So let’s say you are sitting at the airport departure gate, and you’ve put your book away and are all ready to join the pushing and shoving to get on the plane; and to be honest you’re now a little bored, so you look across to what the woman sitting next to you is reading. Carefully, so she doesn’t notice. She’s got her iPad in her hand and is reading the Los Angeles Times. And this is what she’s got open: the story that air traffic controllers are now routinely found asleep on the job. I don’t mean a momentary lapse of concentration. I mean deep sleep, heart rate satisfactorily slowed down, some pleasant dream about a beach in Hawaii, that sort of thing.
‘Bloody hell!’ you exclaim, rather startling the poor woman who wasn’t aware you were reading along with her. ‘Sorry’, you say, ‘I couldn’t help reading that!’ Actually that’s not really true, you could easily have helped it, but there you go.
‘Well now, that’s nothing.’ A man’s voice from the other side of the woman, who, it turns out, has also been reading her iPad. ‘I’ve just read that there has been a series of incidents on planes just suddenly developing holes in the fuselage for no apparent reason.’
And now behind you, a woman who may or may not have also been reading the iPad but who has certainly been following the conversation, chips in helpfully: ‘There have never been so many birds sucked into jet engines than recently.’
You hear the announcement: ‘The plane is now ready for boarding.’ Actually, things could be worse. You might have been on that airline that won’t let you bring duty free goods on board if they don’t fit in your bag. But you do wonder if someone here has the phone number of air traffic control. Just so you could give them a call to make sure they’re all awake.