While working, I often set my music selection on shuffle, and sing along to the tunes as they come. Occasionally, my Filipino crew chief on the winch will sing along. I’m always surprised by which songs he knows and which ones he doesn’t. He sings to ABBA, Hootie and the Blowfish, and The Offspring, which makes me very happy. I think to teach him all my favorite songs so we can sing together. It’s a well known fact that Filipinos love to sing. I’ve found my common ground among them.
The playlist goes through random songs, each reminding me of a different time. Some make me sad. A few must be skipped. A lot just make me think. Most make me sing. Others just serve as a background while I focus on actually working.
There is one song in particular which instantly improves my day- no matter what is happening in the world or in my mind. If I’m having a shitty day, it’s suddenly a pretty good day. If I’m having a great day, it will quickly escalate into an elite category of best days of my life. These statements are totally empirical, for if asked to name my favorite songs, I know this one would not even make the short list. It’s not even in my top favorite Enrique Iglesias songs. Yet, I notice a complete change in my disposition every time I hear it.
As the title suggests, this song is a total Escape. My woes are never inconsolable so long as this song exists. I wonder how many arguments would have been won and done if my darling adversary just played this song to me.
Your helicopter today is: The Augustwestland 139.
I sit in the briefing room with my crew, the company man from the beginning of January, and another service hand. The briefing video is in slow, robotic English. The drone of the briefing video is but a backdrop to the chatty company man, who decides to sit in the chair directly beside me, leaving three full benches open. I look past him as he speaks, pointing to my ear plugs to indicate I am not listening, and size up the four other passengers in the room. I look back to the briefing video, which now shows the helicopter upside down. The animated passengers sit still as the water fills the cabin.
The company man leans in, insisting to talk to me. “I’m the one who told the rig to make sure to fly you guys out today!” He says grinning. He’s excited to see us. He’s probably never actually watched this video in his life.
Gulf Helicopters wishes you a safe and pleasant flight.
We don life jackets and walk out to the chopper. I put mine on quickly and watch the others, taking note of who struggles with straps and buckles. I think to myself…. If this piece goes down, I don’t want to be sitting next to that guy. The interior of the helicopter looks more or less like this:
There are three rows, each with four seats. Since there are only six of us boarding today, we only occupy the first two rows. Everyone files in, leaving two window seats open. I move immediately to the window, with no one directly next to me. If this helicopter crashes, I don’t want to be next to any of these people. I watch as the other passengers help the company man fasten his seat belt. I picture in my head this cabin filling with water. Which one of you people is going to remain calm? I ask them with my eyes. Not me! They say. The window is easily large enough to fit two people through at a time. I picture the other passengers clawing and grabbing at each other, panicking and unable to swim. Some probably won’t even get their seat belts off, or will inflate the life vest while still in the chopper.
I review my exit strategy. Pull the tab at the bottom, push out the window, twist seat belt, and swim out. It seems quite clear. I close my eyes, hold my breath and visualize myself escaping a submerged helicopter. The water is warm. I swim out and float calmly, enjoying the ocean and inevitable time away from work this trauma will grant me. I do this every time I board a flight. I size up the group, decide who is weakest, and position myself as far from them as possible.