You know you’re a flight attendant when you can easily say the word “goodbye” in six different languages.
To say we meet a lot of people is an understatement — I greet at least 200 passengers a day. If we have four flights in a single day, that’s about 500 passengers, which equates to 500 hellos that are followed by 500 buh-byes — or au revoirs, or sayanaras.
Saying goodbye is a ritual: It marks a coming separation. Being together moves into being apart.
Because of my job so many people come and go in my life. I talk to so many people every day from all walks of life, young old, and from all around the world. Even for me it’s uncommon to meet someone I’d want to continue a conversation with elsewhere. When that does happen, it matters — it’s important.
Which brings us to ghosting. Closure — or lack thereof.
Ghosting, if you’re unfamiliar, is ending a relationship without saying goodbye — without saying anything at all. Just disappearing out of nowhere. No phone call, no text: Nothing.
I’ve been ghosted — twice now.
What surprised me the most was how much it bothered me. It still bothers me, months and years later, and I’m a grown woman — a flight attendant whose life is full of abrupt endings and quick goodbyes. If I have a hard time with ghosting, I can’t imagine how someone who isn’t so familiar with goodbye might feel. And even I wasn’t always so cool with quick goodbyes.
One of the strangest things in the beginning of my career was to really connect and work well with another flight attendant, only to part ways so quickly, so coldly, as if I’d imagined the whole thing.
Before a flight even touched down on the runway, all that we shared got tucked away and zipped up like a passenger’s gossip magazine inside a flight attendant’s tote bag for the next flight. I don’t know how many of these moments accrued before it was I who took off with a quick “See ya!” knowing full well I might not see that coworker again for months, or even years.
So I’m used to goodbyes. I’m the kind of person who doesn’t need a long, drawn-out farewell.
The first time I was ghosted the word “ghosting” didn’t yet exist: It was 20 years ago. I bonded with a woman — who was also a roommate and fellow flight attendant — over a Dr. Pepper at my airline’s training center, and we became friends right away. I wouldn’t have made it through without her.
I’ll never forget the day I came home from a trip, and found her sitting outside waiting to tell me she’d quit. Her breaking point came at the five-month mark. She was the perfect flight attendant — but the job is not for everyone. It’s not even a job, it’s a lifestyle, and most people can’t — or don’t want to — handle it. My airline had cut the route from our base city to the airport where her boyfriend lived, which would have made it very difficult for her to visit him on days off. She quit to move home.
I was sad when she quit, but I figured we’d still remain friends after all we’d been through. We were two southern girls who had moved to New York to live with 60 other flight attendants in a five-bedroom house in Queens. The fact that we were hungry and poor and had to struggle to scrounge up bus fare while wearing a chic airline uniform should have been enough to bond two people together forever.
One day, a few months after she had quit, I dialed her number only to be greeted by a computerized voice informing me the number had been disconnected. At first I didn’t think much about it. I assumed she had moved again and would eventually be in touch. Wrong. I never heard from her again.