There comes a time in every flight safety video where lighthearted tips about not smoking in the bathroom are set aside to focus on the really important stuff. That important stuff, of course, being what to do in the event that everything goes horribly awry. And rest assured, if the oxygen masks have dropped from the ceiling, things have indeed gone horribly awry.
Flight safety videos are full of helpful tidbits on how to properly use the oxygen mask. Anyone who has flown a time or two knows the basics. Put the mask over your face, pull the cord, put yours on before helping someone else (as if that wasn't the plan anyway), etc. They demonstrate the point about putting your own mask on first by showing a mother and child doing the oxygen mask dance together.
As heartwarming as it is to see a mother and child bonding over their newly diminished ability to breathe, the flight safety video completely downplays the gravity of the situation. Children aren't calm and well behaved even under ideal flight conditions. Once you factor a life-threatening lack of oxygen into the equation, expect nothing short of kindergarten chaos. At the very least, you're going to have to come up with a good way to explain why your child shouldn't be concerned about the predicament you're in when several seemingly normal adults around them are in full-on panic mode. And that's just the best case scenario. I can find no reason to sugarcoat the worst case scenario, so I'm just going to come out and say it ... you might have to explain to your child that you're both about to die.
"Hey, remember when you said you miss grandma? Well ..."
With that in mind, would it be too much to ask for the flight safety video to give some pointers in this area? It's not like explaining things to kids is easy. That's probably why my parents never had the "sex talk" with me, and they had plenty of years to figure out how to do it. But an impending death by plane crash is the very definition of a high pressure situation. Why not give the parents on the plane a little bit of insight into how best to explain to their child that they're about to go to the same place that grandma and the family dog went? That's not an easy talk to have, you know? Since the airline is telling us how to avoid death, would it be too much to ask for them to explain how to break it to the kid that their tragic demise is all but imminent?
There is no more absurd moment in a flight safety video than the scene where people have to put on the life vests. There's no way a person is calm under those circumstances. What you have to look forward to once the life vest becomes necessary is a water landing. Do you know why that Captain Sullenberger guy is so famous? Because he managed to pull off a water landing without killing everyone on the plane. That doesn't normally happen.
Despite the horrifying implications that come with needing to reach under your seat and pull out the life vest, the flight safety video makes it seem like a downright enjoyable experience. When your flight has reached that point, it's a pretty safe bet that everyone on board will be losing their minds. But if the video is to be believed, the line of thinking is more like "Did the captain just say something about a water landing? That sounds refreshing! It's a scorcher out there, I could go for a dip in a dirty river right about now!"
"Oh my God! Yellow is my favorite color!"
Right, nobody is thinking that. The minute you hear "water landing," you start thinking about all of the people you wish you'd treated better and all of the opportunities you wish you hadn't passed up on. In other words, you start contemplating how fully you've lived your life. And somehow, in the midst of all that, you're supposed to remember the life vest operating instructions as presented in a safety video that you paid little to no attention to? Sorry, but that doesn't seem likely to me.
If flight safety videos really want to make an impact, they should show things as they will really be. Don't tell us how to put on a life vest under ideal conditions. There are no ideal conditions under which being thousands of feet in the air would require a person to strap on a flotation device.
I understand that a lot of what I've been saying here falls into the realm of fantasy. There's no chance in hell that flight safety videos will ever address the annoyance of people in front of you reclining their seats. But damn, can we at least be honest about the life vest situation? The stakes are pretty goddamned high at that point. It's essential that the assembled passengers get it right if the need for a life vest arises. Do us all a favor and depict the situation as it's really going to be. Nobody is going to smile contentedly while putting on a life vest during a flight. It's far more likely that they'll be wondering what their mother will think when she hears that her beloved child died while wearing insanely soiled underwear. If you don't get that, what I'm saying is that most people will shit their pants upon hearing that the plane is going down.
Listen, I'm not expecting flight safety videos to accurately depict the pants shitting, but please, at least tell me how to put the life vest on while simultaneously praying to my maker. Death by plane crash is kind of a big moment, I just want to be properly prepared.
For more from Adam, check out The 5 Most Ridiculous Causes to Ever Get a Website and The 5 Most Ridiculously Over-Hyped Health Scares of All Time.