I haven’t been following this story with breathless interest, but I did read a piece in this morning’s paper about revamping the rules for air traffic controllers’ shifts. It seems that the air traffic controllers keep dozing off on the job. This is understandably unsettling to a nation full of flyers convinced that the only thing standing between them and a fiery death are the shrewd, battle-hardened agents of the TSA. So, the FAA is revising the rules about how shifts are scheduled.
But absolutely no napping! No matter what Germany and Japan may do in those countries over there, with their “studies” and their “experts”! “On my watch, controllers will not be paid to take naps,” thunders Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, oh and also controllers need to take “personal responsibility for the very important safety jobs they have.” Personal responsibility, that poor overworked phrase. Like the Velveteen Rabbit, it’s about been loved to death.
Anyway, here’s the thing. My husband is responsible for training medical residents, and in the past few years, they have been forced to implement—with reams of paperwork to back it all up— increasingly lenient regulations governing how much sleep the residents get. The latest thing is something called, get this, “strategic napping.” Because it’s important for the doctors to be alert and well-rested when they make decisions that could, like, kill somebody.
You’d think the same reasoning would apply to air traffic controllers. But no. In fact, “more managers will be on duty during the early morning hours and at night to remind controllers that nodding off is unacceptable.” I am reminded of the tithing men in Puritan churches, wandering the aisles with a pole ready to rap snoozing worshippers on the head.
I’m sure this will not result in the misuse of stimulants or drugs like Provigil. Oh, no. That could never happen.