Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Hard Questions

While mowing the grass this morning, it occurred to me, "Isn't it time we Flight Attendants asked ourselves some hard questions?"

Prior to last Saturday, how many of us can honestly say that they would look favorably at being seen as a "peer" of an Asiana Flight Attendant?

If we answered honestly, we likely said something like "not me".  And why is that?  Many of us are as guilty of seeing non-U.S. crews through the prism of stereotypes as the U.S. traveling public is in their view of us! I include myself in that rather broad accusation.  I was admittedly surprised that the 777-200 that crashed in SFO was staffed with 12, rather than DOUBLE that number which my preconceived notions dictated.  I thought that all 12 would be aged 35 or younger with little to no seniority.  I believed that a Korean airline would be staffed with "Flight Attendants" in name only; meaning that their service role was the entirety of their job.  How wrong I have been!

With those rather perjorative stereotypes in mind, I would not have looked favorably on being compared to a F/A for a Korean carrier, or most other foreign carriers, for that matter.  In my own mind, I HAD GREATER VALUE.  Oh what a difference one ill-fortuned landing can make!

Today, most of us are eager to stand on the shoulders of our Asiana peers and proclaim their heroism, as though we somehow share in their accomplishment by virtue of the fact that we are Flight Attendants, like them.  Really?  I'm more than a little ashamed of myself for a couple of reasons...

#1  The very reputation that Asiana and other foreign carriers' Flight Attendants enjoyed prior to the crash of OZ 214 was one of service.  Somehow, in the American lexicon, a profession of service is not worthy of honor or respect.  Who's responsible for that?  Is the public with their uninformed, thoughtless public pronouncements guilty or we who proclaim ourselves as "safety professionals" and do nothing to promote the value of our service role (a role which we spend 99.9% of our time at work performing!).

#2  Isn't it just a little hypocritical to distance yourself from a peer one minute and the next, proclaim them heroic due to an unfortunate circumstance?

Many of us are fortunate that we will NEVER have to face the circumstances faced by the crew of OZ 214.  In my nearly 30 years, I've had two instances of rapid decompression with mask drop, once on a DC10 and once on a 737.  While both were traumatic, neither can be compared to OZ 214 on any level.  Two Flight Attendants were EJECTED from the fuselage upon tail strike, before the wheels ever touched the ground!  Just imagine...

My grandmother often said (well into her 70s) that the day she stopped learning would be the day she didn't deserve to "take up space".  I'm 53 now and happy to say that I live by that advice.  What has this lesson taught me?

I will continue to proclaim the heroism of the Flight Attendants of OZ 214 for they SO richly deserve it!  But I will honor them, AND MYSELF, further by holding up their OTHER reputation, the reputation of service, in the light that it deserves.  In my SERVICE, I will honor, respect, and uplift my profession in hopes that it reflects as positively on Yoon Hye Lee, Tae Sik Yoo, Woo Lee Han, Jung-Ah Hong, Sook Young Hyun, Soo Min Jeon,  Ji Youn Kim, Yunju Kim, Jeong Mi Lee, Jin Hee Lee, Tinnakul Maninart and Singhakarn Siritip as their actions have reflected so positively on me.

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