My flight today from Portland to Los Angeles (first leg of the trip to DC) didn't begin well. I left late for the airport, arrived stressed out, stood in a long security line, and had a seat at the back of a very crowded aircraft. But from the moment I reached my seat till the end of the flight, I was privileged to watch a consummate professional do his job with grace and humor.
The lead flight attendant, John, greeted everyone, made jokes, and got the flight started on a positive note. His announcements were hilarious, so people actually paid attention. People even reviewed the safety information card when he told them to, and that never happens (though it might have been because John told us the crew had taped a $100 bill to one of the cards). But he really demonstrated his skill when, shortly after takeoff, we had our first and only in-flight drama.
A little girl, about 9 or 10 years old, got stuck in the restroom when she couldn't figure out how to unlock the door. She was screaming and pounding on the door, while another passenger tried to explain how to operate the latch. Both the girl and the passenger were getting more hysterical by the minute, when John showed up and took control of the situation. He found a female flight attendant to get the girl out of the bathroom. But then, instead of just returning the still-hysterical child to her seat, John hired her as his assistant for the beverage service. He taught her how to greet each passenger, hand out the microscopic bags of pretzels, take drink orders, and serve drinks. She was hesitant and shy at first, but by the end of the beverage service, she was a confident pro. At the end of the flight, John thanked her over the PA, and we passengers gave her a big round of applause.
So what makes John's actions so special? He turned that little girl's experience around! Instead of associating the flight with a frightening experience (and maybe suffering from claustrophobia for awhile afterward), she will remember the morning she got to be an assistant flight attendant. It would have been easier for John to just do his job. The beverage service would have gone faster, and he wouldn't have had to spend extra time and energy teaching a young child how to serve drinks to airline passengers. But he chose to go above and beyond to make a little girl's day. Color me impressed.