George Carlin: Airline Announcements

This entry was published at least two years ago (originally posted on April 13, 2005). Since that time the information may have become outdated or my beliefs may have changed (in general, assume a more open and liberal current viewpoint). A fuller disclaimer is available.

By the way, that little George Carlin moment in my previous post comes from one of my favorite of his routines from his ‘Jammin’ in New York‘ album, where he skewers the convoluted and bizarre language used by the airline industry.

Something else we have in common: flying on the airlines, and listening to the airlines’ announcements, and trying to pretend to ourselves that the language they’re using is really English. Doesn’t seem like it to me.

Whole thing starts when you get to the gate. First announcement: “We would like to begin the boarding process.” Extra word, ‘process,’ not necessary, ‘boarding’ is enough. “We’d like to begin the boarding.” Simple, tells the story. People add extra words when they want things to sound more important than they really are. ‘Boarding process.’ Sounds important. It isn’t. It’s just a bunch of people getting on an airplane.

People like to sound important. Weathermen on television talk about ‘shower activity.’ Sounds more important than ‘showers.’ I even heard one guy on CNN talk about a ‘rain event.’ Swear to God, he said, “Louisiana’s expecting a rain event,” I thought, “Holy shit, I hope I can get tickets to that!”

‘Emergency situation.’ Newspeople like to say, “Police have responded to an emergency situation.” No they haven’t. They’ve responded to an emergency. We know it’s a situation, everything is a situation.

Anyway, as part of this ‘boarding process,’ they say, “We would like to pre-board.” Well, what exactly is that, anyway? What does it mean to ‘pre-board’, you get on before you get on?

That’s another complaint of mine: too much use of this prefix ‘pre-,’ it’s all over the language now, ‘pre-‘ this, ‘pre-‘ that. “Place the turkey in a pre-heated oven.” That’s ridiculous, there’s only two states an oven can possibly exist in, heated or un-heated! ‘Pre-heated’ is a meaningless fucking term. It’s like ‘pre-recorded,’ “this program was pre-recorded,” well of course it was pre-recorded, when else are you gonna record it, afterwards? That’s the whole purpose of recording, to do it beforehand. Otherwise, it doesn’t really work, does it?

‘Pre-existing,’ ‘pre-planning,’ ‘pre-screening.’ You know what I tell these people? “Pre-suck my genital situation!” And, they seem to understand what I’m talking about.

Anyway, as part of this ‘pre-boarding,’ they say, “We would like to pre-board those passengers traveling with small children.” Well, what about those passengers traveling with large children? Suppose you have a two-year-old with a pituitary disorder? You know, a six-foot infant with an oversized head. The kinda kid you see in the National Enquirer all the time. Actually, with a kid like that I think you’re better off checking him right in with your luggage at the curb, don’t you? Well, they like it under there, it’s dark, they’re used to that.

About this time, someone is telling you to get on the plane, “get on the plane, get on the plane,” I say, “Fuck you, I’m getting in the plane! In the plane! Let Evil Knievel get on the plane, I’ll be in here with you folks in uniform. There seems to be less wind in here!”

They might tell you you’re on a non-stop flight. Well, I don’t think I care for that. No, I insist that my flight stop! Preferably at an airport! It’s those sudden, unscheduled cornfield and housing development stops that seem to interrupt the flow of my day.

Here’s one they just made up: ‘near miss.’ When two planes almost collide, they call it a ‘near miss.’ It’s a near hit! A collision is a near miss! (Crunch) “Look, they nearly missed.” Yes, but not quite!

They might tell you your flight has been delayed because of a ‘change of equipment.’ Broken plane.

They tell me to put my seat back forward. Well I don’t bend that way! If I could put my seat back forward I’d be in porno movies!

Then they mention ‘carry-on luggage.’ The first time I heard ‘carry-on’ I thought they were going to bring a dead deer on board. I thought, “what the hell do they need with that, don’t they have the little TV dinners anymore?” Then I thought, “carry-on, carry-on, there’s going to be a party, people are going to be carrying on on the plane!”

Well, I don’t care for that, I like a serious attitude on the plane, especially on the ‘flight deck‘. Which is the latest euphamism for ‘cockpit!’ Can’t imagine why they wouldn’t want to use a lovely word like ‘cockpit,’ can you? Especially with all those stewardess going in and out of it all the time!

There’s one, there’s a word that’s changed: ‘stewardess,’ first it was ‘hostess,’ then ‘stewardess,’ now it’s ‘flight attendant.’ Know what I call ’em? ‘The lady on the plane.’ Sometimes it’s a man on the plane, now, that’s good, equality, I’m all in favor of that. Sometimes, they actually refer to these people as ‘uniformed crewmembers.’ ‘Uniformed,’ as opposed to that guy sitting next to you in the Grateful Dead t-shirt and the ‘Fuck You’ hat — who’s working on his ninth little bottle of Kaluha, I might add!

As soon as they close the door to the aircraft, that’s when they begin the Safety Lecture. I love the Safety Lecture. This is my favorite part of the airplane ride. I listen very carefully to the Safety Lecture, especially that part where they teach us how to use: the seatbelts.

Imagine this, here we are, a plane full of grown human beings, many of us partially educated, and they’re actually taking time out to describe the intricate workings of a belt buckle! “Place the small metal flap into the buckle.” Well, I ask for clarification at that point! “Over here, please, over here, yes, thank you very much. Did I hear you correctly? Did you say, ‘place the small metal flap into the buckle,’ or, ‘place the buckle over and around the small metal flap?’ I’m a simple man, I do not posses an engineering degree, nor am I mechanically inclined. Sorry to have taken up so much of your time, please continue with the wonderful Safety Lecture.”

Seatbelt. High-tech shit!

The Safety Lecture continues. The next thing they do, they tell you to locate your nearest Emergency Exit. I do this immediately. I locate my nearest Emergency Exit, and then I plan my route. You have to plan your route, it’s not always a straight line, is it? Sometimes there’s a really big fat fuck sitting right in front of you. Well, you know you’ll never get over him.

I look around for women and children, midgets and dwarves, cripples, war widows, paralyzed veterans, people with broken legs, anyone who looks like they can’t move too well — the emotionally disturbed come in very handy at a time like this. You might have to go out of your way to find these people, but you’ll get out of the plane a lot goddamn quicker, believe me.

I say, “Let’s see. I’ll go around the fat fuck, step on the widow’s head, push those children out of the way, knock down the paralyzed midget, and get out of the plane where I can help others.” I can be of no help to anyone if I’m lying unconscious in the aisle with some big cocksucker standing on my head. I must get out of the plane, go to a nearby farmhouse, have a Dr. Pepper, and call the police.

The Safety Lecture continues. “In the unlikely event….” This is a very suspect phrase. Especially coming, as it does, from an industry that is willing to lie about arrival and departure times. “In the unlikely event of a sudden change in cabin pressure –” Roof flies off! “– an oxygen mask will drop down in front of you. Place the mask over your face and breathe normally.”

Well, I have no problem with that. I always breathe normally when I’m in a six-hundred mile an hour uncontrolled vertical dive. I also shit normally — right in my pants!

They tell you to adjust your oxygen mask before helping your child with his. I did not need to be told that. In fact, I’m probably going to be too busy screaming to help him at all! This will be a good time for him to learn self-reliance! If he can program his fucking VCR, he can goddamn jolly well learn to adjust an oxygen mask! Fairly simple thing, just a little rubber band around the back is all it is. Not nearly as complicated as, say, for instance, a seatbelt.

The Safety Lecture continues. “In the unlikely event of a water landing….” Well what exactly is a ‘water landing?’ Am I mistaken, or does this sound somewhat similar to crashing into the ocean? “Your seat cushion can be used as a floatation device.” Well, imagine that. My seat cushion! Just what I need — to float around the North Atlantic for several days clinging to a pillow full of beer farts!

The flight continues, a little later on toward the end, we hear, “The Captain has turned on the ‘Fasten Seatbelt’ sign.” Well who gives a shit who turned it on? What does that have to do with anything? It’s on, isn’t it? And who made this man a ‘Captain,’ might I ask? Did I sleep through some sort of an armed forces swearing-in ceremony or something? ‘Captain,’ he’s a fucking pilot, and let him be happy with that! If those sight-seeing announcements are any mark of his intellect, he’s lucky to be working at all! “Tell the ‘Captain,’ Air Marshall Carlin says, ‘Go fuck yourself!'”

The next sentence I hear is full of things that piss me off. “Before leaving the aircraft, please check around your immediate seating area for any personal belongings you might have brought on board.”

Well. Let’s start with ‘immediate seating area.’ Seat! It’s a goddamned seat! “Check around your seat!”

“…for any personal belongings….” Well what other kinds of belongings are there besides personal? Public belongings? Do these people honestly think I might be traveling with a fountain I stole from the park?

“…you might have brought on board.” Well, I might have brought my arrowhead collection. I didn’t, so I’m not going to look for it! I’m going to look for things I brought on board! It would seem to enhance the likelihood of my finding something, wouldn’t you say?

Tell me to return my seat back and tray table to their original upright positions? Fine, who’s going to return this guy in the Grateful Dead t-shirt and the ‘Fuck You’ hat to his original upright position?

About this time, they tell you you’ll be landing shortly. That sound to anybody like we’re gonna miss the runway? ‘Final approach’ is not very promising either, is it? ‘Final’ is not a good word to be using on an airplane. Sometimes the pilot will get on, he’ll say, “we’ll be on the ground in fifteen minutes.” Well, that’s a little vague, isn’t it?

Now we’re taxiing in, she says, “Welcome to O’Hare International Airport.” Well how can someone who is just arriving herself possibly welcome me to a place she isn’t even at yet? Doesn’t this violate some fundamental law of physics? We’re only on the ground four seconds, and she’s coming on like the fucking mayor’s wife!

“…where the local time….” Well of course it’s the local time, what did you think we were expecting, the time in Pango-Pango?

“…enjoy your stay in Chicago, or whever your final destination might be.” All destinations are final. That’s what it means, destiny, final. If you haven’t gotten where you’re going, you aren’t there yet!

“The Captain has asked….” More shit from the bogus ‘Captain.’ You know, for someone who’s supposed to be flying an airplane, he’s taking a mighty big interest in what I’m doing back here. “…that you remain seated until he has brought the aircraft to a complete stop.” Not a partial stop — ’cause during a partial stop, I partially get up.

“Continue to observe the ‘No Smoking’ sign until well inside the terminal.” It’s physically impossible to observe the ‘No Smoking’ sign even if you’re standing just outside the door of the airplane! Much less well inside the terminal! You can’t even see the fucking planes from well inside the terminal!

Which brings me to ‘terminal.’ Another unfortunate word to be used in association with air travel. And they use it all over the airport, don’t they? Somehow, I just can’t get hungry at a place called the ‘Terminal Snack Bar.’ But if you’ve ever eaten there, you know it is an appropriate name.

iTunesAtom Bomb (Atomix 2)” by Fluke from the album Atom Bomb (1996, 6:43).