Back in my early twenties I was a flight attendant for an international airline. It was Christmas morning and I was on a long and packed flight from Tokyo to Los Angeles. During the flight, we would serve one full meal and a snack. The official airline rule stated that we must wake passengers for every meal service.
As I worked my way down the aisle, I came to the seat of a man in a Christmas sweater with one of those light up Rudolph noses pinned to it. I had an encounter with him earlier in the flight. I had to cut him off from the complimentary Egg Nog after I noticed him staggering his way to and from the lavatory, nearly falling into seated passengers as he was pulling the string to light up Rudolph’s nose.
He was not very happy about no more Egg Nog and I finally had to tell him that if he did not stop arguing I would be forced to notify the Captain who could arrange for him to have a most unpleasant Christmas morning. This threat, along with the intervention of two fellow flight attendants, convinced him to sit down and be quiet. Upon returning to the galley I thanked my fellow flight attendants for their assistance and said that if they hadn’t helped “God only knows what I would have done.”
So, as I proceeded with serving snacks, I reached the seat of the man in the Christmas sweater and saw he was sound asleep. I wondered if I should wake him as the airline rules required. I decided I better follow company procedure rather than listen to complaints about a missed snack.
“Excuse me, sir,” I said to the sleeping man, “would you like a snack?”
He continued snoring. I gently shook his shoulder and repeated a bit louder and a bit closer to his ear, “Sir, would you like a snack?”
He leaped up from his seat, knocking over the snack tray and sending fruitcake everywhere, and screamed, “What the hell do you mean, do I want a smack!”
“No,” I said, “I asked if you wanted a snack.”
The man refused to hear my explanation. He turned to his wife in a matching Christmas sweater and said, “This stewardess woke me up to ask me if I wanted a smack!”
The wife ripped out her earphones, “What!”
“She wants to smack me!” he yelled.
“Stewardess,” the wife said, “you lay a hand on Norman and I’ll see to it that you’re fired!”
A good portion of the 747 tourist section turned to see what was going on. By this time my fellow flight attendants had circled me. There was not a shred of doubt in their minds that something new had happened with this guy to cause me to lose it. The wife climbed over her husband and once in the aisle demanded, “I need witnesses! I’m writing a letter to the airline! To the tour company…”
Suddenly the seatbelt sign went on. One of the flight attendants called the cockpit and gave them a heads up. The pilots were almost always on our side. They knew what it was like to be serving hundreds of meals in the cabin to hundreds of people. Often times the pilots would turn on the seatbelt sign and tell everyone to take their seats just to give us a break. They always did this when they were informed that somebody was being unruly.
I tried to explain what had actually happened as I was being led to my jump seat by a male flight attendant, who was quite convinced that I had crossed the line.
“Don’t worry,” he said, “you’re not going to get fired. Emotions run high on Christmas. When we arrive back at home base, you’re going to lie and we’re all going to swear to it.”
He wrapped his pinky finger around my pinky and said, “Pinky swear.”
He went on to say that he had a couple sitting in 38A and B that he wanted to smack too, but he had learned how to control his frustration.
“Meditation at the Y,” he whispered, conspiratorially adding, “Oh yeah, believe me I still want to act out in some pretty outrageous ways. Thank Gawd for the Y,” he said.
Wishing you and yours the Happiest of Holidays!