The reality of working in a tube full of disease carrying ever-changing strangers isn’t for everybody. A few people dropped out of the program after the first week because it wasn’t for them. There were those who loved the job, but couldn’t stop throwing up long enough to get through a flight. We only had one person who ran screaming from the airplane muttering something about seeing the passengers heads popping off of their bodies; but she seemed a little shaky from the beginning. It was her first time away from home, and the only experience that she had prior to flight attendant training was manually inseminating cows on the family farm. (yes, you read that correctly) She was a little skittish from jump. In fact, we were all a little surprised that she lasted as long as she did. Flying isn’t all that dangerous. There is a greater risk of someone contracting food poisoning or some sort of communicable disease than there is of dying in a plane crash. Not that that should make you feel any safer, although, if you only knew what went on behind the scenes of a day in the life of a flight attendant, it would scare the crap out of you. That is why we smile all of the time.
Anyway, I was based in Chicago for a few weeks until the Philadelphia base was ready to open. Midway airlines flew DC-9′s and MD 80′s which only required 3 flight attendants as per the FAA safety regulations. But, the company felt that the best way for us new recruits to get some experience, was to assign us to work flights with an experienced crew as the 4th flight attendant. The first call that I got from crew scheduling reminded me of a hazing ritual when you join a sorority. It was a scene out of Charlies Angels when a faceless voice calls with instructions for my first assignment as a crew member. I was to get on a plane in uniform as a passenger, which was officially referred to as non-revving, and fly to Dallas, Texas. When I arrived in Dallas, I was to head straight to the Holiday Inn where there would be a room for me under the company name. In the morning, I was to meet up with the rest of my crew for a 6:00 am report time to work the flight back to Chicago. Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? I remember landing in Dallas and standing in the middle of the concourse for a minute or two trying to figure out where “you are here” is. I felt incredibly helpless, because I had absolutely no idea what to do next; so I called the only lifeline that I had…….crew scheduling.
Crew scheduling was the equivalent of the mother ship for pilots and flight attendants. I was certain that there were bets on how long it would take us newbies to call for help. I imagined that they were all gathered in the war room, filled with smoke and ashtrays overflowing with cigarette butts moving push pins around on a map of the United States every time a flight attendant made it to their destination.
The Dallas airport was huge and getting out of it involved a few escalators and a train before I found the hotel courtesy van that was waiting for me out side of baggage claim. I flew from Chicago to Dallas, and I was exhausted. I needed a glass of wine, something to eat and some sleep. I didn’t think that was too much to wish for as I checked into my room, although unbeknownst to me, the entire Dallas Cowboys football team was staying in the same hotel that I was, and lucky for me on the same floor. I am sure football fans would have jumped at the opportunity to meet the team, however my planned night of peace and quiet was interrupted by members of the team singing at the top of their lungs for what seemed like hours. It was Labor Day weekend and it appeared that the team was watching the Miss America pageant on television. So if you ever wondered what the team does to prepare the night before the big game……..now you know.