If you have ever wanted to know what it is like to be a flight attendant, you should read Cruising Attitude by Heather Poole. She does an excellent job of describing all the good, bad and ugly of working a job nearly seven miles in the air. Her subtitle really does describe it all: Tales of Crashpads, Crew Drama, and Crazy Passengers at 35,000 feet.
And oh, what a walk down memory lane this was. I was a flight attendant for three years from 1998 to 2001. Reading this book really reminded me of all the things I loved about being a flight attendant and all the things I really don't miss. Poole begins with an in-depth description of the training process. It is an intense six to eight weeks and as she says, "What we were taught wasn't difficult, but the program had been specifically designed to wear us down. The airline needed to know how we might react in a number of less-than-perfect scenarios in order to give us a taste of what flight would really be like...and also as a way to get rid of those who couldn't hack it." It was so funny to read about the "charm farm", or training facility, and how strict some of the instructors could be (lipstick must be freshly applied at all times) and how appearance was as important as all the lifesaving skills being taught.
The book then follows Poole as she leaves training and becomes a full-fledged flight attendant. She moves to New York City, finds a crash pad filled with other flight attendants she rarely sees more than once or twice and learns to navigate her new lifestyle. She describes friends she makes, passengers she meets, and places she visits. Being a flight attendant is hard work and, especially at the beginning, not highly lucrative. She quotes one fellow flight attendant this way: "If I made as much money as passengers thought I made, worked as little as my neighbors thought I did, or had as much fun on layovers as my friends think I do, I'd have one helluva a job!" Poole does an excellent job of explaining all the ins and outs of flying the friendly skies including FAA requirements, working reserve, learning on the job, medical emergencies, difficult and sometimes crazy passengers, and she even covers turbulence for those of you who get a little shaky when the flight gets a little bumpy.
Poole has flown for nearly twenty years and it is obvious she loves it. It is not a job for everyone, but it can be pretty amazing. Just at the end of the book, she briefly mentions the events of 9/11 and how that effected her. I share this quote:
"Most people don't have to think about [September 11th] every time they go to work the way I do. From the moment I step out of my shoes to go through airport security until the aircraft slides into the gate, I think about what happened to those planes. They were my planes. My coworkers. My passengers."
This book was fun to read and well written. I also highly recommend her blog. You can find it here.