by | Nov 21, 2008 | Detroit Free Press | 0 comments

It’s that time of year again, when the temperature drops and winds howl and snowstorms hit and so people naturally say, “Hey, let’s go up in a plane!”

This explains the huge lines at ticket counters this past week, as airlines ran their annual “holiday” fares.

(By the way, the word “holiday,” as we all know, is airline code for “more small print at the bottom of the ad.” No one has ever read this print, since even a cockroach would need glasses to do that. However, scientific research reveals that one of the lines, blown up 5,000 times, reads as follows:

“This small print entitles us to cancel everything

above and charge anything we want, you gullible

little cheapskate, and don’t expect a window seat,

either. I’ll get you, Dorothy, and your little dog,

too. AHAHAHA! . . .”)

Now. As someone who flies all the time, I consider it my obligation to inform you, first of all, that I have no underwear, since it has all been sent to Albuquerque. So has the rest of my luggage. And my dog.

But you may not be so experienced. So, as I stand here, holding a leash and feeling a draft, I offer this public- service guide for first-time fliers planning to travel this holiday season:

1. Which airline? There are so many to choose from, and at least half still will be in business tomorrow. You could go by the slogans, which include
“Something special in the air. . . . We love to fly and it shows. . . . “

Personally, I like the slogan, “We know where all our planes are.” But nobody uses that one.

Action: Flip a coin.

2. Buying a ticket? You have two choices here: 1) Stand in line for 12 hours. 2) Wait on hold for 12 hours.

Action: Use the office phone and wait on hold for 12 hours. At least you get paid.

3. The best fare? The truth is, when you ask for a fare, airline personnel say “just a moment,” then spin this huge roulette wheel and tell you which figure comes up. This explains why, on a one-way trip to Des Moines, you will pay $47,509.17 while another person on the same flight paid $3.95. And he’s sitting in first class.

Action: Keep calling until you get lucky.

4. First class vs. coach? Ah, yes. An important question. The difference between these two can be thousands of dollars. For this you get: 1) An extra muffin. 2) Someone to hang up your jacket. 3) Privileged information on where they sent your dog and your underwear.

Action: Spend the money.

5. Luggage? Ha. Haha. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! You’re checking luggage? OhhhHHHHOOOOOO. Wait! And you . . . HAWWWW! . . . you expect to see it again? HEEEEEHEEHEHEHEE . . . ooh . . . aahh . . . wait a . . . AAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

Action: . . . aahhhahaHAHA . . . I’m sorry, it’s just . . . HEEEHEEHEHAWWWAHHA.

6. Should I sit in the exit row? As the flight attendant says, that depends on “if you are willing to perform the necessary functions in case of an emergency landing.” These functions consist of: 1) Opening the emergency exit door. 2) Being trampled by your fellow passengers.

Action: Pay $3.95 and sit in first class.

7. Why can’t I use electronic objects such as calculators and portable computers during takeoff? Because such devices interfere with the navigational equipment and could, accidentally, force the plane to land in the same city as your luggage.

8. The beverage cart? Do not be fooled by the shiny cans! The beverage cart is your enemy! It will fill you with fluids, wait until your bladder wants to explode, then be standing there, in the middle of the aisle, blocking your way, as your face contorts into something resembling a wrinkled prune. . . .

Oops. Did I say prune?

That leads us to . . .

9. Bathrooms? Naturally, you cannot get to the one available bathroom, because the beverage cart is in the way. And where are the flight attendants? They are in the galley, laughing their heads off. It’s a game they play. Haven’t you ever wondered why, when you ask for a Coke, they say, “Would you like the whole can? Take it. No problem. Heh-heh . . .”

By the way, the bathroom on a plane is marked “lavatory.” Do not confuse this with the door marked “laboratory,” which is where they put your pets.

10. What about turbulence? Don’t worry. Turbulence is just another way of saying “rickety old plane that hasn’t been inspected in six months.”

11. Why must all luggage be stored in the overhead compartment for landing? I have no idea. It’s another of those flight attendant games.

12. Saying good-bye? As you leave the plane, the flight attendants and pilot say, “Thank you . . . bye-bye now . . . so long, now . . .” What they means is, “Thanks for snoring . . . see ya, fatso . . . there goes Mr. Lush . . .”

Action: Wave politely, and be thankful you landed in your own country.


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Mitch Albom writes about running an orphanage in impoverished Port-au-Prince, Haiti, his kids, their hardships, laughs and challenges, and the life lessons he’s learned there every day.

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