The Stickler

Not so long ago, I was flying from Atlanta to Killeen, TX. Upon boarding the small jet plane, I noticed something different about the flight attendant. She was around 50 years old, standing just inside the doorway of the plane, and not letting anyone board until she verified each boarding pass. Once she approved the boarding pass, she would thrust a 6 oz bottle of water toward you, as if to say, without saying a word, “Take this, you must drink it, do not ask any questions.”

Once seated, I watched as the other passengers entered the plane. All having their tickets verified and a 6 oz bottle of water thrust upon them. No one, not a single person, turned down the water. It was like a FAA regulation that everyone must have a 6 oz bottle of water before the plane can leave the terminal.

Once the passengers were seated and just before the plane door was closed, she began going through some of the standard things that all flight attendants are required to do. But, her standard information was different. She used her own words and interpretation, plus her tone of voice was what really got your attention; a cross between a burned out junior high school teacher and a Marine drill sergeant. It was one of those tones like, “you’d better listen to me and don’t you dare question anything I have to say. I’m in charge, and don’t you forget it.”

She started out with a mean sounding question, “Okay, where do you want to go to today? Want to go to Hawaii? Somewhere tropical and warm? How about the Caribbean? Well if you do, you’re on the wrong plane. We’re going to Killeen, Texas. So, if you’re not supposed to go to Killeen, get off my plane…..NOW! I like to keep things lively on my flights. I like a good laugh as well as anyone. But, there’s one thing you need to know. I’m a stickler about my safety regulations. You know it has been medically proven that laughter can reduce stress, lower blood pressure, and extend your life. So, you might as well burst into laughter for the next five minutes ‘cause I’m about to shut the door and you’re going to be stuck on this plane with me for the next two hours. So, everyone laugh, now!” No one made a sound. We were all shaking in our seats, wondering, “Why is this woman acting this way, and what else is going to come out of her mouth?”

Then she started again, “According to FAA regulations, all your personal items, must be stored in the overhead compartment or under the seat in front of you. The items on the floor must be totally under the seat in front of you. They cannot be sticking out of the rear or to the sides. They must be completely under the seat.” Now, I could not see everyone’s personal items, but I could see about half the heads on the plane go down out of sight and I could hear plastic bags being poked, rammed, and forced under the seats. I was pretty sure someone still had something sticking out in the aisle just a little. Because again, she said, “FAA regulations require that all items under the seat in front of you, not be sticking out to the side. This is FYI.” More heads went down and bags rustled. “I repeat, FAA regulations require that all personal items be stored in the overhead compartment or under the seat in front of you. Not sticking out to the left, or right, or to the rear of the seat, but totally under the seat. This is FYI.” This time even more heads went down and the rustling of plastic bags got even louder. And again she said, “Federal Flight Administration regulations require that personal items be totally under the seat in front of you. Not sticking out on the sides.” This time each and every head (including mine) went down out of sight, and not only could you hear the rustling sound of plastic bags, you could hear the grunts, groans, and sound of low muttered curse words. Well that time, the item that was sticking out must have been found and poked back under the seat, because she moved on to her next bit of business.

Before the plane left the terminal, she must have made 6 or 7 trips up and down the aisle, checking for FAA violators. Kind of like a jailhouse warden, looking in each cell for anything suspicious before turning the lights out. She would take one step at a time and do a visual check of each row. Several passengers on the right side of the plane had lowered their window shades to keep the bright morning sunlight from shining in their eyes. “No windows shades are allowed to go down as long as my plane is on the ground”, she proudly explained. I couldn’t tell what was going on at the midway exit row. All I know is she was switching and swapping people around like a life size human chess game. Finally, she got that squared away.

Then, quickly back to the front of the plane, she turned sharply and began the standard flight attendant safety speech. There was the normal low volume passenger chatter and shuffling going on within the plane. About two sentences into her spill, she stopped, paused, and said in a louder tone, “May I have your attention?” She started her spill again. Then she stopped, and with an even louder voice she said, “May I have your attention?” She paused and waited a good 20 seconds until every eye and head was turned to her direction, and the plane was as silent as a funeral home at midnight. Then, in a very low and slow voice she began her safety speech. At the seat belt part, she said, “I will now demonstrate the proper way to buckle and unbuckle your seat belt.” Several people on the plane turned their head away. Again, she stopped and with a tone of voice like God’s coming from dark moving clouds you heard, MAY I HAVE YOUR ATTENTION!”

Well, we finally lived through that and we’re now in the air. She starts going up and down the aisle again, one row at a time, making an individual visual check of each and everyone’s seat belt. If anyone’s blouse, shirt tale, or coat was covering their seat belt, she would stop and ask, “Do you have your seat belt buckled?” A simple yes was not enough. “Let me see”, she would demand. At which time the passenger would move whatever was blocking her view.

Surprisingly, refreshment time was almost normal. Except for the fact that she was complaining the entire time that no one was asking for coffee. She would say, “If I had not gone to the trouble of making coffee, everybody and his brother would want it. I’ve made a pot of fresh coffee and no one wants coffee.” She repeated her statement for each row as if no one had heard her coming up the aisle.

As soon as she had parked her refreshment cart, she grabbed her plastic bag and began collecting trash. Most all passengers were still drinking their drink and eating their peanuts. Normal flight attendants would have waited several minutes before starting trash duty, not Miss Stickler. Much like the Energizer Bunny, she marched up and down, again and again, until every piece of trash was collected in her plastic bag. If someone was close to finishing their drink, she would stand beside their row until they took their last drink and then thrust her open plastic trash bag toward them to collect the cup.

After trash duty, passengers were ready for a nice quiet plane ride. Not Miss Stickler. She was walking up and down the aisle for the rest of the fight, still visually checking the seat belts of anyone that had just returned from the lavatory. She was instructing people on how to adjust their air flow nozzles. If someone was napping, she would reach across and put their window shade down. If someone was reading, she would switch on their reading light. This woman was either on drugs or needed to be.

As the plane approached the Killeen airport, she jumped into high gear. Up and down the aisle, again and again, making sure seats were in the upright position, seat belts buckled, table trays returned upright, and she was back on personal items must be completely under the seat in front of you, put those window shades up & we’re about to land. Then, she gets her plastic trash bag out again. She took away water bottles, newspapers, magazines, candy wrappers, and whatever else that wasn’t under the seat in front of them.

Finally, we landed in Killeen, Texas, and I’ve never seen people leave a plane as fast as those people did. They couldn’t get away from her fast enough. It was like kids leaving school at three o’clock on a Friday.

It was passed 1:00am before I got to bed that night and then up again at 4:00 am to drive to the airport for my return flight.  After going through airport security I was thinking how nice it was going to be to catch a 2 hour nap on the flight to Atlanta.  Soon, boarding started and my zone number was called. The lady scanned my boarding pass and I quickly walked down the boarding bridge.  As I got closer to the plane, I could see her, there she was. I couldn’t believe it. It couldn’t be. No, no, please no.  Yes, Miss Stickler for Safety. There she was, same outfit, same hairstyle, same evil tone of voice. It was like I was in the Twilight Zone. It was all starting again. Rerunning over and over in my head. First verifying my ticket and thrusting a 6 oz bottle of water at me. I go to my seat and kind of doze off as Miss Stickler is verifying each passenger’s ticket. In a few moments I’m awakened by her voice over the loud speaker,  “Okay, were do you want to go to today? Want to go to Hawaii? Somewhere tropical and warm, how about the Caribbean? Well, if you do, you’re on the wrong plane. We’re going to Atlanta. So, if you’re not suppose to go to Atlanta, get off my plane….Now.  I like to keep things lively on my flights. I like a good laugh as well as anyone. But, there’s one thing you need to know. I’m a stickler about my safety regulations ……….. WELCOME, YOU ARE ENTERING ANOTHER DIMENSION ….. YOU ARE ENTERING THE TWILIGHT ZONE ….

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