Norman: Looking out for 'Oscar' on a plane full of passengers

Glen Rose Reporter

As many of you might know I worked for a mainline air carrier as a flight attendant for over 30 years. And, yes, I do have some tales.

For example, you know passengers are allowed to bring certain animals aboard with proper authorization, and so it was not unusual for us to have our fair share of dogs, cats, etc. as fellow passengers.

Charlie Norman

That being said, I’d like to share a couple of anecdotes you might find especially interesting. One day in the mid 1980’s I was in the back of our Boeing 727 aircraft preparing the cabin for departure at the gate.

The captain’s announcement came over the PA system: “Flight attendants, prepare cabin for departure” — that was protocol and my signal to shut and lock the aft cabin stairs door.

And as I did that, the stairs that allow exit to the tarmac would fold up tightly/securely into the fuselage. The thing is, this particular time, I happened to notice a medium size panicky bird fluttering around the open space inside tail of the plane… too late to escape.

This bird was trapped. I called the captain, told him of the situation, and he said, “Don’t open the door, for we don’t want that bird to get loose in the cabin. Besides, we’re already all buttoned up and ready for pushback. The bird going with us.”

So it was, what it was. When we got to Nashville, I was very curious to see if the fowl had made it OK. So, I made it a point to open the aft stairs door as soon as it was safe to do so, just in time to see what looked like a mockingbird flying off into the Tennessee hills.

Maybe this bird knew all along where the plane was headed, and just wanted to visit some long-lost distant relatives. Just so you know, the mockingbird is the state bird of Texas and Tennessee. Once again I guess it's T for Texas and T for Tennessee.

Another fun story: One day, again I was prepping the galley in the back of the plane when the gate agent appeared and introduced me to Tommy, a 10-year-old unaccompanied minor, who’d be sitting in the back row of the plane.

It’s our duty as flight attendants to know about, keep an eye on, and escort these special passengers safely off the plane when we arrive at our destination. So, I got to having small talk with Tommy when he said, “Wanna see my pet sand crab “Oscar”?”

Caught me a little by surprise (never had one of those on board before that I know of), but I said “Sure.” He proceeded to show me “Oscar” all safe and secure in his small clear plastic box/cage.

That creature seemed quite content all right, but he did move around a bit when jostled. Anyway, I told Tommy to keep Oscar locked up in his little box and we’d be good. The thing is, about 30 minutes into our flight, Tommy rings his F/A Call button and informs me somehow Oscar got out and is on the loose on the plane. Oh boy...

We got on our knees and looked all around the adjoining seats and floor area. No Oscar…. not good! Well, I couldn’t help but laugh, and try to think of a way to rescue Oscar and inform fellow passengers of a basically harmless pet crab on the prowl.

Now this might be slightly embellished I have to admit, but I got on the PA system at the back of the plane (no passengers could see me) and this is essentially what came forth

“Ladies and gentleman, this is your friendly F/A in the back cabin area. Not to worry, but we got a little situation in the back here, and maybe you can help us. One of our young passengers seems to have lost his pet sand crab. Actually, ‘Oscar’ escaped his little plastic box and has scurried off somewhere, most likely on the floor in the back rows of the plane or thereabouts. Tommy assures me that Oscar is pretty tame and his pinchers have only drawn blood a couple of times since he’s owned him for the last year. Oscar’s light-colored brown and about the size of a half dollar. Now with this being self-proclaimed ‘Be Kind to Crabs Week’ Tommy would be most appreciative if you would not step on Oscar, but for you to let us know if you feel or see him anywhere. Thank you.”

It was so fun watching the passengers react to my announcement, when all I could see was the back of their heads turning, looking down and around, and talking to their fellow seatmates. I could just tell they were eatin’ up this little diversion from your usual flight. I also added as a recommendation that “If anybody has an extra worm or some handy plankton on board, you might could set a little trap so we can catch this little guy. Who knows? That might work.”

Nothing for about 10 minutes… then, then. We all heard this sorta squeakly, “squeally” kinda yelp about six rows up from the back. It sounded like an adolescent 10-year-old girl. Only thing it wasn’t. It was big ol’ 30ish man hollerin’ (not real loud), “He’s got me! He’s got me! Oscar's got me.”

Sure enough, Oscar had attached himself to the man’s pants leg. With one swift swoop, Tommy rescued Oscar and the man from further trepidation. I was little embarrassed for the man. And mighty embarrassed for my gender actually. I wanted to tell him “Man up, Bro.” But I figured I’d done enough joshin’ with my passengers for the day.

Charlie Norman has lived in Somervell County since 1994. He and his wife have two adult children, who graduated from Glen Rose schools. You can contact him at chas234@windstream.net.