“Brace, brace,” is the term that we trolley dollies are supposed to use if the plane looks likes its going to crash. At about 30 seconds before impact, we’ve been trained to exemplify the appropriate safety position and shout the word “brace!” repetitively, so that every passenger knows how to prepare for what’s coming next.
So after fifteen call bells from the same seat in three minutes, and with the rest of my crew throwing pleading glances at me, I knew that, just as in the face of disaster, I too had to brace, brace.
Off into the cabin I went. The cabin — home to so much anger and excitement, nervousness and frustration. A small and claustrophobic runway bearing a couple hundred faces staring at me. Angry. Plotting. Indifferent. Eager. Did I mention angry? As I tentatively made my way towards 35 Kilo (known to passengers as “thats THAT’S MY window seat!” and known to us as “that jerk at 35K”), I could feel my hips nudging the few elbows and shoulders that crept into my already small “office” space. But since cursing the pounds of airplane food that I had recently put on wasn’t going to make the aisle any larger or the limbs less greedy, I couldn’t be fussed to say “sorry” to those passengers whom I so ungracefully barreled by. I just simply continued on.
Gluing on my most professional and sunny smile, I reached 35 kilo with so much fear in my eyes that I must have looked like a knowing lamb in line for slaughter. 35 kilo was an absolute nightmare and everyone on the air craft knew this upon boarding, when he stormed into my workplace reeking of fish curry and filling not just one but three hat racks with his over sized luggage and four bags of duty free. But wait, I too kindly say that he filled the hat racks, because to be fair I have to give credit to my five foot nothing colleague Jung-Lee, who tried to find space for his things after he stranded them in the aisle and flopped into his window seat (“thats MY window seat!”) while proceeding to take off his fish curry socks.
“GIVE ME WATER” the jerk-off; at 35 kilo demanded to me, shaking his head and scowling as if I smelled as horrific as his own bare feet. “And give ME MY veg,” he spat, referring to the vegetarian option that he particularly DID NOT pre-order and by adding insult to injury, fiercely jamming his finger yet again against the call bell. At this point my smile almost faltered as I instinctively shuttered at his feet and finger. The ding of that call bell is the only sound in the world that inspires me to jump straight out of the plane, sans parachute.
Now, here’s the difficult part that needs no explaining but somehow is always explained to unreasonable passengers who refuse to believe that Gordon Ramsey is not in the back galley creating their meal of choice on a three hour flight. How can I clarify to you that unless you pre- order a vegetarian meal with your ticket, that we cannot just pluck a vegetable lasagna or obi gobi from the sky and put it on your tray? That I cannot simply take from that overweight child beside you his dietary salad and give it to you instead of our other generous array of options simply because you don’t eat chicken or mutton or anything that I have on board? And are you really that hungry? I mean REALLY? So hungry that you cannot exist three hours without a terrible airplane meal that tastes like cardboard and is teeming with additives strategically included to lull you to sleep and fill your belly in the hopes that you’ll shut up and leave me alone? (Just so you know.)
“No, No, of course sir, you ARE that hungry, and I understand”, I smile and nod, smile and nod as I back away from the angry fish curry air-polluter and practically sprint back to the safety of the galley.
With my face the colour of lined paper, entirely white except for the few faint lines representing my diminishing pride, I grumble into the galley and start searching carts for bananas, vegetables, for anything that will satisfy the impossible.
Just short of snatching the sandwich out of poor Jung-Lee’s hand, I finally find some crew food that might soothe the baby at 35K. If I didn’t value my job and was really pushed to the edge, I would have simply brought him the vegetable baby mush for the infants, but since nobody has seen Margo since she initiated this brilliant act of defiance and because I am not quite ready to stalk the classified pages for a new “profession”, I settle on a makeshift fruit salad and nervously approach my nemesis at 35K.
“NO, I WANT VEG!” he screams this time, looking at my fruit as if it has just made some unforgivable racist remark. “Banana, NOT VEG” he shouts, and proceeds to give me a quick synopsis of the differences between two edible families that my ivy league education apparently did not.
After being berated by the cloud of curry and at my wit’s end, I carry on to the back galley and go straight for the only vegetable that we do have: sliced cucumbers. Have you been reading the news, my friends? I really regret that it has come down to this, but as I remember dodging that banana thirty seconds ago when it flew past my perpetual smile and recall the recent articles about killer cucumbers and e.coli, I cannot help but grin with a menace that is not usually mine and pile the suspicious cuces onto a tray.
Almost worse than a catastrophic situation, any trolly dolly can attest that for a passenger confined to a small space, diarrhea on an air craft is just as horrific. So as I smugly approached 35K once and for all, I could only laugh maliciously to myself as I whispered to my victim, “Brace, brace.”