Flying brings a fundamental change to daily life. Flight attendants have time off work when most other people are working, and vice versa.
Consequently, birthdays and Christmas are sometimes celebrated in the air rather than at home with loved ones. This is exactly what occurred on my birthday, and it really was a unique experience.
During my first year as a flight attendant I allowed fate to determine whether I would be at home or flying on my birthday. As things turned out, my 27th birthday fell on a flying day, destination Moscow. I should mention at this point that many flight attendants have mixed feelings about this route. This is probably due to the many stories that are circulated about it, many of them untrue. Regardless, I happen to like this destination, aside from the Siberian temperatures in winter. But by the end of this day I was so tired that I all I wanted to do was go to the hotel.
The turnaround to Palma di Mallorca earlier in the day had been pretty heavy going, and the aircraft that was scheduled to take us to Moscow was delayed by more than an hour.
This meant that at 21:00, with seven hours of duty time already behind me, I was still sitting at the Operations Center instead of on board the aircraft bound for Russia.
At last the aircraft arrived. Rather unusually for the time of day, boarding went smoothly and we were able to make up some of the lost time. Not wanting to have my day spoiled by delayed flights, I mentioned at every opportunity that I was celebrating a birthday. This prompted some of the Russian passengers to sing for me and, even though I was tired, I was still able to celebrate into the early hours of the next day together with the crew in the hotel lobby.
However, the most interesting present I received came from a passenger to whom I had offered a second piece of cake to mark the occasion. After deboarding, he came up to me and presented me with a small safe full of chocolate coins which he had earlier purchased from me via the duty-free trolley.
In itself, this gift was not overly special. Many flight attendants before me have received gifts, some of them rather more valuable. But this present had a special touch indeed. It contained a slip of paper with the giver’s address and various telephone numbers. At this point, I should note that I was not the one to find the slip of paper. That pleasure fell to my boyfriend.