From the jumpseat to the gunner's seat: After training, I'm in the jumpseat
Airplanes don't have keys!
After completing training and six weeks of learning everything there is to know about regional jets, it was time to go to Newark, New Jersey, my home base. If you've ever been to Jersey, you know it can be quite daunting. Newark is a busy, gritty and decidedly scary town but as a new flight attendant, my real home would be the airport.
Every new employee has to pay their dues. When it comes to the world of aviation, those dues come in the form of sitting, "airport reserve crew" (ARC). This glamorous duty consists of sitting for twelve-hour increments in the Newark airport hoping that you will be called in for a flight. On my first day, that's exactly what I did.... I waited. And waited. Finally, some unfortunate flight attendant who, rumor has it, had quite the overnight in one of our Mexico destinations, couldn't make her flight. I was on!
So there I was, a nervous mess as I ran through Newark Airport to find my plane and my pilots. As luck would have it I was at the farthest gate in a more obscure part of the airport but I found it! I'll never forget that feeling of walking down the jetway to the aircraft. With Newark's very distinctive odor wafting through the cold, February air, I made my way to the plane and peeked into the cockpit. This was it.
And so it begins....
"Hi, I'm Meline and I'll be your flight attendant for this trip," I announced to the pilots who were clicking buttons and reviewing their flight books. The Captain, sitting to the left, turned and looked at me. I saw a a very familiar look on his face - mischief. Now, life experience should have taught me to be cautious but my nervousness won out and I was a sucker, ripe for the picking.
"Meline, how nice to meet you! You're just in time. We realized that we forgot the keys to the plane, can you go get them for us?" he asked.
I stood there for a moment trying to remember my training... Was I in the bathroom when they covered training material on airplane keys? This couldn't be happening! I should know this!
"I would love to. Please refresh my memory, where can I find those?" I asked.
He responded by telling me just to ask the gate agent at the top of the jetway. Then he kindly urged me to hurry as we would begin boarding soon. So, being the uber motivated new flight attendant I was, I took off to find those keys and save the day!
As I ran from the aircraft, up the jetway and approached the gate, I saw a "red coat" (a gate supervisor) and relief washed over me. It was just a short distance but I was huffing and puffing, probably because of all of that nervous energy. I finally got to the top of the gate and was moments from getting those keys.
"Excuse me, but I'm the flight attendant on this flight and unfortunately the pilots forgot the keys. They said that you would have them," I said as I tried to catch my breath.
The supervisor, a regal-looking older woman with humor in her eyes turned to me and smiled.
"Honey, is this your first flight?" she asked.
I respond that it is and she smiled at me, half amused and half sympathetic. Then it dawned on me... Initiation has commenced. This, my friends, was a cute little joke from the boys on the flight deck. Before she could respond, I nodded and smiled, understanding what had just happened. I turned back around and marched down the jetway to the plane. Well played boys, well played.
Luckily, I have a pretty good sense of humor so I poked my head back into the cockpit and said, "Well, I asked the agent and she said that normally she'd be worried but you seem like a smart couple of guys, you should be able to find a way to start this plane without keys."
They smirked, nodded and turned around to continue their pre-flight checks. Game on. I knew that practical jokes were part of the job as a new flight attendant. I promised myself that I would be more vigilant in the future. More importantly, I was going to get them back....
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