April 20, 2012
I added a new phrase to my vocabulary today.
According to Wikipedia, situational awareness involves 'being aware of what is happening in the vicinity to understand how information, events, and one's own actions will impact goals and objectives, both immediately and in the near future.' In other words, remembering where you are and what you're doing and keeping both in mind at all times. So you don't do anything stupid. Or dangerous. Or both.
I was reading an article online about two pilots who had to abort landing a mere 150m from the ground. Seems they both became confused and forgot to lower the landing gear after being distracted by texts coming in on the Captain's mobile phone. An enquiry into the cause of this incident later determined it was due to a resulting lack of 'situational awareness'. That's fancy industry-speak for they weren't concentrating on what they were doing and because of that, fucked up royally.
I wonder who was texting, though. Maybe it was the Captain's wife, after a particularly fractious day with the kids. "Have you landed yet? I'm about ready to kill these ferals!" Or perhaps it was a tweet. "Hey @CaptainFantastic - I'm waiting at the bar of our hotel. With your wife. WTF?!!."
When it comes to situational awareness, I think kids are probably the worst offenders. It simply doesn't register on their radar at ALL. Innocence is bliss, perhaps? Just not so much for the adult who happens to be there at the time. I seem to remember Son #2 at age 4 asking very loudly in the line at the supermarket: "How come that lady's so fat, Mum?" The lady in question pretended not to hear him as I quickly shushed him under my breath but I knew she had. Shit, everyone had. I couldn't get out of there fast enough.
But even I have been guilty of it from time to time myself. Like when I was 18 and in a pub with some mates. The legal drinking age in New Zealand back then was 20. I hadn't had a chance to get to the bank after work so I wrote a cheque to cash at the bar (very common practice those days before the advent of ATM's). The barman and I were having a lovely conversation about God knows what when he asked to see some ID for the cheque. This was usual business procedure so I handed over my drivers licence without a thought to let him check my signature. ALONG WITH MY DATE OF BIRTH. Cue mega facepalm/headdesk moment.
I decided my best course of action was to brazen it out and hope for the best, so I kept on chatting as if nothing was amiss. Turned out it was my lucky day as incredibly, he didn't say anything. But I knew and he knew. And he knew that I knew. Suffice to say, I always made sure I had money in my wallet after that!
So tell me... have YOU ever forgotten where you were or what you were doing? How good is your situational awareness?