It seems the cat at the front of the plane has not been consulted regarding its impending departure.
"Noooooooooo," it wails. "Noooooooo."
Five rows behind the cat, I send it mental condolences, then concentrate, alertly, on the pre-flight instructions given by the steward. Where are the exits? Will I be able to smoke in the lavatories? What if I'm unwilling or unable to perform my duties as exit row president? Having grown up in a series of small engine airplanes, it was impressed upon me by my father that one must remain alert in an airplane.
"Be alert, Pearl," he'd yell over the roar of the prop engines. "The world needs more lerts."
And so I focus, concentrate my alertness.
A recording of the safety instructions starts up over the public address system.
One of the stewards, a thin black man with a hairline that starts well behind his ears, stands near the front of the plane. His hands sway in a mixture of semaphoric and interpretive movements. The movements don't seem to have anything to do with what he is saying, actually, but there's a certain beauty to them.
He's been practicing this in the mirror.
Ninety-eight percent of the plane's passengers continue their conversations.
The recording shares instructional information regarding the use of the seat belt. The steward produces an instructional seat belt, apparently liberated from a 70s model Chrysler, and earnestly demonstrates how to buckle and unbuckle it.
Unfortunately, I appear to be the only one amused by this bit of theater.
The recording reminds us that it is a requirement that passengers comply with lighted signs, posted placards, and crew members instructions. It also has things to say regarding the location and use of the emergency exits, evacuation slides and emergency floor lighting.
The interpretive dance portion of our flight finishes with my favorite bit: the use of passenger seat cushions as flotation devices.
Six hours and two annoying seatmates later, I arrive in Florida. It's been a couple days now: sunshine, intense work on my new book, a chance to let T buy me drinks and show me his town.
Come back tomorrow, and I'll tell you about what they're keeping in the ocean nowadays.
9 hours ago