Occasionally I find that my personal views inhibit my social life. One such instance occurred in a bar in Auckland recently, where I was chatting up a hot Emirates hostess.
The conversation started with my criticism of the in-flight safety announcements.
"Why is smoking in the toilet a fire hazard?" I ask.
"Because the plane could catch fire," she answers, in that vacuous, I-haven't-thought-deeply-about-this-but-that's-what-they-told-me-at-hostess-school kind of way that air hostesses all seem to possess. I have noticed that there is something quite particular about the mentality of flight hostesses, which they share in common with Labour Party MPs: the unrivalled ability to spout platitudinous nonsense. There's no justification for pinko politicians on the public payroll to come up with this rubbish, but at least I can understand why air hostesses are so dumbed down. Day in and day out, they are forced to be polite to often obnoxious passengers, responding to such inane questions as: "Is this chicken or beef?" Or: "What does the non smoking light mean?" In a social context, my experience of air hostesses is that conversation almost exclusively revolves around where they have landed from, and what their next destination is.
But I am not satisfied with this answer. "So smoking in the toilet is a fire hazard, but smoking in the cabin is not?"
"No," she answers. "Smoking in the cabin is also a fire hazard."
"I see," I say. "So how come for forty years smoking in the cabin was allowed, and of all the millions of flights, not one plane ever crashed because a passenger was smoking?"
"I don't know," she responds.
I wasn't trying to ask annoying questions, of course. So I gave her a way out of the argument. "I can understand that the in-flight air conditioning system may not be totally efficient, and non-smoking passengers dislike the smell of cigarette smoke. Wouldn't it be more honest to say that smoking on planes irritates non-smoking passengers, rather than claim that the plane will crash if somebody lights up in the toilet?"
Emirates girl wasn't prepared to concede this point. So I progressed to the issue of lifeboats on planes.
"What is the point of lifeboats on a Boeing 747?" I ask.
"They're in case a plane lands on the water," she says politely. I buy her a drink, because she's hot, and come back to the conversation.
"Are there enough lifeboats for every passenger?"
"Yes, of course," she answers.
"Are they very useful, these lifeboats?"
"Yes, they're a key part of in-flight safety," she says.
"I see." I take a swig of my drink, and then say: "How many planes have ever used these lifeboats?"
She doesn't know what I mean. So I expand on this. "Well, put it this way. You spend ten fucking minutes during take-off telling us where the exits are, and where the lifeboats are, when every passenger airliner that has ever crashed into the water has lost everybody on board."
She wasn't amused by this, but she's still smiling politely.
"We need to put passengers' minds at ease."
I say it isn't helpful to give passengers the inaccurate impression that if a 350 tonne airplane hits the water at 300 miles an hour, the plane will somehow remain intact, and the passengers able to walk off into their lifeboats.
"If a plane's going to crash in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, nobody's actually going to survive to deploy the lifeboats, are they?" I say.
It is at this point that she starts to feel defensive. Being the not-very-sensitive guy that I am, I don't notice this. It doesn't occur to me that after four years of working for Emirates, she herself has found comfort in the existence of lifeboats. So I continue.
"And what's the point of showing passengers where the fucking exits are? Don't you think, just maybe, that a passenger who does happen to survive a massive plane crash might just jump out of the BIG FUCKING HOLE IN THE PLANE, rather than calmly follow the other passengers along the lights to the designated exit?"
The conversation ended shortly afterwards. Bloody pity, really. Emirates Girl was hot.