Maxed Out 

Flying the friendly skies

I do not consider myself a violent person, indeed not even a particularly angry person. But I have a deep pool of empathy whenever I hear a story about air rage. I don't have that same empathetic feeling for tales of road rage, sports rage, boarder rage or people-talking-at-the-movies-during-the-quiet-parts rage, but the less egregious bouts of air rage I understand. There but for a chubby person in the seat between me and the aisle go I.

All things considered, I'd rather drive three days straight in a closed car with a chain smoker than fly most commercial airlines.

But fly I did last week. When my mother found out the bones in her right leg had actually been made out of recycled Hershey bar wrappers all these years instead of hardened calcium, I decided to fly down to Phoenix and do whatever I could to aid in her recovery. She made this shocking discovery by tumbling down a hill and, according to the orthopaedic surgeon who used more hardware to put her back together than it takes to build a good sized Ikea bookshelf, "Snapped it like a dry twig."

I would have driven down in Mello Yello, the erstwhile Westfailya, but her recovery is only expected to take six months to a year. Besides, I've made the mistake of driving an un-airconditioned VW bus to Phoenix during the hot part of the year - all months not ending in "ebruary" - one too many times for even me to not fully grasp the unpleasantness of that idea.

I was thinking about air rage while I was booking my ticket on Travelocity's Web site. I'd never bought airline tickets directly through the Internet. I'm not even sure "Internet" was a word the last time I bought airline tickets. Everything was going ticketyboo until just after I crossed the screen of no return. That's the one that has a big button on it saying "Purchase."

If you click on that button the next screen you see says "Sucker." No it doesn't. It does say, however, there are no circumstances known to man under which you can now change any single detail of the flight you just booked without incurring a penalty larger than the national debt of Chad, wherever that is. That warning is just above the teeny, tiny notice that Travelocity will be sending your "paper" tickets by stagecoach to a post office near you.

Calculating the odds of a Web site, reputed to be headquartered in a suburb of San Antonio, Texas - whose address contains those trust-building words "unit number" - having a hope in hell of getting a paper ticket up to Whistler within 10 business days when there's an intervening three day weekend of which no American is even remotely aware, make hitting this week's Lotto seem like a pretty shrewd bet.

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