I’m sitting in a warm, darkened aircraft, fanning myself with a passenger safety card. The lights are off, the power shut down. A few rows back, my co-flight attendant props her feet up and enjoys her lunch. She sighs.
There’s something wonderful about getting to work early, and enjoying the stillness of the airplane before the crowds of passengers arrive. It reminds me of getting to school early the last few weeks of senior high — the silent, muggy hallways, the teachers sipping black coffee, preparing lesson plans, the few early bird students yawning, on the brink of summer break.
Even now, almost a decade and a half later, I feel like a kid on the brink of summer break. I’ve been working locals a lot, and love the feeling of coming home most nights. Even for those trips where I layover, I still like to pretend that I’m on summer holiday.
In the mornings, I get ready for work, but it doesn’t really feel like work. I’ve been wearing the most “casual” pieces of my uniform options — simple short sleeve white blouses, navy blue skirt, black flats. I’ve cut the thick lining out of my clothes and have been wearing minimum make-up, just the required mascara and lip stain. It’s not that I don’t care about my appearance, it just feels more summer-y to dress lightly.
At the airport, it is chaos. Graduation, students moving back home, Father’s Day and kids going to Grandma’s for the summer mean longer lines, crankier people and oversold flights. As I move through the throngs of travelers, I don’t let it bother me. I sip my iced coffee and close my eyes, pretending like I’m going on vacation.
Oh, wait, I am.
My schedule is full of places like Yosemite, Salt Lake City and beautiful Sitka, Alaska. Heck, even Spokane, Washington looks beautiful this time of year. No matter the overnight, summer is in full bloom everywhere I go. My suitcase is light, packed with shorts and flip flops.
The ramp agent comes onboard and I snap back to reality. Ready to board?” He asks.
We nod, flip on the lights and straighten our uniforms. I smile, genuinely excited to greet my passengers. Just a bunch of strangers going on vacation together, I laugh to myself.
By the time they board, our poor customers are a wreck — frazzled from TSA, sick of airport food and sweaty from running between connections. They snap and snarl when I try to help them stow bags. They fume at me as I do my announcements. They fuss at the temperature. I just smile and remind myself that they’ll calm down.
And like a bunch of overtired infants, the moment we dim the lights and quiet the cabin, they fall asleep. About twenty minutes later they awaken and as we hand them drinks and snacks. They start to cheer up, and open their window shades. They gape at Mount Rainier, Mount Saint Helen’s and Mount Hood. We travel down the West Coast and then they remember why they’re traveling — it’s a vacation.
I walk through the cabin and chat with people. One family is going to hike at Sequoia. Another family is looking forward to seeing their cousin at graduation. A little boy traveling unaccompanied can’t wait to float around his Grandma’s pool all summer.
And in the in between moments, us cabin crew whisper about our layover.
“I only brought sundresses and nail polish,” the other flight attendant giggles.
“I have a suitcase full of trashy magazines and swimsuits,” I laugh.
The sense of summer is contagious, and soon the pilots call us to discuss poolside barbecue plans for the evening. Potato salad, grilled veggie burgers and some cold beers are in order.
Before long we are landing into Fresno, California and I am waving goodbye to my passengers. Fresno might not be the most desirable of overnights, in fact, it falls pretty junior at my company, but I don’t care. There’s a pool and sunshine and I have an awesome crew.
It’s summer break and I’m on vacation.
writer // dreamer // adventurer // flight attendant