A life lesson learned from a flight attendant.

love_your_job broadwayI boarded a flight yesterday on an airline that shall-not-be-named (although I’ll give you this hint – they don’t have WiFi), and the flight attendant charged with greeting oncoming passengers and helping them to their seat stood in the galley . . . not talking to anyone and staring at the floor. She just looked kind of . . . well . . . over it.

The passenger in front of me was a Nun, in full white vestments.  She approached Ms. Over-It to ask about the location of her seat.  She was a bit confused (something tells me she wasn’t a frequent flyer), and hardly spoke English.  You’d think Ms. Over-It would have bent-over-forwards to help.  She did answer a question or two, but when the Sister walked away . . . wait for it . . . Ms. Over-It made a snarky comment behind her back (!).

And if that wasn’t enough, Ms. O.I. made eye contact with me with a, “Can you believe some people?” kind of look. I shook my head, sat down in my seat, fired up my phone and prepared to tweet right at the airline in question. I literally had my finger on the tweeter . . . when I stopped.  It’s super easy to take to social networking or review sites to go public with poor customer service, and at times, it’s important.  But I realized this would just be trying to get someone in trouble, and that wasn’t my point.  There was a positive lesson here somewhere . . . and here’s what I took away:

It was clear that this woman wasn’t enjoying her job.  There’s no excuse for poor customer service in any profession . . . but for a flight attendant?  I mean, isn’t that why you sign up?  Because you’re good with nuns people?

There was another flight attendant on the plane. He cracked jokes during the exit row speech. And when he brought my Coke to me a little later than he would have liked, he also brought me three extra bags of chocolate chip cookies.  He enjoyed his job.  And he’s one of the reasons I didn’t hit the ‘tweet’ button.

So what does this have to do on my blog about Broadway and theater?

I consider myself blessed. I’m fortunate enough to wake up every morning and do something I’m crazy about. Sure, I have my moments when I want to go to law school or run a hot dog cart, but those pass . . . and I certainly don’t let my audience see them.  And if I wasn’t enjoying what I do, I just wouldn’t do it.  And that’s what Ms. Over-It taught me, and I hope she realizes herself.  Hey, maybe that Nun was sent from you-know-who with this message:

Love what you do. Or do something else.


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  • Jason Graae says:

    I very much appreciate your article , especially today. I’m sleep-deprived but creatively happy.Which isn’t so bad.Thank you!

  • Kane P says:

    Though remember… sometimes people are TRYING to do what they love… but life gets in the way. And it’s up to us to empower them or help them find the resources to get to the thing they love. sometimes you have to spend some time doing something you don’t love, and hope that your time will come. sometimes people get stuck. it’s easy to forget that when you aren’t in the front line day in and day out, when you are the lucky one. noone WANTS to be unhappy. they just may need you to help them get back on course.

    that’s the lesson i thought you were going to impart. and you still can.

  • Dean Ackerman says:

    I work in the travel industry and yes, there are moments, when I feel unappreciated, and overwhelmed, but 90 percent of the time I go to work with a big smile on my face, knowing that although I could do something else for a living, I am doing something I am truly passionate about. As I have told others (including my boss at times), when I stop loving what I do, I’ll find another sandbox to play in. After over 20 years, it hasn’t happened yet!

  • Michael DiGaetano says:

    Being rude to a nun? Hope it’s not a regular habit.

  • Ronni says:

    It’s not always possible for a person to so what they love. It’s easy for you to say, since you’re lucky enough to be one of those people, but maybe that flight attendant is a single mother trying to put a kid through college. Maybe she’s had to give up what she really wants to do because life threw her a curve. Working with the public every day is HARD. Maybe she’s just been in her job too long and doesn’t have a lot of options. Maybe it was her third or fourth flight that day. I am not excusing poor customer service, but you are being very hard on her.

    • Janis says:

      It may not be possible to always do what we love, but it is always possible to love what we do.
      If we must do less than what we dream to support our families, so be it. We can be thankful for the opportunity to do what we must and continue to dream of what we want.
      Working with the public is a part of every job and every life and if we are being paid for it, we should do it well.
      As an employer, it costs me a lot of money to get customers in the door and if someone I am paying to keep them in the business is turning them away, they are wasting, not only what I pay them, but what I paid to get the customer to them and endangering the business that must survive to pay others. Therefore, I want to know if someone is unhappy in their job so I can either reassign or replace them. I consider each customer comment a gift.

  • Andrew says:

    Hmm, if I had been as upset as you apparently were by what you clearly interpreted as an injustice, I would have hoped that you at a minimum would have emailed the airline with your concerns about the behavior of the flight attendant. IT would have been kept private, which is perhaps where it belonged, but the airline needed to know that the flight attendant’s behavior negatively impacted at least two people, the nun and you.

    • Agreed, the airline needs to know that this attendant did NOT do the job she was paid for i.e. help a passenger to find her seat…that is not only rude, but totally ignoring her responsibilities. Sorry if she was having a bad day, but you still must do the job you are paid to do….I am not even going to mention her downright rudeness…that’s ANOTHER topic. A bad day never earns you the right to be rude and immature.
      Ok, you took the high road… not so convinced you should have found some middle ground here.

  • The airline industry, and many of it’s workers have been economically raped over the past few decades. Is it any wonder that flying has become such a hardship lately? From airlines reducing service, nickel and diming their customers (and screwing them over with dynamic pricing and onerous surcharges!), horrible treatment by the TSA to the lost pensions and union busting throughout the industry, it’s a wonder that there are any smiles to be found on airplanes these days.

    Perhaps you flew first class, or maybe business class. I wonder how many rules Mr. Three-Bags-of-Cookies broke by giving that stash to you. You may even be a frequent flyer, worthy of such special treatment, while the good sister was not a prime customer, not worthy of such simple kindness. But that’s what you get when you use Big Data to sort out your most profitable customers from the chaff.

    Why does this have a familiar ring to it? The airline industry has served as the unworthy model of so much of what Broadway is trying to become these days. From excruciatingly high premium prices, to cattle lines for discounts.

    From First Class, it’s easy to turn up one’s nose at what regular folk must endure. It may even start to feel like the peons don’t quite deserve their jobs, or the middle class income that their job used to provide.

    As you fly the unfriendly skies, let’s try not to think about what it means for the future of Broadway, while Broadway follows in the footsteps on the same downward path.

  • James Harper says:

    So, do you love your job every minute of every day? Do you never have a bad day? Do you ever have to work really long hours with little sleep? Do you ever get some bad news that’s so stressful you just can’t shake the stress off and smile?

    You’re judging this person based on one moment of observation with no insight.

    Come on. Have an open mind and more importantly an open heart.

  • Alex Bishop says:

    Totally agree. So many people are caught in a job they don’t like and feel powerless to change it. There was probably something someday that made her love being a flight attendant…but she lost that. So I’m glad you didn’t tweet about her awful customer service, but maybe you should have tweeted about the other attendant’s great service. Or really, maybe you could have just told him you really appreciated his efforts.

    A few months ago I felt stuck as well in my career. But now I’m seeing new possibilities for my life because I want to love what I do every day and get excited every morning. And I can make that happen. And that will put a smile on my face.

  • Samantha O says:

    This actually made my day to read. Thank you!

  • Zanne Hall says:

    Good advice … good thoughts. You should’ve named the airline (unless it’s a legal kind of things?)

  • Yvette Heyliger says:

    Amen, brother! PS. What airline doesn’t have Wi-Fi? these days?

  • Jonathan Mann says:

    Its almost comical how workers in service establishments way too frequently complain out loud in stories they tell about their bosses, their fellow workers and customers, which we are subjected to while standing on line.

  • Paula says:

    Well said…. Thank you!!

  • Adam says:

    What about ushers who refuse to help patrons and house managers who, if the patron knows enough to speak to them about the ushers, are unhelpful. And don’t say ‘Never happens in a New York house!’ I’m particularly sensitive to this because it impacts the customer experience and what they tell their friends when they get home.

  • Shahista Swellam says:

    Well , why didnt you think that Miss Over-it was having her own moment ?! You see , i am a flight attendant as well , and though it always seem to be an exciting job , well heres the news its NOT . Maybe miss over-it was irritated because wasnt her main flight and in a sudden twist of events she had to replace someone when she had planned to spend her day off with her kids or husband or even hit some spa to relax . Maybe she was ill , maybe she her flight pursur commented on something about her that upset her , maybe the captin asked her for alot of work to do , or maybe she had a family member died and she couldnt even attend the funeral .. YOU have no idea what sort of pressures WE flight attendants are living under .. We love our job but we do have our moments too . and yes we shouldnt have displayed them to the public , and yes we shouldnt let our feelings or personal life interfere with our job , but that can only happen in other jobs not in this .. cause sweety , we live on a plane , literally . We barely go home , we barely see our families , we dont have even the time we can spend alone .

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