Often, when I'm tired, I get a bit loopy. I'd been up before 6:00am for 4 days in a row and this was a long day, starting in Houston, flying to Phoenix for a 2-hour sit, then to Denver for nearly 3 hours before flying back to Houston; not my favorite kind of day. Three legs in a day is rough with 3 boardings (for which we are not paid), 3 galleys to set up on 3 different planes, long sits between flights (for which we are not paid), and 3 times taxiing out for takeoff on the jump seat trying not to nod off. It was a long 13 hour day for which I was only paid for 7. It's a damned good thing I love my job!
One of the ways I combat such a day as this is to allow myself the chance to be a bit silly. I flirt a little with the ladies when doing the exit row verifications by asking if they are over 15, and asking the men if they are intoxicated...yet. When asking if they are willing and able to assist with the emergency exits I end by asking that they not 'practice', which always gets a few chuckles. I chat up the children, asking if they are out of school, where they are traveling to, and if they've flown before. I enjoy conversing with passengers, making them feel welcome and comfortable and trying be humorous when I can.
At one point in the day, and I don't remember which flight this was, because they all tend to blend together, I met Bob. He was somewhere in his 60's with thinning hair and a mustache and had come to the back of the plane to use the lavatory. What I noticed about Bob was his bright shirt, on which were elephants, birds, zebras, gazelles, and lions and a somewhat tropical design. It was much like a Hawaiian shirt, but for the African animals.
The lavs were occupied, so while he stood there I complimented his shirt. He told me that he had at one time lived in Africa. Intrigued, I asked where in Africa, and he tried to explain the area west of Victoria Lake and he then got very nostalgic over how beautiful it was there. I admitted that I would absolutely love to see it.
Then I noticed something else about his shirt; something not entirely noticeable from a distance. Within the pattern were also rotary symbols from the Rotary Club. He was impressed when I asked about this, and eagerly acknowledged that he was a member. This opened up an opportunity for me to share my Rotary Club experience.
When I was in high school, I was involved in a youth leadership organization which allowed me the opportunity to speak to the Dallas Rotary Club members several times. I had achieved a type of acclaim to where I was soon being invited to events to meet high rollers in industry and politics at various social and networking events. I once had breakfast with the female CEO of the Chesebrough-Ponds Manufacturing Company, who would later donate money to our organization. I shared appetizers with Governor Ann Richards. I met bank presidents, city mayors, actors, athletes, car dealership owners and members of congress, often speaking in front of large groups of people thinking very little of it.
|Being congratulated by a delegate after winning office in 1985|
I found it somewhat natural to be in front of these people talking about myself and my involvement in student politics. Not only was I on the student council of America's third largest high school, but I was an elected officer to a state-wide leadership role in HERO- Home Economics Related Occupations (in those days, I wanted to be a chef).
It was through these talks and interactions that I lost any fear of public speaking and now allows me to make announcements on the plane standing proudly in the aisle and facing the passengers instead of hiding behind the bulkhead, as many flight attendants do. Years later, when I was the general manager of a multi-million dollar business, I found it easy to speak at various business council events in my town, networking with other leaders and promoting my business.
But I've never forgotten my breakfast meetings with the members of the Dallas Rotary Club, held in a fancy restaurant on the grounds of the Texas State Fair. Their interest in me and numerous invitations to come speak at their breakfasts opened many doors.
I thanked Bob for his involvement with the Rotary Club, which had been so generous to me. He looked a little surprised at this, so I continued, “The Rotary Club gave me 2 college scholarships, and I've never forgotten what an honor that was.”
Bob smiled and said, “You should become a member. It's a great way to serve the community.” He told me how it's no longer reserved for business leaders. Their membership started to shrink so they opened their ranks to just about anyone wanting to join. He said they even allow women now, after apparently losing a court case.
I assured Bob that I'd look into it and then a woman emerged from the lavatory. He started to enter and I told him he was going into the woman's lav. He did the usual shocked body-jerk when you tell someone this, and then I laughed, “I'm kidding Bob!”