I am finally back in Namibia, and its raining. I know that’s not something news worthy in South Africa and other parts of the world, but here rain is kind of a big deal. But that is not what today’s post is about. What I would like to talk about is the pressure of sitting at the emergency door on aeroplane.
Now I have been on many flights, especially this year, but on my flight back on Monday from Johannesburg to Walvis I got sit at the emergency door, Row 14, seat D. Also to provide back ground, this was a SAA express flight on a plane the size of a hot dog. Its so small that the engines aren’t even on the wings. Yeah its one of those jets. So I board the plane( queue mild claustrophobia) and I get to my seat I sit down. Immediately I realise something it not right. I got way more leg room than normal, I don’t have a tray table on the seat in front of me, and my window is in a weird place. That’s when I clicked, I’m at the emergency door.
While we waiting for all the slow people to board the plane and take their seats, I’m sitting there looking at this door and its instructions on how to open in the event of a emergency, which are in very vague English and French by the way. That’s when those little voices at the back of my head start whispering. First up was the responsible voice. He keeps going on about how the fate of the people on the plane depend on me being able to open this door( he is slightly over dramatic). Next up came the naughty little shit. This guy was like: “ just pull it a little bit, what could possibly happen. See how far you can pull it before it opens“.
Responsible voice:” We need to read the manual and study how to open this door”
Naughty shit:” C’mon just a little bit, pull it”
Responsible voice:” Ok, so we hold the door here…”
Naughty shit:” just touch the lever then, don’t pull it…yet”
Responsible voice:” …Then we take the top handle…”
Naughty shit:” AND PULL!!!”
Responsible voice:” …Shut up you, we need to know this, the lives of the people on this plane depend on it”
Legs:” GUYS! look at all this space down here, so much space..weeeeee”
Eventually we get ready to depart, and the steward come around to our row, and informs us that we are at the emergency exit and we would be required to operate the door in the event of an emergency. That’s when I see its a middle aged lady on the other side at the door. Oh shit. I must explain, this door is 19 kg’s of metal. You need to be able to lift the door, turn it and throw it out the doorway. Not an easy feat. So now the pressure is really on me to know how to open this door, because that other isn’t going to open. The Steward start explaining how to open the door, and how to guide people out the plane safely. I don’t hear a word the guy says thanks to him speaking at a voice so soft you wouldn’t even hear him speak in a library. I nod my head anyway just so that it doesn’t look like I’m not paying attention. We going to die in the plane is what I’m thinking at this stage.
In flight I have a beer, because nowhere does it say you have to be sober to open the door, and its free beer. Then promptly go to sleep. I wake up when we start our decent. The voices are back. Every time the plane hits slight turbulence, the responsible voice is getting ready to open the door, legs are still enjoying the vast amount of space. The naught shit wants more beer. When touch down on the runway, little bit more violently than normal and once we have come to a stop and the seat belt light has gone one, the naughty shit starts:” C’mon, open the door now, we safely on the ground, and we can get out the plane before anyone else.” Not the easiest character to live with.
End of the day we all get off safely, go through the annoyingly slow passport control. I am left with the question though, how can airliner companies expect regular people to be responsible for the emergency door, after only a brief 2 minute how to guide and vaguely drawn diagram. Its too much pressure for regular folk. You need to be a fairly strong person, with quick reactions, calm demeanour and not naught shit voice in their head.
Would I want to sit at the emergency door again? Hell yeah, but remember, with great leg room, comes great responsibility.