I am amazed every day how fast time passes. Why it seems like only yesterday I was jumping into my size 4 designer jeans and meeting up with friends for an evening of fun and frolic that lingered into the wee hours where you would stumble home just in time to change your shoes to start another days work . Maybe spritz a little body spray over the missed areas from your ten second shower, then shake your locks into a full upright position and grab anything from the fridge that didn’t contain mold and dangle it between your teeth as you start up the cold car to head out to your 10 hour day of public service.
Amazing how one could disguise the afore nights festivities with a little make up and a breath mint, but then, who would notice if you forgo the morning shower when your career peeks at 35,000 feet staged with Bloody Mary requests, screaming babies, and smoking beyond rows 24. Not one passenger would suspect that you had been out the night before enjoying Carribean Mai Tai’s and escargot stuffed in mushrooms caps until 2 a.m. Not a one. Nor would they notice the pounding a head takes from dehydration, jet engines, and lack of oxygen. OXYGEN. Small green tanks located behind designated rows of seats that are inspected and rendered full before each flight takes off for their destination. Rendered Full….unless the crew that occupied the plane before you happened to be out the night before their flight. Or, on a rare occasion, some passenger required a portion of that bottled gas for a minor complaint, like anxiety, or maybe a few heart palpitations, or in one case, a woman experiencing early contractions right after take off, with nothing but two hours of ocean waters ahead.
I will tell you this, there is nothing more frustrating as you try to convince a non- English speaking pregnant passenger: “That everything will be just fine”, while racing through the cabin pulling pins on secured O2 canisters and finding them all empty. Nothing. Particularly since I had reserved one for myself. Nothing cures a hangover like a little fresh air….
It was at that moment I had decided to attempt some Spanish that I picked up on while based in San Juan, Puerto Rico. I sat with the pregnant passenger and held her attention with the art of my inept broken language. She seem to calm down as her Braxton Hicks attempted to quiet themselves. The quizzical look that spread across her face as I proceeded with my quasi Espanol repertoire, may have been a hefty contributor to her new found demeanor. As It was later explained to me by a bilingual passenger, that I was telling her to; ” stow her belly under the seat” and ” the aircraft is safe with her Bambino in the overhead compartment”.
It wasn’t my fault I lacked proficiency in that language. I was 19 and a half and had four years of an accredited language to my credentials. German. It was very difficult trying to utilize my German speaking talent on a plane full of Puerto Rican’s flying into Miami, however, I did happen across a situation where my Bravarian skills came in handy. There was an unattended child on the aircraft flying from the Islands to New York and he only spoke German. The head Flight Attendant asked if any crew member was fluent in the little Liebchen’s language, so naturally I jumped at the chance to show off the “A+” I received from my high school German teacher; Freuline Heidleberg. I gave her that title based on all her anecdotal stories about the local Hofrbrauhaus’ she encountered while traveling abroad. Not to mention her breath wreaked of Brew-ha-ha during class time.
The Deutschland child was all of eight years of age and traveling alone to meet his parents at his destination. The Senior Stew mentioned to me that he seemed distressed while seated in his First class seat awaiting take off. As I sat next to him I started the conversation with my learned textbook from grade 10; ” Auf Deutsch!”. I began with what I could recall from lesson one: “Hello, my name is Ludwiga, what is your name, and , have you seen my black dog”. Forgetting that Ludwiga was the German name assigned to me throughout the entire four years of High School. Every other female student received cute frilly names like, Anja, Brigitte, or Gretchen. I hated that Ludwiga name and Freuline Heidleberg knew it. I stuffed numerous requisitions for a name change in Freuline Heidleberg’s suggestion box, but my requests were continually denied. She didn’t like me much, It might have had to do with the time I interrupted one of her European Beer adventure stories with a giant belch.
I shortened the name Ludwiga and scrolled ” LuLu” in black felt pen onto my name tag taped to my table top situated in the front row facing Heidleberg’s desk. I think I won this one as the following class day, Ms. Brew-ha-ha herself gleefully slipped me a note with a newly assigned Name: BRUNHILDE.
It was later I learned that Brunhilde in German meant, Ready For Battle. It was then decided I would notoriously autographed all my homework with my new moniker: ” xoxo HILDY”.
After ten minutes of trying to correct the German child seated in 2A that my name was not Ludwiga, I managed to get a handle on his agitated state. From what I could manage to decipher in my broken translation, the boy was “looking for a Lost Man”. I inquired about this Lost Man. The German child proceeded to rattle off descriptions faster than the speed of this plane. I filtered out the tough jargon that flew past me due to the the one day I decide to skip Freuline Heidlberg’s class that covered the gigantic terms, and stayed focused on the familiar basics that was covered in Lesson two. The words I gathered out of this eight year old Bravarian’s dialect were: “Man, Hat, , Airplane, Lost, Seat , flew, and Captain”. These were the words I elected to translate after we took off.
I still did not fully comprehend what this little German Strudel was trying to convey to me. The child was frantic and was trying to pull up his seat cushion and arm rests, and pull on his tray table, as he spewed words from the Third Reich. He kept shouting the word Captain over and over. I told him I would “find the Captain”, and to remain seated with his seat belt fastened, all in broken German. After the plane leveled I tapped the secret Crew knock on the cockpit door. I entered a bit frazzled and told the captain about the German boy in seat 2A who described a lost man in a uniform that is a captain and how it could be serious as this could be a relative of the child’s who missed the flight. That we may have to turn the plane around as this child is presumed an unattended flyer. The captain question my language ability with the boy and “did I get the story right?”. I reassured him I had, and touted my four years of accomplished skills and getting an A+. The flight Captain and first officer looked at me, then at each other as if they were deciding to flip a coin to see who would leave their seat which encompassed a freshly brewed cup of hot coffee. The First Officer lost the toss.
We walked out to our unattended Munchkin sitting calmly in his seat playing with two action figures on his tray table. I spoke to the German Lad and mentioned I have the First Officer and we need to know how serious this Lost Man situation is, because the Captain will have to turn the plane around and that is very costly. The German Urchin looked up from the two toys clenched in his fists shaped like the Hindenburg and announced proudly in his native tongue ; “that he found the Lost Man”.
The First Officer looked at me as I turned as green as the little army action figure that he was waving in front of my face. A Captain America Action figure wearing a hat that Flew out of his makeshift Hand airplane and fell into the crevice only to get Lost into the Seat cushions of Row 2A & B. I’m sure this went down well in the Captain’s Log.
They say being up in the skies constantly can have an effect on your oxygen levels. Might cause a slight impairment resulting in some conversations getting lost in translation. Might make one think that after taking some high school language classes they are adept in handling peace talks within the United Nations. Might make one think twice before volunteering their hyperbolic language skills so freely. Might want to cap that talent. Might want to keep their mouth shut and just serve coffee……
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