For some stews, it has been their childhood dream and they have dozens of childhood photos with a flight attendant uniform, pretending to serve chicken and beef to glamorous passengers. For others, it is a convenient way to see the world without paying unbelievable amounts of money for airfare and centrally-located hotels. As for me, it just happened.
I was working as a teaching assistant in a kindergarten, when my sister told me she saw in a newspaper that the national airline is hiring. I was in the middle of planning another backpacking trip to Southeast Asia and applying to universities, and decided to give it a shot. After less than a week, I found myself in a testing and assessment center for the airline. For the first time in my life, I was dressed formally in a suit and light makeup, amused how far it is from educating preschool children (of course, I did not know yet how similar working in the cabin is to care for infants, and how useful my skills for solving fights between 3 year olds will be up in the sky). After a short interview in English (just to see I know how to tell people to fasten their seatbelts and whether they prefer coffee or tea) and an SAT-like computer test, we started the group dynamics.
Then, besides trying to find creative answers to the classic question why you want to be a flight attendant (“I’m great with people” and “I love dynamic jobs” sounded a little cliché at the third candidate), we needed to solve complex problems like what to do with tall people who find their seats uncomfortable or people with special dietary needs that did not get their special meals. There, opposing to math exams, clogged sinks, or actual life, the point is to not solve the problem, but to keep smiling, be super-nice and compassionate and go over and over again on the phrase: “I know how you feel, I feel so sorry for you. I promise to do my best to help you”.
After being (apparently) nice enough and never stopping to smile, I got the message that I got accepted. When the course started, I realized I do not possess the required feminine skills. I cannot put on nail polish properly, I do not know how to braid my hair, and I find putting on eyeliner as a harder task than running a marathon. Well, okay, maybe a half-marathon. With a little help from my friends, I managed to look like a real flight attendant for the duration of the course, when we learned about chicken, beef, coffee, tea and lots of tomato juice. No, I have not figured out yet the reason why people choose to drink this pasta-sauce drink on flights.
Oh, and of course, since the FAA would not let us be responsible for the lives of hundreds of people with just having the abilities to pour Diet Coke in less than 30 seconds (the bustard foaming its CO2 to death), we are trained to handle any kind of emergency on board. Since someone might decided to get heart failure in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean where the closest doctor is currently ice-fishing in Iceland, a few hours away, we need to be ready for every event. Not only that, our first and foremost responsibility is, in the case of an emergency landing, to make sure everyone gets out of the plane safely. Yes, including the possibility of ditching, and that is why we train in the pool too. We learn how to master the life vest, the raft, and the emergency survival kit just in case we will not end up as the inspiration for another “Lost” season.
So, the last day of the course arrived, and in a special ceremony we got the promised wings. I am not talking about the ability to be one day in New York and the next in Hong Kong, but an actual pin of wings that is attached to our uniform. And then, after the boot camp that the training course seemed like, it was so great to fly as a “real” flight attendant. During the first weeks, you feel like a little girl that stole the uniform from someone and hope that none of the passengers or crew on the flight will notice that you are not a real stew, and just pretending to be one in order to make it to exotic places like South Africa and Brazil. Then, after some time, the pressure eases, and you get to actually enjoy the job. Enjoy the crazy uncertainty of life with “Hello Noa, this is crew assignment. Would you like to go to Bangkok tonight?“, enjoy the abolishment of any sense of distance or time (Yeah, I will fly 15 hours just to spend two days in Los Angeles. Why not?), and enjoy the fascinating people that I would never meet otherwise. Enjoy the shopping, the restaurants, the worldwide nightlife, the new cultures, the capitals of the world, the nature, the ocean. Enjoy the job, enjoy the untypical lifestyle, enjoy life.
Weekly Tip: (Hidden gems, good tourist attractions, favorite spots and usually food..)
The Parisian restaurant Le Relais de Venise is more known as L’Entrecôte. It has a few branches in Paris but this is my favorite one. It is perfect for people who can never decide what to order, since there is only one option in the menu- Entrecote (prime rib) steak, sliced and topped with a heavenly secret sauce. It is recommended to order the steak medium rare, and it comes with wonderful fries as well. The food will not be completed without great French wine and rude French service (though they do surprisingly speak English). Get ready to wait in line along with tourists and locals, the restaurant does not take reservations. Bon appétit!
Le Relais de Venise
271 Boulevard Pereire (closest Metro: Port Maillot)
75017 Paris, France
+33 1 45 74 27 97