While waiting recently on an airport runway en route to what I had hoped was Edmonton, our pilot gave his customary “Welcome to the flight speech” in which he mentioned the destination of Calgary twice. As alarmed as I was, the situation was made worse because absolutely no one else on the packed plane even flinched. They slept, they chatted, they read and fussed with their electronic devices, but no one seemed to care as long as we were “sort of” going in the right direction.
Trying to stay calm (and those who know me understand what a feat that was), I nudged the man next to me and asked, “Is this the plane to Edmonton.” “Oh yes,” he replied with a yawn, “the pilot is just mixed up because Calgary was where he went on his last flight.”
So, apart from the fact that the words “pilot and mixed up” should never be used together, was I wrong to be even the least bit concerned about his loose use of words, apart from the mental state of my fellow passengers?
It made me wonder what would have happened if the pilot had used words instead like, “welcome guys and girls” or invited us to sing a rousing chorus of “O Canada” as we took off. Now that might have earned us a headline in the Toronto Star. How strange it is these days that we walk through a kind of word landmine: some errors and social faux pas are completely ignored, others go straight to the front of the line. It applies to actions as well. I dread the day I pull a plastic straw out of my purse or use hashtags incorrectly (listed recently as one of today’s top 10 social faux pas).
My consolation is to remind myself that things haven’t changed all that much. For example, in Jane Austen’s time, giving someone the “cut” was one of the worst things you could do. This would happen when two people, who already had been introduced on another occasion, meet again and one chooses not to return the expected bow, curtsey or nod.
A cut, either intended or by mistake, could signal the end of a relationship, or at the least, be a sign of being extremely impolite. Tip your hat, nod back – but ignore? Never! And things got even more complicated if you actually did bow back but didn’t extend the gesture as long or as elegantly as the other. Gracious gracious…..what scandal.
So, all in all, I kind of admire that plane load of people for their total acceptance and trust that the pilot was just “mixed up.” I wasn’t up to the challenge (but then, I’m also caught with the occasional straw in my purse without a reasonable explanation and I can’t even being to explain the proper or improper use of hashtags).