In uncertain times, you would not expect to be treated to comedy while buckled into an airline seat soon to hurtle through the skies at an elevation of five miles above the earth.
But that is what happened a few years ago when Kathleen and I flew from Toronto to Tampa, Florida, on a morning flight. The departure was delayed by an hour because of a minor mechanical problem.
During that time, the passengers, mostly seniors, sat waiting quietly in the boarding area. Then the wheelchair brigade was first taken aboard and seated. When the rest of us were settled in our seats, the pilot appeared at the bulkhead of the cabin, smiling, with mic in hand, and the merriment began.
He announced that the flight was ready to depart but feigned confusion about its destination. He asked a man seated near the bulkhead, “Where’s this flight going?” This brought a ripple of laughter from the passengers. He then put us at ease by explaining the delay and giving various flight details.
Then came the flight attendants’ routine to inform us about seat belts, seat backs, tray tables, life jackets, and overhead bins. One of the three attendants had taken her place at the bulkhead to demonstrate the procedures while a second one out of sight added instructions over the public address.
Her first announcement welcomed us aboard Flight 2088, which she said nonchalantly, was headed for Yellowknife (the capital of the Northwest Territories, 250 miles south of the Arctic Circle).
“If you are not satisfied with the services of this airline,” she went on cordially, “there are six exits on this plane.” Straight-faced, the attendant doing the demonstration pointed out their locations. The laughter was genuine but not loud.
The attendant on the mic instructed us that should there be any need to use the oxygen masks while in flight they would drop down automatically. We were to put them on over our mouth and nose, pull the elastic band over our heads, tighten the straps, and wear them for two weeks.
At that point the attendant in the aisle held up a big yellow life jacket and slipped it over her head, tying the strings. Should we be required to use these jackets, the voiceover said, we could keep them as mementos, courtesy of the airline.
“If anyone is caught smoking in the restrooms in flight,” she went on, “they will be asked to leave the plane immediately.”
Then came her last bit of instruction. “If you find that the services of this airline do not meet your expectations, we suggest you lower your expectations.”
Kathleen and I had had the same flight attendant a week earlier for our flight from Tampa to Toronto, and she had treated us to the same light-hearted, comedic spirit. On that flight she told us the following story.
Three airline pilots were walking along a beach when they spotted a bottle in the water. They picked it up, uncorked it, and out came a genie who said, “You each may have any wish you ask for.”
The first pilot said he would like to be smarter than his two buddies on the plane, and his eyes were suddenly bright with superior intelligence.
The second said he would like to be more intelligent than all the other pilots serving that airline, and he too was filled with wisdom that appeared to change his countenance.
The third said he would like to be smarter than all the pilots in North America — and he was instantly changed into a flight attendant.
I read recently that children laugh about eight times more than adults on any one day. Here’s your chance to even the score, remembering, with the writer of the Proverbs, that “a merry heart doeth good like a medicine, but a broken spirit drieth the bones” (Prov. 17:22 KJV).
Photo credit: waferboard (via flickr.com)