LIVE FROM DALLAS – 6/7/12
We have been so accustomed to being greeted by a gauntlet of smiling faces each morning, but today we decided to turn the tables and do the greeting ourselves. And so it was that 73 smiling, eager, transitioning “trannies” marched up the stairs en masse singing our Southwest version of “Zippidy-doo-dah”! Some of us were probably a little out of our comfort zone by doing so, but we sang with our hearts and were greeted with bigger (if that is possible) smiles and hugs than in previous days. The example that has been set for us to be upbeat, to sing, to smile and to fill those around us with joy has become infectious – and our Zippidy-doo-dah let them know that we get it!
Just like when we are out on the line, sometime adjustments are made to our schedule. It may be a change in room assignment, or report time, or maybe an activity gets moved from one day to the next. But we have learned the appropriate Southwest response to a “re-route” – “Whoop-Whoop” – and we just go with the flow!
Today was filled with all of those things we all just love about recurrent – ABA (or ABP at AirTran) briefings, ditching procedures and, yes, the dreaded evacuation commands. Or course, we have already done our ditching training while Southwest flight attendants have not. This new material they were reviewing was newer to them than to us. But we learned their differences (let’s just say that we have agreed that their life rafts are the Cadillac version) and shared our knowledge and shared with them how impressed we were with the way their trainers taught a subject so new to them.
In preparing this morning for this afternoons dreaded evac drills, the trainers took advantage of many opportunities to prompt us into shouting our commands. They are serious here about SHOUTING your commands and at one point in my class this morning we gave a rather halfhearted “Heads down, stay down”. A minute later we heard the class next door enthusiastically shouting the same, “Heads down, stay down”. We were certain that they were trying to out-shout us, so we took a deep breath and rocked the walls with our response, “HEADS DOWN, STAY DOWN, AND WE REALLY MEAN IT!” Even in the middle of prep for evac drills we are having fun! Don’t you just LUV the Southwest way?!?
Like recurrent, evac drills were, of course, one of the things that we were all most stressed about. What if I get a word wrong? What if I say them in the wrong order? The trainers worked hard to put our fears to rest. After all, we are professionals, we know what needs to be done and, let’s face it, what really matters is that we get the important messages across and get the passengers safely off the aircraft as quickly as possible. Yes, you do need to wait for the evacuation command (I am telling on myself, as I got so enthusiastic that I jumped the gun and “evacuated” too soon), but if you follow the instructors’ lead here, they just make you so comfortable that we all made it through. Whoopee! We ALL made it through!
At one point today someone in my class said, “Have I died and gone to flight attendant heaven?” I do believe that is how we are all feeling. Here we feel like we are treated like professionals and empowered to make decisions in even the most critical of times. As one of the trainers said, “It’s not hard! A lot of the stress you put on yourself!” We are just beginning to internalize that he is right. And with evacs behind us perhaps we can just sit back and enjoy the rest of this LUV-filled ride.