Would items of transport kindly behave themselves….requests Nury Vittachi in the weekly column The Funny Side
I think people would not complain about GM stuff if genetically modified people did useful things like give noisy kids “airplane mode” buttons on their foreheads. “Vibrate only” during scheduled hours would also be helpful. And if my wife is not reading this, can you kindly make a “Skip to end and agree” button appear somewhere whenever she says: “We need to talk?” Thank you.
Your narrator was thinking about air travel and technology after being told a recent true story about a pilot who was hand-cranking the propeller of his plane only to see the engine fire up and the empty aircraft take off without him. No one was hurt when it landed some hours later, because this happened in Canada, a country the size of the Jupiter, but with only about 100 inhabitants, mostly centenarian moose-herders.
Of course, the diametric opposite of Canada is Macau, which is so small and crowded that if you throw a glass of water out of the window, 65 people will complain that their clothes are wet. You don’t need to use the ground floor lobby of central Macau hotels; you just crowd-surf in and out of your guestroom window.
The report about the plane flying itself popped up in a conversation I had at an airport, but was topped by a Sri Lankan who told a tale of a ghost train which travelled 12 kilometres with no one driving two years ago. That story was aced in turn by one about a mysterious train which went on a 45- km journey from Bogor, Indonesia, a few years earlier, with the empty drivers’ cabin locked from inside. I remember railway officials scoffing at the theory that a ghost had commandeered the train, preferring the more scientific line that a god had temporarily materialized in the cabin.
A frequent flier in our group told us about a fighter pilot in East Germany in 1989 who thought his engine didn’t sound right and so used the ejector seat to leave. The plane recovered and flew on for about 700 km, crossing East and then West Germany. Air traffic controllers were asked to work out where it would land so that the place could be evacuated. They answered “Belgium”. It’s hard to evacuate a whole country. Unless it’s Canada, in which case you can just put the population into a bus to a remote bar to spend the evening drinking Molson, which is what they do anyway.
Travellers need not fear pilotless planes. A pilot once told me that big passenger planes have so much technology now they can land themselves. I believe it. I bought a car recently and it’s so hi-tech that the only people who can operate it are my children. “Press the red thingy and turn the wheel,” they call out from the back seat.
Truth be told, technology is often poorly thought through. Take digital clocks. How am I supposed to resist pressing the snooze button if it doesn’t give me an electric shock? Oh well, next time I’m late, I’ll blind my boss with technology. “Sorry, I messed up; my head was in airplane mode.”