THE PLANE was about to begin its descent so the flight attendant gently tried to wake up the young guy in front of me.
“Excuse me sir,” she said.
She repeated it several times.
She nudged him, nudged him harder, and ended up shaking his shoulder and speaking directly into his ear.
Still no response.
That’s when her eyes widened, and the rest of us sitting in the vicinity took sharp intakes of breaths.
He was dead! He’d died right there in his seat after eating an airplane meal!
I’d eaten the same thing.
Suddenly I was sure I could feel the cold hand of death squeezing my heart.
“I SHOULD HAVE HAD THE PASTA! “ I said out loud. Were these going to be my last words?
The flight attendant straightened up, nonplussed and we all wondered what would happen next.
THE PROBLEM was clear. The flight was full. So where would you put a corpse? You can’t leave them in place.
Earlier this year, a Swedish woman demanded compensation from Kenya Airways after sitting near a corpse for 10 hours.
That really annoyed me. I’ve sat with people WAY more irritating than corpses, including drunks, molesters and insurance salesmen, but never received compensation.
Corpses are quiet and don’t put their elbow on the armrest when you are trying to put your elbow on the armrest.
(Incidentally, WHY ARE ALL AIRCRAFT ECONOMY CABINS DESIGNED FOR 160 ONE ARMED PEOPLE? CAN A CABIN DESIGNER KINDLY EXPLAIN THIS TO ME?)
IN THE OLD days, they used to put corpses in the rear toilets. This was an interesting idea, especially on night flights close to Halloween.
And particularly if the corpse was dead but still moving, like members of the Rolling Stones.
I suppose on full flights you could put corpses in the overhead bins, but they sometimes burst open (the bins, not the corpses). (Well, maybe the corpses too.)
Having a zombie dropped on your lap might damage that customer’s sense of brand loyalty.
ON AIRLINES in Laos, I have STRONG REASONS to believe they put corpses in staff uniforms and prop them up at customer service desks.
AND IF the pilot dies? No problem.
On automated Airbuses, I’m told, pilots are there basically to make sure announcements like this are never made:
“This is a fully automated plane, flown by computers. It has been fully tested. Nothing can go wrong. Go wrong. Go wrong. Go wrong. Go wrong….”
On Airbuses, pilots simply make sure the electro-mechanical systems are following proper human pilot guidelines, i.e.:
1) Try to stay roughly in the middle of the air.
2) Try not to go too near the edges.
3) The edges of the air can been identified by the appearance of mountains, cities, forests and outer space.
ANYWAY, BACK to the scene on the aircraft.
Just as I had convinced myself that my life was slipping away, a passenger from elsewhere in the cabin approached the inert body in front of me.
“He’s not dead,” he said. “He’s Polish.”
The newcomer, also Polish, slapped around his buddy until he miraculously came back to life. (Alcohol may have been involved.)
It must be amazing to sleep so deeply that a beautiful young woman shaking your shoulders and speaking close to your ear can’t wake you.
I’m definitely going to try this on my next flight.