I Hate My Job
In October of 2010, I was hired at Grady for a full-time job at the same time I began training for an airline job on the ramp. My job at Grady was to transport elderly/disabled patients back and forth to the hospital for their appointments. Over time, the wear and tear from burning the candle at both ends took a toll on my body. It got to the point where I literally fell asleep at the light behind the wheel with a van full of elderly patients. That was the day I knew I had to make a decision. I was either going to keep the full-time job that pays way more money or stay with a company that can take me and my family all over the world. I decided to stay with the airline job and ride it out. I told myself that I would never leave the ramp and work as a gate agent. The motto on the ramp was “the bags don’t talk back”, meaning that if you go work with passengers you are dealing with all kinds of drama as opposed to only working with bags outside. I managed about 3 years on the ramp before I finally gave in and applied to work upstairs. A big part of that decision had to deal with two factors: I was bored with the job and there was a certain walk that every person had who had worked there for years and years as a result of the labor done on the body. The bags may not have talked back verbally but they seemed to speak loud and clear physically. I began working upstairs in a couple different departments before ultimately landing on the gate agent job. I’ll say this once but I’ll say it loud, BEING A GATE AGENT IS THE WORST JOB IN THE AIRLINE INDUSTRY. You may never think about it, but there is a long list of responsibilities that the gate agent has for every single flight. These responsibilities aren’t tough to handle individually but when you couple them with a revolving door of passenger interactions that tend to favor the negative side, it can wear you down. When people go the airport, it’s like people lose their mind and can’t think for themselves. You may think you’re the first person to ask/complain about your issue but they have probably heard it 100 times already that day. Gate agents spend every shift, every flight dealing with the same drama: people mad at you because they missed their flight sitting in traffic, people mad because they have to check a bag because the overhead bins are full, people mad at you because the flight is delayed due to weather as if you control it, people mad at you because they bought their ticket through a third party and ignored the part where they would most likely get a middle seat, sometimes people just mad at you just because they are having a bad day and wanna take it out on you. That junk wore me out. It got to the point where I knew exactly what a person was gonna complain about before they told me. I began to get easily irritated and snappy with passengers. My filter wore out and I began to speak my mind a lot more often than I wanted to. It’s important to note here that even though I was filterless and giving back what passengers gave me, I was never written up for it. At that point of time with the company, about 6-7 years, my only write up on record came from a mishap with a jet bridge because I was deliriously tired working doubles for two weeks. I was over the job and I was ready to quit and just leave the company altogether because I didn’t want to go back to the ramp. Some of my friends who worked with me on the ramp and/or gates went on to become a flight attendant. When I began working upstairs, I told myself that I would never become a flight attendant because it wasn’t for me. As I began talking to those friends, they started convincing me that being a flight attendant was a lot better than working on the ramp/gates. They told me the job was easy and when they told me how much money they made, I became intrigued. I finally applied to become a flight attendant and didn’t make it to the interview stage of the process. I was bummed but I was so intrigued that I chose to stay around long enough to try again. Months go by and I re-applied, this time I made it to the interview stage and was offered the job.
Before I left my position as a gate agent, I had a discussion with two managers about what to expect in the flight attendant world. They warned me of a few things, one of most importance being: “be careful in training because they try to weed “us” out in the last two weeks”. I wasn’t sure how they would know anything about being a flight attendant let alone what goes on in training but according to them, “that’s just how it goes”.
Training for the flight attendant position was very rigorous. It took a lot of focus and studying to make it through all the weeks of assessments, learning, and tests. My biggest test came in the last three days of training. Up until that point, I made it through the previous 7 weeks of training without much drama. For those that don’t know, the instructors for flight attendant training are actual active flight attendants. So as a newbie going through training it can be a bit intimidating in the classroom to have someone in that position “hold the keys” to your success. I had already been through several trainings before and I understood the “teacher/student” dynamic as well as the “we’re gonna be co-workers once I get done with this” aspect. So it didn’t bother me to pay respect to someone in that position but it became very apparent that some of them were abusive of that “power” and chose to exercise it when they felt the need.
Our last instructor came in to teach us about Customer Service three days before graduation. I was sitting at the front table taking notes just feet away from her while she was talking and in the middle of her lesson, she stopped talking and asked me “why aren’t you smiling?”. In the moment, I was just as confused as you probably are reading this. I gave her the only answer I could, “I didn’t know I was supposed to be smiling”. She chose to call me out and say that “we should be smiling at all times, because that’s what flight attendants do.” In order to de-escalate the situation and move on, I turned my back around in my chair to face the table I was sitting at and continue taking notes for the remainder of the lesson. After lunch that day, I got called into another room to speak with that instructor and our lead instructor about what happened. I explained my confusion with why I should be smiling while somebody is teaching and she harped on the fact that I turned my back on her calling it “rude, disrespectful, and a sign of no respect for authority”. She said “I think he needs to be written up and possibly released from training”. We went back and forth over it and my lead instructor finally butted in and let me go on my way.
Without knowing what the outcome would be I became a little stressed because we needed to study 8 weeks of information for the final exam and get a certain score to pass. THE NEXT DAY I was walking to lunch with my training roommate and two instructors were walking pass us. One of them said “hello” to us and my roommate replied “hello”. As we kept walking I heard “Excuse me, you can’t say hello?”. I simply replied “my bad, I ain’t hear you”. Yea I heard him but didn’t feel the need to respond because I was zoned out, plus my roommate said hey “for me”. But apparently that wasn’t enough as he followed me into the diner area and got in my face.
Him: “Do you not speak to an instructor when they speak to you?
Me: “I said my bad man, I didn’t hear you”
Him: “Well your friend responded so apparently you could have to”
Me: “Man I done walked by you plenty of times and you ain’t never said anything to me. I ain’t know who you were talking to. Why you making a scene?”
Him: “I speak every time I pass someone”
Me: ” I beg to differ”
Him: “Who is your lead instructor?”
This is all going on in the middle of the cafe while people are in line waiting to order food, so the edge I was already on is being pushed by someone I feel is on a power trip. I truly believe that he heard what happened to me the day before with the other instructor and tried to poke at me, but there’s no proof to that. After I tell him my name and who my lead instructor is, I immediately knew that I was gonna get called into another office. That day goes by and we wake up the next day to take final exams. I was so stressed I couldn’t even sleep that night. I push pass all the drama and took the final exam, made a 96 out of 100. We get to the auditorium afterwards to celebrate and I got called to the office to speak with the training center leads. I had just made it through 8 weeks of testing, no write-ups, no tardies, and no low scores on anything but because of the previous two days my entire career was in jeopardy before it started. They sat me down and asked what happened. I told them straight up how I felt about being misunderstood by both instructors and they let me go. I mostly have my lead instructor to thank for that because he went to bat for me and told them that I wasn’t the trouble I was being painted to be. Til this day I am super appreciative of that, I really am.
The Honeymoon Period
Everything is good while everything is new. You don’t notice the small things when you’re focused on learning a job. My first year or two of working as a flight attendant was undoubtedly my most enjoyable. I had a great time learning everything: how to run a service on the plane, how to fix my schedule to get “good trips”, how to manage days off, etc. I really don’t remember a time when I was bothered or troubled by passengers during this time. Nothing seemed to bother me, I was just happy to be there and happy to experience new places/things/people. The older flight attendants always warned me, “just wait til that honeymoon is over then come back and tell me how you like it.” I wanted them to be wrong but as time went on they were right about it all. After getting settled in to the job, after learning to do the service with ease, after learning to control your naps/sleep, after developing a system to get a manageable schedule, after all of this becomes secondhand nature, you start seeing the people for who they really are.
Every passenger is not a bad passenger. There are genuinely polite people who have respect for others and appreciate the employees that care for their safety, happiness, and overall experience on the flight. I’ve had my days where I was down and out on something and an interaction with a pleasant passenger would change my day or at least the rest of that flight. You learn to appreciate those people as you learn how few and far in-between your chances are that you will run into them. HOWEVER, there are some rotten apples in this world, and those are the people I despised. The first time I noticed a shift in the climate was when the current President was elected. I was a gate agent at the time and the tension was so thick during that election period that you could literally feel it walking around. The smug looks, the slick comments, the pompous attitude, it all came from the transition of the first black President to the racist jackass of the century. Those that followed his views and fed into his dog whistling tactics carried that attitude at the airport. On the plane, it would be those very same people that either start the most trouble or will be overly nice to me just to see if I care that they are wearing that red hat. Look, I know exactly what I signed up for when I took any job in the customer service business. You’re gonna run into some rude people and knowing that you have to control yourself to not react in a negative manner. I also know the difference between someone having a bad day and someone looking down on me because they feel I am some kind of “servant” to please them. F*CK THAT. Maybe I’m just venting but I think we all need to check ourselves on how we treat one another. It shouldn’t have to be on the person “who gets paid to do it” to have to be the bigger person. Translation: Get on the plane, sit down, stfu, and pay attention!
A major thing this job has taught me is how to read people. Much like the gate agent experience, over time you develop a knack for how to assess a passenger in less than 5 seconds. People will literally begin to look like the drink they are about to order. It’s true.
The only thing worse than having to deal with annoying passengers is having to deal with annoying co-workers. And when I say “annoying”, I mean the racist ones. There’s no need to sugarcoat it, it is what it is. If there’s anything the current state of the country has shown us is that racism is alive and well. Again, I am not saying that every flight attendant is racist or a bad person. There are some genuine people on the line and I have made many friends with great spirits. HOWEVER, the bad apples are out there and those are the ones who need to be addressed. Think about it, the airline industry began in the 1920s, went commercial around the 1940s and didn’t hire a black flight attendant until the 1960s. During this time there was a little thing called the Civil Rights Movement, you may have heard of it. It was an organized effort by black Americans to end racial discrimination and gain equal rights under the law. This movement had to take place because the country we live in did not see Black (minority) people as equals. So, if you have a business in this country at that time, 10 times out of 10 you carry those same racist views that were allowed. Casey Grant, one of the first black flight attendants, spoke about her experiences in her book “Stars in the Sky: Stories of the First African American Flight Attendants”. In 2016, she was interviewed by NBC News about her book. Here is a quote from that interview:
“I began my career with Delta in 1971 and racism was still very common. Many people don’t realize that we endured overtly, racist treatment even well into the 1980s. For example, I tell the story of this pilot that used to have this rule, ‘no niggers, no night riders (blacks) and no gays in the cockpit.’”
You can read the full interview here: https://www.nbcnews.com/news/nbcblk/fly-girls-casey-grant-first-black-flight-attendants-n530256
Now, ask yourself this, if she was experiencing this in 1971 how much can truly change in the past 49 years. 49 years! My parents are 55 years old, so what that really tells me is that it wasn’t THAT long ago where the industry allowed its employees to treat each other with disgust and hatred. I’m going to let you in on a secret, the flight attendants who were working during those days are still working!!!!! I personally worked a flight to Rome with a flight attendant who had 56 years on the line (on the job). She has since then retired, but you can rest assure that many of the people she trained, brought it, or worked with are still flying. I’ve also worked with an older Black flight attendant who shared many stories with me that were very similar to what Ms. Grant spoke of.
Earlier I mentioned that I made it 6-7 years on the ramp/gates with little to no disciplinary action. That changed in training and during my time on the job. I was written up 7 times in 3 years. With the exception of the guy (a black guy at that) who wrote me up in training, every time I was written up or called in the office to discuss “an email complaint” was because of a white woman. To be clear, I don’t hold any animosity towards white women, this is just a fact. It could simply be a coincidence but it’s still a fact. Much like the passengers that I mentioned earlier, there are flight attendants who carry an attitude of superiority to minorities and younger people on the job. There is a sense of entitlement to the flight attendant position that many of them want to see carried on as a tradition and if you don’t fit that description you are targeted. I know there’s a level of intimidation that this skin carries. They are afraid of it. They know how they used to treat our elders and now they have to deal with the fact that we just may retaliate one day. Their defense mechanism is to control this little environment that they have seniority over. It’s not the blatant racism that was described earlier but instead it is a collection of micro-aggressions, comments, and undercutting of support. I can count many times where a co-worker would coddle a passenger that was blatantly disrespectful towards myself or another crew member. This is not done by mistake. This is done to bully and intimidate others with hopes to force them away from the job. It’s not just the minorities they pick on, they prey on the young people too. Even the ones who “look like them”. They are intimidated by the young pretty flight attendants. I’ve seen it firsthand. One day I saw a young white flight attendant standing at her mailbox crying because she saw this note from someone on a crew she had a dispute with a week prior:
The worst part about all of this is that these people are the ones who get looked at first for the positions like brand ambassador, hiring team, management positions, special assignment positions, etc. If you’re following a pattern here: I get a position, say I’ll never leave it, work it for 3 years, and then get tired of it and move on. This is exactly where I was at, tired of it all and ready to move on. Last year around this time, I was ready try something new in the company or quit the job and start a new career. I began to seek out these new opportunities with hopes that the 9 years of experience that I had with several departments would qualify me to take my career to the next level. I played the game, I went to networking events and I took all the proper steps to express my interest to those who were key to the hiring process. Of course this doesn’t mean that I should be given the job but I would think that the effort held some meaning. I watched a number of unqualified people get hired for those very positions in the past year. Been with the company for 2 years and hired as a manager. I even watched as they hired people with zero flight attendant experience to become a Flight Service Manager. So not only do you have some racist nutcases in leadership positions but you couple it with people who are clearly in over their head. This didn’t sit well and I asked for an explanation to why I wasn’t even considered enough to get an interview for ANYTHING. My answer, because I had too many (5) occurrences on my record in the past year. These occurrences that I’m referring to mostly dealt with mishaps on my trip assignments, being a couple minutes late for a sign-in and calling out sick in the middle of a trip. The rule is, you have to have a clean record for a full year in order to qualify for a position. That means no call-outs, can’t be sick, can’t be late for a whole year. In other words, you have to be perfect. YEAH RIGHT. The ones who did qualify by making it a full year with no record, mostly used FMLA to cover themselves in any case they “had to” miss work. Just like with anything, if you give an inch people will take a mile. I’ve personally seen people use FMLA to call out of a trip and be at the same concert or bar that I’m at. Technically this is abuse of the system but the bottom line is that they were protected and never had to worry about being disciplined. In hindsight, I should have used that same method to protect myself but I chose to be honest and in the end it backfired. After learning that I was not going to be considered until this past July at the earliest for any type of position, I made it a purpose to clean up my record. I was doing good, I made it several months without being late, without calling out, and without getting written up….. at least until……
The Breaking Point
My breaking point came in Vail, Colorado.
I was working as the flight lead on a turnaround flight, and another FA comes to me an hour before landing accusing me of not doing what I was “supposed to do” as a flight lead. She said I was supposed to go through the Comfort + section, ask for refills, and do coffee walks. I asked her if that was in writing as something the flight lead is solely responsible for and she replied “yes, it is”. I asked her to pull it up and show me. She said she would when she had time. I explained to her I did my whole service and picked up trash while they took 1 hour and 40 min to complete one beverage service (which is considered a long time in my opinion). She then brought up some other things that she felt I should have done as a lead. I asked her why she was bringing this up 1 hour before we landed instead of at the briefing we had or during the one hour ground delay that we had in Atlanta. She said “it wasn’t enough time to talk”. So after our exchange I thought it was over. In the world of flight attendants, this is usually where a “conflict” stops. You disagree on something and you go your separate ways. If somebody felt petty, they would write you up to a manager but nothing would come of it because it’s just a disagreement.
When we landed in Vail, I got called into the jetway by the captain and he asked the whole crew to come out with us. He starts telling me about how I need to “do my job and play my part of the crew”. I asked him what made him think that and he said “because I watched you”. I replied “ain’t no way you “watched me” from the cockpit, we are out here because she complained to you”. He insisted he called the meeting on his own merit. So I started engaging in conversation with the FA asking why she went to him when we already discussed it. She started backing off like it was all good, and saying that she was just trying to help me. Then the pilot says “you didn’t even call and check on us like you’re supposed to”. I asked him “am i SUPPOSED TO check on you or would you LIKE FOR me to check on you because there’s a difference”. He then says “You’re supposed to.” I said “if you can show me that in writing, I will gladly apologize. He ensured me that “it’s there”. Then I asked him “how old are you??” to which he angrily replied “54”. I said “I’m sorry, I didn’t realize I had to ask a 54 year old if he needed to use the restroom. I figured you’d just let me know and we set up a break.” When I first started, I actually used to call the pilots after every service just to check on them. Didn’t matter how long the flight was, I’d call. Over time, I realized they really didn’t need much and if they did they would call me. Since then, 99.9% of the time I would receive a call from the pilots whenever they wanted to come out and we simply set up a break for them. This was the one time I was ever “reprimanded” for not calling.
So now we are all going back and forth, and the captain starts shouting “hey, watch it!”/“hey, let her talk!” to which I said “who do you think you’re yelling at?”. He says “I AM THE CAPTAIN, you should watch it”. I told him “I don’t care anything that about that right now, I’m a man just like you are. All that flight attendant/captain mess is out the window and you’re raising your voice at me. So I’m talking to you man to man now.” Still ain’t raised my voice but my hands are doing a lot of moving, kinda like they are talking for me. At that moment, I looked at the situation I was in. I am literally standing in the jetway with my back to the wall and I’m surrounded by the crew and both pilots. I told them all “I don’t feel comfortable with how this looks so if you’re not contributing to the discussion (talking to the other two crew members and co-pilot who had not said anything up to that point) please leave because you’re all crowding me”. The captain said “I asked them to come out here”. So I said “fine, then you all need to back away from me and don’t touch me”. They took a couple steps back, I removed myself from the jetway and started setting up for the return flight. One of the flight attendants who hadn’t said anything the whole time approached me with a phone and handed it to me. Now I’m on the phone with someone from management explaining to them that “I’m fine and just ready to go home”. Whenever I get worked up, I just text my wife “calm me down, they at it again”. She’d ask what’s going on and I just vent to avoid blowing up. The captain comes in and says “ok here’s the plan, I’m gonna have the girls work up front and gonna send you to the back with the other guy.” I asked him to repeat himself and after he did I said “I’m not ok with that”. He told me that I really didn’t have a choice because it was his call. I said “cool, let’s go talk to that manager on the phone and see what they say about it”. We get to the phone and the manager asks all of us to huddle around while it’s on speaker phone. Manager asks if we’re all ok making it home and we say yes. Then I point to the captain and say “go ahead and tell him what you told me”. He tells the manager he wants me to work in the back on the way home. The manager asks if I’m ok with that and I said “no, if I’m not working my position I’ll just remove myself off the trip because I’m not comfortable working with the rest of the crew”. We are in Vail, Colorado so I know if I call off, they are screwed because they wouldn’t have a replacement for me and the flight would be canceled. It was a cheap move but it was a power move. Everybody on that crew was against me, I didn’t feel like any of them had my back. So the manager asks the captain “do you want him off of the trip or is he working home?”. As the captain begins talking to me instead of answering the manager I cut him off and said “he gave you two options, you might wanna answer him”. He says “excuse me??”. I said “he gave you two options, pick one because I’ll stay here if I have to”. So he takes the phone and storms off. While he’s gone, the “troublemaker” tries to talk to me again “Nicholas, I wasn’t saying anything to be mean, I just…” Before she could even finish what she was saying I cut her off. I looked at all of em and said “f*ck y’all, y’all ain’t 💩 … I have never been disrespected by an entire crew like this before.. now you wanna play innocent?? .. f*ck you … and don’t talk to me the rest of the trip if it’s not work related”.
It’s easy to look back and say “yea I lost my cool on that one but this was the breaking point. I didn’t even raise my voice. I didn’t shout. I just told them straight up, “F U”. This is when ALLLLL of the bulls*t that I’ve ever taken lashed out. We are so trained to bite our tongue and be the bigger person in these situations to people who don’t deserve it but that day just wasn’t the day for me. At this moment, I’m on 10, I felt that I had been undermined, intimidated, and just flat out disrespected by the entire crew and the result is a verbal lashing of how I felt.
So the Captain comes back and says “ok you’re flying A, let’s get outta here”. By this point we have held up boarding for 20-30 minutes by arguing and missed the window of good weather to get back out of Vail. 30 min delay. The flight goes on and we finally land in Atlanta. The field service manager (FSM) who met us at the plane came right on and spoke to the captain in the front galley. He told us to wait a couple minutes to talk with him afterwards. We finish deplaning and a couple of minutes go by before I go ask him, “excuse me, how much longer will this be?”. Now, this is why I was ready to go. I was officially done with the trip. I was only there to work to Vail and come back. The rest of the crew was working a 3 day trip so they really didn’t have anywhere to go besides the next plane. It’s Friday, “Bad Boys 3” just came out and I told my wife we were gonna have date night. With all of the delays we caught, I only had time to catch one last showing. I went from getting off at like 4 to getting off at 8pm. THAT’S big in my world.
He says “just wait, I’ll be with you”. I say “ok, but I am gravely in need of getting to where I need to be”. He finally comes to us and introduces himself. As he hands out his business card, he says “please send me your statements of today’s events within 24 hours”. As soon as he handed me the card I say “thank you” and start walking off. He shouts “hey, where are you going? I’m not done yet!”. I say “oh my bad, you said you just need a statement sent to you right?”. He says “yea but I’m not finished yet”. I’m on like 7-8. I say “cool, go ahead”. He looks at me and pauses “we’ll talk after this young man”. He then hands the other FAs the card and says “thank you, that’s all”. Now, I’m back on 10. So I say “soooo that WAS all you had to say?!”. He says “come with me” and we walk up the jetway, out the gatehouse, and over to the gate area across the way.
Him: “what’s going on with you?”
Me: “I would love to tell you all about what’s going on… in the email that you asked for me to send you, but at this moment do YOU have anything that needs to be said?”
Him: “I am a manager and I’m asking you to explain yourself”
Me: “I will do that in the email that you asked me to send, I have to go and you’re holding me back so what do YOU have to say?”.
Him: “Hold on young man, I’m not finished”
Me: “Cool, have a good one man.. I’m out”
and so I walked away… Not because I wanted to be disrespectful but because he kept calling me “young man” and it was pissing me off. He knew my name, he had to have heard it countless times when told about what happened AND I was wearing a name badge if he forgot. SO to call me outta name at that point was just plain unprofessional and with him on edge I was bound to cuss at him and get even further in trouble.
(By the way, Bad Boys 3 is really good if you still haven’t seen it)
My manager texts me the day like “I need a statement from you about what happened”. I was working another turn that day so I didn’t have time to gather my thoughts and word what happened. I knew I had messed up by losing my cool regardless of what they did to provoke it. I knew that they would all collaborate and fabricate their story to paint me the villain. I knew that it would be their word against mine. It took me a couple days to finally draft an email of what happened and when I did, I left out part about me cursing them out (you know, just to see what happens 🙂 ). A week or two goes by and I received a text from my manager saying that we needed to set up a meeting with a lead manager & someone from HR. I have the meeting with the group and I explain the story from beginning to end. I expressed that I did lose my cool at one point but that was only because I felt intimidated and bullied. They let me leave and said that they would follow up with the results. A week later, I get another text from my manager saying that we need ANOTHER meeting to “discuss some things”. The day of the second meeting, I was waiting outside of the lead manager’s office and I saw a board in the office across from it that had a list. Written on top of the list was “Pending” and under it was a list of 3 names, one reading “Harris- SUSP/TERM”. For those who don’t know, my last name just happens to be Harris. Now call me paranoid but seeing that list BEFORE the meeting just rubbed me the wrong way. What that tells me is that they’ve read everybody’s statement and the possible outcomes from this investigation was that I would be suspended or terminated. The tone of the second meeting was a lot different. They asked me to tell my story AGAIN only this time while I was telling it, they began asking me leading questions about some details that I left out of my story, mainly the cursing. I told them I didn’t feel it was necessary to include it since I forgot what I said word-for-word so I only said that “I lost my cool”. We get done talking and they asked me to re-write my original statement and to include everything that “was missing”. I asked them, for clarification purposes, “So you want me to re-write my statement to make it look like theirs even though I already said my side of it?”. So I left that meeting, I took my original statement and added at the end of it “I was informed by management to add the following…”
The second meeting took place around Valentine’s Day, almost a month after the incident. In the following month, Co-Vid 19 is starting to spread affecting the airline business. Flight loads are getting low, trips are being cancelled, and all types of confusion is swirling regarding the job. About mid-March, the company offered leave to those employees to willing to help out and stay home while things presumably blow over. Initially, I wanted to take the leave to be able to stay home but financially I didn’t it make sense so I didn’t pay it much attention. This was before the CARE plan went into place. In order to be able to take the leave, the company required us to clear our schedule on our own to become eligible to take it. I was pretty good at clearing my schedule anyways so it wasn’t much of a problem to do that plus this was a prime time to do so since everyone was picking up trips to cover their household needs. So I began to clear my schedule with intent to be able to pick up whatever I wanted. I got down to dropping my last trip for the month of April and TEN MINUTES after it dropped my manager texted me.
He said “we need you to come in sometime next week, we have the results to the investigation and would like to meet with you”. RED FLAG. As hesitant as I was I agreed to meet the next Tuesday, April 7th. I immediately put in to take the leave for the month of April. At the time, it was taking a couple days to process the leave request so I didn’t know what would happen in my last ditch effort to get away. The day before the meeting, my request was processed and I was officially placed on leave. The next day, the day we were supposed to meet and discuss “the results”, my manager texted me that he noticed I took the leave and we would have to wait until I came back in May to meet. The company was offering a variety of leave packages at that time: 1 month, 3 months, 9 months, and 12 months. So me knowing EVERYTHING I know at that point about what could possibly be the outcome of this whole situation, I re-entered a request to take a 12 month leave. If they wanted to fire me, they’d have to wait til next year to do it. As long as I was on leave and protected from termination, I would be able to keep my flight benefits along with my family. The money didn’t matter at that point, I would find another job and make it work but I wasn’t gonna leave it in their hands and let me go over this mess. So then I’m granted the 12 month leave and ultimately able to live worry-free about any write-ups or whatever. I’m “safe” for a year and get to figure it all out at home even if that meant coming back to the results a year later and being let go. Either way, I knew that the last trip I worked the first week of April would be my last trip that I’d work for the company.
The Silver Lining
About a month or two into my 12 month leave, the company offered us a severance package. In this package, they offered a slew of benefits as well as a lump sum payment to leave the company in efforts to curb the financial damage. You mean you’re gonna PAY me to leave when I was on the brink of potentially getting fired?? This was a no-brainer for me as soon as I heard it so I had to “take the money and run”. I could’ve let my 12 month leave play out and come back to no investigation results due to the time that passed. I could have let my 12 month leave play out and come back to another write up resulting in a minor suspension. I also could’ve guessed the lottery numbers in 2007 and avoided all of this. Truth is, there’s no telling what happens if I stay and I couldn’t afford to gamble and find out. This was my best case scenario. The timing of everything had been almost perfect up to that point and it wasn’t gonna get any better than this. I was REALLY REALLY ready to leave the job months and months ago but if I did indeed walk away I would have done so empty handed. No flight benefits for the next 10 years, no payment, nothing. So there it is, officially the end of the end of my days with the company.
The Departure Report
What you just read was MY experience as a flight attendant. This is simply what I went through in MY time. Of course, everything with the job is not negative. It’s too easy to talk about fabulous adventures on trips and exciting places around the world but there’s more to it than that. This is the real behind the smile. This is the real behind customer service. This doesn’t reflect how it is for everybody who works there but I’m sure if you ask around, you’ll hear some similarities. Just be aware that when you ask, you may hear the naked truth or you may only hear what they can tell you without fear of “getting in trouble” or “stirring the pot”. I have been guilty of doing this myself. People would ask me all the time “Damn, it must be nice going all those places, how is it working there?” I would only give them the surface answer “It’s cool but has its days just like any other job”. This thinking isn’t only tied to being a flight attendant, this can be anybody working any job. I’m sure you’ve heard somebody say “I hate my job” but they can’t leave because of the comfort that it may provide financially. No matter how much they despise driving to that job everyday, dealing with people they can’t stand and doing something that doesn’t truly feed their spirit, they simply won’t leave because the “check is good”. It’s a scary feeling to leave that comfort zone and find what awaits you on the other side. But as I see it now, there’s no place I’d rather be than where I am right now. A fresh start. I love everything about what I went through and what it taught me about myself. I believe in “reasons and seasons” and this season is over. It’s time to move on and be who I need to be for my family and the world around me. Every trip, every experience was all a lesson that I’ll take with me wherever the wind blows. To the company, to my friends, and to all that supported me over the past 10 years…. Thanks for everything.
Nicholas A. Harris