Sunday, July 24, 2011

Frau Jane Doe, Lufthansa Stewardess

Dene Croft

I want to be sure to make an effort that as I discuss my personal opinions and observations about Germans and their country I do not over generalize. As a black guy you might guess I’m not crazy about the generalizations and stereotypes about us, so I do want to be careful and practice the same consideration regarding them.

I am very comfortable in saying that in almost all cases it comes natural for me to consider the beliefs, traditions, politics and social customs of all cultures. I have written and spoken my support for other ethnicities that have been wronged and consider myself “fair” if not at times jaded concerning my time here. -

Okay, so enough that “We are the World” preamble. I want to share a little story:

In the first year I moved here, I was on a trip coming back from L.A., I was on the second leg of a Luftshansa flight from Atlanta to Frankfurt. If any of you have flown from California or the west coast to Germany you know it is a looong day. With layovers, delays, customs it is a real grind, my average trip taking about 18-19 hours, sometimes longer when you consider the total time until you’re finally inside your house drinking some water.

So as I got on this flight I met the first set of stewardesses and they were uh neutral, kind of robotic, fake smile, welcome aboard I-say-this-three-million-times-a-day type of vibe, but okay no problem.

Then, as I crossed over to the side of the plane where my seat was located I ran into her! A tall and rather…let’s say stout woman, late 40’s or early 50’s with short, grayish blonde hair. Her arms were tightly folded across her chest. Her mouth stuck in a perfectly straight line very much like Bert from Sesame Street. She glared at me like I stole something from her and she wanted it back…now. I knew immediately I didn’t like her.

Instead I showed her my ticket even though she had not asked for it. Without looking down she simply stuck her arm out pointing it in the direction I was supposed to go. I quickly changed my mind and decided I hated her grumbling to myself the entire way to my seat.

My seat; now this is where it gets real ugly. I was unlucky this trip. Normally I’m able to manage a bulkhead seat or one by the emergency exit – It’s a win-win situation, I get more leg room and if the plane goes down, I can be the first one to get the hell out of there.

Anyway, I’m a pretty big dude, not Shaquille O’Neal big, but I’m 6’3” about 240 pounds. When I compressed myself into this seat my legs had absolutely no room to move. Since I am in an aisle seat the best I can do is sit kind of sideways to gain a few extra inches but I am terribly uncomfortable and we haven’t even taken off yet.

I could see Bert slowly coming down the aisle checking seat belts, arms still folded like a drill sergeant not to be messed with. She stopped at me and pointed at my legs motioning for me to get them out of her aisleway. Damn, I hated this woman times two now!

Fast forward and we are in the air leveling off. Our first round of drinks and snacks are being handed to us. My food tray is digging into my stomach, I can barely eat my juice and crackers, I have a cramp in my left butt muscle, my knees are helplessly stuck in an awkward position until suddenly the 12 year old angel in front of me decided to lean his seat ALL the way back…again and again and again! Now we’re really having fun – only thirteen more hours to go!

Two hours or so into the flight the cabin is now darkened and I begin to play mind games: I tell myself I am soooo comfortable, I play classical music in my headphones to create an inner calm, I hum chants, I order more wine, I attempt a crossword puzzle, and…it ain’t working - none of it. I’m fuggin’ m-i-s-e-r-a-b-l-e.

My insanity begins to get ugly. It’s the Germans fault…German engineering huh? It’s the fault of the mother of this demon child in front of me who won’t tell him to stop. It’s Berts fault…speaking of Bert…

I saw her staring at me earlier and at that point I didn’t care anymore. She wants to start a fight, bring it on I’m ready. She wants to play rough, okay let’s play rough! So now she is clearly coming my way striding carefully like a lion about to attack its prey. She finally gets to me and leans over to whisper in my ear, “Sir…”

I already knew exactly what was coming, “Sir… if I have to tell you one more time to move your legs out of the aisle I’m going to take a hammer and break your kneecaps.”

But instead she continued, “Sir… there’s another seat up front. I think you’ll be much more comfortable. Why don’t you follow me.”

Huh?! Is this a trap? Is she serious? So I followed her all the way to first class where she motioned me to an available chair. It was like heaven – a beautiful soft leather reclining chair with all the bells and whistles with gobs of leg room. I wanted to kiss Bert. What an asshole I had been to think such things about this darling, sweet morsel of a woman.

I could not thank her enough: thank you, danke schoen, vielen danke and every danke I could remember. Still smiling and reclining she returned a few minutes later asking if I needed a pillow and blanket. Oooh…what a sweetheart!

After a long needed nap I woke up ashamed of how I prejudged that stewardess based on her facial expressions and physical demeanor. Since then I have been in several situations where a German person was quite helpful, friendly, considerate and dare I say it even funny once you cracked the initial outside appearance. Yes, I have learned my lesson and try to keep this story in mind…well, most of the time.

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