By Vanessa Sanchez
“Wait, you live….where?” asked the polite man sitting next to me on the airplane this morning. I replied that I live in Missoula, MT. That is, where I keep my mailing address, my furniture and a majority of my personal items, and for all tax purposes. The rare chance I get to actually see my apartment in Missoula is a whole other story. “But you’re based in Minneapolis? How does that work? Does the airline pay for your flights to and from work and home? Why were you in Houston then? Was it for work?” were the next few questions out of this gentleman’s mouth. I gave an inward long sigh and thought here we go again, the 20 questions game.
Such is the life of an airline crewmember. If we are occupying an actual seat on an aircraft in our uniform, it is only natural for the person sitting next to us to begin the game. It shouldn’t be irritating anymore but when it’s a 6am flight and all you can think about is reclining the seat, putting your iPod on and sleeping for a few precious minutes, then yes I get irritated. But does anyone really know anything about the life of a crewmember? Does anyone really understand our way of life?
I know that I told you I would be writing about small town communities but what better way to continue with the introductions than to give you a sneak peek into what I like to refer to as the Airline Community. Yes. We are a community. We call people who do not work in the industry normal people. We speak in airport codes and lingo. Nothing is broken, it’s inop. We ask what your eta is going to be and when you ask what city we are in, we normally reply with the airport code (exp: Chicago = ORD or MDW). And of course, hardly any of us actually live where we are based.
It takes a special breed of human to do our job.
Like I said, most of us don’t actually live where we are based. We have to take a flight to work and fly standby. Usually that means getting up at the ass crack of dawn to try and make the first flight out to our base so we can make our sign in which we usually strive to schedule sometime in the late afternoon and early evening. Most of the time, we never unpack a suitcase. We keep our bare essentials forever packed and tucked into a corner of our bedroom. We eat way too much peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for our own good because no one likes to eat airport food on a regular basis due its price and it’s hard to keep cold food cold when you are on a four day trip. Four day trips are the norm for commuter crewmembers as well. That’s four days away from home and in my case with the same group of people throughout the entire trip. So you always pray you end up with people you like as they become your closest friend and family for the next few days. We try to make the most out of our trips when we can. If we have long overnights, we try to find something interesting to do if possible. Most of the time it consists of finding cheap food and good beer prices and we are happy campers. If you get an adventurous crew, you actually go out and discover the town by touring it.
Holidays are non existent to us as well. We make our own holidays usually a few days before or after and pray that we get a decent overnight on a major holiday hence we get stuck eating at a Wafflehouse or worse, nowhere at all until we get back to an airport.
Why do we do this you may ask? Well, someone has to right?
I can’t answer for every crewmember but I can tell you why I do it. It’s simple. Flying. I love the momentary weightlessness at takeoff when the airplane is defying gravity. I love the anticipating quiet that you hear upon landing right before the wheel hits the ground. I love the sound of the chimes when they tell me what task is at hand. Do I make an announcement? Do I start getting the cart ready to do a service? Do I take my jumpseat? I love saying hello and goodbye to every passenger and hearing them reply hello, goodbye, thank you, I’m never flying this airline again!, great flight, where is my next gate?.
No two flights are ever the same. No two passengers are ever the same. It is an easy job and it can be rewarding when I make someone happy. It can be frustrating too but I try to overlook that as much as possible. I just close my eyes and remember that I can, on any given day at any given hour, hop on a plane and make supper club in Chicago, play Super Nintendo in Missoula, go eat Mexican food in San Antonio, or go shopping on Canal Street in NYC. It feels great to be able to stay in close contact with everyone I truly love. That is why I am an airline crewmember.