Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Marcy's Travel Blog- The "Joys" Of Flying A Turbo Prop In The Spring!

This, dear reader, is another "once upon a time" story. And yes, it was a long time ago! (For me, it seems like yesterday, or maybe last month!)

Flying for North Central Airlines had it's joys and it's not so joyous moments. "Spring" held it's own challenges. Windy and rainy, the Convair Turbo Prop I use to work on would bounce all over the sky. At least, that's how it felt.

Now, I was the original motion sick kid. Going around the block in my dad's old Plymouth, I'd get nauseated every time! Why did I choose such a career? I LOVED airplanes. I LOVED the sky. And I didn't realize just how turbulent my flights could be! I'm also stubborn! Once nausea overtook me in flight, I was bound and determined to find a way to beat it!

So here I was, 3 months into my career, and swaying and bouncing in the back of an airplane! What was I thinking!! I'm not sure what the worst part was, feeling yucky myself, or having to pick up passenger's sick bags while I was feeling yucky! Oh DEAR! (As a little side note, cooling down really helps to avoid airsickness! Jacket off, ice on the back of the neck, air vent blowing full in your face always seems to help. Also, soda crackers and 7-Up or ginger ale will calm a yucky tummy!)

On one particular day, a rather testy passenger started ringing his call button during take-off! I was sitting in the back (on what is called a jump seat), strapped in tight while we yawed and swayed, wind's a blowing and rain pelting the aircraft. Thinking he must be in some distress, I struggled out of my seat, hung on to the overhead rack, and slowly moved myself forward.

Once I got to him, I looked at him with concern, wondering what was wrong. "I want coffee!" was what he said. I mentioned we were still in the process of climbing, with very rough turbulence, and advised we wait until cruising altitude and smoother air before drinking a hot beverage. He would have none of it. (In my imagination, I could almost see him throwing a fit, -laying on the floor with feet and fists pounding on the floor, like a two year old!) "I think I know how to hold a cup of coffee!" was his growling reply.

I worked my way back to the galley kitchen, hanging on to the overhead rack and swinging like a monkey, trying to stay on my feet. Of course, back then we were not allowed to wear flat shoes in flight, so this was done in 2 1/2 inch heels! (Remember, this was a small airplane, holding only 48 passengers, so our cruising altitude rarely got above the rough weather.) I poured the cup of coffee, placed it in a cup carrier, so not to burn myself, and started back up the aisle.

Inwardly, I'm sure I felt little compassion for what this guy had in store for him. He was a grouchy bully, my least favorite type of passenger. I managed to get the coffee to him without spilling, a small feat in itself! Now the tray I was holding was moving up and down, in sort of a bouncing motion, due to the rough air. This was going to be interesting! "Ready, sir?" I said.  He scowled at me and grabbed the cup. What happened next was priceless. As he held the cup, the aircraft did a sort of "dropping, yawing, bounce!" The cup stayed in his hand, but the hot liquid came out of the cup and landed in his lap!... "Will that be all, sir?" I asked. (Okay. I was inwardly a bit tickled, but also knew I had to do something for him. I was not totally without compassion.)

I offered to get him a towel. Quietly, he got up out of his seat, hung onto the overhead rack and worked his way back to the restroom, swaying and bouncing as he went. I followed him as far as the galley, handed him some cold, wet towels for his "burns", and some dry ones, and let him take care of himself.

Of course, now there was the paperwork. When someone got injured while on your airplane, you had to fill out paperwork. This flight was only about 40 minutes long. When was I going to be able to take care of the other passengers?

I filled glasses of beverages about half full and bounced my way up the aisle, offering to anyone who wanted a drink. An elderly lady who was sitting across from the burned passengers seat spoke to me. "Ask him if he wants another cup of coffee! He's so testy, I'd like to see that again! I sort of enjoyed that!" She said that with such a sweet voice, I had to laugh!

The gentleman (I use that term loosely) who demanded the coffee came back to his seat. I spent a bit of time getting all the particulars for my "injury" report. He was quiet, subdued, and even a bit apologetic.  I asked if he needed medical attention once we landed, to which he replied a meek "no". I called the cockpit to let the pilots know what had happened. The pilots got a bit of a kick out of the story. The man signed off on getting medical attention, but one of the pilots came to the back to speak to him, being sure a medical team shouldn't be called. (Haven't things changed since then? For safety reasons, pilots rarely come out of the cockpit now, and if they do, we've had to block the way with a meal cart.)

There was so much excitement on that little flight, I didn't even feel urpy. Maybe I should've thanked him for keeping my mind off of my own tummy troubles? ------(Hmm. Nope. Don't think so.)

We bounced and yawed our way toward a landing, coming in with a bit of a bounce. (When it's that windy, one is happy the thing gets on the ground, no matter if the landing is smooth or not!)

Many of the passengers applauded. As they filed off of the airplane, a few had comments about not wanting coffee, or asked if I spilled the coffee on  purpose, and if so- good move! I assured everyone who asked that the coffee was not in my hands. At last the "coffee" passenger walked towards me, gathering his things and paused beside the stairs. Looking at me he said, "That was the worst cup of coffee I have ever had!" I laughed, he shook his head and smiled weakly, and off  he went to tend to his wounds himself.

I had many such turbulent springs, and after an adjustment period, kept my stomach on most of the flights. I realized my balance was pretty good, being able to maneuver a windy sky while balancing a tray of beverages and goodies. My trials and tribulations with motion sickness- and finding some solutions, I was able to help to soothe passengers feverish brows and upset stomachs. I started carrying a box of soda crackers with me on all flights!

Now days flight attendants do not get up and serve when the turbulence is too strong. It's dangerous for all involved. There is story after story of flight attendants getting badly hurt during rough air.
So- if you're experiencing a very bumpy flight, do not- I repeat- do NOT ring for coffee! Perhaps a cold towel and a soda cracker will be more to your liking!

Spring is upon us once more, and the windy weather that goes with it. Travel with crackers, and remember- "Life is an adventure, even when it's a bumpy ride!"

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