John Grindrod: Flight attendants now in the comedy business

Last March I flew for the first time since that whole COVID deal altered so much of what we once knew as life, from Columbus to Fort Myers to spend a few Floridian days with my sis and brother-in-law. While I wouldn’t call myself a frequent flyer, I have flown enough both domestically and abroad in my life to feel pretty comfortable with the whole experience. This time, there were some differences from my previous flights, with the most obvious being the mask mandate that was still in effect, both in the airport and on the plane.

As for the airport experience, except for the masks and that annoying albeit necessary TSA checkpoint, I actually do enjoy the airport environment and don’t mind arriving very early for my departures. For me, there’s a kind of an anticipatory buzz to an airport, and there are no shortages of subjects to scrutinize as I carry on the tradition established by my dearly departed mother long ago of being a very interested people watcher. It really is the perfect environment for such a hobby.

After I boarded, passed the favored ones in first class and settled into my coach seat with the rest of the proletariat, it was time for the flight attendants to do their presentations.

One thing I noticed that hadn’t changed was when the flight attendant on the mike and the other two in position to demonstrate the safety instructions began their work, little attention was paid by most of those who’d settled into their seats. As I scanned my area, I estimated about 10 percent of the people actually were looking and listening, at least at the beginning.

As for me, I always have given the flight attendants my full attention. Not that I think any information they provide on buckling seat belts and such is all that interesting, but I think someone giving a presentation no matter how mundane is worthy of my attention. As a former teacher I expected no less from my kiddos in all three schools in which I taught over my 32 years, so unless I want to don the horns of hypocrisy, I do give them my attention.

Now, one thing I noticed was something that would have been unheard of during my early flying times. The young lady presenting injected a liberal dose of comedy into her instructions. And, the laughter-inducing stabs, I found to be effective because people who weren’t paying much attention at first were shaken from their reverie when they heard others laugh.

When she was in the oxygen-mask portion of her lesson, she said, “If you are seated next to a child … or someone acting like one … please assist them in securing their mask.” I glanced around my section and saw a lot of female significant others poking their mates in the shoulder with that certain “she’s-talking-about-you” look on their faces.

After a few other one-liners, toward the end of her speech, she said, “Please check the list of beverages on the card in the seat pocket in front of you, but please be advised that whatever you choose … we’ll be out of.”

As is the case with all attempts at humor, how the lines were delivered was vital to the comedic effect, so if those examples didn’t sound all that funny, keep that in mind. Awaiting our departure, I thought about when these presentations morphed into opportunities to do standup.

Later when knocking around the iPad, I did notice there is a YouTube anthology of funny flight attendant videos. I checked out one of them entitled “Funniest Flight Attendant Ever.” The attendant, when he got to the seatbelt portion of the speech, said, “Ladies and gentlemen, in the event you haven’t been in an automobile since 1942, we’re going to show you how to fasten a seatbelt.” Nicely done, I thought.

From that point on, it wasn’t more than a few seconds between other jokes that interspersed the necessary information. At one point he said that if anyone didn’t like the jokes, there were six exits from the aircraft as his two colleagues did the traditional arm signals where they were. He went on to say that this was a nonsmoking flight and covered the penalties for damaging the smoke detectors in the restrooms, but then went comedic again by saying that, for those who couldn’t manage the two-hour flight without a cigarette, there were two smoking lounges … outside the plane … one called the left wing … and the other called the right wing.

As for the comedy, humor can make a stressful situation less so, and, as we all know, there are some really nervous flyers out there. As far as turning planes into Greenwich Village’s iconic comedy club Comedy Cellar, well, I say go for it. After all, we really are only here for a short while on this earth, including when we’re readying to fly above it, so why not laugh as much as we can?