Commentary: The bungling ballet in the sky

Today’s airline industry exists in a logic vacuum that would be the envy of any Hoover or Electrolux. It has convinced us we should pay a premium for seats the size of elementary school chairs while treating carry-on baggage as fee-avoidant welfare queens. An industry that taxpayers literally bailed out of bankruptcy after 9/11 now seems intent pulling its customers down a rabbit hole of ridiculous thinking.

It starts the moment you buy your ticket and find that you’re actually paying airport taxes and fuel surcharges. I always figured that was the cost of, you know, flying a plane.

I wasn’t charged for blood the last time I went to the emergency room, nor did my doctor have the stuffing to charge me for the property tax on the hospital. Instead, he just grossly overcharged me for his services like any other red-blooded American.

If you’re lucky and your flight’s on time, you get to discover the indignities of modern flight. Look, I’m a big guy, and airplane seat belts are anything but uniform. The first thing I do is extend it to its fullest length, hold my breath, and stretch it across my belly with a silent prayer. Sometimes I’m greeted with a satisfying click, and other times I’m left with the silence of failure. Once, I asked for a seat belt extender.

Only once, however. I leaned over to the flight attendant and whispered the request in her ear, my face burning with embarrassment. She responded by yelling to her colleague at the front of the plane, “Eddie! This guy needs a seat belt extender!” Eddie handed one to a tiny woman and it was passed down 15 rows from passenger to passenger until a small child handed it to me. Now, I just bury the belt and buckle between the seats and avoid eye contact with attendants.

Much like returning our seats back two inches forward for landing, the seat belt provides only the illusion of safety. Unfortunately, airports exist in a world filled with such illusion. I pay extra fees for “more leg room” that actually works out to the length of a tennis ball. Priority boarding gets you on the plane a whopping two minutes before the unwashed masses. I walk through scanners that can see through my leather jacket but my shoes remain a terrifying mystery that requires they be removed. So forgive me if I think keeping my seat belt on during a crash is merely intended to keep my remains out of the aisle and more easily identifiable.

Airport bathrooms are an affront to human dignity. I don’t know what they’re serving on planes these days that makes men commit these atrocities in the stalls with such wild abandon, but it should be replaced with a low fiber pablum and multivitamins. At the very least they should close every Dunkin’ Donuts in the airport to give the rest of us a fighting chance. I’d gladly turn in my frequent flier miles to have access to toilet paper that’s not always suspiciously damp.

I’m painfully aware that modern technology has spoiled me. Rather than appreciating the fact that I can traverse entire continents in the time it takes to watch The Godfather movies on my iPad (the good ones, not the third), I get irritated by the absurdity of this bungling ballet in the sky.

I’m holding out for the flying car. The seat belts always fit, I can recline without fear of reprimand, and I’ll have only myself to blame if I go to Dunkin’ Donuts before the trip.

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