'I like to come to work everyday, and everyday is different'

By Johnny Jackson

"I push the people and the staff around," said Rita Adams, joking. "(Seriously) I like people, and I enjoy helping people."

Adams is a 28-year veteran customer service representative and supervisor for British Airways. At Hartsfield-Jackson Airport, she is one of 16 other British Airways agents.

The 56-year-old has seen many things in her tenure. She said none were extreme though, priding a moment in her career when she experienced the effects of her good works.

She remembered spending three days trying to find the owner of a camera she thought was her own. She developed photos from the camera realized someone misplaced their camera at the airport. She was able to track the flight the man was on from the identification code on the wing of the plane; she saw the code in the background of one of his photos.

Like thousands of airline gate agents, Adams deals daily with finding and resolving passenger problems. Sometimes she works behind counters near those gates where frantic passengers sometimes camp out to board delayed flights.

She might spend some time dealing with passenger information, assigning seats and checking ticket. She said she spends most of her time answering passenger questions and helping them out with problems they may not even realize they have. She knows, because she listens, she said.

"I don't just answer people's questions," Adams said. "I figure out the questions they don't know to ask me by listening. When I was a small girl, I spent a lot of time with my grandparents. They taught me how to talk to people and how to listen.

"You have two ears and one mouth, and why is that," she said, repeating her grandfather. "My philosophy is treat the passengers like you'd want to be treated."

And she credits her beloved, departed grandmother Suda with a lot of who she is today.

As her grandmother, she loves to garden. She has an extensive flower garden at home too, just about six minutes away from airport, she boasted.

Adams plants gardenias and hydrangeas. Some azaleas are planted, here and there, about her house. She still has the arrowhead philodendron her grandmother gave her years ago. And she has managed to grow several plants from the one.

Year's ago, she went into remission from cancer, something she tells coyly these days.

"That's done and over-with," she said in relief and finality. "I'm cancer free now; so, I'm good."

Adams seems otherwise shy and gentle in a way. She was born and raised in Kentucky. She attended Western Kentucky University, where she actually majored in Library Sciences. But she fell in love with the aviation industry and the people at British Airways.

Adams is entering her third year at Hartsfield-Jackson Airport.

"I enjoy Atlanta," she said. "I like that I come to work everyday, and everyday is different."