As much as I hate to admit it, making mistakes in the early days as a flight attendant are inevitable. In my ideal world, I would micromanage all the details and get everything right so I never have to feel that gut-wrenching terror of messing something up and the worst case scenario ensuing.
Pretty much anything bad that can happen is magnified 5x in my head before it even happens. This can be both bad and good. It’s good because when so many scenarios are occurring to me as I plan for a trip, I tend to over-accommodate and am prepared for a number of things most new hires may not consider. Thus, when crap hits the fan, I am prepared with my extra shirts, list of flight numbers and backup alarm clock.
However, this can be bad when things go wrong and I nearly kill myself with anxiety. For example, a few days ago when I had 5:30 AM OPR (on premises reserve). The day was destined to have some tense moments from the start. First off, I calculated my wake up time wrong. I had to be there at 5:30, which means I should leave an hour beforehand from my apartment. Having that extra cushion of time between the moment I get in my car to the moment I get to the employee parking lot ensures I’m not pressed for time when I’m waiting on the airport shuttle, getting through my security checkpoint or walking to the crew room. I can have peace of mind in the logistical realm. However, for some silly reason I set my alarm clock for 4:30, rather than 3:30, and I woke up at the time when I wanted to be out the door.
I had the realization of my late start dawn on me when I was lathering up in the shower. Expletives ensued, followed by the quickest shower, accoutrements and dressing ever performed by human hands. I got out the door by 4:50 and zoomed to the airport, thanking the stars that there was nobody else on the highway. 10 minutes later I was at the parking lot, and I ran to the bus stop. What was actually probably about 5 minutes felt like 50, and when the driver pulled up I was a nervous wreck constantly looking at my watch and cursing my luck.
I got the airport around 5:15, and walked with purpose towards the checkpoint. It was about that time I realized I had left my badge at home. The badge that would get me through the checkpoint, and the badge that without I would not be able to go on a trip should I be paged from the crew room. My heart completely stopped and a lump welled up in my throat.
What could I do? There wasn’t enough time to go home, even though I’d gotten to the airport with some time to spare. Should I just try to go through the normal people security and hope I didn’t get a trip so I wouldn’t need my badge? No, that would be an absurd game of chance.
I had to call scheduling and tell them I needed to go get it. Which meant I’d be late. As a new hire with 6 months of probation to go, I wasn’t sure if this meant I’d get a mark against me. I was desperately determined not to give my supervisors any reason to doubt my impeccable responsibility and punctuality. But what else could I do?
I called scheduling with pulse racing, imagining getting fired for forgetting my badge. I imagined telling my friends and family that I had gotten sacked in the first month of duty for a stupid, stupid mistake. I’ve worn my badge ten million times, how could I forget it?
Scheduling answered, and I told them my woeful story. Their answer was surprising.
“Oh, you forgot it? Well go back home and get it and then call us when you’re back at the airport. We’ll check you in at 6:30 instead of 5:30.”
That was it? Jumping Jehosephat!
A giant stress balloon deflated above my diaphragm and I finally relaxed, feeling a little silly. When I told my story to some older flight attendants later that day, they let me know that the company had invested so much time and money in me that they wouldn’t fire me unless I did something really really extra stupid. Like not show up for a trip. Or an accidental door slide deployment.
Lesson learned: crap happens. Try to prevent it as much as possible, but the people who work in scheduling are human and will work with you if something goes awry.