The Flight Safety Speech


I flew to a conference last weekend, from Texas to Ohio with a detour through Florida, because honestly that’s close. It’s pretty exciting being crammed into a plane with recycled air with a bunch of children sporting Mickey ears shrieking about Disney and beleaguered parents praying their sugar high will last until the rental car. But even more fun is when you hear the same speech you have heard for your entire life from every perky flight attendant since the dawn of time and spacecraft.

The Captain has turned on the Fasten Seat Belt sign!  I love this opener, because instead of just saying “put on your dang seatbelt because we’ll be taking human beings into the thin air in a large mechanical bird and if we crash your ashes will be spread out like dust over Birmingham,” they tell you the sign is on.  Like that ever works when you see the yellow light in a school zone.

Please make sure your seatback and folding trays are in upright locked position! I’m wondering if it would cut a human in half if the folding tray was down.  I’m also curious if some guy named Bob just made up this line twenty-seven years ago because they were trying to fill up space, like “make sure your shoestrings are tied!” and “take off your hats, ladies!” because the seats only move a total of 1.7 inches even when you force them with all your might by digging your heels into the cold floor and what’s the freaking point of the seats moving 1.7 inches.  And I’m imagining the gasping of a woman decapitated upon take-off, and her sobbing husband wishing he had only remembered to keep the folding tray in an upright locked position. 

If you are seated next to an emergency exit, please read carefully the special instructions located in the seatback in front of you!  I take this seriously, ya’ll. I glare at these exit row passengers with beady eyes to see if they’re paying attention to this immense duty that has been bestowed upon them, because if they can’t handle the exit row responsibilities I’m totally there to lead this ragtag crew in to safety. I’m ordering scared children toward open doors and blowing up life rafts saying things like “atta boy” and “you betcha” and high-fiving the flight attendants.  Also? I know there are a ton of exits, somewhere up front and blah blah down at the end that can only be recalled with some fancy two-finger arm movements that I can recall in a pinch if the plane is plunging to our deaths. I’m onto you, old lady who moves slow and is taking up precious exit row space.  Get with the program and read the handout in the seatback pocket in front of you.

At this time, we request that all mobile phones, pagers, and other electronic devices be turned off for the full duration of the flight! They LIE I tell you, because something as sophisticated as a plane that lifts us into space surely isn’t derailed by my itouch reader and an electronic Jane Eyre.  But then again apparently the seatback thing is a deal and people have to follow signs to remember to wear safety belts and you wait with crazy anticipation for a cup of soda the size of a sippy cup so perhaps we aren’t all that bright after all and the machine really has to dig deep to fly straight.  And Southwest took me through Orlando on the way to Ohio which means someone’s turning on their freaking cell phone.  Stop it, people.  Have mercy. This thing needs to fly in a straight line.

And lastly, it’s always nice to be reminded that it’s a non-smoking flight, in case you woke up from your nap and thought it was 1952. And in case you wanted to run off and light up in the lavatory, because we all still totally use that word, or tamper with, disable, and possibly destroy the smoke detectors, it’s a no-go, folks.  I totally caught some woman eying one, thoughts racing inside her head like she needed to tamper with it, or perhaps destroy it, but then the soda came and like Pavlov’s dog she was giggling and I realized she was staring at an exit row sign while playing Candy Crush.

The moral of the flight safety speech is that we are all morons, have to be told things of no significance, need to yield the exit row to my mad skills, may cut our bodies into two if we aren’t careful with the tray locking feature, have to resist urgings to destroy things, can’t smoke, need signs, and get super excited about small cups of Dr. Pepper. I’m confident about our future generation.  If we’re lucky, they will learn to actually turn off their cell phones.

Have a good flight!  If you forget something, there’s a sign. And a speech that won’t change for another two hundred years.


Cable is evil. And I love it.

We are living in a quirky old rental while our house is being remodeled. The original place was a single room built in the 1800s with walls eighteen inches thick.  The owners and their forefathers kept adding onto that one room, with bedrooms and bathrooms popping from one single hallway like a branch sprouting new shoots.  To go from the bedroom to the kitchen for a drink of water requires running shoes, and there are light switches in strange places that, instead of turning on a light, actually fire up a heater or turn on an attic fan.  I still can’t muster up the courage to head down into the basement.  My dad went.  He said it was creepy.  But I can’t imagine a more perfect place.  My children now think of it as “the 1826 house” like we just picked up and moved there.  The landlords live about ten feet away in a house adjoined with a breezeway, and they are lovely people.  I brought the landlady so much pumpkin bread that she finally had to tell me to stop because she has a gluten allergy.

The most perfect thing about our rental is not the fact that it has a dug-out basement or that it’s quite possibly haunted or that almost every room has a different type of flooring.  It’s not the grand piano or the fact that the décor contains a large amount of arrowheads or that one bedroom in the house is actually referred to as “the Africa Room” due to the collection of safari memorabilia. The coolest thing is contained within the confines of a little blue cord.  Cable. I am in awe of this majestic invention of technology that we do not possess in our actual home.

Cable is something strange and foreign to the Hill clan, and we all gather around the television like cave men, pounding upon the box with clubs and beating our chests with glee.  It causes the Hill leaders to lose sleep and feel compelled to watch long Iron Chef marathons.  After all – we have a civic duty to see what the hype is all about regarding drunken women in New Jersey whose names sound like baby blankets.

I have grown so attached to the food network that I’ve become irrationally inspired.  I see the way chefs manage to put together entire meals from wheat flour, peas, and fresh tuna, and I feel that despite my lack of formal training I, too, could whip up a soufflé if my life depended on it in thirty minutes.  Because it’s a temporary living arrangement, we didn’t haul our entire spice rack over to our new pad, so the only two spices that reside in our rental kitchen are cumin and cinnamon.  But as you know, if you watch the food network, this should not be a deterrent. With cinnamon, some black truffles, goat milk, and a Wolf range, dessert is so completely done!

So the other night, when I’m staring into the refrigerator, I see sausage, leftover rice, and remembered we had a can of black beans in the pantry.  That’s it! I can make a killer Mexican Jumbalaya! After all, we have Cumin.  So what if I’m mixing cultures? Chefs do those things all the time, people.  Think Asian fusion.

My husband came home and I mentioned that we would be dining on Mexican Jumbalaya and tamales, along with some Italian beer and Halloween candy for dessert.  Suddenly, I hear myself speaking. I realize cable has rotted my brain.  Who put this menu together, anyway? Later that night, my daughter was speaking into a fake camera that’s located somewhere in the imaginary world she lives in.  She’s telling the people in television land exactly how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, going into painstaking detail for the television audience about how to slather on the jelly without it dripping.  Then she broke for commercials.

When we move back home, we will not have cable. I haven’t read a book in a month, my daughter is now dreaming of being a TV personality, and I’m inundated with thoughts of buying a hybrid car and a Vitamix.  But I will miss cable, that fancy modern invention, broadcast among the arrowheads in our 1826 home.   Rich housewives and fancy chefs will just have to plod on without this household of viewers.  We’re heading back to the dark ages.  To the days of flipping through magazines and checking our email on our iphones.  Reading books and watching NOVA on public television.  Somehow, some way, we’ll muddle through.

technology rehab

When I was growing up, we didn’t have cell phones.  We didn’t have email.  What we did have, located in the smack center of our house on the kitchen wall (adorned with 1970’s fern wallpaper), was a regular home telephone.

It was yellowy-beige with a ten-foot-cord that could be stretched precariously around the corner when privacy dictated.  But there really isn’t any privacy in the center of a kitchen.  Every time my dad came in to make popcorn, he’d just wave and say “tell [random boy I was talking to] hello!  Are you coming in the family room to watch Hunt for Red October?”  Then he’d just grunt and pour himself a soda and I’d be left in utter humiliation.  Then, after I thought the coast was clear, I’d spot my mother doing something very important like ironing linens or peeling grapes next to the door so she could listen in.

Kids now-a-days have it so easy.  Televisions in every room. Cell phones on every belt.  Email and chatting and texting and instant messaging– the amount of unbridled privacy is endless.  It scares me to think what my daughter might be saying someday in the free, bare silence of modern technology.  I can’t snoop around the corner and then just say “What? I was just coming in to get a drink!” if I got busted.  I think I’ll force our family go back to the days of old, where the father sits around each night reading the bible and we all stitch our own dresses out of flour sacks.

It’s amazing how dependant we are on technology.  I’m one to talk. My commute home involves about twenty minutes of cell phone chatter with two minutes of checking my lipstick.  So the other day, when I forgot my phone at home, it was torture.  Torture, I tell you! What the heck was I supposed to do on the drive home– listen to the radio?  The thought of it brought back vague memories of youth.  Days when I made mix tapes and hoped to push the stop button before the DJ broke in and ruined the song’s ending.  In my extreme boredom, I started surfing through the channels.

I tried NPR, but they talking politics. I looked ahead at the string of red taillights and realized there was a wreck on the highway. Great. I couldn’t call home to tell the babysitter I would be late, and there was no way I could stop.  I felt trapped and isolated.  All I had to keep me company was top-forty radio, spiked with loud advertisements about luxury cars, a Joss Stone CD with a scratch, and boring economy talk.  My hands began to shake and I felt sweat forming on my brow.  I was unsure if I could make it.

Relax, I tried to tell myself.  Think.  Pray.  Flex your abdominal muscles or make a mental grocery list.  But after about three minutes, I checked all of these items off the list and was instead punching the radio buttons in a futile belief that something interesting would blare through the speakers.  I was looking at half an hour more.  I looked the car next to me and saw the driver laughing away while talking on his blue tooth. I thought I might need a Zanax.

After being on the road for forty-five minutes with no cell phone and finally landing safely at home, I had an epiphany.  I need technology rehab.  I’m an embarrassment.  I can’t go less than an hour without Tivo, iTunes, cell phones, or texting?  What has become of me?

Maybe it would be nice for the family to have only one phone with a ridiculously long cord. And how wonderful to enjoy the radio again, singing along with the window down —

Hold on a sec.  My cell phone is ringing.  I need to tell my best friend who got fired on Project Runway.  She was in a meeting and her cell phone was out of juice (she forgot her car charger – again!) and she just got home to find her Tivo was set to record a movie and she didn’t catch the show and I didn’t answer her text because I was in the middle of sending my husband a picture of our empty milk carton as a subtle hint to go to the store.  You understand.

Maybe someday, we’ll abandon all this junk and just sit around by the fire reading the bible and sewing.  Or maybe, even better, there’s an app for that.