I was walking through the aisle picking up trash when it happened. The middle-aged man with eyes completely glued to the movie on his iPad floated his hand in a trance-like motion toward the outstretched garbage bag I held firmly stretched between my two hands. Instead of dropping the half-full cup of orange juice into the trash bag, the distracted man planted it upside down against my thigh and a second later I felt the sticky, sweet juice dribble down my right leg and pool into my right shoe, thus ending the unwanted leg-bath of Vitamin C. The fact that it took the man a five full seconds to pry his eyes away from his movie and then mutter a barely-intelligible apology before turning away again was infuriating, making me want to smack the silly piece of technology right of his tray table and give a mother-worthy reprimand of, Look at me when you say you’re sorry, young man!.
It’s hard to be taken seriously when people think you’re just a sky waitress. Some people seem to think that once I’ve served them a Diet Coke, I’ve fulfilled my role on the flight. My job is finished, right? The times have changed and long gone is the era of the stewardess. Today, being a flight attendant is all about safety. We are paid to be there in case something bad happens. We are not paid to cater to the every whim of passengers. Nope. We are there for safety first and if possible, comfort second. We are trained to take charge during medical emergencies, evacuations, and other life-threatening scenarios. Fortunately, such situations are quite rare and so most of what we train for is never used. In two years, I’ve only had one serious medical scare and it was resolved without needing to divert the flight. Nevertheless, emergencies do happen and they have happened to co-workers I know.
Of course, when it comes to keeping people safe, the scariest risk is terrorism. When I signed up to be a flight attendant, I signed up to be the last line of defense between lunatics and the flight deck door. It’s a huge responsibility and I think about it every day. Here in the United States, we will never allow something like 9/11 happen again. Period. When I signed up for my job, I knew I had signed up to put up a fight and sacrifice myself for others should that type of situation arise. Perhaps not all flight attendants take their duties seriously, but I do. If the time should come, I will be ready to save lives and if necessary, put the lives of my passengers ahead of my own – including the life of Mr. Orange Juice Dropper.