Levity and Laughter on a Plane Post 9/11

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Bush may be in the UAE today trying to stir up the neighborhood to act on the real and present dangers of the rogue regime with WMD intentions in Iraq—I mean—Iran (and likely finding that his credibility froze over years ago, even in the desert, right about the time he was unfurling his “Mission Accomplished” banner ), but I’m on a Southwest 737 having my first experience with levity and laughter onboard a plane since that defining day in September six plus years ago when all smiles seemed to leave the skies for good.

Southwest used to be known for their informal style and humor with quips about not tampering with the smoke detector or video camera in the lavatories common, but even they seemed to have lost their desire for laughter for the past several years—and for good reason—the opening volley of radical Islam’s war on the West happened in the skies with flight attendants as the first casualties.

The smiles are back today, at least on board my Southwest flight from
SFO to LAX (but definitely not in airport security, where the national strip tease time is taken very, very seriously).

The fun started when we boarded the flight. A loud gurgling noise that sounded like running water suddenly started playing on the speakers. As it continued, passengers looked at each other. “What is that?’ It went on just long enough to pique everyone’s interest.

“Stacy, please turn off the microphone in the forward lavatory,” came the crisp request over the PA.

Slow, but building laughter rippled through the plane as we passengers realized we’d been had.

The safety speech, which I usually ignore having heard it often enough to give it myself in a pinch, kept up the witty repartee with lines like:

- “If this love plane should become a love boat, please don the attractive mellow yellow life vest located under your seat.”

- “This flight is a non-smoking, non-complaining flight. If
you do feel the urge to smoke, one of the flight attendants will show you to a wing where the feature film playing is “Gone With the Wind.”

- “If you’re seated in an exit row and don’t meet the criteria, don’t know what the word ‘criteria’ means, or are just having a bad hair day and don’t feel like being a hero, please talk to a flight attendant.”

- “If you have any suggestions for how we can make your flight
more comfortable, please go ahead and hold that thought until we reach LA.”

- “Please turn off pagers, cell phones, iPods, blackberries, jingleberries, blueberries, strawberries, any berries as they may interfere with our navigation equipment. And let’s face it folks,we’ve got two men up there in the cockpit, and we all know they won’t ask for directions, so if we get lost, we’re pretty much screwed.”

It’s the first time I’ve heard an airplane safety speech get a rousing round of applause. Clearly my fellow passengers were enjoying the return of laughter to the skies as well. I turned to the woman next to me and started up a conversation, beginning with how much fun that safety speech was.

The punchy commentary continued throughout the flight, but my favorite line had to be our departing advise to “check the monitors after deplaning if we were connecting to another Southwest flight,” and, if we weren’t, “Well, we don’t really care.”

Yes, I know the world is still a scary place with jihadists who have been convinced that the best use of their life is to take ours; I know it’s going to take more than an election and a new president to get us out of our current, constant state of Code Red, but yet, after so much fear (which often turns to fear-mongering in the hands of a savvy politician), after so much dread, laughter is a very welcome sound in the skies again. Maybe that’s more of a mission accomplished than any toppling of a dictator’s statue. Maybe that’s how we citizens can best contribute to this prolonged fight—with a little more laughter and a little more connecting to the passenger squeezed sardine-like into the seat beside us.

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Sat, 09/13/2014 | San Diego Adventist Forum
Terrie Dopp Aamodt, PhD

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