Saturday, January 8, 2011

Flights of Fancy

The other day, my best friend and I somehow began talking about airlines and flights (I think because her brother was trapped with us for four extra days in South Carolina).

I was once on a flight from California to Philly, and I was seated in a row with two parents, two small children, and a very unhappy baby.  When they realized that the baby and the car seat would be seated next to an emergency exit, the family had to be moved to the row behind us.

Because the couple already sitting in the row behind us couldn't bear the thought of not sitting next to each other for an entire five hours, I had move with my in-flight family.

It was fun.  I got to color in some coloring books and eat gummies for five hours.  The couple who couldn't bear to be apart each dozed off separately.  So much for love.

This experience in turn led me to wonder who it was that came up with the policy of automatically enlisting whoever is seated next to an emergency exit to help out in the event that the plane crashes.  And what exactly would happen to the person if they didn't ultimately help out as promised.

Is there some fine print somewhere that grants the rest of the passengers the right to take legal action against emergency row occupants who fail to fulfill their assigned duties?  Somehow, I suspect not.

And who's to say that the person is even qualified or capable of performing such services?  The policy rules out children and the disabled, but I'm not so sure that those of us who are allegedly able-bodied are all that capable either.

So the whole thing is a ruse, really.

Therefore, when I fly, I try to size up whoever is seated next to the emergency exit and calculate the odds that they'll remain calm under pressure and be able to assist the flight attendant in getting everyone--by which I mean me in particular--out of the plane.

If it could also just happen to be a really hot guy my age who loves books and has a thing for saving English professors, that would be perfect.

Needless to say, though, the reality isn't usually very comforting.

On a flight back from Paris, I was actually seated in the emergency exit row for the first time ever and I had an epiphany: there is a LOT more leg-room in that row.  And because there is actually room to stretch out, the row is usually filled with men the size of line-backers.

So I decided then and there that, from now on, when I fly, this is my row.  I figure that, in the event of a crash, I'm no more likely to panic and collapse under pressure than anyone else and, given the size of all of the men sitting next to me, there's a good chance I'll be let off the hook when it comes to helping out in an evacuation attempt.

Anyway, I can be in charge of morale.  As people approach the emergency slide or the life-rafts, they might need a little ego-boost or an inspirational literary quote or some witty banter to lift their spirits, and that's where I can come in.

The wisdom of my decision was driven home to me on a flight back from Lisbon when I chose a plain window-seat that was not located in an emergency exit row.  A young boyfriend and girlfriend were seated next to me.

As everyone knows, airline seats are designed by turtles and bike seats are designed by people who hate people and want to render them unable to reproduce.  That's why the bottom of an airline seat always drops your butt diagonally downward while the upper back and headrest push your head, neck and shoulders ever so slightly forward.

This is also why no one ever wants to put their seat back in the upright position until the last possible second, and then only when the attendant insists.  (Confession: when I see someone who hasn't complied, I'm always tempted to rat them out, but I usually settle for simply muttering "look at that dirty reclining bastard" to whoever will listen.)

No one is usually listening.

In the case of my flight from Portugal, the movie screen was in my row, but off to my upper left.  So I watched "Juno" by glancing surreptitiously up over my tray table.

The problem of my row turned out to be two-fold, though.  For some reason, neither the boyfriend nor the girlfriend wanted to get out of their seats when I needed to go to the little bathroom-closet.

I'm not large, but the boyfriend wasn't small.  The girlfriend was more modestly sized, though, so I knew I could edge past her with no problem.  No one in the row in front of us had their seats in the upright position.

So I said "excuse me," and waited tactfully.  I passed the time eyeing the three inches of space between the boyfriend's knees and the seat in front of him and mentally gauging the size of my own ass. 

I said, "Excuse me," again--this time in Portuguese, actually--and glanced significantly at the boyfriend, then at the girlfriend, and then at the space between his knees and the seat-back in front of him.  They both smiled and nodded encouragingly.

This struck me as odd.  I could see how the boyfriend might be either oblivious or--worse yet--well aware of the fact that, in order to get out of the row, I was going to have to straddle him.  The only question now was, face-to-face or reverse position?

Personally, if I had been his girlfriend, I would have told him in no uncertain terms to get up.  And if he had seemed to me to be a little too slow about doing it, I probably would have broken up with him before we landed. 

I chose to go out frontwards.  In retrospect, I think the people in the row behind us enjoyed the show.  I suspect the expression on my face was particularly interesting.

I found it's very hard to look neutral, dignified and slightly contemptuous when you're straddling someone.  And it's flat-out impossible to tell yourself you aren't actually straddling a total stranger when, in fact, you are, even though, really, you never meant to.

As it turned out, the girlfriend had set her backpack on the floor in front of her, so when I stretched my leg over her boyfriend's lap, I stepped on it.  In a desperate effort to keep from falling onto her boyfriend, I ended up falling sideways into her. 

My valiant efforts at in-flight chastity were rewarded with a scornful glance from the girlfriend as she opened her backpack and quickly checked to make sure I hadn't broken her I-Pod.

It took three Pilates sessions to get me straightened out.  From now on, it's the emergency exit row for me.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, "Life is short, but there is always time for courtesy."