6 stories from a veteran flight attendant

When you're flying, you might get annoyed by an obnoxious fellow passenger who refuses to buckle his seatbelt or by the person demanding another refill of coffee, but at least you're not the one assigned to deal with them. Writer Heather Poole has been a flight attendant for more than 15 years and has seen it all in her time in the air. Here are 6 anecdotes – ranging from the fun to the horrifying – from her memoir 'Cruising Attitude.'

1.Not wearing lipstick could get a flight attendant kicked out of training

By Arienne McCracken

When Poole started flight attendant training, the first step was Grooming 101, where all attendants were taught how to properly maintain their appearance. (One of the most important rules? "No frizzies" in your hair.) After the grooming instructors taught them how to create and maintain an airline-approved beauty regimen, trainees were held to those rules for the rest of the instruction time. Often, Poole writes, an instructor would enter a room and say, "Ladies!" At first, they didn't know what that meant, but they quickly learned it meant someone's lipstick wasn't up to scratch and needed to be fixed, now. If they didn't reapply immediately, the offender would get kicked out of class permanently.

Meager salaries meant a lot of hunger

By Pat Guiney

Poole says that after training she and the other flight attendants were given four days to find a place to live in New York, a tough task with their low beginning salary. (She made less than $18,000 a year.) In the first few years of working on the beginning salary, Poole remembers hoping that passengers would refuse their in-flight meals as she passed them out. She knew fellow flight attendants who would go on flights to get the airline food for no charge, and remembers other co-workers who accepted offers of dinner dates from a men they didn't necessarily like, just to get a free meal.

One experienced passenger helped them out

By Sidney Shapiro

While on probation for their first six months, Poole and the other new flight attendants were required to wear their skirts a half-inch above their knees – a rule that more experienced flight attendants tended to ignore once probation was over. So one glance at their longer hemlines meant that their co-workers knew they were new at the job. One first-class passenger even realized that Poole and her fellow flight attendant were new and so decided to help them out with their duties. The passenger picked up glasses and gave back coats to the other passengers. "The passengers gave him a round of applause," Poole writes. "We, the crew, slid him a bottle of wine."

One passenger wrote a critical letter after hours of help

By Ilter Kansiz

An elderly passenger boarded a flight Poole was working on and ordered Poole to bring her bag to her seat, which Poole did. The passenger then asked Poole to fold her sweater a certain way – making her do it again twice – as well as asking her to open the window shade for her multiple times. Finally, the passenger said she wanted to write a letter, so Poole gave her paper they had used for catering and gave the passenger her own pen. Then the passenger asked that the letter be taken to whomever was in charge. Poole gave it to her superior, only to find out that it was a complaint that Poole didn't have her hair in a hairnet.

One stewardess struck up a friendship with Howard Stern

By Jeff Zelevansky/STR/AP

A fellow flight attendant loved listening to shock jock Howard Stern's radio show and then had him on a flight as a passenger. She called into Stern's show to tell him she'd worked on his flight, and they discussed other stars who'd taken the same flight. Stern asked for her name and she wouldn't tell him, so, Poole writes, Stern called her "Loose-Lipped Meg."

Working with your mother can be an interesting experience

A flight attendant in 1949 By Chalmers Butterfield

After dreaming her entire life of being a flight attendant, Poole's mother became one in her late 40s – a development that took a turn for the surreal when she began living at Poole's apartment building in New York, the "crash pad" where many flight attendants stayed when not working. On a few flights, by quirks of scheduling Poole and her mother were assigned to work on the same plane, and once when that happened, a ticket agent announced over the intercom that a mother-daughter flight attendant team would be serving passengers that day. "The response can only be compared to that of telling a bunch of kids that Mickey Mouse and Goofy will be on board handing out snacks," Poole writes of passengers' reactions. Once, a passenger got snippy with Poole's mother when she accidentally spilled a small amount of water on the armrest, and Poole was quick to defend her mom. "I am not a confrontational person," Poole writes. "But no one was going to treat my mother like that!.... I stood right there to make sure the guy didn't say anything disrespectful."