The man in the seat ahead is impatient.
Not fast enough, he says.
The wrong brand of Scotch.
The flight attendant keeps smiling,
even though she’s been up
eighteen hours, hearing him complain
for the past five.

A friend is a flight attendant,
and I want to say to the passenger, listen:
These people you’re abusing—
It’s not about serving your Scotch,
dealing with your attitude.
That’s not their real job.

Their job is to get you out of a burning plane
in 90 seconds:

that’s what they practice. It’s that simple
and that final and I think
about what goes through their minds
every time the plane takes off.
Because they’re going to save everyone,
even the man who doesn’t like their Scotch:
90 seconds, my friend said.
We get everybody out in 90 seconds.

I once knew a girl who got on a plane
and died, in the sky, over Scotland.
No one could have saved her:
it was a bomb. A cabin crew
that never got the chance to
save anyone. No 90-second rule.
And I wonder whether there was time
to regret anything, to be sorry
they couldn’t get the people out.
To realize that their wings had,
in that searing moment, become
permanent: that they would fly forever
in that dark sky, even as the bodies
rained down like fallen angels
hitting the earth.

In a time like ours, when
we need to believe in heroes,
believe in the ones on big graceful
silver-winged airships. Believe
in the ones who take you
over oceans and mountains
on magic carpets higher
than the clouds
and never stop your complaints
with a harsh word,
even when you don’t like
their Scotch.

Believe in the ones who are there
because they’ll get you out of a burning plane
                                      in 90 seconds.