Over the years, I’ve developed an aversion to pilots who use the intercom in flight. You’re trying to sleep, and they point out scenery visible on the opposite side of the plane. Or they delay the in-flight movie to impose their own form of entertainment on a captive audience. Until last week, I thought “but seriously folks” was the most distasteful phase a pilot could utter. As it turns out, that honor belongs to the phrase “Emergency Landing.”
For example: “This plane, which is hurtling through space with hundreds of flammable people aboard, is going to have to make an emergency landing, folks.”
Or perhaps: “If any of you have developed a sudden allergic reaction to gravity, please inform your flight attendants, as we are preparing for an emergency landing.”
See what I mean? Distasteful.
The pilot on this particular flight tells us we will be making an emergency landing at a new airport, one with a longer runway. Apparently, there are concerns about the breaks — specifically whether we have any.
The girl in the center seat turns to me with moon-pie eyes. She’s in her early twenties, and it’s the first time we’ve looked at each other since we boarded. I almost reach for her hand, but instead we stare stupidly for a few seconds. “The nearest exit is five rows up,” I say. She nods. I lean forward. “Five rows up,” I say to the girl at the window. “In case you can’t see, and you have to count.” This girl looks at me like I’m an insane person. Fair enough.
I reach into my bag for my ID so emergency personnel will know who I am. I tie my hair back and find my scarf so I can breathe through it if there’s smoke. I text my husband that I’ve always loved him and Hank. I wait for the plane to burst into a fiery ball of flaming fire.
Meanwhile, the flight attendants rush the aisles checking belts. There’s a problem with the landing gear, it didn’t descend electronically, so they had to crank it down manually. I’m trying to gauge how serious this is, and the flight attendants are exchanging significant glances. Glances that say, “I have never done this before. You?” “No. No, I have not.” Apparently, the attendants are sure that we have landing gear, because no one tells us to brace for impact. This is a profound comfort.
I decide that I will drag my seat mates out of the plane if there’s a problem. With the gallon of adrenaline coursing through my system, I’m certain I can heft them both like potato sacks.
I am mentally rehearsing hefting them like potato sacks as we land. The landing is utterly, blessedly uneventful — just like any other. Except for the fire trucks racing to the wings. And the twenty-year-olds over my shoulders.