The Last Flight
In the summer of 1974, I performed my final flight attendant duties with an extra bounce in my step, knowing it would be my last time to serve rubbery, chartreuse eggs, mystery meat, and Taster’s Choice instant coffee. For the rest of this story, I will refer to flight attendants as “stews” because that is what we were called back then. And I think it sounds sexier. 
I don’t remember all of the towns we serviced on that three-day, 18-stop rotation: endless take-offs and landings. As a sufferer of air sickness, I never left home without a full bottle of Dramamine. On my last day, we hopped from Indianapolis to Houston with two stops in between. We probably breakfasted at the ubiquitous Dobbs House, the only place to grab a quick airport meal.  
I had worked with this crew for the entire month of July. We loved practical jokes. For example, on late night take-offs when the passengers were asleep, the stews performing the safety demonstrations would do something silly with the equipment to make the stew on the PA laugh. One of my favorites was putting the oxygen mask next to my ear and pretending to talk into the hose during the oxygen mask demonstration. Our chemistry and humor occasionally overflowed to the passengers. Some of them enjoyed it. We were goofy before Southwest Airlines. But the shenanigans were exceptionally outrageous on that last day. 
My colleagues forced me to work at the front of the aircraft. I gave the final smile and bu-bye, bu-bye as our guests left. The stew at the microphone announced that I was leaving Delta. But at each stop, she made up a different reason I was departing: I was going to Africa to fight the spread of malaria; I was going to become a brain surgeon; I had received a scholarship to MIT. I don’t remember all of the lofty careers. I blushed as the passengers shook my hand and hugged me for dedicating my life to help humanity.  
Back then, we had more time to spend with passengers. Sometimes we served them enjoyable meals. The aisles were not obstructed by beverage/snack charts. The cabins held fewer people. After a meal service, we enjoyed our travelers. We comforted crying children and folks who looked scared. We laughed at dumb jokes. We flirted with single men. Being a stew was a fun, physically demanding job. 
As I rode the employee bus back to my car for the final time, I watched jets take off and land and wondered about the next leg of my journey. 
Margo Stutts Toombs is a writer, performer and filmmaker. Her poetry has appeared in Untameable City - Mutabilis Press, the 2011 Texas Poetry Calendar, Love over 60:  An Anthology of Women’s Poems, and Archway Gallery chapbooks. She was a flight attendant for Delta Airlines from 1969-1974. 
Category: Airlines

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