Nineteen Years Ago in Spy

That’s nineteen. Not Ten Years Ago in Spy. Yes, it has been that long. Feels like it when you really think about it, don’t it? Especially if you’re reading Graydon Carter’s magazine now.

I’m stealing this because not only is it a precious jewel plucked from the greatest glossy setting of the last century, but also because it is a perfect demonstration of the Canadian character; not only the policy here elucidated, but also the urge to explain our passive-aggressive policies in a manner half apologetic, half ironic. In fact, every truly Canadian action is undertaken in a spirit half apologetic, half ironic, and that includes looting and burning the White House: we were, after all, only knowingly referencing the burning of York. Always following the lead of the bloody Yanks, that’s us.

Anyhoodle, here it is, a letter to Spy in the January, 1990 edition, from the benighted, but polite, dominion of Canuckistan.

Dead Asleep

Dear Editors,

As an ex-flight attendant for Air Canada, I can tell you that whenever the Grim Reaper made his way through one of our cabins, the procedure was a little different from Delta Air Lines’ [“Bound for Glory: What Happens When Your Last Stop Comes Before the End of the Line,” by Jay Blotcher, September]. We still notified the family and had the plane met by an ambulance, but we didn’t just leave the deceased for dead during the flight.

Maybe it is just the Canadian way, but we were basically told to lie and pretend that the passenger was not dead, only ill. It seems the airline though if we ran down the aisles screaming “Oh God, he’s dead, Gloria!” the passengers would become alarmed and subsequently be too afraid to visit the in-flight duty-free shop. So we were told to vacate the seat beside the deceased, put a fake oxygen mask [they HAVE those on planes? I am becoming alarmed] on him, turn his face toward the window and cover him with a blanket. (So he wouldn’t get cold?) The rest of the flight would be spent offering the dead man drinks and complimentary earphones [which Air Canada now no longer offers, even to living passengers] to continue the charade.

The thing I could never understand was that a flight attendant was expected to sit beside the body for landing. It’s not as if they expected you to date the guy afterward or anything, but really…how can a corpse have anything but a safe landing?

(I wasn’t with the company very long and never personally had a passenger die on one of my flights; however, there were quite a few I wanted to kill.)

Annie Game

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

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7 thoughts on “Nineteen Years Ago in Spy

  1. It must be asked: don’t people usually shit and piss themselves all to hell when they die? In a plane, that would be absolutely disgusting. A fireman told me once that when the sanitary team is sent in for body recovery they’re always relieved (no pun intended) when they discover the expiry took place on the john – less mess to clean up.

  2. Oh good heavens, Ian, not CANADIANS! We’re far too well-bred.

    Also, my mother worked in a hospital, so she finally asked a doctor about the clean underwear thing. He said, “well, sure. If there are two people in an accident and one has clean underwear and the other doesn’t, which are YOU going to want to put your hands on?”

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