‘Hands-on-heads! Face the front. Sit up straight!’ Is what I expected her to say next. My film crew had just boarded a Dash-8 plane to the middle-of-nowhere-in-particular. If I were trying to sell the Dash-8 on eBay (which is where I might sell other tiny goods) my blurb would read: ‘This adorable little plan even flies! Don’t glide comfortably through the air on a normal, boring plane; feel as if you’re really flying on the Dash-8. [Makes a fantastic necklace pendent, accessories sold separately, buy now to avoid disappointment.]’
So the plane was small, no problem, but what was becoming apparent was that the flight attendant didn’t appear to know she was working on a dinky little plane. Or perhaps she did. Perhaps she was embarrassed and was then overcompensating.
I was talking with our camera guy, I think about how cute the aircraft was, when in the middle of her saying ‘if smoke fills the cabin’ she paused and told us to stop talking and pay attention! Then seconds later she noticed that I had a phone in my hand and she demanded that I switch it off immediately. I tried to explain to her the concept of aeroplane mode but she would not listen to my ‘crazy-talk’. She said that it needed to be literally switched OFF … NOW! I thought if a mobile phone was to ever actually effect the operation of a plane, then this was the plane to which it would happen, so I obeyed her commandment. The thought did cross my mind that if even I even breathed heavily we might veer off course.
I admit that I was being a bit rude and shouldn’t have been talking over someone who was speaking to me. But in my mind it more like talking over the lady reading the news on TV. ‘Boo … sports news … boring – that’s what I say to you news-lady!’ Isn’t it understood that you don’t really need to listen to the safety spiel? This was not the understanding aboard this infant plane. It was all serious business. The whole plane was business class (not in the comfy, extra leg room, have-some-free-stuff kind of way). It was all just business time and the meeting was in session. The protocol seemed to be that one must listen intently, nod in agreement, read the safety card, and follow along with enthusiasm.
When I was scalded and told pay attention on the plane I felt like I was back in primary school, quietly passing a note to my friend, but then my friend says ‘what’s this’
‘it’s a note’
‘what’s it say?’
‘it’s a note so I don’t have to…’
at which point my teacher throws a chalk duster at my head and yells to never talk in her class again.’ We were such ragamuffin six-year-olds.
‘Why should I listen to you flight-lady?’ I mentally asked her. ‘For you are only reminding me that I have a heightened chance of dying in the next two hours, especially given the frailness of this plane, and while I’m at it the lifejacket you are demonstrating, well, lets just say that it’s not your colour.’ Ahh the things I’d say if I were a bad-person. That would be such fun.
Instead I sat quietly, motionless and steaming through the rest of her sermon on various topics such as what to do in the event of a water landing (we’re flying over the desert), how the life jacket could attract attention (not your attention I hope), how we should count the number of rows to our nearest exit (or since there are only, like, three rows how ‘bout I don’t bother?)
When safety-time was over she tried to make amends with the pair of us, upon realising her folly, but she only managed to make matters worse with a condescending ‘Thanks guys. We only needed a couple of minutes of quiet.’ I wanted to say ‘lady, with an attitude like that you could work on a big plane one day!’
It struck me that on planes the world over there are flight attendants who actually wanted to perform in the theatre when they grew up but, alas, this was their ‘job to fall back on’. That would explain everything! When she points to the exit, left and right, points to the overhead lockers, up and down, she really just wants to be singing dancing on Broadway not in this mindless, soulless aeroplane show. That’s why she demands our complete attention. If that’s true then with every point and motion and with every waving of that ridiculous whistle-to-attract-attention, a little part of her probably dies. And that makes me sad.
That’s why you should never have a ‘job to fall back on’, that’s how you end up with a ‘fall-back-on’ life. The ‘safe job’ is the one you think will make you look responsible and grown-up to people. It’s usually one you can’t fail at. I think what other people (at least those that matter) want is for you to be truly happy not just to appear happy. Maybe we don’t need something to fall back on – it might be just another opportunity for us to not be pleased with the way our lives turn out. Of course if you want to be an actor and never land a single role then maybe being a plumber is just the thing for you. But if you have talent and not just ambition, then I’d say just go for it. Then at least you won’t end up aboard a tiny plane that is going nowhere in particular.
I’ll be quiet now.