In which I am the best exit row passenger ever.

I dropped into the window seat, on the wing. The exit row. According to the red safety sign, the window-cum-door weighed a mere 41 pounds. “I could lift that,” I thought. “I bet I’d get super-adrenaline, like babies who can’t even crawl but can suddenly clean and jerk SUVs to free their trapped mothers.”

I pulled out the safety instruction card from the seat pocket in front of me. I assumed saving the plane would necessitate the old “grab the top – grab the bottom – pull – twist – toss” maneuver, like so:

window exit 1 OLD

window exit 2 old.

With rising panic, however, I realized my window required an entirely different procedure.

First, you arrange your arms crisscross applesauce, so that your non-dominant hand is wrestling with the vital top handle that will either cause the door to open or trap you in the plane, assuring your death. Meanwhile, your dominant arm is dangling uselessly at your side, struggling to find purchase at the bottom (fig. 1).

figure 1 edited

Figure 1

With arms awkwardly in place, you bend your knees in a “now I’m taking an uncomfortable shit” stance (fig. 2), which is convenient because if you’ve just crashed landed, you literally already are.

Figure 2

Figure 2

Now you are cradling 41 pounds of plane and you really want to chuck it out the window BECAUSE THAT MAKES SENSE. Instead, you’re directed to rest the window on the empty seat beside you (fig. 3).

Figure 3

Figure 3

But we know that no plane seat is ever empty. So sorry nice lady who didn’t try to talk to me at takeoff. If we crash? I’m required to crush you.

I immediately started rehearsing the weird arm movements in my seat.

When the flight attendant asked if we’d assist the crew in the event of an emergency, everyone declared “Oh yes!” A row full of Captain Sully Sullenbergers, they were. No one seemed terrified. No one else was practicing the moves.

But as soon as we took off? They were firing up their iPads, drifting into Candy Crush comas, and devouring their seven pretzels without a care in the world.

“What is wrong with you?!” I wanted to scream. “We are in charge of the safety of passengers from Row 11 all the way back to Row 25 because THERE IS NO REAR EXIT ON THIS PLANE, PEOPLE!”

It was up to me.

My bladder filled, but I dared not empty it. I slid my phone into my back pocket so I’d have it after the emergency landing (fig. 4). “That was good thinking!” the grateful captain would say as he pinned Delta wings onto my charred sweater. “You saved the day so we could call 911 immediately!” Then everyone would cheer because Yay! I’m the hero! I’m Jack Shephard and not the dude who got sucked into the turbine in minute two of the “Lost” pilot!

Figure 4

Figure 4

I did not relax on the descent. I did not relax when the thrusters deployed. I remained at attention as we taxied to the gate. Even as the jetway slammed into place, I thought, “We are on the tarmac and anything could happen and dozens of people might need to escape out my window.”

Finally, I deplaned. I don’t think any astronaut in the history of the space program has ever been more relieved than I was as I set foot in Newark and thought, “That’s one small step for The Reedster, one giant shit she didn’t take in her pants.”

About Cindy Reed

I hate pants.
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33 Responses to In which I am the best exit row passenger ever.

  1. I wanna be on your plane, and if I sit next to you in the exit row, I promise to talk to you.

  2. jenbrunett says:

    So funny! I get the same way whenever I’m in the exit row and I am as much as possible because it has all the legroom for my very tall husband. I’ve rehearsed the moves, too! I’m glad you landed without poo pants, lol.

  3. Sam Merel says:

    And to think that all of these years I’ve just been thinking of the exit row as “lucky me, I got more leg room.” Never again. Not after this.

  4. It seems like placing the door inside the plane instead of letting it fall outward is just in case everyone decides they hate the door helper, then they can re-seal the plane and be on their merry way after he or she gets out.

  5. Christie says:

    I’m dying. This is so funny. Love the layers of cultural references!

  6. “I bet I’d get super-adrenaline, like babies who can’t even crawl but can suddenly clean and jerk SUVs to free their trapped mothers.” This made me shit my pants with laughter. I think I need you to be my new best friend. K?

  7. kateyanne says:

    Good to know you were ready, even after the plane was at the gate. Really!? The ramp fell in Seattle? Wow…you really do never know.

  8. Ryan says:

    Hilarious… my morning need this.

  9. Natalie DeYoung says:

    You’d hate me then. I was the emergency go-to person on a red-eye, Transatlantic flight, and I think I did my damndest to sleep the entire way over…

  10. I always try to get those seats. And I figure in the case of a real emergency, it all goes to hell anyway. People don’t give a crap about other people anymore. Did they ever? They’d just run for the door and get crushed by the other people running for the door who would then get crushed…well, you get the picture. In the end, it’s mayhem and a traffic jam at St. Peter’s Gate.

    (No, I haven’t had my coffee yet. Why do you ask?)

    • The Reedster says:

      But if you had me on the plane, all would be orderly. As long as nobody tries to get their luggage from the overhead compartments, which no doubt have shifted during flight.

  11. This is all kinds of perfect.

  12. Stacie says:

    Hahaha! I want you in my exit row from now on. We all have a chance with you at the door.

  13. bwahahhahaa. girl, this post totally spoke to me! when i sat in the exit row the first time, i thought, “ah, piece of cake…” till i read the safety card just like you mentioned. then i was officially in hypersensitive alert mode from then all the way till the plane landed, because I KNEW i couldn’t lift 50 lbs. i never want to sit in the exit row again!

    i will say however that i routinely review the safety/emergency card and check where the oxygen/lifevest/exit routes are and how to remove the door if needed. it’s called disaster preparedness for a reason. if i were on a plane i’d want to have you at the exit door… =)

    • The Reedster says:

      I read this book called “The Unthinkable: Who Survives Disaster and Why” and now all the time I’m ticking off the number of seats to the nearest exit in case the emergency floor lighting goes off and I need to count my way out through the smoke.

      • The Reedster says:

        I’m also fun in large auditoriums, “But mom, we can’t see here way in the corner!!” BUT THE EXIT DOOR IS RIGHT HERE. SEE THE CONCERT? OR DIE?

  14. about100percent says:

    They should really have a training program for people who choose to sit in the exit row. They are almost as important as the pilot in my opinion.

    • The Reedster says:

      Yes. These were the questions: 1. Do you speak English. Which is you don’t speak English, you don’t understand anyway. 2. Are you over the age of 18? 3. In the event of an emergency are you willing and able to assist the crew? Sure! I can’t lift a 20 pound of dog food but whatevs!

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  16. mistyslaws says:

    I will never sit in the exit row again. I never realized how much responsibility and pressure comes with those seats!! I’m just glad you are there to keep everyone safe. You’re like some kind of superhero or something.

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