She's been working hard for multiple decades, and is a little more than a year away from retirement. Only there's a serious catch: In order to go back to work, she's required to get a flu shot. "I haven't had one in years," she says, "because each time I got one before, I became incapacitated." 

After her first adult flu shot, she remembers her arm swelled up "like a sausage." She couldn't bend it for two weeks, which meant she couldn't drive, or do her work, which requires physical labor. She had another flu shot two years later, an act of civic responsibility she felt then—and she got really sick. She ended up with the flu itself that time, then bronchitis, which, she says, left her feeling asthmatic for six years. "I was really sick, sicker than I'd ever been in my life, and I was only in my early thirties."

"I know people always make light of people getting the flu when they get the flu shot, but it's not funny. We're all different, and for some of us, it affects us really badly. And I'm one of those people—and I'm not going to do it again."
Which means that she might be fired, and might not receive the full compensation of the retirement she's been working toward for decades. She is worried, but she's not alone.

"Many people at my workplace talk about it privately," she says. "No one is saying anything publicly. But we all talk about it amongst ourselves. There are people who are very, very concerned about catching diseases, but there are quite a few of us, maybe 90% of the people I've talked to about it privately, we all agree that this is too much. There's not one person there who wants to be forced to get a flu shot."

"I feel like I'm being pushed into a corner. To force people to do something so radical, to have zero outs, no escape route. It's like they're changing the rules on you all the time, and in order for me to get to my full retirement, I have to play by those rules. I don't feel like they have the right to tell me what to do with my body or my health."
"This isn't the job we signed up for," the flight attendant says. She's speaking from Austin, where she's visiting a friend. This is not a layover, it's an actual vacation—because she's now retired from an industry that, she believes, abandoned its senses.

"For February, March, and April, our airlines told us not to wear any masks because we didn't want to scare the passengers," she says. She had a lot of connections to and from Asia at that time, and, she reports, "No one got sick." None of her fellow employees. That, she says, is the first thing she tells people when they ask her about her retirement. Later, despite what the numbers were showing about the risk, they demanded all the attendants wear masks, gloves, and shields. Then, she says, they implemented temperature checks. Then they started sending everyone into Covid testing. "You had to get both the blood test and the saliva test." And they were telling employees that things would not be normal again until there was a vaccine. 

It was too much for her. 

Additionally, as many saw on the Internet, there was a lot of social conflict above the clouds. "My girlfriend reminded me that we're policemen on the flight—and we get videotaped on social media all the time. Do we want to be in that predicament?"

"The whole point of being a flight attendant is to travel the world and see things," she says. She's an Italian speaker who used to fly to Rome weekly. No more. She also frequented Sydney, but now, she says, Australia's so strict you cannot leave your hotel room for 24 hours, not even to visit co-workers who you just shared bunk-beds with on the last shift. A salad and light snack for that day-and-night stretch may be all the airline offers, she says.

"A crew took some drinks to rooms and had a get together. They all got fired."

She has an idea of how we got here, but she's most worried about how to get out. "The people need to stand up for their rights," she says. "In this country, people have been so complacent, watching their televisions and taking in propaganda." 

This country, she says from her perspective as a world traveler and first-generation American, is a young one compared to others. "First and second-generation people like me are fighting for this; our families ran away from our previous countries because of this kind of stuff." What she sees is a government gone rogue. "We're supposed to have checks on the government," she says, "and we lost that a long time ago."