The bad flier



I am not a good flier.

Being a former Surface Warfare Officer, the idea of hurling along seven miles in the air at 500-some knots – without a parachute – makes no sense to me.

But sometimes, a guy has to get on a plane, and that’s where the trouble starts. I have already talked about the physical characteristics of the type of seat mate I seem to attract (see “Statistics“). Setting aside the fact that I always get assigned the seat next to the biggest guy on the plane, there is something else that is really starting to bug me.

Let me digress for a minute and tell you what happens every time a military operation begins. The first item on the agenda is a safety brief. In the brief you are instructed what to do in case of emergency, what you shouldn’t do because it is unsafe, and how to properly operate the equipment. The safety brief sets the tone and serves as the backbone of any plan, and people in uniform take it very seriously. No matter how many times you have heard the same brief, you pay attention. Because it’s important.

So how come on a commercial jet, no one listens to pre-flight briefing? I do. I also check the safety card and note where the exits are, and how to operate the door latches. I study how to put on the life jacket and verify that it is, in fact, under my seat before we take off.

I wear long sleeves, because in the military long sleeves protect arms from fire and heat. I carry a ballcap in case we end up in a life raft because Sailors always carry hats to their abandon ship drills to protect against the sun.

I do everything to ensure that if the plane goes down, my chances of survival are maximized.

Of course, since no one else is listening, no one will know how to open the doors. They’ll be fumbling with life vests and will clog up the exit doors.

I need to get there first.

What drives me absolutely crazy is when my seat mate insists on talking through the safety brief, while I’m trying to listen. I smile politely with a smile that says, “SHUT UP! CAN’T YOU SEE OUR LIVES ARE AT STAKE? HAVE YOU EVEN GLANCED AT THE CARD IN THE SEAT BACK? DO YOU EXPECT ME TO CARRY YOUR SORRY PATOOTIE OFF THE PLANE IF WE GO DOWN? AND NO I WON’T SHARE MY LIFE JACKET WITH YOU!”

I want to ask him, “How many doors are on the plane? Where are they? How do you open them? Are the latches on the exit doors on the bottom or on top? Do you throw the door out, or set it on the seat? Are you SURE?” Then I would slap him with the safety card and tell him to read it.

See what I mean? I’m not a good flier. What makes this a little uncomfortable is that I also envision myself as the Bruce Willis hero type who helps everyone off the plane before evacuating himself.

It’s a paradox.

Maybe, as a compromise, I’ll just stand near the exit and as I help passengers evacuate the aircraft I’ll pummel them with snide remarks and insults. “What’s wrong, buddy? Can’t get your life jacket on? Oh, that’s right – you were too busy updating your Facebook page to learn how to put it on. Hope you paid attention in swim class. NEXT!”

Or better yet, I think I have stumbled upon a method that is guaranteed to take away all the stress and aggravation of flying.

It’s called driving.


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