Why Homeland Security has my name on a list
Sunday, August 31, 2008
As I've mentioned before in this blog, I don't like to travel, especially by air. Being up that high, that vulnerable, makes me nervous ... so you can imagine the uneasiness I felt when I recently took my seat on a flight from Minneapolis to Fort Myers and saw this ON THE EMERGENCY EXIT DOOR:
If you can't read it, it says "UNSERVICEABLE: DO NOT USE."
I pointed it out to the teenage boy sitting next to me, expecting to engage a new compatriot in consternation. Instead, he laughed and said, "Dude, that's hilarious!" Ah, yes, the omnipotence of youth.
Being a rule follower and worrywort, I pushed the flight attendant call button, something I've never done in 45 years of flying. ("Bing!") It felt as illicit as pulling a fire alarm.
Now, before I go any further, you need to know that this was Northwest Airlines, which is famous for its surly flight attendants ... the result, I was told later by an NWA employee, of a badly executed merger when NWA swallowed Republic Airways decades ago. Evidently, there were some people who lost seniority, and, well, they've certainly learned to take it out on us, thank you very much. I've only encountered surlier flight attendants on JAT, the former Yugoslavian airline: "You want water or beer? No Coke! ... If you are good man I take shackles off your ankles so you can go to pee."
"Yes?" the Northwest flight attendant said with forced smile, overtly perturbed to have been bothered. "We're preparing to leave."
I pointed to the red tape on the emergency-exit door. "I hope that's referring to the little scratch in the window," I said, laughing nervously.
She squinted to read the writing on the tape. "This is NOT a laughing matter!" she scolded.
The teenage boy started giggling, and she lit into him. "Do you think the safety of all these passengers is a laughing matter?" ... She talked to us in the same tone of voice that she probably used with her boyfriend in high school, when he told her he was taking another girl to prom. That's how pissed off she was.
She stormed down the aisle, toward the cockpit. Great, I thought. We're going to be delayed now, or, worse, told to change planes ... and everyone on this MD-80 is going to hate my guts.
Five minutes passed, and she returned. "The tape," she explained, "is referring to the window shade, not the emergency door. And now we can leave."
"So ... I can't use my window shade?" I asked her, and she frowned before storming off again ... off to slam shut some overhead compartment, I suppose.
That was it: No "Thank you, Ad, for being such a good citizen." No, "Oh, Ad, I wish all passengers were as conscientious as you. Why couldn't my daughter have married you instead of Steve Somethingorother?"
Still, not trusting her or the airline, I watched the door from the corner of my eye for most of the flight.
Later, I wished I owned a roll of red tape that had "UNSERVICEABLE: DO NOT USE" written on it hundreds of times. What fun I could have with that!