There was an interesting incident which occurred while my wife and I were en route to Kauai this past Saturday. One of the flight attendants was on his last flight for United Air Lines … at age 84 and after 63 years of service! This man – Ron Akana was his name – had started back in 1949, back when DC-6’s plied the skies and commercial jets were unheard of, long before plane hijacks and even longer before 9/11. All he wanted to do was serve and this he did, apparently very well. There were a number of passengers on the flight who recognized him and took pictures with him during the boarding process, which continued smoothly despite what could have been a distraction. Indeed, we pushed back five minutes early.
During the flight Ron performed his duties as he doubtless always had, fetching drinks and meals, generally taking care of business, serving the first-class passengers, my wife and I included, with a smile and a manner which doubtless held him in very good stead for those six decades plus. It was when we landed, though, that exactly how significant this man’s service was to United really showed up. As we taxied off the runway, the aircraft rolled between two large fire trucks, each of which sprayed an enormous arch of water over the 767 – a “water lei,” said one of the flight attendants. This gesture, she said, was reserved for very special occasions and very special people, and in fact, Ron was now to have mention in the Guinness Book of World Records as the longest serving flight attendant in US history. The aircraft cabin burst into applause.
If you asked Ron, I expect he’d tell you he was an ordinary guy doing his job. With good work and consistency, even the ordinary becomes extraordinary sometimes. Something to think about.