Thursday, November 5, 2015

Passenger of the Day: Condolences

I had a friend who was based in England who told me he was ghastly afraid to ever ask passengers if they had been on vacation or a business trip for the possibility of hearing that they had been to a funeral of a loved one. He thought it was embarrassing and didn't know what to say. I love asking where passengers started their day, where they are going, if they were on vacation. When greeting passengers, usually a big smile back means they are going home, and they are always impressed that I guessed correctly. It's happened more than a few times that I engage a passenger and hear they were attending a funeral. To me, it's no big deal to hear this. I offer condolences, ask if they need anything and smile as I welcome them aboard.

Leaving Houston, two ladies began to settle into seats 1A and B. They were laughing and having a good time. I could tell they were together, most likely sisters. Lady A had a large bag at her feet, and on a full flight, I let her know she might want to stow it in the overhead bin before they filled up. She tried to stuff it under her seat, and I had to remind her, that was the space of the person behind her. She looked back, apologized to the man, and asked Lady B, to shove it in the small bin with her bag, which she did with more chuckling.

I was unable to offer pre-departure drinks during boarding because the new galley had not arrived, however, a minor maintenance issue delayed us for about 20 minutes after everyone had boarded, allowing me to then give out drinks. The laughing ladies would grow silent from time to time as they listened in to the goings on in the galley.

Lady A and Lady B both asked for Chardonnay. They continued to chatter with each other, and upon overhearing me discussing a mess in the aft galley, they commented to me that it was a shame people leave a mess for others to clean up. Then the catering dude said he didn't want any of the leftover cinnamon rolls I offered, saying, “You never know where they've been...someone could have sneezed on them.”
Lady B laughed and commented, “I hope no one sneezed on them, people ate those things!”
I joked, “He's off his meds.”
Most in first class, now half paying attention to me in the galley for entertainment and in hopes of an update on our delay, thought it was hilarious.

This is how it was for most of the flight. Wine continued to be consumed as they laughed and joked with me, being quite friendly. I thoroughly enjoyed them. Lady A informed me that Lady B was her daughter, her son was in 1E and husband in 1F. I looked over at the men across the aisle, then back to Lady B.
“You mean this isn't your sister?” I asked Lady A. I was serious. She gushed and said I was too much.
“I call like it I see it!,” I told her. Brownie points are great from passengers.

After asking, I found out the family was on their way home to a Denver suburb and they had just attended the funeral of Sir F's mother; Lady B's grand mother. I offered condolences, to which she said that she had lived to the ripe old age of 98.

Halfway through the flight, I saw that they were ready for a refill and as I approached with the bottle of wine, Lady A was in tears. They were holding hands as Lady B offered support. I commented, “Uh, oh, things have gotten a bit emotional since I was here last. Is there anything I can do for you?”

She asked if the was any Xanax on board. I looked at Lady B, then back to Lady A, “No, they don't let me give out Xanax, but the Chardonnay is almost as good.”
“No,” she said, as she wiped a tear away, “wine is even better,” and she handed me her glass.

Maybe things got away from me, but I may have given more wine than I should have. As we approached Denver, the two of them were growing loud; almost uncomfortably so. They were laughing again and joking with Mr. E across the aisle. He was taking selfies of the three of them and I wished I could figure out a way to photo bomb the shot, but I couldn't get behind them.

After landing, as they gathered their items, I handed Lady A a card with a small note, once again offering my condolences. I mentioned them to Sir F and Mr. E, as well. Lady A started welling with tears again, the smile fading from her face slightly. She leaned over with her arm outstretched and gave me a huge, long hug. She really needed it, and it was nice. I had a million things going on in my head- making sure the lights were on and the door was disarmed, keeping an eye on the jet bridge slowly moving toward the plane, ensuring I hadn't forgotten anything. But I hugged her back. Mr. E said it was the best flight he'd ever been on. Sir F called him “Chump Change”, telling him not to forget his bag, which made me laugh. I had to turn towards the door and I could hear Lady B comment, “You see, it's a sign, his giving you that card.”

Some people are afraid to hear someone is going through something sad. I look at it as a chance to connect with someone. Often, just a few words of condolence and a smile is all they need. Sometimes, a hug from a friendly flight attendant does the trick. And I'm personally of the opinion that we all need more hugs in life!

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