July 21, 2010

Your most memorable passengers

As Flight Attendants, we deal with many different types of people on a day to day basis. We also get asked about our jobs A LOT by friends, family, complete strangers, anyone sitting or standing next to us while in uniform, you get the idea... It's really easy to talk about being a Flight Attendant because we easily have loads of stories up our sleeves. It's quite unfortunate that the majority of stories we remember happen to be our "horror" stories of flights gone bad and passengers gone wild. A lot of times we can find the humor in such stories and the other times well, I have those stories locked away never to be retold. (We really don't need to go there again!) I chalk the "remember the bad first" to human nature. Don't believe me? Ask anyone who has flown recently about their flight experience. 9 times out of 10 they will tell you some horror story of their own.

Sometimes I will have stretches of bad flights, bad days or bad weeks which can be caused by many many reasons. I will get almost to my breaking point where I just can't take one more thing and then it happens... onto the plane boards my "Magic Pax". My "Magic Pax" isn't your average passenger, it's not the lady who says thanks, or the guy who actually looks me in the eye and smiles while boarding... I love those passengers too, but my "Magic Pax" are really special, they are those people who actually change the way I am thinking that day. They change my mood and remind me that life is so much bigger than what is going on in my cabin. I forget and let go of all the frustration I have been holding onto and remember to live in the present moment.

I know, you are probably thinking "wow", what a passenger, right? It's usually about 1 for every 100 difficult passenger I host in my plane. Can you see why I hold on and treasure these people? I'm going to tell you my story of my most memorable "Magic Pax" and I really hope that this brings you some insight into life, love and living in the moment.

I was working a flight from Montreal to New York's JFK Airport. It was like any other day. We got to the airport, rushed through customs, rushed through security, rushed to the airplane to rush through all our cabin checks (I tend to rush a lot since I'm actually not paid until the flight pushes back). The gate agent comes on board to ask if we could pre-board a family first since the son is in a wheelchair. Sure, no problem. Montreal is a tricky one for us with wheelchairs. We are not parked at a gate with a jet bridge and there is no room for a lift to come bring the wheelchair into the galley so (and this is no lie) they have two big strong ground crew carry the son in the wheelchair up my aircraft stairs.
My family is sitting in my first row, Seats 1B, C and D. Mom and Dad get on board, put their bags in the overhead bin and set a cushion on the seat for their son. Their son is around 6 feet tall or taller. He is 15, he used to play basketball until he was in a car crash that left him paralyzed. You can see in his eyes he is there, but that's the only place. He is probably one of the taller people I have had on my plane and he doesn't really fit well in the seat. We get him in and the seatbelt on. The seat has to recline a little for his head to be semi stable as he has no control. His dad makeshifts a pillow and a seatbelt extender to help and he tops it off by holding his head in place for the majority of the flight. This poor kids feet extend into my galley a bit but I don't care. I spend the whole boarding telling everyone "Hello, watch your step" and they don't care either.
I get everyone else settled in and ready to go. Before take off I bend down and say hello to the son. "I'm Megan, it looks like your family has you as comfortable as possible. This is a quick flight, don't worry about a thing we will get to New York safe and sound." I really don't know if he heard anything I had to say but I wanted to say something, I just didn't feel right otherwise. So I pull out my jumpseat, sit down and watch. Mom and Dad each take a hand of the sons for takeoff (Dad's other hand still supporting his head), they talked to him, they smiled at him, they kissed his cheek, the love pretty much radiated out of them.
After my service was over, I had some time to chat with them as they were asking me a few questions about our terminal in JFK. (Their son can only be upright for 6 hours at a time, after that he has to lie down- don't ask me why, I am not a doctor). Turns out, after a fairly long layover, they were taking him to Africa. It was his dream vacation that he had talked about before his accident. The mother had family there so they were making the journey from Canada to the US to Africa. All this travel with their paralyzed son who has to lay down every 6 hours. All this travel so he could see his cousins, sit in the sun and soak up the scenery. All this because you never know when a miracle can happen. I literally was speechless. The pain, the commitment, the love, the hope, the selflessness... I saw it all in these three people. These amazing three people. They brought tears to my eyes and made me feel silly for worrying about things that just aren't important in life.

I feel like sometimes life knows when I need something and it's always there to show me the bigger picture. These are my "Magic Pax". They are my treasures in the sometimes crummy world of flying. It is these passengers who keep me up in the sky, smiling day after day, flight after flight. They come on with their stories and their love and they forever change me and they ask for nothing in return. So I honor them, in my memory and in my actions, I will always remember them!

This family changed my life, really, so now I want to hear from you- do you recognize your special passengers?

This is written from the heart, it is also written to let Flightster (check them out here) know that I am in for their contest. :)


kbq said...

Thanks. Right about now I needed a story like that!



Meekiyu said...

That's an awesome story I can only imagine how it would be... off topic I love reading your posts about NYC and glad you had fun here except for waiting for the free concert >_< I had seen lady gaga in concert and she was brilliant... hope ya come back to nyc to explore more =D

Anonymous said...

I love stories like that! I am sure that I have some but had to tell you thanks for sharing yours right now. It really does put life into perspective, doesn't it?

Tom Seagraves said...

Very, very nice. I love it when people recognize how in the middle of their daily ordinary tasks that something can touch them in a way that they will never forget. That is what happened to you and I appreciate you sharing. Every time you get the passenger from hell just remember these folks and you will do just fine.

Rains506 said...

Hey Megan,

I came across your blog from the Flightster contest. I LOVED this post.

And in all honesty it brought some tears to my eyes.

It is experiences like that that are truly inspiring, and as you said in so many words, that help you put everything in your life in perspective - the parts that don't matter at all that you think do, and the parts that matter that most - and often times get pushed to the side too.

Lastly, when you made the brief point about your passengers actually looking you in the eye I pondered on that for a second. I always say hello and thank you and make eye contact, but before I didn't think it really made a difference - like I'm just another passenger and another face - but now I see maybe its can be a little different than that.

Thanks for the awesome post! Good luck w the Flightster thing! :)

Lauren - (LoIsInChina)