The date was May 26, 2005, and was a day that my life would change forever. I walked out of the flight attendant group interview session (a “cattle call” if you will) with a good feeling. Now, I played the waiting game, will I or won’t I receive a letter in the mail inviting me to training. What seemed like an eternity, in actuality was a week, I received the letter. I ran upstairs to my apartment, and on the way up noticed it was a very thin envelope. I opened the letter with a bit of hesitation and read the first line.
“Congratulations Daniel Shultz, you have been accepted into training class 9-01 starting June 13th, 2001”
I was ecstatic and already packing. Training was in Indianapolis, the core of boredom as I came to find out later. Training was six weeks long and brutal. My airline, American TransAir has the second toughest training in the industry. On graduation day, I was happy to finally go home for a few days before moving to San Francisco, my new base.
August proved to be a tough month. My first flight was a 16 hour day. The flight was San Francisco-Honolulu-Maui-San Francisco. Of course, this makes sense, sending a first time flight attendant on a 15 hour work day. Needless to say, I learned very quickly from the experienced crew. The people were very demanding,
“Bring me a pillow, bring me playing cards”
After that day, I was like,
“Bring me a gun.”
My first angry customer came on in Maui. He was an obese man of about 50 years old and had horrendous sunburn. He had given the flight attendant in the front grief already about the plane being late. He, of course was sitting in my section. I walked by him and he uttered “Gosh, you know what would make me happy, if he these seat were a bit bigger”. I gave a sympathetic glance and agreed with him. What did he want me to do about it, get out my Handy Man kit and make the chairs bigger?
My first year of a flight attending was like an actor’s school. I had to keep a face of constant uplifting emotions. I am a confrontational person and in that year learned to grin and bear it. I wasn’t very good at first. For example, I was picking up trash on a New York flight and turned to the lady and said “Trash”, she gasped and said “Fuck you”. I wanted to smack myself in the head, but said “Thank You” and retired to the galley. A mistake I never made again.
I began to question whether I had chosen the right profession. Was this the right job for me? A month later, September 11th happened. I was boarding a plane destined for Japan and was told to stop boarding. That day will always be emblazoned on my mind. Two week later I was moved to Chicago and was told I would lose my job on November 1st. I was so angry and pissed off. I had gone through all this training for what, to be let go two months out of training.
One highlight of my last days at the airline was my final trip. I was to spend four days in Sicily and four days in London. I was very excited, but yet melancholic as well. I was just getting a taste of this wonderful job, only to have it taken away in a few weeks. After the acceptance of this trip being my last, I decided to hit the beach in Messina, Sicily. It was late summer and after all, I might as well enjoy myself. I was sunning on the beach when my lead flight attendant came out to join me. She leaned over and told me she was jealous of me. Puzzled,
“Why?” I asked
“The company has told me your next trip is to Bangkok ,and that your termination has been reconciled” she replied
I jumped out of my chair to call my family. Two hundred and fifty two dollars later in international calls I was done. I came back with a smile and a cocktail. This was the life.