First Person Singular

Caroline Darby, Southwest Airlines flight attendant, Bowie

Southwest Airlines flight attendant Caroline Darby takes a seat at BWI.
Southwest Airlines flight attendant Caroline Darby takes a seat at BWI. (Jeff Hutchens - Getty Images)
Sunday, October 1, 2006

I just completed 20 years back in March. You have to be very flexible because you are on the road; you're living in different hotels every night, different restaurants, different crew members. At this stage, I know my weaknesses. Honestly, I like the shorter flights. Anything over three hours, and I get antsy. The flight attendants that sit up front -- there's two of them -- one's on the aisle, so she's always in view of everybody. And when I fly on the inside, where they can't see me, I always tell her, "Keep a nice, straight face, honey." Naturally, if the plane drops, it's like you're on a roller coaster, but people look to you for guidance. They say: "My God, we dropped -- Oh, she's okay. The stewardess is still laughing and smiling, so everything's good." They still call us "stewardess." So that's what you try to do: You talk to each other in the jump seat to portray that feeling and look that everything's fine. You just have to be prepared to accept anything. At this point, [turbulence]

doesn't really bother me anymore. It's like I'm in my living room and I hit a bump.

We've been struck by lightning many times. That doesn't faze me, but people think we are so empty-headed, that we have not a brain up there. I find that people think we don't have feelings. A lot of us have college educations. A lot of people that are retired, this is their second career; they have several degrees.

We're out there, and for the most part we are good people. I don't get pleasure out of being ugly or punishing someone. I'm not a person that will sing and dance and tell a couple jokes -- that's not my personality. But I do make up for that in the cabin with good service. I don't entertain. Those who can do it: yay. I can't. It's not part of me, so I don't try. We're here to get you here safely. Even when I'm off work and in street clothes, I assist other people, elderly people going down the escalator. It just kicks in.

Interview by George Gonzalez


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