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the arm on the machine

February 14, 2009

“So, do we have any Virgin virgins on board today? Sorry, that was kind of a Virgin virgin joke.”

No, sir that was a Virgin virgin joke.

I don’t like it when airline employees act like comedians. I don’t know if I’m just jumpier about flying these days, but it seems like the levity in the air is inversely proportional to the public’s fear of flying. I had a pilot actually start giggling so bad once that he actually had to get off the PA and compose himself. They’re all adopting the affected voices of showmen and making announcements like, “Here we come New York Citaaaay!”

I had never flown Virgin airlines until today, and I’m up in the air (pun?) over whether I ever will again. I boarded the plane to find it lit up like a dance club, literally, the regular colorless lights had been replaced with purple bulbs and the entire interior of the aircraft was bathed in violet. I mean everyone looked great, but they were playing house music in the bathroom, in all seriousness, they were playing house music in the bathroom.

I guess I still want a certain amount of reverence for the fact that we are about to be hurtling through space at 500 miles an hour. I do not want to hear anyone affiliated with the airline make jokes about technological difficulties. We’re about to be getting 30,000 feet closer to God’s country and I just want to show a little respect for the fact that but for the grace of whatever we might be going all the way there.

Part of me actually likes flying, especially takeoff. It’s that little thrill of pain like vaccinations or getting your eyebrows waxed. Not that I’m some kind of adrenaline junky. I’ve always been terrified of carnival rides, where I would sit eyes closed hands clenching the safety bar, telling myself that like a bad dream it would all be over soon. I do the same thing on airplanes during turbulence and strange noises, but it’s not as easy to catch your breath when there’s no arm on the machine.

This happened today. Moments after takeoff we hurtled straight into some bad air, and as the plane continued to bounce I heard the girl next to me gasp lightly, once, twice, and then I stopped hearing, intent on pushing my tongue hard into my molars, and not looking at the TV screen in front of me which was playing fiery CNN footage of the plane that crashed into a house on the East Coast today killing all 50 passengers on-board. It seemed a little tacky to play this on an airplane, but maybe they thought that the Euro-lounge music would balance the effects, and I mean the purple lights and all.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Kent McMIllan permalink
    February 14, 2009 5:54 am

    For what it’s worth, this reader enjoyed that vignette. Nice post.

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