Matter of Laugh or Death
By Bill Dunn
Interesting observations on this thing we call life
AIR RAGE IS ALL THE RAGE
In a recent news story, the security advisor for the nation’s largest pilots union called for airlines to begin cataloging the job skills of passengers willing to help during in-flight emergencies [USA Today, Jan. 8, 2001, page 4A].
Stephen Luckey, the chairman of the National Security Committee for the Airline Pilots Association, explained, “We have a myriad of resources on every airplane: the passenger group. We just don’t know who they are.” He said doctors and law enforcement professionals, for example, could provide important assistance, especially in light of the growing number of “air rage” incidents where flight crews have been overwhelmed by violent and unruly travelers.
Although most airlines are noncommittal about Luckey’s proposal—citing liability issues and increased check-in delays—I think it’s a terrific idea. And that’s why I volunteered my services when I flew to Cleveland on business the other day.
“I’d like to register on the in-flight emergency skills list,” I told the young woman behind the counter as she handed me a boarding pass.
“Excuse me?” she replied.
“You know, the passenger skills list. It was in all the papers. If someone gets sick or goes nuts during the flight, the crew can call on skilled passengers for help.”
“Oh, yes,” she said. “I did hear something about that. We don’t have any system in place right now, but, um, I guess I could send a message to the flight attendants. What skills do you have? Are you a doctor?”
“No,” I said. “But I do watch ‘E.R.’ all the time. If a passenger has a heart attack, I can yell, ‘STAT!’ really loud.”
“I’m not sure that would help,” she said.
“No, you don’t understand,” I explained. “Even though I’m not a doctor, I possess a very rare medical skill: empathy. Whenever someone throws up, I throw up. Whenever someone faints, I faint. It’s my special gift. It helps the sick person know he’s not alone in his misery.”
“I’m sure the flight attendants will be thrilled,” she said. “Do you have any other skills? Are you a police officer or a martial arts expert?”
“No, but I’ve seen every Bruce Willis, Steven Segal, and Arnold Schwartzenegger movie ever made, so I have acquired a lot of emergency skills over the years. I know how to defuse a time bomb, how to break someone’s neck with one karate chop, how to shoot a machine gun inside a plane without hitting innocent bystanders, and most importantly, how to safely land a jumbo jet with two engines on fire after the pilot and co-pilot have been killed by Middle East terrorists.”
The young lady frowned and said, “I don’t think we have any Middle East terrorists booked on this particular flight to Cleveland.”
“You never know,” I said with a smile. “That’s why you always need to be prepared.”
At that point, the line behind me had grown quite large, and one elderly gentleman began yelling at me to hurry up. I looked at the woman behind the counter and whispered, “We’ll have to keep a close eye on that one, won’t we? Obviously, he has a real short fuse.”
“Thank you, sir,” she said, “but we must get this line moving or people will miss their flight.”
“Sure, I understand,” I replied. “But make sure you contact the flight crew. I’ll be in seat 31-C.”
“Don’t worry,” she said. “I will definitely send a message to the crew. Seat 31-C.”
I little later on, when it was time to board the plane, I noticed as soon as the flight attendants discovered I was holding the ticket for seat 31-C, they suddenly stopped smiling and gave me a very serious look. I assumed it was their way of silently saying, “We know we can count on you if a serious situation arises.”
When we were about halfway to Cleveland, I got up to use the men’s room. As I began to walk toward the front of the plane, every flight attendant froze in place and stared at me.
Just as I reached the men’s room door, the head flight attendant yelled, “Now!” and six burly passengers jumped up from their seats and wrestled me to the ground. They tied my hands and feet with those disposable plastic headphones.
When we arrived in Cleveland, I immediately filed a complaint with airline officials. No, I didn’t complain about being assaulted and tied up—obviously the “passenger skills list” program needs a little fine-tuning. I did complain, however, about the fact that since my hands were tied, I was unable to open my complimentary bag of peanuts. And no one even offered to help me! Is that any way to run an airline?!
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