Sitting in the exit row of a plane is something I take very seriously. As a relatively frequent flyer, I jump at the chance to bear responsibility for the lives of other travelers who are too wimpy to take on this burden themselves. In fact, most of these ingrates on the plane aren’t even aware of the sacrifice I am willing to make for them. They just sit back in their reclined positions, playing Sudoku and drinking Scotch, while I listen to the special instructions afforded to us as exit row specialists, also known as ERSs (a term I coined).
It all started several years ago, when I was flying west. I had unknowingly purchased a seat in the exit row and was more than pleasantly surprised by the extra leg room. I was, however, unaware that it came with a price: having to save the lives of everyone on the plane before saving my own.
“In the event of a water landing,” instructed the flight attendant, “please ensure that your fellow passengers have exited the plane through the door you have opened, before you do.”
“Uh,” I said, puzzled. “We aren’t flying over water, like, at all.”
“Hey, man,” the attendant responded. “I’m just doing my job. Besides, we could land in the Mississippi River.”
That was a weird thing to say.
Listening to the rest of his spiel, I was overcome with this intense amount of courage and stoicism. As I looked around at all of the oblivious human beings surrounding me, I knew that I had a job to do. I was basically being asked to be a superhero – all for the extra 1/2” of leg room.
I was oddly comfortable with that. I’ve known for a long time that, deep down inside, I’m a special person, capable of extraordinary feats of strength and courage. Fortunately, I am rather humble as well, and I don’t let it go to my head.
The flight was uneventful, and yet, I was disturbed – but not at the fact that I didn’t have to utilize my courageous skill set in the most appalling of circumstances. Rather, I was disturbed by the lack of gratitude from my fellow plane mates. No one even uttered a “thank you” or acknowledged my life-saving abilities. To them, I was just some regular passenger on a regular flight to a regular place.
Based on this initial lack of appreciation, I decided to make Exit Row Specialist badges. I don this badge, and have done so on every subsequent flight since. In fact, I distribute them to my fellow exit row specialists. Most of them roll their eyes and ask the flight attendants to contact security, but every once in a while, one of them will be as enthusiastic as I am. We introduce ourselves to the oncoming passengers, informing them that their lives will be in our hands.
“Oh wow, thanks so much,” they say, with more than a low level of detectable sarcasm. We are undeterred, however, as we know they’ll be begging for our assistance under unfortunate circumstances.
I won’t lie. It’s difficult having enormous responsibilities that, most likely, will go unnoticed. I’m a lot like insurance. You hope you’ll never need me, but you’ll be glad to know I’m there if you do. If I sound conceited, it’s because I am. I have to be. You need me to be confident. I simply wouldn’t be able to face such adversity if I were anything but immensely courageous. You see, my job on the plane is nearly as important as the pilot’s. Actually, I’m probably more important than the pilot. At least he has auto-pilot and some sort of cruise control. All I have is my steely courage and immense fortitude.
Sadly, I’ve become judgmental when prospective exit row specialists sit in my area. I can tell when all they really want is a little extra space and that they couldn’t care less about saving complete strangers. I know that in the event of an emergency, I’ll have to save them in addition to the other regular passengers. Unfortunately, that’s what society seems to be turning into. Not me, though. I’m going to be there for you, if you are lucky enough to find yourself on my flight. You’ll know it when you see my ERS badge.