday I saw on the news where a man tried to hijack an airplane to go to the Olympics. It brought back a memory of when I had a hijacker. I had only been flying about two or three months and we had several stops before reaching our final destination. As I cruised the aisle to make sure all baggage was snuggled under the seats I encountered a man with a medium size suitcase sitting on his lap. There were few people on board so he had the two seats all to himself. “Sir, you’ll have to slide your case under the seat in front of you” I pleasantly stated.
He looked at me for a long moment and then said, “No. We’re going to Cuba.” It was said as though he was merely commenting about the weather. At that time there were no check points, not even the screening bars that passengers had to pass through. There had been several hijackings and I was aware there had been but I merely looked at him and replied, “No. We’re going to …and named the city.
He wrapped his arms around the case and stated, “I say we’re going to Cuba!” Now enough is enough. I leaned over toward the man and whispered rather emphatically, “I don’t want to go to Cuba and we are not going to Cuba so put the case under the seat!” and I walked away.
Okay, basically I’m still a new hire and don’t know any better. I decide I better mention it to the captain but by then the engines are roaring and we start to speed down the runway. I quickly strap into my jump seat. I’ll have to wait to tell the captain.
Before setting up the trays of drinks and opening the boxes of peanuts I open the flight deck door, step in and close the door securely behind me. I inform the captain of what the man said and leave to tend to my passengers. I have it set in my mind I’m not going to Cuba so I’ve not even mentioned it to the other flight attendant.
The short flight soon lands after the man has once again told me we’re going to Cuba and I simply reply, “No we aren’t!” and continue my service. Upon taxiing toward the gate I notice out the window several police cars trailing along on each side of our plane. Hmmm. I grin broadly.
The front door is thrown open and several police rush onto the plane. The man is snatched up from his seat and hand cuffed. His case is thrown onto the seat and opened. I almost faint! Inside are several knives and other weapons that could have easily been used to encourage me, or anyone else, to get his point across.
He is escorted toward the front door while the few other passengers hang out in the aisle watching. I stand between a row of first class seats and as the man is passing me and glaring daggers at me, I smile sweetly and say, “See, I told you we weren’t going to Cuba! Have a nice day.”