Thursday, August 7, 2014

Ready for Take-Off, #TBT & Anti-Tag-Popping Edition


By Steven S. Vrooman

So for today's Throwback Thursday, I thought I'd resurrect an old post from my now defunct blog. That blog, the Paperbackbiter, would report on cheap books I bought at thrift stores. Turns out: 1) It takes a lot of time to read books, especially terrible ones, and 2) There is not a lot of audience for thrift-shopping (no tag-popping -- I paid full price of $.13 for this one) when it comes to yellowing, 30 year-old paperbacks.

Before you accuse me of recycling content (um, have you looked at your Twitter feed lately, Guy Kawasaki clone?), what I like about this post is that it is about a fairly simple failure to figure out audience. This book is really two books, and it can't decide how to pull its various messages together into a coherent form. That's why it probably ended up moldering in the bin in the Silver Center for a few decades.

The MoreBrainz Blog is about rhetoric. It's about thinking strategically about audience. It's about trying harder to do things that work. So perhaps it will be instructive to look closer at something that doesn't.

I've edited it just a bit, but left in all the dated Snuggie jokes, so there's that.....



Apparently flying gives these authors, in the colorful parlance of my father, the "red ass." At least, that's what we have on the cover: the red ass of a plane. 

I grabbed this book  because I am always amused at the nexus of consumer "secret" tricks and life-saving knowledge that animates the nonfiction shelves and every local television newscast. It amazes me that this still works, but . . . "Your eyeballs are killing you at ten! Followed by where to go to get free dog Snuggies." Or, in this case:

YOUR PLANE SUCKS AND IS GOING TO CRASH!

OUR BOOK WILL TELL YOU THE SECRET SEAT TO MAKE IT OUT OF THE FLAMING WRECKAGE ALIVE!!

THIS BOOK WILL ALSO SHOW YOU HOW TO GET THE CHEAPEST FLIGHTS AND THE BEST AIRLINE MEAL!!!

Huh? Is it a flying deathtrap or not? Who would possibly read both halves of this book?

The book just sort of slides over the issue. The first 88 pages are "AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA AAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHH HHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!" The last hundred are how to use airline booking coupons (?! . . . the book was written in 1991), etc.

The book starts the bit on danger like this:


Well, isn't that great? I feel like that happens every time I get on the plane! I can see a couple in coach looking through this book together and loudly problem-solving:

"Mildred, did you just feel the plane pitch to the right? Is that just as bad as the left?"

"I think it was more of a lurch than a pitch, Stanley. Maybe even a slide."

"Well, confound it, Mildred, I am growing concerned, and this book says that in an emergency we will grow concerned. It's a sign! I was jostled-"

"That was the drink cart."

"After the drink cart! And the engine noise changed from a whiiiiirrrrmmmmm to a whoooorrrrrmmmm! We're going to DIE!!!!!"

"Well, Stanley, here on page 22 it says that many crashes are survivable, but that our upper torsos will flail like rag dolls. Only the passengers in first class will get . . . shredded by tree trunks."

"What tree trunks? I never said that about your legs, I don't care what Sally Smith says!"

All of this vagueness ends with a bunch of scary diagrams that show that you should sit in the back of the plane:


I've always heard this, and I always felt it was a cosmic irony that the rich in the front have less of a chance than the poor folks sitting in the back by the toilets. Usually.

This means that the show Lost is a total lie.

I think (it was polar-beared purgatory, right?) 

You should also, it seems, sit down and buckle your seat belt:


Lovely. I hate this image.The book does like to linger on the horrific deaths of flight attendants throughout. Somebody didn't get extra peanuts last time, I think.

The part of this book that really gets me is its suggestion that we honestly assess fellow passengers and avoid (and avoid helping) those who couldn't possibly make it out of the plane alive. On page 82, this seems to include:

  1. Hysterical women.    (Really? Really?)
  2. Men clutching briefcases.  (Gee, it's like Mad Men up there.)
  3. Loud drunks. (No word on whether or not the quiet alcoholics are okey dokey.)
  4. "Heavyset" people.  (Again, really?????)
  5. Teenagers (!) who are a "bit irresponsible."  (That's what you get for kicking my seat, you little $#!+")
  6. "Passengers with serious and debilitating physical impairments"   (The authors at least have the decency to add an "unfortunately" here.)

And after this Lord of the Flies-ian interlude,  it goes to where to find comfy seats, which airlines spend the most on food, etc. It ends with addresses for complaining to the airlines. Someone highlighted Pan Am. 

I dunno. I'm not sure I really care about comfy seats after the first part of this book. After being told to always bring a ziploc with a wet towel inside to breathe through the smoke just in case, I think maybe I'll drive. 

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