Seven in the morning is a little earlier than I like to start my day. I'm not much of an early person so, I'm not all that talkative at that hour. Even the nicest person can approach me to chat and I tend to tune them out and zone in on my own little cocoon. So when the young man came up behind us at the gate and started to chat, I let my flying partner take over and I turned my attention to the gate door, willing it to open with some sort of mind powers I wished I possessed. I could then just get up and walk onto the plane and await the boarding time in peace and quiet before I start pretending to be nice for the day.
When the boarding did start, the first man down the aisle was a large one and I knew right away he'd need a seat belt extension to get properly buckled up. He was very friendly and started chatting with me. He was on his way to North Carolina for vacation, and the way he spoke about it made it sound as if maybe he hadn't had vacation in quite some time. I was too tired to think to ask and just kept up the friendly demeanor, which helped bring me into more of a humane attitude.
The second man to board was a very old man who was brought down the aisle in an aisle chair. He had a very difficult time standing up to transfer into his seat. For some reason, his assigned seat was at the window. Knowing the flight had about 30 open seats, I suggested to the assistants that we just let him take the aisle and if it were anyone's seat, we'd just relocate them to make it easier on everyone. I would be in the aisle during the boarding process and would keep an eye on him.
After I got the aisle chair passenger settled in and went over a few safety details with him, I looked up and saw the young man who had attempted to converse with a very tired, somewhat grumpy flight attendant (me) a few minutes prior. He smiled wide at me and seemed to admire my uniform as I rose, taking in my stripes and tie. I smiled back and said, “Oh, it's you, again, good morning.” His name was Patrick and he is the passenger of the day.
I moved back to allow him to access his seat; 23A. Rather than go right into his seat, he stood and started up a conversation. He was on his way to Kuwait to rejoin his company. He had been allowed home to be present for the birth of his daughter. He was thin and tall with blue eyes and sandy blond hair, cut short- military style. He was easy on the eyes, in military shape and very talkative. What impressed me was his outward personality, his manners and the fact that he was nicely dressed. Obviously, he was much more of a morning person than I, but his engagement energized me, so I continued to get to know him.
He looked so young, so I asked his age and was sort of shocked when he said 23. I replied that I wouldn't have guessed older than 19. He smiled bashfully and admitted that his baby face gets him carded a lot. He continued; his wife lost her mother 5 days before the birth of their daughter. His lieutenant had found out and decided not to tell Patrick. But when the base commander caught wind, he not only informed Patrick, but sent him home so his wife wouldn't have to deal with the birth while grieving for her mother- and the week before Mother's Day, no less.
Patrick was very interested in talking to me about flying and my job. He mentioned that he thought it would be fun to be an air marshal. I thought it over for a second and gave him my opinion: air marshals are usually quite dry. They blend in well with passengers, keep quiet, watch a lot of movies and play a lot of games. They don't chat people up much, because they don't tell people much about themselves, such as why they are flying, or what they do for a living. They can't nap and they certainly can't occupy the time of the flight crew. With his demeanor, I told him he'd make a much better flight attendant! The rest of the crew agreed.
He professed that he thought that would be great, and that on a previous flight he had earned a pair of wings when assisting the flight crew by helping pick up trash from passengers. I told him to give it thought, he had 5 months left on his current tour, and hoped to re-enlist to keep up the great military benefits.
Later, in flight, he brought out his lap top and started showing photos of his girl. He started showing the purser, and then I came up and took a look. Next thing I know, passengers all around were asking to see and he was holding it up high for the large man with the seat belt extension to see. It was the sweetest little baby girl with a ribbon and bow on her head. The mother looked all of 18, but he said she was 23, as well.
Patrick was a sweet young man with a bright future. He was educated well enough to have a very enlightened conversation with many people. He helped numerous passenger place bags in the overhead bins and wasn't the least bit shy. When the purser made his landing announcements, he finished by announcing the birth of Patrick's girl and that he was returning to Kuwait to serve his country, something that really meant a lot to him, as evidenced by his comment, “No, I need to get back to my unit,” when I said that it was a shame he couldn't stay longer with his wife.
It's nice to see such patriotism and dedication, such manners and poise, from a young man such as Patrick. He made an impression on the people around him, and the crew. We landed at Dulles Airport in DC where he had a 7 hour sit before his next flight. We shook hands and I thanked him before he disappeared. The crew went to our next flight and boarded the plane. Even though we didn't need his help to collect trash, we all agreed...we missed Patrick!