NOTE: The following is intended as satire. I have close friends that are commercial airline pilots, FAA employees, and misguided representatives of the TSA. Heck, I’ve even let some of them in my house.
There are times that I love to fly. There are also times that I really despise the thought of having to fly anywhere. Let me clarify what I mean by that oxymoronic statement.
I enjoy flying when MY hands are on the stick or yoke, and MY feet are on the rudder pedals. There is a certain feeling of freedom in being able to escape the force of gravity and get to distant destinations.
But I hate having to fly COMMERCIAL. I bet you do as well. Here's a little story that explains MY reasons.
Awhile back, I found myself having to fly down to South Georgia to see some of the loved ones. Unable to procure a suitable aircraft, I was forced to schedule a flight on one of the nation’s major air carriers.
I arrived at the airport an hour or so ahead of departure. Having an ‘e-ticket’, I assumed (Dangerous, deadly practice) that it would be a simple matter of walking in, scanning my ticket, and getting my boarding pass after having checked my single small bag. WRONG.
I found myself in a line of over 30 people, all of us waiting on one guy who couldn’t figure out how to operate the scanner. Naturally, there was nobody there to assist this gentleman, whom I eventually learned was trying to scan his hunting license. I leaned out of line to see what was causing the delay, and heard a harsh female voice ask “Sir? You got some kinda issue?”
I quickly turned to look at the TSA lady (whose name was Helga), and said “I just want to board on time.”
“Oh, you in a HURRY, sir?” she asked, motioning several of her fellow watchers over to my place in line.
“Yes,” I said. “I want to get on my flight.”
Helga, the TSA werewolf, then said “Sir, you need to step out of line and come with us.”
“You givin’ me attitude, sir?” she asked as I was led into a small room, where she and her fellow storm troopers began to pull on rubber exam gloves.
“I JUST WANT TO GET ON MY FLIGHT!” I cried as they conducted a full body cavity search.
Satisfied with the results (or lack thereof), I was led back to the end of the line, where the inept guy was now trying to scan his library card. Eventually, with only 20 minutes before departure, I got my boarding pass, checked my bag, then proceeded to the security screening portal. Imagine my thoughts as Helga stood at the scanner and said “Remove your shoes, belt, all items from your pockets, any dentures, prosthetics, and anything else you weren’t born with and place then into this filthy container, where you will most likely contract MRSA after recovering your items.”
I did as she commanded, then stepped into the scanner.
“Sir? Can you please step over here?” she asked, brandishing what looked like a cordless vacuum. Waving it over my body, it began to make loud noises as it swept over my left shoulder.
“Sir,” began one of Helga’s cohorts, an overgrown Oompa-Loompa named Gregor. “Are you concealing a firearm in your shoulder?”
I tried to explain that I had an artificial shoulder joint, as Gregor pulled out a pocketknife and said “I’ll have to check and be certain. Try not to flinch.”
Satisfied with his search, Gregor wiped his blade on his shoe and said “Collect all your items and hurry to your departure gate, sir.”
With only moments to spare, I made it to the gate where I collapsed into a chair next to a screaming toddler. Deciding that my blood loss wasn’t as serious as I first thought, I began to relax, until the boarding agent announced (with a slight snicker) “Ladies and gentlemen. We regret to inform you that the flight will be delayed for an indeterminate amount of time. We’re sorry for any inconvenience (boisterous laughter).”
Eventually, a highly-skilled maintenance crew armed with duct tape, bailing wire, and chewing gum managed to repair the faulty engine, and the boarding process began. I staggered down the jetway and entered the hatch, where the lead flight attendant pointed to my shoulder and said “You’re getting blood on my airplane.”
I explained that it was simply the result of a TSA security search, which seemed to satisfy her, and she directed me toward the rear of the cabin, where I found myself seated beside the screaming toddler and his mother. Stashing my carryon in the overhead, I went to sit back down, but the toddler was now urinating on my seat. I pushed the call chime, and the lead flight attendant came rushing back, yelling “Sir! You need to take your seat and fasten your seatbelt.”
I tried to explain to her that I had little if any desire to sit in my seat following the child’s kidney evacuation into it, but she pushed me down and said “Regulations require that you remain seated until the seat belt sign is off.”
“But we’re still at the gate, the jetway is still attached, and there’s been no engine start up yet.’
“You givin me attitude, mister?” she asked.
“Do you have a sister named Helga?”
“Sure do. Works for TSA here.”
At exactly 9:40am, the plane pushed back from the gate, counting as an ‘on-time’ departure (I heard that the fellow that fell out of the jetway is doing well, and is expected to be able to walk again in a few years). We now found ourselves stuck behind 20 additional aircraft on the taxiway. I’m more than certain that the ground controllers were playing a game of ‘Musical Boeings’, and having a good laugh over it. Finally, we found ourselves on the runway threshold, and moments later, climbing into the air.
Vern, the aforementioned toddler, seemed to take great delight in screaming into my face as we gained altitude. Having reached our flight level, the seat belt sign went off and I jumped up to rummage through my carryon, desperate for a snack.
“Sir?” the lead flight attendant began, rushing over to my seat. “Are those PEANUTS?”
“Yes,” I responded sheepishly.
“You’ll have to put them away this instant,” she admonished. “There could be someone aboard with a peanut allergy.”
“I don’t plan to share them with anyone.”
“Sir, if you don’t get rid of them this instant, you’ll have to leave this aircraft.”
“But, we’re at 37,000 feet!”
“SIR! PUT THEM AWAY!”
I secured the toxic offenders in my bag and sat back down, Vern screaming into my ear.
Not long afterwards, head mama came back to me and said “The captain wants you on the flight deck.”
Wondering what I had done to now face the wrath of the captain, I followed her forward and was admitted to the flight deck, where I found the captain playing Solitaire on the Flight Data Computer, and the first officer jamming out to AC/DC. “Hey,” the captain said, turning away from his game. “Ilsa saw the wings on your jacket. Figured you’re a pilot. You know how to fly this thing?”
I carefully considered my answer, when the first officer got up and began dancing to ‘All Night Long.’
“Shouldn’t you be listening to Air Traffic Control?” asked I.
“Auto everything, dude,” the first officer remarked. “Besides, we don’t wanna wake ‘em up. All kinds of paperwork to fill out.”
“As if you don’t have enough to do,” I said with a healthy dose of sarcasm.
“You got that right,” the captain said. “I gotta push this button to take off, this button to get to altitude, this button to turn, and, oh crap, sir. You’ll have to leave. I have to push the button to land. Fred? Which one is the landing button?”
“I think it’s the blue one,” responded the first officer, now breakdancing in his seat.
I returned to my seat and allowed Vern to scream at me some more as we made our approach into Atlanta. After another 3 hours of jammed taxiways, we finally got to the gate. Departing, Ilsa handed me a note and said “I put my sister’s and my phone numbers on there. Call us for a good time.”
I made my way to baggage claim, where I was unable to find my bag. I filled out the report and was told that, with luck, my bag would be recovered by 2025. I called a cab, went to see the loved ones, and spent hours explaining the fresh wound to my shoulder.
A few days later, it was time to return home, and I again found myself unable to rent a suitable plane to fly myself.
“Want me to book you a flight?” asked my loved one.
I thought about my recent experience and said “Nope. Just drive me to the Interstate. I’ll hitch a ride.”