“Yes Worries!” — An Encounter with a No-Nonsense Flight Attendant

© Stephanie Glaser 2010

I actually met the one Down Under resident who doesn’t adhere to “no worries.” She was a flight attendant (I’ll call her Hortense) on our Air New Zealand flight from San Francisco to Auckland in January, 2010.

© Stephanie Glaser 2010

Instead, her slogan, I believe, was “Yes Worries!” and she adopted this long ago because she secretly and firmly believes all the people around her are inept imbeciles. On the flight, I especially thought she  despised her co-workers. They, along with most passengers, were her recurring nightmares.

The other flight attendants could not have been more helpful, accommodating and funny. One of the head flight attendants was a tall, blonde woman who wore bright red lipstick and always smiled — no matter what your question was. “I’m sorry,” She beamed. “We can’t have you up in the aisle just yet. We’re still in the midst of our ascent and not at the proper altitude for walking around.” Huge permasmile.

Being a flight attendant has to be one of the most thankless jobs, and I’m sure putting up with people who can be impatient, frightened, crabby, tired, sick or drunk on transcontinental flights is tedious at best.

However, Hortense had clearly been on the circuit too long and had completely lost her sense of humor.  I’m thinking it was a flight with belligerent and blitzed American business men who asked her where they could pet koala “bears” in New Zealand that finally obliterated any tolerance she had left.   Despite being over it, Hortense, no doubt, could shut anyone down. All she had to do was utter one condescending statement, arch one of her heavily penciled eyebrows or sigh in a firm manner. I know the “Hortense Huff.” I experienced it first hand.

© Kurt Glaser

Throughout our 12-hour flight, she reprimanded me several times. In all fairness, the first reprimand was completely justified.  She scolded me for operating a cell phone before takeoff, and this happened after she announced that all electronics must be shut down. (I’ll admit I was trying to text a friend “good-bye” since I was going to be gone for one year.) Hortense had her eye on me for the rest of the flight. Yes Worries!

Having forgotten about her for a while, I settled in during the flight. Embarking on a one-year adventure to live in Australia, my family was in good spirits. The other flight attendants made us feel like worthy and important travelers. Roscoe, in particular, was great. To my delight, he called my son Eddie “mate” and used Kiwi phrases I had never heard. It added to the excitement of the trip. He also smiled constantly.

When Roscoe came around offering free alcoholic beverages, Kurt and I didn’t hesitate. After all, we did have Eddie (4) and Kasey (2) with us and, despite our initial enthusiasm, we knew it was going to be a long flight.

I was, in fact, mentally preparing for the flight to be like labor — childbirth labor. It had to be done; it would probably be painful; it would result in joy, and, ultimately, I’d forget about it until it had to happen again. Suffice it to say, I enjoyed some New Zealand beers, and Kurt had cocktails.

Roscoe then brought dinner service. Next came Hortense in her tight hair bun and frown. She arrived with white wine. Again, it was free, and the flight was long. No brainer. I decided to have some despite the fact I already had sampled two different New Zealand beers. Could I help it if cool and laid-back Roscoe thought I should try one of each after I inquired about which was the better NZ beer?

© André Karwath

Well, Hortense asked if I had ever had “this” before (I thought she meant that particular brand of white wine, so I said, “no.”) She then poured me a portion more suitable for a “sippy” cup. Leaning in, she stared at me and said, “You can get a headache from wine.”  I’m sure Hortense decided I was an inexperienced booze hound with two empty beer cans already on my tray, so she decided to cut me off.  YES WORRIES!

But the ultimate “Yes Worries!” moment occurred later while Kasey was melting down.  The meltdown happened as the plane had settled into that fuzzy lull when people are either sleeping or reading/watching movies quietly. It’s sort of this peaceful hum on the plane. Not for long.

Waking up from a restless sleep, Kasey screamed and writhed. I rocked her, shushing her quietly to console her. It was evident rather quickly that this meltdown was backed by some serious power and endurance.

In the meantime, Hortense pounced on the scene to tell me NOT to tell Kasey, “shhhh” and not to give her any attention. She informed me that I needed just to remain quiet – hence, I was as much of a problem as Kasey — actually, probably the bigger problem. YES Worries!

Taking charge, Hortie adeptly opened the overhead compartment to get a blanket and in one motion, spread the blanket and “tented” the seat in front of Kasey to the headrest behind her. After a few minutes, to my combined relief and dismay, the tent worked.

After surviving the meltdown and catching maybe 30 minutes of sleep the entire night, I was relieved to see our permasmile flight attendant bringing breakfast. While Hortense collected the breakfast trays after we finished, I commented on how the tent had helped.

Image of painting by Mary Cassatt “Nurse and Child” 1896-97

This could have been a “Nanny 911” moment where she expressed an, “I’m glad I could be of service – it’s been my calling since birth. No problem. NO WORRIES.” Instead,  she said rather flatly, “Yes, she fell asleep, didn’t she.”  That was basically a: “Yes, I needed to worry since most mothers, at least good ones who don’t get soused in flight, could have figured that out.”

If I didn’t already feel belittled and incompetent  as a parent (rather, human being), Hortie issued a final stern warning to me. She noticed that I was saving uneaten pre-packaged yogurts from our breakfast tray. She said I must turn over the yogurts or face severe fines/penalties…jail time…deportation. “New Zealand has very strict laws,” she chided me.

I started to wonder if she was going to radio ahead to authorities, so I would be detained and discouraged from further travel. “Yes Worries…we have someone who is trying to smuggle Fresh and Fruity into Auckland.”

It’s funny because the attitude from all the other attendants was “no worries” over and over again — especially our blonde permasmile attendant. When she brought around the declaration paperwork (for goods like food and plants etc.), I asked about the legal status of every single snack item we had brought (we have small kids for lord’s sake).  She smiled the entire time we discussed banned substances. She said, “just be honest with customs officials.” It was as if she telling me to be truthful even if I had concealed weapons and firearms.

We arrive in Auckland without being detained by customs officials. (Kurt with Kasey and Eddie)
© Stephanie Glaser

We didn’t have to deal with Hortense again. To this day, I cringe when I think of her cutting me off and then the tenting tribulation at our seat.

I can only hope Hortense is retired now and ordering a cocktail on the beach. I’m sure, no doubt, she is telling the server, “You can get a headache from wine, you know.”

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7 thoughts on ““Yes Worries!” — An Encounter with a No-Nonsense Flight Attendant

  1. You were lucky you had a few nice ones. I flew Air NZ several times when I lived in the South Pacific. The flight attendants were “Hortense-in-training” types every time. Plus the airport staff were horrible as well. We eventually went out of our way not to fly them!

  2. I’ve not been unlucky enough to experience a Hortense of my own. Fingers crossed I never do LOL

    All the flight attendants I’ve encountered have been lovely – even when I snivelled and cried my way to Perth on my first solo flight. Virgin Australia are my airline of choice, and a large part of that is their cabin crew. I mean, what’s not to love about hearing “As with all Australia airlines, this is a non-smoking flight. However, if you DO wish to smoke once we’re airborne, please see our cabin crew who will help strap you to the wing, and if you can light it, you can smoke it!” as you’re taxiing toward the runway for take-off??

    Some other favourites? “We’ll be coming through the cabin shortly to make sure your seats are in the upright position, your tray tables are locked and your shoes match your outfit,” and “Please make sure you take all your belongings with you as you exit the plane – carry-on bags, personal items and mothers-in-law!”

    • Totally…it’s funny because Hortense made me so paranoid that when I went through customs in Australia, I showed them every single granola bar, fruit chew treat, trail mix..etc. They sort of laughed and waved us on. Thanks for reading and thanks so much for the comment! Cheers, Steph

  3. Loved your Hortense story.

    Just don’t ever fly Air Canada. All the old, crotchety tenured flight attendants grab those flights and then proceed to act like it is their private vacation and you are an inconvenience. Only once have I had helpful staff on board an Air Canada flight. And I’ve flown with enough other airlines to know the difference.

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