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  • Jessica Barker

Good Ice

Updated: Jan 1

Every flight attendant knows what good ice is. The moment you look into your cart after catering has been there, there is either a sigh of relief or a groan. Did we get “good ice” or “bad ice?” Good ice can make you day feel infinitely easier. I doubt most flight attendants have ever thought about what are the actual qualities that make good ice, but that doesn’t mean we can’t instantly recognize it. So what is good ice, and how does it make a difference? Good ice is easily scoopable, is of a medium size-not too big so that you can only fit doesn’t stick to other ice cubes, hasn’t been too covered in dry ice, and fits easily in the drawer. It doesn’t need to be broken up excessively before using. Having bad ice means more trips to the galley while doing the service, more time to prep the cart, and sometimes running out of ice. It can also mean you need to break up the ice at just the right time before service so that it doesn’t completely melt halfway through the service. I am sure almost all of our customers have absolutely NO idea how flight attendants feel about ice, as what kind of ice we are catered has nothing to do with how long it takes us to do the service, or whether or not they receive a cold beverage. The impact is far more subtle than that.


When we are standing in the aisle, asking you what you want to drink, when we have good ice it is easy to fill a cup with a scoop while engaging with you in pleasant chatter. Bad ice we have to look at to get a cube or two into the cup, as the cheap plastic ice scoops we get often break when bad ice has been on dry ice for too long. Instead of seamlessy doing the service, we might be breaking up five pounds bags in the aisle to replenish our supply.

“Atleast we got good ice” is a consolation on a day when you are delayed, passengers are misbehaving, or you are just on a short flight where every minute you don’t have to spend on prep work might mean you get another minute to just sit down, or quick eat a handful of almonds, or your own “secret menu” flight attendant beverage (current favorite is Fresca mixed with that delightful cranberry juice cocktail you can only get aboard airplanes!) before walking out into the aisle again to thank someone for handing you their dirty diapers and cups. Just as good ice makes our day easier, bad ice can be the straw that broke the camel’s back.


I never thought about ice so much as before I became a flight attendant. But in this seemingly small thing, I began to ask myself: what is other people’s good ice? What is the thing that can make or break their day?


This concept is instrumental in both my work as a therapist and researcher. So often when we work with people who are different than ourselves, we miss what their good ice is. It’s so easy to be dismissive of someone’s bad day and encourage positive reframing when we don’t understand the impact of the things in their life that may be big things. In research, we often miss measuring these seemingly small factors. And while bad ice may not bring an airline down, it will systematically annoy it’s flight attendants- and let me tell you, THAT could easily bring an airline down!


So I hope you can remember good ice, and it’s impact, and maybe consider asking yourself next time you are struggling to understand the importance of something for another person:


“What’s their good ice?”


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© 2019 by Jessica Barker