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Flying The (A Little Too) Friendly Skies


Mitzy’s been a flight attendant since the mid- 90s. Those were the days when the airports let you pick up a friend at their gate or have nine cigarettes in an unventilated lounge. She had just been promoted to working international flights on a major airline. This was a big deal for so many reasons. First, a few decades ago, before air travel became the dehumanizing hell that it is now, it was luxurious, it was fun, and people took the time to dress up. Families would see off their loved ones, waving to the traveler making their way down the jet bridge, blowing kisses through the oval windows, and occasionally bringing their own champagne for the occasion. That situation seems difficult to fathom these days. Mitzy envisioned her time flying over the Atlantic as an opportunity to see the world, which it was, and a chance to meet interesting people, which it also was. She didn’t foresee the adult babysitting part.

It was a flight from Boston to Frankfurt on a Friday in May. Mitzy’s remembers the day because she’d always wanted to go to Germany and her co-workers told her that, bar none, there is nothing like Europe in the Springtime. It was one word: romantic. Mitzy understood. Even in crusty Boston she could feel love in the air as people emerged from a long winter into the fragrant, warmer air, blinking their eyes as if they hadn’t seen sunshine in months. (They hadn’t.) On this work day in particular, she was about to get more than she bargained for.

It’s a six-hour flight from Massachusetts to Germany which is the right amount of time for the majority of passengers to eat their lunch, drink a beer, and either go to sleep or watch the movie suspended from the ceiling in the middle of the aisle before there were any such inventions as headphones. The flight was less than half full and Mitzy walked up down the aisle, greeting each passenger, hanging up coats, and offering cocktails in real glasses. In row 26, the young blond woman sat at the window seat and gratefully accepted a gin and tonic. On the other side of the plane, also in row 26, was a young man sitting at the opposite side of the row, also in a window seat. Mitzy brought him a beer and prepared the cabin for takeoff. She stood at the front of the plane for the safety demonstration which always made her nervous.

Once the Luftansa flight reached altitude, Mitzy again made her rounds through the aircraft. She noticed the blond woman and the man making small talk across the aisle. By the time she had served lunch to the passengers in front, the two had moved seats to sit next to each other. She brought them their meals, more drinks, and by the time dinner was finished, they were laughing and touching each other’s faces. When she came by with the dessert tray, they were fumbling awkwardly under a blanket.

Now, Mitzy was young and new at this exciting job and not entirely confident with how to proceed in this situation. She brought it to the attention of a senior flight attendant.

“You go over there and you tell them to stop, honey. This is our plane, we’re in charge,” said the heavily hair-sprayed 50-year-old Sandra.

Mitzy didn’t love this solution.

“That’s really, just, not my thing. Do you think you could do it?”

Sandra launched. “Honey, if this is gonna be your job, you better make it your thing. Now go stop that hanky panky before it gets out of control.”

Mitzy took a deep breath, resolving herself to act firmly and not look down at the blanket. She walked purposely to row 26 and stood next to the seat. The now ‘couple’ either didn’t see her through their make-out session or purposefully ignored her. She cleared her throat.

“Excuse me.” They didn’t stop. “Excuse me!” The man started breathing audibly heavier. “EXCUSE ME.”

The couple pulled their tongues out of each other’s mouths.

“You are going to have to return to your assigned seats immediately.” Mitzy felt proud of herself. She’d stood her ground. The man and woman shared a look and the man went back to his seat, taking the blanket with him.

Mitzy continued her duties as most of the passengers watched The Rocketeer. Then she noticed a line forming at the lavatory. Mitzy marched over to investigate. The sounds coming from the other side of the door made it clear to her that there was more than one person in the tiny water closet. She banged on the door.

“Please exit the lavatory immediately,” she demanded in her most authoritative voice. A minute later, row 26 emerged, sheepish and unkempt.

“For goodness sake,” Mitzy admonished, “please return to your row.” They obliged and Mitzy went back to report to the other flight attendants on the drama in the back. The ladies had coffee and giggled as they settled into the flight. Their short reprieve was interrupted by yelling.

“Oh hell,” said Sandra, “I’ll help you with this.” They walked over to row 26 to see what the fuss was about. The ‘couple’ was fighting.

“Let me tell you kids something,” Sandra drawled in a fabulously condescending Southern accent, “if you’re fighting after four hours together, this is not going to work.”

The blond woman was in tears. Sandra ignored the emotion.

“And now, let’s prepare for landing. Tray tables up in the locked position please.”

The flight attendants stood at the end of the jet bridge, thanking passengers and helping navigate them to the baggage carousel. The man exited first, met by a tall redhead who threw her arms around him.

The blond had managed to pull herself together with a scarf around her hair and a fresh coat of lipstick. The flight attendants watched with wide eyes as she was greeted by a handsome German man who kissed her on the mouth despite the lipstick. Mitzy turned to Sandra.

“What was that?”

Sandra did a little snort in the way only a mature woman from South Carolina can.

“Honey,” she pursed her lips, “that was the world’s shortest affair.”

Mitzy told me this story on a plane this weekend. Even though it was years ago, she told it laughing with tears in her eyes.

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