Last night, I was introduced to a friend of a friend. The woman is a flight attendant. This piqued my interest, since I fly every week and have much empathy for the flight attendants taxed with managing the varied dispositions of air travelers. I was full of questions.
I had observed on a recent flight that it still seems like a great percentage of air travelers have never done it before. They don’t anticipate the security procedures. They don’t know how to efficiently board the aircraft. They don’t know to keep their seatbacks and tray tables up for takeoff and landing. They don’t know how to be quiet when the safety announcements are being delivered. They don’t know how to stay seated until the plane comes to a complete stop at the gate. I wondered how she deals with always being a teacher on the first day of school. But, I didn’t ask that.
“What do you think when you see ME walk onto your flight with a trombone?”
Surprisingly, she said she’d immediately offer to let me store my trombone in a closet for the flight. I don’t think that offer has been made to me on a flight in over ten years. When I told her this, it launched us into a discussion about the people with whom she works….her TEAM.
Flight attendants, like musicians, don’t always work with the same crew. Frequently, they pick up shifts and find themselves meeting their teammates as they board the aircraft. She observed that many of her teammates don’t get it. They don’t realize how much power they have to positively or negatively influence the attitude of the passengers. They have an adversarial relationship with travelers. Many times, she’s forced to play the role of “good cop” because the person she’s working with for the flight begins the journey by immediately treating passengers with disdain. They, essentially, poison the mood of the flight. This resonated with me as it’s very similar to being a freelance musician.
As a musician, I get a message asking if I’m available for a gig. If I’m available, the contractor shares the details of the gig. The day of the gig, my first job is to show up early so that the contractor has one less worry. I make sure I’m prepared to do the job. I’m wearing the proper attire. I’ve reviewed the music AND I’ve checked my attitude. I consider how I wish to contribute to the situation. These are the lessons I learned by observing people like James Moody, Benny Powell, Ed Pazant, et al. These musicians I mention enjoy(ed) lengthy and fruitful careers, in music. They are my examples. But, no matter how much I prepare myself, there is always the possibility that another “musician” will show up to the gig late, looking disheveled and with a combination of resentment and entitlement that can completely ruin the evening for all. They are the children the rest must babysit. They are the disturbances in the force.
My friend and Oscar-nominated screenwriter, Julian Barry once told me, “It doesn’t matter how many great actors you get together to perform an amazing work, there’s always one asshole who can’t help themselves from ruining it for everyone.”
Parents hug your kids so they won’t try to steal energy from everyone else, please. If you didn’t get enough hugs, show up early and leave your inner baby at home. Be the solution.