A Sardine in the Tin

by Rev. Timothy C. Cartwright

Insanity has been defined as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Sanity is being willing to attempt something new in order to change a broken situation.

There are moments when new things must be done. For me, a prime example occurred on a recent airplane trip.

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The plane was crowded. The orderly progression of passengers to their seats had broken down. People were pushing to get to their assigned seats. Frequent flyers were cramming carry-on luggage into overhead bins. We all looked as if we were fighting for the last sausage at an Iron Curtain meat market.

We found our seats. Many were making final cellphone calls prior to being instructed to power down all electronic devices. The emergency-exit-plan brochure “located in the seat pocket in front of you” was explained. Of course, everybody was giving the attendant their undying attention (sarcasm mine).

One of the attendants trudged down the aisle, looking for tray table infractions. “She looks like Nurse Ratchet from One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” I thought to myself. She spied a piece of luggage protruding beyond the edge of an overhead bin. The compartment door had yet to be shut. She glanced at the filled-to-capacity fuselage. We were all seated like sardines in a tin. When she glared at us, we averted herstare by returning to the boring exit brochure. Nobody dared to look her way. Nobody claimed the oversized bag, the object of her scorn.

She turned her attention back to the bag. With a grunt, she gave the bag a shove. It didn’t move. She made a fist. She slugged the bag. Then she tried the compartment door. It wouldn’t shut. She glanced at the sardines. She muttered something under her breath. She took both hands and pushed. She smacked the bag. Frustrated, she retreated to the tail of the plane.

What now?

Another flight attendant came from the front of the plane. She floated up to the site of the luggage crime. She simply turned the bag a half of a rotation with her dainty, manicured hands. She reached up like a ballerina executing a pirouette. She gently closed the door. The plane erupted in applause. Who needs in-flight movie entertainment?

How many times have I been like that first flight attendant? Tired, frustrated, at my wits’ end, I keep trying to do the same thing, expecting a different result. I pound my fist. I pound my chest. Exhausted, I give up.

Life is like that sometimes. In front of a crowd we make a fool of ourselves. How many times have I been shown up by perfect people with perfect solutions!

Not that I have already been made perfect . . .

but I press on . . . knowing Christ Jesus has taken hold of me—an imperfect “flight attendant”!

About the Author: Rev. Timothy C. Cartwright is pastor of Grace Lutheran Church, Ashland, Ore.

September 2010


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