I'm still not sure exactly what to make of Romney's comment about airplane windows. I'm sure you know by now that he was talking about his wife's brush with aviation malfunction last week when he said:
“I appreciate the fact that she is on the ground, safe and sound. And I don’t think she knows just how worried some of us were. When you have a fire in an aircraft, there’s no place to go, exactly, there’s no — and you can’t find any oxygen from outside the aircraft to get in the aircraft, because the windows don’t open. I don’t know why they don’t do that. It’s a real problem. So it’s very dangerous. And she was choking and rubbing her eyes. Fortunately, there was enough oxygen for the pilot and copilot to make a safe landing in Denver. But she’s safe and sound.”
I have a very clear memory from my childhood. I had always assumed--I was five or so--that airplane windows rolled up and down, as in a car. Like all children I loved rolling down the car window and feeling the wind on my face, and I remember thinking, wow, wouldn't that be cool, imagine the wind smacking you in the face at that speed.
When I got on my first airplane, a little propeller plane ferrying the family Tomasky from Morgantown up to Pittsburgh, I bounded into the window seat, looked around, and with great frustration asked my mother where the hand crank was. She laughed at me. Dad explained the general principle of the pressurized cabin, demonstated so pointedly to American movie-going audiences just a few years before in Goldfinger. And boy did I feel stupid.
Or is Goldfinger a myth? I think of Executive Decision, the awesome 1996 film that I would name as the move I could watch a million times if NPR asked me (that is, you're not supposed to name a truly great film, but something a little quirky; I watch ED every time I see it's on cable). The bomb blows a big hole in the side of the craft, and stuff goes all over the place and a few people are sucked out, but after a while, Kurt Russell does manage to stabilize her, and she lands intact, hole and all. Who out there knows?
Jim Fallows, a highly experienced pilot, as I'm sure you know, wrote the other day that he has heard that Romney is afraid of flying. I have some limited sympathy with this. On the one hand, it always sort of astonishes me that this little metal tube is mightier than nature, and I can't quite believe it will prove to be so. On the other, I am aware that this truth is demonstrated roughly 50,000 times a day (or more) across the world, every day, and I relax. So I think that's pretty weird for a man who's undoubtedly flown all over the world on little corporate jets.
I guess this probably has nothing to do with his fitness for office, on which he's already disqualified himself several times anyway, but it's possibly the most bizarre thing I've ever heard a supposedly smart grown adult say, that you should be able to open airplane windows. It's like...what? Like thinking that you should be able to jump off a tall building and live. Yeah--someone get to work on that!