FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

My Last Flight

by PAUL QUINNETT

The commercial airlines may not be trying to kill me, but I need convincing. You see, I’m a 68-year-old grandpa with high blood pressure and zero patience. One more flight delay could kill me. As impractical as it seems, I would just like to get where I’m going on time. Nelson Mandela spent 27 years in prison and left with no bitterness; I wait 15 minutes at a security gate and I crack a molar.

Where intelligent travelers caught in long airport queues retreat into their Bose headphones, I-Pods, and Wall Street Journals, I still try to count to ten to keep from blowing up. If I don’t quit flying some bystander is going to post a clip of my head exploding on U-Tube.

I don’t care if TSA staff takes liberties with their body searches, or if my pilot is flying loaded on Viagra and pain pills while packing a pistol, I just want to get where I’m going before I die of old age.

If commercial flying is stressful on those of us with high blood pressure, imagine what it’s doing to folks with, say, a touch of claustrophobia. At 6’3′ 230 pounds, I’m small compared to some of my fellow and sister passengers. So when we are all packed in and buckled up trading viruses inside a sardine ca., I mean, 737, it looks like the arrangements were made by Slave Ships Inc. – except on slave ships you had reasonably good chance of dying in transit.

I fly to fly fish. I fly to get to and from fun. Now I’m a mental case. You can spot me in most any airport waiting area; I’m the one who looks like a geriatric version of Jack Nicholson in Cuckoo’s Nest right after a double dose of ECT.

Consider that on the last leg of a particularly aggravating four-time-zone, thrice-delayed flight, I was so unraveled I stumbled into the women’s restroom at Boston’s Logan Airport. Head down and dazed, just as I reached for the zipper on my fly I looked up to note a serious shortage of urinals and way too many cross-dressers for a men’s room.

Eyes popped all around, including mine.

Ladies of all ages stopped adjusting skirts and makeup and turned to full time glaring. My BP spiking, I turned cherry red, spun a Louie, and hiked out of there double time. An attractive blood on her way in caught my eye and cracked, ‘I feel your pain.’

The commercial airline industry feels my pain, too. Flight crews now attend mandatory Apology School, lest they fall victim to mutiny. While still trying to kill me, some airlines are trying to make extra nice.

For example, on a recent trip home from the Bahamas, and after only a few hours of sleep because the Bahamas Air flight into Ft. Lauderdale was delayed four hours the night before, and our luggage was lost, and we had an early morning flight, which meant my wife and I spent four hours in a $200 room (that’s $50 an hour which, if you are governor on date may seem like a good deal, but when you are married 48 years is just plain aggravating), a U.S. Airways ticket agent shrunk my exploding head with the words, ‘You’re flight has been cancelled, but if we hurry, I can get you out in 20 minutes, but the only seats we have left are first class. Will that work?’

He must have noticed the Nicholson smile. When he put the boarding passes into my hand I wept a ‘thank you’ and, over my wife’s protest, tried to kiss him.

Flying was not always like this.

Flying used to be fun, if a bit adventurous.

A good flight was one that didn’t fall out of the sky, and flight delays were quite acceptable.

On a cross-Pacific prop-driven flight to serve an Army tour in Japan in 1960, we landed to refuel on Wake Island. The GIs were de-planed so we could have lunch and poke around the old WWII gun emplacements. With refueling complete, and as I climbed the stairs back into the plane for the final the two-thousand-mile hop to Japan, I overhead a crew member say to the pilot, ‘There’s oil leaking from number two, maybe we ought to look into that.’

A capital idea in my view, we were again ordered off the plane and told to be ready to re-board at any moment. The three hour delay allowed me to wade in some nearby tide pools and enjoy a beautiful place I would never see again. We made it to Yokohama just fine.

On my return flight home two years later I was boarding a chartered Flying Tigers prop-driven military transport to San Francisco by way of Anchorage, Alaska. I asked the flight attendant, ‘What’s the flight time to Anchorage?’

‘I don’t know,’ she grinned, ‘We’ve never made it.’

But we did make it, and with our senses of humor in tact. Other than the old Alaska Airline pilot excuse for late departures – ‘Sorry for the delay folks, but our baggage crushing machine is broken down so we are having to crush your baggage by hand’ – there’s very little humor left in the flight crews these days. I feel sorry for them. I wish they could all get a nice pay raise and be able to go off their antidepressants.

In spite of all the current frustrations, I’m happy to report that I have enjoyed the same number of take offs as landings – something all pilots will tell you is the preferred flight plan. Safety is up, terrorist threats down. Except for grandmothers with blue hair wearing suspicious shawls and with first names like Elsie, hardly anyone needs to be body-searched anymore. Even the security queues are moving briskly.

But I’ve taken my last flight. To move things along here, I would like to offer any interested party my huge cache of frequent flier miles in trade for, say, a wee bottle of a single malt scotch.

PAUL QUINNETT lives in Cheney, Washington. He can be reached at: pquinnett@mindspring.com

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
February 23, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Richard D. Wolff
Capitalism as Obstacle to Equality and Democracy: the US Story
Paul Street
Where’s the Beef Stroganoff? Eight Sacrilegious Reflections on Russiagate
Jeffrey St. Clair
They Came, They Saw, They Tweeted
Andrew Levine
Their Meddlers and Ours
Charles Pierson
Nuclear Nonproliferation, American Style
Joseph Essertier
Why Japan’s Ultranationalists Hate the Olympic Truce
W. T. Whitney
US and Allies Look to Military Intervention in Venezuela
John Laforge
Maybe All Threats of Mass Destruction are “Mentally Deranged”
Matthew Stevenson
Why Vietnam Still Matters: an American Reckoning
David Rosen
For Some Reason, Being White Still Matters
Robert Fantina
Nikki Haley: the U.S. Embarrassment at the United Nations
Joyce Nelson
Why Mueller’s Indictments Are Hugely Important
Joshua Frank
Pearl Jam, Will You Help Stop Sen. Tester From Destroying Montana’s Public Lands?
Dana E. Abizaid
The Attack on Historical Perspective
Conn Hallinan
Immigration and the Italian Elections
George Ochenski
The Great Danger of Anthropocentricity
Pete Dolack
China Can’t Save Capitalism from Environmental Destruction
Joseph Natoli
Broken Lives
Manuel García, Jr.
Why Did Russia Vote For Trump?
Geoff Dutton
One Regime to Rule Them All
Torkil Lauesen – Gabriel Kuhn
Radical Theory and Academia: a Thorny Relationship
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: The Work of Persuasion
Thomas Klikauer
Umberto Eco and Germany’s New Fascism
George Burchett
La Folie Des Grandeurs
Howard Lisnoff
Minister of War
Eileen Appelbaum
Why Trump’s Plan Won’t Solve the Problems of America’s Crumbling Infrastructure
Ramzy Baroud
More Than a Fight over Couscous: Why the Palestinian Narrative Must Be Embraced
Jill Richardson
Mass Shootings Shouldn’t Be the Only Time We Talk About Mental Illness
Jessicah Pierre
Racism is Killing African American Mothers
Steve Horn
Wyoming Now Third State to Propose ALEC Bill Cracking Down on Pipeline Protests
David Griscom
When ‘Fake News’ is Good For Business
Barton Kunstler
Brainwashed Nation
Griffin Bird
I’m an Eagle Scout and I Don’t Want Pipelines in My Wilderness
Edward Curtin
The Coming Wars to End All Wars
Missy Comley Beattie
Message To New Activists
Jonah Raskin
Literary Hubbub in Sonoma: Novel about Mrs. Jack London Roils the Faithful
Binoy Kampmark
Frontiersman of the Internet: John Perry Barlow
Chelli Stanley
The Mirrors of Palestine
James McEnteer
How Brexit Won World War Two
Ralph Nader
Absorbing the Irresistible Consumer Reports Magazine
Cesar Chelala
A Word I Shouldn’t Use
Louis Proyect
Marx at the Movies
Osha Neumann
A White Guy Watches “The Black Panther”
Stephen Cooper
Rebel Talk with Nattali Rize: the Interview
David Yearsley
Market Music
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail