Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Passenger of the Day: I Just Serve the Coke


It was another hot day in Florida. The passengers boarded and nearly every seat was taken. Just as the door closed, we were told by the captain of a ground hold; there was a large thunder storm headed towards Chicago, which would hit the airport just at the time we were scheduled to land there. We were going to push back and hold for at least an hour, to give the worst of the storm the chance to pass through.

As is standard practice, we pushed from the gate and went to the holding area off of the taxi way; what we endearingly refer to as 'the penalty box'. Since we'd be on the ground for at least an hour, we began going through the aisles to offer our passengers water.

When this task was complete, I was in the aft galley, putting things away. A man approached and asked in a heavy accent a series of questions. He was thin, almond-skinned, slightly taller than me, and wearing a brown corduroy jacket over a striped shirt. He was going to Chicago to connect to a flight to Frankfurt, Germany- and he is my passenger of the day.

“Why are we waiting here over an hour? I just spoke to my sister in Chicago and she said there is no bad weather,” he said. I replied, “Well, you should let her know that in 2 hours, there is going to be a big storm rolling through. We aren't really concerned with the current weather, we're concerned with the weather in a few hours...when we will be landing there.”

He seemed to understand, but I wasn't sure. I'm not always good with knowing the difference between the look of ignorance and that of disdain. He looked at me as if I had some power to change the situation but was refusing to do so. If that were the case, I think I could make a better living than a flight attendant. He turned around and left me alone, but not for long. A minute later he returned, “Do you know when we are going to take off?” he asked.
“No, I don't,” I stated.
“Do you know when we will arrive in Chicago?”
“No, not until we take off,” I replied.
“I've got a connection to the Frankfurt flight. Will they hold that flight for me?”
“I have no idea, but with so many flights being delayed, I would speculate that Frankfurt will also be delayed.”
“Well, how much longer do we wait?” he asked, again, and then followed with, “Will the captain be able to fly faster?”

I was getting pretty frustrated. He might as well have also asked how much fuel we were carrying, over what airports would we be flying or where did our pilot learn to fly, but I decided to attempt a little humor, “Sir, I can't answer any of your questions. I just serve the Coke. If you have a phone, you could contact Mother Airline and find out the status of your connecting flight.”

He gave me another blank stare, which seemed to linger for a minute or more. I went back to my duties praying he was done tormenting me. He turned and I watched him return to his seat, which was about 3 rows from the back. I soon forgot about him, as I returned to the tasks I had been working on before the distraction.

When the captain informed us that we were ready to depart, we completed picking up trash while making safety checks. It was humid in Florida, and as we began to taxi to the runway for takeoff, the air got cold in the drying cabin as it became pressurized, and turned to white vapor as it flowed from the air vents along the ceiling. As we gained speed rolling down the runway, a woman screamed out, “There's smoke in the cabin!” I turned in my jumpseat to check, and upon seeing the vapor, yelled back, “That's the air conditioner, it's normal!”

My flying partner rolled her eyes, “Smart ones, today, eh?” I laughed in agreement and told her about Mr. Frankfurt with all the questions I was unable to answer. She told me she must have fielded at least 5 other comments about making connections, like the flight crew are some sort of gods with untold powers of knowing the entire flight schedule of our airline when things go awry due to weather.

An hour later, we were nearly done with our service, with only a few rows left to serve drinks to, then we could pick up the trash and have a moment to rest. I leaned over to ask a man in the window seat what he'd like to drink. I recognized the tan corduroy jacket. He said something about Coke, so I repeated his order. “No,” he said a bit louder so I could finally hear him, “I said I don't like your comment about the Coke. Earlier, you told me you just serve the Coke.”

“Yes, I did, sir,” I responded, “because you kept asking me questions I could not answer. I'm sorry that you didn't appreciate my humor, but I only know what the captain tells us and you have a phone on which you could call and find out, and I don't. I didn't know what else to tell you. Now, can I offer you a damned drink?”

OK, I didn't say “damned”, but I sure wanted to. It's nearly a daily blessing that passengers can't hear the comments going on inside my head. He asked for a coffee and said nothing else to me. Actually, he didn't ask- “I'll have a coffee.”
“Great,” I responded, “how do you take it?”
“Black,” was the cold response.
“Like your soul...” replied my inside voice.

We landed on a very wet runway after hitting some turbulence on our descent into Chicago. Dark clouds and visible flashes of lightning were in the distance. There had even been a tornado cloud in the area, although it didn't touch down. I hoped Mr. Frankfurt had warned his sister and that he made his flight to Germany. At least I knew I'd not be seeing him on my flight home!

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