飞机上的迷你部落

英国《金融时报》专栏作家 斯卡平克
2019.06.10 12:00

与你同乘一班飞机的人通常不被记住。他们坐下,系好安全带,开始做些什么,消磨航程。除非他们喝得烂醉,或者变得有攻击性——我听说过这些事例,但从未眼见——你再没理由回想起他们。我确信他们也是这么看待我的。

但当你乘机次数增多,你开始注意到一些乘客间共有的特点和行为。这些群体构成了飞行中的迷你部落。以下是我所注意到的一些人。

1. IT部门先生 他是这样一名乘客:一待安全带信号灯熄灭,他就放下小桌板,摆出全副家当。一台笔记本电脑,一台与其相连的平板电脑,一部、甚至两部与笔记本电脑和平板电脑相连的手机,然后一副无线耳机戴在头上,蓝光闪烁。现在,他以平静的使命感着手工作:单击一下这里,摆弄一下手机那里。他在用这些计算容量做什么?他在监视地面情况吗?随时准备着如果美国五角大楼(Pentagon)或英国政府通信总部(GCHQ)崩溃,他就在35000英尺的高空出手干预吗?

2. 迫在眉睫小姐 这名乘客在升空的那一刻也拿出她的笔记本电脑,并打开翻盖。这是她最后一次抬头。整个航程中,她都在敲打键盘。电子表格、柱状图、大量文字出现在屏幕上,她一下把它们点没,一下又重新打开它们修改。

到底发生了什么事?她的状态太过疯狂,肯定不是在准备PPT演示。着陆之后,一些重大事件一定在等着她。英国或美国的破产保护程序迫在眉睫;又或许她要击退敌意收购。

所有送餐服务都被摆手拒绝。她接受的唯一茶点是一杯烈酒,她暂停重要任务,快速、急迫地从杯中抿了一小口。

3. 守夜人 舷窗外一片黑暗,遮光板拉下,客舱灯光熄灭,大部分乘客昏昏睡去。他们对外界毫无知觉,四仰八叉瘫在座椅上,毛毯在安全带下,戴着眼罩。有的人大张着嘴,一些人在打呼噜。

但有一小部分乘客还醒着:看电影,在丁点灯光下读书,或者沿着过道行走,享受这加长的机舱。他们之间有不用言传的认识:他们是不能入睡的人,他们不能理解为什么对别人来说入睡如此轻易。

每隔几个小时,善良的乘务员在守夜人中出现,无声地递上托盘,上有盛水或橙汁的塑料杯。在所有飞行中的迷你部落里,我对这一支最熟悉,因为我是它最为长久的或站立、或读书、或看电影的成员。

4. 神奇膀胱 这些旅行者在靠窗座位坐定,转过脸去,缩成一团入睡,他们保持这个姿势,直到飞机将要降落。但他们全程酣眠还不是最了不起的事情。不:最了不起的是他们在八小时航程中一次都没起身去厕所。他们的确是大自然的奇迹。

当乘务员把他们叫醒,让他们把座椅调直,准备降落,他们看起来衣冠不整,嘟嘟囔囔。自然,他们都很年轻,但不该如此乖戾。随着时间流逝,他们会发现,自己也会穿过过道,加入为厕所排队的人群。这将会比他们现在能够想象的更加频繁。

译者/卓汐

原文:Frequent flyer: meet the mini-tribes of air travel

By Michael Skapinker

Most people you fly with are unmemorable. They sit down, strap in and get on with whatever it is they do to pass the hours in the air. Unless they become overly drunk or aggressive — which I have read about but never seen — there is no reason to think of them again. I’m sure they feel the same about me.

But as you fly, you begin to notice common quirks and behaviour that some passengers engage in. These groups make up flying’s mini-tribes. Here are some I have noticed.

1. Mr IT Department This is the passenger who, the instant the seatbelt sign pings off, pulls down his table and sets out his stall. A laptop, a tablet to plug into the laptop, a phone, or even two, to plug into those, and then a set of wireless headphones clamped on his ears, the blue light flashing. He now goes about his task with calm purposefulness: a click here, a shift of handset there. What is he doing with all this computing power? Is he monitoring the situation below, ready to step in from 35,000ft if the Pentagon or GCHQ go down?

2. Ms Wolf-at-the-Door This passenger also takes out her laptop and flips open the lid the moment we are airborne. That is the last time she raises her head. She hammers away at her keyboard throughout the entire flight. Spreadsheets, bar charts and wodges of text appear, are clicked away, are returned to and revised.

What on earth is going on? This is not a PowerPoint presentation she is preparing. It is too frenetic for that. Something momentous clearly awaits her on landing. Administration or Chapter 11 is imminent; possibly a hostile bid that needs repulsing.

All offers of food are waved away. The only refreshment she accepts is a stiff drink, from which, pausing momentarily from her critical task, she takes a sharp, urgent sip.

3. The Night Watch When it’s black outside, the blinds are down and the cabin lights are off, most of the passengers lie comatose. Sprawled across seats, blankets under seat belts, eye masks across faces, they are oblivious to the world. Some have their mouths laxly open, a few are snoring.

But a handful of passengers are awake: watching movies, reading in a needle of light or stalking the aisles and enjoying the odd stretch. There is an unspoken recognition among them: they are the ones who cannot sleep, and who do not understand all those who find it so easy.

Every few hours, kind cabin crew members appear among the Night Watch, wordlessly proffering trays with plastic glasses of water or orange juice. Of all flying’s mini-tribes, I know this one best, as I am one of its longest-standing (or reading, or film-watching) members.

4. Wonder Bladder These are the travellers who settle into a window seat, turn their faces away, curl up and go to sleep, which is how they stay until it is time to land. But their flight-long sleeping is not the most remarkable thing about them. No: it is the fact that not once, on an eight-hour flight, do they ever get up to go to the toilet. They truly are marvels of nature.

When the crew wake them up with an order to return their seats to the upright position as we prepare for landing, they look a little disheveled and grumbly. They are all young, of course, but they really shouldn’t be so cross. They will discover, as the decades pass, that they will be wandering down the aisle to join the toilet queue more often than they can currently imagine.

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