Saturday, March 01, 2014

Funny or frightening?

A couple of weeks ago, just before that really bad winter storm hit the southeast, I witnessed a strange occurance on a Delta flight: our flight attendant fell asleep on the job.

We had just gotten in the air, and he was seated at the front of the small plane, still strapped in, facing us. Holding some sort of phone receiver looking thing, speaking into it, explaining the snacks:
"we have an assortment of juices and sodas, as well as wine beer and spirits available for…"
Eyes closed, head tilted to his right, face pressed into the receiver.
Ten seconds pass.
The pilot must have turned the seatbelt sign on then, because there was a familiar ding sound.
Startled awake, he started on "the captain has turned the seatbelt light on…"
He never did finish explaining the alcoholic beverages.

At the time I thought it was kind of funny. The poor guy looked like he had been up for days. He was physically more towards the Chris Farley end of the spectrum, and I invented a storyline in my head wherein he was up late acting a fool at some club where he didn't quite fit in.

A week later I was randomly reading the airplane crash part of the Malcolm Gladwell book, Outliers. In it he writes about how pilot fatigue has contributed to several airline accidents. Of course, in the book it is a combination of fatigue and other important factors like changed flight plans, minor malfunctions of equipment, bad weather, all contribute to bad decision making. We were flying in perfect weather, and it was a flight attendant not a pilot, but all the same, I no longer find this event funny.