Blauer - Tactical Clothing & Equipment

"The Extra Step, For Those Who Can't Take It" - By Lt. Tim Cotton

The older man was hanging on to the flight attendant’s shoulders. He was face to face with the tiny woman as she backed him up the aisle while they made their way toward the bathroom. He was smiling like I would be smiling if I were heading to that glorious spot and was forced to depend someone else to help me get there when it became necessary.

Before it crossed my mind that the situation could become precarious due to unpredictable nature of air pockets and the narrowness of the aisle, I saw her come out of her ATS (air travel slumber), rip the headphones out of her ears, and toss away the tiny blanket that covered her as if it were nothing. Well, it was an airplane blanket, they are pretty tiny.

If the man had been wrestling with the woman, or causing a stir on an airplane, I would have gone over the seat to help. While it would not have been the smoothest move, I think even in my condition I would get there. I mean there are 3 to 4 inches between the seats.

In this case, I saw no danger, no issue, just a great flight attendant helping a man to the bathroom.

She saw something else. She had taken the aisle seat on this flight since she preaches hydration is necessary during air travel. Her mantra leaves her needing to get out more, so I valiantly took the window seat so I could scrunch up a sweatshirt under my unusually elongated melon and go to sleep without having to get up when she had to get up. Heroic? Of course, that's what I said.

By the time all of this had registered, my seat mate was behind the older man, she had hooked her fingers through his brown faux alligator skin stamped belt, pulled upward on his nicely pressed khakis, and at one point smoothed his plaid printed shirt. It might have been more of a “everything’s going to be fine rub.” Many men and women had felt it the last 33 years.

Since the man’s legs were not on the same schedule the rest of his body was - he turned his head around to say something to her. His inquiry seemed to be answered appropriately as he smiled, turned forward to face the flight attendant, and continued on his way. She told me later that she told him she was a nurse.

Two women helping him toward a common goal. Not one man had even glanced up, and I only did because I was hit with the postage stamp sized blanket.

She had grabbed many men’s belts over the years. During her work in hospitals, rehab facilities, and in messy homes filled with seventy years worth of clutter. Teen years as a candy striper/volunteer had taught her to serve, continuing to do so as a registered nurse, nurse practitioner, nurse executive, a Fellow in several prestigious nursing institutions, finishing her doctoral degree in a few months, but when asked she always just says, “Oh, I’m a nurse.”

We had spent the week with many nurses. I was only a barnacle on this trip; an observer of many nurses. Doing what they do, seeing things I don’t even notice. Like the man having a difficult time getting to the bathroom on a long flight.

She told me he was headed to Athens, Greece. He had hired a personal attendant for the trip. It was a very interesting story, but it is not my story to share.

Later, when I made my own trip to the cubby hole of contortion (lavatory), I waited for few minutes while another victim was forced to figure out what to hang onto when we hit the invisible bumps. The flight attendant asked me if the nurse was my wife. I told her she was. She said, “she’s sweet.” I agreed.

She went on to tell me that she had always been lucky on her flights. Whenever there was a medical need, there always seemed to be a nurse on board.

I thanked her for her kindness to the older man as well. She waved her hand toward me as if what she had done was just another day in the life. I suppose it was to her, but I am a big fan of flight attendants as I have observed them in their jobs over the last few years. I have also determined that I would not be up to the task. People don’t always treat them so well. In a way, there are many similarities between our jobs, except the part where I can leave after a time. A flight attendant has to wait until everyone else leaves.

I suppose someday I will be that man and those will be my belt loops. Of course, my khakis won’t be pressed quite like his and it is doubtful I will have my shirt tucked in that tightly. I tend to lean toward the slovenly-hip “look,” it’s a thing.

I asked my seat mate where the man’s personal attendant had been when she and the airline representative moved the man up and down the aisle (twice) during our flight. She said that the attendant had fallen asleep and the older man did not want to wake him up again in order to go to the bathroom.

I just said, “He should have hired a nurse- or married one.” She smiled. I drove my face into my sweatshirt and fell back asleep.

There are all kinds of helpers out there, unnoticed and unrecognized, take a moment to thank one today. Tip your servers, Uber drivers, cab drivers, and housekeeping staff. I have some stories about that, but those are for another day.

-TC (cottonblend at blauer do com)

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