Thursday, June 30, 2016

Passenger of the Day: Curtains!

There are flights, as rare as they may be, when I encounter a passenger who is not happy with me. My smile, charm, and good looks can only go so far, it would seem. Typically, it's a passenger getting butt-hurt over a company policy or FAA rule when they don't get their way, like the “Good Little Scout” I wrote about. Here is another story of someone’s panties in a twist.

I was purser and at the tail end of my service in the first class cabin. The meals had been served and I was picking up the last few bowls of lemon sorbet. I often take a look towards the back of the plane to make sure things are as they should be. There is a curtain that divides the first class cabin from the economy cabin, but it's sheer. I noticed a man standing just on the other side of the curtain. He mostly kept his back to me, but every few seconds he would look into the first class cabin, seeing what the woman in 3E was watching on her lap top and interested in finding out what I was doing.

The sheer curtain behind row 3 of first class.
Upon seeing that I appeared to be done working, he passed through the curtain and approached me, standing in the galley. This shocked me for a split second; long gone are the days when economy riffraff never thought to cross that curtain, but now that it’s see-through, it stops no one, it seems. He was a smallish man with dark hair and just a touch of gray around his temples. He had a thick accent, but I didn't have a hard time understanding him. His first question was about the curtain behind row three. “Is that for safety?” he asked. (Inside voice immediately stated that it obviously wasn’t to keep him out of first class! It’s a good thing inside voice stays inside.)

I explained that it was to differentiate first class from the main cabin and to offer a little privacy for those who paid for first class. He was intrigued about its sheerness, and I explained how that was so the working crew could see the whole cabin, a new feature after 9-11.

He next asked, with a smile, what the curtain was for that partially obscured the galley. “This is so that these passengers (mainly seats 1 A and B) don't have to look at the ugly galley during the flight. “It's also there so I can hide from people like you,” said my inside voice, although it does actually provide a little privacy for crew members to eat their meal out of view of passengers.

He thanked me, all smiles and excused himself to return standing sentry on the other side of the curtain. He eventually took his seat on the aisle in the first row of economy. I soon forgot about him, but not for very long.
Enjoying first class uninterrupted.

Half an hour later, he returned. I was seated in my jumpseat and looked up as he approached, smiled, and asked if I could help him. He pointed to the lavatory, just behind me, suddenly becoming mute. I informed him that the lavatory was at the back of the plane. He looked at me a bit cross, “But you let others use it from the back.”

“Yes, when the cart is in the aisle, people can't access the lavatory, so they can use this one. Right now, there are no carts in the aisle, so I must ask that you use the ones at the rear of the aircraft.” He stood there for a good five seconds, which felt like 10 minutes. I thought I’d try a new tactic. “Do you have a first class ticket, sir?” I asked. “No,” he responded. “Then I need to ask that you use the economy lavatory, thank you.”

I mean, I 'had' just explained to him the whole curtain thing, providing first class exclusivity. Had he been elderly, or of difficulty in moving around, or very young and not able to stand long in a line, I’d have allowed it. But it ‘is’ company policy...and I would expect it had I plopped down first class dough!

He turned and went back to his seat; he did not use the lav, at all. He returned to his seat and basically spent the rest of the flight, which at this point was just less than an hour, staring at me.

When I got up to check on my passengers and bantered and laughed with them, I could see him glaring at me. When I handed out coats and jackets, his stare was iron. When I opened the offending curtain and secured it to the cabin divider for landing, his glare set into me like a knife.

And all the while I just kept smiling, as I always do.

Smile and the world smiles with you.

We landed at our destination and my passengers took their leave of the aircraft, thanking me, saying farewell, shaking my hand. Mr. Curtains was next. While on the jumpseat I had looked up his name and with a smile, I bid him a great day, calling him by his last name. He stopped, moved in close, and asked for my name. “Oh, it's Penguin, Mr. Curtains.” I was still upbeat, as if I thought he was going to nominate me for an award, although I knew he was still upset that I wouldn't allow him to use the first class lavatory. He asked for my last name. I leaned in a little, “I don''t give out my last name. All you need is Penguin and this flight number.” (Inside voice continued, “And make sure you get my name right, I want to make sure Mother Airline knows that I'm doing my job!”)

People began to bunch up behind him. He didn't seem completely happy with failing to leave the plane without my full name, but that's been my policy for over 10 years, after dealing with a threatening passenger. He took his leave of me and I again, with a smile in my voice, bade him a great day.

He couldn't use the first class lavatory, but he certainly could not claim that I was unfriendly in any way, shape or form. I had engaged him in conversation, smiled, wished him well and even called him by name.

It doesn't happen very often, and maybe that's why they always tend to stick out with me, those moments when someone is dissatisfied in some way and asks for my name. And nine times out of ten, they ask for my last name. We don't give that out. I'm the only Penguin, she's the only Sara, he's the only Kevin...working flight 1306. That's all you need to know. Enjoy your day!

View from the window of door 1L

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  1. What in the world do you suppose he was up to?

  2. Maybe he was looking for decorating ideas??

  3. He probably doesn't fly very often and wanted a taste of the high life by using the first class lav. Probably things it's deluxe, but really, it's just another lav. People need to realize that those who pay for first class seats, for upgrades, or use miles to upgrade, expect the first class experience, which is one that excludes the people from the back coming forward through their cabin to use and occupy their lavatory.