Conversations can start up just about anywhere and no better place than at airports. Recently before flying back from London, as I was having coffee I found myself chatting with a lovely Polish firefighter from Kent on his way home for the New Year. He’d lived in the UK for some 12 years plus and after the topical chit-chat around what Brexit would mean for him, I asked him about his work. The conversation moved on to whilst most of the work was straightforward dealing with relatively minor events, the more dangerous and tragic the incidents he and his crew dealt with, the greater the emotional impact. I sensed that as with most types of trauma, there is a sense of loss, futility and disappointment which builds up and felt immensely sad that these feelings lingered long afterwards and wondered how these brave firefighters dealt with their emotions. Inevitably and true to stereotype, most men he said, would bottle up their feelings and inevitably something quite trivial would act as a catalyst and ‘boom’ the built up feelings would explode, out of context and often out of control. Never dealt with. I felt fortunate to talk with this man, to have had the opportunity of going behind the capable, brave masks people like him have to wear day after day in providing such an invaluable public service. Before we parted company, we went on to talk about the excitement of being with family and friends to celebrate the coming New Year and all that is joyous in life too. A few coffees later as I left for my flight, my resolve to raise awareness of the need to deal with emotions in the workplace was ever stronger. Most certainly, we need to keep pushing this issue to the fore-front, rather than ‘under the carpet’ as it is indeed a bigger conversation, one Much More Than Words will be highlighting in a couple of weeks time and we’d like you to be part of.
The second conversation was a brief one with the Ryanair flight attendant, who provided endless entertainment to weary and extremely unresponsive passengers. He looked Irish, had a real ‘country’ accent, was both funny and fluent. Yet something in his accent told me otherwise. Another Pole ! A Polish man with a big heart, resilient and sense of humour. Welcome and Safe Journey home. How are you, I asked. With the biggest warmest smile ‘Living the Dream, living the dream’. He made me laugh as we talked, another side of the human roller-coaster of emotions. Ryanair often get slagged for all sorts of things, but I have to say, not only has their service been consistent, their customer service on a face to face level has become more human, despite it being all too easy to find yourself paying unnecessary surcharges.
So to the two Polish gentlemen, from deep in my heart, I thank you both for making my night.