I took one last look at Singapore before nervously boarding the Airbus 330. "I will only be able to catch glances of my home country now that I have taken up this job," I thought moodily. No, I was not a travelling businessman then. I was a male steward.
This was my maiden flight as a steward, so naturally I would be trembling with anxiety. The good thing was that Cathay Pacific did allow stewards and stewardesses like me to watch the in-flight movies when not delivering earphones, food or sick bags. I really appreciated that, for it would help me take my mind off the stress of providing good service in the face of difficult passengers.
"We will shortly be screening 'Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring'. Enjoy the flight!" the speaker relayed. My ears pricked up. Lord of the Rings! Being an avid reader of Tolkien and a fan of Peter Jackson alike, I quickly delivered the earphones, all the while repeating "Enjoy your flight!", then rushed to the stewards' lounge to watch the film.
About 20 minutes into the flight, however, the screens switched off and warning lights started flashing. My heart almost skipped a beat. 20 minutes into my job and I was in an emergency already?!
Just then, two sharp bangs jabbed my ears. Then, the plane started quivering, and that quivering soon turned into violent shaking.
Then, a message came on the Public Announcement System. "We are currently experiencing technical malfunctions to our Number Two engine. We will be returning to Changi Airport, Singapore, to resolve the problem," it said. I was relieved at first, but quickly discovered that this was not the end of the emergency.
One of my colleagues informed me that there was a fire in the engine. Just then, the lights went out. We were close to Singapore and we had to inform the passengers of the imminent danger and ask them to quickly collect their belongings. It was then that I faced the horror of the service industry -- a difficult customer.
I found myself dealing with an old lady who was taking her time to take out her luggage. I told her to hurry up but she kept her pace, insisting that she had precious items in her suitcases that she did not want to break. I swore under my breath, thinking to myself, "Is she mad?! Why is she valuing her so-called precious items over her life?" I got fed up. I decided to take matters into my own hands. I simply took the luggage out for the lady and then left her to carry it. Meanwhile, chaos was still reigning all around me.
After all the drama on board, the plane touched down onto the taxiway, we finally alighted the plane and we re-entered Singapore. My maiden flight may have lasted for only 40 minutes, but it felt like four hours to me!