This would be the title of my Flight Attendant Doctorial Thesis - if there was such a thing! In twenty three years, I have never lost interest in observing passengers board the aircraft. Many are predictable while others have their own style.
Yes, the usual drill is a "Good morning; Good evening; or Hello"; baggage stowed; seat chosen; open book. I am grateful for the personalities and those who stand out from the crowd. Could I ever forget the dark haired, dark eyed gentleman with his hat cocked to one side who walked two steps past, and then looked back at me and said, "Hi Toots!" He must have watched a lot of old Hollywood gangster movies!
Families are the most fun to watch as they rush on ready to save the needed seats for the clan. Now the fun begins. Who is sitting with whom? Who needs the window? Who gets the aisle seat? "The middle seat is perfectly fine, now hush!" Once the luggage is stowed and each settled in a seat, out comes the food. If I'm lucky, I may score a few M&Ms. It's fun finding out the purpose of their trip--are they anticipating going? Or, are they looking forward to coming home? I now phrase my questions carefully. When we had the lounge seating arrangement, I had a group of six--obviously a family. I was monitoring the overwing window exit and wanting to make conversation. "Did you have a wonderful time in San Antonio?" A gentleman looked at me and said, "We buried Mother." I gave him a sincere, "I'm sorry" and have been sorry I asked the question years hence.
Weddings often involve flying. What was Boeing thinking when they left out the closet for the wedding dresses? Sharing the excitment of taking the bridal party to Vegas or any of our other cities is fun. If the flight is long enough, it's nice having the other Customers write on beverage napkins their tips for a happy marriage. Many are heartfelt, and I hope the couples enjoy these messages again and again.
Along with weddings come funerals. We do what we can to make the mourners comfortable when we know this is why they are traveling. When there are tears, we can bring tissues, and then many want to share their sorrow. I remember stories and still feel their pain. I've had a few families bring the departed with them--in the form of ashes in a box about the size of a cookie jar container. By this time, they are ready for a glass of wine and a toast.
My heroes are the mothers traveling alone--often with several preschool children in tow. They can multitask like none other. I've seen a mom with one child in a backpack; the baby on one hip (mom folded the stroller before anyone could help), and the older child pulling a child-size suitcase. She will have a minimum of four varying sized bags hanging from shoulder to wrist! "How best can I help you?" I ask as I start to move toward the family. "It's okay, I've got it!" she says with a smile. I often get to hold a baby as the car seat is strapped down. Every now and then, I find a young military wife who has already flown across an ocean before getting on the final flight home. Have I just forgotten? Did I ever have that kind of energy?
Young children lift my heart. Recently, a three-year-old boy looked me in the eye and proclaimed, "Happy Easter!" I asked a five-year-old how he liked being a big brother. With knitted brow, he threw his arms out, palms up, and declared, "She gets in my things!" Kids like to be noticed. They still enjoy receiving plastic wings and a color book. It's important that our "Customer's of tomorrow" enjoy their flight.
On a flight out of San Diego, I was at mid cabin when a recently graduated sailor came back. "Has it been a long time since you've hugged a woman?" I asked. He replied, "Yes, maam!" I told him, "Come here and hug this woman!" When we got to Lubbock, he insisted I come off and meet his family-- such proud and happy faces.
I love to fly because of the many moments of serendipity created by the Customers of Southwest Airlines!