Maxed Out 

Flying has absolutely no redeeming features.

By G.D. Maxwell

Having once stepped foot on a commercial airline this summer and survived, I am now left to ponder the unpleasantness of what can only be described as a daunting, unprecedented future. I’m going to have to do it two more times in such rapid succession unpacking hardly makes any sense. Well, except for the fact that one flight is taking me skiing in Argentina and the other is heading to a competitive sweating contest in New Orleans in July, two trips calling for significantly different wardrobes.

Other than finally getting to where you’re going faster than you could get there any other way, flying has absolutely no redeeming features. Line-ups that would make a banker blush, delays and pointless waiting around time that would make a doctor apologetic, boorish fellow passengers trying to shoehorn steamer trunks into overhead baggage compartments, food – when you get it – that makes you wish you could swap it for a handful of half-ounce bags of stale pretzels, missed connections and, of course, the ever-present spectre of death lurking just around the corner.

I’ll admit it; I can’t get on a plane without pondering a morbid thought or two. Who can? I mean one of the first things you’re faced with after you settle into your seat is the Safety Lecture. Initially they lull you to sleep showing you how to fasten your seat belt – c’mon, is there anyone other than the girl raised by wolves who doesn’t know how to put on a seat belt by now? – and about the time your attention wanders to when they’re going to fire up the bar service, a smiling stu is pointing out the emergency exits and explaining how to rip the cushion off your seat and wear it as a life preserver if the whole world suddenly gets wet.

I try to avoid all that unpleasantness by losing myself in the well-thumbed magazine stashed behind the seat in front of me. It doesn’t help when, three pages into it, there are two different ads for Emergency Smoke Hoods No Airline Passenger Should Be Without! Judging from the picture and text, when your plane fills with smoke, you whip one of these nifty devices out, slip it over your head and breathe filtered air instead of toxic smoke.

I figure there are really only three reasons a plane would fill with smoke: You’re flying in Turkey and everybody’s smoking acrid cigarettes; the plane, having caught fire is about to crash; the plane’s already crashed and 7,000 gallons of jet fuel is creating a pretty good imitation of Hell around you.

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