I’ve decided two things pertaining to this blog, one that will be pertinent for this month, and another that I hope to make a permanent fixture of this blog. First off I have decided to participate in National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo), similar to National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). If you’re interested there are still two more days to sign up http://en.blog.wordpress.com/2013/11/01/nablopomo-november-2013/. I just found out about this maybe an hour ago, thus I am starting it on the 3rd:) This means I will be posting a blog entry every day this month. This should be ….interesting. I mean interesting in the Minnesota way, meaning it could be bad, but I just can’t say that out loud. But I’ll do my best! The only way to get better at writing is to write, so here I go.
The second decision I have made is to have a themed blog post each month, and that theme would be coincidence. I am totally stealing this idea from This American Life, where they had an entire episode devoted to coincidences. It was a seriously great show, probably because coincidences generally make really great stories. So, once a month, I will be posting a story about a coincidence, be they mine or just vaguely connected to me, starting now.
I’m going to say this story is more serendipitous than just coincidence. Serendipity; a happy discovery made by accident, and a word almost everyone knows due to a cheesy but decent John Cusack rom-com. That is probably a more accurate description of this situation.
I was in John F Kennedy airport, otherwise known as JFK, or to those of us who have to fly through this chaotic, hell hole, suck pool of an airport, J “effing” K. Now I could get to specifics about why we all hate flying there, but I think I’ll just stick to one of the elements of difficulty we have to deal when dealing with this airport
I work on small planes, the kind people aren’t often happy to get on. Unless a passenger is a frequent flyer, they usually expect a bigger airplane, especially out of a bustling airport like JFK.
Now these smaller planes are given the more difficult gates. We don’t often land, pull into a gate and get a jet bridge (the moving hallway between the plane and the actual building of the terminal) to deplane on to. No, no, no. That would be too convenient and make the passengers much too happy to have something as basic as that.
The way these gates works for a passenger is this. They give the gate agent their boarding pass at their numbered gate and head out of the terminal down a long hall. This hall then turns into what we fondly call “the hamster maze.” There are long stretches of enclosed ramps that zig zag down to ground level. When you get there after pacing back and forth for fifteen minutes in these zig zagging hallways to get about fifteen feet, you reach a “T” in the walk ways. There are yellow signs with arrows and letters and you just better hope you listened to the letter you were told as you passed the gate agent and headed to the planes. Basically, one gate at the terminal can lead to dozens of different aircraft. heading to different destinations all over the country. Gate 65 can head to letters A-M, each with an airplane flying to different destinations. If you end up at the right letter assigned to the plane that is heading where you want to end up, you get the pleasure of hiking up the airstairs. These are the set of stairs that are on the inside of the door that we flight attendants close and open upon departure and arrival. They are larger and steeper than average stairs, and accompanied by a wiggling handrail. Clearly the best option when people are trying to haul their heavy roller bags onto the plane.
At one time we had the policy that, when we were in this specific airport, because of its unique set up, we had to check passengers boarding passes as they came onto the aircraft. This was to make sure everyone was ending up on the plane heading where they actually wanted to be going. They decided to get rid of this policy, as it slowed down boarding.
As I said before the planes I work on are small. The aisles are about the size of my hips. If I gained weight I am convinced I would be forced to find a new job. It almost impossible for two people to squeeze passed each other in the aisle. One flight attendant works the forward cabin, greeting passengers as they come on board and the serving first class, and another flight attendant works the main cabin helping people with their luggage and usually stands in the back of the plan,e at the end of the aisle, until the plane is boarded and they can do their headcount to verify with the ramp workers.
I was working in the back one day, standing at the last row as we were boarding. As the passengers piled on and stowed their bag in every nook and cranny they could fine , a family of five came on the plane. They were an Asian family speaking a language that I definitely had no comprehension of, but they were clearly confused as they tried to locate their seats in the back of the plane. I took a look at their boarding passes and saw that they had seats in row 32, which would be twelve rows longer than they plane they were currently on. They had gotten on the wrong plane, as was inevitable in J effing K. They also didn’t understand a word I was saying.
I had five people on my plane whom I could not talk to, in the back, crammed into my small aisle. People were mulling around us trying to get to their seats, and some how I needed to communicate with them that they were on the wrong plane, and if they staid they would not end up in their chosen destination. I literally had flashes of just what could happen if I used body language or improvised sigh language to express “Get OFF this plane.” I imagined being them, being kicked off a plane and not knowing why! I was picturing their angry faces as I was forced to go with just pushing them down the aisle, hoping they would eventually understand this was for the best. This was shaping up to be a situation with no good answers.
As I began my attempt to communicate with this poor family, who were probably about to become very angry with me, I heard a man’s voice chip in,
“So, whats wrong?”
It was a tall Scandinavian looking man who would have fit in over in Northern Europe or back in my home state of Minnesota. He sounded like he was from the latter. He was a fair skinned, fair haired lumber jack looking kind of man. This man, once I explained the situation, was able to rapid fire speak what I later found out was Chinese, to this family. They understood him immediately and headed right off my plane.
My jaw may have hit the floor, but my difficult situation was quickly and smoothly rectified by this man who looked like someone whose diet was most likely made of of meat, potatoes, and maybe some lutefisk (I just found out that wordpress don’t know what lutefisk is and assumes it is a misspelled word). What do you think the statistical likelihood is that out of the hundreds of planes in that airport, out of the thousands of people flying through that day, that I would end up with a English/Chinese speaker when a Chinese family accidentally got onto my plane? Whatever it may be, it was my very good luck that it happened that way.