Some of you have heard this story. But those same some of you seem to love it. And the rest of you are often asking me, “so what’s the worst flight you ever had?” So, I’m going to tell you, maybe or maybe not for the first time.
I had been flying international for about a year. We still had 3 classes of service to Europe at the time (instead of just 2, like most American carriers have now) and I was working First Class. The head of our crew – and my working partner – was a famously horrid woman. A “Senior Mamma” who was just nasty at every opportunity. I can’t remember her name – must’ve been Crusty or something like that. She was intimidating, and while I had stood up to her upon our first meeting – and thus earned a smidgen of respect – she could still make me nervous.
We started our service; I went out in the cabin with crudite and dressing to deliver. My first two guys, were both in suits and the Aisle Guy outed himself as a jerk immediately. At the time we had mini video players built right into the seats and before I could even place the crudite by his seat, he was having a mini freak-out because, as he tried to shut the door of his movie player, the door wasn’t catching and would come back open. Pushpushpush. slam. SLAM. SLAM!
“This is unacceptable!” he shrieked. “This godd**m thing doesn’t work! What the…?”
His temper went from 0 to 100 in, literally, 2 seconds. All he needed to do was take a breath and push the tape door gently. As slammed the door compulsively, I tried to tell him. “Sir, if you just – sir. No, just push slow – sir.” (sigh) Tray still in hand, him not listening to me, yet getting more red, sweaty-faced by the millisecond, I simply reached over to close it gently for him. At that moment, we hit the slightest bump of turbulence. The Window Guy next to him thought I would tip the tray. I was prepared for the bump, but I wasn’t prepared for Window Guy to lunge at me. I jerked away and then the crudite flipped off the tray.
In slow motion it tumbled through the air (I swear). Flip. Flip…clunk. Right. in. his. crotch.
Fuming Temper Aisle Guy. Not trying-to-be-helpful Window Guy, of course.
Aisle Guy is wearing a taupe colored, fine weave suit. Now with a blotch of mayonnaise-based dressing on the naughty parts. I run and get him a wet towel, Crusty shrieking “What’d you do?” as I passed her in a blur of motion. Of course I vomited apologies, but to no avail. Aisle Guy was in a full rant of yelling.
“Do you know what you’ve done! DO YOU KNOW WHAT YOU”VE DONE?! You’ve RUINED ME! You’ve RUINED me! I have a meeting first thing in the morning. I have a MEETING. Do you know what you’ve done? You have RUINED me!”
He was so focused on screaming, he wasn’t even trying to clean himself up. I juggled trying to clean him up – which meant plucking mayonnaise-covered pieces of carrot and celery from his crotch in between his flailing hands, while uttering apologies, suggestions as to how we could get his suit cleaned and get him fresh clothes from his suitcase upon landing, all the ways we might salvage the situation…but he didn’t want to hear any of it. He just wanted to yell.
This went on for several minutes, coupled with Crusty heaving a total lack of support upon me every time I went into the galley, until I’d had enough. I understand why the guy was angry, even if it wouldn’t have happened if he’d had just one moment of patience and hadn’t been throwing a hissy fit in the first place. But I’d given him his moment to yell and I was simply over it. He continued to yell, “DO YOU KNOW WHAT YOU”VE DONE?” and I finally stepped back and said, “I know…(and, timed to say the repeated phrase in unison with him) I’ve ruined you!” (*cue restrained but obviously tempting eye roll from me*)
That finally seemed to cork the berating, as he didn’t have any other lines to deliver. Everyone in First Class just stared. I went into the galley and begged Crusty to let me switch with a colleague in the Main Cabin so I didn’t have to face them again. She said, “No.” I asked her to go out there. Just for a minute so I could regain my composure. She simply said, “No.”
So I sucked it up and went back out there. It’s like preforming a one-woman show to a booing audience. I made it through the service without further incident, except for everyone being very careful around me. (Husband fiercely whispered to wife: Dear! Help the lady out and hand her your tray so she doesn’t have to reach.”)
I have a hard time imagining how I would have handled it today. Of course I would have been apologetic, but I now have a much lower tolerance for jerks (the inevitable evolution of an F/A as the years pass!). After the way he acted, I’m not sure I would even feel bad. But please, cross your fingers I never have to find out.