August 4, 2014


        I had the rare privilege of flying across the country recently.

I boarded The Flight Brothers Airlines flight 1313 (great number) at JFK (assassinated President) from gate 666 (I knew I was doomed).  Immediately upon taking my seat, I pulled out a map to find out where 13 Lat. and 13 Long. intersected so I would know approximately where I would be dying.

The takeoff was fine.  Understand, I am not a good flyer.  I am a skydiver, and I like that sport because I am always jumping out of planes.  I hate being trapped inside one for long.  I actually enjoy takeoffs.  It’s the landings I can’t deal with, because I so rarely land in a plane.

Anyhow, I had brought seven paperbacks along with me to help with distraction.  Wherever I go, I’m always afraid I’ll run out of reading material, so I pack the public library before I leave.  My carry-on usually has to be brought round with a hand truck.

So I’m settled in my seat, ready to go. 

I think it was when the flight attendants passed the hat for fuel donations that I began to become somewhat concerned.  I parted with whatever change I had and my Bvlgari watch, and after fifteen minutes or so, we were airborne.

Upon reaching our cruising altitude, the pilot regaled us with his post-takeoff commentary.

“This is the captain speaking.  We will be landing at LA-X in approximately three hours and 20 minutes, give or take a week (laughter in the cockpit).  The weather today is right outside your window, so take a look.  You may now unfasten your seat belts and move about the cabin, dance in the aisles, or play ping pong . . . I don’t give a rat’s ass what the hell you do (more laughter in the cockpit)!  In the event that we are hijacked to Cuba, I understand the weather there is beautiful this time of year and the drinks are cheap, so under no circumstances should you interfere with the hijackers, if Cuba is their destination.  If they want to go to Beirut, however, you may feel free to beat the crap out of them.  We will be flying over water today, so I hope you all brought life vests.  Thank you for flying The Flight Brothers Airlines.”

I should have known better than to book a “no frills” flight.  I really should have.

The flight attendant (there was only one) passed by just then and asked me if I wanted a drink.

“I want several drinks . . . and Quaaludes, if you have them!” I replied.

After Absolut-ing myself into a more relaxed state, I realized I had to retire to the porcelain auditorium . . .badly.  I tottered down the aisle, with as much dignity as twelve shots of vodka would permit, and was rather proud of the fact that I only threw up on three passengers before rendering a “VACANT” lavatory “OCCUPIED.”

At that moment, of course, we hit a pocket of the permanent turbulence that resides over Chicago, and the last of my vodka, along with my head, became jammed in what is laughingly called “the toilet.”

Now, they don’t have a “Jaws of Life” on a plane.  They have something called “The Disengager.”  And considering the expertise with which this device was applied, I gathered that it was put to use quite a bit more often than occasionally.

I crawled back to my seat, my skull having assumed the cone-headed shape of that more commonly adorning the shoulders of Jane Curtain or Dan Ackroyd.  For the rest of the trip, I had this inexplicable urge consume mass quantities of beer and fried chicken embryos. I settled for a Mento, but is just wasn’t as satisfying, somehow.

As this was a night flight, the lights had been turned off, for the most part.  I tried to sleep, but just couldn’t get comfortable in my chair.  The flight attendant, noting my dissatisfaction, swept to the rescue with her in-flight panacea.

“Would you like another pillow?”

“No, I wouldn’t.  It’s not going to help.  You could put Sonny von Bulow in this seat and she’d wake up and say, “I can’t sleep like this!”

“Would you like another blanket, then?”

I gave up, switched on my light, and opened a book, entitled, Loch Oberlie Crash – The Real Story.  No, I don’t think so.  Since my carry-on was packed tight, and this was the only book I could pry out of it, I set it aside and donned the headphones for a musical interlude.  Richie Valens’ “La Bamba” blared out at me, followed by The Big Bopper, a medley of Buddy Holly hits, and Patsy Cline singing, “I Fall to Pieces.”

Okay.  That’s enough music for this lifetime . . . which I fully expected to end at any minute.

But, good news!  The movie was coming on!

It was “Airport.”  Great.

Then the flight attendant came back.  I couldn’t get any more booze, because the plane still reeked from my last foray into the alcohol arena.  No, now it was time for “snacks.”  She handed me a box of raisins that measured two inches square and one inch deep.

This is a snack?” I cried.  “Who’s running this airline?  Papa Smurf?”

She seemed annoyed, and walked away.

In a last-ditch effort for shut-eye, I reached into the envelope on the back of the seat in front of me, and forced myself to read the in-flight magazine.

In two minutes, I was fast asleep.

In five minutes, I was awakened by a Transformer action figure bouncing off my forehead. 

“I’m sorry,” the woman across the aisle said.  “It’s my son.  He’s very highly strung.”

“Yes, he should be,” I replied.

In the course of the next hour, her son (Davy was his name.  I know this because she said it so often, there was no way I could not know it) jumped on the seats, screamed, sang off-key, cried, threw things (mostly at me), stalked about the cabin waking up sleeping passengers, dumped food on the floor, and spilled everything that was spillable, as long as it was sure to leave indelible stains.

How I managed to survive this without giving Davy wing-walking lessons, I will never know.

“This is your captain speaking.”

Oh, God.

“We will be landing at LA-X in ten minutes.  Please be sure your table trays are in the upright position, and that somebody ties that little bastard, Davy, to his seat—preferably with barbed wire.”

I felt vindicated . . . except that I knew it would never hold the evil little monster.  You could use razors, barbed wire, and chains, and he’d be out of his seat faster than Houdini.  Silver bullets, a crucifix, and beheading were the only answer.

Finally, we touched down in LA and only lost one wing in the process, so I considered the landing a success.

I wobbled off the plane, in a state of mind which I don’t often find myself.  I thoroughly hated humanity.  Every last one of them.  As a matter of fact, I was considering turning in my membership card, when I was tapped on the shoulder.

 “Excuse me.”

“I stiffened and turned slowly, much like Jack the Ripper, upon sensing his next victim standing behind him.

It was a Hari Krishna, complete with tambourine.

“If you don’t leave me alone immediately, I’m going to disembowel you, right here in public, and rip your heart out and have it for lunch,” I chatted, pleasantly.

After my arraignment, I spent the rest of the trip in a lightly padded room.  But at least it was on the ground . . . and quiet!