Monday, March 30, 2009

A note about socks, and airplanes

I flew a trip on Friday that was a 13 hour duty day with 4 flights that were full to the rafters, as Fridays often are. I had the good fortune to get to fly with crewmembers that I truly enjoy so it made it a little easier to smile and enjoy the day. I worked on these socks, and then finished them on Saturday night. They're a color way called "downpour" and I wore them all day on Sunday as there was a serious "downpour" going on outdoors.

Now, you'll ask, how do socks pertain to airplanes. There is a flight attendant that blogs that had a lavatory post, and I was thinking about that while I took the picture of my socks. With Spring breaks beginning, and the summer travel season coming up, I thought it might be a good idea to mention something that really creeps us Flight Attendants out, seeing folks going to the airplane bathroom in their socks. And barefoot happens occasionally too.

Now, I realize that there might be some people out there that don't understand what the issue is with this. It's hard to believe, but when I sometimes send children (innocent souls that don't know they shouldn't be without their shoes in public) to get their shoes on back at their seats, the parents ask "why?" So I'm going to do my best to tell you why, from our perspective of working on the airplanes.

*1. Bathroom aside, you shouldn't be anywhere on an airplane without shoes. If you take them off at your seat, slip them on again before you move. It doesn't happen often, but sometimes a glass will break on the carpet and not all the shards will be cleaned up by the vacuum, when it eventually does get vacuumed. People puke on the carpet, people spill things, people drop things, it is seriously gross. They don't shampoo the carpets. Any liquid is kind of cleaned up, but you know it's going to absorb into the fibers. Airlines wait until the planes are on a scheduled heavy cleaning (not often) and replace carpets because they get so dirty. Dirt from feet. Dirt from people that live on farms and step in "stuff"...may I please stop there? EWWWW
*2. You wouldn't use the rest room at a football stadium without your shoes, why would you do it here? Just because there's carpet in the aisle? Please reread #1. There are, just for conversation, about 400 people on a 747 on each leg/flight. On a domestic schedule that airplane might be flown 4 or 5 legs in one day. So that's a whole lot of people, isn't it? It's public. It isn't disinfected. Go back and look at all the stuff that might be on the floor from the point above. The cleaners, depending on the station the airplane is sitting at, might have from 5-10 minutes to clean the entire airplane. They spray a couple of spritzes of cleaner (think watered down cleaner, the cleaners are outsourced to companies that hire for minimum wage and try to save every cent they can) on their rag and swab the floor in the lav when they have the time, and that's not every stop. Mostly it just spreads the stuff that's already there. And the cleaners, for the most part, don't care. We have to go behind them in many cities and ask them to re-do what they supposedly did. There are not a lot of English speaking cleaners, and the languages are varied, depending on the city, so there isn't a lot of conversation or understanding.
*3. Ok, how many of you folks have males of the species in your family? I have a couple, and I will share with you that they are great people, and sit at home to alleviate the mess here in our non-public restroom. I taught my son to stand in a public place and not to touch anything he didn't have to in public restrooms. Ok, so say that "most" of the guys stand in the public place called the airplane. You know that guys somehow get drops on the floor at home, and the floor isn't moving. Now factor in turbulence, vibration from the airplane, the small cramped size of the restroom on the plane, and not caring how their aim is because they aren't at home. Now add in boy children that aren't quite tall enough to aim effectively. There isn't a whole lot of room in the airplane bathroom. It's all going to end up on the floor. Mix in the splashes of water from those people that actually wash their hands (I'll elaborate later) and it becomes quite icky.
*4. I've had people say to me "but it doesn't look wet in there" and indeed, the lack of humidity on the plane tends to dry liquids rather quickly. But have you ever spilled a coke or other liquid and it dried only to leave a residue or stickiness of some kind? Well, the water will certainly evaporate, but that leaves germs and such. I'm not a doctor so I'm not going to begin to tell you that I know exactly what is left behind, I just know that I certainly am not going to take a chance on anything. You and I both know that certain germs can survive on surfaces, many for quite awhile. And you don't know if the person that left those germs has anything infectious. I'm not going to want to share their germs, not matter what they have.
*5. And while we're talking about germs, I seriously wonder how many people actually wash their hands after using the rest room. I know that's gross, but it bears discussion since we're talking about dirty public places, not just airplanes. We've all been in places where someone has walked out of a public toilet without stopping, but I think it's more prevelant on airplanes than you might think. I can't tell you how many times I'll use the forward lavatory (this one gets less use so it is supplied with less paper towels) and I'll find that it's out of towels. It probably was out of towels for awhile before I went in there, and nobody said anything to me about it. My jumpseat is right outside the bathroom and in First Class where I usually work, I have a lot of customer contact. Sometimes I'm sitting on my seat when folks go in. I'm fast, but even I couldn't do my business and wash my hands in the short amount of time that some guys go in and come out. And this is in First Class. We see some strange things mostly in coach, and there are about 7 times more people in coach than in first class or even business so it compounds the possibilities. Of course, there's the issue of the ones that are in there for-evah but that doesn't pertain to this discussion. I open the door with a towel, then throw it away so I don't touch the handle with my now clean hands. Flight attendants are germ phobics, we are exposed to so many germs brought on board, why make it any easier to get infected?

And, if you went into the lav in your socks you WERE noticed by the crew. We'll talk about you behind your back unless we're discussing something more interesting. We'll tell our flying partners that you mopped the floor in the lav (even if it didn't feel really wet, you did), and if you're trying to impress that 20something cute flight attendant on your flight, you did, though probably not in the way you had intended. Far less women than men go in there in their socks, I don't know why...just observing. And I'm just trying to help here...for your upcoming vacations.

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