I had been a flight attendant for about a month. I was in the back of a 737 by the galley and I noticed that near the lavatory was a locked storage closet requiring a key. The door had an official sign stating:
“Supply Closet—For Authorized Personnel Use Only”
Who was this authorized personnel, and what exactly was in that closet? I asked the “senior” flight attendant (she had been flying for two whole months) and she wasn’t sure either. Maybe toilet paper? Extra pillows? Back issues of SkyMall catalog?
I really didn't want to ask anyone else as it might make me look like I didn't know what I was doing. The closet bothered me the whole flight. I kept looking back there, wondering if the ground crew in Chicago was going to have that key, and maybe someone on board like, say, the pilot should have the key if we needed it.
My crew and I were keeping this same plane for our continuation on to Denver. How I wished we were changing planes to a nice simple Airbus that did not have mystery closets. I had never heard of these special closets at training class. Obviously, they were beyond my jurisdiction, just as the engine and wings were beyond my jurisdiction.
We finally landed, and the cleaning crew swooped in to do their thing. The lead cleaner, a gray-haired, heavy-set woman, efficiently checked the work of her team, then came back to talk to me. She was holding some paper towels and a few rolls of toilet paper. She motioned toward the supply closet.
“Can you please open the closet, Miss?” she asked politely, her hands full.
I shook my head no, then I set down my soda.
“The closet?” she repeated.
“No, sorry.” I shrugged.
“Excuse me?” she questioned.
“I said, I am sorry but no.” Was she stupid?! Did she lose her key? Surely someone on her cleaning team had an extra key. Why would only the lead person have the key? That wouldn’t make any sense at all because—
“You. Have. The. Key.” she said in staccato tones.
“No, you are mistaken,” I shook my head again, “the only key they give us at flight attendant training is the cockpit key. See?” I showed her my shiny brass cockpit key. Then I said, “See the sign? It says ‘Authorized Personnel.’ We all know who that is. The cleaning crew.” I went back to my Us Weekly magazine and my 7-Up, like the true professional that I was at age 23.
She started laughing. “No, dear,” she said, not unkindly, “the cockpit key also opens the storage closet. YOU are the ‘Authorized Personnel’.”