There's an old joke you've probably heard at least a version of.
Guy tries to calm down his seatmate on the plane, someone who's obviously terrified of flying.
"Look, it's all fate," he says. "When it's your turn to go, it's your turn to go. You could be on this plane or in your bedroom, it doesn't matter."
"But what if we're on this plane," the frightened mans asks, "when it's the pilot's turn to go?"
Then today we have this -- yikes! -- real-life story:
The passengers on Continental Airlines Flight 61 didn't know anything was wrong with their trans-Atlantic crossing until they landed and were met by fire trucks, emergency vehicles and dozens of clamoring reporters.
Their pilot was dead.
"I was shocked," said Dora Dekeyser, of Houston. "Nobody knew anything."
The plane's 60-year-old captain had died of a suspected heart attack midway through Thursday's flight from Brussels, and two co-pilots had taken over the controls.
There was a lot of chatter on TV this morning about the "not telling the passengers" part, which is probably understandable in today's celebrity-mad culture. The way it should have happened is that the co-pilots contacted Oprah and she got their life stories by remote while a freelance videographer interviewed the passengers for "Inside Edition." Everybody on-board could have been famous before the plane even landed. As it is, that will now take a least a couple of days.
But I like the idea of letting the passengers have a normal flight, especially since there were two experienced pilots to take over and there was no special reason to freak everybody out. We'd probably be surprised how many times in the encounters of our day-to-day lives we are experiencing, without knowing it, the equivalent of the co-pilots having taken over on short notice.