So Why Don't Airplane Windows Open?
When I first read about Mitt Romney's lamenting the lack of roll-down windows in bizjets, I thought someone had nailed a headline from The Onion. (Cue the submarine screendoor joke.) But sure enough, he said it and, sure enough, he was joking. This set off a mini-frenzy around the Web of (a) seriously explaining why windows in airplanes don't roll down and (b) this hilarious video compendium of every sensationalistic, overblown, high-production value special effect of every cabin blowout the editors could find. And yes, it includes the iconic scene of Goldfinger being sucked through a cabin window.
Romney was clearly joking. After all, everyone knows why the windows in airplanes don't roll down and I needn't go into the explanation for the AVweb audience, other than to mention it has as much to do with structure as with fatal hypoxia. So why didn't the joke work? I've watched the video a half-dozen times and I've concluded that for a joke to be funny, there has to be no doubt in the listeners mind that it really is a joke and that the teller knows he's saying something absurd. But the fact that numerous news outlets felt it necessary to explain in lavish if not entirely accurate technical detail why the windows in airplanes don't roll down is a slow-motion version of the you-had-to-be-there defense when a joke bombs.
Maybe a little self-deprecation in the telling would have helped. Or perhaps a better straight man. I suspect we'll see the specter of Romney actually being asked to explain why the windows don't roll down. And the joke will be on the asker.