As I’ve mentioned before, airline safety card artists seem to have a rough time drawing children: they never come out accurately proportioned. In Southwest’s case, the kid being helped with his oxygen mask was a carbon copy of Alfred E. Neuman, shrunken down to child size. Alas, I didn’t get a picture in time. They recently changed the graphics: in the new diagram (Plate 1, panel 3), Alfred’s half out of shot. Even from just his right side, though, you can tell he’s a little scamp, and chock full of trouble. Look at that smirk!
Plate 1. Put on your own mask before helping Microcephalic Alfred E. Neuman.
What is it with oxygen masks and huge eyes (Plate 2), anyway?
Plate 2. Don't Bogart it, Mom.
The plot thickens with the Personal Flotation Device (Plate 3). There’s a lot going on here:
Plate 3. Try doing all this when the water is hip-deep and rising rapidly.
First of all, I have to say that I appreciate the use of the Speed Limit Sign Font (or a close approximation) to number the steps. It’s highly legible and looks so official that nobody would even dare to think of doing the steps in the wrong order.
Note that at step 7 it is necessary to briefly turn into the Master Control Program from Tron (Plate 4).
Plate 4. And together, with this life jacket, we will be complete.
The kid here has more or less a normal-size head, which is unusual for a safety diagram—but her face is kind of scrunched up (Plate 5).
Plate 5. zOMG—is she doing the duck face?!?
Getting out of the airplane has its own geometrical challenges (Plate 6). The dude in the first panel is poised to break into a house, and not out of an aircraft.
Plate 6. Departing the airplane for fun and profit.
The couple having their tearful reunion at lower left in the second panel (Plate 7) remind me of the cover of Ghost in the Machine by the Police. Either that, or they’re robots.
Plate 7. We welcome you off the wing.
Of all the disinterested expressions in the Southwest safety pamphlet, the most stoic belongs to Mrs. D. Longlegs as she leaps onto the Slip ‘n’ Slide with babe in arms (Plate 8). The halftoning is especially coarse here: you can barely make out her expression through her raging case of smallpox.
Plate 8. If she played in the men’s NBA, she could buy her own damn airplane.
Her husband follows close behind (Plate 7, last panel). Actually, he’s more likely her brother. a deformity that severe is almost certainly genetic, but since he’s merely a sibling and not an identical twin, he only got a half dose of the stilt-leg gene.
Finally, we are warned about the hazards of opening the overhead bins while a precariously balanced laptop lurks inside. It may cause the guy behind the sofa to adopt his best Moai impression as the Dell plummets toward his lap (Plate 9).
Plate 9. His mouth resembles a reverse-field Oreo.
Bonus pix from the AirTran Boeing 717!*
Some airlines want you to follow a strict schedule when using the oxygen masks (Plate 10). I imagine a recording that plays automatically when the cabin pressure falls below 8000 feet. A metronome sound ticks off the seconds for the Choreographed Oxygen Mask Revue:
“Deploy!” *tick* “Pull!” *tick* “Strap!” *tick* “Tighten!” *tick* *tick* “Help children!”
Plate 10. In the first panel, he’s like, “Oh. Look at that. Oxygen masks. Well, well.”
Here, the person being helped looks so unlike a child that someone who didn’t already know the drill might be confused about whom to assist. Are we supposed to help our neighbors? Or only unruly-haired women who appear to be paralyzed by fear and anoxia (Plate 11)?
Plate 11. Perhaps she’s just really surprised.
At last, we find the only passenger who has the sense to be put out by having to survive a plane crash (Plate 12). She begins with an unbearable sadness (step 1), but then resentment sets in, and by the time she deplanes (step 3-4) she’s really pissed off. Where was she when they passed out the tranquilizers?
Plate 12. You’d be mad, too, if your flight ended with a good soaking in the North Atlantic.
*When I was no more than five years old I’d noticed the glaring void in Boeing aircraft numbers between the 707 and the 727. We had the 707, 727, 737 and 747. Where was the 717? And then, decades later, there were suddenly 717s—but not until after they’d expanded upwards, with the 757, 767 and 777. Why wait so long to fill the gap? It’s a mathematical mystery.