Baggage Handler
Tay Berryhill
Last week this woman in 2B, a J-Lo wannabe in Gucci sunglasses—even though it’s a late night flight and the cabin’s dark—flicks her glass with dragon lady nails not ten seconds after I’ve served her and says, "Take care of this."
Her glass is only half-empty, so I say, "I’m sorry, ma’am. Is there something wrong with that one?"
She says, "I expect you to keep it filled. I shouldn’t have to ask. And there’s no need for you to talk to me at all." She waves me away as if I’m her maid.
In the galley I tell this to Carey-—he’s the purser—as I top off her drink. "What a bitch!" he says. "Watch this." He takes a lime wedge and runs it all across the countertop, then squats down and drags it across the sticky floor mat that’s never seen a washing, and plops it into her Bloody Mary. "There we go. That’ll take care of her."
I watch this flotsam of dirt and fuzz spread across the top, and say, "Good God, Carey, I can’t take that to her."
"Oh, you don’t have to." He delivers it to her with a polite smile, sweet as you please. "Here you are, ma’am. Your freshened cocktail. Anything else?"
I hear her say, "Like I told the other servant. Keep it filled, and don’t talk to me."
When he’s back in the galley, Carey watches her with this sadistic glint in his eyes. "That’s right, baby. Drink it down. Drink it all down."
I think, Five years ago, even six months ago, he was one of the nicest stews I’d flown with. Please, don’t let him end up like me . . .
Dr. Sharon leans back in her armchair. Her gaze penetrates with the intensity of a hawk watching a mouse. "Sounds like Carey has burn out. How are you doing?"
"I haven’t pelted anyone with peanuts, if that’s what you mean." It’s a joke but she doesn’t laugh, just nods like it’s an improvement. I suppose it is. Two months ago peanuts brought me here. While I was serving beverages and bags of nuts, a passenger grabbed my arm and pointed to the waxy man beside him. "Hey! I think this guy is dead."
The guy looked dead, slumped over, cold, I couldn’t get a pulse. My partner, Todd, and I pushed the drink cart out of the way and got him to the floor. As I started CPR, Todd made a PA announcement for a doctor. In less than a minute, I felt a tap on my back.
Not letting up on chest compressions, I glanced over my shoulder. The man standing behind me seemed to young to be a doctor. He was grungy, dressed like a stoner. I asked to see his license.
"Hey! Can’t we get some beers over here? Some peanuts?"
I nodded towards the prone passenger. "Dying man here. Hell-o?"
Dying man snorted in a deep breath and lifted his head. "I’m okay. Just a spell. Happens all the time." Once I helped him back into his seat, I hightailed it to my cart and pulled out a bin of peanuts. I found "It’s-all-about-me guy" in an aisle seat overwing.
"You want peanuts? Here’s your fucking peanuts." The first five bags bounced off his head before he threw up his arms in defense. I nailed him with twenty-three bags before Todd was able to pull me away.
The company said I could keep my job as long as I got counseling.
I see Dr. Sharon check her watch. The session’s almost over. She asks again how I’m coping. "Do you still feel stressed?"
"I’m learning how to handle the baggage."
Leaving, I think of the me-first jerks who snap their fingers for service or jab my chest saying, "Do you know who I am?" I’m always tempted to answer, "Sure. A self-deluded ass." But I won’t. There are other solutions. Carey has a few tricks to teach me.
Who do these people think they are anyway?
Tay Berryhill writes and paints in Birmingham, Alabama. Her work has appeared in flashquake, Cezanne's Carrot, and Children Come First. She shares a home with five spoiled dogs.