I saw Taylor Hicks, the American Idol the other day, and had to dodge his entourage. I also heard Mike Tyson was in the area I was working, though I personally didn't see him, and I walked right past Flavor-Flav, the rapper over these past weeks. He was cleverly disguised, but I knew it was him. I also heard tales of Keanu Reeves running smack into one of my colleagues and Tommy Lee stumbling off a plane looking for the nearest bar so he could light up! I've met a few cute pilots, but I'm not quite there yet, so I'm fairly casual and aloof when they try and flirt with me. I also met the only other Bonnie in the world! Okay, well Bonnie C. and Bonnie S. here on Gather know that's not so, but the Bonnie I work with thinks we are the only ones who exist, at least the only Bonnies who work for our airline.
And guess who I worked with the other day? Seriously, this is no joke -- a colleague named Clyde!! I had so much fun announcing our flights that day. "In just a few minutes we'll be boarding folks so here's a few reminders about what you can carry on to the plane ... And on behalf of myself, Bonnie, and my partner, Clyde -- yes I did say 'Bonnie and Clyde' -- we thank you for flying with us today!"
It's been so much fun working at the airport. I savor the days when I'm running back and forth from gate to gate. Today I think I walked the equivalent of five miles. I'm tempted to get one of those pedometers that measures walking distance just to see how many miles I clock in a day. And it's great to feel the pounds, accumulated after months of sitting in front of the computer, just melting away. But the best part is being fit. I've always been a fast walker, but now I challenge myself to walk fast without stopping. I love how I'm truly able to walk long distances or run up a jetway and not feel winded or tired any longer.
Not every day is easy, physically or mentally. Yet, I feel like each one is a treasure filled with new people and new experiences. No two are the same - people or days. Walking through one concourse, I smell liquor and hear rock music blaring, and hear laughter spilling out into the hallway of rushing people. In another, the smell of burritos and pizza waft over me as I watch the eyes transfixed on a big game. And still another is filled with the warm aroma of fresh coffee and muffins, as the Starbucks crowd focuses intently on their newspaper or the latest from CNN. Everyone coming from some place, going somewhere. Some in a hurry, some at a relaxed pace. Some, filled with joyous hearts for a long-awaited vacation, a graduation or a glorious honeymoon. Others, rushing to get home, to make it on time to a business meeting or an exciting new job opportunity. And still others in grief and despair head to funerals, to comfort loved ones, or to see a new doctor with great hope and anticipation.
And each day I'm paired with a different face, or an old face I've met before. Some faces are easy to work with and some require a little patience. Just as the passengers who show up at my gate. Some are experienced travelers who see my name tag and say, "Thank you Bonnie"! While others grumble even as I try my best to get them safely and comfortably to their final destination. I never take it personally, I do my best and always try and remember to smile. The disabled I used to look away from, I now spot immediately as they approach my boarding area. And I greet them with respect and dignity as I inquire how I can best assist them. A part of the job I once dreaded is now one I embrace, as I help the physically challenged move from wheelchair to aisle chair, or give them my arm to lean on as they step aboard the aircraft.
Most of my life I've been a pretty serious person, always taking everything to heart, always trying to reach that elusive place called "perfection". Often being coaxed to, "Smile Bonnie, you have a beautiful smile!" And I still forget sometimes, as I hurry from one place to the next ... to take care of one thing or another. But I smile a lot more these days, and I remind myself more often than I ever have before, to give light in order to receive it. And I seem to be receiving it more and more.
Gazing into the faces that approach me, it's so natural now to say, "Enjoy your flight!" or "Welcome aboard!" To stop and coo at the babies, and tease the bigger kids as they go off to Disney World, "Don't forget to tell Mickey I said hi, okay?" And they look back at me, wide-eyed as they assure me they will do just that. (I often wonder how many times Mickey gets told hi from the airport lady!). In fact, that's one reason I really love doing the Orlando flights. As I take their ticket I always joke, "Flight 526 to Disney World today?" And the kids nod with enthusiasm, as the next passenger in business attire tells me, "No, just to a business meeting", and the older couple behind them follows, "No, just going home today".
Okay, so the pay sucks! But the benefits are great and the people I work with and see and talk to each day make it all worthwhile -- even the difficult ones. And after years of being in management, there's something wonderful about just coming in and doing the best job I can, and then being able to go home and not having to think about work. I've even been approached to apply for a management position, and I'll admit it's tempting. But there is actually a lot more power in the job I'm doing now. Not because I have the final say on who and when people can step onto an airplane, or what they can take with them, where they will sit, or with whom -- but because with one smile I have the power to make someone's day. And with one pause, I can decide to help someone, or to send them away ... and helping is so very empowering.