Thursday, July 12, 2007

Nervous flyers: take note of who's in exit row

In deference to Judi's anxieties in the air, she hasn't covered all the bases. While her strategies for coping are creative, it may not be enough to make friends in the cockpit and galley, even if she does get jewelry without having to put out.

I'm sure flight crews are flattered, believing that Judi's consuming interest in their personal lives is a signal that their lives are compelling. I have my own fears about her coast-to-coast interviews. What if the captain, whom I visualize as an alpha male, not giving to chit-chat once he's made his turbulence announcement, should respond to Judi's warmth and decide she's far more entertaining and adorable than his wife? It's not impossible that Judi's attention could cause him to question all his choices. What if, somewhere between New York and Los Angeles, he comes to the conclusion that everything he's done is wrong and becomes severely anxious or depressed? What then? Planes aren't like subways. There's no emergency chain for Judi to yank and demand an emergency stop.

That’s not the only risk factor she’s overlooked. Sure, it's reassuring to imagine that any man in a suit is an air marshall if that works for you, but she's overlooking an important aspect of flying. She should be directing her attention to the exit rows, looking specifically for people like me. I’ll do or say whatever it takes to get extra leg room. I have no qualms about agreeing to fling open a heavy escape hatch, evacuate all the other passengers and toss their carry-ons to them before I, myself, leave the plane.

The airlines, even El Al who’ll question where I've been since shoving my black bathing suits into my bag and ask the names of my Israeli cousins (all named "Moshe"), take me at my word. By asking me to lift weights, they could easily see that I'd never get that hatch opened. I can't even get into a jar of pickles without calling for help. Even if my wrists weren't weakened by arthritis, I'm usually asleep on a plane. If a flight is longer than four hours (which these days could be the time on the tarmac), I take Ambien.

It's not that I think Judi shouldn't screen the airline employees and scout around for her own personal air marshall, but she should also check the exit row to be sure her life won't end up in the arthritic hands of a narcissist.