April 20, 2011

Yoga in an airplane.

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen – this is the captain speaking, and on behalf of the flight crew and everyone at Reunited Airways, I’d like to apologize again for the delay in departing.

I know you’re all feeling a little antsy, but unless you must use the lavatories, please remain in your seats with your seatbelt firmly fastened. Word from the ground crew is that they should have the wheel replaced in about twenty minutes and we then should be under way. With some tailwind and a miracle or two, we might recover five or so of the ninety minutes we’ve spent here.

While we’re waiting, and since we’ve already attempted to distract you with the video on the safety features of this aircraft, I’d like to direct your attention to the yoga stretches we’re now showing on your screen. Your comfort during our flight is a top concern at Reunited, even though we do pack you in like anorexic sardines. Let me assure you that our competitors designed your seat to fit a slim eight-year-old girl just as much as we did. But perhaps you can close your eyes for a moment and connect with how your body felt at that age instead of fretting that the bulge from the person on either side of you is encroaching on about half of your personal space. If you’re in first class, on the other hand, feel free to let it all hang out, knowing that you’re entitled to that experience on account of paying twice one of the main cabin seats. That, or you qualified for an upgrade because you’ve been flying with us since before World War I.

I also realize there may be a few kids crying in your general vicinity – we can hear them up in the cockpit – but if you look at your monitor and follow the stretching instructions, you will be able to forget them and have a more enjoyable flight this afternoon. Now, I know that the soothing nature images and wide-open spaces featured in our program are about as realistic in your cramped personal space as those car commercials where you drive through a wide open road instead of smog and gridlock traffic, and on behalf of myself and the flight crew, I’d like to say that we empathize. We ourselves wish we had space for a ping-pong table in the cockpit, but as the folks in first class know, we’ve all learned to make some compromises in life.

Please pay close attention to the part in the video about stretching your legs. You may have your bag stowed below the seat in front of you because the jerk to your left hogged up the overhead-bin space by the time you made it to your seat on row 48, so if you’re flexible enough, you might want to stretch your legs instead by placing one at a time on the headrest of the person in front of you. Just be sure to do that with your seatbelt strapped on, in case of any sudden turbulence. Also, please note in our video the importance of getting up to walk – as depicted somewhat unrealistically in treading through a sandy beach or a log across a river. Maybe you’re going on vacation and you can do that when you get to your destination – otherwise, if every one of the two hundred people aboard this aircraft starts walking around, there’s no way to keep this from turning into a circus. But if you don’t walk around, please know that Reunited Airways can’t be responsible for any instances of deep-vein thrombosis or anything else that might compromise your health or safety. We’re all adults here – well, except for the kids crying near you – so we must exercise personal responsibility.

Speaking of personal responsibility, you should now be seeing on your screen the part about eating and drinking sensibly, a concept not just taken from yoga but from years of flying. You’ll be happy to know that by keeping your food and drinks to a minimum, we’ve managed to care of this for you, unless you brought your own rations or would like to purchase the wine and spirits featured in the inflight magazine located in the seat compartment in front of you. Incidentally, you might appreciate that we priced these duty-free items in euros or British pounds so those of you holding American pesos – I mean, American dollars – won’t experience sticker shock before you’ve charged your purchase. So, do drink sensibly, ladies and gentlemen, and eat sensibly, even though we do admittedly come up with some unconventional food combinations like chicken pasta with a tangerine salad and caramel-covered saltine crackers with high-fructose rice pudding that will give the air fresheners in our lavatories a run for their money. Those of you who choose to stand and stretch near the back of the aircraft or whose seats are located near the lavatories will soon know exactly what I mean.

Speaking of stretching, I know that you can do the part about turning your neck this way and that way and shrugging your shoulders a few times, even though speaking for myself and not for Reunited Airways, I don’t see what good that does when you’re caved in and compressed on both sides for nine hours straight. Just remember that if you don’t feel like your seat was designed to provide any lumbar support, you can always use your blanket to prop up your low back. We only have three extra blankets somewhere in first class, so if you do use your blanket for lumbar support, please bear in mind you might shiver once the main cabin temperature starts to drop. Alternately, you can forego lumbar support and be warm, but be sure to see your chiropractor soon after your flight to correct your newly-acquired simian gait. Remember, whether you’re flying with Reunited or any of our competitors, you should always factor the price of a couple of chiropractic adjustments into your travel budget.

Lastly, you may have seen in our safety video the part about exiting the plane onto the inflatable rafts in case of an emergency water landing. My superiors might not like me to say this, but unless you’re on a seaplane (and obviously this isn’t one) we’re about as likely to land and float in water as a lead balloon. But that’s not the part I wanted to draw your attention to. It’s the position you should take in the unlikely event of an emergency. As you saw on the video or in the safety instruction card in the pocket in front of you, you lean forward with your head resting on the front seat. My guess is that Reunited created the video and the card before we decided to cram in a few extra seats, because you need to be the size of that slender eight-year-old girl or suffer from congenital dwarfism to have the space to even remotely replicate the position portrayed in the video or card. Our passengers in first class need not worry about this and are advised to have their forearms across their chest like beatific nuns, which, granted, looks about as protective in a real emergency as an airbag made out of cotton candy. But observe in the video how peaceful they look with their arms crossed when they jump onto the inflatable rafts.

So, please continue to enjoy whatever yoga stretches you can do, knowing that it’s not so much about the physical experience as the peaceful feeling you’ll get from the yoga.

Well, ladies and gentlemen, it looks like we’ve gotten the all-clear now, so if you’re up and about, please return to your seats and fasten your seatbelts. Cabin crew, prepare for take-off. And do something about those bathrooms, for God’s sakes. We haven’t even served any food yet and I can already smell them from up here.

Picture credit: (a)artwork (traveling)

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