I’m on Flight 1990 from Philadelphia to Puerto Rico and in the middle of reading The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson when a panicked voice breaks over the intercom, “CODE RED, CODE RED!!!”
A worried stewardess rushes up the aisle.
A nervous current catches and spreads across the cabin.
Passengers rise from their seats, careening necks out into the aisle.
“CODE RED! CODE RED!”
My buddy Pete, is on my left, middle seat, slips out his ear buds, looks around then looks at me.
“What’s going on?”
“It’s a CODE RED.”
“What’s a CODE RED?”
I don’t know but…
Another stewardess hustles down the aisle, passes our row and disappears into the back of the plane.
The cabin air turns soupy. The muddled passenger chatter becomes clearer in pitch and panic.
“What’s going on?”
“What’s a CODE RED?”
The stewardess who disappeared reemerges in the aisle. She is holding a red duffel bag. Her eyes are wide and she’s out of breath, “Just stay in your seats, PLEASE!”
Pete’s eyes grow wide, “CODE RED. That doesn’t sound good.”
A few hours earlier, Cindy is watching me pack a suitcase, arms crossed, and chewing her bottom lip.
“Jay, what time is your flight again?”
“Text me when you land?”
“You’re going to be ok? Right?”
I jam a few t-shirts in the suitcase, look up and smile, “Relax, I’ll be fine.And plus, if something goes wrong while we’re 10,000 feet in the air there’s not a lot I can do.”
“Stop it! Don’t say that. You know how I hate planes.”
Cindy moves across the room, her eyes fill and she hugs me as I wonder if I packed enough t-shirts to last me through the trip.
Another nervous stewardess rushes past us with a red duffel bag in her hand. Pete and I look at each other.
I turn toward the window. A blast of pale white light slices through the clouds, through my little window and I hear Cindy’s distant, nervous voice asking, “You’re going to be ok? Right?”
As CODE RED chaos swirls about the cabin, I attempt to distract myself by leafing through The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck and conveniently find the line…
I see practical enlightenment as becoming comfortable with the idea that some suffering is always inevitable–no matter what you do, life is comprised of failure, loss, regrets and even death.
I scan the cabin, look out the window into the blinding pale light, listen to the nervous twang of my fellow passengers and privately ask, “Is this one of those times? Should I get comfortable?”
The last few years of my life have taught me that
sometimes a lot of times things get, as Manson writes, “fucked up” –like a “CODE RED” on an airplane floating 10,00 miles above the Atlantic Ocean.
And in these moments,when you’re at the mercy of fate and circumstance, our power resides simply in how we respond to such circumstances. Consequently, this is both empowering and unnerving.
Life is like this flight I’m on. It’s expensive and uncomfortable and suddenly when everything seems to be gliding along, you’ve got a CODE RED on you’re hands. You panic. You sweat. You loss your breath. There’s nothing you can really do about it. And you realize that you and this plane ride is a beautiful metaphor.
Because most of my pain (and probably your’s) is caused when we try, with all our human strength, to control the uncontrollable.
Manson attests that life would be much more fulfilling and joyful if we simply stopped, “giving a fuck about things beyond our control”. Like people’s opinions, or how much money our neighbor makes, or if your plane is experiencing a CODE RED.
If you don’t mind obscenity, if you’re looking for some honest, tough-love perspective that will both tug at your heart strings and punch you in the gut, then I would recommend Manson’s book.
And in case your flying American Airlines in the future, a CODE RED is a medical emergency. In the case of Flight 1990, a girl fainted. I saw her at baggage claim. She was fine.
Maybe screaming “CODE RED” over an airplane intercom is a bit excessive.
Because, “CODE RED” translates to ” WE’RE UNDER ATTACK… SAVE YOURSELVES!!!” ( Or at least it does in my mind.)
Also A.A.– maybe you should consider changing CODE RED to something less alarming, something less likely to cause mid-air heart palpitations, something subtle and unassuming like “Elmer Fudd” or “Banana Pancakes.” or better yet, “Elmer Fudd eating banana pancakes.” Just a thought.