The attitude you wear on your sleeve has a very uncanny influence on turning around situations and other’s attitude to it, so much as from indignation to admiration. And I so witnessed it on my Air India flight AI-648 from Jamnagar to Mumbai. Frankly speaking, the Air India staff needs special training in crisis management of annoyed passengers because they face such mobs with consistent regularity in the course of their service. But they seem to have grown very accustomed to these disgruntled eruptions because they are least ruffled by it and carry on casually. However, I choose to be unbiased here and might add that sometimes the crew and the staff are really helpless and at other times they can do better.
Having said that let me recount my recent experience. The Indian summer really saps you of any cool-headedness you might otherwise demonstrate. And so it did with its stifling air inside the aircraft of AI-648 parked at the tarmac of the unassuming Jamnagar airport. It takes considerable amount of time from the boarding of the passengers to the flight’s takeoff; it’s a standard and expected norm. And so we boarded, took our seats and the crew went about their technical and official formalities. In about seven minutes post boarding we were panting inside the aircraft. The nasty heat of 14.00 hrs scorching the fuselage of the aircraft with around 70-80 passengers further contributing their body heat can be almost strangulating in the month of May when the air conditioning of the aircraft is off. It was just the blower circulating the prickly stale and warm air inside. In such conditions, those usual 15-20 minutes can be very dehydrating both mentally and physically.
By the ninth minute, I could sense the general unease of people and the first of the agitated passengers gasping and heaving including myself. The eleventh minute, a steward happened to pass the aisle and the gentleman in front of me was quite petulant by then. He let off his steam aloud, “Why are the passengers being tortured here? Why don’t you turn on the air conditioning?” The steward with a nonchalant face consoled, “Okay Sir, I shall look into it” and scurried lest other irritated passengers like me stopped him and rebuffed. For the next five minutes the steward looked into what, I really don’t know because nothing happened. We were still enjoying the tender blasts of very tepid air from the blowers.
The sixteenth minute another steward, young and smiling (that’s surprising in Air India I know!), came past us. And while she was still at row no. 8, I at row no. 12 was mentally ready with my tirade to lash out at her. But again, the now totally irked gentleman at row no. 11, lashed out before me, “Don’t you people realize we are sweating like crazy here? What sort of service is this and why don’t you turn on the damn A.C.?” He seethed with sweat and anger.
“Sir” she said coolly, “this is an old aircraft. The air conditioning turns on only when the engine is started and we cannot keep the engine running on a parked…”
“But don’t you see we are soaking in sweat and suffocating” he cut her short shaking his collar to get some air.
“Sir, my colleagues and I are also soaked in sweat” she interjected empathetically.
“Then do something about the bloody A.C.”, the gentleman rebuked still grouchy.
“This is an old aircraft sir. There’s really nothing I can do about it or the A.C. I am sorry” she said earnestly then pointed to the folded newspaper in the seat pocket, “Why don’t you use it to fan till we take off” she added with a wry smile and walked ahead.
The gentleman was finally subdued. More so what could he counter or add any further to such a quip. And I sat there looking at her in a whole new light of admiration, my discomfort still very persistent but anger all dissipated. I thought that’s the kind of attitude that changes situations and people, an attitude that oozes grace with authority. She wasn’t cowed down by the passenger, embarrassed of the situation or evasive of the solution. She was just honest even humorous. What stood out for me personally was that she wasn’t servile or fawning to the passenger and she had the ability to make light of things. She kept her professional honour intact and won a personal battle too not to forget an admirer, all in good time.
Does it take too much to flaunt that kind of attitude up your sleeve or plain ego keeps it rolled and scrunched inside?