United Dreams

Last night I had a vivid dream that seemed to last a long time.  I dreamed that I had the oppotunity to work as a flight attendant for United Airlines for a single flight.  None of the other flight attendants knew that I wasn’t really a flight attendant and I’m not sure how I managed to get permission to work the flight.

Before boarding started, I couldn’t find my tie, so I had to borrow one from another flight attendant.  The first borrowed tie turned out to be a scarf and I kept trying to tie it into a double Windsor knot, but to no avail.  Then I borrowed an actual tie from another flight attendant and it worked better.

The flight was on a 747 and we were working a trans-Pacific route.  But then, when we landed, people started getting out of their seats moments after we pulled off the runway.  I was walking through the cabin shouting, “No, no – we’re not there yet!  Please sit down!”

Once we arrived at the gate, the plane had somehow become a DC-9 and I was able to lower the rear air-stair (in the tail section of the plane) so passengers could disembark that direction.

Very odd, huh?

I suppose there is an obvious backstory I should share: I grew up as an airline brat.  My father worked for United his whole career and I started flying when I was just a month old. 

As a child, I was fascinated with airplanes.  I had all sorts of interesting toys: a demo oxygen mask, safety cards, paper ticket jackets, etc.  I’d play for hours: first using the sofa as a check-in counter, assigning tickets and checking luggage.  Then I’d arrange chairs in two rows and play flight attendant.  I even had a wine bottle box into which I stacked empty soda and beer cans – that was my beverage cart.  I’d do the safety demo, serve food, etc.

My fascination with airplanes continued as I grew up.  At the end of high school I started interviewing with United.  I wanted to work as a customer service agent, preferably at San Jose Airport, which was just a few miles from my home.  I interviewed with the station manager but never heard back. 

Following up with the Human Resources representative a few weeks later, it turned out that the station manager had been fired and had never turned the results of my interview back to HR.  She offered me a part-time position at San Francisco Airport working in Cabin Services – the group that cleans the planes between flights.

During the summer of 1988 I worked at SFO four hours a day on a rotating schedule, four days one, one day off.  It was not exciting work – and I was working with a pretty rough group of people – but I enjoyed being on and around the airplanes. 

At the end of the summer, though, a few weeks before I had to join the union, I decided to quit the job.  It didn’t pay enough to cover the costs of gasoline, so I decided to stick with my nearly full-time job working at the movie theatre instead.

Had I landed the original job working as a customer service agent at SJC, I have no doubt I would have left the movie theatre instead.  By the time all the layoffs occurred in 2002 (after 9/11) I would probably have had enough seniority to have survived them.  Of course, with much less pay.

Looking back, it was probably good that I didn’t end up staying in the airline industry.  It is a tough industry in which to work.  But as someone who is extremely good with customer service – I’ve often been commended for my grace and calm under pressure – I think I would have been excellent at it.  And being an industry that I am still passionate about, I think it would have been a career I would have really enjoyed.


0 thoughts on “United Dreams

  1. My cousin is a flight attendant. He’s been with the same airlines since graduation from college. Hope his job is secure in these tough times (he started in 1982…)

  2. Haha! So detailed! I love geeky dreams. One time I dreamed IBM came out with an ATM switch and it turned out it was really just a Token Ring switch.

  3. I think that you have made a good choice.  while all jobs have their own difficulties, being a frontline staff of an airline is not as good as it looks,  been a ground-staff at the airport my self  years ago,  the job is very mentally demanding, and now being a flight attendant, suffering the fatigue of jet-lag….the good thing about it? more days off and enjoying the discount  airfare and hotel rate for holidays(but always worrying can not get on the flight….hahahaha)

  4. @agmhkg – Oh, I know the joys of traveling space-available.  Especially when I was young and my father had low seniority, we’d spend the entire day at the airport waiting for an available seat.  At least domestically, there were several flights a day.  Internationally, it is often just one flight.
    @Steve – That’s a pretty geeky dream!
    @Wangium – I create, update and deliver corporate training – especially subjects like management, communication skills, customer service, etc.
    @murisopsis – If he has 27 years of seniority he should be pretty secure.  Probably doesn’t have enough to retire on anytime soon thanks to all the cut-backs, etc, though.

  5. @yang1815 – I’ve always wondered what it was about the airline industry that captures imaginations so well. The idea of escape? The idea of people coming and going? I’ve never put my finger on what, exactly, fascinated me so much about it.

  6. That’s a sure sign of your “subconscious you” wanting to be a flight attendant. Wait…if that’s the case, then, you may end up working alongside Twan!

  7. It sounds as if you found an even better career, somewhat similar to what you “might have” done & using the same talents, but probably more interesting in the long run.  I like the way you tied the dream together with your memories.  Lovely.

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