Flying with the greatest of uneasePublished 2:29pm Wednesday, February 15, 2012
Column: Tales From Exit 22
Travel had replaced sleep.
An airliner is a flying bus that dehydrates, cramps and exhausts. Sleep on a plane is a nod and jerk boogie.
I’m not a nervous flier. I’ve never heard of a plane leaving anyone up in the air.
I needed to spend time in planes. Work dictated that I be in Chicago, Columbus, St. Louis and Minneapolis.
When I arrived at the airport, there was a man yelling, “It’s wrong to fly! It’s against nature! If God had meant us to fly, he’d have given us wings.”
That man was my pilot.
I didn’t want to be the first in line to security. I wanted the security people to warm their hands on someone else. Someone tried smuggling in a fingernail clipper. Another had lotion taken away so he couldn’t become a soft-skinned terrorist.
I stood with naked people determined to make it past the security folks. I found out that my teeth weren’t harboring hidden cavities. The metal detector sounded frequently. This is why the Tinman never flies. My luggage was inspected thoroughly. Apparently, some of my clothes represented a serious fashion risk.
My flight was delayed. An engine wasn’t right and the pilot refused to fly. It took three hours to find another pilot. I inquired about another flight, but the best the gate agent could do was to get me on a flight from the day before.
I visited a couple of shops in the airport. The people who run these establishments have no idea what things cost anywhere else.
I watched people board early so they could achieve room temperature. I paid extra so I could fly inside. Seating was by musical chairs. I struggled to fit into my seat. I’ve never seen a smaller lawn chair. A man struggled to place an enormous bag into the overhead compartment above me. He wasn’t having much luck when he noticed that I was watching him. He said, “It has wheels and a handle.”
My Pontiac has wheels and a handle, but I wouldn’t carry it onto an airplane.
The man seated next to me said, “I hope we don’t fly faster than sound. I want to talk.”
There weren’t many passengers. The flight attendant said we were lucky to get on the flight. It had been fully booked by a group headed to a psychic convention. They had all canceled at the last minute. Another flight attendant announced, “In the event of an emergency water landing, please keep your seat cushion with our compliments. If your seat doesn’t have a cushion, please use your complimentary bag of peanuts as a flotation device. We have a very special person aboard. He’s 87, today’s his birthday, and he’s never flown before. So let’s all wish our pilot a happy birthday.”
The most exciting announcement during the flight was that the pilot was looking for someone with welding experience who wasn’t afraid of heights. The captain called attention to the Grand Canyon on the left side of the aircraft. It was an extraordinary sight, but it lengthened the flight from Minneapolis to Chicago.
An hour spent on an airplane is equal to six hours on the ground. I was on a diet of mini-pretzels made of pressed cardboard that come in a small package nearly impossible for a human to open. The flight attendant passed around a bologna sandwich. Everyone took a bite. Some flights cut out the middleman and pour the food directly into the airsickness bags.
I sat in coach because there was no cheaper section. I looked ahead into the first-class section and saw the flight attendant using tongs to hand out warm, moist towels so people could wash up before the meal of filet mignon. The long-stemmed glasses of champagne were a nice touch. The passengers there had wheels on their wallets. First class had individual bathrooms. My bathroom was located in Concourse B back at the airport. My only chance of getting into first class required severe turbulence.
I was tired by the time we landed. Any doctor would tell you that it’s perfectly normal to feel weak after a flew.
Flying is part of life’s rich pageant and it’s educational. I’ve learned that no one without a sense of humor should be allowed to fly; there are no minor mechanical problems with an airplane; and takeoffs and landings should be of an equal number.
The airline is working hard to find my luggage. This morning, I saw a picture of my suitcase on a milk carton.
Hartland resident Al Batt’s columns appear every Wednesday and Sunday.