You’ve heard this over the P.A. on board a jet before, and it’s the airline version of Tom Sawyer coaxing Huck Finn to whitewash the picket fence: “This is for your comfort and safety–and the safety of those around you.”
Translated? Eat your vegetables. Only like Mom used to do, coax you into thinking you thought of it yourself so you’ll actually do what’s best for you. So when you hear that phrase after any instruction on-board, like “fasten your seatbelt” or “stow your electronic devices,” do it.
Because what will follow is the airline version of Mom’s standard, “This is going to hurt me more than it’s going to hurt you.” Which is as untrue as when she said it: you’re going to get arrested, which will actually hurt you more than anyone else. Because you’re talking federal charges, which is neither negligible or inexpensive.
I know, by the time you’ve navigated the security and check-in gauntlets with their byzantine requirements and instructions and finally settled into your seat on board, you’re ready to have your own way at last, right?
Sorry, but you still have to work within constraints and if necessary, read between the lines so we can all stay cordial.
And there are other clearly embedded messages waiting for you at the airport, although I can’t really figure out why they’re dressed up as anything other than plain English. Some of them, I still don’t get–like this:
“The equipment for this flight is out of service.”
Huh? What’s wrong with “aircraft” and “broken,” respectively? Is it like the hotel industry’s 13th floor taboo–no one wants to stay there because of bad luck–that spills over into flying: sure don’t want to say the “a” word (“aircraft” or “airplane”) because flying is scary?
Does anyone ask what “equipment” you drive? And to me, driving is MUCH scarier than flying. But no one asked me about either one, actually.
Still, it seems like a bit of airline puffery to say “equipment ” to passengers when what you really mean is simply, “aircraft.” Between pilots, sure, we use the term “equipment” to distinguish between aircraft types, as in “is this scheduled for a 767-200 or -300?” Or, “What equipment is Joe Bunda on?” “He moved to the 75.”
Bad enough that we schedule “equipment” rather than aircraft, but the euphemisms don’t end there. Apparently “equipment” doesn’t “fly,” it operates. As in “Flight 22 will now operate out of gate 15.” Can we not even just “depart” rather than “operate,” if “flying” is too scary?
Now hold on before you sling around the jargon you just learned. Even knowing the correct term, don’t ask the dumb question:
See what I mean? It’s a linguistic mine field there at the airport and if you don’t want to seem like a dolt, it’s best to say as little as possible. But here are a couple other subtle distinctions if you want to sound at least like you go to the airport more than twice a year.
First, we “load” bags but we “board” passengers. Right? I mean everyone complains about air travel being a cattle car experience, so why not clean up the perception a little: you will board the aircraft. At your destination, you will “deplane,” not “de-board” as I often hear after a pregnant pause grasping for words.
Finally, one last bit of terminology. If we meet and I’m out of uniform, I will likely not even mention what I do for a living. That’s not because I’m anti-social, it’s more because I don’t really want to hear a story about how someone’s last flight allegedly “fell thousands of feet straight down” or more typically, had the pilot “abort the landing” and shoot straight up or blah-blah-blah and no, I don’t know what the fare to Cleveland is.
So at best you’ll get a cover story. But if in uniform I accidentally make eye contact and you feel an interrogation is in order, let me say up front that I don’t do any “runs.” Those are for skiers and milkmen. Besides the fact that I usually can’t even remember where I was the night before (some hotel somewhere?) or haven’t even looked at the trip I’m flying next week (think about that the night before), pilots and flight attendants don’t do “runs.” Okay?
Hmmmm, I sound a little cranky today. Must be because in an hour, seems I’ll be dragging on the polyester and operating the equipment between Dulles and LAX once they load the passengers.
But in real life, I get to fly a great jet across the country yet again, seeing the best views from the sky and loving every minute of it as I always have, while keeping my 160 peeps and crew of six safe and happy and taking them where they wanted to go today.
Now, which sounds like more fun to you?
I used to post these on Facebook–but I closed my account last week. From now on, they’ll be right here if you care to look at them.