Thursday, April 07, 2005

Plane truth: Flying sucks

By STEVE TILLEY -- For the Edmonton Sun

While chaos rules many areas of my life, I'm freakishly anal when it comes to flying. I'm the guy that spends three hours packing a carry-on bag, lays out the clothes he's going to wear on the plane the night before and gets all stressy if he can't get a right-side window seat in the second-last row.

Though now that I think about it, why I always go for that particular seat is a mystery.

I think it's because that row seems to fill up last, so you have a better chance of having nobody in the middle seat, or - rarest of rare treasures - a row entirely to yourself, so you can watch Dora the Explorer DVDs on your laptop and not have people look at you funny when you encourage Boots the monkey to hurl his feces.

But there are many perils that come with sitting at the back of an airplane, and every single one of them was made brutally apparent yesterday as I winged home from Toronto on a ridiculously full flight. I blame the Jetsgo collapse for making it so busy. And Jesus. Being as it's Easter and all.

I didn't even get my regular second-last row, either. I was in the dreaded middle seat in the equally dreaded very last non-reclining row, the one where you spend the whole flight staring at the back of the seat in front of you and mentally threatening the person in it. "If I can't recline my seat, you ain't reclinin' yours, sucka! Oh yeah? You think you're gonna get comfy now and lean back, so that I can't lower my tray table without it getting fatally wedged in my gut? I dare you!"

For starters, being in the back means you're naturally going to be the last person off the plane, unless you go out one of the emergency exits. And the airlines frown on that, even if you try to justify it by starting a fire in the galley first.

You also end up with whatever meal the majority of the other passengers didn't want, assuming you're flying with an airline that even bothers with the archaic practice of giving its paying customers something to keep them from perishing of malnutrition mid-flight.

Yesterday I hadn't planned to eat on the plane, since my gut was still full of bacon burger and onion rings that I'd scarfed down just hours earlier at the end of a drunken night.

But when the flight attendants drew near, I heard them offering eggs or waffles. Waffles! I've never had waffles on a plane before. Or sex for that matter. But waffles are good too, and much, much more accessible.

But when the flight attendant got to my row, she said she only had eggs left. And not the kind that need fertilizing, which would have been a more than adequate substitute for the waffles.

Worst of all, though, is the back row's proximity to the bathrooms. Maybe there's something special about early flights, when people have to rush to the airport and don't have time to engage in their usual morning rituals.

But I swear to the aforementioned Jesus that I have never, ever seen so many people go poop on an airplane.

Well, I didn't actually SEE them doing it, thank goodness. And even though one of the bathrooms was literally right behind my seat and I could hear the toilet flushing, the plane's engines mercifully drowned out any other low, rumbling noises - vocal or otherwise - emanating from the lavatory.

But sweet mother of all that is holy, the smell. The smell! What did they make that waffle batter out of, rotting raccoon carcass? Is there a gastroenterologist on board? I had to keep making the "ewww, where is that horrible reek coming from?" face so the girl sitting next to me wouldn't think my colostomy bag burst with the change in cabin pressure.

(Though I must add that shortly before landing, she also adjourned to the bathroom for a suspiciously long time. Then again, she might have just been overcome by the noxious vapours in there and passed out for a while.)

Complaining about flying is about as original as complaining about taxes, the weather or infected wolverine bites, but sometimes the planets align in the completely wrong direction and the universe conspires to make an already unpleasant experience just that much more sucky.

But hey, such is the downside of modern air travel.

And now that it's done and I'm safely ensconced back in my comfortable living pod, I can eat all the Eggos I want, recline my La-Z-Boy to its maximum pitch, yell at Dora's friend Boots at the top of my lungs and make my own near-lethal bathroom miasma without fear of shame.

And then wonder why no one ever comes over to visit.

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