May 12, 2000

Because I couldn’t think of a subject for this week, I’ve been reading a book about how to boost creativity. Amazingly nothing diminishes creativity more than reading about how to be more creative. I’ve just gotten to Chapter 5, Make Mistakes. That’s the theory: creative people in all fields make more mistakes than their colleagues. But what sort of mistakes do you make? The book doesn’t give much help in this regard. It just lists off examples of various mistakes that paid off. For instance, Silly Putty was discovered by mistake. So was penicillin, the chocolate chip cookie, and polyester (there’s a bad example in every group).

The problem is this is a little like telling someone that the way to make large amounts of money is to take large amounts of money and invest it. You have to be pretty brilliant and creative to begin with to turn your mistakes into something as useful as Silly Putty, and even then it’s hit or miss. You might end up with something useless like, well, Silly Putty, and that would be a problem because it’s already been invented. Alexander Graham Bell, for example, isn’t famous because he spilled acid on himself. He’s famous because he invented the telephone and became the first person in an emergency to be put on hold. For Thomas Edison, persistence paid off. He kept working at the lightbulb until he got it right. With his machine for talking to dead people, he was smart enough to realize what it was: a mistake. People remember Leonardo da Vinci for the Mona Lisa, not because he designed a flying machine that doesn’t work. (Actually, I’m not all that sure why he’s remembered for the Mona Lisa.) He’s also been credited with the invention of the submarine, another idea which didn’t come to anything.

In fact, Da Vinci may be the only person in history who’s famous for nothing BUT mistakes. Or maybe that submarine would have worked, but no one wanted to build it because they were afraid they’d meet their counterparts in the ocean. This proves that five hundred years ago people were just as moronic as they are now. Back then they believed aquatic versions of every person lived under the sea. Nowadays people believe they can become successful by making lots of mistakes. That kind of thinking led to the Love Bug virus, whose presumed creator claims it was released by mistake. Obviously his experience failed to teach him one very important lesson: Don’t come out of hiding.

Enjoy this week’s offerings.

Useful Phrases

  • Thank you. We’re all refreshed and challenged by your unique point of view.
  • The fact that no one understands you doesn’t mean you’re an artist.
  • I don’t know what your problem is, but I’ll bet it’s hard to pronounce.
  • Any connection between your reality and mine is purely coincidental.
  • I have plenty of talent and vision. I just don’t give a damn.
  • I like you. You remind me of when I was young and stupid.
  • What am I? Flypaper for freaks!?
  • I’m not being rude. You’re just insignificant.
  • I’m already visualizing the duct tape over your mouth.
  • Ahhh…I see the whacked out fairy has visited us again…
  • I will always cherish the initial misconceptions I had about you.
  • It’s a thankless job, but I’ve got a lot of Karma to burn off.
  • Yes, I am an agent of Satan, but my duties are largely ceremonial.
  • No, my powers can only be used for good.
  • How about never? Is never good for you?
  • I’m really easy to get along with once you people learn to worship me.
  • You sound reasonable…Time to up my medication.
  • I’ll try being nicer if you’ll try being smarter.
  • I’m out of my mind, but feel free to leave a message…
  • I don’t work here. I’m a consultant.
  • Who me? I just wander from room to room.
  • My toys! My toys! I can’t do this job without my toys!
  • It might look like I’m doing nothing, but at the cellular level I’m really quite busy.
  • At least I have a positive attitude about my destructive habits.
  • You are validating my inherent mistrust of strangers.
  • I see you’ve set aside this special time to humiliate yourself in public.
  • Someday, we’ll look back on this, laugh nervously and change the subject.

Occasionally, airline attendants make an effort to make the in-flight safety lecture and their other announcements a bit more entertaining. Here are some real examples that have been heard and/or reported:

"There may be 50 ways to leave your lover, but there are only 4 ways out of this airplane."

As the plane landed and was coming to a stop at Washington National, a lone voice came over the loudspeaker: "Whoa, big fellas. WHOA!"

After a particularly rough landing during thunderstorms in Memphis, a flight attendant on a Northwest flight announced: "Please take care when opening the overhead compartments because, after a landing like that, sure as hell everything has shifted."

"Weather at our destinations is 50 degrees with some broken clouds, but we’ll try to have them fixed before we arrive. Thank you and remember, nobody loves you, or your money, more than Southwest Airlines."

"Your seat cushions can be used for flotation, and in the event of an emergency water landing, please take them with our compliments."

Once on a Southwest flight, the pilot said, "We’ve reached our cruising altitude now, and I’m turning off the seat belt sign. I’m switching to autopilot, too, so I can come back there and visit with all of you for the rest of the flight."

"Should the cabin lose pressure, oxygen masks will drop from the overhead area. Please place the bag over your own mouth and nose before assisting children or adults acting like children."

"As you exit the plane, make sure to gather all of your belongings. Anything left behind will be distributed evenly among the flight attendants. Please do not leave children or spouses."

"Last one off the plane must clean it."

Heard on Southwest Airlines just after a very hard landing in Salt Lake City. The flight attendant came on the intercom and said: "That was quite a bump and I know what ya’ll are thinking. I’m here to tell you it wasn’t the airline’s fault, and it wasn’t the pilot’s fault, it wasn’t the flight attendant’s fault. It was the asphalt!"

Another flight attendant’s comment on a less than perfect landing: "We ask you to please remain seated as Captain Kangaroo bounces us to the terminal."

After a real crusher of a landing in Phoenix, the flight attendant came on with, "Ladies and gentlemen, please remain in your seats until Captain Crash and the Crew have brought the aircraft to a screeching halt against the gate. And once the tire smoke has cleared and the warning bells are silenced, we’ll open the door and you can pick your way through the wreckage to the terminal."

Part of a flight attendant’s arrival announcement: "We’d like to thank you folks for flying with us today. And, the next time you get the insane urge to go blasting through the skies in a pressurized metal tube, we hope you’ll think of us here a US Airways."

And from the pilot during his welcome message: "We are pleased to have some of the best flight attendants in the industry. Unfortunately, none of them are on this flight."

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