Friday, March 27, 2009

This is your captain speaking: you may now say your prayers

A Tunisian pilot who paused to say his prayers instead of taking emergency landing measures has been sentenced to 10 years in jail. 

His split second of mortal weakness cost 16 passengers their lives. Read the story here.

I have always felt that moment of queasy uneasiness when a plane takes off and gravity does its trick. In situations when my life is in the pilot's hand I try not to piss off the air hostesses by asking for peanuts and free mini bottles of water.

Lay off people, it's enough that they are stressed and taking orders from the man in the cockpit who, for all you know, may have had a quarrel with his wife before gearing up. At 30,000 feet, I do not want to be messing with their minds.

But this Tunisia incident does bring to my mind a certain flight to Colombo when I had the express bad luck of sitting beside a Nigerian who hated flying. 

In addition, I also met with an air hostess who despite years of training still believed that nature and God are bigger forces than man's engineering and aerodynamics progress.

The Nigerian kept mumbling "I don't like this, I don't like this one bit." 

In such situation I choose to bury myself in a paperback because 9 out of 10 times the maan is likely to make a dash for the washroom to throw up and I do not want to be the git to catch a stream of projectile vomit. I have outgrown such childish competitions with siblings.

But in this case the poor man's misery was compounded by the most violent turbulence I ever encountered.

I did the next best thing, to look around for one of those dusky, chubby air hostesses who are trained for this kind of emergencies.

Only, the one nearest to my seat was sitting board stiff in her chair, head bowed, hands clasped on her lap, muttering a prayer in Sinhalese.

Now, I don't know about others, but a praying air hostess tends to fill my weak heart with terror. They are trained for air pockets and turbulence and emergencies such, right? As an ignorant passenger you seek them out like a child seeks its mother and want to be reassured that you are not going to die.

But its a bother when they shrug their shoulder and tell you casually "you never know." 

Her candid submission did nothing for the pale and clammy Nigerian and I wanted to know what the hell did she do at training school - file her nails?

But such is life. You've got to pray when you've got to pray. Science sometimes gets its ass kicked by faith. You can jail a man for giving in to a moment's terror and faith in the supernatural but you can't mess with faith.      


1 comment:

J. Alfred Prufrock said...

The report you linked to suggests it was incompetence rather than faith. On the lines of "I don't have the faintest, so can you hear me, God?"

Me, I'll go with training. And periodic testing. And kicking out the asses of irresponsible, ill-prepared schmucks whose piloting might kill me.

Beats faith any day.


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