Is there such a thing? I always thought that was a bit of an oxymoron but it wasn’t until I started flying that I realized that term described me perfectly.
From the moment I step onto any airport property, I’m “on stage” so to speak. People walking though the airport will stop to ask you where baggage claim is, you’re sitting down in the gate area enjoying a hot meal or talking to a friend or family member on the phone in the 10 minutes you have in between flights and you’ll get asked why a flight is delayed or if they’re going to make their connection to XYZ city.
I live in NC but commute up to Boston for all of my trips and because I travel with all of my suitcases , I usually end up wearing my uniform on my commutes. I do this so I do not have to worry about the long lines at security, taking toiletries out of my bag or the four days worth of meal prep I have in my lunchbox. Commuting by airplane usually means I’m sitting next to a full fare revenue customer who loves to ask me if this is my regular route, how my boyfriend or husband feels about me being gone and then there are those who cannot understand how I can live in one city and work out of another. I used to go into a long story about how I managed it all and now my response is “I fly all over domestically”, “I’m not in a relationship but that’s by choice” and “I get to take an airplane to work instead of a car”. I very politely give them a smile and put my headphones back in order to deter them from asking any other questions, even though I’m not technically working I am still in uniform and representing my company.
Since I am a commuter, meaning I don’t live in base, I don’t get to go home every night after a trip. Instead, I work multi day trips which range anywhere from two to four days and then I’m off for a few days where I’ll go home. My seniority allows me to bid for productive trips which means high flying hours and shorter layovers and other times I prefer to bid less productive trips with longer layovers if I’m wanting to spend some real time in a new city; it really just depends.
In a perfect Aviation world where everything goes as planned, i.e no delays, no emergency landings, no medicals etc, you’re still dealing with the over 400 different personalities a day not including those of your coworkers (fellow flight attendants, pilots, gate agents etc). In a non perfect Aviation world where at least one of the above occurs, you have to remain professional at all times and in the day in age we live in where social media is so popular, you have to be extremely careful with what you say or do.
I don’t always get to work with the same people all the time so that means I’m constantly meeting new people which I actually really enjoy.
There are times after a long day of flying that my fellow crew members and I will go enjoy a drink or a meal together as part of our debrief or we’ll rent a car and drive to the beach for the day and then there are days where we’re just so emotionally and physically exhausted that we “slam click” (a term used by airline crew which means you slam your hotel room door closed and click the deadbolt) and don’t reunite until the next day when we’re scheduled to operate our next flight.
I’ve had many meals alone, worked out in the gym with my entire crew, laid out by the pool by myself with a book, gone shopping at an outlet mall to help a crew member find the perfect outfit for a wedding her ex boyfriend was going to and just stayed in my hotel room to have a mini solo spa day that consisted of facial masks, deep hair conditioning and pedicures; it’s all about balance and listening to your body.
Now homesickness doesn’t hit me all that often, I’m usually okay if I’m only gone for about 3 or 4 days. However if I work trips back to back and it’s been over a week since I’ve had a chance to sleep in my own bed or see my dog, my energy levels go down and I find it a lot harder to keep smiling. I find a way to go home for day to “recharge” in between trips in hopes that it’ll get me through my next set of trips. Now when I’m homeward bound after being gone for a while, the first 24 hours I speak to no one. I’m in pajamas, I don’t leave my apartment with the exception of taking my dog out for walks and picking up pizza or Thai food for dinner and I catch up on all the television shows I’ve missed while away. My own mom that I talk to religiously everyday even knows this and gives me my space.
And then there are times when I’ve been home for a long period of time and I get the itch to go back to work; I look forward to getting back in my uniform and introducing a first time flyer to the pilots and having their photo taken in the flight deck or I’ll meet someone who is curious about the industry and wants to know how to get started.
I constantly struggle with being a social butterfly and being “antisocial” all at the same time. I love being surrounded by people but sometimes I crave solitude. I used to think it was part of my Gemini charm but the more I talk to other flight attendants, the more it seems like a “norm” in the industry.
So the next time you see a flight attendant or a pilot off in the corner somewhere rushing through their meal, chatting on the phone or simply sitting in solitude, don’t take it personal if they give you a quick response to your question and don’t wish to stick around to chat. Chances are that’s the only real break they’ve had all day and they’re enjoying their quiet time to “recharge” before their next flight.