The Joy of Travel

No. 5 – Airport Announcements

I have no idea how many people pass through Stanstead every year – millions. Maybe  billions. I assume that most of them reach their destinations,with or without their luggage. Which is something of a miracle if my recent experience is anything to go by. The incomprehensible screeching that passed for public announcements would do a good job of shattering glass and put any self-respecting parrot to shame. As to fulfilling its purpose – forget it.

Where on earth do they recruit these people? What criteria do they use in interviews? Do they only select those whose voices are so sharp they could cut a diamond? Or maybe they choose perfectly normal people with perfectly normal voices, though with a preference for those on the shrill side and send them to boot camps. Boot camps where recruits are required to speak at a given speed – getting faster and faster as they progress towards their diplomas. Somewhat along the lines of the old speed typing tests except with a requirement to run the words all together so as to be indistinguishable, one from the other. With extra brownie points for slurring.

Bad as it was in the departure hall, the situation at the boarding gate was even worse. I was a going to try to replicate it here to try and give some idea of what it sounded like but the nearest I can get to describing the tone is the sound of nails being scraped down a blackboard or the high pitched shriek of metal grinding against metal – and not in a good way. The only two words I caught were ‘the back’.  Were we to were to board from the back (no sniggering please) or was the plane was for some unaccountable reason going to fly backwards or were we all to be herded back to departures? Impossible to tell. If we’d suddenly been rerouted to the moon we’d be none the wiser.

The long line of hopefuls milled about like sheep that were one dog short of directions. When I approached the desk I fared no better. I still couldn’t understand a word. All I achieved was more confusion, a cold stare and hurty ears. It wasn’t much better on board. Given the vital importance of some safety instructions this is less annoying than alarming. We are all a bit blasé these days about life jackets and whistles and stuff – we know its more to reassure us than a having any practical use. But the stuff about electronic equipment really does need more than a quick slur. And why not spell it out – mobile phones, MP3 players, iPads and computers can all make the plane crash. That at least might make some people sit up and take notice. That is if they could take those earphones out of their ears for three seconds.

The captain has just made an announcement. All I understood was that we are makings good progress, despite being bounced about like a celestial tennis ball. Whatever he did say was, I imagine, meant to reassure us. A bit pointless since he too seems to have been to boot camp with the rest of them. Bet he got top marks for slurring.

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