Welcome to the Wretched Skies

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Welcome to the Wretched Skies of the Airlines Say the magic ‘woid’ and wind up in jail.

by Burton S. Blumert by Burton S. Blumert

The passengers carried the Captain and crew on their shoulders cheering and popping bottles of cheap Champagne as they disembarked the plane. They were followed by grim-faced stretcher-bearers rushing away the wounded.

The clean-up crew, wearing gas masks, prepared to board the aircraft and clear the debris. When they were done, our exhausted group of passengers for Flight 666 was finally ready to board.

This flight did not look promising.

Bad things had begun earlier in the terminal when I was "randomly selected" for special security clearance.

BLUMERT: "Why do you guys always pick on me? You see that I’m too old for this terrorism business. My bomb-throwing days are well behind me."

(The mere mention of the word "bomb" triggered sirens and the release of snarling German shepherds. They would have surely eaten me, but someone decided I was more valuable alive.)

TURBAN WEARING AGENT (TWA); "To paraphrase George W., either you’re with us, or you’re with them. Which is it?"

BLUMERT; " Can I have my shoes, please? My feet are getting cold and the last time I caught Athlete’s Foot from your filthy floors. Are you finally done with me?"

TWA: "Yes, but you will be on probation for the next 60 days.

You will report to the FreeRepublic website every fortnight and I advise that you give up eating halvah. It may be delicious, but it’s un-American.

Finally, it would be wise if you forgot about wearing that ridiculous Lawrence of Arabia costume you exhibit every Halloween.

Find an American costume in which to do your u2018trick or treating.’ "

BLUMERT; "Alright already. This year I’ll go as George Patton."

Back at Gate 12, we passengers of Flight 666 fought our way onto the plane. I thought my luck had changed as I plopped into an unoccupied window seat.

How could I know that I was soon to be in charge of the Emergency Exit?

The Captain, swore me in using a King James version of the Bible, gave me a 48- page pamphlet outlining my duties, and then strapped a slightly used WWII parachute onto my back.

"You’re in charge of that Emergency Exit Door, Blumert," said the Captain. "You’ve never once shown up for Jury Duty when called. Well, here’s another opportunity for you to serve."

I could feel the glaring eyes of my fellow passengers. I was determined to win their respect.

Things brightened when the Flight Attendants started to serve lunch. This time, I would beat the system. "Order a kosher lunch," the travel experts recommended. "You won’t get the same tired fare," they said.

Well, I got the same tired ham and cheese sandwich as everybody else, only mine was in a wrapper with Golda Meir’s picture on it.

The fellow next to me had ordered vegetarian. His ham and cheese sandwich wrapper had a picture of a cauliflower.

We all munched in silence.

The reality of air travel these days is hardly less absurd than the above.

Southwest and America West may be the only money-making airlines in the nation. In fact, they may soon be the ONLY airlines in the nation.

Just as Kaiser Permanente became the model for today’s HMOs in providing minimal levels of medical care, so Southwest and America West have established standards (or should I say sub-standards) to the misery of the air travel consumer.

Southwest ticket holders are given Boarding Passes, but no assigned seats. This is part of the "success" of Southwest. Get those seats filled. No frills, no comfort.

There are three categories of Boarding Passes, A, B, and C. Which you get depends on how early you arrived at the ticket counter. A’s board first and so on.

Getting on board early means a place for your bag in the compartment above your seat. Getting on board early means avoiding the middle seat between two 300-pound garlic eaters.

The flight would only last an hour and twenty minutes, but I waited almost that long to protect my "turf" in line B.

There is a democratic aspect to current and future air travel. Everybody is in steerage.

The fear that kept people from flying after 9/11 appears to have vanished. The terminals are jammed with travelers. They seem numb, surly if approached, but they’re not afraid. At the airport, even fear has been stamped out.

Going through Security used to engender outrage and archives filled with horror stories. A genre of gallows humor developed and we laughed while we shared our humiliations at the hands of the security buffoons.

"I can top that," said the office comedian. "I had to explain why I wasn’t wearing underwear and the security clerk hardly spoke English," he recounted, to roars of laughter.

Maybe it’s since the feds took over the job, but there’s an attitude at Security which says, "there is nothing humorous going on here."

Say the magic "woid" and you’ll wind up in jail. Try, "box cutter," or "9/11," or, "I remember a time when you just walked to the gate and boarded the plane, without being set upon by bozos."

There’s no illusion that anybody is safer for "their efforts." The purpose is to compress the passenger into a silent, obedient and docile lump.

"Since our flight is two hours from now, let’s have some lunch," my wife suggested, recognizing my blackening mood. "Look," she said, " All the fast food restaurants are here now."

She was right. They were all there: Pizza Hut, Kentucky Fried, even Nathan’s Hot dogs from New York. I don’t remember airports having all the national fast food chains on site.

I’m not a big fan of these great American dining institutions, but, they are predictable in what they deliver.

Not at the airport! Their prices were higher than in the outside world and the food was markedly inferior.

"Blumert, you’re on the brink of some conspiracy theory," she said, pretending that her slice of pizza was edible.

I made it sound as if I had some facts when I told her, "Look, almost all fast food places are operated by franchisers, small business men who try their best to provide a decent product. Who knows who is running these dumps at the airport?"

Maybe I guessed right.

I wanted to tell you about what happened at the Car Rental place in Phoenix, but the Judge said we can’t discuss the case until after the trial.

I can tell you that I had ordered a luxury car and they delivered the winning vehicle from a Demolition Derby.

They’re not getting away with it.

Burt Blumert [send him mail] is publisher of LewRockwell.com, president of the Center for Libertarian Studies, and proprietor of Camino Coin. See Burt’s Gold Page.

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