I know when that hotline bling, it could only mean one thing…
Sadly, nowadays, I seem to only be getting calls from the same two people- my mother and the infamous crew scheduling. In a perfect world, the word reserve would not exist. The long days of sitting ready reserve at home waiting for that hotline to bling, endless hours of airport standby, and last minute trips from anywhere in the world from Tulsa to Rome, (full Disclaimer: I’ve actually never been to Tulsa but it has came close to happening multiple times), leaves much to be desired. Getting that minimum two hour call-out at the last minute, scrambling to find your “packed” suitcase, donning your uniform, and running out the door just to make sure you arrive before your sign-in time, isn’t all its advertised to be.
Ready Reserve, are two words that when combined have the ability and power to unleash terror and havoc like the word has never seen before. It all begins with that legendary call from you guessed it, crew scheduling, (CS) themselves. They have all the power to set your fate and destiny with just the click of a few buttons. Most flight attendants that I know have an extremely dramatic ringtone set for CS, like the generic apple “Alarm” ringtone, and some even have songs such as “It’s The End Of The World,” by R.E.M. No matter the ringtone set, the call always seems to catch you off guard.
You see, you are basically getting paid to stay in the comfort of your own home, watching TV, eating cheese-its and pizza, and if you are really feeling adventurous perhaps doing a load or two of wash. You basically have one job; to sit at home and wait for your phone to ring, to confirm an assignment. Sounds easy, right? WRONG. Somehow, no matter when the phone decides to ring, it is always the worst timing possible. It is always that moment when you decide you have 15 minutes to step in the shower and prepare yourself for that short call out to work. Or when your sister is hungry and you agree to drive her up the block to McDonald’s for lunch. Or, when you decide that it is late enough in the evening, drawing near to when all the flights have departed for that day, so you make some plans with your besties for a fun night out on the town. But no matter when you decide to commit to that shower, or spending the day with your sister, or going dancing in Manhattan with your best friends the phone suddenly decides to ring. And cue the heart attack, followed by the disbelief, followed by another heart attack, followed by devastation, followed by a third heart attack, followed by a gentle sob. All of these emotions seem to run through your mind in the split seconds in which the “hotline starts to bling.”
And perhaps while all of this is occurring, you are not the most upset that you can not make dinner in Manhattan with your besties, or lunch with your sister, or yoga with your mom, or the fact that you have to run out of the house on a moments notice to head to the E.U., but rather you are most upset that for the millionth time you have to let these people down by canceling on them at the last minute, again. When you are a flight attendant you constantly are struggling to make plans, plans that you never really know if you can commit to or not.
Plans that are extremely “tentative,” and come with the long list of preconditions such as; well I’m on reserve so I may get called for a flight however, I believe it’s unlikely, or I’m subject to reassignment, or my flight canceled and now I have to over-night in Wichita, or we had a sick passenger, had to divert, I went illegal, and am now trapped in Reykjavik until further notice.
So maybe this letter isn’t directed to crew scheduling, and how they have all the power vested in them to decide your fate, at the drop of a pin. However, this letter is more directed to my friends and family who wont admit it, but I can sense the fear inside them when making plans with me. The fear that I have some sort of commitment issue, that for me to commit to plans is like asking for a marriage. And while I want to assure you that I do not believe I have any sort of commitment issues, please note that while I don’t, my employer does.
So please don’t be upset the next time we make plans, and at the last moment I end up receiving a call from CS telling me that I am spending the weekend in Curacao. Or when my flight gets canceled leaving Paris at the last minute due to a mechanical, and I have to wait until tomorrow to get back home on a potential deadhead, (to fly from Point A to Point B as a revenue passenger, with no work responsibilities, however always open to reassignment to a working crew position if a crew member gets sick etc…), it wasn’t my intention to cancel on you, nor did I want too.
Rather, just know that, I probably would have enjoyed that fun weekend at home with you instead of traipsing around Europe, getting to live and breathe in the air of this beautiful city in which I was born and raised in. Inevitably so, it is not a fear of commitment that stops me from making plans with you, rather the fact that I am scared to cancel on you once again. It is becoming increasingly harder to have to cancel on my truest friends, and family members multiple times, leaving me feeling absolutely horrible about not being around more.
But this is the job I signed up for. Two day trips, Three Day Trips, Turns, reassignments, reserve, mechanicals, cancellations, delays, and everything in-between. And in the end, for the past two years I have been asked by friends, family, and colleagues, “how do you enjoy flying?” And honestly up until now I did not have an answer for them. I didn’t know how I felt. And I was ok with that. Because sometimes when you are twenty-one years old an opportunity so rare and so unique comes along, and you just don’t know how lucky you are to have that kind of experience “thrown” at you, for lack of better words.
But despite the negatives that are associated with the job, and the per-conceived notion of having commitment issues, the positives far outweigh the negatives. Being able to hop on a plane at a moments notice at Kennedy and end up anywhere from Asia to South Africa for basically no cost, on world-renowned airlines, certainly ranks high on my list of “job benefits.”
So to everyone, from family to friends, to colleagues that have asked me over the last two years I’ve been flying, “How do you like the job?”, here’s your answer:
Until next time, XOXO.