Like a Classroom with Wings

On one of the legs of my flight out here, a flight attendant laid down a spontaneous quiz on the passengers and then gave them a lecture because no one paid attention during the pre-flight safety features briefing.

"How many exits does this plane have?" he asked.

Silence.

"You know, this could save your lives, right?" he said.

Silence.

"How many exits?" he demanded.

And eventually there were a few sputters, including my own (there were four exits, by the way - two at the front, two over the wings, not counting the escape hatch at the top of the cockpit). I had to admire his determination, particularly as it required him to walk a tougher line than I would want to: I mean, do you really want to suggest to people on a plane just how dangerous things can get? I could see he was struggling to say something like "You know, there have been two big plane crashes in recent weeks." or "We're going to fly over water."

I, of course, have a love/hate thing with authority. I like it when I have it; I rebel when anyone else does. So I appreciated the attempt, because I think airports are one of the places you can see just how far from rational, organized, capable of following simple instructions our society has gone. I listened, for example, to someone attempt to enforce order in the boarding process. And really, the boarding process is a great study in our obsession with the idea of "first" even if there is no real benefit.

Think about it. Being first on the plane just means you have to move constantly to let people into your aisle. It means you spend awhile longer sitting in an uncomfortable seat. It doesn't get you better seating. It doesn't get you a free drink/pillow/whatever the airline is charging for these days. But we all feel the need to cram in.

Having traveled a very little bit in other countries, my desire for order and rules is sometimes rewarded. Boarding a plane in Munich, I watched a tall, blond German flight attendant scold an over-eager passenger to the back of the boarding line after their failure to obey instructions about boarding. I don't think I"m overstating when I tell you that moment and the look on the scolded passengers face made me feel positively post-coital. Air travel rarely offers anything close to that. At least for me.

So I felt for that attendant on my flight out. It was a bit like my classes this term, where students are lost to all manner of things. I'm considering putting a restriction on all technology that comes after pen and paper because of just how bad it's gotten. And my classes can't possibly be the worst, since I've already got a fairly rigorous set of policies in my syllabi.

Of course, I bet it would work better if I could share that sense of falling from the sky that a lecture gone bad sometimes gives with my students.

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ash said...

"I don't think I'm overstating when I tell you that moment and the look on the scolded passenger's face made me feel positively post-coital."

I just choked on a pretzel reading that line. Love. It.

February 27, 2009 at 4:20 PM