Dear Friends and Fellow Bloggers: This is a chapter from a book written by a woman in my critique group. The book is close to being published, so this is an early promo. It’s called Dear Passenger: Welcome to my Wacky World of a Flight Attendant. Elizabeth Calwell has worked for a major airline for many years and has seen not only changes in planes, regulations, and uniforms, but also in the flying public. Her book is hilarious, and I hope you will be on the lookout for it. I’ll promo it here on my blog, too.
She hopes this adventure will remind us what the holiday spirit really is all about.
For my first ten or twelve years as a flight attendant I worked every Christmas. I didn’t
have a choice. We bid according to seniority, so I couldn’t ask for a schedule with the holidays off. One Christmas Eve, determined to be in the Christmas spirit, I lugged a big garbage bag full of Beanie Babies with me on my trip to San José, Costa Rica. I intentionally bought all these Beanie Bears on sale the previous month, intending to hand them out to children in a poor neighborhood as Christmas presents. This plan would have made a big splash with some of the impoverished children in Costa Rica.
The big bag of bears started out on this three-day trip with me, piled on top of my rolly bag, along with my two tote bags. Were it not for my uniform, I would have resembled a homeless person, hauling my load commuting from home in North Carolina to my base in Miami, through TSA security checkpoints, from the near end of one airport to the far end of another airport, and in and out of vans. As usual, if I tried to make plans, then the flight was sure to be delayed. Murphy’s Law ruled, after mechanical problems and delays in switching airplanes, we arrived at our layover hotel well after dark. All of my plans evaporated since there’s no way I would have dared go outside the hotel at night alone and besides, I was beyond exhausted from the trip.
After doing the flight attendant version of Santa’s reindeer, I was not about to admit defeat and return home with this bag of goodies. The extra baggage had just about killed me so now all I wanted to do was unload these presents on someone and go to bed. As I entered the lobby of our hotel with my Christmas spirit deflated I noticed the housekeeping staff also working on Christmas Eve. I felt a little like Rudolph as a light blinked on in my head and I went into the business office to inquire about how many of the cleaning ladies were working that night. Bingo, or Merry Christmas! But the gentleman at the desk would not allow me to go down to the laundry room to hand out the bears in person, so he called the head of housekeeping to report to his office.
A short dark-haired Spanish-speaking lady walked in. As the head of housekeeping she scowled at me with a questioning concern, as to what this gringo flight attendant, wearing a Santa hat, wanted with her. She looked as beat as I felt, tired and frustrated. At this point, I expected her to grab the bag and leave me to just imagine that they’d brighten up some hopeful little eyes tomorrow morning.
The gentleman had not told her why she had been summoned to the office nor that I had something for her, hence her skepticism. I opened my big plastic bag to show her the colorful teddy bears, and said in my broken Span-glish, “For you-Para usted, Feliz Navida, para todos personas in housekeeping.” The smiling office clerk confirmed, that these gifts were indeed for her and her co-workers who were spending Christmas Eve away from their families. He helped me explain to her that I also had to work, and sympathized with them, because I missed being at home, too. When I handed her the teddy bears, her face went from distrust to astonishment to gratitude. Tears started running down her cheeks and she said she couldn’t believe it. If anybody else cries, then I do too. Seeing her sudden and sincere gratitude for such a small gesture ripped out my heart. She gave me a big hug. Then, saying a prayer for me in Spanish, she finished with the sign of the cross. I had no idea that these small presents from a stranger would make such an impact. It made me wonder if anyone had ever done anything nice for them on Christmas or perhaps she knew these bears would make some children, who would not have received a gift, believers in the miracle of Christmas.
Someone in the hotel office typed a letter thanking me, which the entire housekeeping staff signed but the look of appreciation on her face meant far more.
It was a really great Christmas present for me too. Probably, the best Christmas present ever.
If you enjoyed this story, you’ll love Elizabeth’s book. She’s experienced the strange, the funny, and the downright weird in her years of travel as a full-time flight attendant. The book sparkles with humor, and gives the reader a peek at her unconventional job through the eyes of a true Southerner. This is definitely a book for anyone who likes to fly…or used to!
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!