Friday, April 20, 2007


Here I Sit, Brokenhearted ...

Mac Daniel, "Air traffic controller's 'bathroom break' delays three planes," Boston Globe (April 11, 2007):
Two Southwest Airlines flights were forced to circle Manchester-Boston Regional Airport last Friday when the lone air traffic controller had to go to the bathroom.

Federal Aviation Administration officials said another controller was in the tower at the time but was not certified to land the planes, forcing flights from Chicago and Orlando, Fla., to delay their landings by 18 minutes. In addition, a medical flight carrying lungs to a New Jersey airport had its takeoff delayed by what FAA log books referred to as a bathroom break.
My brother is an emergency (911) telephone operator in a small town, and sometimes he has to work alone. When he is the only operator on duty, he cannot leave his post under any circumstances. At such times, he keeps a sort of chamberpot under his desk.

But 18 minutes does seem like a long time. Even with a good book to keep me company, I don't think I've ever lingered 18 minutes on the pot.

The gastrointestinal problems of the air traffic controller reminded me of an anecdote from the life of Aesop, found in Ben Edwin Perry, Babrius and Phaedrus (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1965), Appendix, No. 380 = Vita Aesopi 67 (tr. L.W. Daly):
Xanthus said to him (Aesop), "Can you tell me why it is that when we defecate we look often at our own droppings?" Aesop: "Because long ago there was a king's son, who, as a result of the looseness of his bowels and his loose way of living, sat there for a long time relieving himself -- for so long that before he knew it he had passed his own wits. Ever since then, when men relieve themselves, they look down for fear that they, too, have passed their wits. But don't you worry about this. There's no danger of you passing your wits, for you don't have any."
This fable gives new meaning to the slang expression "shit for brains".

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