“The time is now 5:10 am, we will be departing in five minutes. All passengers should make sure their carry on is stored in the compartments above them or underneath the seat in front of them”, I say. I walk through the aisle to make sure everyone has done so; someone always forgets. “As a reminder, please fasten your seatbelt and remain in the upright position. Also, there is no smoking in the cabin”, I say as I close the overhead compartments, shoving in a few misshapen bags. A few people already seem to be falling asleep. I look outside to see that it was still pitch black and the only thing that is visible are the raindrops of the intensifying storm on the small circular windows. I walk back up to the front and begin the mandatory seatbelt and air mask demonstrations, as if it was really that difficult to figure out. Rarely does any passenger pay attention to the demonstrations anyway. I continue with the airline’s emergency protocol and typical departing spiel, “note that the emergency exits can be found at the front and back of the plane and that your seat cushion can be used as a floatation device in the event of a crisis. Thank you for flying Delta airlines, we hope you enjoy your flight.”
I turn off the lights in the cabin, seeing as just about everyone had their heads tilted back or propped on a fist. I took my seat at the front behind the pilot’s door with a small light directly over me. I could barely see down the cabin, except for one overhead light at the far end. Out of all the flights I have been on, there always seems to be one workaholic or avid reader who turns on the overhead light and continues working or reading with disregard to others. I could not help but to feel disdain towards the passenger; he is ruining the opportunity to sleep. It is an opportunity I would love to have at this moment, however it is my job to sit and survey every passenger until the plane departs. As the pilot steers onto the runway, I fasten my seatbelt and await the impending boredom of the flight. I feel the rush down the runway and pull in my seat as the ascension begins into a two and a half hour flight from Detroit to Memphis.
When I feel I can no longer stay seated, I decide to grab the intercom and say, “Attention all passengers, I will be coming through the aisle to offer complementary beverages and snacks.” The only time when I do not have to sit is when I am required to offer water and stale pretzel packages to every passenger. Surprisingly most passengers accept them with gratitude and devour them. It’s interesting how altitude can make a boring snack seem phenomenal to eat. Think of the last time you consumed pretzels and water with such delight. Trust me, it wasn’t at sea level. There is something about being confined to a small space for so long that makes any variation, such as receiving old pretzels, seem pleasurable. However, I am numb to such delicacies. I only hand them out to complete another mind numbing task of mine. Flight after flight, my movements become routine and I am the robot conducting them. I am less of a person and more of an appendage to the plane. I just direct people on and off while accommodating their needs. I am a temporary servant to others and that is it.
After a while, I realized that my boredom was no different than the person who goes to work in a cubicle for eight hours during the week. The only thing that differs is that I happen to be roughly twelve thousand feet up in the air. The cubicle worker and I are both confined to one area drenched in boredom. We both lack stimulation and the means to change it. Is the pay worth it? Sure. Is my time worth it? No, not at all. Even though my occupation entails traveling, I don’t actually get to ‘travel’. My extent of traveling is simply being in a terminal of whatever city or country I was assigned to fly to. I have been all around the world, but I haven’t seen a thing. I’ll go through several terminals a day all over the country and never see anything of the cities. This job is the most deceiving of all. What seems like an interesting occupation is hardly interesting at all. No one realizes this except for other flight attendants. The act of flying on a plane is truly boring when you have no destination or purpose for flying. I used to take pride in telling people that I had been to England twelve times until they asked what I did while I was there. The extent of my visits was spent trying to navigate the terminal and make it to my next assigned flight, which is nothing to brag about. I have traveled from city to city and all over the world but I only know each city by its terminal.
The eight year old child flying in first class who is playing candy crush on his mother’s Ipad, gets to see all of Memphis when the plane lands. But all I get from this trip is an aerial view. I help people on and off but I never get the reward of flying by truly reaching a destination. There is no finality to each flight, just a return to a terminal. The passenger has a destination; he has something to look forward to when he flies. The flight attendant does not. Every flight is just a set amount of time that I am required to stay seated in a metal cabin and assist in case of emergency. After a while the flights all become the same. Each time, I sit in alert solitude listening to the hum of the plane. As the drone of the engine goes on, I sit anxiously waiting for the time to end. Boredom is a parasite to time, feeding off of it as time persists in repetition or pure nothingness. This parasitic creature feeds on our time and directly affects us. I cannot seem to make it go away, it plagues me and so I have found that my life has become about how to either not be bored or wallow in my boredom. Boredom controls everything I do. It is force conducting every decision I make and it alters my emotional state. Boredom brings about frustration and anxiety, along with the irrefutable desire to have a purpose where there is no purpose to be had.
No one notices the silent sufferings of a flight attendant. I innately let out a long sigh without receiving even glance from any passenger. It is as I if I am nonexistent, except when I am handing out snacks to people. But even then, the passengers are more focused on what I am giving them than my presence.
The plane suddenly shakes, as if it were driving over a gravel road; the wind howls outside and thunder is heard in the distance. I hear the nervous whispers of a few passengers along the aisle. My only source of excitement is turbulence during a flight; it is the only unpredictable event that can occur. For half a second, the plane falls and I feel an irrefutable sinking inside myself as inertia pulls me down with the plane. My heart races as adrenaline explodes through my veins and I am alive again. That half of a second is all there is to break from the constant boredom that I am subjected to. But within that second, the plane stabilizes itself again and boredom returns. The same steady drone continues on for almost ten minutes when the entire cabin becomes flooded with light followed by a loud crash. What was just a moment, felt like an eternity; white light seeped through from one of the back left windows and illuminated the walls only to be sucked back out again leaving us in darkness.
A hollow metal sound haunts us with dreaded thoughts only to follow through with a final snap. The wing had broken off. I hear the pilot’s startled voice over the intercom and the screaming of passengers as a collective hum. The plane begins losing altitude and I can feel myself falling with it. My adrenaline kicks in again and I begin running down the aisle to help people with their masks and parachutes. My conscious mind is not a part of my actions; my mental and physical reactions are so disconnected that it is as though I am watching a movie. I perform the emergency protocol with robotic efficiency. With the help of a passenger, I pry open the emergency door and begin aiding others out of the aircraft. The wind whips through the cabin and back out, tugging at us as it leaves. One after another each passenger jumps wailing and crying as they go. They all appear as shadowy figures in the blackness that surrounds us, quickly disappearing into the dark abyss below.
Although my heart is racing just as quickly and as intensely as everyone else, I cannot deny that I am satisfied. Boredom cannot reach me here. In the midst of a crisis I am immune to boredom. I have a purpose in the impending danger, others need me in order to survive. Boredom cannot prevail in utter chaos, but I can. I direct the last passenger out of the plane and I climb through the aisle in search of a parachute as the wind races through the cabin. The red emergency lights flash above me in the bold letters “EXIT”. As I make my way back to the front of the plane, I search the shelves. All of them are empty. I know I should feel defeat and panic for the sake of my life, but I cannot bring myself to do so. I stumble back through the aisle and collapse on a seat with my oxygen mask still on. The speed and the force of the wind keep me pressed to the seat as the plane falls faster. Once again, I am in alert solitude. Boredom slowly trails in with the wind; it is inescapable and all consuming. Everything the human race does is in an attempt to avoid boredom. It is our only purpose, a purpose I do not want. “EXIT” continues to flash on and off above me. I close my eyes tightly and clench my fists. Exiting is the only choice I have to truly escape boredom and so I exit along with the plane. An infinite dark abyss becomes my final destination.