March 17, 2017
By Jaziba Zulfiqar

Tring tring! New York City 9:00 a.m. My alarm buzzes. I cancel my alarm and check my Whatsapp. It is 6:00 pm in my hometown and there are hundreds of unread messages.

Adapt and survive

Tring tring! New York City 9:00 a.m. My alarm buzzes. I cancel my alarm and check my Whatsapp. It is 6:00 pm in my hometown and there are hundreds of unread messages.  “I am awake, getting ready for the flight, will be leaving in half an hour,” I text my mom. I rush towards the restroom to freshen up; call my laundry to be delivered to my room; after offering prayers, I start off with my makeup routine. I moisturize my face, apply MAC foundation to hide the tiredness of last night shopping, highlight my eyes using Borjouis eyeliner and Loreal’s voluminous mascara, enhance my lips with Inglot’s long wear lipstick and freshen my cheeks using Maybelline’s blush-on. While tucking my shirt, I grab Hilton’s pen; recheck the documents and head for the counter with my Delsey’s bag. I also have my breakfast in between.

“Good morning! I am a crew member, the room number is 708.” “Thank you, have a nice day!” the girl on the counter smiles back. I hand over my suitcase to the concierge and sit in the bus which is ready to depart.

Sounds tough? This is how a flight attendant starts her day.

The luxuries and comforts of seven-star hotels, lucrative salary plus bonuses, chances to explore countries and stroll through the best shopping cities in the world are just few things I love about my job. But everything comes with a cost! Homesickness, not seeing your family and friends for indefinite time periods, not being able to attend the most awaited weddings of your cousins and friends are hard to bear.

It’s not only about enjoying yourself, it’s is also about learning to be helpful and courteous, to be able to understand human nature and to be patient. I have seen a father holding his baby in his arms for 14 hours at a flight. I feel for those who travel to see the face of their loved ones for the last time. I have seen a grumpy man tapping his wife disrespectfully with his feet so that she would check their baby, while he relaxed in his seat. I have seen a man fidgeting with worry because his wife is in labour, but he has to travel for an urgent meeting. I also remember how difficult it was to handle a drunk passenger quarrelling with other passengers. And yes, how can I forget that desperate old face, asking me a thousand times to tell him when Mikaat zone was near so that he could recite his prayers. I have met and served thousands of passengers; some stay there in your mind.

Once, while boarding the flight to Peshawar, I welcomed an old lady and asked after her health after noticing a cannula on her hand. Her son quickly slipped his hand into his handbag and took out a certificate to satisfy me that his mother was fit to fly. When we were busy helping out the passengers, we heard someone wailing. We rushed to find out and saw that old lady was lying unconsciously on the seat. We managed to bring her to the forward galley. My purser checked her breathing and I called for the doctor on board. By the time we started CPR (chest compression), the doctor showed up.  After the examination, the doctor announced her dead, which was so heart-breaking for us. Everyone was reciting Kalma but we tried to act normal. I could not sleep for two days after this incident.

Sometimes, it gets tough to be a flight attendant. When I fail to satisfy passengers or communicate with other crew members, I begin to stress-out. And no matter how friendly the crew is, I always feel like running back home to my family when it’s hard to cope with the pressure.

Jet lags and travelling through different weathers conditions are enough to worsen anyone’s health. Imagine travelling from Karachi where you are sweating all the time to Toronto where it’s snowing and the temperature is below zero. Your plane takes off in the daylight and after flying for several hours it lands in the daylight again which means you don’t get a good night’s sleep. All creepy stuff happens to you: your eyeballs pop out; you become loud and your whizzing ears make you a dangerous person.

I deal with these problems by eating healthy and exercising; for me, swimming is an effective stress reliever, so I never miss a chance to take a plunge into the swimming pool of a hotel! “Adapt!” is what I say when someone asks me how I survive.