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Emergency Instructions

Urgent messages must sound urgent, and other entries from Gordon's journal.

From my journal: It sounds almost liturgical. "Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome aboard U.S. Air flight 354 to Charlotte. In preparation for departure, be sure that all carry-on items are placed under the seat in front of you. Seat backs and tray tables must be in their upright position."

There follows a description of the safety belts (metal end into the buckle), oxygen masks (adults first, then children), water-flotation devices (pull on this handle), emergency exits (two here; two there), and the smoking rule (don't!).

Admission: I usually do not listen to this airline liturgy, having heard bits and pieces of it a thousand times. But on this occasion I am impressed with the dreary monotone, speed-speaking voice that emerges from a bored heart. And it hits me! The voice speaks of things that will be very, very important to me if something goes wrong. If the cabin depressurizes in flight, will I really know what to do with the mask? If a swift exit is necessary, do I really know ...

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