In the modern world the evolutionary processes that cull weaker animals thereby ensuring the survival of the fittest do not seem to apply to humans. From advanced medical techniques through to the molly-coddling practices of OH&S, opportunities for people to die by being stupid have been greatly reduced.

Sure, there are superstar exceptions, as evidenced by the The Darwin Awards. In our everyday life, however, we are generally prevented (or at least discouraged) from improving the species in such spectacular ways.  How can we possibly hope to compete with those Darwinian Greats?

Thankfully, occasionally, an opportunity presents itself in which you can make a meaningful contribution.

I’m talking about air travel.  Of course, airlines provide the safest mode of transport ever devised, and things very rarely go wrong. Even if they do, precautions are taken to protect you as far as possible. For example, consider the “Safety Briefing” given by the flight attendants before every flight. One part of this entertaining display is simple instructions about what to do if the aircraft loses cabin air pressure.

It’s not to complicated and you’ve heard it all before.  In your mind it is a boring announcement and you know that you don’t really need to pay attention.  Things hardly ever go wrong and you don’t really like thinking about crashing, so you stare out the window, examine your earwax, or read your comic book… anything rather than watch the flight attendant.

And yet the safety demonstration is strangely important.  Every flight you are given a perfect opportunity to refresh your memory about what to do if things turn pear-shaped. However, for some reason, almost no one around you is watching.

Let’s find out, with a simple IQ test, if you qualify as a natural selection candidate:

What is the first thing YOU would do if  the oxygen masks dropped down from the ceiling in front of you?

  • a) Get out your iPhone and take a photo or video.
  • b) Press the call button and wait for instructions.
  • c) Scream like a baby.
  • d) Don’t think about it… just pull the mask down, put it on, and breath normally.  There is plenty of time for the other stuff AFTER you have got the mask on.

Yes, I know this is a tricky quiz, but do your best… the survival of our species depends upon your response.

In fact, if you truly want to contribute to the improvement of the gene pool, there are three correct answers as your first response…

a) Yes, taking photos is important in this day and age and we all know that the only way you can get  your 15-minutes of fame is to get something out on Twitter, or Facebook.  You will be remembered, briefly, and possibly used as an example in a blog post like this.

Passengers experiencing a loss of cabin pressure smile and take a photo of themselves.

b) Yes, the call button does seem like a logical answer… after all, flight attendants are supposed to help you, aren’t they?  But they do seem a little preoccupied, what with the emergency and everything.

c) Yes, screaming is an excellent idea which is sure to help the situation.  Of course, for a sustained and ongoing scream you are going to need air.

The simple fact is, at high altitude, if the aircraft rapidly loses cabin pressure you may have about 20 seconds before you lose consciousness.  The pilots will descend the aircraft to a lower level as quickly as they can but, if you haven’t put on your mask you will be unconscious, or dead.

Sure, taking a photo, or screaming, or pressing the flight attendant call button are things you can do, but put the mask on first! Then you’ll have all the time you need to do those important secondary tasks at your leisure.

"Singing into a Can!"

You can scream perfectly well while wearing an oxygen mask…  it is just like “singing into a can“.

There are plenty of people who seem determined to remove themselves from human existence through their own stupidity. Not knowing what to do in a depressurisation, when the answer is shown to you every time you fly, is a perfect example.  Are you one of those noble volunteers?

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