Saturday, September 14, 2013

Working for peanuts

When I was about six years old, my family took a transcontinental airline trip, a red-eye. And I can only guess the pilot was of some Norwegian extraction, or had worked for my father's company, because my big sister and I got to visit the cockpit. Not only that, we got our wings -- pins for ... TWA, I think? Plus, most exciting of all, the pilot dubbed us Junior Stewardesses (this was the 60's, when they had stewardesses), and we would help distribute snacks to the passengers (this was the 60's, nobody sued).

Oh my god, we were jumping up and down in anticipation until the appointed time. Anne and I each got a tray of peanuts. I walked down the aisle and most of my customers were quite appreciative. But what to do with the ones who were sleeping? Surely, surely I could lose my wings if these gentlemen lost out on what was rightfully theirs.

So I whispered, "Excuse me." And when that didn't work, "EXCUSE ME!" As a last resort, I shook them. "WAKE UP AND TAKE YOUR PEANUTS!"

Halfway down the aisle, the stewardess stopped me and said, "You know what, Karin? As a stewardess, what we do is just show our passengers the peanuts, quiet as a mouse. And if someone is asleep, why then, we just move on. And this is going to make you very happy -- if someone is sleeping, you get to keep their peanuts!"

I don't know if I dared to believe her at first.

But it happens, you know. Sometimes when you think life can't get any better, it does.

41 comments:

  1. brilliant tale......sounds like it should be some sort of wise metaphor......grasshopper, do not take the peanut that is not yours but wait for the peanut that is not wanted and rejoice!! At school my best friend's sister was an air hostess ........oh the glamour!!

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  2. btw, I remember getting those wings as well, guess those were the good ol' days!.

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  3. Love this! You were right not to want the sleeping passengers to miss out on their peanuts, you know. I get miffed when I wake to see the other passengers enjoying chocolate bars and ice creams that I missed out on.

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  4. They don't have stewardesses any more?

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  5. I can just picture it. You must have been quite daunting, forcing peanuts on drowsy passengers, with your little authoritative pin and everything. *grin* They must have thought they were having a nightmare.

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  6. YAH, you're right -- as a kid, airline hostess is only trumped by movie star.

    KBF -- I lost mine; did you lose yours? Bet they're collector's items.

    Bellis, isn't it interesting how they time the food on the transcontinental flights? It's like the passengers are a bunch of baby birds in a nest, and as soon as we start getting restless, they stuff a roll in our mouth.

    TVH, didn't mean to spoil your day.

    Carolynn -- you're right! I was the Chucky of stewardesses. A little power is a dangerous thing. But I do remember when we got home, my little TWA flight bag was stuffed full of peanut packs.

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  7. unfortunately, i tossed them eons ago!. way before i would even know they would have some worth!.

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  8. Everybody likes to work, even a restless 6 year old on an endless flight. Especially a restless 6 year old on an endless flight. What a lovely memory.

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  9. I love this tale of your young customer service technique

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  10. By the time I took my first flight, I was too old, and the flight too short, for his kind of experience.

    What a thrill this must have been.

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  11. That excitement -- that comes from things like getting to serve peanuts -- may we all keep as much of that in our lives as we can.

    Just a beautiful story.

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  12. Great story. I remember the days when the only thing they passed out was Chicklets gum. And when they finally started serving food, you had to put the tray on a pillow in your lap. I once applied to be a flight attendant. The interview took about three minutes, standing at a window. I didn't say the right things.

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  13. Your story reminds me of when my oldest son was 3, and we flew the redeye from Hartford to Atlanta about 10 times in the latter half of the year. The flight attendants - they were no longer stewardesses - were charmed by the little guy, and would let him walk up the aisle with him, and let him select peanuts from the basket for each passenger. Some got extras, just because they smiled at little Mikey. Ah, for the days when flying was a nice experience.

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  14. That's a fun little story. Of course, the bottom line, in a way, is that children are to be seen and not heard. (Well, not seen either, really).

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  16. Paula, I was wondering why this memory bubbled up to the present. It's because I read an airline will let you sit kid-free, for a charge. Kids have never bothered me, even the ones who cry. An adult who encroaches on my armrest real estate, that's a different matter.

    Des, and it's a technique that lasts a lifetime.

    Jean and John, funny what travels with us in the memory banks.

    Marjie, that's a song of innocence we won't hear again. Because I remember nothing else from my trip, I figure either I passed out from the excitement of it all, or some passenger slipped me a mickey.

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  17. What a hilarious way to relay a simple truth!

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  18. Great story. My mom was a stewardess. She had to quit when she got married. it was the rules. And she had to get weighted each week.

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  19. OMG, this is the coolest story. How come you have so many?! If you tried something like that today, the Air Marshall would get you.

    Hope you're well X

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  20. I remember my first flight clearly. The whole family went from O'Hare to Miami. We dressed up for the flight (I remember the dress I wore), and my sisters and I got wings. They gave my brother something like a junior pilot badge.

    We didn't get to serve peanuts, though.

    I like the way you tell your story almost in a child's voice but not quite. I can feel your innocence and excitement.

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  21. I think my first flight was from Puerto Rico to one of the Virgin islands, maybe St Thomas, but I was 11 or 12 and by then and had sailed the Atlantic twice as well as gone from NYC to San Juan. I thought of myself as a world traveler so flying was just one more step. The Atlantic crossings, what I remember of them, were great adventures.

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  22. Hey, we all want to hear about Earl's interview as flight attendant, don't we? Maybe we can tease him out. Speaking of male air hosts, flying Alitalia, the exceptionally handsome flight attendants make costume changes between boarding, meals, and landing. Never seen anything like it.

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  23. Great story. I love that you jumped to the conclusion that you'd be fired if someone didn't get their peanuts. It shows how valuable those peanuts were to you. And yes, I want to hear more about Earl's flight attendant interview! I also want to fly Alitalia next time I cross the pond.

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  24. I could actually do a followup post on this - not on early flight experiences of kids, but on the black and white logic of children when they find themselves between a rock and a hard place.

    Adults can be sweet as stewardesses and as cruel as sadist

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  25. Great story! You write so very well.

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  26. Yep...definitely...someone at the back of the plane slipped you a mickey before they took a nap!!!

    And Earl...you must be olllddd for that tray on the pillow memory...I can't ever remember that one!!!

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  27. Ah yes, back in the day. I remember those wings.

    If there were people sitting in my row, I'd ask them to please tell the flight attendant to wake me up. Do they still give out peanuts on flights?

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  28. Love this story. Do you really think those "wings" are worth something? I took my first flight, all alone, from Peoria to DC, when I was thirteen. I loved flying. I wanted to be a stewardess after that but didn't think I would pass the "appearance" criteria. Flying has always been magical though.

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  29. Ok, so I looked it up. An authentic mid-60's airline pin will get you a cool $2.99 on e-bay.

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  30. This just totally made me smile, Karin. Thanks!

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  31. This story would make a fine children's story in a anthology of some sort. I can imagine the looks on folks faces. Love it.

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  32. "Working for peanuts is all very fine. But I can show you a better time. Baby, you can drive my car." Beatles.

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  33. Hi Terry. I'm glad I made you smile, even if you didn't let me win the frying pan.

    Roberta, I think amazement might sum up the look.

    Earl, so where's the flight attendant story?

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  34. Yeah, Earl, we are all waiting. Back in those days, I worked for TWA [reservations, not flight] and got to fly "space available". My two kids and I got the last three seats from SF to Chicago on a red-eye, first class. It was during the great grape harvest strike up in the the central Valley. We were boycotting. The stewardess came around and asked my kids if they wanted to order a special late night snack. Big eyes toward me. "Mommy, can we? Pleese?" Of course said I, smiling at their sophisticated taste. Their little faces fell when beautiful crepes were delivered. "But we thought she said GRAPES!"

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  35. Doris' story about the crepes is great. But I too am waiting for Earl's flight attendant story!

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  36. OK. There's really no story. I used to play tennis on the city courts in San Mateo. The UAL pilots and attendants stayed at a hotel nearby. Every now and then a pilot would show up and play with us. One day a pilot told me that UAL was hiring a few thousand flight attendants so I went down to SFO for the interview. They were looking for someone who'd flown a lot - and I hadn't in recent years. They were also looking for people with bubbly personalities, which I'm not good at, let alone, standing at a counter. I probably wasn't pretty enough. I'm sure I didn't fit their profile. The best time, however, was the day a pilot invited me to come back to the hotel and hang out by the pool with about 15 flight attendants.
    Their stories read like one of those trashy "fly me" novels.

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  37. Earl, you're in good company as I'm sure most of us wouldn't make the cut either. I remember someone I knew who applied for the job and didn't make the cut. I thought, if she can't make it...

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