Off-Topic: Handy Icebreakers for When the Person Sitting in Front of You on an Airplane Is Dead

08.12.10 7 years ago 31 Comments

Here’s a travel note for Peter King: I only slept about 30 minutes on the redeye I took back from the West Coast on Tuesday night. I was in bad shape the next morning, but not as bad as the man in front of me WHO DIED DURING THE FLIGHT.

It wasn’t a complete shock: he was an old, old man, a veteran judging by his camouflage Army cap — old enough certainly to have served in Korea, probably in World War II. He was in the front row on the aisle, having arrived there only with the assistance of crutches and the flight attendants. Swollen ankles bulged from his sneakers, suggesting that blood circulation was not his heart’s strong point.

At one point during the flight he was snoring like a 19th century logging factory, and the flight attendant had to wake him up out of deference to the other passengers. When she went to wake him again as we began our final descent, she was less successful. “Well, he’s breathing,” said a second flight attendant summoned to the scene, but I doubted her diagnosis. From my vantage point in the second row, I could see the flight attendants exchange worried glances and hushed communiques over the phone to the cockpit.

When we landed, a pair of NYPD officers were the first responders. They carried the old man off the plane, and that was the last I saw of him. I suppose it’s possible that first aid and medical attention revived him, and now he’s back to his previous state of poor health, but I doubt it. I think I flew on a plane with a dead man.

Now, somber situations like this are not my forte. I only became a blogger when it became clear — to both me and all prospective employers — that my complete inability to feign seriousness made me a poor fit for the normal working world. And the normal world in general. With that in mind, here are some handy ways to break the ice when people are all upset that someone has died on your cross-country flight:

• “Don’t bother my friend. He’s dead tired.”

(to flight attendant) “Suddenly, getting hit in the head with falling luggage doesn’t seem so bad, eh?”

• “Ugh, I hate redeyes. I feel like death warmed over.”

• “Thank God no one realized he was dead until the final descent. That would have been crazy inconvenient if we’d had to do an emergency landing in Pittsburgh or Buffalo.”

• “Well, at least we won’t have to wait for our luggage at the carousel.”

• “People dying on airplanes is a lot more exciting in the movies.”

• “Too bad it’s not ten years ago. We could have blamed the airline food.”

• “This is why I never go anywhere with my grandparents.”

• “Oh, come on! He had friends who died at D-Day. He got, like, 65 extra years of life.”

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