Flew on a passenger jet yesterday. Decided, for once, to listen to the flight attendant’s instructions. This is what she said:
“Hello/bonjour and welcome/bienvenue to today’s flight to Victoria/Bureaucracy-sur-Mer.
“Transport Canada regulations/règles absurdes require that I stand here with a waxen smile/visage de l’espoir perdu, looking like a street mime dancing the Macarena while a disembodied voice repeats safety announcements in both official languages, neither of which you will listen to.
“There are seven emergency exits, two at the front, two at the rear, two over the wings and a special secret one known only to the cabin crew. Since you are not listening, we feel safe in revealing that. Look, I’m holding up a seatbelt!
“Toilet facilities are located at either end of the aircraft, though should you attempt to use them, I will block your path with a drinks cart and order you to your seat. Although bursting, you will meekly comply.
“By now, you may be regretting your decision not to have spent the extra $15 and pre-selected your seat in the days prior to your flight. Blatant extortion, you called it. So now, instead of flying with your loved ones, you are sardined between a sumo wrestler and the feverish, sweating, coughing guy who smuggled the infected monkey in Outbreak. Not since that junior high class on sexually transmitted diseases will you have spent so much time with your knees clamped so tightly together.
“You will also note that since we began charging for checked baggage, most passengers bring only carry-on luggage, flouting the rules by dragging in bags the size of a small child. (In fact, at one point during the flight you will hear a muffled voice from the overhead compartment saying ‘Dad, open the zipper, I can’t breathe.’) Should stowage areas all be full, you may sit on your luggage for the duration of the flight.
“Shortly after take-off, I will dispense tiny packets of Bits and Bites, for which you will be pathetically grateful. To open the packet, tear at the wrapper with your teeth until you crack an incisor, then stab the pouch with a Bic pen until it explodes like an IED, spraying your seatmates with salted shrapnel.
“Later, I will serve army surplus meals packaged for Desert Storm in 1991, which is why the napkin resembles a Kuwaiti flag. Tonight’s menu options include Chicken Kiev and Chef’s Surprise/la viande mystérieuse. Sorry, we’re out of chicken.
“We encourage you to enjoy our in-flight entertainment system by plugging in the complimentary ear buds whose sound quality is comparable to that of an old drive-in movie speaker immersed in a bathtub. Only channel 9 will be audible. Channel 9 will be in Hungarian.
“Today’s movie is Sound of Music II: Von Trapped by Cyborgs, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Pia Zadora. Described as ‘a journey of the heart’ by Ice Fishing Monthly and ‘94 minutes long’ by Rolling Stone, it is almost as engrossing as the airline magazine, which itself is the literary equivalent of Wonder Bread.
“Or, even though you’re not much for alcohol, you might prefer to simply drink yourself into a coma — though be aware that on flights of more than four hours, Transport Canada requires that I rouse you from your precious slumber to repeat the same announcements that I’m making right now. Apparently they think that first how-to-use-a-seatbelt lesson might have gone in one ear and out the other. Transport Canada thinks you have the memory retention of a fruit fly.
“We ask that you remain in your seats after landing. Nonetheless, half your fellow passengers will leap into the aisle as soon as the wheels hit the tarmac, as though this will speed the disembarkation process. These are the same people who start their cars the moment the Queen of Asbestos touches the ferry dock, except instead of choking on their exhaust, you’ll have their butts in your ear for 10 minutes — dancing cheek to cheek, as it were.
“Oh, and by the way, today’s flight is being diverted to Gimli, Manitoba. Hope you packed a tuque.”
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