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Barb took me on a ‘Mystery Trip*’ to Washington D.C. She lobbied there for environmental issues on behalf of The Wilderness Society. “We can use our United Miles,” she smiled.

I hadn’t flown in a few years. Things had changed. United no longer pretends to be ‘Friendly.’ Admittedly, “Fly the Friendly Skies of United” was advertising genius. United proclaimed they ‘Ruled’ the skies. Fly United and you flew ‘Friendly Skies.’ More services, gourmet food, less talk, fewer bumps, a smoother, safer ride. Another few years and the newer generation won’t remember that United or any other airline claimed to be friendly, serve good food, have comfortable seats… Ah, But I Digress.

If all goes well, San Francisco to Washington D.C. is a five hour flight and we do want it to go well, right? Barb and I are not tall or heavy people. How do people of more stature or bulk sit in an economy class airplane seat? Do people who make airplanes, or Airline CEO’S, their wives and children have to sit in economy airplane seats? How about members of Congress or the Supreme

Court? Laws would be passed if our public servants didn’t get to fly first class… Digressing again.

Suddenly, I wanted to fly in a ‘Team’ plane. A Football team plane. Not a plane for quarterbacks or tight ends. I wanted to fly on a ‘Team’ plane that catered to linemen – guards and tackles specifically. The average guard, tackle, or center in the NFL is 6-foot-5 and 316 pounds. I suspect seating is more accommodating on a ‘Team’ flight, lavatories a bit larger, and the food more nutritious. If none of these perks were available on a ‘Team’ flight, I would not want to be a flight attendant, navigator or pilot on the flight.

Barb and I settled in our sardine package. The passenger in front of Barb immediately broke a cardinal rule of air flight by setting his seat in the recline position. Everyone knows you never recline your seat before takeoff. Might as well throw caution to the wind and bring down his meal tray.

The air conditioning was on Arctic. Barb shivered. I flagged a passing attendant and asked him for a blanket.

“If there was no blanket on your seat, Sir, then there are no more blankets.”

“Where did they go? Someone forget to get them from the laundry?”

“People, abscond with them, Sir.”

“Okay, may we have a couple of pillows? This is a five hour flight.”

“If you didn’t find a pillow, then there are no more pillows.”

“Do people abscond with pillows?” I tried to picture thousands of travelers smuggling airline pillows off in their carry-on’s and backpacks. “Why not buy some more? Add a few extra dollars to the ticket?”

The attendant leaned in close. “Sir, United is doing everything in its power to keep the price of our flights to a minimum.”

Good thing hotels don’t have a similar policy, I thought. I can imagine standing at the check-in desk, with my pillow, towels and bedsheets tucked under my arm. And just how many people stole blankets and pillows from airplanes. My thoughts were interrupted.

“Sir, if there’s nothing else,” he started down the aisle. If I was going to be treated like vermin, I wanted to share the experience. Subtly, I pointed to the air rule violator in the reclining seat in front of Barb. Our flight attendant shrugged. Several rows away I heard a female passenger request a blanket.

And the food:

Initially, to entice more people risk their lives in a tin container flying above the earth at twenty-five thousand feet airlines consulted with gourmet chefs from around the world. A friendly rivalry between Pan-Am, American Airlines and United ensued as they showed you their menu along with the ticket price. The meals were good. And free. Well, part of your ticket.

As safety records grew and travel became more popular and passengers decided that a sudden plunge from 35 thousand feet wasn’t such a bad way to go. The quality and quantity of food quickly plummeted. Comics world-wide had a new source of material. On behalf of the airlines, and as a person raised on Swanson T.V. dinners, I never found the food that bad. Ah, but I Digress…

A BING vibrated through our cabin. “Flight attendants please prepare for takeoff.” Barb shivered a little more. The James Bond part of my psyche possessed me. I gave the reclined seat several karate kicks. The message was received. As the plane taxied. I unsnapped my seat belt and raced toward the rear of the plane. Several passengers looked at me in surprise. I covered my mouth with my hand and gagged LOUDLY. An elderly couple pointed to the rear of the plane. I gagged some more.

The last row was empty. The last row is where flight attendants gather when passengers nod off. It was a treasure trove. I grabbed three blankets and pillows. On the way back to our seats I laid a blanket on the lady who didn’t get one earlier. I felt like Jesus passing out loaves and fishes. I tucked Barb in as our plane lifted off the runway.


Lap tops open. Pencil tips licked. Crossword puzzles, cryptographs, jumbles and Sudoku’s’ attacked. Panicked passengers that had munched finger nails, twisted strands of hair into minute French braids, laugh nervously at each variation of air speed and rise and plunge in elevation sighed and seemed to relax.

We gained altitude. Time passed. A sense of tranquility settled over the cabin. The pilot waited until the flight attendants, (DO NOT REFER TO ANYONE AS A STEWARDESS, STEWARD OR GOD FORBID, STEW) had completed the cabin check and reported that yes, 70% of the passengers were nodding off or fast asleep. And the rest were engaged in a movie, conversation or their lap tops.

BING! BING! BING! “HELLO, THIS IS YOUR PILOT, CAPTAIN SYDNEY FULOFIT. I WOULD LIKE TO WELCOME YOU TO FLIGHT 1342 FROM”…………………………….. there was a rustle of paper… “SAN FRACISCO TO”………. And here is a cross my heart and hope to die moment…. The pilot covered the microphone, between the gaps in his finger you hear…… “are you sure?


I fluffed Barb’s pillow tucked her blanket and we were soon both asleep.

It should be more like this.

(*see Mystery Trips at 50 and Counting at

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