Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Back on the Plane With Betty

I find it interesting that the airlines do their best to hide/disguise in an HGTV kind of way most of the life-saving items that may be needed during flight. For instance, the seats that double as flotation devices are decorated with a cheery blue/yellow fabric, the big rubbery (even if deflated) life raft is discretely hidden from our view under the attractive smooth plastic panel above the main aisle. Even the bright yellow masks that may be our only link to oxygen at some point are tucked away under the panel that displays the sleek light and service buttons. While I understand why they do this, (freaking out some passengers leads to a decrease in revenues, blah, blah, blah) my question is: Is this really in the best interest of some passengers? Don't the airplanes have some sort of obligation to help those with little or no perspective to understand just what they may be getting themselves into when they enter the metal tube and allow themselves to be thrust into the sky by powerful and potentially deadly giant engines?

Perhaps the stripping away of all of these facades is exactly what those disinterested/grumpy passengers I witnessed in the waiting room at LAX need to slap them back into reality and make them put down their Star magazines during the safety video. Who knows? Understanding the potential danger of the activity they are about to undertake could just lead to a renewed interest in other activities such as hiking or helping out with Habitat for Humanity, improve their relationships with others and strengthen their atrophied muscle of appreciation for all good that technology, capitalism, and clever interior design have poured into their lives.

Airline officials: This is what you have been waiting for. Betty has an idea that she gives you freely and without expectation of remuneration. (Although it's really fine if you want to cut me a check too.) Here it is: There are two planes parked on the tarmac, each with its separate walkway connected to a single waiting area. In that waiting area, trained psychologists (I'd be happy to head this up) stand, observing the waiting passengers. Those who display general nonchalance or boredom, or extreme overreaction (eye-rolling, general cussing) to announcements concerning delays will be directed to one walkway where they will proceed through the doorway and then be confronted with a plank and rope bridge sort of situation to get to the Plane o' Reality.

At the door of the plane, passengers (those who make it this far) will don thin orange life vests (the hairshirts of the airline industry) and proceed down the uncarpeted aisle looking like a strange, sad choir on tour. On the way their their seats, they must duck under the the semi-inflated life rafts which hang above the main aisle like trapped anorexic manatees. They reach their naked floatation devices and sit, staring ahead at the bright yellow oxygen masks that dangle in front of them like mobiles in this narrow metal crib in which they are now trapped. Transfixed by the masks and all they represent, they think back back to that flight to New York when they made the scene in the cabin about delayed beverage service due to turbulence. They shake their heads at their past behavior and grip the cold metal bar that has replaced the small treasure box, encasing the volume control and selection control twelve channels of music once provided by the benevolent airline.

Back in the airport waiting room the other, cheerful, grateful, gum-chewing passengers will be escorted through the normal, carpeted walkway and walk through the carpeted aisle to our pretty upholstered seats to eagerly, but patiently await our cold drinks and the entertainment provided on the overhead screens.

I mean think about it people. We are FLYING for goodness sakes. Do you think if birds were granted the privilege of using hands say, three to five times a year, for three to five hours at a stretch that they would complain about anything connected to that privilege? No! Those Seagulls who finally got to pick up french fries in the parking lot of McDonalds with their ten fingers would love it and enjoy it! Do you think the crow who finally gets to pick that piece of walnut out of the top of his beak with that handy finger would get impatient or irritable? No! How about the wrens who are able to weave nests in mere hours instead of days? They would never grow nonchalant or bored. They would all say, "Man, this whole thing is pretty amazing!" That, my friends, is exactly what we should be saying after every airline flight. We should be cheering and high-fiving the pilot as we leave the plane, amazed at the journey in which we took part.

Let us learn from our Bird Brothers. Do not be one of those candidates for the Plane o' Reality. Pack your bags with goodness, enthusiasm and a sense of wonder. Take those bags on board with you and keep them handy. (Check them and you never know where they'll end up. I mean, don't get ridiculous. Take some precautions. That's just common sense.)

Happy Flying, Everyone!


Anonymous said...

I like your "scared straight" approach, Betty, which might be just what I need to jar me from my parcel-like complacency. Perhaps the pilot can turn off one of the engines or maybe disable two out of the three autopilot channels for an extra adrenalin boost. Or perhaps I could trade in the crosswords and the German dictionary for some extra enthusiasm and a sense of wonder. And some Xylitol gum, of course.

Anonymous said...

I DO like the disabling of the autopilot channels! I will have to include that in my suggestion to the airlines.

Extra enthusiasm for your next flight is a must. It could be time to Ride the Bull while in the sky. Did I mention there is no restroom on the Plane o' Reality?

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