I was fortunate to have many Pan Am eastbound flights from London to New York on days that Greenland was visible from the air at around 35,000 feet. On many days it was too cloudy to see anything. However, I always prepared the passengers that if Greenland was visible I would wake them up to see it.
Usually the only complaints I received were from the flight attendants. They had to take turn taking breaks, and it's easier when the passengers are asleep. After I would wake passengers to see Greenland they would keep the fight attendants busy with drinks requests, so it would mess up their rest schedule.
However, our Pan Am flight attendants were very understanding because they knew it was a once in a lifetime experience for passengers; and they also enjoyed the view.
The best seat in the house for this view was the cockpit, because we had a 180 degree panoramic view that was spectacular to say the least.
The Polar Bears
One day as we were flying overhead I gave my usual announcement that "if you look closely you "may" see a polar bear and her cubs down on the left". That was always fun because people would look for them. My wife was on one of the flights with me when we could see Greenland, and she asked me later if I really saw the Polar bears!
It was customary for the Captain to stand at the cockpit door to say goodbye to the passengers and thank them for flying with Pan Am. That's when people would comment about how much seeing Greenland meant to them.
One gentleman with a gruff voice came up to me seeming to be a bit angry and said:
"I was sleeping very soundly up until some guy got on the microphone, woke me from my sound sleep and started talking about Greenland and Polar bears; "was that you Captain Bill?"
I said "yes sir, and I apologize for disturbing you, but most people want to be awakened for that view because they may never see it again." He said, as his demeanor changed and he added a slight grin: "Well I just want to thank you for waking me up. It was the most beautiful view I have ever seen in my life, and I would not have wanted to miss it.
But I didn't see those damn Polar bears!" And he walked away. His face looked familiar but at the moment I couldn't put a name to the face. I was still stunned by the way he came at me. So I asked the flight attendant who he was, and she said that's Nick Nolte.
Well, Nick Nolty got one on me.
I suppose he thought that since I was playing the Polar bear game that he could play the mad passenger game. And he played that part very well. He sure had me convinced that he was upset.