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Notes to the air travel industry

Nils Ling

1.   Birdseed is not food.    I know that a few years ago, you gave up feeding us.  I'm okay with that.  The food varied from "pretty awful" to "inedible" to "would not put this in my mouth at gunpoint", so I don't weep nostalgic tears at the demise of your alleged Beef Stroganoff.  Plus which, when the food cart was in the aisle, the bar cart couldn't be.  All things considered, the bar cart offers much more comfort.

So I'm fine with not being fed, but I understand you feel guilty about it.  To make amends, you have been offering us what you call a "sesame seed snack".

Please stop.  

We are not chickadees.  There are no finches or blue jays on board, and nary a sparrow to be seen.  Unless you plan on putting out some mesh cages with a suet/seed mixture,  and a couple of concrete bowls for us to take baths in, please save the birdseed for the backyard feeder.

We'll be fine.  If we were birds, we wouldn't need to buy tickets to fly.

2.   Ziplock bags are not an effective weapon against terrorism.    Look, nobody wants to prevent a terrorist attack on an airplane more than the people flying on that airplane.  So really, those of us who fly a lot are supportive of nay, even grateful for strict, heightened security.

Put me through a metal detector.  X-Ray my carry-on.  Swab my computer.  Make me turn out my pockets.  Check my boarding pass.  Squint at my passport.  Look me over to see if I have a shifty gaze or if I'm wearing a t-shirt that says "Death to the Infidels".  And do all this to everybody in the line.

But in the past year or so a new measure has come in, presumably to prevent planes from being taken over by grandmothers with chapped hands.  Now, if you have any lotions or liquids,  they must be in small, clear containers and securely contained within wait for it a sealed ziplock bag.  Evidently, the airline security industry has a LOT of faith in the awesome impenetrability of plastic bags that are specifically designed to keep bologna sandwiches fresh.  They have clearly not been in a Grade Three classroom at lunchtime.

A very kindly-looking elderly woman in front of me was forced to open her clutch purse and spill its contents onto a table.  An opaque bottle of Skin So Soft was confiscated, as was a medium-sized bottle of sunscreen.  She was able to rescue a couple of other small bottles of liquid, but only if she agreed to deposit them into an ultra secure lunch sack and - this appears to be the key to this security measure zip the bag closed.

I was deeply grateful that now, this particular flight would not have to suffer the horror that would ensue if this lovely woman were able to stand up in mid-flight, mix together moisturizer and SPF 50, and threaten us all with ... healthier skin.  

Forget it, Grandma.  Your days of inflicting softer skin on humanity are done, foiled by a patented, terrorist-proof sealing system that keeps food fresh for days.

And I, for one, feel much safer in the skies.

3.    Don't lie to us.    I was on a flight the other day that backed up from the gate, then stopped.  I winced as the pilot came over the loudspeaker and said "Uhhh, ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking.  As we were backing away from the gate, the ground crew noticed one of the tires on the landing gear was flat.  So we're gonna go ahead and change that for you.  It shouldn't take long.  Hopefully we'll have you underway in about half an hour or so."

Oh, come on.

I have had a flat tire in my car.  At best, I can change it in perhaps a half an hour.  In the dead of winter, with the wind howling across an open field right into my face, it might take a little longer.

Now, if my car weighed in at 300 tons and the tires were the same height as me and I had to unload 90 passengers before I started changing the tire, and then, when I was done, had to check that all 90 passengers were in fact the correct passengers before loading them all back in, and making sure they were all buckled and all their personal belongings were safely stored in the overhead racks, I'm going to estimate the delay at just a tad longer than half an hour.

It took two hours.  Which was fine.  We all wanted the tire changed.

Just don't lie to us.  It makes us angry.

We have hand lotion.  And we're not afraid to use it.  If we could only get it out of these ziplock bags. 


This feature: From Nils Ling's book Truths and Half Truths. A collection of some of his most memorable and hilarious columns.  Write to him at RR #9, 747 Brackley Point Road, Charlottetown, PE, C1E 1Z3