So I was on a flight home after a great few days at Cape Cod. The plane was a small Jet Blue blue jet (clever wordplay, yes?), with two seats on either side of the aisle. I was in a window seat, and a 30’ish woman (let’s call her Liz) sat down next to me. She immediately turned to the elderly lady just across the aisle (let’s call her Mrs. Doom) and politely said, “I think you’re in my assigned seat. If this is your assigned seat I don’t mind staying here.” Mrs. Doom checked her boarding pass and said, “Oh, yes. I’m sorry.” Liz nodded and replied, “That’s fine, we can switch seats. I just wanted to make sure.” There was about a 5-second pause, then Mrs. Doom frowned, leaned across the aisle, touched Liz’ arm and said, “You know, maybe we shouldn’t switch seats, because… well, if the plane goes down, the chart they have of where people are sitting won’t be right….” Liz’s jaw dropped and she looked at Mrs. Doom in horror and replied, “Oh don’t say that!”
As you would expect, Mrs. Doom’s beyond-psycho-freak comment caught me totally by surprise and I snort-laughed out loud. (To be clear, it was a feminine, ladylike snort-laugh, not a nasty guttural hog-like bellow). After the snort I continued to silently shake with laughter, which I didn’t conceal well at all. Liz, sensing my mirth, clapped her hand over her mouth. I managed to squeak out, “I’m sorry… that was so unbelievably horrible that it was funny.” Luckily at that moment, a bunch more people boarded and blocked Mrs. Doom from view for a couple minutes. When the aisle cleared again, Mrs. Doom must have realized the depth of the awfulness of what she’d said; other passengers nearby had recoiled from her, visibly shocked. She leaned back across the aisle to Liz and said, “You know, I only said that about the plane going down because I know it won’t happen.” That set me off on another silent body-shaking laughing jag. Liz told Mrs. Doom, “Thanks. It’s OK.” Then Liz turned to me & silently mouthed, “Oh my God!”
As I tried to compose myself, the laughing fit wouldn’t subside, because I started to imagine what it would be like if Mrs. Doom ran Jet Blue. The flight attendants would give the usual pre-flight safety speech, and then add, “In the unlikely event that this Embraer 190 aircraft plummets to earth in a screaming white-hot fireball and everyone on board is incinerated into trace amounts of charred carbon, please be considerate of the hardworking employees of the National Transportation Safety Board who’ll be investigating the crash. Please sit in your assigned seat, or you will cause delays and additional paperwork for the NTSB as they reassemble the debris of the plane to try to determine the cause of the crash. If you switch seats, the tooth fragments melted into what’s left of your assigned seat will be someone else’s and won’t match up with your dental records or the downed flight’s seating chart that the airline will provide the NTSB. If that happens, the investigators will have to fill out several lengthy government forms, which will delay your loved ones getting confirmation that your remains have been identified, and it will of course delay the release of your remains for your funerals. All that hassle just because you didn’t want to play by the rules! Now, sit back and enjoy the flight, and thanks for selecting Jet Blue!”
I never said it to Mrs. Doom, but I think she’d have less air travel stress if she got herself microchipped.
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