Cultured Carrots: Daneka Kulikowski Spent A Lot Of Time Up In The Airby Carrot Creative
Carrot Creative is filled with colorful characters. Cultured Carrots is a series that shares the outside passions that inspire the very best work for our clients. This week, Associate Producer Daneka Kulikowski talks about her past life as a flight attendant.
Carrot: How does one become a flight attendant? What qualifies a person for such such a job?
Daneka: The process to become a flight attendant is long and fraught with challenges. I applied online to work at United Airlines a few days after college graduation as a lark. My first interview was in Chicago a week later with a third party recruiting firm. The first thing the recruiter did when I walked into the room was a mini-test involving duct tape placed high on the wall to check my height. There aren’t a lot of physical requirements but you need to be tall enough to reach overhead bins and in decent shape. After that, a standard interview took place and I was invited to a second interview at United HQ.
The second interview was much more lengthy. I had to take a physical exam and drug test before reporting back to Chicago for 6 ½ week of training. It should also go without saying that you are subjected to CIA levels of background checks. At the final interview, you are told upon conditional hire where you will be based and you don’t get a choice in the matter. I was initially slated to report to the Washington DC base but the airline eventually changed my assignment to New York.
Training is incredibly difficult. It was like being on a reality show in terms of drama and cut-throat antics between the applicants. I found it to be more intense mentally than college. There are tests every week and anything less than a B will get you sent home immediately. The final week is when they teach you all the emergency procedures aka ‘the plane is crashing what do you do?’. The tests during this week are pass/fail and if you make the tiniest error, you are immediately removed from training and sent on the next flight home. Additionally you learn everything from how to properly serve wine and fold napkins to etiquette standards in the Middle East and Asia all the way to how to administer CPR and ditch a crashing aircraft in the ocean.
C: What was the hardest part of the gig that you didn't expect?
D: Sleep deprivation! I’m a night owl so the fact that I wouldn’t be sleeping normally really never occurred to me until after a few months of constantly flying transcontinental flights every week, some of which were red-eyes. Never underestimate the need for a normal circadian rhythm. I started going a little crazy.
C: Did you ever see anyone famous on a flight?
D: I only flew for a year but I saw a few people; Candice Bergen, Eva Longoria, Tyler Perry (he was super nice!) and Christopher Meloni. Mr. Meloni was a massive jerk who thought he warranted extreme red carpet treatment and I honestly had no idea that he was a psuedo-famous TV actor. He exhibited by far the worst behavior I saw of any celebrity passengers by making unreasonable demands and finally trying to access the bathroom when the safety gate was up when the pilots were clearly taking a restroom break. The answer to this demand was a polite ‘get away from the cockpit and sit down.’
C: What's a secret you learned about flying behind the scenes?
D: I don’t know why, but prior to becoming a flight attendant, I thought there would be more space in the galley for food preparation. There is not, and there is no special bathroom for flight attendants. The food for flights comes pre-packed in the galley ovens and each item is usually separated in the dish in paper containers. What this means is that at least 1-2 flight attendants have put their (likely dirty) hands into your dish to arrange the items before you receive your meal. I say likely dirty because the attendants are super busy plating the food and usually aren’t rushing to the bathroom to wash their hands that often. I did though because I’m super neurotic. If you watch on your next flight, you will likely see an attendant in business class deliver a clean tray of food right after picking up trash. Likely that same attendant didn’t take the time to wash their hands.
Also, surprisingly not that many people try to join the Mile High Club. This is also smart because airplanes are germ-ridden and no place for sexytime.
C: What lessons from your flying days do you still apply today?
D: Much like former restaurant workers usually tip well, I make sure to treat the crew well and avoid unreasonable demands. Not many people want to touch your filthy trash so if the attendant comes through with a garbage bag within reach, try to put your trash in the bag, not directly into their hands if possible.
Also, don’t ask for 3 different drinks. It’s irritating to everyone around, not just the flight attendants.
C: Did you ever actually catch anyone smoking or tampering with smoke detectors?
D: I did not, thankfully. I was so sleep deprived and tired when I was flying that I gave off a pretty stern demeanor!
C: Final words of wisdom?
D: Pimpin ain’t easy.