Friday, February 12, 2016

Passenger of the Day: Shaken and Stirred

Sunset clouds

Every now and then you'll get a great pilot who likes to come out of his and actually interact with passengers. They do have a lot to do up there before a flight; check lists, write ups, fuel sheets, weights and balance figures, the walk around, a quick call to the wife and or girlfriend. This flight had the type of captain who came into the cabin at the end of the boarding process with information on the weather at our destination and in flight. He mentioned an area of storms that we'd be passing on our way to the East Coast. I could see 3E's face tighten. Another example of the captain meaning well and having to make me come in afterwards and smooth ruffed up feathers.

When he was done with his presentation, he returned to the switches and knobs of the cockpit and I began to pick up pre-departure cups from my passengers in first class. When I got the 3rd row, Nervous Flyer stopped me.

The woman in 3E was sharply dressed and very pleasant. She wore a tan outfit with sparkly jewelry, including a corded necklace ending with an elaborate-looking tassel. She smiled often and used pleasantries any time we spoke.

“The captain said it might be a bit bumpy in flight?” she asked sheepishly.
“There is a chance we may have a few bumps. I'm sure it won't be bad. Do you not like bumps?” I asked.
“No, I'm what they call a nervous flyer.”
“My mother was a nervous flyer when I started this job. She's great with flying now. I told her how much safer she was in the air than on the ground. The most dangerous part of the trip was the drive home!”
“I've heard that,” she said.
I continued, “I actually love turbulence.” She made a face. “I know, I'm one of those...” She laughed, but still appeared a bit nervous.

I went on to explain a little about turbulence and what causes it. I told her to imagine a pot of boiling water. The air can be much like that pot of boiling water, with bubbles of air rising and falling in the atmosphere. When the plane encounters these rising bubbles of air you get turbulence.

She greatly appreciated the visual and said she felt much better, but she'd be keeping an eye on me.

“Don't tell me,” I interrupted, “you keep an eye on the flight attendant knowing that if they are calm, everything is OK, but if they look concerned, you should be as well.”
“Yeah,” she said.
There is nothing to fear.
“My mom told me that when I first started flying!” It's something I've always remembered. To this day, if I hear a noise from the plane that is out of the ordinary, or I get a call on the interphone from the pilots about weather ahead, I act nonchalant and calm; smile on my face. Even if they're only
calling for a lavatory break, people in the cabin don't know why I'm on the phone. For all they know, there's a fire in the cargo hold, a wheel just fell off, or we are serving only fruit cake.

As if often the case, the pilot's reports were not entirely accurate and the flight ensued with very few bumps at all. It's almost disappointing when we get notified of reports of turbulence coming up and then nothing happens. Passengers get up and we advise them, “Please take a seat, the captain has told us that we are expecting turbulence and we want you to be safe.” Then nothing happens and the seat belt sign gets turned off and I look like a liar. Happens all the time. I call the flight deck, “Hey, can't you make it bounce for just a bit?”

Night flying
Yeah, I like turbulence. I like to feel the plane fly. But, I have hurt my knee when a jolt threw me to the floor. One of the most fun episodes was when I was trapped in the rear of a 747 coming home from Sydney. Fortunately, there were a lot of open seats, so when the plane began to dance through the air during our meal service, I was able to park the dinner cart and take a seat. The plane bounced so much that meals began to fall out the other end of the cart and onto the floor. All I could do was sit there and listen to the clatter.

People have died in turbulence, shooting out of their seats and hitting their head on the ceiling. It can be very dangerous and sudden. So when you are asked to do so, for your safety, and the safety of those around you, please, return to your seat and fasten your seat belt. And keep the over head bins closed. Thank you.

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