Column: Does anyone have welding experience and isn’t afraid of heights?

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Al Batt, Tales from Exit 22

I fly Hartland Airlines, the company that has done so much for tour buses. Their planes are like flying buses that dehydrate, cramp and exhaust passengers. An hour spent on an airplane is equal to six hours on the ground.

When I got to the Hartland International Airport & Carwash there was a man outside the terminal yelling, &8220;It’s wrong to fly! It’s against nature! If God had meant us to fly he’d have given us wings.&8221;

That was the pilot.&160;

They handed me a wrench along with my boarding pass.

I visited a couple of the shops in the airport, places which have no idea what things cost anywhere else. The early bird gets to wait the longest because the place selling worms doesn’t open until late.

I didn’t want to be the first in line. I wanted the security people to warm their hands on someone else. I stood next to naked people determined to make it past the security folks.&160;This is why the Tinman never flies. They went through my luggage. They claimed some of my clothes represented a serious fashion risk.

I watched people board early so they could achieve room temperature.

I paid extra so I could fly inside the plane. I knew where my seat was &045; about 3 inches lower than it was 10 years ago.

One traveler said to another, &8220;I hope they don’t fly faster than sound. I want to talk.&8221;

I struggled to fit into my assigned seat. It was the smallest lawn chair I’ve ever seen.

A man struggled to place a large bag into the overhead compartment above me. He wasn’t having much luck when he noticed that I was looking at him.

&8220;It’s OK. It has wheels and a handle,&8221; he said.

My Pontiac has wheels and a handle, but I wouldn’t carry it onto an airplane.&160;I think that it’s carry-on luggage only if you can actually carry it.

A fellow who wore a hat like a Texan said, &8220;I can’t check him.&160;Steers are nervous flyers.&8221;

People who check luggage should be allowed to exit the plane first.

The flight attendant had some experience.&160;She was one of the Wright sisters.&160;She warned us that anyone caught smoking in the lavatory would have to walk the rest of the way.&160;That reminds me, why is there no SkyMall catalog in the airplane lavatories? She tells us to fasten our duct tape that acts as a seat belt. There were only seven of us on the flight.&160; The flight attendant told us that we were lucky to get on the plane. It had been fully booked by a group headed to a psychic convention. They had all canceled at the last minute.

Then she said, &8220;In the event of a sudden loss of cabin pressure, your bags of pretzels can be used as flotation devices.&160;In case of engine failure, roll down the windows and flap your arms.&160;We have a very special person aboard today. He’s 85 years old today and he’s never flown before.&160;So let’s all wish our pilot a happy birthday!&8221;

The most exciting announcement during the flight when the pilot said he was looking for someone with welding experience who wasn’t afraid of heights.

I ate mini-pretzels made out of pressed cardboard that came in a small bag that was nearly impossible for a human to open. They could cut out the middleman and pour the pretzels directly into the airsickness bag.&160;Actually, they didn’t provide airsickness bags, but to their credit, they did recommend that all the passengers wear clothing with large pockets.

I was sitting in coach only because there was no cheaper section.&160;Oh, there was discount seating, but that was in the overhead bin. I looked ahead into the first-class section and saw the flight attendant using tongs to hand out warm, moist towels so the people could wash up before the meal of filet mignon.&160;The long-stemmed glass of champagne was a nice touch.&160;The passengers there had wheels on their wallets.

We flew over green, brown and blue stuff.&160;I had no worries.&160;We landed.&160;I’ve never heard of an airline leaving anyone up there.&160;I arrived so far from my departure gate that it was in a different time zone.&160;I felt poorly after the flight, but it didn’t worry me. Any doctor would tell you that it’s perfectly normal to feel weak after a flew.

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 column appears every Wednesday and Sunday in the Tribune.)