wmthomas-sliderBy William Thomas










As I’m writing this I’m sitting in the window seat next to the emergency exit door on a SATA International Airlines flight reading a news item in the International Herald Tribune about a guy who, while sitting in the window seat next to the emergency exit door on an Alaska Airlines flight, suddenly lunged for the door and tried to open it at 10,000 feet altitude.

My question is exactly how bad do you have to pee to think the side door is a better option than those lockers they call washrooms at the back of the plane?

Alexander Michael Herrera, 23, from a planet the Hubble Space Telescope has not yet discovered was arrested in Portland, Ore., when the plane made an emergency landing after taking off for Anchorage, AK.

I’ve sat beside the exit door on many flights and I’ve never been tempted to open it except once when confronted with a flight attendant on an Air Canada flight from Timmins to Toronto. This surly woman with the flaming red hair was even ruder and more hostile than the Air Canada training manual calls for. Trapped between the exit door and a large man who thought deodorant was for sissies, I asked permission to move to one of the several empty rows on the plane and was ordered not once but twice by the downward-pointing index finger of Ms. Air Cannot to stay exactly where I was.

So, yeah, I considered opening the exit door somewhere over Sudbury to put 20,000 feet between me and the flight warden, but then I changed my mind thinking she would then simply board her broom and harass me all the way to the ground.

Before Herrera started grappling with the exit door, he turned to the woman in the seat next to him and asked: “What would you do if I open the exit door?”

The technically correct answer: “See the city of Prince Rupert, British Columbia, coming toward us really, really fast?”

Amid the blaring alarm and screaming passengers, two male passengers took Herrera down and held him until a flight attendant brought shoelaces and seat belt extensions to bind him up. Yeah, where were Batman and Robin when I was being held hostage by Fright Flight Fran, between Timmins and Toronto? I don’t think I would have gone with the tie-down option on that Alaska Airlines flight. I’d have just opened the door for that gentleman.

Having read the story, I put my newspaper down and stared out the window blankly wondering what exactly it would take for me to open that emergency door in midair. It would take a lot but still, every man has his price.

Before I opened that door, I would definitely have to hear the calm but grave voice of Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger talking to the air traffic controller saying: “We’re going down in the Hudson.”

Or on a trans-Atlantic flight, the sight of the flight attendant with an “I-told-you-so” smirk on her face and a microphone in her hand saying: “Remember how I told you that your seat also serves as a flotation device and all of you thought that was so damn funny?!? Well guess what?!?”

Or a copilot roaming through the economy section asking to borrow a set of rosary beads and a St. Christopher medal.

Or having the flight attendant inform me that all they have left are kosher meals after noticing the guy beside me has been reading from the Koran.

Or hearing a heated conversation from the cockpit in which the pilot is yelling at his subordinate: “I know it’s a bloody boat, I asked you how long it is?!?”

Or watching two copilots wrestle a drunk to the cockpit floor who happens to be the captain.

I can withstand two screaming kids on a plane one in front and one behind, but you add one more right beside me and, yeah, that door’s coming off its hinges.

Oh, and did you know that live in-flight concerts are the latest thing airlines are using to distract passengers from the fact they’re charging for luggage? Honest. A recent United Airlines flight from Chicago to Los Angeles featured Sheryl Crow singing a 40-minute set with an acoustic guitar.

So if I ever hear the captain come on the PA and say: “Got a great surprise for you folks this evening. If I might direct your attention to the front of the plane, we have none other than Celine …” I’m out that door before she hits her first scream.