An excerpt of chapter 7 – (the first of many drafts!)….
It’s important for flight attendants to find doctors who understand what our job entails. For instance, we don’t just roll our bags gate to gate and onto the plane. We lift eighty pounds over our heads and into the overhead bins each and every flight anywhere up to four times a day, fifteen days a month. We don’t just serve drinks. We push and pull two-hundred pound carts on an incline - usually two times per flight. We can’t just go to work and deal with a bad case of the sniffles with a box of tissues. We have to worry about our ear drums exploding. Once I pleaded with a podiatrist not to release me back to work too soon after breaking my pinky toe.
“You’ll be fine,” he assured me. I wasn’t fine. Not working a ten-hour day at 30,000 feet inside a pressurized flying tube. Not running gate to gate as quickly as possible in order to avoid a delay at some of the busiest airports in the world. When I went back to his office to have him fill out a few forms on top of the ones he’d already signed, I told him my toe didn’t just hurt, it throbbed.
“Take six Advil,” he suggested. Before I could say six! He added, “You can relieve the pressure by cutting a hole in the side of your shoe.”
I just stared at him. He smiled. This was no smiling matter!
As per the flight attendant uniform guidebook, footwear must be conservative in style, plain black or navy blue, and have a covered toe, enclosed heel and enclosed sides (eh-um). And there’s more. Heels must be a minimum of one inch in height, width of heel should not exceed width of sole, heel and sole should be identical in color, heel or flats (loafer style with one inch heel) may be worn with pants, heels must be worn with dress or skirt while in public view, shoes must be polished and in good repair, and buckles, colored trims, laceups, loose straps, ties, bows or other adornments are not permitted. And these are just shoes we’re talking about!
Obviously the podiatrist had no idea what it was like, really like, to work for an airline. I mean we can’t just cut holes in our shoes and go to work! Imagine a first class flight attendants’ panty-hosed toes hanging out during the service! Really there was no point telling the doctor any of this since the initial paperwork had already been signed, faxed, and approved by airline medical and I was already back on the line, practically OD’ing on Advil, while hobbling up and down the aisle ten hours a day.
“I don’t know about this job,” said Georgette over a pay phone late one night at a bus stop in a strange Texas town she’d never head of. Bound for Dallas on a Greyhound bus wearing navy blue six-inch heels, she’d been instructed as per company orders to get to the nearest airline medical center located at a major airport to have her blocked ears checked ASAP. “Things are gonna get better, right?”
“Right!” I said, and I meant it too. “You’re on a bus wearing a uniform that hasn’t been cleaned in a week and your undies are still damp after being washed out and hung to dry in the shower over night. Seriously, how could it get any worse?” When I heard her giggle, I knew she’d be okay – at least for a little while. Hopefully until she made it to the next town and could call me back. “Think of this as an adventure. It’s going to make a great story to tell your grandkids.”
Whenever passengers joke around and order the filet mignon medium in coach, I always laugh – Every. Single. Time. Who am I to spoil their fun? Well Georgette did the same thing, only she did it in fear. She didn’t want to upset the guy wearing the NRA baseball cap who sat in the rear of the bus chewing tobacco and leering at her for what felt like days. To make matters worse, each time the bus made a stop and a new group of passengers walked on board, upon seeing the navy blue and silver wings sitting right behind the driver (it seemed like the safest place), they’d laugh hysterically and then say something along the lines of, “if you’re not flyin we sure as hell ain’t either!” Followed by high-fives all around….
Photo courtesy of Hunter Desportes