Before I could read I used to trace the letters on a rectangular wooden box that got shoved around on our coffee table. The box was the length of a ruler, and the width of a cigarette. Which is what my father filled it with, Kool cigarettes.
The letters on the box spelled HUNGARY. I knew that this box had traveled a great distance. As I learned to read, I thought the box spelled HUNGRY. I wondered why someone from a faraway land would carve such a word on a cigarette box. As an introverted kid, I preferred to allow the mysteries of the universe to swirl around my head rather than ask my parents. When I figured it out on my own, I was glad I never voiced it, as I felt like an idiot.
My father was a chemical engineer whose real occupation, the way I saw it, was jet-setting around the globe selling his company’s products. But he hated the travel. He persevered as he was the company’s best salesman, and to hear him tell it, the smartest. Which may have been true.
Hearing my father complain about travel never deterred my own dreams of jetting off to lands where I couldn’t speak the language. I was hungry for Hungary. Well into my twenties I, at last, set off for my first new continent, Europe. I haven’t stopped since. Except to work so I could pay for the next trip.
Travel was different then. I looked forward to the experience of travel. I couldn’t wait to board the plane that would whisk me in relative comfort to my chosen destination. Planes flew on time. Knees weren’t crushed by the seat in front of them. Overhead bins invited jackets and backpacks. Passengers were courteous, and flight attendants smiled and offered their help.
Last week I traveled via air to meet my sister and Muffin for Spring Break. My first flight was on time, all went well, but the flight attendants were a discourteous bunch, for no reason I could discern. All were young, 20’s, early 30’s.
Weather delayed my return flight, and speed was required to meet our connecting flights. The flight attendants requested that we please allow the connecting flight passengers to exit first. This fell on deaf ears. Passengers ambled off the plane, blocking the passageway for those of us who had to sprint to gates. Tempers flared. Epithets were lobbed from both the blockers and the blocked.
Fifteen minutes into this connecting flight someone got sick, and after frantic maneuverings among the staff, we returned to the airport from whence we departed. It would be two hours before we would be underway again. Passengers grumbled and whined. Fortunately, the paramedics had stretchered the sick person off the plane before the complaints could be overheard. The flight attendants throughout it all were pleasant and courteous. All of them were experienced, 40’s I would guess, some older.
Flight attendants often get a bad rap. I’ve given them bad raps myself. They can be rude, as the youngsters were on my first flight. But, have you taken note lately of what they deal with on every single flight? How about the self-involved who refuse to turn off his/her electronics? Always one onboard. Flight attendants can be fined for not enforcing that rule. They didn’t write the rule, but they are required to enforce it. Complaints as to the existence of the rule should be addressed to the FAA, and the FCC.
Want to hear their side of the story? Want to hear about the people who get naked and try to open the doors mid-flight? Or about the mother who attempted to stow her baby in the overhead compartment? Or the male passenger who leaves the lavatory door ajar to proudly display his small penis? Rants of a Sassy Stew will have you rolling in the aisle along with the beverage cart. And Heather Poole, a veteran flight attendant, has a blog and a book.
I never expected to be singing the praises of flight attendants. I have been as annoyed by them as anyone else. At one time it was a glamorous career. Their crisp, smart uniforms and their intriguing locales induced certain envy. But, those days are long gone. They are dehydrated and jet-lagged like the rest of us. Yes, they sometimes treat us like naughty children. But how do we comport ourselves? How responsible are we for their attitudes if we look upon them as indentured servants?
Dark forces are at play. Consider the incivility of Congress. Consider the manufactured rancor among the TV pundits. What about cyber-bullying? Road rage? Did I mention the barrage of vitriol from the talking heads on all the media outlets, large and small? Consider our collective consciousness.
We reap what we sow.
Though it may at times be difficult to maintain, I will do my best to be a good airline passenger, as I will always be hungry for Hungary.
What country would you like to visit?
Thanks for listening!