Safety Measures

Image © Christine Brandel 2015


by Christine Brandel October 14, 2015

A woman approached a man on a plane.

“I think you’re in my seat, young man.”

“Oh, I’m sorry. Let me move my stuff.”

“If you don’t mind.”

“Sure… wait, no, here’s my ticket. See? I’m in the right place. Would you prefer to have the window seat? I don’t mind really. Would you like me to move?”

“No, thank you. I am in the wrong. It’s me with the problem. Not you. It’s all me.

You could help me lift this case, though, if that’s not too much trouble for you. I mean, if you feel comfortable watching a weak woman break her back trying to lift this case while you sit there waiting for your gin and tonic, I guess you have that right.”

“No, of course. Let me lift that for you.”

“And let me point out right now that the case is locked. You won’t be able to get in that case in any circumstance. There exists only one single key to open that case, and the minute I went through security, I swallowed it, so if you were thinking, ‘Oh, I’ll just wait until she drifts off to sleep, grab the key and make off with the goods,’ well, I’m afraid you’re going to be sorely disappointed.”

“Uh… okay then. Look, if you’d like to sit by the window, seriously, that’s fine with me.”

“Is that what you want?”

“Honestly, it doesn’t matter. Whatever you prefer.”

“I mean, is that what you want? Me trapped against the window, your hulking body denying me access to the aisle in case I need to urgently use the bathroom or speak to the captain?”

“No, I’m sorry. I think we may have gotten off on the wrong foot. Look, my name’s John, and my seat is by the window, but I’d be happy for you to sit there if you want to.”

“Thank you, but no thank you. My ticket says I sit in this seat, and I’m pretty sure I’m legally obliged to follow what it says on the ticket.”

“Okay, then. I’m glad that’s settled.”

They sat quietly for a moment. Then a voice came over the loudspeaker: “Ladies and gentlemen, we’re just about loaded up here so if you could take your seats and fasten your seat belts, please. The skies are looking good today, and we’ll be getting you up in the air any moment now.”

“I don’t trust him,” the woman said.


“The captain. I don’t mean to make you feel uncomfortable, John. But I have to confess I just do not feel good about this guy as our pilot.”

“Look, Miss…”


“Sorry, look, Mrs…”


“Mrs. what?”


“I’m trying to find out your name.”


“Let’s start again. My name is John. What’s yours?”

“I don’t feel comfortable with this. I don’t feel so comfortable with you anymore, John, if that is your real name.”

“Okay, listen, I’m sorry. I was only trying to say is that it seems like you might be a nervous flier. I just wanted to tell you that there’s nothing to be nervous about.”

“Are you related to the pilot or something?”

“No, no. I just fly a lot. Is this your first time? It’ll be fine, really. That’s all I was trying to say.”

“Fine, John. Fine. I understand. I am annoying you. You’re finding me annoying. I’ll shut up now and leave you to whatever important business you must be in to fly all over the world all the time.”

“I didn’t mean that. I’m sorry for upsetting you. I’ll be quiet now. I think we’re taking off soon anyway.”

“So where is it you travel to all the time, Mr. Frequent Flier?”


“You said you travel all the time. Where have you been?”

“Oh, I didn’t mean I travel all the time. I’m just saying I’m used to it.”


“Excuse me?”

“Dubai. Have you been to Dubai? Is that why you’re so interested in what’s in my case?”

“Your case? What? I’m sorry… No, I’ve not been to Dubai.”

“Sure, you haven’t.”

“Uh, how about yourself? Have you been to Dubai?”

“Wouldn’t you like to know, John.”

“Um, okay. Should we both just sit quietly now while they do the safety stuff?”

“Indeed… But I would like to say one more thing.”


“When the plane starts to drop, are we going to hold hands or not?”

“What? What do you mean?”

“I’m just saying, it’s statistically likely that someone like your good self who flies three quarters of the year is at some point going to be in a plane that crashes. I mean statistics don’t lie, John. So if this flight is the flight to end all flights, I just want to know in advance, are you going to want comforting? Are you going to want to hold my hand?”

“Um, sure, I mean, yes, sure, we can hold hands. But really, you don’t have to worry about anything. You can trust me, everything is going to be fine.”

“Wow, that’s quite smooth talking, John. Did you learn that in Dubai?”


“I told you, I’m a married woman, so you needn’t try to sweet talk me.”

“Uh… okay, um, sorry.”

“Look, I am just trying to think ahead. That blonde is up there telling us about oxygen masks, floatation devices, emergency lights. She’s asking us to think ahead, John. That’s all I was trying to do.”

“Okay, then. Yes, I see now. That’s good thinking. So… shall we hold hands then?”

“I told you I’m married!”

“I mean, if there’s trouble. With the plane. Would it make you feel better if we hold hands? I honestly believe it’ll be irrelevant – nothing’s going to go wrong. But if you’d like to plan ahead to hold hands, I’m happy to agree with that.”

“Well… I don’t know… let me think about it for a little while.”

“Okay, then. Just let me know.”



“No, I mean, okay, we should hold hands.”


“If there is trouble, I mean.”


“Yes, obviously, John. If there’s trouble, we’ll hold hands, and there will be no funny business, no questions asked, just holding hands as we plummet through the sky to our inevitable deaths.”

“That sounds lovely, then.”

“It does. Thank you for that.”

“It’s okay. I think we’re all sorted now. We’ve thought ahead about emergencies and I think I hear the engines, so maybe we should just sit quietly for a bit.”

“Okay, John. That sounds good. It’s just… it’s just…”

“Hey, are you okay? Are you crying? It’s okay. Do you want me to buzz for the flight attendant?”

“No! You wouldn’t, John, please don’t involve her. She’s already weary of me, I can tell. It’s just, I’m tired, I guess. I’m sorry for pestering you, I’m fine, I’m fine.”

“Okay, it’s okay. Do you need a handkerchief?”

“No, I’m fine. I’m sorry. Oh my, I must look a fright.”

“No, it’s okay, you’re all right.”

“My mascara’s smeared. My eyes are red.”

“No, really, you look lovely.”

“Oh, no.”

“No, really, you look beautiful. That flight attendant? She’s got nothing on you. Okay? Feel better now?”

“Do you mean it?”


“Do you mean it? Am I lovely? Am I really the most beautiful woman you’ve ever seen?”

“Um, yes, of course, you look fine, everything’s fine now.”

“Thank you, John. You don’t know how much that means to me.”

“Okay, then. I’m glad everything’s good between us.”

“It is. But John, can I tell you a secret?”

“I guess.”

“Okay, John, I’ve got a little secret for you, but I need you to lean a little closer so no one else can hear.”

“Okay. What is it?”

“No, closer, John. So our faces are closer.”

“Okay. Let’s hear it, what’s the secret?”

“The secret is… if you would like to kiss me, I think that would be very appropriate.”


“I think we should have a little kiss.”


“No, wait, now, listen. You know I’m married, so there’s no funny business going on. I’m just saying, this flight is ninety minutes long, John. This may be the last ninety minutes of our lives, and I really felt there was something between us. The way you cared enough about me to want to hold my hand. The way you shared stories of your life with me. About Dubai. I thought there was a bond and I don’t want to die with strangers.”

“I don’t know, Mrs… Listen, I don’t think that’s such a great idea.”


“No, wait, let me finish. I don’t think we should have a kiss right now. However, this is what I think we should do. If the plane starts to crash, you and I will hold hands and we will look into each other’s eyes and by doing that we will share all of our experiences – all our sadnesses, all our joys – and we will have one little kiss, and then we will die with someone we know. We won’t die as strangers. Does that sound okay?”

“All right, John.”

“Okay. We have our plan, so for now, let’s just sit quietly. Why don’t you lean over a bit and I’ll put my arm around you until you feel a little more calm?”

“Okay, John. Thank you. Like this?”

“Yes, that’s good. Lean over a bit closer. Can you see out the window? Okay, now. Everything’s settled. Rest your head on my shoulder. The flight’s not long. Go to sleep if you want. I’ll be here and if there are any problems, I’ll wake you and we’ll put our plan into action. Okay?”

“Yes, John. Thank you.”

The man sat quietly as the woman fell asleep. He thought about how to get ahold of that key.


Christine Brandel is a writer and photographer. She published Tell This To Girls: The Panic Annie Poems in 2013. She is a PopMatters columnist and rights the wrongs of the world via her character Agatha Whitt-Wellington at Everyone Needs An Algonquin. More of her work can be found at

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