I didn't read the Post Dispatch article, but something Bill didn't mention is that this is not the first time St. Louis Employees have done this! "LUV Thy Neighbor" was a project the STL Employees started years ago (even before Ty was on "Trading Spaces"), which benefitted homeowners who lived in the city adjacent to the airport - their "neighbors", if you will. There were roofs repaired, fences fixed, above ground pools removed, flowers planted, floors replaced, porch steps and wheelchair ramps built, and more painting and cleaning done than you could imagine. The SERVANT'S HEART is surely beating strong in STL - way to go, Team! I miss you!
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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.
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Shelley is way too modest to mention it, so I"ll post the plug for her - Congratulations, my ever-smiling friend, for being a President's Award recipient this year! Shelley was among those who received awards this year at the banquet....and a big kiss, too, to fellow blogger Gordon Guillory, who received the special "Share the Spirit" Award. You two ROCK!!!
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Leah - Happy Birthday from one Leo to another!! I'm sorry I missed you when you came thru St. Louis, but your information was right - I'm off enjoying my summer vacation - part of which included celebrating MY birthday on the 25th! I hope your travels bring you back thru STL, and that we have the chance to meet then. In the meantime - Cupcakes with sprinkles for everyone!! Have a great, wonderful, enjoyable, memorable birthday!!
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Southwest gives each of its Employees so many different Freedoms--the Freedom to travel; the Freedom to continue to grow and learn; the Freedom to be financially secure; the Freedom to stay healthy; the Freedom to have fun--not quite as fancy as the Freedoms and rights expressed in the U. S. Constitution, but extensive, fulfilling freedoms nonetheless. The one that I appreciate the most, though, is the one that doesn't have a catchy phrase or clever logo - it's the Freedom to be me. The Freedom to ask questions of anyone, whether it's Colleen, or another of the Officers of the Company, or my Supervisor, because I function better when I know "why." The Freedom to use my sense of humor with my Customers, because I communicate better when I'm not just reciting a script. The Freedom to use creative thinking to resolve an issue, because there's not always a policy that fits every situation. And the Freedom to offer an opinion or respectfully challenge a decision without fear of reprimand or reproach, because Southwest and I both know they didn't just hire me because of my good looks-- they hire people who think and color outside the lines. Because Southwest gives me the Freedom to be "me," I can give my best to you. And it doesn't hurt that I'm free to wear athletic shoes as part of my uniform, either.
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I'd like to believe that Southwest is known for not treating People, either Customers or Employees, like numbers. It wouldn't fit with our Corporate Culture. Yeah, numbers are a big part of any business--and we have a lot of departments that crunch, compile, chart, and report numbers. Numbers measure. Numbers represent progress and gains and losses. Numbers project and forecast and summarize. But a number can't describe a person--can it?
In a way it can. Do you remember what it was like to go from being a freshman to a sophomore in high school? This little passage brought you up a step from the bottom rung of the ladder, and it was really huge. It didn't make you better, or that much different. But it did give you that "I've been around a little--I've seen some stuff" swagger to your step. Out here at the airport, we don't wear our "class" years on the sleeves of our jackets, but boy, do we pay attention to numbers.
Southwest is a Company of over 32,000 people, each of whom has their own Employee number, and the numbers are assigned in order of your hire date. The older (in terms of seniority, of course) the Employee, the lower the Employee number. I was in a class at the University for People where we had to form a line, as fast as we could, in order of seniority--without talking. Everyone immediately grabbed their ID badges and compared numbers to see how quickly we could sort through 28 people with a range of service from 18 years to 18 months. I was thrilled to see that one of my classmates from Las Vegas had a number only two off of mine--it turned out we were hired within a day of each other. But he was "senior" to me, and he kidded me about it for the rest of the week. It was a terrific example of how that little number mattered.
I've seen our numbers grow by the thousands, and the tens of thousands. I've heard the change of inflection in the question: "Your Employee number starts with 20,000?" Once that meant I was new. Now it seems like permission to question my memory and my ability to digest solids.
As each new addition to the Southwest family comes aboard and gets his or her "number," he or she passes a little something up the line to those of us here to welcome them. It serves as a reminder that we're fortunate to be here leading new People, doing work that we like, for a Company that sees us as more than just a number.
I don't know how long it will be until the New Hires have six digits, and I wonder how my "20,000" will look to them. It won't take long for even these Employees to look at their "low" numbers with pride and accomplishment. You can count on that.
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I love watching medical shows on TV. Love the drama, love the lingo. Medical shows are great for using language that the rest of us don't use in our everyday lives. "He's crashing! Get the blue team in here --STAT!" I wonder if doctors used the same terms away from work: "John--the Girl Scouts are here with the cookies! Bring my checkbook--STAT!" I had a friend years ago who was a nurse, and peeking at her grocery list I was confused when I saw "nacl" on the paper. She explained that she needed salt (sodium chloride), and that was how she wrote it at work, so....
In my own day-to-day, I find that 15 years of using radios to talk back and forth with people has influenced my speech and conversations. When did I stop saying "just a minute" and start using "stand by" all the time? My friends look at me a little quizzically when I don't say "never mind," but throw out "disregard" instead. And where Mom would tell you not to say "uh-huh" in place of a clear "yes," from me you're likely to get "copy that" after being given a direction or a response to a question. And for a new way to say "what?"-- well, never use one word when five will do.
Come on--I know I'm not alone here. Law Enforcement has their "10 code." IT people certainly have a language all their own. And let's not even start with acronyms--the parent to text messaging and e-mail abbreviations. Have you found yourself peppering your conversations with "work" language? Confusing your friends and family? Maybe we could start a dictionary or translation guide for the "lingo challenged." Someone should--STAT!
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Last week, I was out to dinner with a very good friend of mine. We were celebrating her birthday at one of our favorite restaurants, and after dinner, we decided to continue the evening at our favorite watering hole.
In what could have been a "Wanna get away?" moment for a very nice young man standing next to us, my friend found herself dampened by the drink he spilled in her direction. After we assured him that no permanent damage had been done, we made introductions, met some of his friends, and in the natural course of small talk, the question "So, where do you work?" came up.
Years ago, in my life before Southwest Airlines, I worked at "A Major Retailer." During my eight years there, I held Supervisory and Manager positions in fourteen different departments. (On more than one occasion working the phones as the Manager of Customer Serivce, it was suggested that I try to perform a physically impossible act.) When I was at any kind of social gathering - holiday party for my spouse, backyard barbeque with the neighbors, or some other place where one faces that eternal conversation starter (or ender), I would cringe at the question "So, where do you work?" because my reply would inevitably be followed by a story. Everyone seemed to have a story. A bad story. My outside hope would be for an inappropriate request for the use of my employee discount instead of the bad story - it would be so much easier then to smile and politely change the subject.
Anyway--here we were, blotting my friend's sleeve with the hope of drying it out a little quicker, and when asked about my employer, I didn't hesitate before replying that I worked for Southwest. And while the drink spiller confessed he flew another AAirline more often, our hearts immediately went to his friend who--instead of displaying some plutonium American Express card to impress us--pulled out his Rapid Rewards Visa Card and started in on how much he loves to fly Southwest! So, we spent a little time trading stories - good stories about his travels, runway configurations, and a presentation he had given in which Southwest was the topic. And I do believe his next drink was on us - courtesy of a Southwest Visa Card. Yes, Derrick, I am a SWA geek too - and proud of it.
I really hope you have great stories to tell about your job, and your employer - and if you don't always, I understand. Just watch the elbows of the people around you. And wear something that dries quickly, just in case.
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Martin - welcome to the blog, and while I'm not coming down on the side of dry- or honey-roasted, I will say that either are complimented nicely by an adult beverage. One of my greatest challenges was writing a poem about the history of Southwest - from the perspective of the peanut. I hope I was able to correctly "channel" their thoughts .
James - glad you're back! But hey - my singing and "throwing it up on You Tube" together in a sentence? What are you really saying, James ;)
Francisco (USS Blog Boy) - let's Karaoke together!! No charge!!
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Wow, Francisco! I was in ABQ this morning, and got back just in time to read that I had missed out on the fun!! I know your visit home will be way too brief for both you and your family, but the cool thing about our families - we take them with us everywhere...land, sea, and sky. (Thanks the the comments on my post - you're right, I'm also blessed with a great family, which includes a Sailor and a Marine!) I'm looking forward to hearing whatever you can tell us about life on the Nimitz - 'til then, Godspeed to you and all of those in uniform!!
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Alfred - please, please, next time you fly on Southwest, please talk to the Agent at the gate prior to boarding and inform them of your allergy. There's actually a form we have, specific to peanut allergies, that's used to inform the crews that peanuts should not be served inflight, and to serve an alternative snack (the pretzels). As some allergies are more severe than others, please also remember that if you're flying later in the day, peanuts will have been served prior to your flight, and we can't guarantee that there won't be residual peanuts and peanut dust on the plane. As for a specific seating section, I'm not sure what to tell you about that, but I'm usually in 18F - and if you're by me, I'll try to be the only Nut in sight.
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Ok - it's not nice to laugh at someone at their expense. Really. It IS human nature to do so, though, and sometimes it seems like it can't be helped. But since all of us have been given more or less some sense of self control, I suggest you exercise it as often as you can - especially on an airplane, especially in the presence of those people for whom it's a mighty struggle to get the peanut package open.
There are seventeen peanuts artistically splayed out in and in front of the open peanut package here on the homepage of the Southwest blog. You can bet that great lengths were taken to place those peanuts just so for the photo shoot - the spacing is precise, there's a good mixture of whole and half nuts, and shadows from the perfect lighting fall gently around them. But wouldn't you have liked to have been in the studio when that package was opened? Does it look like they got it on the first try?
I've seen some amazing contortions in airplane seats after the Flight Attendants make their way through the cabin with snacks. Elbows extended, backs twisting, lips curving into a grimace; teeth, fingernails, paperclips, the ends of pens - all have been employed to try to get into what sometimes seems like and indestructible little bag. It can seriously crack the demeanor of the coolest, best dressed, most perfectly coifed flyer. Maybe you've been there yourself. If not, and this is happening with your seatmate, or the person across the aisle, the temptation to point and laugh may feel overwhelming. But, remember your self control...and as gently as you're able to, point out the tiny little tear on the right side of the package that's there to serve as a starting point for peanut access. (Same goes for the pretzels.) You'll feel good about "being there" for your fellow traveler, they'll be saved some embarrassment, and it might even lead to a spirited conversation about the merits of honey- vs. dry-roasted.
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Well, Bill, you're the second to the last person in the world that I could imagine being speechless! So, here's a little something to put on a card in your pocket in case absolutely all else fails...
"I've watched as my son has become a grown man - not a thing I can do now about it...
"Gained respect, love, and friendship from so many here - and I'm so proud of him I could shout it...
"And today as he starts a new path in his life with his bride and companion, who'd doubt it...
"That each day til he's grey he'll have love in his heart...and will not see one sun rise without it."
Happiness always to you, Tyler, and the rest of the family!! Can't wait to see the pictures!!
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I've always enjoyed watching the Academy Awards on TV, and have even been known to plan my schedule around them. The clothes! The tears! The speeches! The drama! Everyone has their favorites -- Hollywood legends and legends in the making gathered in one place for their annual celebration of excellence in film. The only thing that gets more buildup and hype and covers more time on the calendar than awards season is a national political campaign. So here I am, after weeks and months of exposure to the coverage on the nomination announcements, interviews and feature stories -- I've even managed to see some (not quite all) of the nominated performances and movies -- and this year I'm going to miss the live broadcast.
The night of the Oscars, I'll be out of town. The very special distinction of this particular trip, and about the only reason I'd miss the show, is that for the first time in nearly 40 years I'll be vacationing with my Dad and my four siblings. All of us together again, not in the back of the Ford Country Squire station wagon of our youth, but on a cruise ship in the Caribbean. The clothes! The tears! The speeches! The drama! I hesitate to tell them that they're all equal beneficiaries of my Southwest savings plans. Let's just say that I plan to keep a respectable distance from the railing.
Seriously, I'm looking forward to this trip, for which we've spent the last 13 months preparing. Nothing beats time with my family. And having the freedom to travel is just one of the many benefits I enjoy at Southwest. As Spring Break season approaches and more families come to the airport to set off on their vacations, I hope that all of them are excited about their trips together; to hearing their Dads tell the same stories one more time, and to having new stories to tell. Just as long as no one tells me who the big winners were at the Oscars before I watch the tape!
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