“Who do your passengers think you are” asked one of my co-workers. It was my first working flight to Santiago, Chile. The working crew consisted of a Santiagan, a Southern belle, a Texas jock, a New Yorker, a German, and several Cubanistas gently dubbed the Cuban Mafia. Working together like a well constructed corset, the senior ladies prodding the newbie, the public never got a wiff of my newness. By the end of the flight I had earned the respect of my co-workers. My Italian surname qualified me, according to the mafia, to join. They made me an honorary member of the Cuban mafia. To seal the deal, they henceforth called me by my surname, Restivo.
Home training got me to flight school. My mother did the trench work, grooming me to become a polite team worker without surfieting the ability to think on my feet while my head was in the clouds. Training school taught me to maneuver in small compact galleys and narrow isles aloft while soothing and serving passengers needs and whims, and never ever taking a watchful eye off the safety conditions of the cabin. The senior stews taught me usefull tricks like placing a pillow pack of coffee inside the coffee pot in addition to one pillow pack in the coffee maker itself on the South American routes for real coffee. South Americans appreciate a full bodied coffee, not the watered down American version. The pretty Latina stewardesses also taught me how to walk with a little swivel in my hips. These important subtleties guided my new life. I took them seriously.
Now that you are clear on who our passengers think we are, let me guide you through an alternate consciousness. A voice from the hither region of my soul rises up to inform me. Outwardly I knew my place and was that person all my passengers wanted me to be. Secretly, I had a couple goals of my own. I wanted to be a jet setter even before that term existed and to snag a loving husband. Our training stuck; we kept our lipstick fresh, seams straight, and the coffee hot.
That is what I was trained to do at the academy. Everything else came from “work experience.” I wish someone had warned me to never leave my uniform jacket in sight of passengers in the cabin while working in my navy blue service apron. Certain Brazilian, stylish women love military-style insignias, especially Pan Am jackets with insignias and wings. I did see a couple women admiring my jacket on a nice hanger behind my jumpseat where it would not get wrinkles. Well, it disappeared before my preparation for landing, when the crew changed back into a full suit. Yes, the jacket had disappeared into thin air, or a stylish woman’s handbag.
So who do our passengers think we are? Pretty. Smart. Nice. I can tell you my co-workers were focused, gave the best service in first class and coach, played hard on exotic layovers, and caught the best husbands. Today, many participate in philanthropic societies, serving the needs of humanity. I visit these former stewsardesses, still gracious, beautiful and giving, in their mansions and homes, still aware of the world out there, the world Pan Am introduced us to.