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Clenching One’s Buttocks In The Air

Posted Mar 08 2010 1:00am

I have suddenly become a nervous flyer.

My nervousness was prompted by a trip to Brussels a few months ago on a 32 seater. Like a paper airplane, it felt as though we were being propelled through the air using only an elastic band.

On the return leg as we came in to land the plane started lurching all over the place. It was a bit like being on The Tower of Terror at Walt Disney World.  It was so bad that when the plane landed I had to crowbar open my eyes, peel my fingers off the armrests and unclench my buttocks.

As the plane came to a standstill the passengers, who were still able to move their hands freely, burst into applause as the Captain admitted over the tannoy ‘I wasn’t sure how that was going to turn out’. I think that was the moment that I decided I didn’t like flying anymore.

I recently took a trip to London on another small ‘joke’ aircraft.

Just before we set off the Captain announced that he needed 6 volunteers to move to the back of the plane to even out the distribution as there had been an error with seat allocation.

… and clench.

As the plane took off in a rattly fashion I realised that, in my haste, I hadn’t looked in on my sleeping children when I’d left early that morning. If I had been starring in a film or an episode of Casualty my lack of parental concern would mean that my card was marked. I would have, at most, enough time to burn my tongue on my boiling hot in-flight drink before something terrible happened.

On my return flight from London I had a seat right at the front with excellent leg room.

Just as I was settling down to read my book the air hostess came over and said that as I was sat next to the emergency exit it would be my responsibility to open the door in an emergency situation.

She gave a brief demonstration of said door removal and told me to read the laminated card that no one ever reads as well as the detailed instructions on the door.

The instructions were in cartoon form;

With a moustache (not that I have a fascination with facial hair), I had to twist the two handles at the same time and pull the door towards me, then throw the door out of the plane to my right.

I looked at her like a rabbit caught in the headlights and said OK.

After our little chat I read and re-read the laminated leaflet and, for the first time since I first flew aged 7, took notice when she did the life jacket ‘pull here, tie this and blow the whistle here’ speech to everyone.

As the plane took off I eyed the emergency exit suspiciously. As my chair rattled I looked down. My chair looked like it was secured to the floor with staples. I clenched my buttocks a little tighter.

Once the seat-belt sign went off the air hostess asked me if I had familiarised myself with the instructions. As I tightened the strap on my seat-belt I told her that when … I mean, if, I was required to open the door would she give me the nod?  She must have thought I was on day release from the home for the terminally bewildered.

I realised that I was taking my ‘door duties’ far too seriously when it dawned on me that this was a UK flight, London to Leeds. The chances of us landing, in a crash situation, in any sort of water were slim to none. A canal or a babbling brook just wouldn’t cut it.

I would not be getting the nod from the air hostess any time soon; Nor would I be needing to use the whistle on my life jacket to bring attention to myself doing a spot of synchronised swimming in the sea.

As my emergency exit duty pressure lifted I went back to thinking about more interesting on-land crash situations … with my buttocks clenched, one hand clutching the arm rest and the other stirring the boiling hot in-flight drink which would burn my tongue five minutes later when I took my first sip too early.

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