Contradiction in Terms
You say to-may-toe; I say toh-mah-tah. Deal with it.
Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Former Flights of Fancy

People seem to think it's Very Odd that I was a flight attendant once upon a time. ("I always think of you as the brainy type," Amie said.) I'm not quite sure whether I should be flattered or insulted.

While I maintain my position that most of the people I had to work with during that period had IQs in the high double-digits at best, I feel a responsibility to point out that I did learn a few things of value in my short-lived airline career, such as:

1. how to evacuate an aircraft in three minutes or less I used to wonder what made three minutes a magic number for everything from emergency evacuation to fast food service. Observation under actual circumstances (the two evacuations I experienced) led me to conclude that three minutes is about the maximum time you can expect people to actually listen to you before they start getting restless, and therefore attempting to do something independent and stupid--like trying to go back for their pasalubong from Goldilocks. It really says something about the Goldilocks brand strength that passengers would risk immolation or suffocation in the hope of rescuing their mamon. It's not even as good as it used to be...

2. how to apply or repair makeup while moving or in cramped spaces, with only minimal assistance from the nearest handy reflective surface Strangely, Caucasian flight attendants seem not to have learned this particular skill (Have you seen how some of those ladies look after eight hours?), but Asian FAs are masters at reapplying eyeliner, tweezing stray eyebrow hairs, or smoothing coiffures even in the midst of turbulence, without consulting a mirror. To this day, I can make myself up for a formal event in the condominium elevator, finishing up the last touches en route in a moving car.

3. how to smile and serve coffee with aplomb when you know damn well that the landing gear refuses to deploy and the plane is running out of fuel Show me a former flight attendant with a tendency to panic and I'll show you someone who got fired. We weren't even allowed to cross ourselves if we knew something was wrong--when you're miles above ground in a flying tin can, you just have to assume that God is close enough to see what's going on, without your imploring him to do something about it.

4. how to deal with people who are mentally or emotionally overwrought, particularly in a crisis situation On certain occasions, a good shove onto the emergency slide beats psychotherapy hands-down.

5. how to not rescue someone from a crash landing at sea When you take your swimming lessons in training, they don't teach you to swim with speed or strength; they teach you endurance, because the assumption is that you may have to keep yourself afloat for some time before rescue arrives. They also teach you how to rescue people, but not without the admonition that drowners tend to flail and even fight--meaning that they could hit you in the course of your well-meaning attempts, meaning that if you get knocked unconscious, you'll probably both die. Which is why I resolved early on that, if I ever found myself in a position to rescue some drowning stranger, I would swim slowly, weakly, yet enduringly away.

6. how to perform artificial respiration, CPR, the Heimlich manuever, and other first aid techniques Also, how to holler "Hey, hey, are you okay?" at people who are manifestly conscious, able to speak, and looking at you as if you have gone insane. Which probably you have, from having had to practice such things repeatedly on the same dummy that every other first-aider in the country has undoubtedly used.

7. how to deal with butt-pinchers and other sorts of lechers Luckily, my immediate supervisor was female and the coolest boss of all time, who had this advice to give: "The first time they try something, stop whatever you're doing, look at them sternly but politely, and say something to the effect of 'Sir, please don't do that. I am not part of the meal service on this flight.' The second time they try something, feel free to slam them over the head with your meal tray."

You can see that my early experiences as a flight attendant actually contributed significantly to my current philosophies and demeanor. So, y'know, for a brainless job, it actually taught me a lot. I should really start carrying a tray around with me again...
Nikki bit in at 4:27 PM :: ::
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