Sterile Cockpit

7119907039_2b0db0d897_zA couple of weeks ago my oldest child missed the school bus. It was a nice day, so we decided to walk to school. This meant that we had to cross one busy intersection. When we got there and the light turned green, we held hands and shouted, “STERILE COCKPIT!”

I’m pretty sure we’re the only family in the world that does this.

See, my last corporate HR job was with a small airline. I worked closely with the chief pilot there, and he told me a lot about what it’s like to fly. One of the things he told me was this: When you’re taking off or landing, you’re not supposed to chit-chat. You don’t talk about anything but the task at hand, which is safely taking off or landing. Period. The term for this, at least at my airline, was “Sterile Cockpit.”

When we lived in Milwaukee, we walked a lot. We lived near a very busy intersection, and you really had to pay attention when you crossed the street, especially with two little kids in tow. We made a rule that said that all conversation, wiggling, dancing, and general hijinks had to stop when we crossed that one intersection. Our shortcut for reminding the kids of the rule was saying, “Sterile cockpit!” each time.

This is how weird family expressions get started. 100 years from now, my great-grandchildren will be saying, “Sterile cockpit!” when they cross the street. They might not even know the origin of the expression (unless they find this post…in which case, hello, future grandkids!). I know for sure that there are other expressions that come from my husband’s childhood or mine that my kids could not explain, because they come from people who are long gone now…but they live on in our goofy family sayings.

I’m curious. What odd sayings live on in your family? Where did they come from?

Photo by jurvetson

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