Saturday, May 03, 2008

Dim Your IQ for Takeoff

In our day-to-day lives, I believe it’s safe to say that most of us are reasonable, semi-intelligent human beings. Send us through the metal detector at the airport, however, and I believe we act as though we just underwent a temporary frontal lobotomy. In other words, from the moment we walk into the secured area of an airport until we exit at the baggage claim, we’re complete morons who blissfully go on with life as if everything’s normal. Follow me through this process.

After gathering up all of our clothing following the strip search, here’s one of the first things we hear coming over the intercom: “In the interest of aviation security, please maintain your personal property in your possession.” You find yourself thinking, “That’s good advice. I totally want to maintain aviation security.” Others around you are sporting similar nods of agreement as the disembodied voice of reason drones on and on. In the interest of “aviation security”? How about in the interest of common sense? Is there an assumption here that once we’re outside of the airport, leaving personal articles lying about willy-nilly is perfectly acceptable? So, we clutch our bags a little tighter and go wait in line to spend $78.94 on the latest issues of Time and People magazine, a pack of gum, a roll of Lifesavers, and a bottle of water. That’s smart.

In between the “aviation security” announcement and the constant intercom paging of one Michael Wisterbean to report to gate D1 immediately (for the last thirty minutes – leave the guy already!), you hear this little piece of wisdom: “If anyone unknown has asked you to carry a foreign object, please contact airport security immediately.” First of all, DUH! Secondly, why all the fancy wording? Foreign object? Seriously, do we anticipate someone approaching us and asking us to carry a Frigidaire refrigerator on the flight to Sioux Falls? On second thought, though, stocked properly, that could make for a much better selection for in-flight meals. At any rate, admit it: you’ve found yourself pausing for a brief moment to review the last few hours to MAKE SURE a stranger hasn’t asked you to carry a foreign object on your flight – and Aunt Mildred’s fruitcake doesn’t qualify.

When we finally get on the plane (which is a humongous chunk of metal far heavier than your 6-year-old self who tried and failed to fly by jumping off the roof of your house with an umbrella), we settle into our seats and dutifully listen to the flight attendant’s announcements and admonitions. Most of this stuff is pretty innocuous and seemingly unnecessary (like showing us how to buckle our seatbelts “tight and low across the hips”), but the one thing every flight attendant says that no one ever questions is, “We’re going to dim the cabin lights for takeoff.” The cockpit is sealed off, so it’s not like driving a car at night where internal lights make it hard for the driver to see outside of the car. So why dim the lights? Are the engines’ electrical needs so great that more than five or six passengers simultaneously turning on their overhead reading lights will cause a complete shutdown and make us crash? You don’t read about THAT in the safety brochure.

This “lobotomizing” of the flying general public does help explain why some people try fitting the luggage equivalent of a stuffed alligator in the overhead bin and the reason some airline pilots have been caught flying naked, but this has to stop for the simple reason that the intercom system in all major airports should be used exclusively for the paging of fictitious persons like Amanda Hugandkiss, Al Coholic, and the crowd favorite, Seymour Butz. We must return to simpler times!

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