The Irritations of Modern Life: 57. chatty airline pilots

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The Independent Culture
AS MANY of us will be reminded at this time of year, airlines like to keep their passengers involved. If they are not putting a polyurethane plateful of "lamb" in front of you, they are trying to flog you drinks, and teddies with flying goggles, or offering interminable cups of nasty coffee.

That's okay: after all, the peculiar flavour of air travel - which one might characterise as a cocktail of fear, boredom and bad air - is mildly alleviated by these interventions. And obviously one has to forgive such legal necessities as the safety information routine. What is inadmissible, however, is the chatty rubbish spoken by the captain - "Good morning, ladies and gentlemen..." - which seems to be particularly prominent on British jets.

It is partly the tone of the captain's voice - a modulated sing-song intended to suggest nerves of titanium and supercapability - that is itself the problem. For while it is supposed to inspire confidence, it actually suggests the kind of G&T-and-golf-club received pronunciation that brings one to the conclusion: "Hang on, I'm being conned here." One is sure that the captain would enunciate the words "Brace brace brace!" or "You have time to write one last letter" in the very same modulated RP.

I freely admit that a low-level fear of flying informs my problem with aeroplane chat. I want a flight to be as quick and uneventful as possible so that I can daydream and read my way to the destination. But they won't let it happen. Every time the Tannoy is switched on I suspect that the pilot is going to tell us that we are about to fall out of the sky for, as any nervous plane passenger will testify, all in-flight information is a potential harbinger of doom. Little can convince us otherwise.

Therefore, when the "bong" comes on, one's ECG reading leaps, which instantly wipes out any benefit of knowing the current temperature at your holiday destination.

But my hatred of aeroplane chat stems from much more than the way it feeds into air-travel anxiety. It is equally the needless interruption, the wanton sound vandalism of it all.

And to what end? Who cares how high we are and what the temperature of the air outside the cabin is? (Of course, if one is tempted to shout back "So what?" one discovers another maddening thing: the Tannoy only works one way.)

Finally, when the cabin crew thank us for "choosing" Scumbag Airways, one feels like yelIing back at them: "I only got the ticket because it was cheap!"

It is these disembodied voices - that rile even as they intend to soothe - that curse modern life. They are the very sound of alienation.

Oh, to take an aeroplane flight that doesn't have the pilot banging on every half-hour. Truly, that would be an "unlikely event".

It might actually cause a pleasant "loss of pressure".