I flew home from Kansas City tonight on an evening flight. As I usually do for business travel, I flew United Airlines. I shuffled to my seat, tucked my backpack under the seat, clicked on the overhead light, and began to read my book (I’m currently reading Independent People by dead Icelandic novelist Halldor Laxness).
A few minutes later, the United Airlines head flight attendant got on the microphone and started the usual spiel. “Ladies and gentlemen, please give us your full attention as we pretend you are idiots and do not understand how to buckle a seat belt” (I may be paraphrasing a little).
THEN THEY TURNED OFF ALL THE LIGHTS. I could not read my book. I could not do anything but look at the flip down TV screen where animated flight attendants demonstrated how to tighten a seat belt. It’s pitch black in the airplane cabin. I am not exaggerating. Pitch. Black.
The flight attendant continued. “Please take the safety card out of your seat pocket and follow along as we explain the important safety features of this aircraft.” One problem: we were all sitting in complete darkness. Not only could we not find the safety card, there was no way anyone could read it.
For the next 5 minutes, we sat there in the dark while the flight attendant went through the exact same set of instructions I have heard for the last 20 years. “In some cases, the nearest exit may be behind you. The lavatories are equipped with smoke detectors. You can buy a can of beer for six bucks.”
When they finished, the lights came back up and I discussed this with the guy sitting next to me. “Why do they turn out the lights and FORCE you to watch the safety dance?” I asked. “I’ve seen it a dozens of times just this year.”
“I don’t know, but it’s really annoying me. I have flown round trip to Kansas City FOUR TIMES in the last TWO WEEKS — a total of EIGHT FLIGHTS — and I have had to sit through their stupid lecture every time,” replied my seatmate. “They really need to treat their expert travelers better.”
I don’t know why United Airlines has such an unfriendly policy that punishes their most frequent customers, but it’s probably the fault of a lawyer.”We must make sure our safety speech cannot be ignored. Screw common sense. Turn out all the lights and tell people how to buckle their seat belts.”
What has happened to this great country of ours? We defeated Hitler, invented rock and roll, put a man on the moon and created the Fantastic Four (including Galactus!), but now we don’t deserve enough respect to ignore a safety speech we’ve heard a freakin’ bazillion times??
Let’s be honest about the speech, too. Even if you’ve never flown in an airplane before in your entire wasted inconsequential life, do you really need instruction on buckling your seat belt? My six year old son can buckle his seat belt just fine, and this is not a brand new skill for him. In fact, he is an expert seat belt buckler. He displays the kind of precision and grace in seat belt buckling that can be found in — well, just about every single living human on the planet Earth!
United Airlines has earned the honor of being the first entry in my new blog category, “Hateful things.” There will be more to come.