In the Event
If you are sitting in an exit row please identify yourself to a crew member to allow for reseating if you lack the ability to read, speak, or understand the language, or the graphic form, or the ability to understand oral crew commands in the language specified.
You maybe understand this but will you understand how to comply with these instructions, the instructions of our crew, who are fully authorized, and all the illuminated signs posted throughout the cabin? Please locate them now.
If you are sitting in an exit row and unlikely if needed to perform one or more of the applicable functions then you must de-select yourself because only you know, finally, if you lack sufficient mobility, strength, dexterity to reach, grasp, push, pull, turn, shove, lift out, hold, deposit nearby, maneuver over the seatbacks to the next row objects the size and weight of over-wing window door exits, remove, reach, maintain, balance, stabilize, exit, and assist others.
You may lack capacities, have conditions, or be otherwise compromised, for example if you are traveling with a pet container that contains a service animal or emotional support animal.
You may feel yourself supportive, and of course that’s good, super, if you can perform the functions: locate, recognize, comprehend, operate, assess, follow, stow, secure, pass expeditiously, deploy, select, but most of all you need to want to, and if you do not no reason need be given, because what reason is there to not want to help on this long flight should something go wrong, terribly, obviously, or subtly, as when you ask for water and no water arrives then you haven’t been heard, Wilbur is lost to the frise aileron, the flight cannot in your mind continue, I mean you cannot adjust the airflow, temperature, cargo storage space is limited to what it is, there’s no room for more.
But why isn’t there? says Orville. Space is infinite, the limits of the plane are inside us as we are inside nowhere luggage shifting around the bags inside bags making, in fact, more room: ‘clarification through expansion’ writes the soul in paraphrase, and even as you make a very short turn, you never feel the sensation of being thrown but find yourself facing where you started from. The objects on the ground seem to be moving faster though you perceive no change in the force of the wind on your face. You know then you are traveling with the wind, the capacity of the ordinary opening beyond belief.
If you put your hand to the window now you feel the deep cold out there where no one is no one wants to be or can be even and this we know before experience and the expertise of those who learn from manuals you’ve never held, never located, recognized, assessed, or followed.
You may think that to help anyone you must be with no one that requires your care you must be willing to do all of these things by yourself and without harming yourself to be able to reach up, sideways, and down.
But your condition is not the event of an evacuation, but rather the capacities you lack to be an emotional animal going somewhere a great distance, past every echelon, to a place without command; an elevation, a knowledge, a knack tuning the instrument to its final pitch & yaw.
When you look out the window what do you see? The plane is probably flying level. But should the pilot find himself unable, or you do, you can take control by reaching over and holding the yoke in such a manner that miniature wings in the indicator stay parallel with the artificial horizon.
Pulling back will send you higher where feeling becomes pronounced. That’s okay, lift should be equal, the door won’t open even if you yank on it due to the pressure.
Soon enough however, but not too soon; dream flowers drawn by moving veils is power (though naught be fairer than a dying nebula).
With time you understand, there are stars in the universe cold enough to be touched by the human hand.
Copyright ©2014 by Joshua Weiner. Used with permission of the author.
This poem was commissioned for We the Poets, a collaborative project with the National Archives and the Academy of American Poets to celebrate American Archives Month in October 2014. To read more about the project and to view related photographs and documents from the National Archives, visit the Prologue: Pieces of History blog.