By SEAN DIETRICH
A crowded plane. I had an aisle seat. The guy beside me was snorting. I say “snorting” because he was actually making swine-like sounds as he slept.
I am a frequent flyer; I’ve heard lots of snoring. But it had been a long time since I heard anyone snort. Not since I was in first grade and our class reenacted the Holy Nativity. Benny Hodges and I played the roles of pigs that were present at Christ’s birth. Our only line was “OINK!”
The poor flight attendants. They were the ones who had to wake this snorting guy and tell him he was disturbing passengers. The attendants also had to deal with the man’s horrible attitude. He nearly bit their heads off.
“DON’T TELL ME NOT TO SNORE, DANGIT!” he shouted. “THERE’S NO LAW AGAINST SNORING, DANGIT!”
Only he didn’t say “dangit.” He waved his hands. He insulted them. And the attendants took the abuse like champs.
Meanwhile, two women behind me were having a conversation in voices so loud that people in First Class were forced to interrupt their deep-tissue massages.
“You remember my friend Anne?” said the first woman.
“Yes,” said the other. “What about her?”
“She has a new dog.”
“Really? What kind?”
“I don’t know, but he keeps peeing inside.”
“Yep. It’s an expensive dog, but he pees.”
“Dogs pee so much.”
“I know, what’s up with all that peeing?”
“Peeing is gross.”
“I hate pee.”
“Me too. I wish we didn’t have to pee.”
“I don’t know, peeing can be kinda relaxing sometimes.”
Once again, it was the flight attendants who had to tell these women to lower their voices. One of the loud-talking women was not happy about the rebuke. She tore the flight attendant a new one.
And then there was the beverage service.
Beverage service is the part of every flight that’s both exciting and dreadful.
Exciting, because for passengers this is the moment when you get Lotus Biscoff cookies. Dreadful, because many passengers are so obsessive about their beverage orders that it’s hard not to puke.
You can just tell these picky passengers are the same kinds of people who purchase those plastic toothpaste squeezers to save money.
“Miss,” said a passenger across the aisle. “I’d like a Pepsi, but I want limes in it. TWO limes.”
“I’m sorry, sir,” said the attendant, “but we only have Coke. And we don’t have limes.”
The man sighed so hard you could feel the cabin pressure change. “But I don’t WANT Coke. I want PEPSI with LIMES.”
The attendant just smiled and repeated herself sweetly.
The guy crossed his arms like a petulant teenager. He said, “Never mind. I don’t want ANYTHING.”
“No pretzels or almonds?”
The man pouted.
The attendant, once again, smiled. But not with her heart.
And this is just some of the abuse I saw these professional men and women endure on one flight. I haven’t even mentioned the passengers I’ve seen who often try to cram bags the size of mature Buicks into the overhead bins.
I haven’t mentioned the people who always try to sit in someone else’s seat, even though their tickets are for other seats.
I’m not mentioning the people who bring toddlers onto planes and let them watch movies on iPads at volumes loud enough to affect the climate.
I once had an aunt who was a flight attendant. She told me people in her field put up with incredible mistreatment.
“We are highly trained,” my aunt said. “We’re there to keep passengers safe. That’s our main job, but we suffer for it.”
My aunt was putting it mildly. And yet the airline attendants who are so maltreated are there to save your life, should you need it.
There have been scores of examples. There was 40-year-old Lee Yoon Hye, who carried injured passengers, one by one, on her back, out of a wrecked plane.
There was 33-year-old Karen Cornelius, who saved a man from a heart attack aboard her flight.
There was Neerja Bhanot, a flight attendant who was shot to death while shielding three children from a hijacker.
Flight attendants are expected to perform heroics all the time. They have undergone tons of training, they have learned how to fight the fire, how to conduct an ECG, how to handle medical emergencies and how to evacuate a plane.
They are not merely waitresses and waiters there to serve your coffee. They are nurses, police officers, firefighters, psychologists and bodyguards, all in one person. And they deserve a little respect.