I remember a few things about my first day returning to work. It was September 11th and a gorgeous day. I was dressed in one of my old uniforms. After I parked my Gremlin and walked across the Dulles tarmac, I entered the United Airlines stewardess office and I was scared to death.
It occurred to me on the way there that dumping my car into the local gravel quarry off Rt 29 would be easier than facing the first day of my new life, the day I was to meet my new flight crew, my new supervisor, and then fly off to San Francisco. Going rogue would put an end to all the work I needed to do to get back on my feet. I was clearly still a little rocky and unsure of myself.
Strangely, I thought, my supervisor's first words to me were "How are you feeling?" I don't remember replying. He then added, "You know you're on probation." That, of course, worried me greatly.
Fortunately, many of the crew members were old acquaintances from the mid-60s when I was based in Washington. I felt comfortable with them as we exchanged hellos and a few introductions. But soon we were off on my first flight after the hospital and I was terrified again. I was sure I might do something wrong. My personality was still traumatized from all I'd been through. Perhaps my voices would come back, perhaps they would tell me to upset the passengers, pour coffee on their heads, open an emergency door and leap into thin air. The possibilities seemed endless as I carefully tried to follow the steps and procedures highlighted during our crew's briefing.
I tried to imagine myself as a normal and responsible person. The message of Peale's "The Power of Positive Thinking" buttressed my thoughts. I looked around the cabin for clues from the other stewardesses and worked hard at following them. Time passed. The food and drinks were dispersed without incident, and the movie - uninterrupted by spacemen - softened the long trip. Somehow we landed safely.
Once we landed. I remember the van trip to the Ben Franklin Hotel in San Mateo 15 minutes from the airport. I remember taking a long walk along El Camino Real, a street I'd traveled on so many times before. I remember arriving at my intended destination, a shopping mall with a large Nordstom. It had been a long uneventful day and finally I could now feel at peace with myself.
To be continued ...