This story originally appeared on msnbc.com. Here’s an excerpt from my chat with Overhead Bin’s Harriet Baska
Q: Why did you want to write a book about your time in the sky?A: Airlines have had so much tight control on their image that people have no idea what the reality is. I wrote the book so people will have a better understanding of the life.
Q: So what made you want the life of a flight attendant? A: My mother. She’s also the reason I didn’t want to become a flight attendant. Whenever anything would go wrong in my life, she’d always suggest applying to an airline. I didn’t officially decide to become a flight attendant until I didn’t get a raise at the company I worked for. I had seen a “Flight attendant wanted” ad in the paper and decided to go for it. At $14 an hour, I figured, “Why not?” It might be fun, and I could travel and meet new people. Seventeen years later, I’m still flying.
Q: Was that first job difficult to get? A: The first airline I interviewed with didn’t hire me. It turns out “glamour and free travel passes” is not the correct answer to the question, “Why do you want to become a flight attendant?”
Q: Obviously you did eventually get hired. Is “Barbie Boot Camp” really what flight attendant training is called? And what is it like? A: It’s not really called Barbie Boot Camp, but that’s our pet term for it. Basically, it’s seven-and-a-half weeks of hell. The only thing I can compare it to is being on “American Idol” during Hollywood Week. It’s not that what we were learning was difficult, but we were under a lot of pressure and completely sleep deprived due to late night study groups and early morning drill tests. When it came to commanding evacuations, we had three shots to get it right. If we did something wrong, an instructor would stop us and ask us to do it again. One small slip, one point in the wrong direction, and it was buh bye, adios, sayonara!
Q: Why did you stick with it after your first job with Sun Jet International [a long-defunct, low-fare, charter airline]?
A: In that chapter, I write about the jump seat falling off the wall during landing, the passenger who followed me into the [airport] bathroom to rip me a new one through the bathroom stall over a flight delay and the passenger who was escorted off the plane in handcuffs but then wound up in a neighboring booth at a local restaurant after the flight. The crazy thing is that’s when I decided I really wanted to be a flight attendant. After experiencing all that, and more, I applied to another airline. I wanted a career, not just a job, with an airline I could be proud of.
Yeah, that's me, the one standing in the aisle wearing flammable polyester...