“”See honey…this is why you need to do well in school. You don’t want to end up like her.”

This is what a flight attendant overheard a passenger saying to her young daughter while she was picking up trash. I asked the flight attendant what her response was and she said she chose not to respond. She smiled at the little girl and moved on.

I decided to post the comment on my face book page and there were a lot of great comments, particularly from flight attendants and how they felt about their career as a flight attendant. Most everyone agreed that the woman’s comment was out of line, but one commenter, Deborah had this to say:

“Interesting how many of you responded the way you did (as though it were meant as an insult, rather than a motivational tool)

Let me ask this: If the mother had been looking at a rubbish collector, and said the same thing to her daughter, would you all have had the same reaction?”

Here’s how I feel:

No matter how I personally felt about a job someone was doing I would never degrade them. I’m sure the mom did mean it as a motivational tool, but she was putting herself above someone to make her point.  The message I make clear to my daughter is to follow her  passions in life. If I notice her becoming particularly excited about something I encourage her. I don’t feel the need to use others working hard, who I know nothing about, an example for my daughter to be “better than.” So,  yes I would have the same reaction had the mother been looking at a garbage collector.

I found the comment especially rude because she pointed to the flight attendant and presumed that she was uneducated and not doing what she loves to do. This particular flight attendant has a degree in industrial psychology and loves her flight attendant career.  Most flight attendants I know love their careers, you can read more details about flight attendant careers in my past post. I also agree with the way the flight attendant handled the situation. We’re in the business of customer service. She could have chosen to make a comment back, but she wouldn’t have changed the woman’s mind.  I once heard that the truth doesn’t need to be defended, it just is. I think of that quote often when I want to argue my point with a passenger.

One thing I might say to the mom who made the comment is that you never know who is collecting your trash. Check out this article about Jet Blue’s CFO.

What do you think? Do you think the flight attendant should have been insulted? Do you think that it was an effective tool to motivate her child? Was it right to try to motivate her by putting down someones career choice?

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  1. I agree with you Sara, as Oprah says, “When we know better, we do better.” This person has a long way to go! Nice post!

  2. This is when the FA realizes how useful is to have friends in baggage handling and send her bags to Timbakttu. Or Antartica.

    Arguing would not do much. Once people have lost respect for the others, they will not change their mind. And in these days of careful corporate images, your FA friend would be the one in trouble.

    Again, friends in baggage handling are good. She could have also given the child a lot of chocolate cookies and a couple of cans of coke… 🙂

  3. Is this a trick question?

    You cannot know ANYTHING about a person’s background, personality, dreams or characteristics simply from knowing what their job is. Also, ragging on a FA as an example of a “bad job” is a weird one.

    I bet that little girl grows up to amount to nothing now.

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  5. I agree the mom used poor judgement to “degrade” a flight attendant to her daughter. Just because that mother doesn’t view the position as a fulfilling or “successful” one, doesn’t mean her daughter wouldn’t. Plenty of educated men and women choose to be flight attendants. We all have unique personalities that drive us to pursue different career paths. And, I make no mistake that it is a career with lots of travel perks! And the flight attendant handled it perfectly with class! No one should ever look down on any job. I would like to see that women’s sewer system back up and have no plumbers to come deal with it!

  6. I am sure the mother did not intend this to be a derogatory remark. It is ignorance of what an FA does. This takes us back to your pledge about bridging the communication gap. The education of passengers of what the real functions of an FA, Safety and Security.

  7. This is a very interesting post. I think the mother was very wrong in saying that and the daughter will probably want to be a flight attendant one day now! haha

    I have my masters but am pursuing a career as a flight attendant. We are so programmed by society and peoples’ values like this mother’s that we wind up following someone else’s dreams and one day waking up realizing we’re bored and tired and feel completely unfulfilled.

    There is no job that deserves to be demeaned. The flight attendant was right to ignore it. It shows greaterer education and morale in her than the mother will ever have. If you love what you do, you should never care or be offended by what others say.

  8. I don’t know that “Out of Line” is the proper term, becasue it was anot directed toward the FA. Certainly it was in very poor taste and the woman was obviously ill informed. What an awful way to parent a young woman! I would also comment the FA for just moving on. As for Garbage Collectors, that too is a responsible job – and most of them make a lot more money than do FAs! Nuff Said,

  9. Saw a great quote the other day:

    “Never look down on anyone- unless you’re helping him up”

    I see a garbage collector and think, wow, I’m glad someone does that job because I sure couldn’t. People who do so-called ‘degrading’ jobs I think have strong self esteem because they obviously don’t care what other people think.

    I once worked as a cleaner and yes, people do treat you differently… back to the subject… I think the mother knew the FA would hear her, and wanted to get her dig in… some people are actually jealous of our jobs! 😛 Maybe she wanted to be an FA and didn’t get in…

  10. It’s amazing how many people still think that we are just waitresses. I heard from a DL person that their board members said that the flight attendants are just “overpriced” vending machines.

    If that women only knew that we have Fortune 500, nurses, EMT’s, and other professional that work for the airlines as flight attendants.

    Where I work, we actually went through quite a few people at one point because they were hiring people that also thought that the job was handing out drinks and looking pretty! Wrong.

    We know better! 🙂

  11. Boeingfan @ 2011-01-28 06:19

    G-d forbid, but just may be the mother and daughter are on a flight that experiences an emergency event? Then “follow the smart lady dear” to the exit.

    Most F/A’s I have met & know have more education & traveled to more countries than most of our childrens teachers. Hmmm…there is a thought?

    I appreciate having a smart, qualified & well trained staff member on board an aircraft, when I am aboard.

    Encourage the profession even now. Here is what should be said, once you do get good grades and & graduate college may be you will qualify to become an airline flight attendant. (And rigous training every six months…there after.)

    Appreciate and enjoy your blog. PS Love CO too!

    Thank you for keeping the sky safe.


  12. Yikes! Motivational tool or not, it’s not okay to use someone as an example like that. Frankly being an FA is something to be proud of anyway.

  13. The woman is obviously short sighted and arguing with her would do no good. I believe in Karma instead….

    I think this is a sign of poor parenting (she seems more interested in what her daughter projects to people then who she actually is). But if the mother is that short sighted at least she could have the common sense to not say it in-front of the FA – just another sign that she’s an idiot.

    I read an article a few years ago, a cop was working in a box (They have box like little huts in some locations in NYC where cops do security). A woman came up to the cop to complain because he was reading. He said he was studying for a med school exam. She told him he was just a cop and would never be a doctor, with that you’re not good enough to be a cop tone. He became a doctor and got a job with the NYPD working for their medical division, not as a cop but as a doctor!

  14. It was a tasteless and rude comment to make in public regardless of who she was pointing to. Garbage collector, flight attendant or bank teller.

    In this particular case, it is just one person walking the face of the earth without a clue as to the backgrounds of those around her.

    2 minutes spent addressing this woman would have been 2 minutes you’d never get back in your life.

    The unfortunate reality of service jobs is hearing / witnessing such rudeness from time to time. However, it doesn’t define your life, your job performance or your personality one iota.

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