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Heather Poole

CRUISING ATTITUDE

Tales of Crashpads, Crew Drama, and Crazy Passengers at 35,000 Feet

For Cosmo

Chapter 1

PLANE CRAZY

OKAY, WHERE’S CRAZY? That’s what I’m wondering every time I board a flight in my flammable navy blue polyester. In flight, I’ve seen passengers get naked, attempt to open an emergency door in order to get off the “bus,” reach inside a first-class meal cart and eat leftover food from a dirty plate, and get hit on the head by luggage—then threaten to sue the airline because the injury had affected their psychic abilities. Once I watched an entire group of passengers traveling to Haiti put a voodoo curse on a coworker in the middle of the beverage service. I’ve seen a woman try to store her baby inside an overhead bin. Not too long ago a drunken passenger grabbed a flight attendant’s butt—right in front of his wife! All the newspapers wrote about it. One paper even posed the question, “What is with people going crazy on flights?” That’s exactly what I want to know!

Just how crazy can it get? Well, not long ago, I was at the rear of the aircraft, welcoming passengers aboard while keeping an eye on rolling bags and overhead bins. As is not uncommon, a couple of passengers walking down the aisle looked upset as soon as they realized they were seated in the last row, otherwise known as the worst seats on the plane. (Hey, someone has to sit there.) I was explaining to one of those passengers that yes, his seat really did recline, even in the last row of coach, when another passenger, a woman wearing hip-hugger jeans and a yellow halter top that exposed a belly ring, walked up, handed me a boarding pass, and said, “Someone is sitting in my seat.”

I looked at the seat in question, 35E, and saw that Belly Ring Girl was right. Someone was in her seat. What made this particular situation a little crazy was not the fact that she had just yelled, “This sucks!”—I actually hear that phrase all the time, which, in itself, does kind of suck—but the fact that 35E just happened to be the second worst seat on the aircraft, the seat located directly in front of the hands-down worst seat, the middle seat in the last row.

“Excuse me, miss,” I said to the seated woman in 35E with the pink cardigan sweater tied loosely around her neck. “May I see your boarding pass?’

Handing me a boarding pass for another seat, a very good seat, an aisle seat at the front of the aircraft, Pink Cardigan snapped, “I’m not moving!”

Okay. I forced a smile at her. “Please, do you mind taking your seat, ma’am, so this young lady can sit in her seat? The flight is full.”

“I told you, I’m not moving!”

Well, at least I found Crazy, I thought to myself, as she explained in detail why she wasn’t moving. It had something to do with the movie screen.

“But there’s a movie screen right near your actual seat,” I pointed out.

That didn’t matter. What did matter was that a tall man sporting a handlebar mustache now stood a little too close to me. Pink Cardigan continued to go on and on about the seat she refused to move to.

“Ma’am, you’re in my seat,” the man interrupted.

How he knew this, I do not know. Because when I asked to see his boarding pass he couldn’t find it.

Perhaps this is Crazy, I thought to myself. It was a little crazy, three people vying for the same crappy seat, was it not?

I sighed, turned to the half-naked woman who actually held the ticket for 35E and asked if she’d be willing to take the other woman’s seat.

“Whatever. But you owe me a drink,” Belly Ring Girl said to me.

Okay. One down, two to go. That’s when Mr. Sweet Stache walked to the back of the airplane and plopped down on the floor, placing an overstuffed backpack between his spidery long legs.

“Don’t worry,” he called out. “I’ll just camp out here during the flight.”

I turned around. He smiled. I didn’t smile back. He’d said it like he meant it and that worried me. Did he actually believe he could sit there? On the floor. In front of the lav. Beside my jump seat.

“That’s not going to work,” I said. It had a little something to do with that metal thing we like to call a seat belt. I was pointing to the illuminated seat belt sign, trying my best to get through to this guy, when his eyes glazed over, he got to his feet, and he began walking up the aisle like he knew exactly where he was going. Briskly he made his way from the back of the plane right through business class and all the way up to first class, where I’m told he stopped in the middle of the cabin and announced very loudly, “Fine, I’ll eat your crappy first-class food!”

It was official. We’d found Crazy.

Later on during the flight, after the service was over and everything had calmed down, I sat on a homemade bench (two empty beverage inserts connected by an oven rack) in the business-class galley and began to eat a sandwich I’d brought from home. A passenger from coach whipped back the stiff blue curtain.

“Can I buy a business-class entree?” She held up a wad of cash.

Wiping my mouth, I quickly got to my feet. “We don’t sell business-class food because passengers who travel in business have already paid for the food, and actually eat the food—”

“Can’t I just buy a roll or something?”

I couldn’t respond. Because right at that moment, as she stood there waving a crumpled bill to pay for the roll or something, Sweet Stache walked out of the lav with his pants undone.

Oh boy. I gulped, turned around, and prayed he’d keep walking. Please keep walking!

He stopped.

“Water,” he said, pushing the hungry passenger out of the way. In the galley, right next to me, is where he decided to zip up his pants.

Of course, I did what any other flight attendant would do—I quickly reached for a plastic cup. Anything to make him go away! That’s when I saw, out of the corner of my eye, a brown leather belt whip into the air with a SNAP! The woman who wanted the roll or something quickly disappeared.

Oh God, I prayed, please don’t let him be too crazy! Please say he’s just a little crazy. Because I really didn’t want to be strangled by a belt over the second worst seat on the plane or the crappy-ass first-class food he did not eat.

“Here ya go.” I handed him a glass of water without ice, not once taking my eye off the belt, now stretched tightly between his hands.

“Thanks.” The belt slackened. He placed it on the counter, next to my sandwich.

“You’re welcome.” I let out a sigh of relief. I had not been strangled.

“Coffee.” A statement, not a question.

I peeked into the coffee pot. Great. An empty pot. “I’m going to have to brew a new pot. I’ll bring it to you as soon as it’s ready.” And I guess crazy was catching, because then I did something totally insane. I asked a question I shouldn’t have asked, the one question capable of making this crazy person even crazier. “Where’s your seat?”

“Forget it!” He grabbed the belt.

I gasped. “Sorry!”

Forcefully, he jabbed the leather through the belt loops. “Damn right you are.” And with that he took a bite of my half-eaten sandwich and disappeared back to wherever he had decided to camp out for the flight.

“Yeah, umm, can I get that roll?” asked a familiar voice behind me.

Of course, that’s not as crazy as what had happened just a few months earlier. I had been standing between

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