Emma led me behind the red partition and into the galley. “Hey guys, this is Hilary. She’s a travel blogger from the States. She’s going to be the next Bear Grylls and she’s going to write all sorts of cool things about us.”
I gave a meek smile to the gaggle of flight attendants. We shook hands and exchanged pleasantries. God help me if there’s a test on their names, I thought.
“The next Bear Grylls, eh?” One of the guys asked in between bites of his dinner. “That’s pretty cool.”
I blushed at the thought. “That’s quite the compliment, thanks.” And while I certainly didn’t think myself deserving of the accolade, my mind took off and ran with the thought. Could I be the next great adventurer? What would my reality show be called? Who would want to watch that? Would I finally get to fulfill my lifelong dream and play harmonicas with Craig Ferguson on his Late Late Show?
Emma snapped me out of the depths of my fantasy.
“We’re really excited to have you on board, Hilary. We’re going to start by taking you through first class and up to the Lounge. We’re going to have to wait to give you the full tour until after everyone has disembarked the plane, so as not to disturb anyone’s flight experience.” Sounded fair enough to me.
Emma escorted me through the first class cabin, which was pitch black. All the rich people were sleeping. “We can’t have you walk through unattended. Customers pay twelve grand per seat so they expect privacy.” Couldn’t argue with that either. “The cockpit is right through that door. We’ll take you in after we land,” Emma whispered, pointing to the door across from the staircase. “We’re going this way.” She waved a hand up the staircase.
I felt like a modern-day Cinderella but instead of descending a flight of stairs to the ball, I was climbing the rungs of the status ladder to business class.
The business lounge popped with red furniture and stainless steel amenities. If business class passengers weren’t privy to watching their thousands of movies from the comfort of their seats, they could walk out to the lounge and couch it up, viewing their show from the widescreen.
“Here we are, Hilary. Go ‘head and have a seat. Please feel free to help yourself to anything in the mini bar and I’ll send some of the attendants up to talk with you. Would you like a beverage?” I declined her offer and sat down on the red cushions. Emma walked over to the phone by the bar and pressed a button. “Yes, she’s here. Feel free to come up when you’re ready.” She hung up and turned to meet my fascinated expression. She smiled and explained. “The plane is too large for us to communicate without it.” I nodded, remembering reading about the A380 being twice the size of a blue whale and ten stories tall. It also weighs as much as over 150 elephants.
Emma offered me a drink again and upon hearing my, “No thank you,” disappeared down the stairwell with a smile.
I folded my hands in my lap and slowly inspected my surroundings. I felt the need to do something drastic, like jump up and down on the cushions, take my shoes off and sprawl out. After all, I was mile-high rolling. Should I pop the tiny bottles of champagne in the bar and dance around? This baby was just screaming to be the party bus of the sky.
But then another thought occurred to me. What happened if a business class passenger came out in their business class pajamas and saw me making a spectacle? Would they cry, “imposter,” and have me removed? Would they be able to smell the economy on me?
I couldn’t decide on an appropriate action for the moment, so I went to my default and started writing.
“Hilary?” I looked up from my notebook to quite possibly the friendliest face in the world. “My name is Helen Carlile. I am the Qantas Supervisor. So nice to meet you! Can I get you anything?” I laughed at the gesture.
Helen spent some time chatting with me and we became fast friends. I felt like I was talking to an older sister rather than the supervisor of the flight’s entire operation. “I love working on the A380,” she gushed. “It’s the flagship for Qantas. And my favorite space is definitely the lounge we’re sitting in,” she explained. “It’s a great tool to use in case there is ever an emergency or situation that needs to be handled away from the rest of the passengers. As the supervisor, I wear many hats and that sometimes includes playing a psychologist or mediator.”
“Really? What do people argue about?”
A smile spread over her lips. “Often times one person wants to recline their seat. And the person behind them doesn’t want them to. It can get heated. Luckily, we have this great space to use to work it out so it doesn’t disturb the other passengers.”
I laughed, “Naturally life and death situations.”
“Well, Hilary, I’ve got some business to attend to, but feel free to hang out as long as you want. We’ll come and get you after the passengers disembark the plane.” I nodded and gave her a hug before she disappeared on important Qantas business. I couldn’t believe how nice everyone was.
And you wouldn’t believe how fast time flies while hanging in a lounge instead of your assigned seat.
I must have drifted off, for the next thing I remember I was told to return to my seat to prepare for landing. The couple sitting next to me watched me curiously as I buckled back up, obviously wondering where I had been. I smiled and whispered, “You wouldn’t believe.”
I looked out the window, finally seeing the sun peeking its way over the wing. We had finally managed to meet the dawn of a new day. Double win.
I tried to wait patiently for the other passengers to disembark our vessel. It was a haphazard attempt at best.
“Hilary, are you ready? We’re going to have you wait in the galley.” Kate, a tall and lean flight attendant escorted me around the other passengers and into the kitchen. I peered through the front curtain to watch the first class passengers deplane. I had to do a double take of the tall man leaving the first row. Was that Tony Robbins? I had heard rumors we were on the same flight, but I hadn’t believed it.
It wasn’t much of a wait. Turns out people are more efficient when it comes to getting off a plane than getting on. Katie came back into the galley with a smile. “Okay. You want to meet the pilots?”
I quickly said yes and followed her through the empty cabin. It felt eerie to be walking through a place so recently filled with life. The thought was quickly dismissed as we entered the cockpit.
“Welcome to the magic!” One of the pilots said, offering me his seat. I stared wide-eyed at all the buttons in front of me. He gave me his skipper hat to wear. “What are you looking for?” he asked.
I blushed and replied, “An Easy button?” They laughed. I wondered what it would be like to actually pilot this beast 30,000 feet in the air. The thought made me wish I were a bad-ass.
I said my thank you’s and goodbyes to the pilots. Kate quickly shuffled me upstairs to business class.”Why don’t you try one of the business class seats?” She waited for me to settle in before she reclined it. “What do you think?” She asked.
I thought for moment, allowing my body to relax. “I am a fan of the leg room,” I started, “but it’s a little too hard for my taste.”
Kate smiled and led me back downstairs, “Just wait ’til you try first class.”
I anxiously got into a first class pod, suddenly realizing why their ticket cost so much. “Now this is just right!” I had to laugh at myself; who was I, Goldilocks? “It’s like being in a cocoon!” I pulled a blanket over myself, feeling the fatigue wash over me. “Could you guys just leave me here?”
“We still have to take you to our favorite space in the Airbus.” I sat up, intrigued. She led me to the hatch downstairs.
“These are the staff’s sleeping quarters. This is where we sleep and spend our break time.”
“It’s like camp!” I exclaimed.
Emma watched my hammy expressions and said to Kate, “She’s so animated. She could be one of us!” I smiled at the thought.
We came back up to the galley. Kate smiled at me and folded her hands in front of her. “Well, Hilary, I think that covers it! You’ve already been to the lounge, and now you’ve seen the ins-and-outs of our Airbus. Do you have any questions?” She and the other flight attendants gathered to see me off.
I picked up my oversized backpack from the floor and moaned. I steadied myself and then replied, “Yes, just one more question.” She waited expectantly. “How do you all manage to have perfect hair after fifteen hours on a plane? I just sat here and look like hell.”
Laughter erupted from the attendants. They waved as I disembarked.
I suppose somethings will always remain a mystery.