It has always fascinated me to no end how obsessive flight attendants get when it comes to securing one's seatbelt. The Filipino terminology for it however, sinturong pangkaligtasan or safety belt, resonates much more with me. The belt is designed to prevent you from flying off your seat when the plane hits air pockets or diminish the chances of your face being planted on the monitor or tray table in front of you, if the pilot had to brake suddenly.
A recent trip from Tacloban however made me think of additional reasons for calling it a “safety belt.” I had just come from a two hour drive from Ormoc where I lectured the night before to Tacloban to give another talk. Deciding to fly back immediately, I relished the thought of getting an hour’s worth of work on the plane. Upon boarding, I found myself seated beside a young boy, say around five years of age, accompanied by his amiable grandmother. He sat there smiling, occasionally peppering his lola with questions about the flight. Soon after take off, the seatbelt warning lights were switched off upon which I flipped my laptop open to start making my lecture. The multitasker that I am, I opened an episode of So You Think You Can Dance while making my keynote presentation. I smiled as the child leaned from his seat to get a better view of my screen. Little did I know that my frown was not far behind as he started poking my screen. Let me reiterate, it was not merely pointing, but POKING. I had just cleaned my screen, which was immaculately black, and in a matter of twenty seconds, it had more smudges than an aquarium in a day care facility. To the credit of the grandmother, she put up an effort in restraining the child but it was just like Pacquiao versus Hatton. The fight was over even before she could utter the word stop.
Before you think I have digressed tremendously from the subject of this piece, I beg your indulgence for a little more story telling. As little Damien could not be restrained, I slowly slid my laptop away from him and lo and behold, the grubby little fingers could not reach them anymore. No, there was no protective force field but a nice strip of cloth with a buckle strapped across his abdomen that provided my laptop salvation. His safety belt had now become my sinturong pangkaligtasan.
Don’t get me wrong. I love kids, having three nephews and two nieces. I know how children are. But in our household, they know the meaning of stop. In the olden times, the sinturon or belt was a tool of discipline. Disobedience meant your butt cheeks getting acquainted intimately with the strap. Barbaric as it may seem today, this was done with the best intentions. It was designed to make you understand the gravity of an offense and give you a lesson, albeit physical. This corporal punishment was designed to set you on the right path and provide you a figurative safety belt as you traveled through life. As children, our parents’ arms cradled us and protected us from harm’s way. As we grew into adults, we had to strap ourselves in with the lessons we were given in childhood.
I was never at the receiving end of the belt therefore I do not believe it is needed. For certain individuals though, I believe it may have served its purpose. This child needed lessons on restraint, but of course, children will be children, thus I will allow him a few more years to learn. He should thank his lucky stars that I keep myself buckled for the entirety of any flight. It thus prevented me from adding an additional belt to strap him into his seat. My safety belt had now become his source of salvation.
Thankfully, the flight arrived on schedule and I quickly unbuckled my strap, rose from my seat and got my bag from the overhead bin. Deciding to let bygones be bygones, I flashed him my most sincere smile and he granted me one in return. The buckles had now come off and we were now at peace.
Waiting for the plane doors to open, I stood in the aisle patiently. As I did so, I heard a faint scratching noise, as if a mouse were nibbling on a piece of paper. Scanning around to look for the source, I looked in horror as I saw my friend Damien furiously scratching away at the exquisitely crafted banig frame I had been given as a token for my lecture. The overhead bin never looked as appealing to me.
Mga binibini, ginang at ginoo, isuot muli ang inyong sinturong pangkaligtasan!