Superstitions + Social Media = Pilots As Magic 8-Balls

19 Feb

Friday I flew back to DC from Boston. When I booked my flight, I somehow overlooked that it was a commuter plane. As someone who hates flying on a good day, the news that I’m about to fly on a plane with fewer than 100 passengers is not exactly comforting. (In case my logic is thwarting you: it seems like most crashes are smaller planes.)

It only seemed *this* small.

So I didn’t have a great feeling when – as I boarded – the gate agent was checking all rollerboard bags. “Full flight?” I asked.

She shook her head. “No, the overhead’s just not large enough.” Gah.

At that moment, I thought back to the quick pit stop I’d just made in the Ladies’ Room in the airport. As I dried my hands, I looked down and saw a penny – face-up – on the floor of the bathroom. I’d laughed and passed it up, thinking the universe had just unwittingly forced me to define the precise limit of my superstition.

But stepping on the small plane, I kicked myself for not claiming the penny. As I suspected, it was a fairly small plane: there were two seats to the left of the aisle, one to the right, and no first class section. And my seat was all the way in the back, butting up to the bathroom.

As if I weren’t already feeling like the omens were pointing to “do not fly” –  just before we pushed back from the gate, the pilot came walking back and ducked into the bathroom. I’m assuming he had a bad meal or was battling some kind of bug, because the noises on the other side of that folding door were monstrous.

I decided to crowd-source a bit of reassurance, so I quickly posted the following status to Facebook: Pilot just took a pre-departure dump. I know because I’m seated right next to the bathroom. Not sure if this inspires confidence or not. Discuss?

And discuss, they did. These responses are why Facebook (and my friends) are awesome:

“Vote of no confidence because it shows he did not plan ahead and likes to do things at the last minute.”

“Better now than 10,000 feet in the air.”

“I  disagree. This is clearly a man who handles problems head-on, and is not afraid to make the tough decisions. I respect his moxie.”

“How do you know it was a dump? You didn’t go in with him and I’m assuming he didn’t announce it on his exit from the bathroom. Let’s discuss your rush to judge people instead of this man’s bowel habits.”

“I’m in favor of anything that makes the plane lighter. Safety first.”

“To that point… perhaps they needed to re-distribute the weight on the plane, like with the luggage.”

“Maybe he ate the fish? You better get someone to land that plane.”

At home that night, Alan and I were discussing my friends’ differing opinions. “You know,” I told him, “I should have just realized it was his fight or flight mechanism kicking in.”

Alan gave me a blank look. “How do you figure?”

“Well,” I explained, “You know how birds poop before they fly to make themselves lighter?”

“Wait,” Alan interrupted me. “That’s not what fight-or-flight is all about. Fight-or-flight means you crap your pants from fear. Not to make yourself lighter.”

I shook my head. “No – that’s the point. You’re scared so your body is trying void everything so you’ll be lighter when you run away.”

Alan smacked his forehead. “I cannot believe you are sitting here trying to convince me that’s what fight-or-flight means.”

“Look, I don’t make the rules,” I told him. “But I do know that my pilot successfully flew a little plane after hitting the toilet. And he did not get in a fight. That’s exactly what it means.”

Alan just stared at me, speechless. Which is how I know I was right.

5 Responses to “Superstitions + Social Media = Pilots As Magic 8-Balls”

  1. tennizzlle February 19, 2012 at 9:39 pm #

    Argh, you have me laughing out loud! Great post!

  2. themiddlestsister February 20, 2012 at 8:18 am #

    I’ve been on that exact flight a couple times, same seat, holding an infant (who was an excellent flier and never made a peep, thank you very much all you Premature Glarers!) My pilot also used the facilities before take-off. I couldn’t hear anything over the flight attendants’ squeals as they passed around my adorable baby, though, so I can’t be sure of the nature of his business in there. But from now on, I’ll consider it a good omen when the pilot goes into Fight or Flight Mode.

  3. The Byronic Man February 20, 2012 at 12:10 pm #

    Oh, God, I hate those small planes, those rock-polishers.

    And you’re right about why we poop in “fight-or-flight.” Fear initiates the response, but it’s to lighten the load, so to speak. And the sweat is to make us harder to hold on to.

    • pithypants February 20, 2012 at 1:34 pm #

      Thank you for validating my theory. Maybe my logic was undermined by using birds as an example. I suppose they shouldn’t be scared of flying, since they have wings and all. Take that, Alan!

  4. fromlifeidletolifefantastic February 22, 2012 at 12:42 pm #

    I nominated you for some awards…go check them out 🙂

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