Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Flight dreck

Another bit from my current crime reading, Selçuk Altun's Songs My Mother Never Taught Me, dovetails nicely with a non-crime post I had planned to make. Here's Altun:

"The stewardess of the `business class' section was presenting the flight security precautions with the usual repulsive mimicry."

Here's me:
"A train journey begins with a thrilling lurch into motion. A plane journey begins with the slightly nauseating whiff of filtered, pressurized air.

"You squeeze past your rowmates' knees to get up. You squeeze past their knees to get back. (Just don't drop anything, because good luck squeezing down between rows to pick it up.) You contemplate the condensation between the windows. You choose from a wide range of entertainment options. You enjoy the easy-going conversational genuineness of the crew ..."
Coming soon: More from Selçuk Altun, plus my theory about why flight crews, so rigidly cheerful in the air, can be so obnoxious once they land.

© Peter Rozovsky 2009

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18 Comments:

Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Air New Zealand now features a naked in flight safety video announcement. They're also a bit sassy too in my experience, for good and ill.

August 25, 2009  
Blogger Ed said...

In Altun's latest, MANY AND MANY A YEAR AGO, his main character is on a search for Poe's real life "Annabel Lee." I've been trying to get to it lately.

August 25, 2009  
Blogger Loren Eaton said...

(Just don't drop anything, because good luck squeezing down between rows to pick it up.)

And don't put anything underneath the seat in front of you that could roll, because when the plane lands it'll end up seven rows away from you after smashing into the ankles of complete strangers.

Adrian, that video is ... something. Very careful camerawork there. I hope the employees got a big bonus.

August 25, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Adrian, the sassiness in that video is a good deal easier to take than was my own one experience of airline sassiness -- the ghastly, forced version on Ryanair. I also had only rarely heard New Zealand speech before. The pronunciation of "head," "air" and "tab" are quite something. They sound like -- and forgive a bit of synaesthesia -- lamb.

The actors were well-chosen for that video -- some good comic facial expressions without going over the top. And the camera work of the mask leaping out of the ceiling was nice.

August 25, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Ed, I have that one lined up to read as well. Songs My Mother Never Taught Me is also shot through with references to the narrators' reading habits. Detective stories and T.S. Eliot are the two that come most immediately to mind.

August 25, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Loren, I've never experienced the seven-row-roll, but I'm always apprehensive about it. That's why if I stow a book bag under the seat in front of me, I'll drape its strap loosely over my leg. Remembering to undrape myself before i get up: one more joy of flying.

August 25, 2009  
Blogger seana said...

I actually haven't found flight crews to be all that cheerful in the air as a rule these days, falsely so, or otherwise. "Put upon" would be the term that describes their attitude most often.

Though I suppose I should be more understanding of anyone who works in the service industry. I certainly get the motivating factors.

August 25, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Seana, my next post will reach a tentative conclusion similar to yours about a phenomenon of flight-crew behavior that I have witnessed several times. Look for it before you retire for the evening or when you get up tomorrow.

For now, suffice it to say that I'd agree that flight crews must be under special pressure to maintain the American corporate ethos of smiling at all times, whether appropriate or not.

On Ryanair, the forced giddiness is positively weird -- the captain must have taken nitrous oxide every time he addressed the passengers.

August 25, 2009  
Blogger seana said...

I shall.

August 25, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Don't stay up too late, now. The post should be up around midnight your time. Your comment really did anticipate part of what I will say. Great minds, and all that.

August 25, 2009  
Blogger Linkmeister said...

When you consider the concessions flight crews have had to make to keep their employers flying over the past fifteen years of bankruptcies and consolidations, it's a wonder any passenger gets a nod, much less a smile.

August 26, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Yeah, concessions like that and service of the quality that American airlines render are among the glories of consumer capitalism, all right.

August 26, 2009  
Blogger seana said...

I think it's the motif of these late, great days of capitalism that across the board, people are expected to work harder while stretched thinner, and still offer excellent customer service. I wonder where it will all end.


v word seems appropriate:repep.

I think it's what the flight attendants are meant to do between flights.

August 26, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Where will it all end? Violent social revolution in the streets is more attractive in theory than in practice, so who knows? Totalitarianism? Tense, bloody, wrenching social fragmentation? A nation rigidly divided between Oprah-watchers and Colbert-watchers? Or will we learn peacefully, gratefully and contentedly to adjust to lower expectations, with the exception of pop authors who make millions of dollars urging us to do just that?

Perhaps in even greater assumption by corporations of prerogatives once seen as belonging to government. I read a brief interview with the CEO, I believe it was, of Walmart. He was asked where he stood in the health-care debate, and part of his answer was that Walmart believed in supplying good health coverage to its employees. Put that together with his stated emphasis on good customer service, and you have a company whose message to its workers is: We'll take care of you, now keep smiling.

That's a good thing, in part, at least until the profits start going down.

Yep, my three flight crews were repeping, all right. Another, more familiar off-duty-flight-crew trope crossed my mind recently when I saw a group (almost typed "flock") of attractive French stewardesses getting out of an airport van at the Novotel here in Philadelphia a few weeks ago.

August 26, 2009  
Blogger seana said...

On the light side, I stayed at a Novotel in NYC once and I loved it. I hope the Philadelphia Novotel is as Francophile.

On the darker, no, I don't wish violent revolutions on anyone. But I hope we can have one of those bloodless revolutions someday soon.

After the travesties of democracy that I've witnessed even at our recent Santa Cruz town hall meeting on health care, I am actually hoping that someone can come up with a better social model. I know that democracy is the best we have, but frankly, most of us citizens are not worthy of it. I include myself in this, but somewhat above the people bearing posters depicting Obama as Hitler.

August 26, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

My v-word is also apropos of the flight crews under discussion: exesses

I don't know if models are something someone comes up with, or something that develops.

In re Obama as Hitler, wasn't Barney Frank's reply to the woman at the Massachusetts meeting wonderful? I used to think he could never be elected president because he was a schlump and because he was from Massachusetts, Jewish and gay. Now I realize he could never be so elected because he has a brain and he spealks his mind.

August 26, 2009  
Blogger Linkmeister said...

Heh. I saw a few blog posts adorned with pictures of dining room tables celebrating Frank's blunt reply to that LaRouche troll (if you look closely at those Obama = Hitler art posters they have Larouche.com at the bottom left corner).

August 27, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Maybe the same folks who displayed a "Totally Recall Schwarzenegger" placard in California."

August 27, 2009  

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