OK, this post reminds me of a conversation I had Friday night on the flight I managed to escape to (not “from,” despite the movie) LA last night.
I’d gotten the ticket with miles, because the last-minute prices to DC were nuts, the only way to do so was to (a) go out of IAD instead of DCA and (b) fly into SNA (John Wayne Airport in Orange County) instead of LAX. Thursday, I asked American if I could change it by going same-day standby, and they said, sure, if you want to burn more miles. So I was resigned to going to Dulles, and flying into Orange County, and Patricia picking me up there, with at least a 45-minute drive each way.
Fortunately, God (or whoever controls the weather) intervened, and my flight from IAD was delayed sufficiently that I missed my connection to SNA, and managed to get reassigned to a flight that went to LAX, with no penalty.
So I’m in an exit row on the flight, and the flight attendant comes by with the usual FAA-required question: “Are you willing and able to assist in opening the door in the case of an emergency?”
I’d been asked this question before in similar situations, but this time, I realized that I couldn’t say “yes” with any honesty. Because I had never actually opened an emergency door. Sure, I’d read the instructions, but had I ever done it? No.
So I said to the flight attendant (because I can occasionally be a pain in the ass from my pedantry, and it had been a long day), “Well, sure, I’m willing, but how can I know that I’m ‘able’? I’ve never done it before.”
There was an American captain sitting next to me, dead heading, and I said, “I’d bet no one in this row, except him, has ever opened an emergency door in an aircraft, so when you ask us if we’re able, there’s no way for us to know.”
The flight attendant is now flustered, and asks if I want to be moved.
“No, I’m sort of kidding, but it’s not a useful question, despite the FAA rules. What you should be asking is if I’m willing and have sufficient strength. I am and do. But none of us know if we are able, and we all hope that we don’t have to find out.”