Five days on duty, nine flights, twenty one hours aloft, thirty six hours in uniform, eighty three hours away from home, twelve hours commuting. I'm punch drunk happy. I'm exhausted, but I'm not too tired to recognize trouble.
Trouble is easy to spot. She boards the aircraft swathed in Prada and Gucci. Frigid air swirls in her wake. Face frozen, she claims a seat by the window. Her husband blocks the aisle, digs through his bag and carefully places his treasures, one by one, minute after minute, into his seatback pocket.
There is no hurry, no concern. The line of passengers waiting for him to nest, does not exist.
Patient, I wait, but when he fails to move, I suggest he step out of the aisle. He lowers his chin and stares over the rim of his glasses. I smile. After a long moment he complies. He's not happy. She's not happy.
I shrug, continue hanging jackets, greeting customers and repacking overheads so bags won't be sent to the belly of the beast. Passengers are seated, bins are closed and we're off, soaring high above the clouds.
Now frequent fliers know the meal choices as well as I do. They accept their lack of culinary choice with grace. Of course, I run out of options before I get to Trouble and Spouse.
"Beef." I offer.
"No," cries trouble, "We do not eat beef. We shouldn't be last. We're always last. This is unacceptable. Unacceptable."
"Unacceptable." Echos Spouse, his finger wagging in time to Trouble's. "We have not eaten all day. This is unacceptable."
"Policy." I start to explain, but they're off and complaining.
"Unacceptable. Unacceptable. Unacceptable." The tight folds of their skin pinken in anger.
"I could bring the side salad and ..."
"No, we had that on the last flight." Says spouse. "Unacceptable." Says Trouble.
I excuse myself and stalk to the back of the aircraft. After a mini rant in the galley, I bandy words with a few funny passengers, bolster my humor and return to first class.
Several customers have lost their appetite and offer up their chicken. Spouse and Trouble do not question how they get their way. This is their right. Their due.
My coworker is a dream. We click. We grin. We circle and duck around each other in the tight confines of the first class galley. Our service is quick. Glasses are refilled before they empty, trays are wisked away and cookies are served warm.
With Trouble and Spouse I am polite, civil, not about to give ammunition to an adversary. When Trouble is through with her glass, she snatches it up and shoves it my direction.
I catch the glass before it falls and return to the galley. "She wants your name." Says Coworker.
Well of course she does. "She can have it," I gesture at my name tag and grin. "I'm just thankful she's not my mother," I raise my brows, "can you imagine?"
At last we arrive. Three of us, two flight attendants and the Captain, crowd into the galley to say goodbye to our travellers. The first officer is out inspecting the plane. The atmosphere is warm, friendly, then the tempurature drops.
Trouble points an index finger at me, "I want your last name."
"Sorry, that's a security breach. I'm the only Kelly on the plane, the company knows who I am."
She glares and stalks off, Spouse right behind her and I swear I hear "unacceptable," echoing down the jetbridge. Before I can shake my head, a frequent flyer gives me a warm smile and says, "Great job, don't ever change."
The clouds part. The chill evaporates. Life is good.