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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Live From Cloud Nine

The airplane is a horrible invention. It’s not quite as bad as an electric douche bag, though you can certainly fill one with douche bags, and my flight from LA to Chicago is at maximum capacity. The airplane, as a social animal, has clearly lost its place in the pantheon of great American inventions. Its decline in popularity and cool points is in part due to the changes in American society, but mostly it is out of the lack of insight and humor of both our government and the terrorists who are out to kill us.
Things weren’t always so terrible. I recall as a child the wonder and privilege it was to even step foot in an airport. There was nothing like going to the airport to drop someone off or...big…dreamy… nostalgic… sigh… getting on an actual airplane. Men wore three piece suits to travel, with wing tips, dress hat, suspenders, cufflinks; the works! The women showed up dressed to the nines with their hair and nails done; dressed to kill! Even the kids would get in on the action; no jeans or t-shirts allowed; the creases on your shirt would slice butter and your hair had to be neatly slicked down with a couple handfuls of your old man’s pomade.
Your family would walk you up to the gate, past the metal detector and friendly security guard who would wave you all right on through; unless you looked funny, in which case a quick rummaging through your personal belongings would serve you as a lesson to try to fit in next time. You’d make it to the gate and everyone would wave and blow kisses and then they’d all watch your plane take off to some far off magical destination. Then afterwards, while you were off soaring high above the clouds, everyone you left behind would enjoy an overpriced meal at a bad restaurant in one of the terminals and they all went home happy and excited; looking forward to the next time that the opportunity to be near one of those magnificent flying marvels.
Nowadays, people show up to the airport looking like they just rolled out of bed. Your family is not allowed inside the airport so you get dropped off at the curb. This is due to government statistics which show that, “jihadys” are constantly trying to smuggle chainsaws aboard a plane and given the chance would start dumping bodies out of an emergency exit at thirty thousand feet. Thus, we must line up to be insulted by the dull wit and charm of those drill sergeant school wash outs, who have found gainful employment in the TSA; who also serve as a constant reminder that things could only be worse if they stripped you naked at the gate, strapped you into a chair aboard the plane and shoved a catheter into your genitals as part of the pre-flight procedures. Some find the security to be an intrusion and an inexcusable outrage; I agree, but think it’s better than having to take a detour to Libya or Cuba, half way through my flight.
What is inexcusable, however, is the smell of ass and armpit that hits you the moment you get aboard the plane. That smell forces anyone not raised on a farm to make use of the vomit bag, which incidentally, I wouldn’t be surprised if they started charging us six bucks a pop for; oddly enough the price of everything aboard an airplane is six dollars from roast beef sandwiches to a mini-bottle of scotch (how is that possible?).
If you ask me Al-Queda was able to pull off September 11th because of Ronald Reagan’s decision to de-regulate the airlines. It wasn’t until de-regulation that every smelly, lazy, ne’r-do-well in America was able to afford getting on a plane (I’m talking about the peripheral costs not just the ticket). Perhaps “The Gipper” in his free market fantasy world had good intentions; truth be told he was throwing his old airline exec buddies a bone; God knows those guys needed a reprieve from all the horrible government intervention that was keeping them from enjoying capitalism.
Aviation security in those days might not have averted a terrorist attack on the scale of September 11th. But, even if those guys had made it past the expense involved, the dress code requirement and the racial profiling that served as the best deterrents to any onboard shenanigans, they might have succumbed to the second hand smoke that filled the passenger cabin of every single flight in the continental U.S. If that had not stopped them, then perhaps the meal you got on every flight might have done the trick. The entire meal was served in a compartmentalized dish about the size of a brick; which is ironic because that’s what it felt like in your stomach. The meal would typically give you terrible gas and you would sweat profusely from the cramps in your stomachs. Maybe that smell of ass and armpit has been there all along.
Come to think of it, maybe the good ol’ days of flying weren’t so good. One aspect of flying that has certainly not changed is turbulence. Turbulence on a plane today is just as terrible today as it was back then. Especially, the turbulence one feels flying over the mountains going from West to East at night. I’ve always wondered if pilots can control the horrible jaw jarring effects of turbulence better than they let on or if they just love the satisfaction of knowing that people are scared shitless and sweating profusely in their seats. This may account for the smell of ass and armpit on a plane as well; maybe pilots are into that kind of thing, I don’t know, but I’d feel weird to ask so I guess we’ll have to wait until we see a youtube video showing surreptitious pilots sniffing the seats before a flight.
My plane right now feels like it’s flying sideways through a pinball machine and though I would like to keep writing about my trip to Chicago, I think now would be a good time to talk to the God I’ve ignored for almost 20 years and see if I can put in a credit application for one of those barf bags.

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