Stuffed Shirt Steps Up

Like many flight attendants, I have a tendency to lump airplane passengers into one of three distinct categories: The Frequent Flyers, The Hot Guys, and the mass of faceless walking F.A.R. violations we’ll call Everybody Else.  Very occasionally these will overlap, as in the case of the rare and exotic Hot Frequent Flyer Guy, and sometimes they will collide, such as the time that a Frequent Flyer made a crack to me about the low-riding basketball shorts on a spectacularly round-rumped Hot Guy and I shrugged and told him, “I’d hit that,” but for the most part, the passengers in each category settle onto the airplane with varying degrees of overhead bin drama and hew to a time-honored code of Expected Behavior.

I have a definite love/hate relationship with the Frequent Flyer.  On the one hand, they know the drill and bring few surprises.  They know where their suitcase fits and where it doesn’t, they often hang their own coats, and most of them understand Airplane Sign Language — I can raise an eyebrow at their phone and have it turned off, and when I jerk my chin at their empty wine glass, they hold their hand to where I should fill it or, if they have finished, they hand it back to me.  On the whole, the Frequent Flyer is a flight attendant’s favorite kind of passenger: Easy.

But I’m not gonna lie: it is also the Frequent Flyer that usually sets my eyes to rolling.  I have a tendency to look out into the First Class cabin and see Chicago in Winter: a blustery snow storm of white male windbags jockeying to assert their status and get the recognition they’ve got coming to them by hook or by crook; guys who can barely condescend to mutter their drink order, refuse to remove their headphones but become irate when they can’t hear you, and complain about the meal offerings for sport.  (One guy told me he wished he’d known that I was going to run out of the chicken entree selection before he’d gotten on the airplane, and I asked him why.  “Were you going to go up and down the terminal looking for a chicken breast to bring with you?”  He wanted badly to be affronted by my cheek, but eventually laughed and conceded that the pasta would be fine.)  It is easy for me, if I give my attitude free reign, to write off the Frequent Flyers as a surly bunch of social-climbing fusspots and to treat them, as a result, with a certain degree of professionally questionable disdain. Continue reading