Safety First!

If you haven’t been on an airplane in a while, it’s likely that you have not recently examined the safety instructions in the seat back in front of you. Conversely, if you’re a frequent flier, you may have been on a plane so often that you feel like you’ve got this, so haven’t picked up that safety brochure in forever. And if you’re like 95% of the rest of the travelers on the plane, you’re listening to something through your headphones or talking to your seat mate or rooting through your carry-on for some Altoids or perusing the Sky Mall catalogue when the flight attendant is speaking, so it’s probable that the safety card has not made its way into your hands.

WELL, YOU ARE MISSING OUT, people.
But I can fix that for you!

See, even though we fly a lot, and even though our kids can practically recite the safety procedures word-for-word, we still make them put away their iPads and books and actually look at the flight attendants when they’re speaking because, oh, I don’t know, it’s polite to look at someone when they’re talking to you (especially if they’ve asked for your attention). And because they’re giving you instructions about how to, like, save your life in case of an emergency. An emergency in the sky while you are not on the ground. And they’re not getting paid boatloads and other passengers treat them like crap just for doing their jobs and they don’t see their families for days at a time because they’re bringing Diet Cokes and miniature vodka bottles to the folks in row 24… So, anyway, we make the girls pay attention when the flight attendants give their spiel, or at least act like they’re paying attention.

But I digress.
BACK TO MY FIXING THIS FOR YOU.

Thankfully, even if you haven’t examined the safety brochure that’s nestled in the seat back in front of you (between the barf bag and Sky Mall and the in-flight magazine, plus whatever treasures were hidden there by the passengers before you), I have. And it is full of fascinating and critical information, let me tell you.

Better yet? Let me show you.

The airlines know that, unlike me, you’re not going to spend a whole lot of time poring over the emergency procedures – plus also, you might not be able to read very well or you might not speak English – so they’ve decided to make things easier for you by illustrating their instructions rather than writing them out. These illustrations can sometimes be a bit confusing, however, especially if you’re looking at them for the first time while in a descending spiral… so I’ve decided to help you out by providing some handy translations and explanations beforehand.

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FLYING SAFETY RULES: SOME CLARIFICATIONS

THE RUNWAY IS NOT A CROSSWALK
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That’s why jet bridges were invented. Use your head, man.

BE SURE YOU’RE FLEXIBLE ENOUGH TO FOLD YOURSELF IN HALF.
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Just reach behind your ankles and grab hold.

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That’s what she said.

IN ORDER TO REACH THINGS UNDERNEATH YOUR SEAT, HAVING GARGANTUAN MAN-ARMS IS ENCOURAGED.airplane safety rules18
Is that really her arm? Is that even a woman? Things are so confusing up in the air!

WITH YOUR GORILLA ARMS, YOU CAN PUT ON YOUR INFLATABLE LIFE VEST SUPER FAST.airplane safety rules19
Plane going down? Water landing ahead? Just pull out your orangutan limbs and follow the arrows! No instructions necessary!

ARE YOUR ARMS OF NORMAL LENGTH? NOT TO WORRY! IF THERE’S AN EMERGENCY, SIMPLY USE YOUR X-RAY VISION TO ASSESS THE SITUATION.
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Does it count as x-ray vision if you’re looking through something clear?

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I don’t know why there’s a colon after “OK”, but this is a fine view, let me tell you.

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She may have a totally androgynous hairstyle, but she can see RIGHT THROUGH this porthole.

ALTHOUGH X-RAY VISION IS PROMOTED, HOLDING THE SAFETY MANUAL IN A RIGIDLY UNCOMFORTABLE POSE IS NOT.
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He looks like he’s taking a dump. Even his face is contorted.
I guess that’s what he gets for fastening that seat belt so low and tight across his lap. 

FOR THE RECORD: NO BLUE MAN GROUP CAST MEMBERS ALLOWED.airplane safety rules26
Airlines can only be inclusive and accepting up to a point.

WHEN BREASTFEEDING, PLEASE BEND OVER SO THAT YOUR HEAD TOUCHES THE SEAT IN FRONT OF YOU.
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I’m not sure why this is a rule, because you might suffocate  your baby, but it appears to be true. Then again, this lady’s got a spare infant in the seat next to her, so maybe she’s doing something right. She’s also wearing very comfortable shoes. And a skirt from 1983. 

SPEAKING OF BABIES – WE LOVE THEM. WE WANT TO KEEP THEM SAFE, ESPECIALLY IN THE CASE OF A WATER “LANDING.”
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In the case of a water “landing” (why don’t we just call a crash a crash, hm? Unless your plane is piloted by Captain Sully, you’re not “landing” on the water), a bald specter will appear and hand you a mysterious yellow package. 

USE CAUTION WHEN OPENING THE OVERHEAD BINS, AND ALSO WHEN SHOVING A LIFE VEST OVER YOUR BABY’S HEAD.
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Once the vest is on, your baby may begin to kick his leg. See illustration 4.

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And violently flap his arms.
Not sure what he’s more upset about: the vest, the water “landing,” or his bizarre, widow’s peak hairstyle.

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You can soothe him by blowing gently in his ear. Your balding specter-ness will not bother him; he’s already pissed off.

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Your little Eddie Munster will just LOVE his floating light! LOOK HOW HAPPY HE IS!

IF YOUR CHILD IS SEVERED IN TWO…
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OMG, honey! She has no hair AND no legs!

… SIMPLY REATTACH THE BOTTOM AND PLACE YOUR BABY IN AN EXERSAUCER.
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Peace out, yo. 

WE ALSO LOVE MIDGETS   DWARVES   LITTLE PEOPLE. airplane safety rules22
Embracing diversity… or a really disproportionately drawn three year-old?
Either way, secure your mask before helping others!

SHOULD WE ENCOUNTER KNIGHTS OR PIRATES, THE EXIT DOOR MAY BE USED AS A SHIELD.
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She hasn’t been watching
Game of Thrones for nothing!

NO HIGH-HEELED SHOES, AND ABSOLUTELY NO GLASS SLIPPERS.
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The lady breastfeeding above could show this hussy a thing or two about shoes.

WE DO STILL KNOW HOW TO HAVE A GOOD TIME, HOWEVER. airplane safety rules2
If you can’t have a little fun after a crash landing, you’re taking things too seriously.

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MY TURN!!!
Also: NO SMOKING AFTER AN EMERGENCY EVACUATION.
Is this really necessary? Don’t get me wrong – I’m about as anti-smoking as you can get – but if your plane has just landed anywhere other than the runway, and you’ve had to launch yourself down an inflatable slide to safety, I’m pretty sure that someone lighting up is not going to be your highest priority. But, hey, I don’t draw these pamphlets… I just translate them.

BUT NOT TOO MUCH FUN.
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This rule really applies to life in general, not just airplane safety. For all of you still carrying a flip phone, a pager, a portable DVD player, or a hand-held television… NO. Just no. 

IN THE EVENT OF A WATER LANDING, WE WILL BE MET BY UFOs.
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Come on! It’ll be a blast!

AND ALSO ROSE FROM TITANIC.airplane safety rules20
It all worked out for her in the end, didn’t it? YOU’LL BE FINE.

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So, there you have it. If you find yourself in an emergency on a plane, you’ll know what to do. You’re welcome.

But still, do give the flight attendants your attention the next time you’re on a plane, okay? Or at least look in their general direction. When they’re down to their last Sprite Zero and they give it to you, you’ll be glad you did.

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Eavesdropping

Last week, the girls and I flew to Minnesota to visit Nick’s family (and to go to the state fair – yeah!). It was the first time in quite a while (maybe ever?) that I’d flown solo with both children, and although Ella and Annie are seasoned fliers, I was a bit nervous about how things would go.

Based on outward appearances, I certainly can understand why other, (usually) childless fliers look warily at my children – or any children – when we travel. I have been both the parent of a sobbing, thrashing little beast and a bystander, watching a toddler melt down and fling Goldfish at the passengers in row 24. Kids and flying can be a disaster, especially when their parents blatantly ignore them or don’t seem to be aware the Little Junior is speaking at a volume generally reserved for sports stadiums. I get it.

(Ranty tangent: That said, flying with disastrous children is no worse than – and often vastly preferable to – hordes of middle schoolers on a band trip, anyone attending a bachelor or bachelorette party [hi, Bridesmaids], the business traveler who has 100 decibel “work” conversations on her cell phone every second that we’re on the ground, the giant in the seat ahead of me who reclines his head into my lap, the passenger next to me who thinks that not one of our 94 minutes together can be filled with silence, the passengers who raise the volume of their conversation so that they can be heard above the safety instructions, the guy whose music is so loud I can hear it through my own headphones, the person who hasn’t bathed in at least a week, the man who did bathe – but in cologne, the person who brought the vat of Chow Mein, the poor lady with the cold who sniffles and clears her throat every 46 seconds, the arm rest hog, and anyone who finds the tiny bottles of liquor “cute” and decides that it’s a good idea to drink four or five or ten. At least crying babies aren’t deliberately being rude. Plus… Benadryl, people.)

Anyhoo, I get that the mere sight of kids can cause other passengers anxiety, perhaps none more so than the frequent fliers who are Important and have Somewhere To Be and don’t want to be held up by anyone who is not an Expert Flier like themselves. Nick, actually, is a frequent flier (although he has empathy for families with kids… okay, probably mixed with some dread…), and so we are usually fortunate enough to use the priority security lane. The look of annoyance and disgust when we join the other “important” travelers in the faster lane – and then proceed to dump our shoes and sweatshirts and computers and Seat Pets and liquids into six plastic bins, ultimately placing a minimum of fourteen items on the conveyor belt – is priceless… But not as priceless as the look of bewilderment and shock as we snag our scanned items back off of the rollers, put them back on our bodies, and load them back into our carry-ons before the guy ahead of us has had time to put his belt back on. We are security line ninjas, people.

One of our flights had seats three abreast, meaning we could all sit together, but the other had only double seats. Despite being ninjas and generally very well behaved on flights, Ella and Annie are hardly perfect, and I was wary of them sitting beside one another rather than beside Nick or me. They, however, were not only not wary; they were psyched.

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If we give you thumbs up will you leave us alone?

After we all got settled in, I tried to relax and just let them be, and my attention turned to the conversation being held by the passengers in front of me. The woman in the window seat was maybe in her mid-sixties, petite, and white. The gentleman sitting beside her was younger, quite tall, wearing an awesome straw hat, and black. It struck me immediately what – in our current American society – an oddly matched pair they were. Not that it should be odd, or unusual, or uncomfortable – or anything at all – for a middle-aged white lady to be conversing with a younger black man… But, let’s be honest, it often is.

As I eavesdropped on their conversation (truthfully, it was more just listening, ’cause they were chatting quite loudly), I learned that she was returning home to Minnesota for a high school reunion with dear friends. He was from Alabama, headed to Minnesota on business. From what I could hear, they had nothing in common – no obvious shared interests, no shared hometown, no children of the same age, no professed mutual love of baseball or movies or rescuing kittens – but, man, were they enjoying talking with one another! One of them would say something and the other would physically rear back to have enough room for a full-bodied laugh, their joyous sounds rushing into the space above, settling playfully over all of us around them.

Our flight had already been delayed for over two hours due to mechanical delays (asked the girls, “Does anyone ever leave O’Hare on time?”). Now, sitting still longer on the runway, the collective passenger anxious-seat-shifting began. As I admonished Annie for the second time to stop opening and closing her window shade (“But Mommy, at least I’m not kicking the seat!” True, baby. But you’re going to make everyone around us have a seizure), the man in front of me raised his hands to the ceiling, verbally pleading, “Come on already! I just want to get up in the air!”

His newfound buddy laughed, chiming in, “Me, too! Let’s get going already!”

They both paused for a moment; then she added, more quietly, “I like going up, but I hate coming down. Landings scare the daylights out of me. I always pray that it’ll be all right.”

Without missing a beat, her seat mate reached over and put his large black hand gently on top of her small white one. “You go on ahead and pray, but I promise everything will be all right.

It’s okay. I’m here. I got’chu.”

Minutes later, we began to taxi, and the rest of the flight passed uneventfully, just as he’d said.

Would that we all could have that experience, no matter where, no matter why.
Would that we could have someone, anyone, who says – and genuinely means – It’s okay. I’m here. I got’chu.