You Were Told Three Times
I WAS WORKING a flight from Los Angeles to New York and we had a full load of passengers. It was customary before the flight for the flight attendants to go up to the cockpit and introduce themselves to the captain and tell him where you were working on the plane. On this particular day, I was working the first-class cabin position, and the captain told me that he wanted to know if there were any problems on the plane concerning commissary items or inflight, after we were airborne.
I was thinking to myself, “Where have you been on a number of my flights,” but didn’t say that, thanked him and said I would definitely tell him if we had any problems. I have to admit here I had a name for the really senior captains. I called them, “ballbusters.” They just didn’t let the public get away with too much and they were great to fly with. You knew they had your back. Note: The inelegant expression of ballbusters here is meant as a total compliment.
Everything was going along very nicely in flight, no problems in the front or the back of the plane. We’re happy the passengers are happy. And then … a passenger in the last row of first class lights up a cigar. I know you are all staring at this page now. A CIGAR! Yes, we let people smoke pipes and cigars on the plane along with cigarettes then, but there was a caveat to the pipes and cigars. If anyone complained about the odor the smoker would have to put it out. This was even specified in the TWA Ambassador Magazine that was in every seat pocket on the plane.
I had the page number memorized.
Within minutes a call light comes on in first class. I went back to answer it and it was a female passenger, who asked that the cigar be put out. I acknowledged her request and went back to the cigar smoker.
“Sir, I’m sorry but someone has complained about the smell of your cigar and I’m going to have to ask you to put it out.” I immediately turned around and left because I knew that our male passengers were much more agreeable to complying with a request if you didn’t stand over them like their mother or the school principal.
How is my request going? Not well. I go back to the cigar smoker about five minutes later and say, “Sir, I know you must be enjoying your cigar, but I’m going to have to ask you again to please put it out because someone has complained about the odor. Thank you.”
And again, I leave.
Another five minutes goes by and the cigar smoke is still wafting through the cabin. I have to admit here that I was getting ticked now. I walked back and said, “Sir, you have to put out the cigar now.”
I take out the TWA Ambassador Magazine from his seat pocket, flip to page twenty-nine, hand him the magazine and run my finger under the rules where it says, “You have to put out your cigar or pipe if someone complains.” I then said, “Please put out the cigar now.”
He looks at me and says, “No.”
At which point I said to him, “Do I understand you correctly that after you have been asked three times to put out your cigar you are not going to put it out?”
He says, “Yes, I’m not putting it out.”
Without skipping a beat I’m off to the cockpit. I explained to the captain what I just told you and he said, “I’ll be out in a minute.” Finally, I have my back up!
A few minutes later the captain appears in the cabin with his jacket and hat on which always means they mean business. It was very easy to find the offending passenger because you could just follow the smell and the smoke.
The captain stops at the passenger’s seat and introduces himself and then he says, “My lead flight attendant told me that she has asked you three times to put out your cigar. Is that right?”
The passenger is just staring at him now and then says, “Yes.” The captain says, “I’m the captain and I’m only going to ask you once. Now put out the cigar.”
To which the man replies, “No.” The captain then says, “You were asked three times nicely by the flight attendant to put out your cigar and now I have asked you once and you still don’t want to put out your cigar. Is that right?”
This idiot obviously doesn’t realize that he is now dealing with one of our ballbusters! He looks at the captain and says, “I’m not putting it out.”
The captain turns around, goes back into the cockpit, and gets the CO2 fire extinguisher that is located there. He comes back out, walks down the aisle to the arrogant idiot who won’t put out his cigar. Breaks the seal on the canister, pulls up the nozzle, presses the release button and fires off a stream of CO2 at the cigar in the man’s hand. The cigar is now covered in white residue from the CO2 and it is out!
The captain takes the cigar out of his hand and says, “We won’t be smoking any more cigars, will we.” Turns around and leaves. As he walks by the galley, he hands me the cigar and says, “Would you please throw this away.”
I admit it, I had a really big grin on my face and was trying not to laugh out loud! That was the best thing I had ever seen happen to a jerk on the plane. Trust me I didn’t go back out into the cabin for at least ten minutes. That passenger never said another word to me. He knew he was dealing with a ballbuster who would probably have him arrested in New York if he created any more problems. Thank you, Captain!
Note: CO2 residue does not hurt the skin, clothing etc. It easily brushes off. But it sure puts out cigars!
From True Tales of TWA Flight Attendants: Memoirs and Memories from the Golden Age of Flying (Telemachus Press, Oct 2022) by Kathy Kompare and Stephanie Johnson. Ann Hood raved, “An hilarious, honest, heartfelt journey through the Golden Age of Flying with the people who know it best—flight attendants—on the best airline that ever flew—TWA. Fasten your seat belts and welcome aboard!”