Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Funniest Flight Attendant Ever

Last week I flew to Connecticut for work.  In full disclosure, I have misspelt Connecticut every single time I've attempted to write it for the last month.  Thank God for spell check.

Boarding my return flight, I was done being in Connecticut.  Nothing personal to anyone from there, I was just ready for home.  Didn't get an aisle to myself, but shared one close to the front with a guy whose named I later learned was Ivan.  Ivan was born and raised in Brooklyn NY, flying to Houston for med school.  The imminent accent crossroads before him was rather humorous to me.

As soon as I was buckled in I went off to reading, tired and not really in the mood to converse with anyone.  At this time Ivan's name was a mystery to me, the only conversation exchanged between us being the vertical half-head-nod universal to all men.  Being wiped out, this dialoge seemed sufficient so I went to my book.

Right before we began to take off the flight attendant clicked on the microphone.

"OK happy people, we need everyone to turn off your electronic devices.  If it has an on/off switch, turn it off now."

After about three or four minutes she came back on, "Thank you all for listening and turning off your electronics.  According to our sensors 24 of you still have devices on.  As soon as you work up the energy to flip the switch to off we can back this puppy up."

Moving our dialogue deeper than the head nod, I looked at Ivan, "There are sensors?"  He shrugged, "First I've heard of it."

Flight attendant comes back on, "well, three of you must be protesting or something, please turn all devices off."

"This lady is kind of sassy, isn't she?" I say to Ivan.

She then went into the preflight instructions.  You know what I'm talking about: the time at the beginning of the flight when the flight attendants perform lecture aerobics in the aisles to demonstrate how to survive if case of an emergency.  You know what I'm talking about: the time at the beginning of the flight when you ignore the flight attendants.

This flight attendant was absolutely hilarious in giving out the instructions.  It's been almost a week, so I don't remember everything she said, but I do remember me & Ivan busting a gut in our aisle.  I think this was the first time I actually paid attention for the whole speech.  A few things I do remember that she said:

  • "If air pressure goes down you'll find that we have presents for you - Oxygen Masks!!!  They will drop from the ceiling.  Yes, they are up there - please trust me on this and don't attempt to find them.  You don't want to ruin the surprise.  Make sure you put the mask on you first before placing it on a child...or someone acting like a child."
  • "And thank you so much for paying attention to these instructions - all three of you.  The rest of you, well, good luck."  
  • After we landed she gets on the intercom, "Yay!!!  The breaks worked!!!"  
  • "Welcome to Chicago Midway airport.  If this isn't where you were supposed to be going, look on the bright side, they have great pizza.  According to our sensors almost all of you have turned your phones on, so there's no need to tell you that you can do that now.  Thanks for flying Southwest, we know you have other airlines you can choose, yada yada yada yada - have a great night."
I'm not at all giving her justice with the little bits I can remember.  All I know is that she didn't just have Ivan * I laughing, she had the whole plane laughing.  

Walking to the exit, the flight attendant was at the end of the aisle.  I stopped in front of her and looked her right in the eyes.  I could tell that I threw her for a loop because most people just walk past with barely a mumbled thank you.  She tilted her head a little bit and just looked back at me.  

I said to her, "You...are absolutely...the best, most hilarious flight attendant I have ever flown with."  

Her smile was bigger than the plane. "Oh my goodness you just made my year! Thank you for saying that."

As I'm leaving, "I am very serious - you are really funny.  But not just that, you livened things up and made it really enjoyable.  Keep doing what you're doing, don't change a thing."

And she said, "You know, that just means so much. People looked pretty tired and even a little stressed.  I just figured I'd have fun with things and maybe help alleviate whatever was going on.  Thank you so much for saying that."

Couple ponderings here from my flight last week:

Any trivial thing can be livened up.  Preflight instructions are so important, but so incredibly boring.  Even the movies some of the airlines are making to convey the information become white noise after a viewing or two.  But all it took was a little humor and a willingness to not just go with the same old same old, and one lady put a smile on a whole plane full of people.  How many times have you made a grilled cheese in your life? Jarret, a friend of mine here in the city, tweeted this picture of the grilled cheese he made his kids the other day: Image.  Just because something is ordinary or routine doesn't mean it has to be boring or dull.  What ordinary things can you liven up?  

Laughter encourages connections.  When the flight attendant finished her final speech, Ivan looks at me and says, "This lady is great."  We shared a few comments about some of the things she said, and then he sticks his hand out to me, "Hey, I'm Ivan, what's your name?"  Remember - up till this point, we were just two dudes sharing an aisle.  "I'm Bobby.  Where you from Ivan?"  And we talked for the rest of the time, waiting for the plane to unload.  When it was just the same old, same old - we both just sat there.  Get us laughing, and we were connected and sharing.  People won't be serious with you until they can laugh with you.    

Always say thank you.  Consumers consume, normally with a sense of entitlement.  "Why should I say thank you?  Isn't that her job?" One person's obligations should never remove our sense of gratitude.  It's basic, kindergarden stuff.  Someone gives you something, shares something with you, opens something for you, hands you something, prepares you something, does anything for you: you say thank you.  In growing up we have become ungrateful, and smiles are scarce because of it.  

I'm rather indifferent on going to Connecticut again (misspelt it), but since I always fly Southwest I'm really hoping that someday I'll be able to laugh with that flight attendant again. 

What can you do today to make someone laugh?
What can you do today to liven up the ordinary?
Who can you say thank you to today?

My favorite, short, feminist Texan has pointed out to me that the appropriate term is not airline stewardess, but flight attendant.  I have made corrections in the post - and offer up sincere apologies to flight attendants everywhere. 

**Edit #2** 
My favorite, really tall, bald northsider pointed out to me that I continually misspelt aisle in this post.  I have made corrections - and offer up apologies to Texans, New Yorkers, and tall bald people everywhere.


Kim said...

Good post, Bobby. I believe they are called "flight attendants" now though... just sayin! Wasn't there a male flight attendant who jumped out the emergency slide or something? I remember hearing something about that... :)

bobby moss said...

Kim - it warms my heart to know that you were the one to correct me on that.

Kevin Bruursema said...

Loved this post, Bobby. So right on. I'm sending the link to people who do announcements in church.

The post did raise some questions for me though. Did you and Ivan really have your own special isle? Was it in the Caribbean? He was foreign, right? He didn't wear a speedo on the beach on your isle, did he? Ick.

Kim said...

ha, I can't believe you actually corrected your post. Way to be progressive! I was actually just giving you a hard time (payback for all those years in youth group?)

- Your favorite short feminist friend in Texas

PS: I also noticed the "aisle" thing but I didn't want to push my luck :P