On a Jetplane

Airports. I love airports. More specifically, I love the two-way excitement of either going away to somewhere exotic or returning home to your most familiar place. I suppose I’ve had this feeling about airports since my first solo flight when I was thirteen years old. Wandering around an airport as a kid is weird, but altogether it’s a pretty awesome experience too. All of the exotic travellers, destinations and duty free wonders help to swell a young imagination. It was also the first time I felt like a real grown up; travelling alone, being in charge of tickets, passports and foreign currency.

Since then, I have travelled to many new and distant places, but airports still maintain that special quality for me. One thing that was always there, however, was a serious… let’s say respect for aircraft and the science behind them. Years ago, I developed a mantra for riding rollercoasters: trust the technology. After all, they didn’t pay millions of dollars just to harm their passengers. I started applying this mantra to airplanes and I made sure that with that respect (not fear, respect) I read every piece of safety literature and watched every safety briefing on each plane upon which I travelled.

This week, due to a holiday to Berlin (more on that in a future post) and a meeting for work in London, I was a passenger on four flights in six days (three of those were across three days, in fact).

So, as I mentioned, I’m the guy on the plane who reads the safety card every time without exception. Perhaps unsurprisingly, in all of my journeys, I’ve never had the pleasure of being seated next to someone who is as serious about flight safety as I am. Until my most recent flight, that is. The guy on the aisle seat on the end of our emergency exit row read the card on the back of the seat in front of him and was attentive during the crew’s safety briefing. It was refreshing. The man took the responsibility of the emergency exit row and its importance seriously. He even asked our cabin crew manager (the one asking if we were up to the task) who’s duty the door removal would be in the unlikely event of an emergency. Serious business. (For the record, I was in the window seat and thus the responsibility was mine. I already knew that. This wasn’t my first rodeo.)

Although we shared this moment of understanding and responsibility, we didn’t talk further. I don’t make a habit of talking to strangers (old habits die hard). What I did learn, however, is that there are others out there like me. People who trust the technology, but still maintain a cautious awareness. The people who read the safety card, even though it probably hasn’t changed on that model of aircraft in a decade. People who take a while to relax on a flight; constantly vigilant, watchful and prepared for something that is likely to never happen.

It was a great realisation. That is, until the guy in the aisle seat fell asleep, ten minutes into the flight.

And so, my friends, constant vigilance is indeed required.

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