The voice of the flight attendant came over the loudspeakers precisely as the textbook said it should have sounded. It did have just a hint of boredom after 30 years of sweaty palm landings.
I was instinctively blocking out the safety message of, “If we experience water landing the seat cushions can act as a flotation device.” It was not easy to bend my large frame into the design of a coach airline seat on the flight from Ames, Iowa, to Pueblo. And not too many chances of having a water landing in the interim.
I have been flying in commercial airlines since my first trip in 1945, a 24-hour, DC-3 flight from Miami to San Francisco. It would be hard to calculate how many times I had heard the same voice trying to convince me that it really was safe way up there in the clouds.
For years I have wished I could rewrite that safety speech so that it was at least entertaining instead of the same old stuff. No matter how late this flight was on its schedule, on the airliner you are currently stuck at 38,000 feet. At the same time my rewrite should sound less intimidating and scary.
Imagine my surprise when we were getting ready to taxi to the takeoff spot when Dorothy Dingbat turned on the microphone and it sounded like amateur night at the open mic at the local comedy club.
“Will the people sitting on the aisle please pull their elbows and shoulders in so the captain can see to back up the airplane?”
“For all takeoffs and landings will you make sure your tray tables are put away and your seatbacks are in the upright and most uncomfortable position.”
Remember I am on a flight from Iowa to Colorado. “In the event of a water landing (crash) anywhere while in route be sure to study the 23-page safety instructions booklet that is somewhere in the seat pocket in front of you. Study it carefully so you can put on your seat cushion without disturbing your neighbor.”
“In the unlikely event of a sudden loss in cabin pressure due to some kid opening an outside door, oxygen masks will fall out from the roof which is directly over your head.”
“On the outside chance that one or more of your kids are riding in a very expensive seat beside you, make sure you have your oxygen mask on first. Then try and get one on your kid or kids before they turn blue and stop breathing. Then just continue to breathe normally until a crew member advises you that it is OK to stop.”
“If you are riding in the mileage plus, free-loading, upgrade seats, for lunch you will be served our famous zucchini lasagna, macaroni and cheese casserole with an extra slice of our new 19-grain bread. We will also be serving all of the free vintage wine you can drink and still get off of the plane without wheelchair help. We will be serving the wine from our new biodegradable cartons.”
“If you are stuck in the cheap back seats we will be serving a bologna sandwich with a glass of supposed mountain spring water from a mountain somewhere in Arizona.”
“Wine, gin, whiskey and bourbon are all free for you lucky alcoholics up front. For you cheapskates in the back, once again we have free water; alcoholic beverages are $5 a pop.”
“Since this plane is now going to be late because of the fire in our No. 3 engine, many of you will be missing your connections. I don’t know the arrival gate of our flight or where the bulletin board is located so good luck on making a reservation to wherever you were planning on going.”
“You didn’t know about that little fire in the engine, did you? I think the captain faked you out with that little story about clear air turbulence when he was just playing with the controls.”
“When, and if or where, we plan on landing keep your seat belt tight across your waist. In the event that you are too fat, tighten the seat belt across wherever it will reach. If it is still too short, turn on the flight attendant call button and she will bring you a 20-inch-long extra piece of string to add to it. I don’t know why they don’t charge you fat people extra to fly with us. It takes a lot more fuel to get you there.”
“Check the seat pocket in front of you to make sure you have not left anything behind. While you are at it, check your back and front pockets, too, in case that is where you keep your spending money.”
“Please stay seated with your seat belts on until the plane has come to a complete stop at the gate and the seat belt sign has been turned off. We don’t want you to fall down and sue us. Especially after all of that free booze we gave you while in flight.”
“Now that we are finally safely on the ground, I want to welcome you to, where are we, Captain? Oh yes. You think we are in Colorado somewhere. That’s fine with me — we are safe and as you open the overhead luggage compartments, be careful because shift happens.”
Filmmaker Warren Miller lived in Vail for 12 years, and his column began in the Vail Daily before being syndicated to more than 50 publications. For more of Miller’s stories and stuff, log onto WarrenMiller.net. For information about his foundation, The Warren Miller Freedom Foundation, go to www.warrenmiller.org.
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