The Daily Post recently did a post where they asked bloggers how they felt about telling their most embarrassing stories in blog posts. There is no link-up but I did immediately have a story in mind. So I might as well tell it.
If you’ve read my Maldives post, you might remember that I used to be a flight attendant at one point.
Working as a flight attendant, we took rules and regulations very seriously and training revolved around safety issues. The rest of the job description was all about exuding calm and friendliness.
Well, having said that… we all have our days. Work shifts were often 12 hours long, either starting or ending in the nighttime. No complaints. But even if you’re a happy worker, a busy bee working red eye shifts does eventually get exhausted.
It was a typical day at work. I was on duty in a small plane with only one other flight attendant besides me and one of my jobs was to do the announcements from the aft galley. I loved doing announcements because they were done in three languages and it was my moment to shine since I spoke all three of them quite fluently. Who doesn’t like doing something they’re good at, right?
In a small plane with a shorter flight range, our work day consisted of flying several short, domestic flights one after the other. Six legs without leaving the plane, to be exact. We’d fly from A to B, B to C, C to B, B to A, A to C, C to B. Something like that. We would end the day at B, stay at a business hotel, wake up at 3 am for a private breakfast buffet and go back to the freezing cold, empty, dark airplane to start another similar day, this time flying the same airports in yet another order, and ending up home for the night.
I actually loved those days, they went by so quickly and you made your pay check quite easily. Layovers brought you a little extra compensation for your troubles of staying at a nice hotel with fresh sheets and discounted room service. Another fun thing was that no matter what the weather was like, at your work place, the sun was always shining, every day, since your office was located above the clouds.
It was so pleasant in fact, that when I went home, I’d have the urge to call the reception to come and clean up my room and take out the trash, just to come to the depressing realisation that there was no reception and there was no room service: I would have to take out my own trash and cook for myself! Not that there was ever anything in my fridge to begin with, because the stores were always closed when I was around.
So… I had just sat down in my jumpseat for landing. I was seated alone in the aft galley, while the purser was seated in the front galley. When the tires touched the tarmac, it was time for me make the welcoming announcement. I would tell the passengers we had just arrived at so-and-so airport and would you please stay seated until the seatbelt sign is turned off. You know, all that yammering that nobody ever listens to.
I felt us touch ground and started my announcement. In mid-sentence, I froze. Where the heck were we?!
I looked out the tiny, fisheyed peephole of a window and all I saw was dark. There were no proper windows in the aft galley, so I did a little twist, still strapped in my seatbelt, and tried to stretch my neck like a giraffe and peek out the last passenger row’s window for any clue of which city we had just landed in. But no luck. I still saw just the darkness, and some runway lights.
I tried doing the math by checking my watch against the scheduled landing times. But I knew we were about 30 minutes ahead of schedule and each flight was about 45 minutes long so I still couldn’t be sure if this had been the 5th or 6th leg. Usually, I crossed out each flight on my list afterwards, so I’d know where we were but at this point of the day, I didn’t trust my own notes anymore. To be honest, I had no idea if we had just arrived at B or C.
I made my best guess. “Dear Passengers, welcome to C. The local time is 11 pm and we have landed 30 minutes ahead of schedule. Please remain seated until the seatbelt sign has been turned off…”
I waited for any reaction. None. I had guessed correctly. Silent cheers in my head, yay!
It’s a bit hard to explain how, when working in a closed-off space, you sometimes just don’t know where you are in outside world terms, or where you’re going next. Luckily, the pilots did! And this is why I started off by telling you that we took safety very seriously: I can assure you that though I was quite confused of where we were, sleep-deprived and physically exhausted, I was still completely on top of my safety duties. No worries. Just as long as I wasn’t flying the plane!
Well, the story’s not over! I was going to tell you something embarrassing. If you didn’t think this story fit the bill, since I didn’t get caught, then let me tell you about another mishap with that wretched PA system.
An airplane’s PA system looks like an old telephone and it has several functions. You can for example do public announcements on it and you can also make a phone call to your colleague at the other end of the plane.
So, while the passengers on yet another short haul flight were boarding, my colleague and I were prepping the galleys on opposite ends of the plane. My colleague, the purser, was in charge and she would occasionally call me to brief me on the amount of sandwiches we’d need to serve or something of similar importance. I was supposed to answer with my name and “aft”.
I heard a ding or thought I heard one. I answered the phone, “Snow, aft?” and waited. Nothing. Then I said “Helloooo????” and I realised that the phone hadn’t rung at all, I had simply hallucinated the whole thing and instead of answering the phone, I’d just made a public announcement that went, “Snow, aft. Helloooo???”
I looked around. About half of the passengers were still concentrating on stuffing their oversized bags into the baggage compartments, but I saw many heads slowly turn towards me with a frowning, questioning look.
My colleague stopped her preparations to come to the door of the front galley and look at me from the other end of the plane. And we both laughed until our stomachs hurt.
For once, I was very happy that most passengers completely ignore those announcements anyway! (Maybe next time you should listen, you might hear something interesting!)
By the way, Kelly Kincaid does some excellent cartoons on the (mis)adventures of flight attendants, take a look! Some of the events in her cartoons actually happened to me. There’s one, for example, where the credit card company calls a flight attendant suspecting her card’s been stolen because there’s been activity on it all over the world. That actually happened to me – and the card wasn’t stolen, I’d just been busy working!