I'd say it crept up on me, but I'd be fibbing. I've been looking forward to this for a while, and I'm using it as an excuse to make my Grandma Betty's Chocolate-Pistachio bundt cake.
On an upcoming day in September, I'll mark my 15th anniversary with Southwest Airlines, nearly all of it in my current position as an "Ops" Agent. People who work in Operations generally are internal transfers--that is to say, not too many people hire directly into the job. Having talked to many people over the years who have considered working in our area, the two things most new folks are a little intimidated by are "the math" and "making announcements."
I'll tell you this--I've met very few people in my life who are completely unable to speak out loud. Everyone does it every day. But there's something about putting a microphone in someone's hand and asking them to talk that can really freeze people up. My advice--just relax, take a breath, talk in a normal voice (please--no screaming--the volume is the microphone's job), and remember that you've been talking since you were one or two, which is way longer than you've been doing math.
The "math" part involves the preflight and final computations of the weight and balance of the aircraft. When I started, it was all done by hand on a worksheet that we used carbon paper with--the original went to the Pilot, and one copy went in our station's files. Even doing the simplest calculations while someone is watching you and you're pushing time constraints to ensure an ontime departure can be stressful. Now, we use computers to complete our paperwork, so the "math" end of things has changed quite a bit.
But thinking about math makes me think about numbers, and I have friends who will tell you I'm a little weird about that. So I thought I'd throw a few "numbers" out there--based on my "average" work week. In 15 years in Ops, I figure I've...
...worked nearly 19,000 flights. That's 19,000 times that I've picked up that microphone and talked about open seating, preboarding, and carryons. To those of you who listened, thank you. To the guy in the front of the "A" boarding group who never pays attention and tries to talk louder than me--really--the speech doesn't take that long, and not everyone has heard it. To those who have heard me sing my announcements--remember, this is my day job.
...greeted, said goodbye to, or thanked almost 4 million Customers (inbound and outbound). To those who speak back - THANK YOU! You really make my day!
...handled about 9,000 baby items--strollers, carseats, and baby carriers. As I get older, strollers get bigger--what's up with that? (I'll be so happy when Jeep makes an umbrella stroller.) To my fellow agents in MCO and TPA--I know you'd easily be tripling that number.
...given out around 7 dozen bottles of champagne to Customers celebrating marriages and other occasions. Given out much less advice.
I've also broken my ankle in two places, had to take eight stitches in my right hand and two in my left, participated in seven serious medical incidents, and been spit up on three times.
What I can't put a number to, though, is how many times my Coworkers and Customers have made me smile, or laugh, or turned a bad day into a good one. That's how five years easily became ten, and ten quickly became 15. For that, more than anything, I'm grateful. Well, that and Grandma Betty's cake.