I’ve been thinking a lot about advice recently, both solicited and unsolicited. Mostly, I’ve been considering that I’m a lot better at giving it than I am at taking it. One of the best sources of advice, I’ve found, has been commercial air travel. As my understanding of the complexities of human relationships and the fickle nature of the universe has grown, the insight delivered by airline announcements and FAA safety briefings has only become more relevant.
Here are a few of my favorites (annotated):
You have boarded [flight number] with service to [destination airport]. If [destination airport] is not in your travel plans, please inform a flight attendant. You don’t need to know exactly where you’re going, but it really helps to have (at least) a general sense that you’re headed in the right direction. It’s fine to have a layover or connection, but blindly plowing forward is, generally, a highly ineffective long-term strategy. Moreover, it is OK to admit that you boarded the wrong aircraft or changed your mind about where you want to go. Staying on a plane that’s headed somewhere you don’t want to go, simply so you can feel not foolish for getting on in the first place, is a losing proposition. Remember that sunk cost is a fallacy.
Regulations require that all baggage be properly stowed prior to the main cabin door being closed. We all walk around with a lot of (emotional) baggage. Evaluate yours. If it won’t fit in the overhead bin or underneath the seat in front of you, it will need to be checked and, likely, associated fees paid. You are also restricted in terms of the number of items you can bring aboard. Ditch the (emotional) baggage you can and see a professional about your larger items. Be careful when placing items into or removing them from overhead bins as the contents may shift during takeoff, flight, and landing. This admonition especially applies to emotional baggage. Feelings and perspectives change as internal and external forces act upon them. Use caution.
Take a moment to locate and review the safety information card. If you are doing something for which instructions are provided, read the instructions. Even if you ultimately decide to deviate from them, you should know what they say and why. If you are seated in an exit row, you may be required to assist the crew in an evacuation. If you are unable or unwilling to perform the functions described on the card, please ask to be re-seated. Those in positions of power and authority, whether by merit or circumstance, will find more is required of them. Recognize the extent of your capacity, as well as your capability, and be honest with yourself and others.
A note about portable electronic devices (PEDs): Although items such as smartphones, tablets, e-readers, and other handheld devices (switched to “airplane mode”) may be used during flight, that doesn’t mean it’s always a good idea. Make sure that you aren’t distracted when important stuff is being said or immediate and purposeful action is required.
Please take a moment to locate the two exists nearest you, keeping in mind that the closest exit may be behind you. The answer isn’t always obvious. Sometimes the solution is virtually on top of you, but you’re looking the wrong way. Have an exit strategy and a backup. Pay attention to your surroundings.
If needed, an oxygen mask will be released from the compartment overhead. Be sure to secure your own mask before assisting others. Read that again. Hypoxia is no joke. You’re no good to anyone if you pass out.